Working full time is not very conducive to celebrating astronomically-based holidays, yet we made do by having our Solstice celebration on Sunday (today is the actual Solstice--Happy first day of winter everyone!).
First, the boys and I strung some popcorn strings, which we hung on a little spruce tree out front, along with some peanut butter and bird seed ornaments E and Z made at the Make-A-Craft fair and some old apples from one of our many wild apple trees. Making a tree for the birds is something I've wanted to do for a long time (at least since last year, with inspiration from Lone Star Ma), but have only just now gotten around to it. I also finally cleaned and filled our bird feeders and put some seed in the platform feeder, so the birds and squirrels should be quite happy now.
The Best Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
Sift or whisk together and stir into sugar-butter-egg mixture:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
Refrigerate at least 3 hours (or overnight). Roll out 1/8" thick. Cut with your favorite cookie cutters. Sprinkle with granulated sugar (unless you plan to frost them). (I would suggest chilling each batch for 15-20 min. before baking). Bake 7-8 min. at 375 degrees F.
The powdered sugar makes them light and flaky and the almond extract makes them almondy-delicious.
In the afternoon we went for our second annual Solstice hike. This year I took along a picnic of cheese pasties, hot chocolate and cookies and we built a small bonfire along the river, using last year's Christmas wreath and some deadfall branches and twigs.
After our bellies were filled and our toes were getting cold, we walked home in the falling darkness, guided only by the luminescence of the snow and our muscle memory of our old trail.