There was a box that held ornaments that I was not allowed to touch.
When I was nine, I snuck a chocolate cookie off the counter and asked Mama about the box, small and square and wrapped in one gold ribbon like the ones you get at holiday cookie delivery. She took the cookie from my hand and said, “Only Papa and I put those ornaments up on the tree. Only we can touch them.” And when I asked why, she said, “One day you’ll find out. But I don’t want you to know just yet.” And she was a little sad about it but firm, in her way, in her way that left no room for discussion. So I let it be.
That next year, my nana died and I learned what the box was for; Mama took a seashell off the tree, one from Myrtle Beach that Nana had sent her years and years before. She cradled it in her hand and instead of wrapping it in paper and storing it with the others, she walked it over to the small, square box, untied the golden ribbon and slipped it inside.
When I was thirteen and three-quarters, my Aunt Cissy got cancer and “went fast, too fast,” as my Papa said. He had been friends with Aunt Cissy since they were in university together and she was there in the room when I was born. Papa took a bell off the tree and wrapped it, put it in the small, square box.
Over the years, more ornaments went into the small, square box- a turtle dove, a snowflake, another bell for another friend. I never saw those ornaments get put up on the tree but they ended up on the tree anyway- one night I stayed up extra late, reading in my bed, and when I ducked into the hall for a glass of water, I saw my parents tending to the tree we’d decorated together only hours before. They held the small, square box between them and added their ornaments to the tree, talking and smiling. I heard Papa say Cissy’s name and my mother laughed. I heard her tell the story about Nana’s terrible gingerbread houses, the ones they couldn’t bear to eat. I leaned against the wall and listened for a while. In between their words, the branches of our tree seemed to jingle and dance, its faint light shook, as if part of the conversation.
I have a theory, hear me out, that there are such things as Input days and Output days.
As in, I cannot possibly be expected to do, create, say or complete anything today because it is in Input day- I only want to read, listen, watch, learn and absorb today. Likewise, there are days when I think I cannot possibly absorb, hear, watch or read one more thing or I will definitely explode- today I’m actually going to shut up and make stuff. Write articles, cook, send all those emails I’ve been putting off, get ahead on those projects, write, write, write.
I’m sure most (normal) people are really skilled at doing both and balancing both, every day, but lately I’ve been feeling either one way or the other. And I’m okay with that. It feels so much better to put a label on it and sink into what I’m feeling as opposed to fighting it.
Lately, I’ve been having a lot of Output days. So many, strung together, that I can feel myself starting to retreat (holidays tend to have that effect, the older you get). But before I retreat completely into an Input-Only setting (where Christmas movies, hot chocolate, and books are high on the To Do Only list), I think I might have to break down and make cookies, a lot of cookies. Starting with these.
SKS Holiday Recipes
S’more Cookies | The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | Snowball Cookies (Foodie.com) | Cookie in a Skillet | White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies | Hot Cocoa Cookies | Shortbread Cookies Filled With Caramel | Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies | Bourbon Balls | Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies |Beurre and Sel Jammers | Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles | Nutella Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Turtle Tassies | Walnut Bombs | Whiskey Truffles | Caramel Corn with Bacon and Cashews | Apricot White Chocolate Biscotti | Homemade Peppermint Patties
Easy Buckeye Brownie Cookies
1 (19.5 Ounce) box of fudge brownie mix
1/4 Cup of butter, melted and cooled
4 Ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 Cup of powdered sugar
1 Cup of creamy peanut butter
4 Blocks (4 ounces) of chocolate Candiquik (or make your own dipping chocolate)
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. In a medium bowl, beat together the brownie mix, butter, cream cheese and egg. The dough will be a little sticky to the touch- scoop dough into 24 round cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 12 minutes.
4. While the cookies bake, make your peanut butter filling (they will need to be ready when the cookies come out of the oven) by mixing the creamy peanut butter with the powdered sugar until well combined. Form mixture into 24 one-inch balls.
5. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press a peanut butter ball lightly onto the center of each cookie. (Peanut butter will soften and melt slightly). Let cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Prepare your dipping chocolate. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon on each cookie to cover the peanut butter. Let chocolate set. Store in an airtight container.