Saturday, July 23, 2011

Christmas in July - Visit Bayeux with Stephanie Burkhart

Nutmeg and cinnamon. Peppermint and warm hot chocolate. The smells of Christmas can really put a person in the holiday spirit, but when I was in Europe, there were several different traditions I grew to appreciate and love.

In 1986, I was stationed in Muenster, Germany. Downtown Muenster had a pedestrian square that hosted a Christmas Market every year. There were booths that sold handcrafts, wooden ornaments, and marzipan cookies. They also sold a warm drink called Glühwein. It was a mulled wine drink usually spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla, sugar, or rum. You could find everything you wanted to decorate your home and gifts for the family at the Christmas markets. (They weren't quite Target, but I loved the old world charm and ambience.)

I drew on that old world charm and ambience when I wrote my story, "Christmas in Bayeux," which is included in "A Christmas Collection, Stimulating" with Victory Tales Press. In the story, Aiden Seward travels to Bayeux, France and the World War II Beaches of Normandy to find himself. He's reunited with a young French woman, Noel Rousseau, who he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help Aiden find his Christmas spirit?

Nowadays, Christmas in California, isn't quite the same. Glühwein and marizpan cookies are tough to come by, but one Saturday during December, I set the day aside to bake homemade sugar cookies with my boys from scratch. The smiles on their faces say it all.

Does anyone want to share their Christmas traditions?

Enjoy this recipe for Christmas Minty Meltaways that's Weight Watcher friendly!
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp fat free milk
red food coloring

1. To make cookies place oven racks in upper and lower thirds ot the oven and preheat to 350.

2. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt in a bowl. With an electric mixer on med speed, beat butter until creaming, about 1 min. Add confectioners sugar and peppermint extract, beat 4 mins. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mix, beating just until blended.

3. form dough by tablespoonsfuls into 1 inch balls. Place balls on 2 large ungreased baking sheets 1 inch apart.

Bake until tops are firm 8-10 mins Let cookies cool on baking sheets 3 mins transfer to racks and let cool completely.

4. To make the glaze, whisk confectioners sugar, 1 tbsp milk, and food coloring until smooth. Drizzle glaze evenly over cookies. Let stand until glaze sets about 30 mins. Cover and store at room temp up to 1 week.

1 cookie: 119 calories. 3 points.

Enjoy a small excerpt from the story, "Christmas in Bayeux." - a .99 read! Treat yourself to a little Christmas in July!

They walked a block or two and entered the downtown pedestrian area. Aiden stopped, amazed by the wooden shops lined up against each other. They sold wooden ornaments, candies, knick-knacks, wreaths, candles, anything that had to do with Christmas. There were three rows of these booths, which took up the square along with a food tent. The scent of mulled apples and sweet pastries tickled his nose.

"Noel, what is this?"
"The Christmas markets."
"Is this what you wanted to show me?"

"No." She paused. "Ah, that's right – you don't have Christmas markets in the States."

"Well, then, we're coming here tomorrow to shop for Christmas."

She smiled. "It's a date."

He found it impossible not to return her disarming grin. Was that what they were doing? Dating? She led him down the street. It was getting harder for him to hold back, but he wanted her to know that when he kissed her, when he touched her, it was because he wanted her, not because it was gratitude or some other strong emotion. Well, yes, he was grateful to her, but damn it, he wasn't about to let her walk out of his life right now. Right now? Who was he kidding? He didn't want her to walk out of his life again.

She pushed two wooden double doors open and they walked into a wide open-spaced entrance hall. "Is this a museum?"

"Oui. It houses our best known prize – the Bayeux Tapestry."

Short Teaser on You Tube:

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