When I was in the first grade, I made the best Christmas gift of all time. At least, I thought so. I was so proud of it for many years until it slowly became a bit of nostalgia, as I grew up.
We cut the palm sized green felt trees out with dull safety scissors. The metal kind that dug into soft, fleshy child hands. I followed the black marker outline as closely as humanly possible with those dull scissors, concentrating and trying my best to get into the corners so the tree would have triangular edges instead of resembling an oddly shaped oval. I am sure the cutting out process took an entire afternoon as my fellow classmates likely did not have the privilege of practicing at home with their mothers' very sharp sewing scissors and odd scraps of fabric. Whereas I spent long hours after school making doll clothes and outfits for the cat using Val's special scissors.
After what seemed like days later, the cutting out finally completed, we were instructed to place a tiny dot of Elmer's Glue on the back of the tree. Once this glue drop was placed in the correct location, our teacher stopped at each of our desks, to place a small safety pin horizontally over the glue. We were told not to touch the trees again until tomorrow and to take care when putting up our chairs as the final bell rang. "The glue will dry overnight, " she said. I knew this to be true having used loads of Elmer's on the fore mentioned doll and cat clothes. However, some of my lesser experienced classmates where skeptical.
The next morning, the best day of the project arrived, when I could unleash all of my creativity. As our teacher walked slowly around the classroom placing bottles of glue and containers of multi colored glitter to be shared in groups, I couldn't wait to get my hands on them before they might be squandered by less restrained students. I was ready to show the world my design style that would mirror the artistry of our teacher's demo glittery felt tree. Hers was decorated with perfect swags of glitter with a dot at the top signalling a star. It was expertly crafted, but I was confident that I could copy it.
I squeezed the glue bottle upside down, in both my hands, willing the wet goo into the exact places to emphasize the look of garland. I almost had to wait too long for the glitter to be finally passed to me, fearing the glue would dry too quickly and the right amount of glitter would not adhere. I was nervous, this was a masterpiece to be presented to my mother. I wanted it to be the best gift under the tree. As our teacher raised her cheery voice and said, "Not to worry about too much glue, it will dry clear!" for those who got a little messy, I felt elated as I looked down on my creation, in my mind having made a beautiful gem that my mother would be sure to praise and cherish as she opened it up on Christmas morning along with all of the other less significant gifts.
It seemed like forever to wait for a day or so for the glue and glitter to be ready to be packaged up and carefully sent home on the last day of school before the holiday break. I am not sure if I had help boxing and wrapping my tiny treasure, perhaps my older sister had a hand in that. But looking at the felt tree pin, so many, many years later, the glitter having worn off, the felt softened with wear, I am still reminded of the excitement of giving this handmade gift to my mother and the pride and happiness every time she took the pin out of the safe keeping of her jewelry box to wear it again, year after year on Christmas day.
These cookies are an homage to the glittery, felt tree pin. I used a classic recipe that Val has been making for years.
Cut Out Sugar Cookies with Frosting
(makes about 3 dozen according to the size of the cookie cutter)
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out)
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add baking powder and salt, mix to combine. Slowly add the flour until well incorporated. Separate dough into two pieces, flatten into discs, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured board, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out small pieces of chilled dough and cut out using floured cookie cutters. Place on lined cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies look dry and edges just begin to turn golden. Remove cookies to cooling racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
1/4 cup softened butter
3 cups powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons milk (plus a little more to make this version a bit runny)
1 teaspoon vanilla
green food coloring
In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and milk alternately until desired creaminess is reached. Add vanilla and mix well. (This frosting should be a little runny to make the soft edges of the tree and allow enough time to adhere glitter decoration.) Add green food coloring a few drops at a time until desired color is established. Spread frosting on cookie and immediately sprinkle with edible glitter. (I use a brush to scoop up the glitter, then tap it gently onto the frosting.) Repeat frosting and adding glitter to cookies, one at a time. Allow cookies to dry uncovered, overnight until frosting hardens. Store in an airtight container up to one week.