Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Chemical Christmas

I love Christmas.
There is an undeniable magic to the season.
The smell of fresh pine. The holiday colors. The familiar melodies. And oh yes, the array of food and flavors.
Simply magic.
Holiday ambiance is also a part of that magic. We have a nativity set that is part of the Christmas ambiance in our home. As we were decorating this year, we discovered that our nativity scene was incomplete. You know the little guy in swaddling clothes? The one with the adoring crowd? The crowd is there.
But he’s gone missing.
Absconded, I think.

We have six possible suspects. Excuse me, I mean grandchildren.
For the last several years, the swaddled baby has disappeared at the end of the holidays. However, we don’t catch his absence until decorating the following year. We wonder if he will show up and so far he has. Mysteriously, he makes his appearance around the 23rd of December.
Coincidentally, that’s about the same time a certain unnamed granddaughter arrives for the holidays.

Yes, Christmas has a magic, but Christmas also has its own chemistry.
Did you know that? Research tells us that there is an important chemical side to love and bonding. Therefore, the love and bonding that are part of Christmas has a chemical side, too.
Let’s call it Christmas Chemistry
You see, we all have a chemical in our brain that plays an important role in the creation of the bonds of love we share with one another.
Say hello to my little friend, Oxytocin.
This hormone appears to be linked with trust, bonding and love, with people secreting higher levels of the hormone when they are involved in activities with people they are close to. Significant others, family, friends and even pets are part of this miracle where closeness releases Oxytocin in our human brain creating a sense of calmness and well being.
Words and actions of appreciation, generous touch, gratitude, and emotional connections with others appear to raise Oxytocin levels.
Stated simply, your caring behaviors and your loving actions help to produce this neurotransmitter.

So consider the rich traditions and times that can make this season warming to our hearts. Eating meals, singing and laughing together can all influence our ability to bond emotionally with one another.
Our daughter has a tradition every Christmas where she, her husband and their two girls make batches of Christmas Chocolate Peanut Clusters. The girls get excited about making the yearly Christmas treat together. There’s the making of, the tasting, the mess, the wrapping and the delivery to the special people in their lives. Their own special Christmas chemistry.

We make tamales every Christmas Eve. Family and friends form the production lines while we talk, laugh and gossip. 
Well, I don’t gossip but I do like listening.
The point is that the processes of sharing engaging experiences with our loved ones can help bind us together emotionally. Isn’t that awesome? You can consciously contribute to the experiences that encourage production of this important brain chemical.
Very cool, don’t you think? Christmas cool.

So let’s make some Oxytocin
Here’s a recipe from our dear friend Mary. Our family always looks forward to her seasonal sugar cookies and they are now part of our holiday celebrations. We’d miss them if they didn’t show up.
So take her recipe, find someone close to you and have a ball making these. Or find someone to eat them with over a cup of coffee. Or find someone to share them with.
Like me!

Mary Christmas Sugar Cookies
375* 6-8 min.
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
4 tsp. milk
2 cups flour
1&1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Thoroughly cream the shortening, sugar, orange peel and vanilla.
Add egg & milk and beat until light and fluffy. (I use an electric mixer).
Add dry ingredients and blend well. Divide dough in half and chill 1 hour in a plastic bag. On a lightly floured surface roll dough out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut in desired shapes with cookie cutters.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 6-8 minutes.
Let cool for about 30 seconds then remove from the pan with a spatula and let cookies cool completely. Frost and decorate as you like.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cookie cutters.

I have been a little absent the last 16 weeks.
My apologies.
These last few months have been busy.
I taught two semester classes at a community college and my time for writing was limited.
But both the year and the semester have come to a close and I wanted to take the time to wish you all a wonderful Christmas season.

So, here is to family and friends near and far.
Here is to old friends, new friends and friends yet to be.
Buon Natale ,
Feliz Navidad,
Feliz Natal,
Frohe Weihnachten,
Joyeux Noël,
Un Crăciun Fericit,
С Рождеством Хрисовым,
Selamat Natal,
and Boldog Karácsonyt,

May you and your loved ones have a Very Merry Chemical Christmas!
Now go make some Oxytocin with someone.
Okay, gotta go.
I’m still looking for the little guy in swaddling clothes. Though I've got an idea when he'll show up.


janet@fromcupcakestocaviar said...

Love the story about Jesus disappearing. Hope He makes it back in time again this year :-D

The cookies look delicious! And now I want them... and tamales lol

Cheqna said...

Hope the little guy appears on time..hehe..

thanks for the cookies recipe, might give it a try one day.

Have a merry time with your family and friends over Christmas season.


mary said...

Dear Mario,
Just reading your blog has my oxitocin levels full to overflowing with lots of warm and loving feelings towards you and your family!! Thanks for sharing all those good thoughts and wonderful memories with us too! Great picture of the cookies! We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas filled to the brim with "chemistry"!! love from your dear friend, Mary :-)

Anna said...

What an interesting post, I've never heard about Oxytocin before!! :D I wish you a merry Christimas too :)

By the way, you might not know how to wish merry Christmas in catalan: we say "Bon Nadal"!!


Nelson said...

Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congrats for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at
Thanks for sharing!

Smareis said...

Oi Mário seu post é excelente.
Desejo uma ótima semana pra ti!
Ja deixo meu desejo de um Feliz Natal e um Ano recheado de sonhos e desejos realizados. Obrigada por ter caminhado comigo durante esse Ano, e que no próximo Ano estejamos juntos novamente... Beijos grande!

GmiK said...

Hi Mario! I wish you a merry Christmas too!! The recipe is fantasntic. Long time ago that I do not write, but I have a lot of work and I'm back to university. Hugs and Kiss!!!

Lídia said...

Hi Mario, thanks for your comment, Iit didn't know that there's this restaurant, I would be charmed with going some day :) I love cheescakes, its one of my favourite recipes :P
This week I'll make cookies for christmas too :)

Marry Christmas, enjoy this holidays and thanks for the visit in my blog :)

Alu said...

Augurissimi Marioooooooooo a te ed a tutti i tuoi cariiii!!!!
Merry Xmas dear Marioooo ^_^

Sidra Amjed said...

The cookies look amazing !
Happy Holidays !

Claudia said...

Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Mara said...

Hi Mario!
Thanks for visiting!
I wish you and your family a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

lola said...

Hola Mario, felices fiestas y feliz 2012 para ti y toda tú familia. Muchos besos y abrazos

Ale said...

Quem dera essa força, essa fé, essa sensação de paz, perdurassem todos os dias,

Que possamos permitir esse espírito em todos os dias de nossa vida,

A Ti, um natal e um 2012 carregados de luz, paz e amor,


Drizel said...

Hey Mario,

Thanks for the lovely Christmas wishes over at my blog. All the most amazing Oxytocin moments for you and your family over the festive season ;)

Carol said...

Hi Mario! I liked so much to receive your comment!
I wish you too a very happy christmas and a wonderful new year.
Pd: Your blog still as nice as always.
Sorry for my english!
Kisses, Carol.

Miluna said...

mi mejores deseos en estas fiestas navideñas llenas de amor y alegria..



Adina said...

Mario,wishing you and your loved ones Happy Holidays!
Craciun Fericit!

Cinzia said...

Ciao Mario!
I wish you and your family, a very Happy Christmas and have good life in the next days :)

kitsune said...

Anyeong Mario! I'd just gotten back from a vacation to find this charming post.

Your granddaughter is so cute!

Ellen ♥ said...

Hi Mario! Merry Christmas... too late for the greetings? hehehe... I love cookies and I might try baking this at home...Simple recipes will do for me. Although I'm not into cooking or baking but I will try...:)

Jose Ramon Santana Vazquez said...


desde mis


CON saludos de la luna al
reflejarse en el mar de la



BeadBag said...

Also wishing you a very merry Christmas and very happy New Year from London, UK. I will be trying your Mary Christmas cookies too :)

I love your little 'elf'? pic.
kindest regards Mario,
Shirley I.

Claudia said...

I wish you a new year filled with prosperity, joy and happiness. Happy New Year!

jenskie said...

I love Christmas too and oh thanks for sharing Mary Christmas Sugar Cookies recipe :)

Belated happy Christmas and happy new year to you and to your family!


La Chica Indigo said...

¡Hola! Saludos desde España :).

Thanks for ur comment in my blog! Im so happy cause this :). Me alegro que te haya gustado mi blog:))). El tuyo está muy bien también, a mí me encanta la cocina. Cooking its a lovely hobbie for me :D. Yo soy vegetariana y desde luego he tenido que aprender a cocinar a mi manera. Soon ill do any of your recipes!

Te deseo todo lo mejor para este año 2012.

Since now, I follow u!

Un cordial saludo.

La Chica Indigo.

thingsIlove said...

Happy new year! The cookies look cute.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mario!! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas holiday and a Happy New Year!
I enjoyed reading your post...what a sweet story! And the cookies are my favorite part! What's Christmas without sugar cookies? :)

I've recently moved my blog over to my Mom's site where I will be a contributor. So please do visit soon!

Cheers to a New Year!

Andie said...

Oh Gosh Mario I just saw your Christmas message! Oh thank you so much! I wish you had an amazing Christmas! And this 2012 is full with the best of things for you and your family :)

MeLikeyUK said...

Hi Mario,

Just stopped by to wish you and your family my best wishes for 2012.
Your post was lovely and captures all the fond memories of Christmas.

Anna's kitchen table said...

Happy New Year Mario!
I love your writing, it seems to flow so easily from you and you tell such lovely stories.
Fancy that regarding oxytocin- I never knew all that!
So that cosy, warm feeling is partly an oxytocin release?

Linda said...

Missed you over the holidays. Here's to a Happy New Year! Ahhh, traditions. They keep us grounded, don't they. Bring balance to our lives. I love your story about the absconded baby. That's precious and it sounds like he's well cared for. We have several holiday traditions but one, relating to food, is our French Meat Pie, or Tourtiere. Lots of chemistry come from that simple pie! I enjoyed reading about your wonderful tamale tradition and recipe.

Unknown said...

Hi Mario ! Thanks for visiting my blog :)I love to cook ! your blog is very interesting and very cute. I live in Argentina and I do not speak English very well, really sorry. I follow you, good luck :) Kisses.