on April 17, 2024

Growing up the middle child of a lower middle-class family, Christmas was the one time of year we didn’t feel as poor as we actually were. We had a beautiful tree we’d cut from our own farm, ornaments we crafted from construction paper and paste, and a dog-eared Sears Wishbook to keep us busy for hours each night after school.

Making Cookies

A highlight for our entire family, though, was my mother’s baking. For weeks leading up to Christmas, she’d bake hundreds of cookies and dozens of candies that she’d arrange on paper plates and deliver as gifts to our neighbors. The way she’d pipe every cutout, domino them into a perfect halo around the plate, and arrange cubes of fudge, hand-poured caramels, and featherweight merengues in the center was a science. “When you do it right,” she’d say as she admired her handiwork, “gift giving is just as much for yourself.”

As a creative child, I craved a seat beside her as she baked. I’d get to hold the jar of molasses as the onyx blob sludged into the bowl. I had flour duty as mom would roll the dough and then I’d puzzle the right cookie cutters to stamp the best yield. I got to stir all the icings as she’d move back and forth among the bowls, dripping inky droplets that would burst into brilliant hues as I mixed. But when it came to decorating, that was purely her domain. She’d explain what she was drawing first – a beard for Santa or a scarf for the Snowman – and I’d watch in awe as the icing flooded but never crested the tiny outlines she’d piped. My favorite part was after the royal icing set, because that was when mom would pull out her brushes, dilute the coloring, and hand-paint tiny details onto each and every cookie. Santa received a twinkle in his eye, the snowman a highlight on his carrot nose, and the angel a set of feathery eyelashes and a shimmering halo.

Tim Haney, VP of Product Development, Enesco/Dept 56As I thought about this new blog series – specifically why I wanted to do it – I kept going back to my mother’s kitchen at Christmas all those years ago. Coming into my role at Department 56 has been like pulling up a seat as she baked, except the baking here has been going on a very long time and it’s not my mother but a team of incredibly talented professionals at the oven. Cream the core memories and story together until light and fluffy, fold in a heaping cup of quality, add a dash of wit and a pinch of awe, and bake on a pan lined with service.

With this new blog series, my kitchen chair is now a bench and I’m inviting all of you to have a seat along with me. I’ll share some of the recipes we’re whipping up, offer peeks at what’s baking, and point out the little details that make our offerings the most delicious of their kind.

As for my mother, she hung up her apron some years back but lovingly typed up all her recipes, bound them, and passed them on to my older brother, younger sister, and myself. At best I have time to create two, sometimes three, of her recipes each Christmas, but all these years on and my mom’s holiday baking is still the talk of legend back in the town where I grew up. None of us had much back then, but we had fellowship, we had laugher, and for as long as they lasted each Christmas, we had her cookies.

Until we gather again …

Tim Haney, VP of Product Development, Enesco / Dept 56
Tim Haney, VP of Product Development @Enesco / Dept 56