This is a post about a community Christmas cookie.

***

Bear with me, and hello! Happiest of holiday seasons to you and yours!

And back to the aforementioned cookie…

It was Christmas Eve Eve, and I’d waited too long to secure anise seed, a necessary ingredient in my favorite Christmas cookie, one I make religiously, each and every year: German Springerle.

I visited four stores on my search for the elusive, black licorice-scented seed and found none. I lamented supply chain issues and the state of commerce in particular and the world in general. But not for long, because Christmas.

In a last ditch attempt to keep my cookie tradition alive, my husband suggested I ask for anise seed on our village’s FB page. Within the hour, I had offers of fennel seed and star anise–the latter of which I believed just might work.

Because this is not a baking blog (you’re welcome), I won’t bore you with the recipe–unless you want it (I don’t believe in secret recipes). But suffice it to say the cookie turned out great with the substitution. Yes, it takes a village.

You probably have your own community cookie story. Maybe it’s an actual cookie. Maybe it’s something a little more poignant.

As Epiphany approaches, the Wise Men in our nativity set inch closer to the scene. These smart guys (rightly) get a lot of press. They brought pretty important ingredients to that out-of-the-way stable.

Our nativity set also features some more colorful comers–a rough-looking fellow bringing a chicken and eggs; a woman bringing several loaves of bread balanced on her head; a drummer and a bagpiper bringing the tunes.

Me, I’ve been bringing the music, this year, my first full year as a cantor at my Catholic parish and for weddings and funerals. And this singing way of things has found its way into my home-life (working on a Von Trapp vibe over here!) and my writing-life. In my novel-in-progress I ask: Can our songs save us? And in my recent nonfiction, I try to bring my voice closer to my heart.

If you know me out on Twitter–land of snark–you’ll know that in addition to cookies, I am the one who brings the shrimp ring to a party. (My Midwestern child-self would be duly impressed.) Snark aside, I try to do my small part at a time when it seems we’re all pulled apart, party-less.

Because, we can’t make all the good stuff entirely on our own. It takes community.

Community is why I started this blog way back in 2017. And it’s why I will continue to hype the poets and writers and literary-scene-makers of the Rust Belt in 2022.

If you haven’t yet checked out some of my favorite posts of this year, I hope you will. Among them: my interview with former steelworker and memoirist Eliese Colette Goldbach, author of Rust; and my interview with poet and memoirist Robert Miltner, author of Ohio Apertures: A Lyric Memoir. Many, many thanks go to those on the answering end of my queries.

2021 Rust Belt Girl blog superlatives? I’ve got those! 3,232 visitors hailing from 78 countries–not bad for a blog that reveres the regional.

My most viewed post (once again) is my gush-fest about Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. (Have you read his new novel? On my TBR.)

My review of Michigander Dawn Newton’s The Remnants of Summer came up second.

My most-viewed interview this year was that with Cleveland native poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis, whom I got to meet in person–and even break bread with–at Lit Youngstown’s Fall Literary Festival in October. A festival I helped to plan, along with so many other members of that literary community.

The literary world just recently lost Joan Didion. The places she wrote about and from are not my places. But she has a lot to teach us about writing about place. I’m taking this quote of hers into 2022 as inspiration:

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image.

Joan Didion, The White Album, 1979

Whatever place you’re shaping, whatever community you belong to, thank you for being here.

All the best in 2022, stay well, and keep in touch!

Hankering for Rust Belt author interviews, book reviews, and more? Check out my categories above. I hope you’ll follow me here, if you don’t already, so you never miss a (quite infrequent) post. ~Rebecca

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32 thoughts on “Not a post about a Christmas cookie

    1. Happy New Year, Aunt Maureen! And I loved your email with family remembrances. You and Uncle Mike were best friends to my parents too, I know. What special times–even if no double weddings, ha! Here’s hoping for a wonderful 2022!

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    1. Gotta love a shrimp tray, right! It was always our special NYE treat when we were kids. And when the shrimp ran out (because it was expensive!) we dipped Saltines in the cocktail sauce. I tell my kids this, and they think it was some kind of Oliver Twist situation. “Please, may I have some more?” Ha!

      There have not been enough words here at this blog, Shelley, and I’ve missed my blogging community. Too much work this year left me stretched thin; however I recently reduced my client load by a couple, so I have more time for my creative work–including my latest novel. Would you still be up for reading it at some point. I’d love your input and expertise!

      Cheers to you, my friend. And thank you for always keeping in touch–even when I go radio silent!–and for your images of your world that always brighten my day. Happy 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, shrimp disappears and the crackers appear. Can’t let that sauce go to waste! Glad you’re sharing those experiences with your kids too.

        I knew that you were mighty busy – at home and work. I don’t know how you’re keeping all of that straight. I would absolutely love to ready your latest novel!! You know how to reach me. 🙂

        Cheers to you dear friend. Thank you too for keeping in touch. I’m so thankful we found each other here in the blogosphere. Happy 2022! It’s going to be a great year. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Jean I will have to find you over on Twitter–kind of a fun writing community there, really. And I will definitely look for your German cookie. Maybe I’ll add it to my repertoire. Maybe it won’t have tricky-to-find ingredients! Thank you for your comment, and Happy New Year!

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  1. Happy New Year, Rebecca! Here’s toasting to a most productive 2022 (can’t believe I’m writing that date!). Continued inspiration for your novel-in-progress, and so glad you’re keeping up this wonderful blog!!! I learn so much from you! And … I, too, love anise, so I was drooling reading about your cookies. Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deb. Happy New Year to you! I know, 2022 feels so futuristic. Like, with all this progress, can’t a novel just write itself!? Actually, I just sent the manuscript to my first wave of beta readers, yesterday–fingers and toes crossed.

      And thanks so much for your kind works about the blog. I’ve been something of an absentee blogger! Will do better in the new year. I already have a wonderful guest blog post lined up for January.

      Ha, we are very much Old World spice people over here. Anise, clove, all the good stuff. The only spice-forward holiday thing I didn’t have this year was pain d’epices (a good friend has family in France and brings it back–so fragrant and wonderful!).

      I hope you enjoy a lovely evening tonight, and I’m wishing for so much inspiration and productivity for you, too, in 2022. I feel like this is our year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As for our year, Rebecca — I dearly hope so, too!!! I’m getting too old to be patient (not as old as Betty White, God rest her soul), LOL. So glad to hear you’ve got your novel at the beta stage. Hey, I brought some Tove up with me to Michigan! Hope to soon begin reading. And as for anise — when I was a child, my grandmother always drank an anisette drink. I can’t remember the name of it, but I’d love to find it today and remember those old days (and grandma) with a sip or two! 😉 Happy New Year, my friend. You’re a terrific writer, and your success is right around the 2022 corner. 🤗

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  2. Happy New Year, Rebecca! Though I’m not at all religious, I enjoyed your piece about singing the Ave Maria, especially when you brought nature into the fold with the birds (Aves in another sense). Maybe you should send me that cookie recipe – it’s German and I love anise!

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    1. Happy New Year, Eilene! I will be happy to pass along the recipe. I thought it turned out pretty well, even with my star anise substitution (though I will stockpile anise seed this year!) And then I put a little orange zest in there too for good measure!

      I’ll send it to you over at your blog–and that will be a good opportunity for me to see what you’ve been doing lately. I’ve been a bad blogger!

      Thank you for your kind words about my essay. Ack–I didn’t even think of Aves/birds, a missed opportunity! I would like to one day see a lark fly, especially since its flight inspired my favorite piece of music.

      All the best of 2022 for you and your research and writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved that you had to reach out for your extra special ingredient! It sounds so Rust Belt (?) 😀

    I’ve promptly bookmarked your Ave Maria piece. And I’m looking forward to your book, the power of song – yes. The power of music. I’ve always believed it would be music or something artistic that would help bring the positive change we crave…

    And I like how you did your year in review…reminds me of books that need my attention. Amor Towles has a new book out!!! Shreeeekkkkkk. xo

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, Lani! I have a couple posts of yours bookmarked to read next. Hope you had a nice New Year’s celebration–maybe with a good book?

      The past couple years I’ve been doing my best to write toward joy (not always easy for a natural born complainer like me!)–and music brings me joy. So, that’s where I am right now, and that’s where my writing head is, it seems. I think you’re right about music as a driver for positive change!

      I’m excited for the new Amor Towles book, though a reviewer I trust felt it didn’t quite measure up to A Gentleman…but then, what could? I’ve also got Anthony Doerr’s new book on my TBR, but my kids tried to buy it for me for Xmas and it was sold out everywhere (talk about an author’s dream!).

      Big hugs and best wishes for an awesome 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Two excellent authors (and yes, what a dream), I’ll try to get my hands on them. (The books, not the men.) A Gentleman is a damn hard follow up… talk about the stress!

        I did ring in the new year with a good book. How did you know? 😛

        Yes, writing towards joy is an excellent direction. I think we have a tendency to forget why we wanted to write in the first place when we get slogged down my the industry.

        My head is towards humor because that is what gives me joy and what I hope to bring to others… so working on that.

        HNY, Rebecca! Hugs and kisses and all the best wishes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love learning new things about you! A cantor! You ARE a woman of many talents. 🙂 I’m sure you read this book, but I still have to ask what you thought of it– I’m in the middle of Little Fires Everywhere. I kept hearing about this Ng character on agent bios (yes, I DO live under a rock), but I hadn’t read her. Anywho, I wonder if you plan to publish a fave books of 2021 list? Happy New Year!

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  5. Thank you, Kelly! I’ve been having a lot of fun with the singing thing lately.

    And, funny you ask about Little Fires… Way back when I featured more reviews on the blog here, I reviewed that one. (If you search my site for Celeste Ng, it’ll come up.) Ng is a Shaker Heights native–and does a good job characterizing the city (if maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic, but I think you can’t really fault an author for that). I’ll be interested to know what you think of Ng’s novel once you’ve finished–lmn!

    I am absolute trash at keeping track of what I’ve read through the year! I’m on Goodreads but sporadically. My favorite novel of this year was probably Caitlin Horrocks’ The Vexations (about French composer Erik Satie–a book I recommend to historical fiction fans and classical music nerds, like myself, who don’t mind a slower read.) Horrocks does an amazing job writing about music, which is super hard, I’m finding.

    Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a good, healthy, and productive one!

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  6. Great post! I can almost taste the cookies. I love to cook, but have not delved much into baking. Perhaps it requires too much precision bordering on math … “There are three kinds of people in the world, those who understand math, and those who don’t.”
    And big congrats on 3,232 visitors !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Poppy! And how are you? Hope your 2022 is off to a great start. Ha–3 kinds of people. Took me a couple reads. Not a math or language person, evidently!

      I’m envious of your love of cooking. I used to enjoy it much more, before kids. Though they are gradually becoming more adventurous, so I hope to learn to love it again! They’ll eat any kind of cookie, so maybe that’s why I enjoy baking.

      Looking forward to stopping by your new blog!

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  7. Hey Rebecca, Our paths crossed briefly at last year’s Youngstown Lit Fest. I want to thank you again for introducing me to the fesival via your blog. It was because of your internet recommendation, that I was able to meet Larry Smith face to face last October. I’ve been writing a bicycle travelogue/memoir since before COVID. Not long after the conference I submitted my manuscript to Bottom Dog Press. The book should be published in time for this year’s festival.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I am thrilled for you! Congratulations! I look forward to reading your memoir. Larry is wonderful–of course you know this now–and runs a great press.

      I was disappointed we didn’t get to chat at the festival. I hope you enjoyed it. I find it such a welcoming community–and such a great book fair, too. Exciting that your book will be among the offerings, next year. Love to hear success stories like yours!

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      1. It was my rookie year and I didn’t schedule enough time to appreciate the opening day and closing dinner/party. I’ll create more space for it in 2022 and look forward to seeing you there.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This was my third festival and first time I played a little hooky, checking out the on-campus art museum and the Butler Museum of American Art in between literary activities. I always feel like I need to clone myself at these kinds of things! Already looking forward to 2022–will be a grand time!

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