If you met me you might never guess that I own a light-up Christmas village. It’s the one chink in my very practical and matter-of-fact armor. My sister, who is the queen of holiday whimsy, started me collecting back when we both lived in Chicago (our houses were only 10 minutes apart…). Those were the days!

In deference to my sensible side I made a vow that I would only collect buildings and pieces that struck a chord – shops reminiscent of places I go (a greenhouse, a toy store), houses resembling neighborhoods where I live (a tiny farmhouse, a stucco hacienda) and figures and props to make me think of family members and friends (doughnut eaters, hot chocolate drinkers, snowball fighters).  I’ve pretty much remained true to that vision.

At one point UrDad built me a large wooden multi-level platform and painted it white… It was our first real attempt at an organized display. (Not my cup of tea… It looked like a store display…) Next I tried arranging it throughout the house – a few in each room – you know, spreading the holiday cheer. Then I moved to several thematic groupings strategically placed – the city scene, the country scene, the pond scene, the forest scene, the neighborhood.

And the collection of houses grew and the family of figurines multiplied, ‘cuz that’s what collections do. In my house in Austin there is not nearly enough room to display it all. Several years back we had the genius idea to rotate pieces every year in the space above the kitchen cabinets! So UrDad wired it up, laid out lights and built platforms – the city is on the left and the country is on the right! I think it is my favorite way yet.

These sugar-dusted pecan cookies fit right in with the Snow Village ridiculousness. They are decadent and unnecessary. They are nutty and delightful to behold. They keep well and ship beautifully. And they are topped with a generous amount of “snow”. Hey, we live in Texas – we do what we can!

Gather Up:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
¾ teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
4 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, oil and the sugars until combined.

Beat in the extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each.

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add to the creamed mixture until combined.

Stir in pecans.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. If they are in a ball, flatten slightly with two fingers. Bake approximately 10 minutes. Watch carefully. (Do not brown on the top; only let them brown just the slightest bit around the bottom edge, because once they brown the taste will change.)

Remove to cooling rack and immediately sift confectioners’ sugar over the hot cookies. Let cool completely. Store in airtight containers.