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With 50 in the Rearview Mirror

The 12 Things to Never Do (Again) During the Holidays

Avoid the Christmas letter, smoking Santas at all cost

6. Give the gift of Amish friend bread, fruitcake or those giant boxes with four eight-packs of English muffins the size and thickness of tires on a harvester to anyone I really liked.

7. Insist that I really don't mind at all butchering a pumpkin and making pies from it.

8. Write a Christmas letter that tells only half the truth. We're delighted that Connor's back at Brown, seeing life in a new and dedicated way (the girlfriend from Samoa with the seven children dumped him). And CEO-mom Erika is burning the midnight oil since her promotion (her personal assistant, Thor, is a hunka hunka burning oil himself). Little Tannis just keeps astounding us with the grades she's pulling in AP English (Dad's up late waiting to find out the latest about Mom and Thor, so he might as well get some use from that creative writing degree).

9. Write a Christmas letter at all.

10. Send a Christmas card. Studies have shown that the out-of-envelope life of a Christmas card is less than 11 seconds.

11. Give just a little guidance on how to cut the turkey.

12. Play Twister without wearing a belt.

And one more thing. I'll never stop making the very best holiday cookies on Earth — tutus. They have as many ingredients as a hydrogen bomb, and will have the same impact on your family, who will fall upon them, stuffing their faces, stunned at your prowess, and beg for the recipe. Then you insist that you don't use a recipe … it's all stored right there in your little stocking cap.

And here it is:

Tutus

5 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup brewed coffee at room temperature

colored sugar or sprinkles for frosting (see recipe below)

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa, granulated and brown sugars. Mix well. With hands or pastry blender, cut butter and vegetable shortening into dry mixture as you would for pie crust, until consistency of coarse cornmeal. Stir in nuts.

In another bowl, combine eggs, vanilla and coffee. Add to flour mixture. Mix well. Form balls of dough about 3/4 inch in diameter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

Prepare frosting. Take a few cookies at a time and dip into frosting, turning with hand until cookies are completely covered. Shake off excess frosting over bowl. Place cookies on wire rack to dry 3-6 hours.

Sprinkle colored sugar or sprinkles on immediately after placing on racks.

Frosting

1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar (about 6 cups), 1 teaspoon vanilla

In bowl, stir milk into powdered sugar. Add vanilla. Mix until smooth. Stir in more milk if needed to obtain a thin consistency (a little thicker than maple syrup).

Also of interest: 25 things you don't need at 50. >>

Jacquelyn Mitchard, the best-selling author of 21 books, lives near Madison, Wis., with her family. Her latest novel is Second Nature: A Love Story.

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