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gluten-free peanut butter cookies

There is a classic Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi, about a young couple that is poorer than poor. The wife, with only a dollar and eighty-seven cents to her name, sells her beautiful hair to afford a gift for her husband—a chain for his pocket watch. Meanwhile, he sells the pocket watch to buy tortoiseshell combs for her hair. On Christmas Day, they exchange gifts and see the tender irony.

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rhubarb from the garden

The first time I remember tasting strawberry rhubarb pie was in Aspen, at a backyard party meeting my husband’s family. With its gemlike strawberries and ruby stalks of rhubarb, this pie has marked many special occasions since then. Our honeymoon, a post-wedding party in Colorado, and the birth of our son, Noah, who arrived in this world on August 31. Mike, the proud papa, has whipped up no fewer than four strawberry rhubarb pies since Noah’s birthday.

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gaucho on the pampas

It’s funny how condiments can reflect a culture. The Aussies have their Veggiemite. The Brits their Colman’s mustard. The Japanese their soy sauce. We Americans our peanut butter. There’s so much patriotism wrapped up in a screw-top jar.

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Eiffel Tower

Whew. Where did last month go? I’ll tell you: to Paris.

Our departure was a whirlwind of expedited passport renewals, last-minute airfare, and a fifth-floor walkup apartment booked the day before we left. The transatlantic flight touched down to a gray dawn, and so commenced our first trip to Paris (my first to France, period).

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Chocolate birthday cake

Chocolate cake is on the menu for two reasons this weekend: This blog celebrates its 1-year anniversary, and last night I celebrated my 10-year high school reunion. The delectably dense chocolate cake has instant coffee (or espresso) in the batter, an apt nod to growing up in the suburbs of Seattle.

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madeleine cookies and coffee

I have baked 12 dozen madeleine cookies in the past three weeks. Twelve dozen. Why the feverish baking spree, you ask? I blame my boss.

It all started a couple months ago when he made a literary allusion that sailed over my head. “You know, like Proust’s madeleines,” he quipped during a meeting. Proust, Proust… I scrunched my eyebrows together, scrambling for a mental foothold. The French guy, right?

Clearly I had some homework to do. Fortunately it involved butter and sugar.

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Pound cake and coffee

My grandfather passed away the weekend before last. At a loss for what else to do, I decided to bake a cake in Grandpa Bill’s honor. He had a sweet tooth like his granddaughter.

You would have liked him. “Well, hi there,” he would say, reaching to shake your hand with a chuckle. He had a deep baritone voice that rumbled, burnishing each word with warmth, tobacco, and a touch of the South.

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Good news! Today I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger on The Proximal Kitchen, a witty food and wine blog written by Scott Kerson for the Press Democrat, a newspaper in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Check it out!

January is a busy birthday month in my family. As the story goes, my mom insisted her children would be born no closer than three years apart; my dad insisted we be no further apart than three years. My brother Paul and I are separated by two years, 356 days. Talk about precision pregnancy.

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Merry Christmas Eve, friends. I’m happy to report that Christmas miracles abound.

Mike has December 24, 25, and 26 off from the hospital (yay!!). My mom, dad, brother, and I shared a lovely meal last night at the Zuni Café in San Francisco—our first full Clary reunion in way too long and another reason to cheer for being on the West Coast. And our mercurial dog Denali is getting along astonishingly well with my parents’ 100-pound-plus Bernese Mountain Dogs.

I couldn’t have asked for better gifts. Which is good because we are not exchanging any this year beyond stockings.

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