Baking has been a Christmas tradition for me, but I certainly did not learn that from my Mother. While she and my Dad often had large Christmas or New Year's parties, I don't ever remember her spending much time in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies or breads. She did often make fresh coconut cake, though. This cake had been traditional in her family apparently. Most years, too, she insisted that the coconut sprinkled on the white icing be from a fresh coconut. I can remember her spending time on Christmas Eve grating it on a box grater. In later years she did bow to not having to do this and would buy Bakers' coconut in the can. But it was never as good as the fresh. Growing up I had always wanted to learn how to make yeast breads but never mastered that until after I had my own home. The first year that I was married we were very poor college students and my husband wasn't sure he could afford to give me a birthday gift until I found the Better Homes and Gardens "Bread Cook Book," which I think cost $2.95. Over the years that book has been used hard, especially during the holidays. Since our breakfast on Christmas Day was actually a brunch featuring oyster stew, it was important that we have something to tide us over while we unwrapped gifts, and that was usually some kind of holiday yeast bread. I have made two batches this year of the little Sugar Plum loaves pictured above to give friends and neighbors. This year for the second batch I adapted the recipe so that I could use my bread machine to do the "heavy lifting" and had better results than when I tried to do it the "old fashioned" way. I have butter softening today because later this afternoon I plan to make a batch of spritz butter cookies. And next week I want to make my favorite Trinity Lutheran Church Molasses Sugar Cookies. I will share some of both of these with the people that man our community gate house. I want to take as much of the rest of both of these cookies with me when I go to my North Carolina son's house for Christmas. I don't dare bake cookies very often during the rest of the year because I would eat them, which is not good for my waistline. Being able to give baked goods as gifts to friends, neighbors, and family is such a great excuse to bake. Besides, it makes my house smell especially good. Below is a picture of my much-loved bread cook book.