On Monday evening my mom came to spend the night and then stay with the three younger kids while I took Yo-Yo to his routine doctor’s appointment in the big city the next day.

I could sure get used to having a live-in nanny. Skipping off to a doctor’s appointment is practically effortless when I can leave the house with everyone still in their jammies. When I got back, Sweetsie’s room was all fixed up (my mother likes to pretend she’s Ram Dass in A Little Princess, trucking in little pretties to fluff up the kids’ [and grownups’] nests—and you know what? If she had a monkey on her shoulder, there wouldn’t be any way to tell the two of them apart), chores done, books read, and kids in jolly-fine spirits.

Maybe we need to quick turn Amish and build a Daudy house.

And then she up and took the two olders home with her so now, with a 50 percent reduction in my work load, I’m feeling right footloose and fancy-free.

This morning I played a couple card games with the kids and then shooed them off to play. Cookies were on my agenda (again) and I didn’t want any grabby fingers meddling.

“Can we have a tea party?” Sweetsie asked. “With gingerbread and water and little glasses?”

“No,” I said, eager to get to my work. But then I conceded just a little, “I’ll think about it. Now run along.”

By the time I greased my cookie sheets and started rolling the peanut butter dough into balls, the two littles were immersed in a game of make believe. They had back packs and books, play food was stuffed in an unplugged toaster oven, and they were vigorously bossing each other around.

Normally when the kids play like so, I don’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. There is no way I want to draw attention away from their game and towards myself. But today, with the bigs being gone and a lazy day stretched out in front of me, I got an uncommon urge, an urge to charm the socks off my kids.

So. While they were all a-bustle over by the dress-up box, I slipped the cookie dough back into the fridge, put some water on to boil, fetched three little mugs from the hutch, spread a red-checked cloth on the kitchen floor, and set the “table” with napkins, spoons, and the bowl of sugar that originally was intended for the dough balls.

The red raspberry tea set to steeping, I approached their school/house/store and rapped on the wall. Without even turning to look at me, Sweetsie called out, Come in!

“I was wondering if you guys would like to come to my house for tea?”

“Well, sure,” they said agreeably.

“You could come over right now or in a little bit,” I said, not wanting to be bossy.

“Um, okay,” Sweetsie said. “In a little bit.”

And so I returned to my kitchen to sit on the floor and await for my guests.

In short order they arrived. Backpacks were shed, cookies devoured, tea stirred and sipped, and when a guest’s full glass went tippy-oh, I, feeling very Mary Poppinesque, didn’t even bother to clean it up. Instead, I laughed and benevolently offered a refill.

The pot of tea emptied, my guests offered many thanks before carrying there sugar-bottomed cups to the sink and heading back to school/home/the store. And I, my urge to charm appeased, tossed the cloth in the wash, pulled the bowl of dough back out of the fridge, and commenced to bake up a storm.

A couple hours later at lunch: the Baby Nickel was fully engrossed in spreading his grape jelly all the way to the edges of his toast when out of the blue he heartily declared, “Thanks for having that tea party, Mom. It was fun!”

And just like that, the socks were charmed right off me.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett

There are lots of peanut butter cookie recipes out there but I have yet to find a better one. These are classic. Crunchy around the edges, chewy in the middle, and perfectly peanut-buttery.

3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
3/4 cup white sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons flavorless oil (I used canola) or peanut oil
2 eggs
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
2 1/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt, scant

Cream together the butter, oil, and sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and then the peanut butter. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Chill the dough for a couple hours. (It will keep for several days in the fridge, and it freezes well, too.)

Shape the dough into balls (about 1-inch in diameter). Lightly grease your baking sheets.

For classic crissscross cookies:
Set the balls on the cookie sheets and, using a fork, press down one way and then the other to make a checkerboard pattern. To keep the dough from sticking to the fork, dip it into some granulated sugar between presses.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes or until they are slightly golden brown at the edges but still soft in the middle. Take care not to overbake.

For peanut butter blossoms:
Roll the balls of dough in a bowl of granulated sugar. Set the balls on the cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes, or until the tops are beginning to crack. Remove the cookies from the oven and press a Hershey’s kiss into the top of each cookie. After allowing the cookies to set up for a couple minutes, transfer them to a cooling rack. Wait to bag up the cookies till they are totally cool and the chocolate has set.

My own version:
Confession: I don’t like Hershey’s kisses in my peanut butter cookies. It’s too much chocolate per mouthful, plus the kisses often end up falling off somewhere between the freezer and the cookie platter. Therefore, I’ve come up with my own little version: Wilber dark chocolate disks. Instead of pressing a kiss into each baked cookie, I press in one of those little disks. Then, just for pretty, while the chocolate is all soft and creamy-dreamy, I drop one Ghirardelli white chocolate chip on top.

Note: if you want less crinkly cookie edges, smash the sugar-rolled balls down a little using the smooth bottom of a drinking glass. I did it both ways this morning and while I think I like the crinkly look best, you just may prefer the other.

This same time, years previous: Ree’s Monkey Bread and Butter Cookies


  • Mavis

    Dear JJ's Mom… I love you.

    You are giving your Grandbabies something money could never buy. You are a ROCK Star in my book. Merry Christmas.

  • Cookie baker Lynn

    I love your variation on these cookies. The white chocolate makes them look so much fancier.

    Can I borrow your mother, please? Although I must warn you, I might not give her back.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Margo, Ha! I have four. The 5th is my (nearly) 3-year-old niece who lives a half mile from our house and looks like Sweetsie and fits seamlessly into our family. We ALL dote on her.

    Suburban Correspondent, You caught me. See, I haven't tried the flourless pb cookies and I was fully aware of that when I typed that sentence. Now that my hypocrisy has been brought into the light of day—gulp, I shall have to bake my amends.

  • Suburban Correspondent

    For once, I have to disagree – the flourless peanut butter cookies are the best!

    But that scene from The Little Princess? My absolute favorite…

  • Anonymous

    You will never regret using your time this way. When you're an old lady you will look back at these days and say, 'I wish I'd taken more time for them when they were little.' You will never say, 'I should have spent less time with them.'

  • Margo

    do you have 4 kids or 5 kids? I love that photo.

    I think I'm going to copy your peanut blossoms – I was just discussing this with my best friend because I'm not keen on the the Hershey's either, and she suggested Wilbur Buds too! So it's in the stars now, I see.

    I like your tea party too.

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