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Christmas coming together, thanks to my own Elf

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Christmas is coming together at my house because I have my own elf.

Actually, he’s more like Elf. He’s my 6-foot-3-inch husband.

He doesn’t eat spaghetti with maple syrup or chug liters of soda, but there are similarities to Will Ferrell’s character.

My husband loves Christmas and everything about it (except the credit-card bills).

Getting out all the boxes with decorations, especially our tree and the 9 billion ornaments I have, really stresses me out.

The past few years, I’ve left the house while he’s put up the tree. My mother bought the tree for us last year, and it has lights already on it, which is a help to Elf.

This year, I came home to the tree decorated with red and silver mesh, and some of the ornaments already on it.

I finished it, and he put the boxes back up in the attic, with my help.

Then, there’s the baking. The ice that came canceled the university classes he teaches.

He texted a picture to me of our kitchen counters covered with newspaper and three kinds of cookies he’d made, including Oriental Crunch, one of his family recipes that he makes only at Christmas. We call it chocolate crack.

That is not fun to me, either — baking. I made pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving, and I’m pretty much done for the year.

I took some of the Oriental Crunch to work.

A business owner from across the street came to our office, and she was bemoaning the fact that she needed to wrap presents.

I said, “Oh, David wrapped all of ours this weekend.”

“David’s a saint,” she said. I’ve heard that before. I do not deny it.

He set up a card table in the living room and turned on Christmas music.

I would bring him the presents (that I bought — that’s my speciality), and tell him who they were for and my preferred wrapping paper for him to use (the paper with deer on it is for my hunter son). He wrapped; I put on the to-from tags.

One of his favorite things to do is find just the perfect box for a present, or disguise a present by wrapping it in something unusual.

Example: It looks to me like I have an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot-range model air rifle under the tree, but it’s probably socks.

Then, I told the woman visiting our office that she should try the Oriental Crunch that he made.

“This is amazing,” she said. “I want this recipe.”

So, in the spirit of Christmas — and I don’t think I’ve ever given a recipe in my column in the almost 23 years I’ve been writing it — I’m sharing a recipe. You can’t have Elf — he’s mine.

Oriental Crunch


1 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons instant coffee

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend butter, instant coffee, almond extract, vanilla and salt. Beat in sugar, then flour; stir in chocolate chips and almonds. Press into an ungreased 15- by 10- by 1-inch pan. Bake 20 to 22 minutes. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes; break into irregular pieces.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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