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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Basic Cookies

This is my go-to recipe. I had no idea where my cookbooks were so I guesstimated everything. Nailed it. They turn out great and you can personalize them however you want.

Basic Cookies

1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
1/4 c. shortening, if you've got it otherwise skip it (I dump in a glob on a mixing spoon)
2/3 c. brown sugar (or use all white)
2/3 c. white sugar (or use all brown)
1 t. vanilla (or use other flavorings like rum or pineapple or whatever you want to try. Some day I will figure out how to make root beer flavored cookies)
1 t. baking soda/baking powder (either one or use half and half)
1 t. salt
2 eggs (3 if you want more of a cake-like cookie)
2 1/2 c. flour (use part whole wheat if you want) OR 1 c. oatmeal and 2 c. flour
1-2 c. chocolate chips, dried fruit like craisins or cherries or currants, nuts, coconut, sprinkles, or whatever combination you like
1 t. spices like cinnamon, ginger, anise seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds
1/4-1/2 t. spices like nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ground black pepper, chili powder

Cream butter and shortening with sugar until well mixed. Add vanilla, baking soda/powder, salt, and eggs. Beat for 3-4 minutes until fluffy and creamy and smooth. Make sure you scrape the sides once or twice during the mixing. Add flour/oatmeal and whatever stir-ins you like. Mix together.

Scoop by generous tablespoonfuls onto a greased or lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for 8-11 minutes, until lightly browned and set. Longer baking times will give you crunchier cookies, shorter ones will give you softer gooier cookies. Makes about 36 cookies.

Some combos I like:

Dark chocolate and craisins with a little cinnamon in the dough, use oatmeal/flour and half-and-half sugar
white chocolate, chopped almonds, and coconut, use all brown sugar. Use either all flour (half whole wheat) or part oatmeal.
sprinkles (only about 1/3 c.), use all white sugar and all white flour
gingersnaps - 1 t. ginger, all brown sugar, all whole wheat flour

Experiment and see what you like. Please share your versions in the comments.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Shiny New Same Old

It's weird. I know I'm living in a totally different state, but it's the same old same old 99% of the time. The people are different. The street names are different. The house is different. But I may as well be back in my old town. The stores are the same. Unless I really look at the horizon or drive near the river, the neighborhood is the same. The weather is similar, not as cold and rain a lot more than snow. So why did I move? The air is cleaner. The traffic is lighter. Our yard is much flatter.

I tell people we moved for my health, which is true, but it isn't the full truth. We moved because we felt it was the right thing to do. It's scary because my husband is quitting his job soon and doesn't have a new one yet, but we have faith that something will work out. We're in a good place financially so that isn't too much of a worry. Health insurance is a concern, but we'll figure that out, too.

My husband and I both believe in personal revelation, that God has a plan for us. We don't know the plan, but we trust His guidance. We have faith that this move will be good for us.

Meanwhile, I'm gaining mad skills at assembling mail order furniture. I've put together bookshelves, cabinets, lamps, and chairs so far. I'm getting good at connecting all our electronics and getting them set up. My boys put together the desks so I can't claim that one. Now to get the art hung, including my lovely hunting trophy. I rolled a natural 20 to behead this beastie. You can get your own at monsterhedz. I need to get me a dragon skull...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Marble Potatoes with Bacon

So our local grocery store here carries little tiny potatoes. They are pricey, but hey, every once in a while I have to splurge. Plus, they come in a variety mix that includes purple potatoes. I think they were called marble potatoes because they were almost small enough to be marbles.

The store also carries the most divine bacon. It's an "ends and pieces" package of a maple bacon that is almost ham, not bacon. Lots of meat, not so much fat.

Between those two ingredients and a new crockpot I had to try out, I came up with this recipe. It was delicious. Especially with a little salt and pepper and butter.

Marble Potatoes with Bacon

About 3 cups of small potatoes, marble or new reds or whatever you have that's really small. You could also chop up some bigger potatoes into chunks.
1/3 c. onion slices
1/2 c. bacon chunks
1/3 c. hot water

Get out a small crockpot, 1-2 quarts. Drop the onions and half the bacon in the bottom. Dump in the potatoes. Dump the rest of the bacon on top. Pour in the water. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours, until potatoes are fork tender.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Moving Excitement

We've been in our new house for just over a week now. It's been quite the change, but so far, I'm loving it. We don't have the orc head up yet because I can't find where my husband packed the art hanging stuff but everything else is coming together. We'll have boxes around for at least another month.

I have one box I can't find no matter how hard I search. It's a big box full of tupperware, measuring spoons, kitchen drawer organizers, and similar stuff. It's nowhere to be found which is odd since we went with a you-load-we-haul-you-unload company. Nobody has touched our belongings except us. I know the box got loaded in the truck. It's probably the same place that all those missing socks went.

It's off to unpack a few more boxes and assemble more bookshelves.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On Hiatus

Between finishing up graduate school, working on a bazillion projects, dealing with the holidays, quitting all my part-time jobs, packing and sorting my house for the move, handling kids with emotional and anxiety issues, and just living, I have no energy for blogging or writing right now. As soon as we're settled in our new house, I'll be able to pick it up again.

Between now and sometime in February, I'm putting the blog on hiatus. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, everyone! Stay safe and keep reading good books.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Favorite After-Christmas Tradition

Christmas morning comes after days and weeks of building excitement. Children rush to the stockings and the tree to see what Santa brought. Fanciful wrapping paper is ripped from boxes and bags. And in a matter of a few hours (we drag it out at our house, opening presents one at a time), Christmas is reduced to bags of torn wrapping paper and opened presents. The excitement is done until next Christmas. The after-Christmas blahs set in with a vengeance. You know, that vague disappointed feeling.

We found a cure. We celebrate Hogswatch sometime after Christmas but before New Year's Eve. It's total silliness based on a book by Terry Pratchett, the Hogfather (now a motion picture!). The book is hysterically funny, especially if you read it out loud. The movie is pretty close to the story, too, and also very funny.

It's the story of the Hogfather being kidnapped right before Hogswatch. Somebody has to take his place, so Death steps in to fill his boots.

We celebrate by making all the kids go into another room and pretend to be asleep for 15 minutes so the Hogfather can come. Loud, horrible snoring noises are encouraged. Meanwhile, the adults leave large black paper bootprints around the fireplace, if you have one, and assorted imported treats or Christmas leftovers on the counter. The children get to run out and eat whatever they like while we get the gift exchange ready.

The first year we did this with just our own kids. I went to the grocery store and found some bizarre items, like a lemon juicer and an ice cream scoop and envelopes and biscuit mix and pineapples and other random cheap things, and wrapped them up from the Hogfather. The kids thought it was funny. No expectations of anything good or expensive. It was pure silliness.

Hogswatch evolved into a no-holds-barred white elephant gift exchange. Anything ugly or weird or unwanted that you could wrap ended up in the pile of presents. The nicer the wrapping job and the larger the box, the more the gift was fought over. Until it was opened. Only a few were still fought over after opening because they were useless or ugly and definitely unwanted for a reason. The hideous Santa plate made the rounds for several years. So did the awful angel fountain. It sounds much prettier than it was. The encyclopedia set was passed around for almost an hour before someone finally opened the box. Good times.

We haven't done it for a couple of years and I miss it. Maybe this year we'll find a space big enough for all the families that like to celebrate it with us. Last I counted we had at least seven large families involved.

It's something to look forward after Christmas that has no expectations tied to it except to have fun. It's just silly.

Pass me the pink sugar pigs and I'll read you The Hogfather...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Another Christmas Tradition

I grew up in a large family. I've got eight brothers and sisters. Each year, we would draw names for Christmas presents. We only had to get one present instead of trying to find presents for each of our siblings. Since my parents were funding most of it, I don't blame them for trying to keep things simpler and easier on the budget.

We kept that tradition with our own kids. Every year, usually Thanksgiving weekend, we scrawl names on slips of paper and take turns drawing one from the pile.

My family eventually phased it out. We're a large group and scattered across the US. It includes multiple generations. Half of us are grandparents. Keeping track of it just got too complicated. For a while we switched it to just the siblings and sent family gifts. But even that got too complicated after a while. We don't do an organized gift exchange. I kind of miss it.

We still do it with our own kids. We set a price limit but other than that, anything goes. Silly or serious, it's up to the gift giver. We've had some pretty fun presents over the years and since I usually fund the shopping expedition, it helps keep Christmas on budget.

How do you do present exchanges with your family?