Monday, December 13, 2010

New Year's Resolutions.. a Bit Early

Just kidding. 

Actually, I am on the far, far other side.  I can always think of at least 30 things that I want to change/improve/alter in my life. 

I have New Year's on the brain because this week, I am meeting with all of my students one last time before the Christmas Break.  And I have been discussing their resolutions with them.  So, inevitably, I start thinking, "Well if I am asking THEM to do it, I ought to take my own advice..."
SO - While we still have a couple of weeks before the big New Year's Day, it's not too early to start thinking of some ideas for 2011.  I have just a couple on my list so far, {including: Read "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Anne of Greene Gables"; start Taiga's classes towards a certified Therapy dog; and complete one Beth Moore Bible Study.}  I'll be sharing the rest closer to the Big Day. 

But I am curious to know what's on your upcoming resolution list?  I love being inspired by other people's ideas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cookies, Cookies & More Cookies

What could be better than baking on a warm, sunny Saturday morning?  Baking with a friend on a warm, sunny Saturday morning.

My dear friend, Heather arrived at 9:30am at my gate, holding a big red bowl of cookie cutters.  Together, we conquered dozens of Sugar Cookies and Mint Chocolate Crinkles.

First the laborious task of Sugar Cookies- Mixing the dough, running to Albertson's when you realize you left your baking powder and almond extract in Utah, chilling the dough, understanding and using the role of parchment paper correctly and effectively, adding the proper amount of flour to avoid stickiness, and also avoiding overworked dough, etc., etc.  Needless to say, a big task.  But, one that is aided with Egg Nog, also from mid morning run to Albertson's, and laughs from a friend.
Sugar Cookies
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups shortening
3 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 small carton sour cream (8oz)
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 salt

1. Blend sugar and shortening until there are no lumps.  Stir in eggs individually.  Add extracts.  Gently fold in sour cream. 
2. Combine dry ingredients. 
3. Add dry ingredients to wet, mix thoroughly.
4. Refrigerate 2-3 hours, or place in freezer 30-45 minutes.
5. Work only 2 cups of dough at a time to keep stiff and workable.  Keep remaining dough in fridge.  Generously coat with flour while rolling out dough, also roll dough between parchment paper to minimize sticking.
5. Bake 6-8 min. at 350 degrees on ungreased cookie sheets.  Remove from oven before edges are light brown.
6. Allow complete cooling before frosting.  Can be frozen until desired frosting date.

 Now onto Mint Chocolate Crinkles.  Relatively easy compared to the multi steps of Sugar Cookie-ing.
Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs 
1 tsp mint extract
2 tsp vanilla extracts.
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
powdered sugar

1. Stir together cocoa, sugar & oil. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in extracts.
2. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Add dry mix to wet and mix thoroughly.
4. Refrigerate dough 2-4 hours or place in freezer 45 minutes.  
5. Roll dough into 1 in balls, coat thoroughly in powdered sugar and place several inches apart on baking sheet.  (My cookies weren't spreading as nicely as I wanted, so smashed balls with a spoon before placing in oven.)
6. Bake 10-12min at 350 degrees.  Let cookies set a few minutes on pan before removing to cool.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Recent Book Fails

Swing... and a miss!  Swing... and another miss!  This has seriously been my luck with books recently.  Striking out!  Apparently my internal-book-picker is off, very off.  Here are my recent misses:

Most recently, (just finished this last weekend):
I suppose... with a title like "Wicked", you should expect a dark book.  And, quite dumbly, I was caught off guard by it's darkness.  I was actually grossed out a bit in a few parts.  BUT, what most irked me in this book (and I had similar feelings regarding "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand) was, that it is really a Philosophy book, cleverly disguised as a novel.  I'm all for Philosophy books, and I have to be, my husband is one of those Philosophers, BUT please don't try to package that in a story form!  When I opened this book, I wanted a story, a story from Oz.  But really it was a debate on the nature of evil.  And this book was filled with animal rights agendas and just entirely too political for me.  Hmph.  I was thoroughly disappointed.  

Ball 2:
A classic!, I had heard.  Every person should read this book!, I had also heard.  Life changing!  Translated in hundreds of languages! Read by millions!  Whelp, personally, I was bored.  I am just not a fantasy, mystical-ly kind of girl.  I had a hard time not laughing at this boy's encounters with the sun and the wind and desert and his sheep.  All his dreams and destiny, bleh.  It seems, if anything, this story would best be told outloud, at night, around a campfire, by an Indian smoking a pipe or by an African with a thick accent.  THEN, I might buy into it.  But for now, I'm just not drinkin' Coelho's kool-aid.

Does anyone have a good book they could toss my way?