Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Disaster Averted

I think... I hope anyway. And I hope that, unlike a pie crust (which is what it acted like), these don't get tough with handling. They look pretty good anyway. And they're all ready for the grandson's artistic touch. Better him than me. I think I'll save the last stick of Crisco for my Christmas pie making.

Cookie Help!

All right all you excellent bakers out there... what the hell is going wrong with my cookies?! This is an old family recipe and I've made it hundreds of times. But it won't roll out! Here's the recipe:

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
4 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; set aside. Cream butter, sugar and egg till light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well combined. Form dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Divide dough into 4 parts and roll out one quarter at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated. Roll dough on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Decorate with sprinkled sugar, almonds, raisins, candy or whatever.

Pretty straight forward - right? Granted, I haven't baked any cookies in, oh, say 15 years. (My butt and DH's belly doesn't need the extra expansion boost.) But, come on! The only reason why I'm doing this now is that Quinten asked if Grandma would bake some Christmas cookies for him to decorate when he comes up. How could I say no?

The only thing I did differently this time is use butter flavored Crisco instead of real butter. Is that what's going on? Usually you have to leave it in the refrigerator or it gets too soft to roll. This time the dough is like...I don't know...pie dough? It rolls much better warm. Did I screw up?

Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

He's Back!

He's back!! Gasp! (Damn camera...)

Cardinal Envy

A few days ago, while letting the dogs outside, I was blown away by the sight of a cardinal feeding on the ground under my bird feeders. I know that cardinals are indigenous to Iowa and can be found all over the state. Heck, mom used to have a ton of cardinals at her bird feeder in Turin. But, in the eighteen years we have lived in West Bend, I have NEVER, EVER seen a cardinal. Even during our crop rides. We've seen eagles, hawks, orioles, woodpeckers, goldfinches, scarlet tanagers, tons of red-wing blackbirds and even yellow-breasted blackbirds. The strangest bird we saw once was an American bittern. But I've never spotted a cardinal - until four days ago. I was so shocked I just stood there, mouth and door wide open, my heart racing a hundred miles an hour.

As I ran back into the house I kept praying "Please, please! Tell your family and friends that you found some good food. Maybe they'll come too!" Soon, as I watched from my kitchen window, a female flew down and joined her mate. I was in heaven! I watched those two birds all that day and the next. And they haven't been back since.

I'm just crushed! I've even dreamed about them - cherry red against the white snow. They were so beautiful. Now, don't get me wrong, we have a ton of birds at our feeders. Finches (purple, house and gold), a little nuthatch, dark-eyed juncos, an occasional blue jay and, of course zillions of sparrows. The strangest birds we ever got was a merlin which had killed and was eating a sparrow under the tree, and a hawk that stopped in for a drink of water and to preen his feathers on a branch of a tree right outside our window. But never cardinals. Damn.

I'm pist that I didn't get a picture of them. I love my point and shoot camera, but it just isn't good for taking pictures of skittish critters - like birds. If ever I get an SLR, it will be to take these kinds of pictures.

I'm so hoping they remember the good food and easy water found in my back yard and come back to make my day bright once more. Cardinals just make the world seem happier.

(Note: I was going to link to each bird so you could see a picture of them, but that's too many links. Instead, just go to enature and you can see and hear them for yourself. It's a great website that I use regularly. Enjoy!)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blog Thoughts

As I was taking a break yesterday, thinking about my posts, the strangest thought occured to me: Someone, somewhere in the world, was right now reading one of my posts.

I know this becase of my Site Meter report I get every Sunday. It told me I had an average of 55 hits this past week, with an average time spent at the page around a minute and a half. Since I don't post very often (ahem) that means that they're reading old posts. Probably found on some search for something and they decided to read what I'd written. That just blows my mind!

HEY, PEOPLE! How ya doin'? Um... you can comment if you like. See, I moderate my comments. Which means when you write something I get an email asking me to accept or reject the comment. So, if you read something you like, tell me about it! Doesn't matter how old the post is, I'll know if you say something.

(Meanwhile, the 3 or 4 people who read my pitiful attempts at writing whenever it pops up on their RSS readers are going, "Holy crap! Two posts in one day!!" Yep. I'm going for a record here.)

Putting Up The Tree

I'll admit it - I hate the holidays. From Halloween until January 30th I walk around in a black cloud of Scrooge-ness, scowling at children and snapping at my husband. Christmas music makes me grind my teeth as I hurry past the stores lighted with Christmas trees and plastic Santas. And the decorating! Oh boy, do I hate decorating! I put off putting up the Christmas tree until the last possible minute. Each year I vow I'm not going to do it. But, of course, I do.

Two years ago, in an effort to lighten my misery, I bought a pre-lighted Christmas tree. It was only about $20 bucks from Amazon, so I thought I'd give it a try. Needless to say, I didn't put it up last year because that sucker weighs about 10 TONS and there was NO way I was dragging that up from the basement! DH and I debated just decorating it where it stood and putting the presents under it down there. (If you could see our basement - and you will - you'd know what a joke that is.) So, up went our little 3' fiber optic tree once again.

But this year! This year was different. First of all my daughter and grandson were with us for Thanksgiving - for the first time ever. (It actually felt like Thanksgiving this year.) Since she knows how much I hate decorating, she volunteered to bring up the tree, set it up and decorate it. Yea!

Of course, it came with no instructions so I called Bettina and she sent over Dani and Dustin to help her get it put together. Naturally, I took pictures. They kinda suck, but oh well.

The kids had fun and I didn't have to do a thing. Sounds like a good thing to me! Of course, all the rest of the decorations are still in their boxes so I really do have to get in gear and decorate the rest of the house. (grumble grumble)

Happy Holidays everyone!