New Releases, Berries, and a Touch of Spring

Spring is here. In Michigan this means that most days barely reach 50 degrees, but you can take a walk in a light jacket or nice sweatshirt. It means flowers are starting to pop up, the grass transitions from a dull brown to a vibrant green, and the sun is out regularly. 

After a winter of grey skies I am THRIVING sitting by my big picture window and soaking in sunlight. 

Spring also means an onslaught of new book releases. I am finding I can’t keep up with all the books coming out in April that I must have. Clearly my self imposed book buying ban is not working very well. I’m also doing a Scridb trial to get more reading in at a cheaper rate. 

But I must say the quality of books coming out this quarantine have been fantastic. Lately I have found myself floating through Emily St. John Mandel’s world. The Glass Hotel is everything I needed in a book. Straight up literary drama with the most intriguing characters and thoughtful settings. I adored Station 11 so I am so pleased her latest novel lives up to the hype and then some. 

It doesn’t hurt that I was able to sit outside with The Glass Hotel with a nice cup of tea and a slice of Mixed Berry Banana Bread. Berries are another great signifier of the start of spring for me.  

This recipe was everything I needed to brighten my week. It is delicate, sweet, and full of lovely pops of berry goodness. I used a mixture of blackberries, blueberries and cut up strawberries. Now my heart is happy and my stomach is full of carbs. 

You should totally make it. Slather on some cream cheese, jam, honey, whatever you like. It makes any day a little brighter. 

Ingredients:

2 cup All Purpose Flour

¾  cup Sugar

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

½  tsp Salt

¼ cup Buttermilk 

2 egg 

¼ cup Vegetable Oil

2 tsp Vanilla extract

½  cup Blueberries

½  cup Blackberries

1 cup diced Strawberry

3 medium Banana

Steps:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 5 loaf pan and set aside. 

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix. 

In a separate bowl mash bananas and mix together wet ingredients and eggs. 

Pour dry mixture into wet and stir until just combined. Gentle stir in berries. Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then transfer to cooling rack. Wait until completely cool to slice.  

Enjoy!

Oh, and let me know what new releases are on your radar

On Books, Grief, and Bread

My best friend and I have a bit of a theory: When someone gets REALLY into making bread they’re probably not okay.

We laugh at this as people who occasionally like to bake bread for parties, nourish sourdough starters, and generally like carbs. 

But everytime we hear a new friend or acquaintance talk about their new found love for breadmaking we think “are you okay?” 

This week I have made a lot of bread. This week I haven’t felt okay. 

Yesterday I cried. I cried listening to some of my favorite music. I cried watching the news. I cried talking to my mother, my boyfriend, and my friends. 

I couldn’t always name the specific reason I was crying, but I know it was all varying kinds of grief. Grief at not seeing my family, for seeing my brother’s wedding canceled. Grief over not being able to water my plants at work. Grief over the sudden new fear and anxiety that accompanies me anytime I step outside my house, or whenever one of my loved ones does. Grief for my country and my state as I watched our president shit talk my governor instead of sending emergency supplies. 

Baking, much like reading, has always been a form of escape for me. There is something relaxing and imminent about combining ingredients and watching them form something new. With bread there is the added benefit of watching something living grow. I particularly love shaping dough after it has risen. The smell of baked goods in a small house also can’t be beat.  

I’m finding that this week I have taken solace in my kitchen and my couch. My kitchen, while small, is a space I control, and the things that come out of it nourish me in more ways than I can count. My couch has become my go to spot of reading, and after a few weeks of spotty focus and anxiety I have found books are again my escape from this crazy world. Sometimes, after a particularly good reading session I can almost forget that I can’t go to my favorite restaurant, even if just for a few minutes. 

Earlier this week I spent some meditative time making a chai banana bread. It helped keep me grounded when I felt like my meager routine wasn’t enough.

Today I am combining my escapes. Today I made a lovely herby focaccia. I listened to my seemingly infinite Outlander audiobook as I made the dough. I turned it up as I did dishes. I wondered if I would be stuck at home long enough to finish the almost 50 hour Drums of Autumn. 

While waiting for the dough to rise I sat down with A Thousand Ships and lost myself in the Trojan war. Again. For those of you following along, yes, I am still obsessed with mythology retellings. I have no shame. What’s more, I was surprised when my timer went off an hour later to shape my dough. 

Today I had a morning full of self care and mindfulness. I didn’t chide myself for not reading faster. I didn’t get flustered when the pepper I was adding to my oil infusion opened up like an angry vulcano. This is life, and while I can’t control what is happening outside my walls I can control how I respond to the things happening inside of them. 

The bread was still fantastic, even if it made me sneeze. I plan on using it for breakfast sandwiches this morning and to sop up sauce from dinner tonight. I’m sure I’ll continue to snack on it as I read. 

I hope you all are practicing self care in whatever form makes sense to you. I hope you have tasty snacks and friends who will play games with you online or tandem watch a netflix show with you. I hope you’re coping well in these trying times.

And until we are free to go out in public again, I hope you make as much bread as you need. 
As ingredients are scarce right now I didn’t test my own Focaccia recipe and instead used Inspired Tastes tried and true version. It was totally worth it, even with the excess of pepper.

On the Social Distancing Blues, featuring TBR piles and Pizza

I’m not what you would call a homebody. I like going on adventures big and small, going to book shops, libraries, restaurants, and bars. I like seeing friends for trivia and for game nights. In short, I am having a hard time with the general shutdown of my community. 

Here in Michigan schools are closed until April. Community libraries have followed suit, and some small businesses are shuttering up until this virus business blows over. My museum has closed for the week and has asked everyone to work from home, though I suspect this will also turn into three weeks of working from my small laptop in my pajamas while my dog barks out the window. 

I’m trying to find the good in things. My boyfriend and I agree that distancing is the right thing to do when we need to go out in public. We carry hand sanitizer when we grocery shop. He is still unemployed so he has been home for a few weeks already, and somehow isn’t going stir crazy while looking for jobs and attending interviews. 

So I’m taking a note from his book and changing my point of view. While I dread being at home in the same spot on the same couch for an undetermined amount of time I do love my new found reading time. I am soaring through audiobooks as I clean, cook, and generally move items from one location to another in the hopes of feeling productive. I just finished my second book of the week, which I will review for you tomorrow. I’ve been serious about using the food that was bought to sustain us several weeks, and have enjoyed several tasty meals already. 

Today I decided to embrace my books, and the library closure, and take a look at some upcoming reads from my TBR pile. The one good thing about my library being closed is that due dates, those things that sometimes come with fines and imposed timelines, are a thing of the past. As I was just freaking out last week about cutting back on my spending and managing my library hull as it becomes available I am relishing this brief break from speed reading through new releases while panic picking up holds every other day. 

Maybe now is the time I actually get through Little Women? I can read about the history of the book during my work from home hours! My Brilliant Friend has been judging me from my nightstand ever since I bought it in Nashville and I am so excited to read it. Oh, and the book club books! Even though my book club will probably meet virtually this upcoming week we have already made our April pick. I can get ahead. This coronavirus scare may not be great for my social life, but damn my TBR is already feeling lighter.

In celebration of all things bookish I made a pizza. I cracked open a beer. I sat down and enjoyed the last few pages of Prince Charming. 

Pizza is always a good choice. Today I made a BBQ chicken concoction that was both tasty and filling. Ingredients and steps are below. Feel free to pull out this recipe when you are ready to yank your hair out later on this week. 

Ingredients:
Pizza Dough (homemade or store bought fine)

Shredded chicken, equal to about one chicken breast

1 green pepper

1 small onion

5 pieces bacon

Bar-b-que sauce. 

1 package shredded colby jack cheese. 

Steps:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a pizza pan and spread out the dough. 

Top dough with a healthy layer of your favorite bar-b-que sauce. Cover with veggies, chicken, and bacon. Top with an additional few squits of of the sauce and then top with a bag of shredded colby jack. 

Back for 25 to 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Love Stories and Brownies

I’m a sap. 

This shouldn’t be news if you have been following me for any length of time. I love love in all of its forms. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I send get well cards and just because cards and buy gifts because, hey, this ceramic frog reminded me of you. 

I spend weeks thinking of perfect gifts for friends and family. My boyfriend gets silly gifts and thoughtful gifts and small things just because. 

I go crazy for a good date nights out, date days in, spontaneous adventures with my boyfriend, and girls nights with rom-coms, wine and popcorn. 

I cut my bookish teeth on romance novels. Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel, the whole lot. As a 12 year old I would stay up way past my bedtime just so I could read one more chapter. I had a whole bookshelf dedicated to love stories before I hit high school. 

My reading preferences have shifted. I no longer exclusively read sappy love stories into the wee hours of the night. My tastes are more eclectic and I feel like a more well rounded person because of it. 

But there are still days when I crave a good love story. I crave Landon and Jamie, Lizzy and Darcy, Alex and Henry. I want to see love conquer all and for everyone to turn out the better for it. I want to suspend disbelief and read long proclamations of love. 

I want Claire and Jamie beating the odds. I want Henry and Claire. Actually, right now all I want is to sit and watch The Time Traveler’s wife. Audreny Niffeneger is a national treasure. I love her left of normal storylines and fleshed out characters. Her prose is lovely. The fact that she is also involved with paper and book arts in the Chicago area is just a plus. 

Also, I am just now realizing there are a lot of Claire’s in time travel romance novels. Who’d a thunk? 

Anyway, I digress. My point is that on days like today, a holiday dedicated to love I don’t want to sad stories. I want couples that are pulled through time to be together. Couples that were always meant to be. 

Meant to be like me and these brownies. Let me tell you, nothing says romance like gooey chocolate, raspberry truffle frosting, and some extra chocolate drizzle for good measure. I made these for the Boyfriend’s birthday last year and he has been asking for them again every since. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, cubed

1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 large eggs

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons hot water

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

FILLING:

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup seedless red raspberry jam

GLAZE:

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon shortening

Steps:

In a microwave, melt butter and chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until blended. Dissolve coffee granules in water.  Add to egg mixture when cool. Beat in chocolate. Combine flour and baking powder; stir into chocolate mixture just until blended.

Spread in a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For filling, in a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Cool. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in jam; stir in melted chocolate. Spread over cooled brownies.

For glaze, in a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Drizzle over filling. Chill before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.

Beth Henley, Tennessee Williams, and an Updated After School Snack

I spent my formative years in the theater. When I was a kid I hated dance class, gymnastics, softball, soccer. You name it I probably refused to participate. But I loved theater. I spent my middle school years in intense summer camps putting on performances only a parent could love and moved into a performing arts intensive high school. I lived for theater, but really, when I think back on it now I lived for bringing stories to life.

I’ve always loved plays. Sit me down with a script and I can cast the thing in my head and enjoy the next 3 hours sitting front row center of my own drama. In high school on top of my regular Lit classes I found myself in acting, theater history, and a slew of other dramatic classes. We always read through scripts. It was in these classes that I fell in love with Arthur Miller and Shakespeare. It was also here that I first learned of Tennessee Williams, Robert Harling and Beth Henley. 

As I grow older I find myself reminiscing about these days less and less. However we are about to leave for Nashville and all I can think about are the Southern Plays that defined my formative years. 

Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart remains one of my most beloved plays and overall most beloved written works. I read, reread, and memorized the entire play through my four years in high school. I performed in scenes in class and directed a full length production my senior year. While these memories are increasingly in the past, I still look back fondly on the work. I love how Henley’s works deal with love in all of its forms. Crimes of the Heart features family love and romantic love in such a way that it is clear that both are important, different, and necessary for life to have meaning. This isn’t an uncommon theme in Henley’s work and I adore many of her plays. 

In my mind it plays a foil to Steel Magnolias. Love is ever present, but can be full of sorrow. I can’t touch Steel Magnolias as an adult. I don’t need that type of grief in my life, but it is yet another example of a play that I experienced first hand, working performances and memorizing by exposure instead of watching the movie. 

As I have been reminiscing about my love of theater in all of its forms I am reminded of my mom and after school snacks. Her go to when I was young was a tasty rice crispy treat. By the end of first grade I wouldn’t even entertain the store bought variety. The homemade ones were always better and plentiful in my house. 

As all cereal treats are incredibly easy I decided to play around a few summers ago and develop one using some of my favorite flavors- that of a s’more! 

You see, s’mores are delicious, but they are rich and are typically very difficult to make in the winter months when everyone is stuck inside. So I threw together some marshmallows, golden ghrams, and chocolate in the hopes of satisfying my craving for a cold January day.

I am happy to report that I was successful. These may not be the treats I ate after rehearsal, but they are now the ones I bring to parties, dinners with friends, and movie nights. 

Ingredients:
1 box Golden Grahams 

3 tbsp salted butter
1 large bag mini marshmallows (the extra marshmallows really make the recipe. I recommend buying 2 bags if you can’t find the extra large mini marshmallows at your grocery store)

2-3 chocolate bars

Steps:

Grease 9×13 dish. Set aside. 

In a large pot, melt butter and ¾ bag marshmallows together. Once combined with minimal lumps mix in cereal in 3 to 4 batches, taking care not to break the Golden Graham pieces. 

When fully incorporated pour mixture into dish. Coat hands in cooking spray or oil and pat down to an even layer. 

Break chocolate pieces over top of cereal mixture in an even layer, and then coat everything with remaining marshmallows.

Place dish under broiler and watch carefully. Marshmallows will brown quickly and may catch fire if left unattended. 

Remove. Let cool for 2 hours or overnight. Cut into squares and enjoy.  

Cookbooks and Quick Breads

Last summer I let you in on my cookbook obsession. Since then my collection has grown. I don’t buy many cookbooks for myself, but they are an easy gift for my book loving self, and I am much more likely to enjoy thumbing through recipes than pushing my way through a novel someone randomly thought I would like. 

This is not to say I do not appreciate books as gifts, just that I read a lot and chances are if the book you’re handing me a book that has come out in the last five years and it isn’t on my TBR, there is probably a reason for that. 

Anyway. This year I am trying something new. To try and actually use(!!!) my cookbooks instead of looking at them once and entirely forgetting about them I am using sticky notes to mark recipes that I should actually make. 

So far success has been limited, but I have found a few keeper recipes. 

This also means that I have already gotten more food on my new cookbooks than the rest of my collection combined. I’ll take this as a net positive. Tasty food beats clean books. 

Though as I use my cookbooks more I find myself thinking of my mom. My mom is a cookbook feind as well. Just like me she loves to look at them, and despite also loving her time in the kitchen she sticks to tried and true recipes, or ones she has found online instead of those in her cookbooks. 

There are a few exceptions. She has several quick bread recipes she absolutely loved out of a dingy cookbook that has seen better years. She makes them regularly. My childhood was filled with cranberry orange bread, zucchini bread, and banana bread that was always slightly better than that of my friends parents. When she gave me a quickbread as an easy snack this week it inspired me. 

So instead of looking through my own cookbook collection I once again took to the internet for inspiration – and then gave up and adapted a recipe myself. I wanted a punch of herbs and a nice crumb. I wanted flavor that would go well over a Sunday morning breakfast but also with a hearty stew. I wanted this bread, not any of the ones found in my cookbooks or on other blogs. So I made it myself. 

You should try it too. I know we’ll be snacking on it all day tomorrow over frittatas, and into the week with lunches. Maybe it will even be a midnight snack?

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried rosemary 

1 large egg

1 ½ cups buttermilk

⅓ cup canola oil

Steps: 

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9×5 loaf pan, making sure to coat sides. 

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Mix. In a second bowl combine wet ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. 

Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Spoon into loaf pan. 

Bake for 45 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Take out and cool on a rack before slicing. 

Enjoy!

Tomes, Murakami, and Carbs 

Winter in Michigan is very gray. It is cold. It is long. It is dark when I leave for work and when I get home. I spend a lot of time in comfy clothes, hiding under blankets and waiting for spring. 

I’m not trying to wish spring away but also would really like to go on long walks in my neighborhood, tend my garden, and not curse everytime I leave my house in the morning when I feel the cold air. 

I try to find ways to occupy my time that are more than Netflix or making very tasty pastries. New Year’s Resolutions are real. Here at the Woodring Estate we are making an effort to eat healthier, consume less sugar, and to be more active. 

I am also making an effort to read more. Not that my 70 books in 2019 was anything to sneeze at, but I find that when it is cold and dark all I want to do is watch something very mediocre and nap. Focusing on books can be hard, but also it is the best time for me to dive into the tomes on my shelf. 

The rest of my year is a little crazy. My boyfriend and I like to travel. We have a ton of other obligations. No matter how often we say “things will slow down soon” they do not, in fact, slow down. 

Except in January. January we take time to recover. We sleep more. Do less. Complain about the amount of produce in the house that demands to be eaten before it goes bad. 

In January there is time. So in January, despite all of my internal instincts, I pick up large books. This year I am still making my way through the Outlander series. In years past I have done American Gods, Anna Karenina,  and a variety of other large classics. I have a lot of good memories about reading large books in bed, snug and warm. 

My favorite of these memories center around 1Q84. Several years ago, when Murakami was just a name on countless must read lists I had no idea what I would be getting myself into. I also didn’t know that I could finish a book so long without losing steam, without losing joy or interest or investment. Usually when I slog through Tolstoy or Hugo there is a bit of determination. It is a pride factor that only exists for me with classic titles. They make me feel more legit in my career. It is weird. Ignore my complexes.

1Q84 was different. It was long, about 1200 pages. It was complex. It was new. It had some buzz, but was like the blogosphere darlings you see today. I picked it up because I wanted to prove I could read something long. To this day my experience with 1Q84 has had zero impact on my ability to provide readers advisory, to talk to friends about books, to do anything other than smile kindly at a memory. 

So while I sit down with another tome I hope I will have a similar experience. But big books are a lot of work. Holding a 800 pager can be a bit of an arm work out. I am pretty sure I’m going to need some carbs.

Carbs in the form of beer bread. A soft treat sweetened with honey, very buttery, with just a taste of my favorite beer. The recipe is simple. It is good underbaked, overbaked, right out of the oven, two days later, or really any time. Top with a little extra honey, jam, or butter and enjoy as you drop crumbs on your latest literary white whale.

Ingredients 

3 cups flour

½ cup honey

1 tbsp baking powder

1 bottle beer, your choice 

½ cup salted butter, cut into tablespoons

Steps:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 inch loaf pan. 

Mix together first 4 ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Place dough into loaf plan and use a spatula to even. Top with the pads of butter. Bake for 45 minutes. 

Let cool for as long as your carb craving stomach can handle. Enjoy

Green Lights and Gatsby and Popcorn, Oh My

New Year’s Eve has never been my favorite holiday. I didn’t grow up a partier. It wasn’t until last year that I hosted my first NYE event and found that with my small group of friends we could spend time with board games (and wine and beer) without getting stupid. I could throw a party without it being full of strangers. 

While Daisy Buchanan may love large parties for their privacy, I love small gatherings for their familiarity. 

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking of Fitzgerald Magnum Opus. I didn’t read The Great Gatsby in high school, like a normal American. I somehow escaped Fitzgerald entirely until my senior year of college. I read all of Jay, Nick, and Daisy’s tragic story on a flight from Chicago to Detroit, the speed of the read equal to my fascination with the 1920’s and the connected characters. 

Now it is 100 years later and I don’t know that we as a society really learned. In a world where we live for the ‘gram and love to show off our lives on social media are we really that different from the self involved decadents described in The Great Gatsby? Even if our parties aren’t as grand we are certainly pretending they are with all of our pictures and hashtags. Consumerism is still here. The parallels are real. 

Also I don’t mind old jazz and think it is entirely appropriate to blair the Baz Luhrmann Gatsby Soundtrack whenever you like. 

Anyway. This year my holiday party grew. Not by much, but my small house held 12 people and my pup. We played more board games and drank soda and liquor, wine and beer. We ate more snacks than is healthy. I put out a popcorn bar. 

Nothing too glamours, because even if I think we are doomed to repeat the roaring 20’s my budget doesn’t have room for champagne and caviar. It does have some give for popcorn kernels and candies, toppings and crunchy things. 

Seriously – if you are throwing any type of party and want an all pleasing but cheap way to please your guests try a popcorn bar. Everyone was absolutely smitten with the set up, and having options a variety of options to add to everyone’s bag of buttery, salty deliciousness made all of my guests so happy. 

Set up is really easy. I popped a cup and a half of white popcorn kernels on the stove in 2 batches. Topped all of the popcorn with butter and salt to taste. The rest was all store bought ingredients (super easy set up!) which included caramel corn for mixing, crushed sandwich cookies, like oreo’s, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and semi sweet chocolate chunks – and then the candy – I came upon a sale so for under 10 dollars I stocked up on every movie theater candy box I could lay my hands on. I also picked up a kettle corn, ranch, and nacho seasoning for people to use at their own discretion. Complete with a fun sign, some popcorn bags from the dollar store, and a lot of holiday cheer and you’re good to go.  

You’ll still feel crazy decadent without breaking the bank and all of your friends will love you. Isn’t that really what Gatsby was searching for all along? 

Happy 2020!

Tradition, Dickens, and More Sweet Treats

I’m a sucker for traditions. Last week I told you about my annual baking weekend with my mom. This helps to facilitate my go-to holiday gift of cookies to all my coworkers and allows me to host a stress free Cookie Swap with a dozen or so of my closest friends early every December. 

I make it a point to watch Elf at least once a Holiday season. Preferably on the big screen at a second run theater by my house. I see the county sponsored light show with hot coco and listen to Christmas music on repeat for weeks on end. 

The Friday before Christmas I usually go to the movies with my mom. This year we saw Frozen 2. We always pick something lighthearted and family friendly. I may not have children yet, but we’re both a sucker for a well done kids movie. 

But what I really look forward to are the Holidays. Christmas Eve is big for my family. We have the same perogies and latkes every year. Right now I am counting down the days until I get the most crispy potatoes and delicious stuffed pockets of dough. We also do all of our gifts on Christmas Eve. 

My boyfriend and I are also starting our own traditions. Ones filled with early morning gifts and pancakes. Maybe a movie before the stress of the Holiday’s fully kicks in and we lose all personal space in the chaos of celebrating Christmas with both of our families. 

With these new traditions comes some lost ones. My grandmother passed a few years ago. Every year we used to see a stage production of the Christmas Carol with her at the start of the holiday season. I don’t believe the sets ever changed. The script wasn’t the best. I went from being scared of each new Christmas ghost as a child to amused by them as an adult. The costumes were really the highlight, taking everyone back to Victorian England and ready for cold weather. 

Unfortunately my family doesn’t attend this production anymore, but I have enough memories of it for a lifetime. 

It is also the only time I have enjoyed anything by Dickens in any fashion. Descipe having several of his novels on my shelf, I can truly say that I have found every Dickens reading experience tedious, dull, and self involved. 

But I still have positive feelings about A Christmas Carol and would like to reincorporate it to my yearly traditions, with plenty of cookies and lots of holiday cheer. Maybe this year we will watch one of the many movies (preferably one of a Muppet variety) with hot coco and extra sweets. I think my whole family would enjoy this new tradition. 

Usually I would include a recipe here. Again, I did not have time to test out something truly new for all of you. Instead I want to include some more of my favorite cookies made this year. Spritz’s were a total success. Eggnog cookies were a hit with both my family and at my cookie swap. We all go crazy for these orange cranberry delights. We also did a traditional toll house chocolate chip, and find the best gingerbread recipe can be found from Mccormic spices. 

As we approach the chaos of next week I want to wish you all a happy holiday. I hope you get to spend it with your loved ones, family, chosen family, and friends. I hope you eat the sweets you like, and get all of the hot coco, cider, wine, beer, soda, or whatever your hot desires. It is important to stay hydrated while you run around from event to event.

 I’ll be here Monday with some sort of post, but this blog will be a little more quiet over the next week or so as I take some much needed personal time to recharge. Best wishes everyone!

The 100 Acre Wood of Holiday Cookies

My mom and I have a tradition. Every year we take a long weekend in December and we bake. When I say we bake I don’t mean we do a couple cookies and then hunker down with Hallmark movies and hot coco. 

No.

I mean we BAKE. We turn my mom’s large kitchen into an assembly line. We come prepared with recipes, ideas, and a list of people we want to give cookies too. This year my list exceeded 25 people. I came with a dozen recipes. We managed to make 15 different kinds of cookies, the popcorn I highlighted last weekend, banana bread, and soft pretzels (from a mix. No shame in a quick, carby snack!)

I look forward to Holiday Baking Weekend (which I wish I could trademark) for months. For the second year in a row my brother’s fiance has joined us. This year all of the men came to make cookies as well. Well, they came to make a cookie, each. My boyfriend is afraid of ovens. My brother was deeply unfocused. Sunday wasn’t as productive as it could have been. 

The spoils were still delicious.

I love the way traditions like this expand, but I also love that no matter how many bakers we add or how many strange cookies we attempt the more things feel the same. I still get to spend time with my mom, who I love and who I miss most during the business of the holidays. It gives us a chance to reminisce about so much, old friends, grandparents. 

This year also involved a lot of Disney talk. My soon to be sister in law is going to Disney World for her honeymoon. We all have lots of feelings about Disney+. 

I told my mom the first thing I looked for in the immense streaming catalog was The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I have very few memories of my parents reading to me, though I am sure they did. I do, however, remember vividly singing along to Pooh’s theme song and watching him learn lessons and go on adventures with all of his friends. 

Winnie the Pooh has always been one of my favorite children’s books. I love the movies, and still found love the familiarity of the characters that featured prominently in my childhood. 

My mom has similar memories. She loves Eeyore and Piglet. She has an old sweater with Pooh and his honey pot. 

Winnie the Pooh and his adventures are kind of like a tradition for us too. 

He is full of good lessons that are especially important around the holidays. Lessons of kindness, about how important it is to show up for your loved ones. He is full of adventures of bravery and friendship. 

I strive to be as kind and compassionate as pooh. Until then I will just make cookies and love my friends and family as hard as I can.

I think that’s another one of Pooh’s lessons – Effort, not perfection, is what matters.

The cookies I featured today are Brown Butter Almond Crinkle and Red Velvet Chocolate Chip. As much as I love recipe testing I do too much baking this time of year for trial and error. Both of these gems turned out delicious. All that I changed was the size, using the smallest cookie scoop I could find to ensure I had enough cookies for all of the people in my life.