Christmas Cookies 2010

December 15, 2010

First of all, I’m going to admit that I stole this picture straight from my sister-in-law’s blog. But I’m not sorry and here’s why. First of all, we made the above pictured cookies together and knew we’d both blog about them and both use the same pictures. And more importantly, I actually took this picture, so I see no problem with posting it here 🙂

Every year for the past, hmm, 4 years my mother-in-law has invited me and my sister-in-law over to bake Christmas cookies in early December. Our husbands (her sons) are invited too (and this goes back to when they were just boyfriends). The manly men are tasked with hauling the Christmas tree up from the basement, fighting with strings of lights, and putting on all the ornaments while we women-folk don aprons and bake a ton of cookies. Okay so maybe I forgot my apron this year, but still. It’s a very 1950’s-ish division of labor (is putting up ornaments manly though?) but it works!

We have always made the traditional “cookie cutter cookies”. Growing up, I made them as sugar cookies, but these are shortbread. I think I prefer the taste of the shortbread, and I think they bake better, but the sugar cookie dough seemed to hold up better and allow for a greater variety of cookie cutters to be used on it. We had a bit of trouble with the dough for these, but they came out well and were very tasty! I get teased a little because I like to make my cookies “fancy” and arrange the sprinkles in a certain way. Not on every cookie, but for a couple, I make them special 🙂

Peanut blossoms are also always a staple. I never made this cookie growing up, and I’m sorry I missed out!! My husband, father- and brother-in-law would riot if these weren’t in the line up so we do a double batch every year and they vanish just like that!

The third cookie this year was oatmeal chocolate chip craisin cookies. I kept saying that while they are delicious, they aren’t really Christmas-y. And while that’s true (in my opinion) why are any of the cookies we make Christmas-y?? I mean sure, the cookie cutter ones are in Christmas shapes and colors, so they count. But peanut blossoms? What makes them Christmas-y other than tradition? Nothing. So fine – oatmeal chocolate chip craisin cookies have been made 2 out of 4 years, so I guess they are Christmas-y now 🙂

This is a really long blog post, but I have one more comment regarding cookies that were skipped. My mom always makes caterpillar cookies (Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes – pick a nationality, they’re all basically the same cookie). Those are Christmas-y in my mind (again, probably only because of tradition) so I’m thinking of making a batch on my own maybe this weekend. And last year we also made raspberry thumbprint cookies, which for some reason seem holiday-ish, but I’m not sure why. They are delicious though, so maybe a batch of those is in order too.

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Basement Update

December 13, 2010

We are now 9 months into our basement project and we have 6 months to go. We are hoping to finish a little early though since we have a busy summer ahead of us.

In the past 4 months, the following tasks have been completed:

  • Framing is complete and inspected
  • Insulation is installed and inspected
  • Electrical rough-ins are done (switches, recessed lighting, outlets, etc) and inspected
  • Wiring for TV and internet is run
  • Bathtub has been installed
  • Vent for exhaust fan has been installed
  • Fireplace has been installed

Two of the above tasks required cutting holes in the house. The exhaust vent goes from the ceiling in the bathroom and out through the front wall of our house about a foot or so off the ground. The fireplace also needed to vent outside the house so another (larger) hole was cut in the back wall of our house to install the fireplace vent.

The fireplace installation was just completed this weekend. After Bill and his dad installed the vent, Bill and I studied the instructions to arrange the fake logs in the fireplace. It was supposed to be easy because the logs were supposed to be numbered, but of course they weren’t. We did manage to figure it out though. When that was done, we closed the glass door, turned on the gas, hit the pilot, and prayed that we weren’t about to blow up the house. And we didn’t! The fireplace is attached to a thermostat that will be on the wall in this room. The fireplace will turn on and off to regulate the heat in the room. The thermostat needs a bit more testing, but we did manage to get the fire started and it was lovely to see those fake embers burning away.

Next up is putting up the drywall. We decided that we’d buy the drywall and Bill (hopefully with help from a couple people) will hang it. This is scheduled to start the week after Christmas. Then we’ll hire someone to come in and do the taping, mudding, and sanding (aka the really crappy part of the job). Pros will be able to do this, and do it well, hopefully in just a couple of days. This will be a huge time saver for us and really move the project along.


Happy Birthday Nicki (a little late!)

December 13, 2010

This blog post is ridiculously late – it should have been posted about a month ago, but that just didn’t happen. But better late than never, right?

My very good friend Nicki turned the big 3-0 in early November. She had a party at her home with a few friends to celebrate and I was more than happy to make her a cake for the occasion.

Nicki is a cake lover and if we didn’t live 45 minutes away from each other I’m sure she’d be happy to take my “experiments” off my hands on a regular basis 🙂 But for her birthday we decided on her two favorite cake flavors: carrot cake and red velvet cake. Both would have a vanilla buttercream icing and filling.

I made two separate cakes since carrot and red velvet don’t really go together. I ended up making an 8″ round carrot cake using my usual carrot cake recipe. I also made a 6″ round red velvet cake using a red velvet recipe that I had used once before for cupcakes (also for Nicki). I made a half recipe and I was delighted that it was the perfect amount for two 6″ round cake pans. The halved recipe called for 3 tbsp. of red food coloring and I had to skimp a little because my 1 oz. bottle, plus one of those tiny squeeze bottles (the ones that come in the 4 pack of liquid coloring) only yielded about 8 tsp. of coloring and that’s all I had on hand. But the cake was still decidedly red, so no harm done.

For the “theme” we were going with martini glasses – inspired by the invitations for the event. I picked up some mini plastic martini glasses at Party City and I made some olives out of red and green fondant and skewered them on toothpicks. My original plan had been to make the numbers “3” and “0” and skewer them on the tooth picks with the olives, but it didn’t quite work out. So I just used the numbers for decoration on the smaller cake.

I made a triple batch of vanilla buttercream icing that I used for the filling and the icing. I had planned to do a pale pink for the icing and do white Swiss dots or a quilted pattern on the sides of the cake. But truth be told, I ran out of time and ended up doing a basic bead border in a darker pink color. I wasn’t pleased with the shades of pink I ended up with – they were a bit too Pepto-Bismol-ish for my taste. But the cakes themselves were tasty and it seemed to go over well. Nicki’s 3 year old daughter even ate some of the cake and apparently she only ever eats the icing, so I’ll take that as a good sign 🙂

This blog post is ridiculously late – it should have been posted about a month ago, but that just didn’t happen. But better late than never, right? 

My very good friend Nicki turned the big 3-0 in early November. She had a party at her home with a few friends to celebrate and I was more than happy to make her a cake for the occasion.

Nicki is a cake lover and if we didn’t live 45 minutes away from each other I’m sure she’d be happy to take my “experiments” off my hands on a regular basis 🙂 But for her birthday we decided on her two favorite cake flavors: carrot cake and red velvet cake. Both would have a vanilla buttercream icing and filling.

I made two separate cakes since carrot and red velvet don’t really go together. I ended up making an 8″ round carrot cake using my usual carrot cake recipe. I also made a 6″ round red velvet cake using a red velvet recipe that I had used once before for cupcakes (also for Nicki). I made a half recipe and I was delighted that it was the perfect amount for two 6″ round cake pans. The halved recipe called for 3 tbsp. of red food coloring and I had to skimp a little because my 1 oz. bottle, plus one of those tiny squeeze bottles (the ones that come in the 4 pack of liquid coloring) only yielded about 8 tsp. of coloring. But the cake was still decidedly red, so no harm done.

For the “theme” we were going with martini glasses – inspired by the invitations for the event. I picked up some mini plastic martini glasses at Party City and I made some olives out of red and green fondant and skewered them on toothpicks. My original plan had been to make the numbers “3” and “0” and skewer them on the tooth picks with the olives, but it didn’t quite work out. So I just used the numbers for decoration on the smaller cake.

I made a triple batch of vanilla buttercream icing that I used for the filling and the icing. I had planned to do a pale pink for the icing and do Swiss dots or a quilted pattern on the sides of the cake. But truth be told, I ran out of time and ended up doing a basic bead border in a darker pink color. I wasn’t pleased with the shades of pink I ended up with – they were bit too Pepto-Bismol-ish for my taste. But the cakes themselves were tasty and it seemed to go over well. Nicki’s 3 year old daughter even ate some of the cake and apparently she only ever eats the icing, so I’ll take that as a good sign 🙂


I’m a slacker, I admit it

December 2, 2010

Wow, no posts at all in November. I’ve never missed a whole month before! In my defense, I have been preoccupied with other matters. And things have been slow on both the home improvement front and the cake front. But I did have one cake in November and I will hopefully get a post up about it in the next few days!

As for upcoming projects, I have 2 cakes in the next 2 weeks, not to mention the inevitable holiday cookie baking that tends to take place around this time of the year. So I am hoping that December will not be a slow month for the blog 🙂