Happy Solstice!

 

 

Today is the shortest day of the year. It is also the official beginning of Winter.

 

I send you warm and sincere wishes for a glorious winter. I hope this day, though it be short, finds you well and joyful. For reals.

Women

 

 

I recently joined a women’s group. When my dear friend asked me to attend, I did quite a bit of soul-searching.

 

I’m not a group kind of girl. I don’t know how to function in that environment. I mean, I can handle the side of things where you support others and give positive vibes, but the receiving? I have actually broken down while others did nothing but look at me while thinking positive thoughts about me. I’m working on it, on my own. But in a group?

 

After much deliberation, I decided to give this particular group a try. These women are getting together on a regular basis to share stories. That’s right – it’s a writing group. They’re writing stories about other women who’ve inspired and helped them. I love stories. I love writing. So I showed up.

 

I knew a few of these gals, but the rest were fresh faces. After some coffee and socializing, we sat together and listened to the writers who’d brought new stories. We read our short tales aloud and it couldn’t have been lovelier. This group showed amazing encouragement and validation. That would have been enough, but to me the greater glory was in the talent. These women can write! I was awed and entertained. I was moved and felt tremendous empathy. Women. Here we were, just sitting together in a room – sharing. Wow.

 

At the meeting’s close, it was determined that we could use more attendees and more stories. Our facilitator wondered aloud if perhaps we wouldn’t benefit from writing another story, on top of our initial offerings. I raised my hand before I realized I was doing it, and said that I’d love to write another story. That it would be good for me. That I’d enjoy the writing process.

 

And just like that, I knew I’d be going back to the next meeting. To the group. I’m working on short story #2, in preparation for January’s meeting. The writing work is good for me. The women are even greater.

Dear Santa…

 

 

Dear Santa,

 

Seasons greetings! Hope your December is going well and that you’re taking care of yourself. “The Big Show” is coming on fast, and you need your strength. So when Mrs. C. puts a bowl of soup in front of you, eat it!

 

I want to let you know what’s on my Christmas list this year. No doubt you’ve seen the state of my kitchen gear. Yes, my cookie sheets are battered. (I delivered a baked ham on my old cookie sheet to a person’s memorial gathering, and someone there said, “You don’t want this back, do you?” I said I absolutely did want that old, beaten-up cookie sheet back as that was my good one!) No, I don’t have a double-boiler, and instead use a metal bowl set over a pot when need be. But I don’t want any of those things. All I want is a sausage attachment for my stand mixer. I’d like to be able to make Mister’s Grandma’s Polish Sausage recipe for him. And for me. (Let’s not pretend I won’t be eating just as much as Mister. Ahem.) For what it’s worth, I believe you have an elf on this task, and – fingers crossed – I’ll open a sausage factory in the kitchen in January.

 

But Santa, know this: if it doesn’t work out this year, it’s okay. I’ve already gotten an awesome gift: my injured fingernail has grown back! And, even with life swirling all higgledy-piggledy around me, life is pretty danged sweet.

 

Oh! I almost forgot. I’d also like World Peace, children singing, Joy, Love and all that jazz. If you can swing it, I mean. Thanks.

 

Merry Christmas, Santa. And seriously, eat the soup.

 

Sincerely,

Mikki

 

PS Washing your hands once in a while wouldn’t hurt you, either.

Blaze

 

 

This is a lemon tree I recently planted. Here in Southern California, we can plant citrus trees smack-dab in the middle of winter (which isn’t exactly now, but you know what I mean). So this little tree has finally made it into the ground, after sitting on the back stoop for over a month. I think she wants to grow, because even though she was neglected and left in her nursery pot, she sprouted a few new leaves and has started flowering. I’ve decided to call her Blaze. I like the name, and I think it will stick.

 

A little while after naming her, I started to wonder: why do I name inanimate objects? I have an air purifier named Lulu. My car is Miss Vera James. We’ve a Barbary Sheep head that goes by Clyde. There’s a humidifier named Gurgle-Gurgle. And now Blaze.

 

I’ve read a bit about anthropomorphism but I still don’t have a clue as to why I practice it. I do know I tend to lavish affection on things I’ve named. I tend to care for those belongings with kindness. And it is my hope those things will last a good long time. But why do I do it in the first place? I have no idea.

 

Of all my “isms” and flaws, giving people-names to inanimate objects is the least of my worries. So I think I’ll stick with it. It doesn’t hurt anyone, and in fact, it’s kind of fun. I like fun. I think Blaze likes fun, too. I look forward to watching her grow.

He Wore Blue Velvet

 

 

Last week Mister and I were out  in The Valley, enjoying some live Christmas jazz. The show was great and we had a jolly good time.

 

Just before taking our leave, we stopped to greet the musicians and that’s when it happened. Some dude spilled an entire glass of red wine down Mister’s back. And wouldn’t you know it – Mister was wearing blue velvet.

 

We tried mopping it up, but it was a gi-normous glass and there was just too much wine soaking into the velvet. We left da club and were about to make our way home when I remembered there was a 24-hour dry cleaner nearby. We made a bee-line to the cleaner and when we arrived, Mister’s jacket was still drenched. The nice lady behind the counter said she thought all would be well. Since there was nothing to do but trust her, we headed home.

 

On the appointed day, we returned to the cleaner in The Valley. Mister checked his velvet jacket and it was good as new! At first, we thought the cleaner had pulled off quite a feat, then we saw the tag attached to the garment.

 

 

We’ve decided it was a Christmas Miracle. Hallelujah.

Day Drinking

 

 

My friend Chaska Potter is the one who introduced me to the term “Day Drinking.” The second she said it, I knew it would become a permanent part of my lexicon. And I was right.

 

What I didn’t know was that it would become a permanent part of my behavior. As it happens, Day Drinking is my favorite way to get my drink on. Having some brews at lunch just sets the tone for a grand rest-of-the-day.

 

I probably only Day Drink once a week. And that’s plenty. I prefer beer during the day, as liquor knocks me out. I always have a designated driver (or walk), so safety is assured. And let’s face it – one can only Day Drink when work and other commitments aren’t involved.

 

But when a gal can swing it, Day Drinking is the best! I am definitely a fan.

Walking in L.A.

 

 

Yesterday morning I hit the sidewalk before 8. As it was early on a Saturday – in Los Angeles – I passed very few people. But the ones I did pass were smiley and friendly. One guy even commented about how happy I looked. I responded, “Why not? Life is awesome!”

 

I said it without thinking. And as I powered down the street, it occurred to me that I had just experienced my natural self. Blurting out those words was a clear representation of me.

 

I face challenges, just like every other soul. My body doesn’t always feel great. My mind is aging. Life is sometimes harder than I ever thought it could be. And still – I love this being alive thing.

 

At some point during yesterday’s walk, I caught sight of my shadow on a green lawn. I had forgotten I was wearing my monkey hat, replete with face and ears. No wonder folks were so smiley. Glad to have been of good cheer.

Barb’s Boozy Eggnog

 

 

I don’t remember when I first had this magnificent concoction, but eggnog has never been the same since. Barb’s Boozy Eggnog is Mister’s Mama’s creation. She has ruined all other eggnogs for me, as this one is the best-est, booziest of them all. I love it! The base is store-bought nog (any fat level you desire), so you really just need the variety of liquors. The line-up looks like this…

 

 

Store-bought Nog, Vodka, Kahlua, Creme de Cacao, Brandy, Nutmeg

 

 

Mix all liquid ingredients together. I find this easiest in a large measuring cup – very little mess! Pour into individual serving glasses. Grate a little fresh nutmeg over each serving.

 

 

That’s it! It’s perfect! It’s rich! It’s delicious! It’s boozy!

 

And it’ll warm your chestnuts. Merry, merry!

 

Here’s the printable…

 

Barb’s Boozy Eggnog
Author: 
Recipe type: Beverage – Alcoholic
Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 2 – 4
 

Barb’s Boozy Eggnog is Mister’s Mama’s creation. She has ruined all other eggnogs for me, as this one is the best-est, booziest of them all. I love it! As its base is store-bought nog (any fat level you desire), you really just need the variety of liquors. It’s perfect! It’s rich! It’s delicious! It’s boozy! And it’ll warm your chestnuts. Merry, merry!
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Eggnog (Store-bought or fresh – your call)
  • ¼ c. Vodka
  • ¼ c. Kahlua
  • ¼ c. Creme de Cacao
  • ¼ c. Brandy
  • Fresh Nutmeg for Grating

Instructions
  1. Combine all liquid ingredients in a large-capacity measuring cup (4-cups or more). This not only makes the measuring easier, it also makes the eggnog pourable once you’ve combined the liquids.
  2. Pour into 4 small serving cups, or 2 large serving cups. You know how you are.
  3. Grate fresh nutmeg over each serving. You don’t need much. A light dusting will do.
  4. Serve!

 

Christmas Cheer!

 

 

I’ve been on a cookie run the last couple of days. Mister and I are surrounded by homemade toffee, peanut butter blossom cookies & holiday cookies. We’re going with a red and green theme this year, and so far the cookies are gorgeous!

 

But you don’t just blink your eyes, then wait for cookies to magically appear. A gal’s got to make those danged cookies. And for that, I have rules…

 

  1. I must wear Christmas socks. And I do. I have a lovely assortment and I enjoy putting them on, even if no one can see them. I still know they’re there.
  2. The kitchen must be tidy when I begin. I only remove from the cabinets what I need. If I’m making more than one batch in a single day, I clean between batches. I don’t live by this rule all the time, but during cookie time I insist on it.
  3. I must, must, must listen to Christmas music. And I pull out quite the variety: Toots & the Maytals, the gang from South Park, Ray Charles, Vince Guaraldi, The Kings Singers and Louis Jordan, to name a few. I start jonesing for Christmas music around mid-November, but because I have rules, I don’t pull out the tunes until December 1st. And since I waited a week and a half to start my holiday baking, I held off on the Christmas music as well. But now that I’m in the cookie factory, the Christmas music is blasting like trumpets. And I love it!

 

Next step is delivering the baked goods. I think that will be a good time, too. I may even wear my red shoes. I’ll definitely be wearing Christmas socks. Like I said, even if no one can see them, I’ll know they’re there.

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

 

 

 

This isn’t my recipe. I’ve had it so long, the original looks ravaged and sun-damaged, like an old desert pioneer woman. And just like an old pioneer woman, this recipe still works hard and delivers the goods.

 

I’m not sure where I first came across this recipe. It gives generic names for all ingredients except “Eagle® Sweetened Condensed Milk.” So maybe it came from the company site. Again, it’s so old and I just don’t remember. (That could be because I’m so old, but let’s save that for another day, shall we?) Wherever its origins, it’s a big-time fave around here. I make these each and every year. If I didn’t, I think my hair colorist might show up on my doorstep, asking for his seasonal portion. They’re that good, y’all.

 

Don’t let the white trash ingredients fool you – these cookies have an amazingly moist texture, and the flavors meld like no other peanut butter cookie I’ve tried. And don’t be upset with me for calling Bisquick “white trash.” I am white trash. I’m allowed to calls it as I sees it.

 

Here’s what you’ll need…

 

 

Eagle Sweetened Condensed Milk, Peanut Butter, An Egg, Vanilla Extract, Biscuit Baking Mix, Granulated Sugar (Colored, if you so desire) and Solid Milk Chocolate Candy Drops.

 

 

 

In a large mixer bowl, beat the Eagle Brand, Peanut Butter, Egg and Vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

 

 

In a different bowl, ready the biscuit baking mix. The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I’ve determined a method that works very well. Measure the biscuit baking mix first: spoon the mix into a measuring cup…

 

 

then level the mix in the cup by dragging a flat spatula across the top (the flat side of a knife works just as well)…

 

 

then sift the measured mix into the bowl.

 

 

You’ll end up with a pretty good amount of globs in your sifter.

 

 

As I’m a waste-not-want-not kind of gal, I press these globs flat and re-sift.

 

 

After a few rounds of this, I end up with very few globs. And those I throw away.

 

 

With the mixer running, add about 1/2 c. of sifted Biscuit Baking Mix at a time, repeating until all the mix has been incorporated.

 

 

I’m not gonna lie to you, this is a thick-ass dough. I should have used my stand mixer, as my little hand-held nearly had a conniption fit. Ah, well. Live and learn.

 

 

Once the dough is thoroughly mixed, cover the dough with plastic wrap. I like to press the wrap down onto the dough, keeping air exposure to a minimum. Then refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour. Longer is okay, overnight even. But do make sure to give it at least an hour.

 

 

While you’re waiting for the dough to chill, do yourself a favor and unwrap all those gal-danged chocolates. You’re gonna need them the second you take the cookies out of the oven. Trust me. I’ve learned of what I speak.

 

 

Once the hour is up, remove the dough from the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Place your granulated sugar in a bowl. I used red and green this go-round. I’ve used other colors as well, and regular old granulated sugar does the trick, too. Your call on this one. Either way, you need some sugar in a bowl, yo.

 

 

I use a melon baller to prepare the cookies as it helps me dole out the dough in consistent portions. I could do it freehand, but trust me – no two would be the same danged size. Melon baller. It’s my friend.

 

 

So shape each cookie into a 1-inch ball. Roll it around in your hand.

 

 

Then put each dough ball into the sugar. Roll the balls around until they’re completely covered in sugar.

 

 

Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Do not flatten!

 

(Note: if you just want peanut butter cookies without the chocolate centers, place the sugared balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with a fork, and bake as directed.)

 

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Don’t overbake! These cookies have never really “browned” for me. They just end up working at 8 minutes in the oven. I don’t know what else to tell ya.

 

 

Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate candy into the center of each piping-hot cookie. Cool.

 

 

Because the chocolates are surrounded by the cookies’ heat, it will actually melt. It won’t change its shape, mind you, but if you touch it you’ll see what I mean. So don’t touch it! Let the danged cookies cool for a few hours. Yes – hours. Once cooled, store in a tightly-covered container at room temperature.

 

That’s it! Peanut Butter Blossoms are super-easy to make. And their texture is a refreshing change from most other peanut butter cookies out there. Give them a try and see if they end up becoming one of your faves as well.

 

 

Here’s the printable…

 

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4 dozen
 

Peanut Butter Blossoms are super-easy to make. And their texture is a refreshing change from most other peanut butter cookies out there. Give them a try and see if they end up becoming one of your faves as well. They take a while to cool, so don’t think you can make these then pack them in a box right away. Trust me – the chocolate will mush up and the whole thing will be an enormous mess. Patience, Grasshopper. Patience…
Ingredients
  • 1 14-oz. can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 c. Peanut Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 t. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. Biscuit Baking Mix
  • 1 c. + Granulated Sugar – Colored, if you so desire (I used a little over 1 c.)
  • 4½ dozen Solid Milk Chocolate Candy Drops

Instructions
  1. In a large mixer bowl, beat the Eagle Brand, Peanut Butter, Egg and Vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a different bowl, ready the biscuit baking mix. The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I’ve determined this method works very well: measure the biscuit baking mix first, then sift the measured mix into the bowl. You’ll end up with a pretty good amount of globs in your sifter. As I’m a waste-not-want-not kind of gal, I press these globs flat and re-sift. After a few rounds of this, I end up with very little globs. And those I throw away.
  3. With the mixer running, add about ½ c. of sifted Biscuit Baking Mix at a time, repeating until all the mix has been incorporated. I’m not gonna lie to you, this is a thick-ass dough. I should have used my stand mixer, as my little hand-held nearly had a conniption fit. Ah, well. Live and learn.
  4. Once the dough is thoroughly mixed, cover the dough with plastic wrap. I like to press the wrap down onto the dough, keeping air exposure to a minimum. Then refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour. Longer is okay, overnight even. But do make sure to give it at least an hour.
  5. While you’re waiting for the dough to chill, do yourself a favor and unwrap all those gal-danged chocolates. You’re gonna need them the second you take the cookies out of the oven. Trust me. I’ve learned of what I speak.
  6. Once the hour is up, remove the dough from the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Place your granulated sugar in a bowl. I used red and green this go-round. I’ve used other colors as well, and regular old granulated sugar does the trick, too. Your call on this one. Either way, you need some sugar in a bowl, yo.
  8. I use a melon baller to prepare the cookies as it helps me dole out the dough in consistent portions. I could do it freehand, but trust me – no two would be the same danged size. Melon baller. It’s my friend. So shape each cookie into a 1-inch ball. Roll it around in your hand and then put each dough ball into the sugar. Roll the balls around until they’re completely covered in sugar. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Do not flatten!
  9. (Note: if you just want peanut butter cookies, without the chocolate centers, place the sugared balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with a fork, and bake as directed.)
  10. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Don’t overbake! These cookies have never really “browned” for me. They just end up working at 8 minutes in the oven. I don’t know what else to tell ya.
  11. Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate candy into the center of each piping-hot cookie. Cool.
  12. Because the chocolates are surrounded by the cookies’ heat, it will actually melt. It won’t change its shape, mind you, but if you touch it you’ll see what I mean. So don’t touch it! Let the danged cookies cool for a few hours. Yes – hours. Once cooled, store in a tightly-covered container at room temperature.