Musical Cheer

 

 

The other night Mister and I went to see some holiday jazz in Los Angeles. And it was festive, I tell ya!

 

Chris Standring and Kathrin Shorr put out a CD of original Christmas songs a few years back, and now they try to do some shows – featuring the songs – each December. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition. And I really like it.

 

There’s something about seeing and hearing live jazz. Standring plays contemporary jazz, to be sure. I suppose I tend to the traditional side of the jazz-o-meter, but that doesn’t preclude me from enjoying newer vibes. Standring is a fantastic guitarist, too, which doesn’t hurt one bit. And don’t even get me started on Kathrin Shorr. Just writing about her makes me smile. Her voice, her stage presence – I love that gal!

 

So at the show the other night, we were treated to seasonal songs and the darling personalities of Ms. Shorr and Mr. Standring. There were sleigh bells and joy, smiles and laughter. And when it was all over, I confess – I felt a bit jolly. Not a bad way to spend a December evening. Not bad at all.

WEXMAS

 

 

For 10 years now Mister and I have been fortunate enough to be invited to an annual event known as WEXMAS. It’s been going on for 15 years, so we feel attached to this seasonal soiree and its attendees. This past weekend, the bash went down.

 

 

WEXMAS, in its youth, was known as “Armenian White Elephant Christmas Party.” Our friend, Feeny, is the hostess with the most-ess and she throws a mean WEXMAS, with an Armenian feast and more panache than you can shake a tinseled stick at. Each year, Feeny brings an eclectic assortment of folks together to exchange the weirdest, coolest and sometimes grossest gifts imaginable. For instance, there’s been an actual “Golden Ticket” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There’s been a giant bag of shredded US money – $2 million dollars worth (I kid you not). Those things are awesome. But there’s also been a box of various half-empty lotion bottles and a glass penis sculpture. One man’s trash…

 

 

This year Mister and I put together a box of assorted finds from the new abode (shown above). Most of the items were discovered around the house, left behind by the previous care-givers (cassettes, Leif Garrett book, old “Vibe” magazine). A couple of items came from our own moving boxes (DVDs, Guinness Book of World Records – 2000 edition, CDs). A couple of included items were old WEXMAS gifts that we never disposed of (fireworks, colored Margarita salt). This box of goodies was funny and desirable – it was “stolen” once by someone who got all googly-eyed over that Leif Garrett book. Again, one man’s trash…

 

 

Mister and I have not always fared so well in these exchanges. We’ve come home with some real doozies. Some years we’ve immediately placed our “gifts” into a goodwill box. Other years the items have ended up in the trash. That glass penis sculpture? It’s packed away somewhere. We’ll find it eventually and then we’ll decide if it’s a keeper or not. If it’s to go, it will be wrapped and set aside for next year’s WEXMAS.

 

This year, however, Mister and I ended up with some pretty cool goods. He got this awesome framed-fish-photos piece, which we will actually hang, y’all.

 

 

And I ended up with a “Sweet Valley High” board game. Someone at the party asked if I planned to sell it on eBay. I told her I planned to play it. (Duh.) And I will.

 

 

WEXMAS is always the party of the year, and I suppose that can be attributed to a variety of factors. But the biggest reason the party is so killer is Feeny herself. She is so amazing. Honestly, Mister and I marvel at this gal and feel tremendously honored to know her and call her friend. She’s cool, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s hot. And we love her. Truly.

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!

 

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.

 

 

 

Cookie Factory

 

 

 

It hasn’t yet begun, but the gears will soon be turning on a cookie factory in my kitchen.

 

There will be assembly lines for toffee, sugar cookies and peanut butter blossoms. For a few days, every flat surface in our home will be covered with the sweets of my labor.

 

I do it every year, and yet it still requires mental preparation. I know how to make all the treats, I know what’s involved as far as ingredients and timing are concerned. Maybe it’s because I know what’s involved that I have to gear up. Maybe getting in over my head each and every year has trained me to still my mind before I begin.

 

The butter is soft and the eggs are at room temperature. I hear the work whistle blowing. And so it begins…

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Hall-o-Giving-Mas

 

 

The other day I was at a hardware store and spotted a Christmas tree decked out in Halloween decorations. I didn’t have a camera or a phone with me, so you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.

 

I’m happy for the onslaught of holidays, but how about we space them out? You know, the way the calendar intended?

 

That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Merry Christmas From Hollywood!

 

 

Have a Holly-Jolly, y’all!

Rain = Winter

 

 

Yesterday it rained on and off all day, and I flippin’ loved it!

 

Here in SoCal, rain equals winter. There’s been a nip in the air, too, so that doesn’t hurt. The holiday lights are beautifully reflected in the wet streets and sidewalks. No snow? No problem!

 

About the only drawback I can complain about right now is the abundance of cookies here at the hotel. When a gal is staying indoors, and feeling all Merry-Merry, Christmas cookies are just too tempting. I think the New Year may find me working off an industrial-sized vat of dough, yo. And by dough, I mean my ass.

 

No matter. I’ve got rain. And rain equals winter. I can’t stop smiling!