Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve ...

I cast my plan to the wind.

It was a small plan, not much of a plan at all. But when it came time, I knew it wasn't right.

So I sat. And I thought. And then I went to the store.

And I found a lovely pear, tucked among the other pears. Just right, just ripe.

And I wandered among the cheeses and decided on brie.

And I came home and settled in for the night.

I built a board of pear and brie and walnuts that I'd toasted.

And I opened the Champagne I'd bought earlier in the day. (Which is really not Champagne, being domestic, but Champagne is lovely to say.)

And I filled a flute and let the eager effervescence subside and filled it more.

And I choose a cloth napkin.

"I love my life," I said, surveying my picnic.

And I tucked myself onto the sofa. (I spend every New Year's Eve with a certain auteur.)

And I fell under the spell of "Midnight in Paris," which I'd not yet seen, and more happily, about which nothing was known.

And I poured another glass. And enjoyed two of what I'd baked earlier in the day.

And I poured another glass. And remembered my favorite chocolate.

And now my house is quiet and warm and I am just a bit sleepy.

And so I shall go to bed.

And wake to a new year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I Learned In 2011 ...

I started a tradition that didn't last.

I had decided that on New Year's Eve, I would write goals for the new year.

And so, for a few years, I did. I would sit down with a pad of paper and a pencil (I like to write with pencils) and jot down my goals for the year ahead. And then, like the accountants for PricewaterhouseCoopers, I would seal them in an envelope and tuck them away, in the lower left-hand corner of my top dresser drawer.

I retrieved the ones that are still in there. The last goals I wrote were in 2008, looking ahead to 2009. It wasn't the best of times, 2009. Goals were shunned that year.

But life has come around again, as it is wont to do. There have been changes.

And one of the fine things to emerge from this year has been my online acquaintance with David Leite, a charming man from New York City (and sometimes Connecticut), a lover of food and words; a talent worthy of multiple James Beard and other awards; and the namesake of one of my favorite sites.

This week, David wrote a lovely post to bid farewell to the year, not the typical forward-looking list of shoulds and to-dos but a thoughtful look back at what he'd learned over the past year, with nods to each of his teachers.

I loved the idea of reflecting back on the bloggers in my life and what I had learned from each other them. Every morning, all year long, they are part of my early routine. I sip my coffee and feel a little jolt when I see that one of them has posted something new.

So, then, in lieu of goals and to follow David's excellent lead, I offer (in no particular order) my reflections and thanks for what they've taught me throughout the year, whether intended or known or not.


From David Leite, I learned that humility and success are potent partners, not necessary strangers. (His blog is the first one on my list, coincidentally.)

From Deb Perelman, I learned that doing for the love of doing is the key ingredient in the recipe for how to live a happy life.

From Mark Sisson, I learned that wellness comes to those who get out of their own way.

From Gretchen Holt Witt, I learned that a single cookie can change the world.

From Angelo Surmelis, I learned that one of the most extraordinary acts of kindness is encouraging another to follow their dream.

From Patti Digh, I learned that beauty and joy reside in all things.

From Joe Pastry, I learned that baking is magical as both alchemy and science.

From Mike Sowden, I learned that some words can be combined so exquisitely that they are deeply felt, not merely read.

From Jim Marquis, I learned that politics and music make fine bedfellows.

From Roger Ebert, I learned that some circumstances hold only as much power as we give them. Also, that I ascribe to him the finest kicker ever written.

From Natalie Mikolajczak, I learned that life is often best when laughed at, with girlfriends, in the presence of wine.

From Amy Hardin Turosak, I learned that abundance can be found in unexpected places.

From Tom Erdman, I learned that nothing is improbable.

From AndreAnna, I learned that it isn't always easy but that struggles are dwarfed by rewards.

From Mary Tyler Mom, I learned that one woman can possess more grace than I ever believed possible.

From Michele Woodward, I learned that reinvention is not only possible, but sometimes essential.

From Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, I learned that our stomachs are without a doubt the way to our hearts.

And from Elisa and Nathan Bond, I learned that love truly does conquer all.


I encourage you to spend some moments pondering what those in your life have imparted to you. And I offer my fondest hopes and fervent wishes that you know fulfillment and ease in the new year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bounty ...

Angelo used that word the other day. Bounty. The perfect word to describe the past few days. Week, really.

How fortunate I am.

It was not a holiday of things, though I did receive some very nice gifts. Thoughtful gifts. Meaningful gifts.

It was a holiday of people and places. Of gestures and laughter. Of food and warmth and so much love.

It was a holiday of sitting by the tree, listening to music, sipping wine, dozing off, and thinking, "This is all I want for Christmas." And then having the realization that I had it.

So much of the holidays hurries by in a flurry.

But I made sure to pause and notice the moments. I made sure to open cards next to the tree. I made sure to stand in my driveway late on Christmas Eve and marvel at the stars on such a cold, clear night.

In the face of a bit of frustration, a too-common byproduct of too much to do, I said, "Beth, you get to decide to how feel in this moment" and I cast the frustration aside.

There was so much on which to focus, so much for which to be glad, so much for which to be thankful. Bounty all around me.

My love and appreciation to all those who made that so.

I hope your holidays are rich with all that matters most.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Peace and love and warmth and calm to you.

Take a few moments to be still and enjoy this beauty from the incomparable Michael Hedges.

(If you need it, the direct URL is here.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

On Behalf Of Women ...

This morning on Facebook, a friend, a male friend, asked (I'm paraphrasing here) why women of the spousal variety get so bent out of shape if their husbands say some other woman is pretty, especially if they're answering a direct question from their wives.

My reply to him was: "A simple 'She's not as pretty as you' should suffice."

But, of course, that's a simple reply to a complex issue.

And men surely know that women are beleaguered, day in, day out, the messaging, the non-stop messaging that we're not good enough, but just in case you need a bit of a refresher, guys ... .

Have you ever looked at a women's magazine? Not for George Constanza-esque purposes, but to see what women see? If not, do. Hundreds of pages of "You're not good enough," from the airbrushed waif on the cover and the coverlines about how to be thinner, prettier, sexier, and the all-encompassing "hot" to the pages upon pages of women in ads who have been Photoshopped to remove all evidence of offending characteristics like, you know, pores to the content, sparse as it is, that spells out in oh-so-simple-so-why-aren't-you-doing-it terms that we're walking, talking billboards of shortcomings.

(Note: What follows is a representative, not comprehensive, rant.)

Every ad, in print and on screen, every day, tells women that we should be:

Thinner
And not just thinner, but much thinner. Swimsuit-model thin, please. Sure, we occasionally read that men don't want skinny women, except that every ad posted by every man on every dating site says he wants someone "thin" or "fit" or "athletic." Never mind that many of those men bear a striking resemblance to Kevin James.

Speaking of, how many sitcoms feature a big guy married to a hot, skinny woman? On "The King of Queens," when Leah Remini put on a few pounds, it was a big deal. But Kev was a big guy and just fine the way he was.

Then along comes "Mike & Molly," a funny show that dares to feature two people who have the temerity to look like a lot of people in this country, and whoa, the backlash. Insane.

Prettier
Men, here's another bit of insight for you that you probably did not know: The quality of a woman's life is directly proportional to the length of her lashes. Yep. We all need to march ourselves right up to a makeup counter in a ritzy department store and plunk down $30 for tube of black goo. Except that most black goo is the same, so we can also go to the drugstore and only plunk down $8, but then we're faced with the problem of how to choose. In any given makeup aisle in any given drugstore, we find approximately 27,000 brands and types of mascara. But don't worry: Marketers have our best interest at heart. We know that we just look for the most extreme adjectives. Perhaps Maybelline The Colossal Volum' Express Waterproof Mascara will do the trick. (I have no idea what the hell is up with the apostrophe on Volum'.) Yes, that's what we've always wanted: colossal lashes. Because if we don't have to strain our necks to keep our heads upright to counterbalance our colossal lashes, we're clearly doing it wrong.

And speaking of doing it wrong, our lips are too thin. They need to look like they've been stung by a bee. Or some other creature. Lip Venom is an actual product. Or maybe we need Just Bitten. Um, ouch.

And while I'm on the subject of our lips, we also learn that they should be shellacked with high-shine lip gloss. Yes, it looks ridiculous and no one in their right mind would want to kiss us with all that crap on our mouths, but we're probably not thin enough for anyone to be attracted to us in the first place. So we just glop on some bubblegum-pink, sparkle-packed lip gloss and pretend our lives are worth living. P.S. We have learned the hard way that we should not go outside on windy days.

Sexier
We need to be sexier. We get it. We see the ads. This is what they say to us:

Honestly, ladies, you have a Victoria's Secret at a mall near you, don't you? So why don't you spend your days flouncing around in push-up bras and bikini underwear with giant angel wings on your back? Haven't you been paying attention? That's how you snag a man.

Of course, first you have to achieve the body of a Praying Mantis and shell out a few grand for hair extensions and get your lips plumped and your pores eradicated and your skin waxed into oblivion and learn to strut in 5-inch heels, but once you do, impossibly handsome men from fragrance ads will be beating down your door.



And, of course, on top of all of that, most women are expected to work full time, raise a family, plan meals, prepare meals, clean the house, do the laundry, run errands, remember everyone's birthday, plan parties, host parties, and at bathtime, make sure they wrap their angel children in blindingly white, giant fluffy towel hugs.

All of which is to say, men, that women are just looking for a little reassurance from you. If she's asking if you think another woman is pretty, what she's probably saying is that you don't tell her she's pretty often enough.

A little appreciation goes a long way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dear USPS: We Need To Talk ...

Oh, Post Office. I like you. I really do. I don't want you to go away. I try to be on your side, I really do. You got a bum deal, having to fund the future at the detriment of your present. And it's still a damn bargain, forty-four cents to move a piece of mail from one end of the country to the other.

But I need more from you. I need to know I can count on you. Don't make me turn to UPS.

Yes, you have me over a barrel when it comes to standard mail. And I know I don't mail as much as I used to. I pay bills online. I do. It's just easier. And maybe that's left you feeling a bit neglected.

But I still send Christmas cards. Hell, that's 80-some pieces of mail right there. That more than makes up for all the bills I don't send trickling through the system all year long, right?

But about those cards, for a minute. On Tuesday, the 13th, Moo let me know that my cards had been "dispatched" and shared a tracking number for me to check. So I've been checking it. And there have been no updates since the 13th.

Today's the 16th, kids. No updates? Nothing? So is my package sitting in a sort facility, lost? Is it making its way to me? Will it arrive today? I have no idea.

I'm having flashbacks to the year I sent a package to L.A. Dave. It took three weeks. Three weeks? From Chicago to L.A.? Once it finally arrived – a little Christmas tree and ornaments just doesn't have the same impact and oomph in January, by the way – Dave noted, somehow, that it had arrived in L.A. a couple of days before Christmas. It could have been delivered on time. But it sat in a facility for two more weeks?

And what about that book I sent to Australia some years ago? The post person asked me if I wanted to send it via air. Really, I asked? Did we still put things on ships and send them across the ocean thusly?

Apparently, we did. So I ponied up the money, in a year that began with a 2, to send the package via airmail. About $25, as I recall. Not overnight shipping or anything crazy like that. Just not the "slow boat to Australia" rate.

And do you know how long it took to get there?

Ten weeks.

TEN. WEEKS.

For those playing along at home, that's two and a half months.

As in "just shy of three months."

As in "nearly a quarter of a year."

Much more recently, there was the day that I was sitting here, and heard someone on my porch, talking. I looked outside. It was one of my sometimes mail people, a woman, chatting away on her phone. She riffled through the stack of mail in her arms. dumped some in my mailbox, and went on her way.

I retrieved my mail. Only it wasn't my mail. Not most of it. Seven pieces were for the house next door.

Seven.

I get that sometimes a piece gets mixed in here and there. I'm happy to walk it over to my neighbor's or pop it back in the mail when it's for some addressee nowhere near me.

But seven?

I called the postmaster. I don't often complain, but come on.

He knew exactly who I was talking about. Perhaps he'd heard a complaint about her before?

And just now, a friend on Twitter posted about her trials of trying to renew her passport. She wasn't happy to hear the words, "We don't get paid to do that."

Well, at the rate you're going, pretty soon you won't get paid to do anything.

I purposely wait in line to interact with a person at my post office. Yes, that machine in the corner is handy, but I don't want the people at my post office to be automated out of their jobs.

But I'm going to need you to try a little harder to show you care.

And I'll try to send more cards and letters.

But I'm going to need you to deliver the cards to me first.

I can tell you they were in Rhode Island on the 13th.

Beyond that, I have no clue.

Update: OK, post office, credit where it's due. The cards sat in a sort facility for all of Friday but managed to get to me yesterday Saturday. And I had a package to ship, so I ventured to the post office on the last shipping Saturday before Christmas, expecting a line out the door, but was in and out of there in 15 minutes. But my faith isn't fully restored just yet. I put a Delivery Confirmation on the package I mailed. I'm watching you. Let's keep up the good work.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Soup That Wasn't ...

Oh, my brain.

It has ideas sometimes. And sometimes, they're even pretty good.

Yesterday, one such idea appeared: "Ooh, you should make soup!", my brain informed me.

Hmm. Yes. Soup. Yesterday was cold. Unseasonably cold. Soup would be a fine idea. I had a lovely vision of me standing in my kitchen, at the counter, dicing onions, dicing carrots, dicing celery. The vision continued over to the stove, of me browning vegetables in my big red Le Creuset dutch oven, adding a splash of wine, deglazing. And then, later, soup, on a back burner, simmering happily and making my home smell great.

Oh, but the cold. I would have to go out into the cold. I had no onions, no carrots, no celery. No soup-making provisions of any kind. Well, wine. I almost always have wine.

I padded into the TV room where, of course, I keep my cookbooks. I have a lot of cookbooks. The TV room has shelves. See? It makes sense.

I pulled a few down, including, inexplicably, Thomas Keller's Bouchon. I wanted to make a simple soup, not soup that would require three days of prep. But Bouchon is a beautiful book. It's always worth my time to look at the pictures.

I nabbed a soup cookbook, too. Surely, in an entire book of soup ideas, one would appeal.

Nah, not really.

I flipped through a Gordon Ramsay book. Conger eel soup? Um, no.

Not that I wouldn't try conger eel soup if someone offered a taste. I'm pretty adventuresome when it comes to food. But at no point in my soup-making visions did my brain conjure the idea of eel. And eel might not be the easiest ingredient to come by in this part of the world. I think we're eel-deficient. That's OK with me.

I landed on a recipe that sounded appealing: beef, mushrooms, barley, red wine, other assorted goodness.

But I'm very persnickety about meat. I don't buy meat at the grocery store. I buy meat at a butcher shop. A butcher shop which contains groceries. So I might be able to pick up all that I needed, or I might need to make two stops, butcher and non.

Hmm.

I decided to go to the store and wander about. I'm a reasonably good cook. Soup is not science. I would buy whatever ingredients appealed to me and make up the recipe as I went along.

Ooh, yes. Good plan.

I put on a warm layer and then my fleece. (I don't like to drive while wearing a coat if I can help it. They're bulky and annoying.) I got in the car and pointed it toward the store.

Once there, I grabbed a little basket. No need for a cart.

The distractions started immediately.

"Oh, brown sugar's still on sale."

No, Beth. You don't need any more brown sugar. You have at least three boxes at home.

"Oh, cute! Christmas clings!"

Beth? You don't affix Santas and reindeer to your windows, no matter how cute.

"But for my car, maybe."

Beth?

"OK."

I wandered through the produce section. Nothing seemed inspiring.

"Frosted shortbread cookies? Why would anyone frost shortbread cookies?"

I was near the bakery at that point. The produce section had failed to lure me into putting anything into my basket. Though the onions looked nice.

I turned the corner. Finally, something on my list.

Golden raisins. Decidedly not for soup.

I headed over to dairy. I needed unsalted butter. It was on sale.

I nabbed two pounds. I ventured up to cream cheese. I stood. I stared. No 3-ounce cream cheeses? Crap.

Not that I can't weigh 3 ounces cut from an 8-ounce brick, but they're handy, those little guys. Pre-measured, hermetically sealed.

I made my way to organic milk. No two-percent of the brand I usually buy. I chose another.

"Ooh, ice cream!"

I'd been wanting ice cream, despite the cold. Nabbed some of that.

I looked down at my basket. It contained a box of raisins, two pounds of unsalted butter, a half-gallon of organic milk, and a carton of mint chocolate chip.

"You can pick up soup on the way home!", my brain said.

But I didn't.

And today? Butter's on the counter, softening. Cookies will be made.

Soup? Nope. But maybe someday.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Holiday Color ...


I do OK with plants. I can keep 'em around – and alive, even – for years on end.

But poinsettias are my plant nemesis. Every year, I kill those suckers. I don't mean to. It's not malice. I just can't seem to keep them alive.

Last night, though, I arrived home to find this guy on my kitchen counter. And before I got too close a look at it, I thought, "Is it dying already?", as if perhaps just residing in my house is enough to start these poor plants on their road to demise.

But no! It has ruffly leaves! I've never seen such a thing! Neither had my mom, which is why she felt the need to buy them. (She has one, too.)

The red is really much darker and richer, but my camera didn't want to cooperate this morning.

It's not a big plant. It's not entirely wee, but it's small as poinsettias go. A toddler poinsettia, if you will.

It's a lovely bit of holiday color.

Let's see how long I can keep it around.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened ...

Every so often, I write something that makes me laugh.

Mind you, I am not the toughest audience. And sometimes I think I'm pretty clever.

But mostly, I'm awed by folks who can write funny.

David Sedaris sends me into fits.

And today, David Leite did, too.

"David who?", you may be asking if you are not obsessed with all things food. David Leite, kids. Check out his bio. The man collects James Beard awards like I collect, well, I don't really collect anything. Except, these days, too many empty bottles from wine.

But his recounting – his confession – of this Thanksgiving's mishaps and mayhem in rural Connecticut had me in tears each time I read it. And I read it three times.

He and I are friends on Twitter and I wrote to tell him that with his fabulous voice, he really needs to podcast this sucker, because for food lovers, this tale is the Thanksgiving mashup of " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries." (If you haven't read it, do.)

I thought about including an excerpt, but truly, it needs to be experienced from beginning to end.

Take all necessary precautions. Visit the restroom first. Do not read while consuming a beverage. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thanks, David. You're a gem.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Cookies Away ...

Tonight, Angelo hosted a chat on Overstock.com's Facebook page, answering all manner of holiday questions. So many questions, so little time.

Julie, one of the chat attendees, posted: "I need to know how to send cookies 600 miles away arriving un-crumbled and fresh."

Well, hello there, idea for a post.

For all I've written about cookies over the years, I haven't written much about shipping them, mostly because I hand-deliver most of the cookies that I give away.

But there are some simple things you can do to get them to their destination at their cookie best. From the outside in, then.

1. Ship overnight or two-day delivery

Yes, I know: Duh. But time is not a baked good's friend. Wine, yes. Baked goods, no. And since the post office or other shippers can sometimes delay a package, the more you pony up to post it, the likelier it'll get there when it should. Also, if it doesn't, you probably warrant a refund.

2. Seal every edge of the box or shipping container

Just as time is not a baked good's friend, neither is air. Use a few extra inches of shipping tape and seal that baby up to the point where the recipient will curse you for the effort it'll take to open it.

3. Cushion, cushion, cushion, tight, tight, tight

Have you ever seen how packages are handled? The more cushion you have in the box, and the more the cookies are surrounded by that cushion so that the contents of the box don't shift, the better your chances that your cookies will arrive intact. Some folks use air-popped popcorn for packing material. That's a nice idea, as it can be tossed outside for critters at the destination. I keep a stash of packing peanuts from past shipments and use those. Most these days are biodegradable. (Really. They dissolve in water.) Fill the box so that it looks a bit too full. You should have to press down slightly to tape it shut. If you shake it and feel the contents shift, add more filler. It should ship as a solid mass.

4. Wrap, stash, and suck

Wrap cookies in waxed paper in pairs, back to back, so that they support each other. Stash them in a zip-top bag in rows. Stand them up along the bottom of the bag, like a roll of pennies. Then stash another row on top of that. Then another. Most gallon-size zip-top bags can accommodate three rows of cookies. Nestle them in next to each other snugly. Don't cram them if they won't fit, but don't leave excess space for them to move around. Then, lay the bag flat on the counter, seal the zip top almost all the way shut, and stick a drinking straw into the bag part of the way. Suck out as much air as you can, and while you're sucking, pull the straw out (yes, with your mouth) while you finish sealing the bag.

5. Bake cookies that will travel well

Not all cookies are made for travel. Delicate cookies that like to crumble are best enjoyed locally. Heartier cookies – oatmeal, sugar, any cookie with a bit of body – will travel well, assuming the steps above.

Don't be daunted. Bake and ship. Nothing heightens a holiday like tastes from our childhood homes or little bits of decadence.

And as corny as it sounds, cookies baked with love taste infinitely better than anything anyone can buy.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Calm For Christmas ...

I am sitting in my comfy chair, where I do most of my clacking, listening to Quiet Christmas, a CD I made years ago, a collection of not-necessarily-Christmas music, all lovely instrumentals that suit the notion of winter, the hush of the earth.

The tree is lit and glowing as trees do. It is the only source of light in the room, other than my screen. The wine in my glass is lit from behind, speckles of sparkle, ruby red.

I have no desire to move. Perhaps the holidays will come to me.

Sitting on the ottoman on which I rest my feet is a legal pad and a pencil, a place for ideas-cum-scribblings as they fall out of my head. It is December 4th and I already feel woefully behind.

I am a bit of a holiday schizophrenic. As soon as I start to feel the anxious, oh-my-God-there's-so-much-to-do feelings, I remind myself to stop, to breathe, to let the holiday chips fall where they may. What gets done gets done. The doing is not important. It is the being that matters.

The older I get, the more I want to simplify. Or maybe age isn't the reason. Maybe the reason is life. Maybe everything has gotten so manic, so multi-tasked, so immediate that there is simply no further for it to go except the other way, back toward sanity.

I don't mean to hate on Martha Stewart, but she is, in part, to blame. She and her entertaining empire, leading us to feel as though we are less than if our holidays – hell, our lives – are anything less than camera-ready. She, last I heard, has a staff of about 600. I have, approximately, me.

I have taken to designing my own holiday cards because I can never find ones that are exactly right. I have yet to order them this year. I almost did, the other night, but Moo ditched the contents of my cart when I did not complete the transaction. Not that it will be difficult to create them again, but I wonder if I should take Moo's action as a sign. Maybe skip the cards this year, Beth. Think of the time you'll save addressing all of them.

I like to receive cards so it only seems right that I should send them, but maybe this year, I won't. Maybe. Oh, there goes another twinge of guilt.

I have, at least, gratefully, shed the massive holiday baking. Times have changed. Many of those for whom I used to bake are no longer in my life. And the year I baked 14 varieties? Well, that was just insane. Now I sit down with my pad and pencil, list out those for whom I'll bake, and decide what best they'll like. Folks will get a cookie that I know is their favorite, or one I think they'll like to try. Or maybe a few of a few kinds. But the marathon baking is behind me. The joy was getting lost, somewhere in those 10-hour days.

Ideas have been had for gifts. Gifts must now be procured. The wrapping is always welcome. I love to wrap. And I'll help my mom with preparations for Christmas Eve, because I know how much effort it requires, even though she seems to manage it with ease. Christmas Eve is the big dance in my family. Christmas Day is more sedate. My mom was mortified the year she asked me what we should have for Christmas dinner and I replied, "Leftovers."

But I like our lazy Christmas Day, watching TV, grazing on snacks, staying in pajamas, taking a nap. I have no desire to prep a fancy dinner, and Christmas Eve always contains too much food. We have plenty left over and that's fine with me.

I like quiet. I like doing for the joy of doing, not doing with a sense of dread. We pile too much on our holiday plates of to-dos. I don't want to go to the mall. I don't want to fight the traffic. I want to give simple, thoughtful gifts, ordered from artists and brought to me by UPS, then wrapped with care and offered with love. I want to sit with my niece in front of the fireplace and be still and savor the tradition of it.

I want to go for a walk and admire the holiday lights and smile at the homes that are lit with candy colors and hope that there are kids inside who will grow up and remember the magic of homes that glowed. Our house was lit from top to bottom when I was young, colored lights, big bulbs and small, and a kitschy collection of decorations: the big plastic candles flanking the front door, the three bells than hung on the front of the house, lit from within, plugged in who knows where.

These days, all I want for Christmas is calm. Peace and calm and warmth and love.

Good Times, The Year In Review ...

In November last year, Angelo asked me if I'd like to contribute to his blog, which was very kind, and we hatched a plan. We'd begin in January, after the holiday hubbub, and I could submit posts as frequently or infrequently as I'd like, about any kind of baked good.

My brain settled on cookies, as they're kind of my thing, and monthly, as that felt like a good frequency.

We did indeed hit the ground running in January, and this morning, he posted December's cookie. A year's worth of cookies, done.

Thirteen cookies, which I love, as 13 is my favorite number. I created two cookies for May, hence why a year's worth of cookies does not add up to 12.

In 2012, the cookies may continue. Or I may take on yeast. Many folks think making bread – and all its yeast-risen friends – are too difficult for them to even attempt. But that's simply not true. I learned how to make bread when I was 8. And here's the big secret to yeast doughs: so long as you don't kill the yeast, you really can't screw anything up.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For fun, I thought I'd compile all of the cookies from this year-long escapade into one post.

Angelo is an oh-so-gracious host and I'm happy to bake for someone who has such a deep fondness for the magic that happens when flour and sugar combine. He's my fellow kitchen alchemist.

January

Shortbread Ottomans

February

Componentized Chocolate Chips

March

Liz Lemon Cookies

April

Walnut Cheese Cookies

May



Dark Chocolate Espresso Biscotti and Sablés

June

Sesame Cookies with Roditis Cream Cheese Dip

July

Parmesan Toffee Cookies

August

Drumstick Cookies

September

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

October

Pecan Crispies with Pumpkin Bourbon Cream Cheese Dip

November

Bittersweet Baci

December

Almond Spice Drops

Good Times, December Edition ...


The December cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Almond Spice Drops, a take on windmill cookies, but in softer-cookie form.