Monday, December 31, 2012

Greetings From The New Year Squirrel ...

Greetings from the New Year Squirrel, bringing good things in the year ahead.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Banana Muffins ...

Faced with use-'em-or-pitch-'em bananas, I tried a new recipe for muffins. They're cute! But I used toasted walnuts and way more than the recipe calls for; 1/2 cup for 12 muffins? Please.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Cookie Slicer? ...

This isn't so much a post as an extended tweet. I need to ping my baking pals on Twitter for some advice but I don't use those "tweet longer" sites because a tweet that's longer than 140 characters is no longer a tweet. It's a post. Also, I want to include multiple images. So here we are.

I'm wondering if any of my aforementioned baking pals can help point me toward a kitchen tool I would love to own, that I have not yet been able to find. Perhaps because my Googling skills aren't what they used to be or perhaps because what I'm in search of doesn't exist. But before I go down the path of commissioning fabrication, I thought I'd try crowd-sourcing this sucker.

What I'd like is a variation of a butter slicer, a tool I can use to slice rolls of cookie dough into identical slices.

A butter slicer limits me as to the diameter of what I can cut. And while I suppose any wires that can slice through butter can also slice through refrigerated cookie dough, it seems like something a little more sturdy might be in order. Especially for the purposes of wear and tear.

I was also thinking about something on the order of an adjustable pastry cutter ...

... but with fixed blades, not wheels. I need to cut straight down, after all.

Kind of like this ...

... but different. These blades are serrated and seem too tightly spaced.

In my head it looks something like this, multiple blades fused to a handle that would allow me to cut a whole roll in one fell swoop. Behold my quick, crude mockup:

Gail? Stella? Sarabeth? David? Anyone else? Thoughts?

I can't imagine that no one else has thought of this before. It must exist somewhere, mustn't it?

If not, thoughts for alternatives? If you have any brainstorms, I'd love to read about 'em in the comments.

Thanks for helping me think!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Album Like No Other ...

I have had this CD since the mid-'90s. Until this morning, it had remained in its cellophane wrapping. Not that I thought it would ever be worth anything. It just struck me as too magnificent to alter from its pristine state. I mean, come on: the cover alone, right?

But this morning, riffling through Christmas music in search of some gift-wrapping accompaniment, I decided that today was the day that Bob and Dolores's gift should be appreciated at last.

I had always presumed it was a selection of Christmas music by various artists, licensed and shared by the Hopes.

No. Oh no.

I hit Play and was treated to "Happy Holiday" by Bob and Dolores themselves.

Awed, I knew that a blog post would have to be written. As I was settling in to write, still listening, still marveling, I heard myself say, out loud, in response to the next song that had started to play, "Is that Paul Lynde?!"

He died in 1982. So maybe not. Or maybe so. Maybe vocals had been recorded for years and were mixed into this collection when Bob and Dolores decided to make this CD.

(By the way, I've now typed "Dolores" so many times, in my head, I now hear Jerry yelling it out his apartment window on "Seinfeld.")

Suffice it to say, this is unlike any Christmas CD I've ever heard.

It is quite remarkable.

I can't believe I've deprived myself of this for more than 15 years.

I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

Moments later ... : I swear I just caught myself swaying in my chair, involuntarily. Well done, Hopes. Well done.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Suddenly Christmas ...

Christmas arrived, just after dusk.

I hadn't been feeling the season. I'd bought gifts and I'd baked cookies and I'd shipped packages and I'd received cards. I'd gone to my niece's Christmas concert. I'd opened a gift. But still, it didn't feel like Christmas.

Maybe it was the dusting of snow last night. Maybe it was, well, I don't know.

But suddenly, it was here. I set down my laptop. I headed downstairs. I retrieved my tree. I checked the lights. And hauled it upstairs.

I headed back down for the box of ornaments and a few decorations, turned on Quiet Christmas, and decorated the tree.

And now I am sitting here, happy in its glow, sipping wine, and feeling so much better.

This is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. No planning and plotting, no shopping and fretting. Just quiet and peace.

I hope you've found yours, too.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What I Think Of When I Think Of Success ...

This notion has been rattling around in my brain for a while.

And this morning, I saw an email and a blog post in the same vein. So my pondering has turned into writing. And here we are.

The subject line of the email reads The Perfect Gift For The Screenwriter On Your List.

Well, that'd be me. (My screenplay and I have reconciled recently.) I read on, to see what I should be giving myself this year.

One of the items, an on-demand webinar, is titled How to Write a Marketable Screenplay: Learn How to Structure your Script the Hollywood Way.

And my brain said, "How about writing a good screenplay? That should do the trick."

With all the dreck that comes out of Hollywood every year, I'm thinking that someone at a studio wouldn't read a good screenplay and say, "Well, Beth, this is a good screenplay. One of the best we've seen in years, really. If only you'd written it to be marketable ... . Sorry. I hear McDonald's is hiring."

And then I read Seth Godin's latest post, "The short head, the long tail and buying expensive scaffolding," about how much an artist, say, should forego on the front end for the chance at having a huge hit. He uses E.L. James as an example: "We can all agree (I hope) that 50 Shades isn't the best book published this decade, but it's certainly one of the biggest." He cites that she gave up a possible fortune in selling ebook rights cheap in exchange for a big bookstore push, and that perhaps that's what made her book such a huge hit.

I've read a couple pages of her book. I think it's crap. But a huge number of people bought it, so many that Random House gave every employee a $5,000 bonus this year and has a fortune from it left in its coffers, I'm sure.

A friend of mine who reads for pleasure – which is to say, she doesn't spend her days with Shakespeare and Faulkner, she reads a lot of popular stuff – said of James' book, "I just can't get into it." We had been discussing that despite its commercial success, it was getting poor reviews.

And I laughed and said, "Given the subject matter, if you can't get into it, it's poorly written."

But here's the thing: What does James think of it? I would hope that any author who puts a book into the world believes in their work, believes that it represents if not their very best effort than at least a very good effort. I would hope that authors aren't saying, "Eh. It's crap. But it might make me rich."

Or maybe I am just incredibly naive.

I mean, there are authors who have become such an industry that they have other people writing their books in order to keep up with demand.

I guess it all comes down to motive and priority.

And my priority isn't money.

Clearly. My checking account is so empty, you can almost see through it.

I have no desire to learn a magic formula that will allow me churn out a mediocre product for maximum profit.

I'd rather make a small amount of money from something I believe to be my very best effort that appeals to a small segment of the population.

Of course, I wouldn't be opposed to my very best effort being appreciated widely. That'd be lovely.

But it's the work, the creation. I have to be proud of that above all else. If success comes, great. If not, I know I put in my best effort.

Either way, I win.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Good Times, The Year In Review II ...

I have absolutely no idea how I've arrived at the end of another year of cookies on Angelo's blog.

Time. Whoosh.

The year didn't exactly go according to plan – I didn't create every cookie from scratch; I used other people's recipes as starting points and tweaked them – but I'm pleased to have stayed on the cookie path. I love baking bread and scones and muffins and such, but cookies are really my thing.

And I'm very pleased to create for such a kindred baking spirit. If there's a man who's more profuse about his love of all things flour and sugar, I've yet to meet him.

So then, a look back at the cookies (and others) of 2012.

I am very much looking forward to even more creations in 2013!


Coconut Chocolate Almond Biscotti


Browned-Butter Scotch-Glazed Madeleines


Red-Wine Zabaglione with Crumbled Shortbread


Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons with Cheesecake Fondue


Portlandia Cookies


Don Draper Cookies


Caramel-Filled Pecorino-Romano Pecan Sandies


Almond Graham Biscotti with Hot Fudge and Marshmallow Fluff


Blackberry Madeleines


Pumpkin Cookies with Sweet Cheese and Pecans


Cookie-size Cherry Crostatas


Bite-Size Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Sablé Sandwiches

And 2011's Good Times, The Year In Review is here.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Good Times, December Edition ...

The December cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Bite-Size Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Sablé Sandwiches to be enjoyed as they are or pulled apart and smooshed back together into peppermint and chocolate combinations.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Christmas Spirit? ...

It doesn't feel like Christmas.

In most every other year, the day I put up my tree is sandwiched between two Thanksgivings, the actual day with family at their house and the Saturday following, when mom and I make a bird for the purposes of leftovers.

It's that Friday when I normally put up my tree. This year? Meh. Wasn't feeling it. A friend pointed out that Thanksgiving fell early this year, a whole week before he end of November. Good point. It usually lands a little later in the month.

But still, I'm treeless. I am decorationless. It may as well be July in here. Or any other month.

Maybe it's because stores start stocking Christmas stuff over the summer. Maybe it's because radio stations start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween. Maybe it's because temperatures have been flirting with 70. In December.

I'm a secular celebrant of Christmas. I don't observe it religiously. But I like the traditions of it. I'm sure I still do. My fondness for it hasn't fully faded. I still smile at homes decked out for Christmas. There is one, the next block over, that features a fabulously odd assortment of decorations. I need to take a walk one evening with my camera in tow. A picture would make fine seasonal wallpaper for my laptop.

I've bought a few gifts. Wrapped a couple, even. I turned on "Elf" in the background last weekend while I puttered about the house.

A little snow might do the trick. Just an inch or so. Just enough to make everything white and pretty for a moment.

And making a contribution to Toys for Tots.

And baking for the local firehouse, perhaps.

What kinds of things do you do around the holidays to make them meaningful?