Be my Valentine…

The hearts are pink

The cherries are red

The chocolate is white

The cookies are shortbread

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We all know I am no cook, chef, or baker.  Below is the extent of my “baking supplies”. The only mixer I own is that hand held one.  It was a hand me down that I procured right out of college.  I am guessing it is as old as I am!

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Anyway, I am just a common person who loves cookies. Though, I probably love cookies more than any other common person on the planet.  In fact, I am going to go as far as to say that I am a “cookie connoisseur”  – or as Tad says “cookie snob”.  I think it is safe to conclude that I have tried thousands of cookies over the years.  At one point I was eating 6-12 cookies every day!  I eventually realized that I needed to back off – because there is no way I can exercise enough to burn off that many extra calories every day.  Now, I try to limit my cookie intake to once a month.  I spend the entire month thinking about which cookie is going to get the privilege of being eaten that month. Since my cookie intake is now limited, I want to make the best of it. I can’t justify wasting my monthly cookie splurge on store bought cookies.  So, I only eat handmade/homemade cookies.  I have narrowed it down to chocolate chip cookies and white chocolate cherry almond shortbread cookies.  These are my favorite.  I realize this all may sound a little crazy.  It works for me.

Holidays are always a good time for a special treat in my opinion.  The white chocolate cherry almond shortbread cookies seem obviously perfect for Valentine’s Day.  These cookies are pink and easily shaped into hearts.  I discovered these cookies one afternoon in a local cupcake shop.  They were pretty, pink, and irresistible.  My mom used to make a cherry chip cake every year for my birthday.  It was pink.  It was delicious.  I loved my cherry chip cakes.

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These cookies remind me of those cherry chip cakes. These cookies are as good – maybe, even better than those cherry chip cakes. The cupcake shop didn’t want to divulge their recipe to me – because they get to charge $1.25 per cookie! Being the “cookie connoisseur” that I am – I became obsessed.  I searched extensively for a recipe that matched the cupcake shop cookies.  I found a bunch of recipes that were all really similar, just not exact.  I ended up combining elements from a few and arrived at an almost perfect reproduction.  My cookies aren’t as perfect looking as the bakery cookies, but they taste just as good…

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White Chocolate Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped.  Reserve the liquid from cherries for later use.
  • 2 1/2 cups flour.
  • 1/2 cup sugar.
  • 1 cup of cold butter.
  • 1 bag of white chocolate chips – chop 2/3 of the chips.
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract.
  • Red food coloring – optional.
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil or shortening.

Making the cookies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Combine flour and sugar.
  3. Cut in the butter with pastry blender or fork until the mixture is crumbly.
  4. Stir in drained/chopped cherries.
  5. Stir in chopped chocolate chips.
  6. Stir in almond extract.
  7. Stir in 2-4 Tablespoons of the reserved cherry liquid to obtain the correct consistency – the mixture will look dry but will form a ball when rolled in your hands.  I usually like my shortbread cookies less dry/crumbly so I use 4 Tablespoons or more of the liquid.
  8. Add a few drops of red food coloring if you would like the cookies to have more color.  The cherry liquid is usually enough color for me.
  9. Shape dough into balls then press into the heart cookie cutter.  These cookies don’t spread very much during baking.  You can also press the balls down with a glass or fork or potato masher if you want just round cookies.
  10. Bake 10-15 minutes.  The center of the cookie should be set, but be sure not to over bake them.
  11. Once the cookies have cooled, they are ready for white chocolate drizzle.  Melt the remaining chocolate chips and 1-2 teaspoons of oil or shortening.  With a spoon, drizzle on the white chocolate.
  12. Enjoy!

There’s a Christmas gift in the house…

I want to say first and foremost, that by Tad’s admission I “out clevered” him with the gift giving at Christmas.  It wasn’t the gifts themselves – because all the gifts were great.  It was the presentation that got the “out clevered” recognition.

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Tad is difficult to give gifts to – he never really gives any hints of what he wants.  He is particular about clothes so I don’t buy those.  Well, except for socks.  If you recall, I got him a dozen pair of crazy socks for Christmas.  Even socks were a bit of a risk, but he does seem to like the socks and has been wearing them regularly. He likes electronics but is also pretty particular about the specifics – so, I am not going to buy any electronics.  I try not to buy stuff that just sits around.  Tad likes tools, but I think we’ve got every tool a homeowner would ever possibly need. Plus, I got him tools last year so I wasn’t wanting to do the same thing this year.

A year ago Christmas, I gave Tad a book of walking tours around Denver.  The book was an after thought and only $20.  I believe I mentioned this book last summer when I found a really cool sofa pillow while on one of these walks.  Anyway, this book ended up being one of the better gifts I have given.  We had set a goal for ourselves of completing all 30 walks by the next Christmas.  It got us out of the house.  It got us out to neighborhoods we had never been to.  We learned new stuff/old history about Denver – including our own neighborhood.  It was great exercise.  It was totally fun.  We completed all the walks with a month or so to spare before our Christmas goal.  It was memorable.

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I wanted to do something just as memorable this year, but nothing surfaced.  So, I had to get creative.  I had three ideas for Tad’s main gift.  I thought about it for quite a while – like 2 months.  I was indecisive.  So, I decided to let Tad choose – sort of.  I hid 3 envelopes in a Christmas stocking.  Each envelope had a card with the “prize” inside.  I labeled the envelopes “This”, “That” and “The Other”.  I made sure that I didn’t know what was in which envelope either (by mixing the envelopes up after sealing them and before labeling them) so I didn’t sway his choice at all.

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The rules were that Tad could pick one at a time.  He could forfeit the opened envelope if he wanted to pick another – unopened envelope.  Once he forfeited an already opened envelope though, he couldn’t go back.  He picked  “The Other” – which ended up being a desk chair.

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Tad debated whether or not he wanted to trade the desk chair for one of the other unopened/unknown gifts.  He tried to get me to change the rules.  He tried to get me to tell him what was in the other envelopes.  I did not give in.  I stood strong.  In fact, the other two gifts are still secret – locked in my brain for possible future gift ideas.  Tad opted to keep the desk chair and not risk something that he might not like as much.  Plus, he had been talking about and looking at desk chairs for a while.  By “a while”, I mean years.  Tad had been doing research and had already narrowed it down to two different chairs.

He ended up with this one.  There were a bunch options – different colors and various features – so, it was special order.

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The chair arrived last week.  It is everything Tad thought it would be.

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This chair has pretty grey leather, soft grey trim, some brushed aluminum, and a bunch of levers that adjust the seat, back, arm rests, and height.

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Oh – and lumbar support.

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Tad’s little corner of the unfinished basement…

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just got a little bit better and little more comfortable with his new desk chair.

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And, I get to be the most clever person in the house for another 10 months or so…

Christmas vignettes…

Christmas is this week – crazy – it has really snuck up on me this year.  I was hoping to show off a few of my Christmas vignettes over the last week.   However, I decided my decor is somewhat lacking in – dazzle – or garland – or something.  In other words, no amount of festive description or photo editing can make my holiday decor  a “completed” project this year.  So, instead, I have spent the last week critiquing my holiday decor and making a list of things to improve for next year.  Here is the basic list…

Our tree is lovely this year – in my opinion – see it here.  Though, Tad mentions the missing tree skirt every year and I say “will do – next year”.  I promise you, next year the tree will have a skirt!

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Our fireplace mantel features my tree collection.  I like it.  It’s simple.  In general, I like simple, but am feeling like my little tree vignette is too simple.  It lacks “layering” – I think?  My plan is a string of battery operated mini lights – at the very least…

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The dining table.  I usually hang these purple jeweled ornaments from the light fixture, get some fresh holiday flowers, and call it good.  My plan for next year is create a more interesting flower arrangement/centerpiece – some sticks and berries and pine branches?  Maybe, even a holiday table runner…

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The stockings.  I am the only one in our house with a stocking.  I feel a little bad that Tad and Hanna don’t have their own stockings.  I feel a little sewing/craft/applique project in my future.

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This cute stuffed bear makes an appearance every year.  Next year he will get a bow and some Christmas pillows to lounge around with.

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I’ve got a few mini trees that I usually place in other rooms.  One displays six beautifully hand carved ornaments – in my office area.  The other displays some whimsical small ornaments not easily seen on our larger tree – in the kitchen. I like the idea of a small tree in each room.  However, I am not loving the actual trees that I have  So, I will be looking to find some new/better/more interesting/ unique trees for the sunroom/office and kitchen next year.

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I recently inherited some antique ornaments from my grandparents.  I wanted to display the ornaments but I didn’t have room on the tree.  I ended up with some shredded accordion paper  as a display area.  I like the accordion paper.  Though, it feels like the vignette needs something more.  Maybe, a few bows…

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My outside decorating is, frankly, a bit boring – a wreath, a few lighted fake branches, and some plastic baubles hanging on the big bird.  Thankfully, mother nature has helped a few times this year with a dusting of snow.  I don’t want to go crazy with a bazillion lights dancing to music, but I think a little upgrade is in order.  I like the whole natural, slightly rustic feel for outside decorating – live garland, pinecones, berries, naked tree branches.  I also would like to decorate the big bird – I just can’t decide if I should go tasteful or tacky…

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 One final thought for next year’s holiday decorating is to that I want to mix it up.  I tend to place the tree in the same spot every year.  Same for the decorative items – the tree collection on the mantel, the whimsical ornaments in the kitchen, the hand carved ornaments in the office.  I think placing things in different areas of the house will help  to make things more fun, festive and unexpected. Oh, it’s going to be crazy around here next year!

Wishing everyone out there a peaceful and happy Christmas. Enjoy.

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