egg nog cookies

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Friends, in December of 2006, I was working daily from a cubicle on the fourth floor at Unum as a Disability Benefits Specialist.  My sweet Isaac was 6 months old, and though he and Emily were in excellent care at their Grandmama’s house, most days I sat at my desk with a heavy, heavy longing in my heart to be at home.

The song, “I’ll be home for Christmas” seemed extraordinarily torturous to me that year.  At that time, I had no idea that God was about to perform a miracle and within the next few months I would indeed be home with my babies for good. I can’t look back at that time in my life without remembering some of the graces the Heavenly Father provided to me, which lightened my spirits and gave hope.

One of my favorite memories happened a few days before Christmas. My boss, Nicky Davis, brought cookies to work to share with our team.  It seems like it was yesterday, even though it actually was seven and a half years ago.  I can’t forget how that warm spicy cookie and it’s cool creamy frosting tasted the first time it crossed my lips.  Don’t ask how many I ate that day, but they warmed my heart. She wrote out the recipe for me because I loved it so much.  And I’ve made them every year since.    When I do, I’m reminded to never underestimate just how much a tiny sweet morsel might mean; even the smallest gestures matter.

With a hearty dose of good cheer, I offer you this lovely cookie recipe!

Eggnog Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

1 c butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp rum extract
2 cups flour (sifted)
2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:  Cream butter and sugar til fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and rum extracts and mix well. Combine flour nutmeg, salt and add to creamed mixture. Chill well. Allow 1 tbsp dough for each cookie, shape into balls. Bake on ungreased sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven – 12-15 minutes. cool.

a tiny bit of advice:  The more nutmeg you use, the warmer the cookie will seem.  And the more rum you use in the frosting, the cooler it will be on your tongue! The combination is almost divine!

Frosting Ingredients:

1/4 c butter
2 1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 tsp rum ex
1/2 tsp vanilla ex
3 Tbsp milk sprinkle of nutmeg.

Instructions: Beat together butter & sugar. add milk and flavoring. Spread gently on cooled cookies. Mmmmmm – they are warm and cool in your mouth all at the same time! Perfectly paired with a cup of hot cocoa!  Enjoy! DSC_0531

not the prettiest cookie on the table

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I have a confession.  You’re probably going to think I’m terrible when I tell you.

There is a particular kind of Christmas cookie I make – it is called a Gingerbread White Chocolate Chunk Blondie.   It is one of our favorites around here.  But, they are not pretty at all.  non-descript.   no decorations.   no festive colors.  just brown.

Here’s the “terrible” part.  I make them when we go to events and need to take goodies.  Do you know why?  Because everyone passes them over, for the mint brownies or the brightly frosted sugar cookies.  No one wants a plain old brown square.   Do you know what that means?  I bring a full container of our favorite Christmas treats home for us to eat.

It is a dirty dirty trick, and I know it.

So, this went down yesterday:  We went to our co-op Christmas party, armed with the Gingerbread Blondies in question, and brought them right back home.  And I’m delighted, because I get to eat one with my coffee in my favorite mug – it is the perfect breakfast.

Except for the guilt I feel.

To assuage my guilt, I decided I should share the recipe.  Most people don’t give it a second look – because they don’t realize how moist and soft and fabulous they are.  Everyone who actually tries them agrees – they ARE WONDERFUL.  (I wouldn’t lie to you about this, I promise.  I may be a sneaky baker, but I’m not a liar.)

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website many years ago.  And over the years, thru all of the busyness of the holidays, and all of the distraction of new recipes,  this is one Christmas cookie I never forget to make.    And it make me feel a lot better if you’d make them (for yourself) too!    Merry Christmas!

Gingerbread White Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Ingredients

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray 
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses 
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape.

waiting for home

When I go for a run, it is always at a park near my house.  There’s a path that loops the outskirts of the park, and I know how long it is, so it makes my training fairly simple.

I find it interesting to frequent the same running spot because I see a lot of the same people again and again.  I feel like I’m getting to know them. There’s a female runner who is training, time to time gaining speed- she’s much, much faster than me.  Sometimes there is an older couple out walking, the wife limping with a full leg brace, recovering from an orthopedic type surgery- her gait is improving all the time.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a drug deal or two between two boys on bicycles.  Often there’s the daughter-dad pair playing basketball.

And then there’s one particular woman.

She’s been at the park, sitting in her car, every time I have run for the past four weeks.  I’m pretty sure she lives in her Ford Focus, the back passenger window opening covered with plastic and duct tape.   More than once at dusk, I’ve watched her carry her bag to the bathroom, towards the back of the park.  I’m guessing she freshens up there.  While I ran today, I tried to conceive a plan where I left her a WalMart gift card taped to the bathroom mirror.  But, I’m not sure how to pull that off.

I think of her pretty regularly and wonder how she got into this predicament. Is there anyone to help her?  Is she hoping to find a home, not on wheels, soon?  I question if I should find a way to help her…

This morning at church we lit the first candle of advent.  We sang and rejoiced with songs of a coming Savior.  And the light of that candle reminded me of something really important.

All of the heartache and struggles of life are eclipsed by Hope in Christ.   No matter what the difficulty is, or disaster or material lack – there is one thing certain that remains:  Just as He promised Israel He would come the first time, Jesus has promised to return to us again.  And when He does He will redeem every single thing that has gone wrong.  Every injustice, every pain, every mistake – all will be made right.  When that happens all who believe in Him will be at home with Him for eternity.

This knowledge, this very hope is the answer to my questions about the homeless woman, even though I don’t really know her. I’m hoping I’ll figure out a way to share His love (and some other necessities too) with her, in case she hasn’t heard.   And I’m hoping to do it soon, so that she knows, no matter what’s happening  here and now,  there’s a Rescuer coming!  and He’s got the perfect home waiting for her.

 

From John 14: In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also…

nutty Thanksgiving

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Tonight I made something that I’ve never made for Thanksgiving before.   Sweet and spicy cashews.   They are terribly addictive – you can’t just eat a couple.    The thing is, Thanksgiving is a time for waiting on the turkey to finish – and I always need something to munch on.  (surely, I’m not the only one?)  So, I thought  these nuts would be the perfect snack for our “pre-turkey” time.

My sister’s neighbor, Marty, gave me the recipe ( I think Marty got it from the Barefoot Contessa.)   – And now I’m sharing it with you because everyone needs these as a part of their holiday celebrations!

Sweet and Spicy Cashews

ingredients:

1lb unsalted, roasted cashews
1 tbsp  minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp butter, melted.

instructions:

Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan. Toast cashews in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes – on 350.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients but the cashews.  Then, thoroughly toss the cashews with the rosemary mixture.  They are yummy when served right away, warm.  But, they are also good served after drying on a sheet pan for a bit, or the next day.

Enjoy!  and Happy Thanksgiving!

a prayer for help and hope

I don’t think I can convey to you just how much I’ve wanted to think about something else.

Why spend time contemplating a situation that is out of my control? After all, isn’t that hopeless?  and completely without merit?  

Anger and frustration are engulfing Ferguson, Missouri with rioting and violence.  It is accurate to say I can’t control that situation.   My gut instinct is to stick my head in the sand.  I want to say the problem isn’t mine.  I’m good at that.   Give me a few minutes and I’ll have more excuses, I promise.

However, over the last couple of days, I’ve been drawn to pray.  Not just for the souls of men, and not just for Jesus to have mercy on all of us, though my heart longs for those things.  Honestly, I’ve been praying for the Holy spirit to change my heart and mind ; to reveal my wrong thoughts and actions.

It is easy to say I’ve done nothing wrong, all the while not doing what is right…

Here’s what God’s Word says is good:

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

I’m not foolish enough to believe I can do this on my own.  I know I need the power of the Holy spirit to do what He requires.  And I also know that we live in a fallen world, where sin abounds, and that we will never see the fullness of true justice until King Jesus returns.

But, in the meantime He promises to be our help and our hope in our need.  So, I ask Him:

Dear Heavenly Father, With the wisdom and strength you provide,  let me see people, not a skin color.  Give grace so that I’m able to acknowledge others for who they are – people loved by their Creator.  Help me to live in humility, not looking down on those different than me.   amen.

 

if at first you don’t succeed

It happened, all in about week’s time, it did.  Over and over again.

My daughter, after a season of giving up, retrieved her bow and arrow from the garage and set up her target. I found her in the woods, happily searching for a wayward arrow.

In my kitchen, where sometimes I believe (falsely) that I’m a master of all things baking, there was a beautiful knot of dough with the wrong amount of yeast in the trash can.  There I stood at my baker’s counter kneading another boule.

Husband, in a white hazmat suit, began installing insulation in his shop after being in a holding pattern of “not yet” and “can’t” for what seemed like possibly forever.

I crossed the finish line with frozen toes and my breath in view.  Two years ago I began a similar journey, but only with mild success.   This time,  joy, tears and a medal…

At church, my bow pulled across the strings of my violin, after quite a lengthy period of silence. Oh the pure happiness of calloused fingertips…

All of us giving it another go.

Sometimes the trial of errors and the horror of failure can be weighty on my heart and soul.  So much so, that is hard to pick up and give it another go.  The old saying alone, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is lack-luster in it’s inspiration.

Why in the world would I try again to be something I thought I was, in order to find (again) that I’m not good enough, or capable enough?

Typically I think of myself as part wife, mom, musician, baker, runner.  And while those pieces of me are at different stages of development, I am not equal to the sum of those parts.  I am more.

When I acknowledge that my actual whole self’s worth is found in who I am in Christ, I realize I am exponentially myself.  All of the truth of who He is, becomes mine.  whoa.  Who I am does not rely on how hard I try.  

This is good news, friends!  It frees me to give, again and again, without suffering the shame of mistakes.  I don’t have to believe the lie that I’m not who I thought I was.  In my best reality I’m fully loved as a daughter of the King, capable of being exactly who He made me to be.  By His strength, by His wisdom, by His gifts – a wife, mom, musician, baker, runner – and so, so, so much more.

I can try, try again.

I am believing these words today from Ephesians 1:  “I am accepted in the Beloved.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

 

 

 

 

November Tune-up

DSC_0381DSC_0295DSC_0331DSC_0325We just passed the first weekend of November and my mind is swirling, trying to catch up – I’m not sure where 2014 has gone.  At any rate, we took it easy the past few days and spent some family time together.   And it is just what my heart and soul needed.

November, sometimes, ends up being a countdown to the end of the year. Worst case scenario : it is a fast-paced exhausting race to Christmas.  And I just don’t want to be a part of that marathon this year.  My heart longs to savor this season of Thanksgiving.  I want to take my time and soak in all of the goodness that God has given to us.   Like my favorite hymn, I’m asking the Heavenly Father to “Tune my heart to sing thy grace.”    When I focus on all of the craziness this season often brings, my heart gets out of tune pretty quickly.  

Here are a few of my “thankfulnesses.”  Nothing fantastic by most’s standards, I suppose.  Yet, they are God’s grace – specifically for me.   And I am truly grateful!

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