Thursday, December 27, 2012

Extended Wish List

In all honestly, I couldn't really ask for much more than I've already received this Christmas. My kids were happy, my parents seemed satisfied, and I had a nice day to relax, put some worries behind me, and enjoy being with my family.

While I did receive some lovely gifts, I can still window shop and daydream a little, eh? Right. So, here's my extended wish list. Maybe Cupid or the Spirit of MLK Jr. Day (that's a thing, right?) will come drop little pressies off on my doorstep.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Lessons Learned

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There are no words, truly, that can possibly convey the sadness of the Newtown tragedy. Seemingly, we've all become pundits on the situation. We have our opinions, our theories, our ideas on how to eradicate such devastating events. I'm no different. I've shared my two cents on the matter across social media channels. But I don't want to continue to pontificate on the matter. I just want to tell you what I've learned. The only way I can manage to make sense of this otherwise senseless act is to try to learn something from it.

Have empathy and compassion. Everyone is on the uphill climb. Everyone is traveling on a hard road. You can't fix everyone's problems, but you can cut people a break once in a while. Be kind to everyone. We must take gentle care of each other.

Teach your children to be alert. We've become a society of looking down. Down at screens and gadgets. Down at our feet. We don't look each other in the eye anymore and say, "Hello." We don't take the time to appreciate or recognize what is happening around us, and therefore, the sensational only becomes more sensational. If you have children, question them on their surroundings. Make it a game. In the long run, this will help them recognize danger and act accordingly.

Engage in conversation. If you are reading this, chances are you live in a democratic country that protects your right to free speech. While you might not agree with what people say, you have the splendid opportunity  to peacefully disagree. And as long as it is respectful, an ongoing conversation about a contentious issue is the best agent for change.

In that same vein, have an open conversation with your children about feelings. Ask them how they would mediate a difficult situation. Let them know it is okay to feel alone, or sad, or fearful, and help them find peaceful ways to cope with those feeling.

"Look For the Helpers." It's so true. In every tragedy, there is hope. In every darkness, there is light.

And most importantly... Make sure your loved ones know they are loved by you. You can never tell them enough.

If you are looking for ways to help the people of Newtown, the following organizations are offering relief:
Newtown Memorial Fund
United Way of Western Connecticut
American Red Cross
Newtown Parent Connection

If you are searching for ways to help talk to children about the events at Newtown, here are some helpful links:
Save the Children
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

You can also send an Evergram to the people of Newtown

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weekend Listening: Holiday Playlist from Jillian

It's been a while since we did a Weekend Listening post, so I'm gonna start it up again. Holiday tunes are on the docket this weekend, and I can think of no one better than my very music-savvy friend Jillian to tell us about the best holiday songs we should be listening to while we sip eggnog and trim trees. Jillian... take it away!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Perfect Salted Caramels

I met Lauren from Craft My Life Away at the From Scratch Club food swaps. As a first-time swapper, I was eager to get to know Lauren... especially since she brought these insane salted caramel bars that were a hot-ticket item at the swap. Seriously, they were soooo good.


Lauren is a pretty nifty lady, as she is a excellent baker/confection maker and crafter. Since each year I try to send my friends and loved ones a little treat for the holidays, I thought I'd ask Lauren to share her Salted Caramel recipe with me (us) - they'd be perfect to send in the post! So, Lauren, have at it. School us in all things caramel!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Swedish Crispy Syrup Cookies

Last year, I participated in the first Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and had such a blast that I thought I'd do it again!

This year, the GFBCS organizers asked that all participants donate $4 to the "Cookies for Kids Cancer" campaign. The participating bloggers raised $2,300, and OXO generously matched this donation, bringing the total to $4,600! Thanks OXO!!

Just like last year, I was matched with three bloggers to send my cookies to. These bloggers were:

Chris from The Keenan Cookbook (beautiful site, Chris and Rachel!)

Karen from Small Kitchen, Big Taste (great recipes for bakers and cooks alike!)

Becca from The Salted Cookie (she likes champagne, her grandpa, and Alton Brown-esque analog tweets... sounds like my kind of gal!)

And I received cookies from:

Kathy from Panini Happy and Cooking on the Side (she made Spritz cookies)

Jessica from My Baking Heart (she made Spiced Rum cookies)

Becca from It's Yummilicious (she made Almond Log cookies)

This year, I decided to make Swedish Crispy Syrup Cookies. I received a copy of Swedish Desserts: 80 Traditional Recipes by Cecilia Vikbladh to review from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. (Thanks Skyhorse!) The recipe was really easy to follow, but the cookies didn't turn out as crispy as I thought. This could be "user error," as perhaps I should have rolled out the logs thinner. The cookies did stay soft and syrupy in the center, though, so I got that right :-). I would qualify these cookies as good "dunkers..." you know, the kind that go perfect dunked into your coffee. I think adding a little bit of cocoa powder to these cookies would make them the perfect accompaniment to hot chocolate.

I'm really looking forward to trying a few other recipes from the book, especially the variations of Saffron Buns for Christmas morning, lemon twists, and Panettone with Limoncello.

Crispy Syrup Cookies
From Swedish Desserts: 80 Traditional Recipes by Cecilia Vikbladh
Makes about 40 cookies

1 1/3 sticks butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Whisk butter, sugar, corn syrup, and egg yolk together, preferably with an electric mixer.

2. Mix and add flour, vanilla, and baking powder. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Set the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. Split the dough into four equal parts and roll them out on the two baking sheets so that they stretch from one end to the other lengthwise. Flatten them lightly with your hand. Bake for 15 minutes and cut into pieces while still hot. Let the cookies cool on the sheet. Store them in a tin with a lid.