Cookie Table Project, Part Deux: Spritz Cookies

You’d think that since summer was over that would also mean that wedding season was over too — but not for me! In fact, my wedding season is just getting started for 2013. And, just like last year, that means cookies. If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, check out my series of posts from 2012 talking about the Cookie Table tradition that we have here in Northeast Ohio.

My cousin gets married in two weeks and my mom and I have been making a variety of cookies for the event. Last year, I blogged about how Pinterest helped me find new cookie recipes. This time around though, I decided to focus on tried and true recipes that I or my family have been making for awhile.

First up: Spritz Cookies.

Spritz cookies are great because they’re versatile. You can make them using a cookie press (like in this recipe) or you can simply make the dough, roll it into balls, and drop them on the cookie sheet. They really don’t need frosting or a lot of ornamentation — a little decorative sugar is a perfect complement. They’re also a great Christmas cookie to make.

photo (3)Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Decorative sugar

Equipment Needed:

  • Stand or hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Electric or manual cookie press (optional)*
  • Cooking spray
  • Cookie sheets
  • Cookie cooling racks

*If using a cookie press, I highly recommend purchasing an electric one.

Instructions:

1. With the mixer, combine the margarine and shortening. Beat thoroughly approximately 2 minutes.

2. Once the margarine and shortening are thoroughly beaten, add the sugar gradually. Continue to beat the mixture for approximately 5 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.

3. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Continue to beat the mixture.

4. Add baking powder. Gradually add flour, mixing the dough slowly until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Mix well for approximately 1 minute, making sure you stop to scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate any lingering ingredients.

5. Once fully mixed, the cookie dough will be stiff.

6. If you are using a cookie press, now is the time to assemble and fill it. Please follow the directions included with your cookie press as they differ from one brand to another. For this recipe, I used a Cuisinart Cookie Press (available for less than $30). If you are not using a cookie press, simply make drop cookies.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make "prefect" cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make “perfect” cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

7. Once you have assembled and filled your cookie press with dough, press the cookies onto a greased cookie sheet. Leave approximately 1-2 inches between each cookie.

I used the Flower design.

I used the Flower design.

8. Decorating the cookies with sugar is optional, but since the color scheme for this wedding is purple, I went with purple decorative sugar.

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9. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Reduce temperature to 325 if needed. Be careful not to overbake.

10. Remove cookies from cookie sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.

11. Serve and enjoy!

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A Few (More) of My Favorite Things

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I’m sitting here, windows open, on this lovely day in late August, listening to the dulcet tones of construction equipment and heavy machinery. There is no way that the high school football stadium behind my apartment will be anywhere near ready for the beginning, or let’s be honest, the end of the season this year. Wonder how that’s going to work out for them. Hmm. Anyway

Things are coming together for the wedding, which is pretty exciting. Once we find our DJ, I’ll probably feel like I can kind of relax for a while. I’m looking forward to looking at dresses for my BridesDames and my co-MOHs, and we have our engagement photo session at the end of next month. There is still much to be done, but just not right now. Since I announced that I was engaged on a previous favorite things post, I thought it could do another one with other things I’m loving right now, like…

1. Beauty: CoverGirl Outlast Lipstain

I currently have two different shades in my purse to go with whatever attitude of outfit I wear to work. I bought my first tube of it prior to my cousin’s summer 2010 wedding in Houston. I knew I was going to need something that would last all day and wouldn’t sweat or shmear off in the heat. CoverGirl had just come out with this line, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Besides staying on all day, it has more of a matte finish than a glossy finish, so that gives it more brownie points. I also like how light-weight it is, and the fact that its basically a Sharpie for your lips. My personal favorites are Teasing Blush (415) for everyday looks and Wild Berry Wink (440) for something a little more dramatic.

2. Food & Drink: Chobani Flips Almond Coco Loco

The first time I tried Greek yogurt, I wasn’t too impressed, and actually thought it was somewhat bitter. Of course, I love frozen Greek yogurt, especially Ben & Jerry’s Banana & Peanut Butter flavor, so when I saw this the last time I was out grocery shopping with Brian, I thought I’d give it another go. When I was younger, I loved the Yoplait Yo’Crunches where you’d mix in the M&Ms or Oreo cookie crumbles in the little tub on top of the yogurt cup, but they weren’t that healthy and slightly expensive. The Chobani Flips were on sale for 10/$10, so I couldn’t pass that up. I’m a fan of dark chocolate anything, so this was pretty tasty, in my opinion.  Now I just need to go pick up a few more… maybe the Key Lime flavor?

3. Music: Lorde – “Royals”

I heard this song on The Summit while heading home from work, and thought it was super catchy. (I discover so much good music on The Summit. I don’t care to hear One Direction or Miley on my drive to work.)  Ella Yelich-O’Connor (better known by her stage name Lorde) is a 16 year old New Zealand singer-songwriter. According to Huffington Post, Lorde is the first woman to be on top of the Alternative Music chart in 17 years… so.. since before she was born.

4. Internet: Disney Ladies From Last Night — Not entirely SFW

Somewhere near NYC, Wendy needs some assistance.

I think I came across this website via Imgur, another photo-sharing site that Brian and I like to look at together for the LOLs. The format is simple: take a random Text From Last Night and then superimpose it on a corresponding screen cap featuring a female character from a Disney (or Pixar, some people are so picky…) movie. Many of these are not suitable for work, considering the state most people are in when they send a text worthy of making it on TFLN, but here are a couple of my favorites:

Someone in Philadelphia is missing a kitten.

Can’t be Pittsburgh Dad. Jeffy stole all his books.

5. End of Summer Sales, Whaaaat??!?!

Clothes. (Treat yo’self.) Fragrances. (Treat yo’self.) Massages. (Treat yo’self.) Mimosas. (Treat yo’self.) Fine leather goods. (Treat yo’self.)

There’s not much I love more than a sale, online or otherwise, and this summer, I think I’ve done pretty well with my sweet, sweet deals. I’m signed up for email alerts and online coupons for pretty much all of my favorite stores. Some of my best scores include:

  • $120 of stuff from Bath & Body Works for $45, including gifts for all of my bridesmaids and a few treats for my mom and sister.
  • $111 of clothing from Old Navy for $37, all on clearance + 30% off, and then free shipping.
  • $60 in shoes from Target for $25 — 2 pairs of flats for work and a pair of strappy sandals.
  • $57 worth of stuff from Kohls for $1.25. Yes, the period is in the proper place. Two candles and a set of makeup bags for less than a vending machine soda.

Always wait for the end of the season, when stores start to put out things for the next one. My Old Navy and Target finds can all easily transition from summer to fall. My B&BW haul happened during their Big Semi-Annual Sale. Look for ways to stack coupons on top of in-store percentages off, which Kohl’s is awesome for. This past spring, I was able to get a Vera Wang purse for 27% of the original price through a combination of in-store sales + mobile coupons + a store grand opening gift card we got at the apartment.

What are your favorite things right now? Introduce me to something I might never have seen before. 🙂

Beauty in Ordinary Things

Wow. So, out of context, that sounds super cliche. Platitudes at the end of books or Nicholas Sparks movies that are meant to sum up the lesson meant to be learned by the reader/viewer bug the heck out of me. But this is different. This is a quote from Pam during the series finale of The Office, which has been one of my all-time favorite TV shows. A couple of weeks ago, the sitcom aired its last episode, and now I’ll have to find another show with which to become emotionally involved. Its a little hard to get attached to Jeopardy since Alex Trebek doesn’t have that great mustache anymore. (Ok… he hasn’t had it since 2001. Whatever.)

Sure, there are other great comedies out there, like Parks and Recreation and Modern Family, but The Office has always held a special place in my heart. The only other show I really actually hated to see go was Boston Legal, staring William Shatner and David Spader, and I ended up missing the series finale because of a certain not-awesome roommate’s boyfriend. I watched The Office on and off when it first started, and it took a couple of seasons to finally find it’s groove. When I didn’t have evening classes or organization meetings, I would watch it back at my dorm room. During the summer between my undergraduate and graduate classes, I decided to watch the entire series, and I haven’t missed an episode since then.

A lot of people have said since Michael Scott left, the show hasn’t been the same, but how could it be? He was annoying, overbearing, and just a touch icky (just like Dean Pelton from Community), but Michael always meant well. No two characters could run the Dundler Mifflin Scranton branch the same way, but when the management story line was lacking, it gave secondary characters, like Nellie and Darrell, a chance to shine. After Michael left, I loved how they developed some of the other friendships within the office, like Phyllis and Stanley, and Oscar and Angela (and their “love” triangle with Robert, the senator). Of course, there were several episodes that made me wonder how this could possibly be an efficient business, considering they spent so much on-the-clock time doing non-businessy things, like a paper airplane contest, or almost any of the meetings in the conference room. Towards the end of the final season, I had mixed emotions about the documentary film crew becoming part of the show. I especially didn’t care for the the way the writers decided to throw a kink into my most perfect television romance. I know I wasn’t the only person that was upset with the Jim-Pam-Brian the film crew boom operator story line.

Pam and Jim’s relationship is the one by which I measure all other TV and movie relationships for two reasons: 1) it’s a fairly realistic evolution of a romance between two people; and 2) all of those sweet, thoughtful things Jim and Pam have said about and to each other never sounded scripted. You know? It never sounded like something a young adult romance author would have concocted, setting up 14 year old girls with false expectations of what love is. (See Edward Cullen.) No. Jim and Pam, through all of the awkwardness, the friend-zoning, and the unrequited love, and then finally marrying your best friend and building a family, are about as real as two TV characters can get. It doesn’t hurt that Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) is gorgeous. But it wasn’t just this relationship that was believable. All of the characters are relatable. Who hasn’t worked with a Stanley, or a Kevin, or, to varying degrees, a Dwight?

Since it ran for nine seasons, I can be comforted by the fact that it will be always be in syndication somewhere, and Hulu Plus has the entire series. The Office is like comfort food for me, but not in a Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of way. (Do they still make those?) I always know where I can find it, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and good about people and love when I need a little pick-me-up. Well, great — putting it that way, it sounds just like a Chicken Soup book. Not what I intended. Buzzfeed made a list of 59 Reasons We’re Going to Miss The Office, and it basically sums up exactly how I feel about the show. There’s not much else I can say about my favorite former TV staple, so I guess I just want to say…

 

Source: The Office Tally. A lot of other fans wanted to say thanks, too.

“It’s like a long book you never want to end. And you’re fine with that, because you just never ever want to leave it.” – Pam Halpert (Take that, Stephanie Meyer!)

Why Imperfection and Silliness Are Valuable or What I Learned from Reading Fifty Shades of Grey

I’ve noticed a trend in my reading life. There are all these books that I discount when I first hear about them, thinking that I have no interest in reading them and that I never will. Often, this rule of thumb remains true. But, every once in a while, I break this rule and decide suddenly to give into the reading trend and read the popular book(s) that I initially thought I wouldn’t like.

This happened with The Hunger Games, and anyone who has read my previous posts knows I am now a big fan of that series. So, when I saw that my local library had a new, shiny, brilliant e-media catalog, I wanted to try it out.

So, this week I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. All 1,800 pages of it. In four days.

Why, you ask?

Because I could.

fifty-shades-of-grey

Now, let me just say before you start yelling and laughing that this post is not about how amazing the Fifty Shades of Grey books are. It’s not. Because, the books are not “amazing.”

As a discerning reader, the books have a lot of issues. If I had to read about main character Anastasia Steele’s personified subconscious and inner goddess one more time I might have screamed. I also often found myself wanting to slap some god-forsaken sense into Christian Grey’s skull. But, I have to admit — the books were entertaining, and whole hell of a lot of other things too (If you’ve read them, you’ll know what I mean).

But they weren’t literary gold.

And that’s okay. They don’t have to be

But that’s just the point that I want to make.

We live in a world that is often obsessed with merits. We are a population of critics. Movies and TV shows bomb because they aren’t “critically acclaimed.” Books and their authors are lambasted for bad writing, predictable plots, and unrealistic depictions. We constantly criticize ourselves and judge others for not fitting into a pre-determined mold.

The Fifty Shades of Grey books and their author, E L James are no stranger to this idea. Fifty Shades has been a phenomenon. Started as a Twilight-centric fan fiction homage and then reworked and self published in print, the trilogy gained immense attention. That attention and popularity grew so great that the trilogy was picked up by Vintage Books and published professionally. According to Amazon UK, the trilogy’s first book has outsold the combined sales of the Harry Potter series on their website.

So what’s my point?

The Fifty Shades of Grey series, regardless of how you feel about it, is an important of example of how perfection and value are not the same thing.

Level of success does not always correspond with level of talent.

Value is everywhere. You just have to drown out the critics to find it.

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Do What You Want

Life is short. Do what you want to do. Don’t worry about what others think or whether you think they’ll judge you. Embrace this idea in your everyday life, but also embrace it in your passions, in your dreams, and in your goals.

Want to travel the world? Make it happen. Want to be the next E L James and write steamy, NC-17 novels? Go right ahead. Want to be a book critic that points out all of the trilogy’s flaws? Do that instead.

I am a strong proponent of the idea that everything is a learning experience. Every single thing you do teaches you something, even if the lesson is to never do it again. When it comes to books, for example, no one has ever become stupider by ingesting information. The more you know, the more nuanced your perspective.

What you do has value. Whether it is silly, intellectual, crazy, world-changing, fun, or intensely creative. Value exists in all things.

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Never Underestimate Your Ability, Never Discount That Others May Admire It

Everyone is talented. We may not see immediately recognize our own talents, but they are there. Think about it. Do you waste time drawing instead of taking notes? Do you love to cook, but could care less about proper business accounting procedures? Your talent resides in what you inherently love. It lies in how you waste your time.

Tap into that. It could be a goldmine (and I don’t just mean monetarily).

E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series may have many flaws, but it is still entertaining. Those flaws and issues do not render its value moot. Even some of the most critically panned things are still feats of creativity in their own way. While James may have not suceeded in creating the perfect novel, she did create something that kept people (including myself) turning pages. And this did not only involve the books’ extremely naughty natures.

Don’t think that you are talentless. Don’t worry that because what you do is not the “absolute best” that it is worthless. Perfection isn’t a guarantee of anything. Think I’m kidding? Ask the Admissions offices of Harvard and Yale how many applicants with perfect SAT or ACT scores are NOT accepted every year.

Don’t think that something you create, something you enjoy has no value. Others may see immense value where you perceive none.

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So What If It’s A Silly Idea, Who Cares?

When I downloaded Fifty Shades of Grey earlier in the week, I said to myself, “This is so stupid. I really can’t believe I’m reading this.” But then, another part of me said, “So what? Read the damn book. If you don’t like it, quit. If you do like it, finish it.” So I did. And I did enjoy the book. I enjoyed all three of them. And yes, they are kind of silly, and a little weird, and definitely have A LOT more sex and profanity than I have ever encountered in reading material. But, so what?

Reading Fifty Shades of Grey may have been silly, but it got me thinking. It made me think about the how flaws do not negate value. It made me think enough to write this post.

The bottom line is that you never know what will make you think. The silliest, craziest, most random things can change your perspective or give new life to your thoughts. Never underestimate the value of doing something for fun.

Look at the Dames Who Dish blog. It wouldn’t be here if us four girls hadn’t decided to do something that we originally perceived as silly, and a little bit crazy, and a whole lot of fun.

So…

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Marilyn Monroe: That’s (Not) What She Said

Thanks, Abe.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Sometimes it takes the words of others, famous or not, to sum up our thoughts and feelings when our words escape us. Or, maybe you read something that immediately clicks with you and it becomes sort of a “mission statement” for your life. (After six years in higher education, the thought of a personal mission statement makes me gag a little bit. We love the heck out of our mission statements, apparently.) But, the Internet is a tricky place, and without citations, words are often attributed to certain celebrities or notable figures. The misquote can come from an honest mistake, and after seeing a quote attributed to someone a multitude of times, I can understand that. However, when it comes to things that Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Jackie Kennedy allegedly said, I become more than a little skeptical, and maybe just a touch cynical.

Thus Sprach Marilyn.

Thus Sprach Marilyn. (You’re welcome, Internet.)

In my research for this post, I came across several Tumblrs and hundreds of pictures on Google Image Search with images of these women, Monroe in particular, with fiesty-sounding quotes superimposed over them in handwriting-style fonts. (Go ahead, look for yourself.) Most of them are about how men ought to love women, flaws and all, or how society is ugly for making a woman feel anything less than pretty. I’m on board with those ideas, but I highly doubt to absolutely don’t believe that the late icon uttered those quotes. I’m not saying that Marilyn Monroe was not bright enough to come up with such, um… philosophical thoughts; I’m saying that others who have done much more research on her, things she’s actually said/written, and speech patterns of her time don’t think she came up with them. The most comprehensive website I’ve come across debunking these attributions is Immortal Marilyn, which, while it looks like a Xanga page from 2000, is quite informative. “Janie’s Take on Marilyn Monroe” discusses five of the more questionable quotes the Internet alleges came from Monroe. Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” — This one seems to be everybody’s favorite Marilyn quote… except no one can find where she actually ever said it. Does it sound like her? Somewhat, although I can not find other examples of Marilyn referring to herself as selfish, insecure, out of control, or anything similar. While she did acknowledge issues such as her lateness, failure to show up on set, or rumored difficult to work with, rather than being defiant she offered both plaintive and valid reasons for her flaws, in the hopes of garnering understanding. Until an interview transcript of Marilyn saying these words can be located, it should be kept in the ‘questionable’ category.”

“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” — Another very popular quote, once it’s parsed it does not sound like Marilyn at all. “Imperfection is beauty”? Marilyn was well known as being an absolute perfectionist, asking for take after take on the movie set until she felt she got her scene just right. She refused to give moviegoers anything less than what she felt was her absolute best. She would apply her makeup only to wash it all off and do it over again, taking hours to prepare so that she presented herself to the public as nothing short of absolutely perfect. After a photo shoot she would pore over contact sheets, destroying any images that she didn’t approve of. In a 1960 interview, she did say: “My one desire is to do my best, the best that I can from the moment the camera starts until it stops. That moment I want to be perfect, as perfect as I can make it.” Hardly seems that someone so hard wired to perfectionism would say “Imperfection is beauty.” As to the second part, “Madness is genius,” this seems even more unlikely. Marilyn’s mother suffered from severe mental illness that traumatized the actress when she was a child. As an adult, Marilyn’s biggest fear was inherited madness like her mother’s. Considering her first hand account with what madness truly was, and her deep rooted fear of it, how likely is it that she would declare it ‘genius?’ Not very.

I tend to agree with those observations. To be frank, they sound more like snarky quips from a teenage girl, using Monroe as an excuse for her behavior. The whole idea of falsely attaching a name to a quote can be summed up in Poe’s Law, which basically states that ” a parody of something extreme can be mistaken for the real thing, and if a real thing sounds extreme enough, it can be mistaken for a parody.” A great example that most people would probably be familiar with is Stephen Colbert’s character on The Colbert Report, which some Political Science students at Ohio State decided would be an interesting subject to analyze. (Unfortunately, the full article is only available for purchase or if you’re logged on through a subscribing university or college’s journal access system, but the abstract will give you the general idea.) We can also learn from the case of the Notre Dame football player and the death of his online girlfriend, who may or may not have actually been a real person: never believe anything online. If those quotes resonate with you, that’s great, but its important to question the source; otherwise, it might as well have come from a snarky teenage girl.

If this keeps up, this is what I imagine we’ll have fifty years from now:

I can't. I just can't...

I can’t. I just can’t…
(Again, you’re welcome, Internet.)