Friday, December 31, 2010

End of a Year

As I started trying to write our year-in-review letter, I realized it was going to be harder than I thought to sum up 365 days in one page. To get started, I read back over my blog entries for the past year and unlike my sister who thinks blogging is self-serving, I rather enjoyed reliving some of those days. For me, blogging has become a type of journaling, I suppose. Having a record of some of my joys, thoughts, struggles, frustrations, accomplishments, etc. and the mere act of putting them into legible words gives me a sense of clarity, sometimes relief, sometimes sharing.

I started blogging in April 2007, 278 posts ago. I know I have a faithful few who pop in regularly and comment, and then there are those who read but never comment, but it doesn't matter. I do enjoy the comments. It lets me know you're out there. It's always a surprise when someone says "I saw that on your blog . . ." and I didn't even know they knew I had one!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Meanwhile . . .

We didn't send Christmas cards this year, and of all years we should have started the Christmas letter update, this was one. I'm thinking maybe a happy new year card with a review of 2010 is the best approach. Originally, I wasn't much of a Christmas letter fan, but the older I get, and the more people move around, I see great value in them. At least it's a way to keep relatives, lost friends, etc. in touch with how your life is progressing. And that, in fact, it is.

Anyway, here's my start for the card. This is a scan of the original with no touch up. I printed one out and touched up the light letters with colored pencils and it improved it mucho. The scribble text at top right (to which my husband commented "you can't even read this") is a piece of a scribble journal written on coffee filters. I can say whatever I want because I write over it every which direction and it will never be read. It's a lovely idea, produces interesting texture for use in various places and is Very cathartic. In this instance, it is covering some small writing that I hated. I'm not crazy about that corner.

I used Zig markers for the letters. The black marker suffers from a lost lid and I had to dip it in some black watercolor occasionally, but I actually like the faded charcoal effect. The purple is way too dark for my liking. It did make me realize though that I need to invest in some new markers, new colors. (As an aside, anyone who ever wants to buy me a gift, Zig calligraphy markers are great! Gift certificate from Paper & Ink is another idea:)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Art of Giving

Being the season that it is, I wasn't surprised to receive a package in the mail. It was when I opened it and discovered who it was from and what it was, that was the surprise. It made the me think about giving and how much joy there is in (1) receiving something unexpected and (2) finding that special little something that is just right for someone you know -- something that isn't on their list.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the Christmas lists, but sometimes it feels so rote. Like I'm doing someone's shopping for them, without putting any feeling or thinking into it. I am much more excited about giving a gift that wasn't requested but, knowing what I know about the person, I feel certain they will love it. Or it suits them. Or I know they would never buy it for themselves. That's the kind of giving I like to do. When I find that special gift, I feel more tuned in, like my heart is more open.

On the flip side, of course, I can drive myself crazy trying to find THE right gift and fretting that "they already have everything" and whatever I buy will just be tossed in a drawer. It's a very fine line.

And then sometimes, me thinketh too much.

Merry Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Life of a Cookie Swap

I baked cookies all day yesterday and got up at 5 a.m. this morning to finish up. Yep, I have a cookie exchange tonight. I like that the tradition of a cookie exchange continues. I organized my first one 25 years ago. Five friends and five people who liked to bake. We didn't have rules per se, but it was pretty much understood that you needed to "bake" the cookies. Some were very clever at getting out of baking. Like the one year we each got rolls of cookie dough to bake at our leisure because "they're better fresh." One year someone gave us the mix in a cute jar so we could put them together when we liked. And then there was the year that someone hired the school cafeteria baker to make her cookies for her. Like anything that continues over time, there were stories and memories that would be resurrected every year. It was a joyful event that got on the calendar early. Eventually, everyone's kids left home, and though we didn't have a need for 10 dozen cookies, we kept baking, mainly for the friendship and annual gathering. We carried on our exchange for 20 years, even after I moved 75 miles away.

This year, my exchange is with my daughter and her friends. Martha Stewart has had quite the effect on young bakers and it'll be interesting to compare the generations. I have a feeling not much will have changed, except maybe the recipes will be more elaborate.

My recipe this year is Simple Sesames, which are simple enough, but time consuming, as evidenced by the amount of time I have spent. A rich, buttery cookie that bakes for 30 minutes at 300 degrees.

Simple Sesames
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup sesame seeds (I toasted these)
2 cups coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds (I used the slivered ones, then chopped)

Cream butter, gradually adding sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix until just combined. Stir in sesame seed, coconut and nuts until well mixed. Divide dough into thirds. Place one third on wax paper and shape into roll 2" in diameter. Repeat with remaining dough and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Slice into 1/4" slices. Bake at 300 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet.