I've spent an hour or so tonight updating this blog, removing old links, cleaning up posts and changing the template and style a little bit. Insomnia really helps one get meaningless tasks done.
I haven't blogged regularly in more than five years, mostly using my blog as a photo hosting site for various projects. Lately I've been feeling a desire to journal or write my thoughts down somewhere; I've looked at journals to buy and wondered if I was ready to actually write again. Coming here to my blog to get it ready for this year's Journal Your Christmas entries, it seems obvious that this is the place to do that once again.
The past three years have had a great many pains for me and for some of the people that I love. I've been wondering if this is the middle-aged turning point, where your friends begin to get ill, where you start going to more funerals, where your body makes creaks and pains it didn't before, where change seems to happen far more quickly than you're prepared for. I turned 46 a month ago. I was 34 when I started this blog. I've become a different person in many ways, sanded down at the edges, softer and more loving, and a little more hopeless sometimes, too.
I'm hoping that the thoughts will begin to flow again and that I can start capturing more moments that I want to remember. I have lost a lot to forgetfulness in the past couple of years and I can't afford to do that.
We spent Thanksgiving in Ohio with Todd's family, and did our Christmas celebrating at the same time. My niece Gianna mentioned that she had never baked and decorated cutout sugar cookies before (despite being an eager baker), so we gave that a try on Friday night.
I didn't have my tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe with me; it only exists in a printout in my recipe binder, nowhere online. So we used a well-rated recipe from Allrecipes, which I can't find or I would link it. It was pretty good. We rolled the cookies out using powdered sugar instead of flour, since the dough was not very sweet. I think that helped the taste. Gianna made a big batch of royal icing, which I had never used before, and we made a bunch of colors and squeezed them out of ziploc bags. The icing was hard to control, but the end effect was pretty amazing. (I usually use a powdered sugar + milk frosting which doesn't give the polished look of royal icing.)
Gianna and Evelyn mastered it almost immediately and made really creative cookies, using toothpicks to create feathered and swirled effects. Anna, who is a bit of a perfectionist, got frustrated early on and went to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie with Grammy. I just love baking with these girls and seeing how their skills grow. When we were together for the Fourth of July we made our traditional Flag Cake, and I hardly had to help them at all--a far cry from the first year we did it, when they were young grade-schoolers, and I was running ragged trying to divide up the tasks evenly and help them each step of the way! That was in 2009. Gianna told me this weekend that Flag Cake is one of her great childhood memories (at the ripe old age of 15) and that made me happy.
Here's my tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe:
Eva's Sugar Cookies
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
6 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, vanilla and almond extract until light and fluffy. In another bowl, combine flour and baking soda and add gradually to butter and sugar mixture until combined, Bake in preheated 350-degree oven on parchment-lined sheets for 8-10 minutes until light brown at the edges.
This makes 12 dozen cookies, a ridiculous amount, so I usually halve the recipe. I use one extra-large egg as "half" of the three eggs. And I put a few drops of almond extract in the icing, too.