Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goodbye, Aster Lane

Me, in our now empty apartment.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Apartment to Hotel

Something got messed up in the housing arrangements, so Jeff and I have to move from our apartment in madison to a residential-style hotel just up the street for the rest of our stay here in Wisconsin, about a week. So, that means today is full of packing and moving. O what fun!

Not to worry, the first thing I did when getting to the hotel was jump on the bed, then after unpacking, took a nice hot bubble bath. Not a bad place - like a good sized and nice studio apartment. I can definitely deal.

And today we got a call that there is a chance to go to Maui with the agency. I have mixed feeling son this - i'm sure Maui is beautiful, and had a fantastic time living on the Big Island. However, I also really miss the city and work - so we're waiting until it's a real offer to make a definite decision.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Few Apartment Pics

Just a few last pics of the apartment before I pack it all up.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas, Everyone!
Santa already brought me my Wii and Wii Fit Plus, but I put out cookies and milk and, even though Santa must have been full because he didn't have any, he left some presents for Jeff under our tree!

Jeff opening his presents, all decorated with ribbon from making christmas ornaments, and paper grocery bags decorated with a sharpie on the inside of a deconstructed grocery bag for wrapping paper..... I mean, that's what it appears the *elves* did.....

Jeff w/ his xmas presents - lots and lots of hard candy - his favorites.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Tree, Decorated

Our Christmas Tree, All Decorated. Cloved tangerines, cinnamon gingerbread man ornaments, and their cookie cutters, lots of candycanes, multicolor lights, white and silver birds and snowflakes and we added our christmas cards onto the tree too. All in all, not too shabby!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Downtown Madison

Jeff and I spent a couple hours of a very snowy day walking around Downtown Madison. We went into a bunch of shops, had gyros for lunch, and visited a local jewelry bead store for me. It was a very cold and rather damp day, with some snow flurries towards the later part of the afternoon, but it felt great just to get outside and walk around, and be in the 'city'!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snowball Meltaways

I had already made the batter for the snowball meltaways and had to refrigerate it for an hour. While baking the Coconut Macraoons, I began to roll the dough for the Snowballs. These are a super simple, classic meltaway without using any nuts. Dry, crumbly, subtley sweet and super easy to make.

1-1/2 c. AP Flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. 10x sugar + more to dust
1 c. US butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

In medium bowl, combine flour, cornstarch and slat, then set aside.
In a larger bowl, combine butter and sugar for 3 minutes or so until light and fluffy.
Beat in vanilla, add in flour to incorporate, cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Take dough out of fridge and roll into balls of aproximately 1 inch diameter and place on baking parchment about 1 inch apart. Bake at 350-degrees for 12-14 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then sit each cookie on a plate of 10x sugar to coat the bottoms, then place on parchment or rack to cool, and sift 10x sugar over the tops of them to mostly cover in 10x.

Coconut Macaroons

I had a container of remaining coconut and decided to find a recipe to make Coconut Macaroons. After looking through quite a few that called for sweetened condensed milk, which I didn't have on hand, or for stove cooking and a long time cooling, I came across this one online that I believe was an adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe, if I'm remembering correctly. At any rate, here's the recipe that I used


3/4 c. granulated sugar
2-1/2 c. shredded coconut
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients well with a wooden spoon, then pile into mounds or pyramids of 1-1/2 tbsp mix, and place 1 inch apart on baking parchment (really easy for this sticky cleanup and to prevent all the sugar and egg white from burning on the bottom of the pan).

Bake in an oven at 325 degree oven for 16-17 minutes, one pan at a time only (do not double layer). The above picture shows the first batch of finished macaroons on the left, just out of the oven. These where baked about 16 minutes, the rest of them I left in for another minute or so and are slighly more golden toasted.

Next, I made Snowball Meltaways.....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cookies & Christmas Gifts!

My grandmother is the cookie baker in my family, but this year being so far away from home, I decided to take on a bit of cookie-baking myself. Normally when I bake, and I love baking, I do things like triffles, cakes and bread puddings - things that are a little bit different. So, I didn't end up baking traditional cookies, I did a few that where a little different....

First I mixed up the batter for the Mexican Chocolate Chunk cookies.

Chopping chocolate into chunks and prepping to mix.

Showing off my grandmas skirt I wore for luck when cooking. This is somewhat of a family joke.

Chop, chop, chop.

Next I got to making French Toast Snickerdoodle Cookies:

mmm..... cookies and a local brew.....

The last batch of cookies comes out of the oven:

Time for Cleanup:

Cookies done for the day!

Jeff and I went to the store to get a mixer for me to make cookies, and apparently he was sneaky and got me a Christmas present. I was then informed that I don't want to wait for Christmas to unwrap my present - wrapped in a blanket - and so, after a long day of baking cookies, I unwrapped my big gift of the season!

This is the kind of picture you take when you open your presents with the family, and so had to pose for one!

Tearing it open, LOL!

Throwing around cardboard!

OOooooooo! In awe of my first gaming system ever.....

Cleaning up the living room to make room to play, we had to finally hang up the cinnamon man ornaments - the tree is now complete!

And I totally won at Wii Bowling.....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baking Ornaments

I wanted to make home-made christmas ornaments for the tree, and threw together a few simple ingredients to do this. About 1 cup each of cinnamon and applesauce, then added some allspice, cloves, a couple tablespoons of glue, and a bit of flour to make the dough stick a little nicer. Combined everything, used cinnamon for dusting as needed, and rolled out between two pieces of waxed paper with an empty mead bottle (no rollingpin around our current apartment). Warning: DO NOT EAT!

I only had one gingerbread man cookie cutter, so they're all the same shape.

This is the first batch of ornaments being cut out and placed onto baking parchment. You can bake these in a 200 degree or lower temp oven for several hours, but when I had the first batch in there, i didn't like how quickly they curled and was afraid they would break. So instead, I'm just letting them sit out in the open for a few days to dry out.

The rest of the cookie ornaments:

So, here i am with 40 gingerbread men. After a while, I decided to get creative with a few of them.

This is what happens when you give a costume designer naked cookie people.

They're currently all out drying, I'll post the finished pictures when they're ready to be hung on the tree.