Another Cookie to Bake the Season Bright

The smell of cookies baking, the extra warmth from the oven, and the comfort of a sweet treat, lots of reasons to mix up another batch of cookies. This time it is the Peanut Butter Cookie, which I have reduced to a small batch bake for those of us seeking a small indulgence rather than a mountain of cookies. If you do need a larger batch, no worries, this recipe is very simple to multiply when more than two dozen nutty delights are needed.

Important Tip:

Not all peanut butter is made the same. The peanut butter made in the U.S.A. is a sweeter cousin to the peanut butter made elsewhere. It is perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and other peanut butter sweet treats. So if you are not in the United States, see if you can source some from the international section of your grocery store.

Butterscotch Snickerdoodle – A Crisp Cookie

Baking Tip of the Season

If you don’t already have mini ice cream/cookie scoop in your kitchen, treat yourself to one of two. They are a time saver when working with a wet cookie dough or when trying for consistent-sized cookies. I prefer the small one often used as a melon baller for this recipe (1/2 tablespoon). The cookies with spread during baking so a little dough goes a long way.

A Vlogmas Spin-a-long with a Sweet Treat at the End

The Season of Spice

The spices of the holiday season evoke memories of family get-togethers, fresh-from-the-oven baked foods, and warm beverages. Recreating these tastes and smells can lead to an overabundance that is not always a good thing. Figuring out how to make smaller batches of spicy treats has been my goal these past few months, and I am ready to share the results.

This blog coincides and supports my latest vlog where I talk about the fun I have had making pies for a household of two. As I mention in my vlog, I use an Instant Vortex Air Fryer, which is just a fancy name for convection toaster oven. There are other mini convection oven/toasters on the market, but this is the brand I have used. The recipes I am sharing can easily be made in a regular oven or convection oven, but during those hot late-summer months, it was so very nice to have recipes that could be made in a small oven and didn’t heat up the kitchen.

I hope you check out my video and enjoy these spiced up treats.

This is the handy chart I made to remember my settings on the Instant Vortex Air Fryer (convection oven).

Do You Give Back?

Just over 30 years ago, around the holiday season, an older gentleman asked me the question, “What do you do to give back to the community?” The question gave me pause, and caused me discomfort. I was a college student at the time with no excess finances to share. For a bit of time I felt pretty low because I felt I had no answer to give… then I began to remember.

I have always been a person who gives of their time and talents, but I didn’t realize until that year how much society values some contributions more greatly than others. Some service is valued as being better than other service, not because of the needs being served, but because of how the service conforms with a perception of what the provider considers valuable. Even the notion of charity seems to have a hierarchy, with some charitable acts being considered more valuable than others, not due to needs being met, but rather with how the charity is viewed by the peers of the one giving the charity.

Three decades have passed since the question was asked of me, and I find myself pondering the sad reality that for many (including the gentleman who asked the question) service and charity is measured by a monetary value rather than a kindness value. There is no rule that says that the two values cannot coexist, but there is a general notion that if the monetary is given the kindness is not necessary.

Consistently giving of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, and yes, even of our monetary surplus when such exists, is how we give back to society, and thereby contribute to a better society in which to live.

When we give with a focus on the kindness value, we need not feel discomfort when asked, “Do you give back?”

Hot Cocoa and a Mug Rug

One of the easiest but most enthusiastically received gifts I have given over the years is the simple gift of homemade hot cocoa mix. In a world where hot chocolate packets are readily available and fit so nicely into the novelty mug, why would anyone take the time to make their own mix? Yet, the personal touch of mixing cocoa powder with just the right amount of sugar to achieve a rich, dark, but sweet blend of flavors simply can’t be beat. When this gift is coupled with the Mug Rug, a whimsical version of the traditional cup coaster, the simple gift is elevated to another level. The mug rug may be basic in nature, or elaborate and personalized, yet it is the effort and thought that makes it a token of well wishes and seasonal joy.

As I show in my Vlogmas 2021 video, there are many ways in which the simple mug rug can be made, and I am sure a quick internet search will provide endless ways to stir up a batch of hot cocoa mix. As with any gift giving, the most important thing to consider is the person you are giving the gift. One of the reasons I like the cocoa mix I use is that it is very basic, leaving the choice of milk and of any additional flavorings up to the individual. I find this helps avoid pitfalls associated with food allergies, etc.

One note on my preferred hot cocoa consumption. I add the cocoa mix to an empty cup, then I will add any additional flavors to the mix. (Peppermint oil, Butter Rum Extract, OR a blend of dried Cinnamon/Clove/Ginger – these are three of my favorite flavoring.) Then before I add in the milk, I add 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream to the mix and stir/whisk vigorously. This will transform the dry mix into a wonderful paste that is ready for the milk to be added. I will add cold milk, and then microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, stir again and check to see if the liquid needs an additional 30 seconds of heating. Of course, I could preheat the milk, but I tend to only do that when making a large batch to share with others.

Vlogmas 2021 – Because Why Not?

For many, YouTube Vlogmas has become a way to “break out” of the restrictions of a quarantine and travel without leaving the comfort of one’s own home. I particularly love to follow vloggers on their trips to see holiday lights and visits to Christmas markets.

For many, these vlogs help replace the sense of belonging and community that they feel is lost because of changes in society (changes that may have even happened before a pandemic). For some, simply sharing in the joy of others, even virtually, removes the cloud of loneliness that often accompanies infirmity and illness.

Whether its watching them decorate their homes, knit sweaters and scarves for gifts, or prepare their favorite holiday food, I feel a connection with these vloggers, and not because I now vlog. For me, the connection with these vloggers comes because I feel they share both my love of the holiday season and my love of sharing joy with others. The vlog, much like the physical items we give, becomes a gift from us to whomever is in need of the gift.

So this year, I have decided to make my own vlogmas contributions. I doubt it will be an annual tradition for me, but this year I hope to share holiday joy and inspiration through sharing some of my handmade treasures (many made by my own hands, and some made by the hands of loved ones).

While my first vlogmas video is on the longer side, the subsequent ones should be a shorter and contained to a specific theme.

Imperfect: Embracing the Joy

One of the greatest challenges a crafter/maker/artisan faces is the challenge of accepting imperfection. Knowing when the results of one’s effort is enough to feel satisfaction rather than dismay is not always the easiest of tasks. Sometimes it requires more practice and skill than the crafting/making/arting (is that even a word?)

Embracing the joy of imperfection can help a person accept the imperfect nature of their creation. Learning to laugh when well-laid plans go awry is not always simple, but it does change one’s outlook. Creativity can flourish when laughter is present.

I laugh a lot in this week’s video. I share many imperfect quilts. With one particular quilt, I show my effort to “fix” an imperfection. I will leave it to the viewer to decide if it is an improvement. At the end of the day, I like the fix enough to hang the quilt on my wall. It may never be my favorite, but it is certainly cheery.

Goals Accomplished

Over the summer I began dyeing and spinning a collection of yarn. The intent was to have a ‘countdown to Christmas’ collection of squishy packages for my children. When I began the challenge, there was speculation that my daughter would be returning to her Peace Corps assignment before Christmas. I thought it would be wonderful for her and her brother to both have something they could do together as they counted down to Christmas.

About midway through this goal of mine, it became clear that my daughter would not be returning to the Peace Corps this year. My desire to get the fiber spun was even greater as it became clear 2020 was going to throw more hurdles into our lives.

As the deadline to get my son’s packages in the mail approached, I wondered at the sanity of dyeing so many different hanks of fiber. With only days to spare, I wrapped the little 50 gram yarn balls and enclosed them into the box that would take them across an ocean.

On Thanksgiving Day, the yarn was indeed in the same country as my son, but as with most things military, there was confusion. So the day after Thanksgiving my son retrieved the big box of mini packages and began the countdown with two squishy bundles to unwrap.

Each day (or every other day as schedules permit) my two kiddos unwrap and share photos with each other. They are counting down the days, not just to Christmas, but to the end of 2020.

I think many of us are counting down the days until 2020 ends and we can enter a new year with hope for less strife than 2020 has presented. For many, 2020 began with hopes, dreams, and goals that would be disrupted – even shattered. For many, as 2020 marched along the only goal was to see it come to an end.

For me, my goal for 2020 – for any year – is to find as much joy as I can, and to find ways to share that joy with others. Tears, disappointments, strife, and hardship may make me stressed and filled with sorrow, but despite the stress and sorrow, I still find joy. Long ago I learned that joy shines a light into even the darkest corners of our lives and minds. We must seek that joy, open our eyes to that light. At times this may be hard, sometimes very hard, but it is a goal for which the hard work is worth it.

The goal of finding joy in our lives each day is one worth accomplishing. It is one of the many goals I have accomplished this year, and one that I hope I can accomplish in the year to come.

Merry Christmas!

For those who have been following my Christmas Countdown Collection journey, this week’s video shows some of the finished Granny Squares. I have also put together (with the help of my daughter) a pattern for download for any who wish to join the Granny fun.

Pattern to download.

Inspiration, Memories, Holiday Joy

Confessions of a Crafter

During the holiday season, my world seems to be inundated by inspiring social media posts and videos. So many wonderful new things to try, hidden among some crazy crafting fodder. I enjoy watching videos of projects coming to life, even ones that show crafts that I know I will never take on. Every so often though, I will decide to join the crazy train of a popular craft. Yet, I prefer when my new crafty undertakings are able to overlap with my current arsenal of creative techniques. Finding an overlap is not always easy. Clay work, for instance, is still rather a stand alone. Although, I have made my own polymer clay buttons, so there is some overlap with my sewing projects.

Good organization skills and proper storage techniques come in handy when there are multiple crafty people living under one roof. The joke about the entire house being called a craft room is not much of a joke when so many rooms hold craft supplies. With the constraints of limited space and a need to actually live in the house rather than just craft in the house, I am hesitant when I feel the urge to take on a new type of crafting endeavor. However in the days since I last contributed to this blog, I have finally succumbed to the ever popular world of blinging up a project with gems.

In the past, I have made embraced glass beads for my blinging needs. This was a frugal way to use materials I had on hand, as well as a permanent way to attach bling, but glass beads have their limits. Working with freestanding lace embroidery turned out to be one of the limits. I knew that hiding the attachment stitches on delicate lace ornaments would be difficult. So after many years of resisting the urge, I took the plunge and purchased a hot-fix gem tool and an assortment of gems. When the supplies arrived, down that rabbit hole I dove into a magical world of sparkling light. What was I thinking by resisting this craze for so long?

Fortunately over the years I have learned restraint. So I don’t think my home will be blinged up, nor will my husband worry that his clothing will start to twinkle in the sunlight, but the ornaments I make each year may very well sparkle when the lights of the Christmas tree are turned on.

Another Video

After taking a couple weeks to rest/play/craft, I sat down and tried something new – a vlog rather than an inspirational mini tutorial. It was not my intent to ramble along for such an amount of time, but I now understand why my favorite knitting vloggers vlog for nearly an hour each episode. It was quite to my surprise that I realized how very long I had been rambling about inspiration, projects completed, memories, and lessons learned. I do not know how many people will ever watch the video in its entirety, but at the end of the day I am so very pleased that this vlog has been created. It is a glimpse into my world, my head, my life, and it has brought me joy. I hope that it will bring others joy too.