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Excuses . . . Good and Bad

If you haven’t noticed, I took last week off. Not intentionally, and with no good reason, other than I kept intending to get to the computer and blog, but life and the holidays kept luring me away. I don’t know about you, but I am so easily distracted this time of year.  Write? Are you kidding?  When there are Christmas cookies to bake, presents to knit, hunt down and then wrap like a contented Christmas Diva (especially if I’ve found it on sale and used a coupon)?

Goodness, I hope my editor isn’t reading this. But honestly? I never plan on writing much in December. January is my workhorse month. Well, not the first week of January, because that’s my birthday week, but we’ll worry about that after Christmas. So last week was devoted to baking goodies for the prize winners, families, friends and anyone who passes by and has their mouth open. Watch out, or you’ll find it filled with something about as low-cal as a Big Mac.

I also spent a good amount of time trying to track down my grandmother’s recipe for Russian Tea Cakes.  Those have to be one of my favorite Christmas cookies, and I thought I had dug it up out of her recipe box, which I inherited. (Believe me, this recipe box is a treasure trove of old fashioned goodness.) But grandma wasn’t so good with the filing, so you really have to dig to find the recipes you want. But there it was, with all the right ingredients, with a heading, “Alice Hungate’s Butter Pecan Cookies.” I’m not sure where Alice fits on the family tree, but believe me, she is the genius with the recipes, so whenever I see her name next to a recipe, I sit up and take notice.

Convinced that these, Alice Hungate’s Butter Pecan Cookies were the tea cakes I was searching for, I mixed them up, rolled them into balls and smugly shoved them into the oven, thinking I had finally found the right recipe.  And then they came out of the oven.

Yes, those babies are flat as boards. FLAT. Not round, not buttery bites that you roll in powdered sugar, not once, but twice. No, these are just flat, butter pecan cookies. Which by the way, are really delicious, but not what I was looking for. As luck would have it, my mom called in the middle of my flat cookie disaster, and laughed, as only a mother can. Then she laughed again and asked me why I hadn’t called her.  She had Grandma’s tea cake recipe.  Did I want her to dig it out and read it to me, so I could have my round cookies? So much for being the sacred keeper of  Grandma’s recipes.

Now I had better luck with the chocolate cookies you see in the background up in the first photo. That was a recipe I used to make every year for Christmas, but the year we moved six times, I lost the recipe in all the shuffling. This year I was again determined to  track it down and bake them, because they are my husband’s favorites. I had much better luck with Google than I did Grandma.

And in about two clicks of mouse, I had my recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies. That was until I went to make them. I had all the ingredients, at least they were all lined up on the counter and ready to go until I got to the sweetened condensed milk, which I have to confess had been on the shelf for a bit, but I mean it’s canned, how bad can it get? Oh, pretty bad, apparently. Because after I got the can open, it came out sort of a green color. Now if you’ve never cooked with sweetened condensed milk, let me pass along a little cooking tip: it shouldn’t come green. That, as it turns out, is a good indication that it was time to carry it directly out to the trash and then make an emergency run to the grocery store for new sweetened condensed milk. I am sure Alice Hungate would have been horrified. (I’m sure everyone who is waiting for their prize packages is wondering what is coming in their boxes–I promise, I used only new and fresh ingrediants for you. I promise.)

What are you doing to get ready for Christmas? Any disasters? Wonderful tales of holiday fun? ‘Tis the season for sharing, so please share!

12 comments to “Excuses . . . Good and Bad”

  1. Melissa Mc
      · December 15th, 2008 at 9:38 am · Link

    I just came off deadline and revisions a week ago Sunday, so I’ve been spending every moment since then doing Christmas stuff like you. I have been scanning ads, clipping coupons and bargain shopping. I did a little baking, but that’s on the agenda for this week. A good plan if the snow/ice keeps us at home like today.

    I plan to write a little, but I really enjoy all the Christmas stuff too much to do more than a little a day. Of course, I did nothing last week!

  2. Laura
      · December 15th, 2008 at 5:04 pm · Link

    Welcome back, Elizabeth! I missed reading your new blog entries.

    I don’t blame you for taking December (and the first week of January) off. ;)

  3. Diane O'Neal
      · December 16th, 2008 at 3:02 am · Link

    I’ve taken the last year off. But I start school again in January and I’m taking a creative writing short story course, maybe it’ll jump start my writing. Next year, I’ll come by for the chocolate cherry cookies…yum!

  4. Sarah Tormey
      · December 16th, 2008 at 2:17 pm · Link

    Shopping for books! After spending months tied to my computer, I am finally venturing out to do some holiday shopping. And with books sales down (quite a bite from what I’ve heard), I am off to the bookstore to find the perfect read for everyone on my list. Then, I plan to start writing again.

  5. Michelle
      · December 17th, 2008 at 7:04 pm · Link

    I love Christmas time. I’m actually waiting for my kids to get out of schopl so we can bake together. – At least this way if anything goes wrong, I just say, “the kids helped me so…”
    Merry Christmas!

  6. Santa
      · December 17th, 2008 at 9:19 pm · Link

    Lol, I just finished baking cookies for the kids’ Holiday Parties. I am not a baker. I use a sugar cookie mix and half way through realized I forgot to add the egg in. I thought it looked dried so I added some more melted butter. Sigh. My husband’s the baker. I whip up a meal to make the gods cry out with joy but baking just escapes me!

    Other than that, I don’t have a thing ready for the holidays. We’re decorating tomorrow night and I’ll be shopping on Friday.

  7. Michelle
      · December 18th, 2008 at 1:28 pm · Link

    Alice Hungate’s Butter Pecan Cookies sound completely delicious!

    Here at home in the UK, my daughter took over the family tradition of baking a fruit Christmas cake this year when she visited last month. The “quick” recipe we have has to be made a minimum of 4 weeks before it’s ready to eat. After cooling, it has to be poked with a skewer, then brandy or sherry is spooned into it and it is wrapped in foil and put in a dark, dry place to mature.

    She keeps checking to make sure I’m taking care of it and feeding it a teaspoon of brandy or two per week. I don’t care for hard liquor, but this cake smells divine!

    On Sunday, when she arrives for Christmas, we’re baking traditional mince pies (made from caramelized apples, raisins, sultanas and cherries). Yum!

  8. Rhonda Barnes
      · December 18th, 2008 at 3:20 pm · Link

    Merrt Christmas, Elizabeth! Who worries about calories at Christmastime? LOL! My daughters and I always spend one whole day baking Christmas cookies for our annual family get-together. It’s always fun and delicious!

    Rhonda :0)

  9. therese
      · December 18th, 2008 at 8:36 pm · Link

    My specialty is called Thimble Cookies, they’re rolled in chopped walnuts and have jams in the center (the thimble imprint). But I always do sugar cookies and lots of chocolate stuff. Then there’s my homemade Bailey’s to drink. Oh! Thanks for the reminder – time to get some good Irish Whiskey – gotta run….

  10. Diane O'Neal
      · December 20th, 2008 at 3:51 pm · Link

    I rang home yesterday and Dad had to tell me Mom is making my favorite and labor intensive, raisin filled cookies and she can’t mail me any because they’ll go bad if the mail is slow — this APO is the slowest I’ve had so far. I haven’t done any this year…

  11. reid
      · December 28th, 2008 at 3:03 pm · Link

    lovely looking cookies but no recipes!
    seems only fair that if you are going to share the tempting pictures and yummy descriptions (well not the green milk part)you could/should also share the recipes.

  12. Susan E
      · January 6th, 2009 at 10:44 am · Link

    Just wanted to confirm the fresh ingredients in the goodies to the prize winners! Nothing green to be found in mine. My DS loved the fudge. Thanks again…

    PS Thank you for linking the recipe for the chocolate cherry cookies, my husband’s favorite combination.


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