Sparkles and Shines…

I really meant to take down all of my holiday decorations last weekend. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do after the first of January? You take down all the sparkling lights and stockings and stash them away again until next December. I know that’s the way it works — I do it faithfully every year. But this January I’m having trouble. I look at the strings of lights glimmering, the lit-up stars twinkling lazily below them, and  just can’t bear to do it.

I don’t know what’s making it so much harder this year. Maybe it’s because last summer came and went too quickly, and with this gray and dismal weather, it’s nice to have some cheerfulness around. The lights brighten up the house and make the long dark nights a little cozier.

Maybe I can compromise…I’ll pack away the wreaths and my little wooden Santas, and even all of my cinnamon-scented pine cones, but I’m keeping the lights up. They will be my winter night lights — helping me believe that even though I’ve got months to go until summer, I’m pretty sure I can make it.

Amazing Peels

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So a few years back my friend DB brought me a bag of delicious homemade candied orange peels as a birthday present. They were the perfect gift — sweet yet tart, chewy but still tender and dipped in chocolate because, … Continue reading

Melting Snowmen Sugar Cookies

I’m melting…..!

So I have a huge board on Pinterest of things that I have been wanting to make for the holidays. Well, to be truthful, I have many boards of many things that I have been wanting to make and the issue is actually focusing long enough to get anything done. But I have been trying really hard to stay motivated (no thanks to you, hard apple cider!) and I can proudly say I have accomplished quite a bit these past few weeks.

One of the things that I have been wanting to make are these adorable cookies. (Now, I guess they were originally done by a gal who used fondant to make the snowman heads, but I liked the idea of marshmallows better.) Since I have been wanting to make some sugar cookies too, it was really a two birds/one stone type of situation — which certainly helped encourage me to get busy baking.

The first step was to make the cookie dough. Every year I try a different recipe for sugar cookies, on a constant quest to find the perfect one. So far I’ve found many I like but none that captivated me enough to use regularly. This year I decided to try this one from my huge binder of recipes and it worked out splendidly. In fact, I will definitely make this one again sometime — I loved the candied ginger in it and the dough was easy to work with.

I started by baking some cookies in an imperfect circle and, once they were cool, topped them with some royal icing. I had my decorations all ready to go: red hots, licorice pastels and  a marshmallow decorated with an AmeriColor writer. The marshmallow slid around a little on the cookie but once the icing set, they were pretty secure. Some of the “noses” came loose, but I actually think it helped add to the realistic melting scene. Or at least that’s what I told people…

At any rate, check out this awesome snowman graveyard!

Adorably tortured snowmen — Calvin would be proud!

I also did some regular cut-out cookies with the dough and topped them with minced bits of candied orange peel. They were fantastic! There’s a little orange zest in the dough so it was really a perfect pairing.

Candied Orange and Ginger Stars

I loved the way everything came out, but I am (sadly) more excited that I can move two “pins” from my “need to make” board to my “missions accomplished” board. Oh Pinterest. You are a cruel mistress.

Sugar Highs & Project Updates

So the days have gotten away from me…I was on a good roll, blogging almost daily, when the pre-holiday madness overwhelmed me. Luckily I had those rum balls to help take the edge off! My final opinion of Martha’s recipe? These balls are boozy, chocolatey and pretty fabulous. I was worried they might be dry but they really do have a texture like fudge. I can’t wait to take some to work tomorrow — and I love that I work in an office where eating rum balls in the morning will totally be acceptable. I also cannot wait to make them for every possible occasion, because dark rum and brownies were clearly made for each other.

Now on to other things: namely fluffy sugary things…The marshmallows turned out great! Making them was a little sticky, but they were incredibly easy (especially with the help of a standing mixer) and they taste fantastic. I did heed Smitten Kitchen’s advice in not scraping the mixing bowl too fanatically. It was hard to resist since I hate to waste food, but I was scared — with good reason! — about getting caught in a sticky sugar web.

oh hello, my new little friends!

A girl in my office, upon hearing of my weekend plans, asked if I was just eating them plain or if I had floated any in hot cocoa. Now, of course, I have done both (quality control is a serious thing), but I knew instantly what she was insinuating. These marshmallows turn into an almost whipped cream/marshmallow fluff once they are in hot cocoa. They are nothing like the chewy, store-bought ones that just seem to bob around in your drink and get in the way. There really is nothing quite like them.

If I thought the Plush Pluffs fancy marshmallows were good (and oh, I definitely do) it’s hard to imagine that my first-time attempt would even rate on the scale. But, even with some forced objectivity, these homemade ‘mallows are still some of the best I’ve ever eaten. And they look adorable, which is always a bonus in my book!

Marsha, Marsha, Marshmallow…

I have been on a marshmallow kick lately. Or, more accurately, I have wanted to be on a marshmallow kick. But the thing is I couldn’t track down these elusive peppermint marshmallows that I kept seeing on Pinterest. I figured Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table would have something similar, but upon visiting those stores last weekend, I struck out.

Then my husband showed me these amazing-looking marshmallows online. I wanted to buy some for me, for my mom, for everyone because they looked SO good. But how to choose with all the possible flavor combinations? How much would it suck to buy the two-pound marshmallow in a bad flavor! You have to choose wisely. So instead we tracked down the one store in our town that the website said stocked their products.

We left immediately and finally I had some success: a display carrying several varieties of these fancy little things. It was hard to choose because they all looked delicious. In the end, we certainly chose wisely. The toasted coconut marshmallow is simply melt-in-your-mouth amazing. I haven’t even had one in cocoa yet because I keep eating them straight from the package. The are fluffy and tender and not too sweet.

But I still kept dreaming about more marshmallows and the desire to attempt making them was overwhelming. I tried to convince my buddy DB to assist me in a marshmallow-making extravaganza but I got back an email that shut me down with a succinct “nyet” followed by “you’re not gonna Martha Stewart me.”

Every once in a while he will call me out on wanting to do something he deems a little too frou-frou. Like last summer, when he was headed over to my house and I asked him if he liked banana daiquiris. Trying to be a good host, I was going to have a blender full of icy rummy goodness awaiting his arrival. Instead I got back a smart-ass text asking if we were going to paint each others fingernails next. Then I discovered he had actually never had a daiquiri before and upon tasting mine, he quickly helped himself to one…with an additional 3 oz of rum to be on the safe side.

I didn’t even make him drink his out of a pineapple!

But clearly marshmallow-making was not a battle I was going to win. I was on my own.

I did some research, finally discovering that the peppermint marshmallows I had seen in the very beginning were (of course) courtesy of Martha Stewart. I read the reviews of several different recipes and ultimately decided on Smitten Kitchen‘s. I was nervous, but figured I’d try it when my husband wasn’t home just in case it was an utter disaster. My cats know better than to gloat at my failures.

UPDATE! Marshmallow Success!

Cozy by the Fire

I discovered a magical thing this week — the Yule Log on Netflix. I don’t think my husband likes it but I have fallen in love. I have always wanted to live somewhere with a  fireplace, must be some nostalgia from my childhood in Alaska. Even though, in all honestly, we hardly even used our fireplace growing up — something about it actually making the house colder. Nonsense, I say.

Since leaving home I’ve never had the opportunity to live anywhere with a fireplace. Enter the yule log — oh magical yule log with its hypnotizing flicker. You can hear cracklings from the fire occasionally over the Christmas music, which is thankfully all instrumental. It may just be a video of a fire slowly burning, but it’s an excellent substitution for the real thing.

In fact, I may have gotten so cozy curled up on the couch that my husband caught me pretending to warm my hands by the TV screen. I tried to play it off, but I don’t think he believed me. And it’s been downhill from there. He thinks it’s creepy so he refuses to be in the same room when it’s on. Thus it’s become my guilty pleasure. If he’s at work, you will find me cuddled up with some boozy hot cocoa enjoying the yule log. On repeat.