Cookies, Again

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tuna fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock.
– Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

As promised, here’s the recipe for my favorite of the cookies Karen and I made last weekend:

Peppermint Candy Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 c. butter (no substitutes), softened
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. crushed candy canes or other peppermint candies
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. corn starch
  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Mix butter, sugar, crushed candy, and vanilla thoroughly using an electric mixer.  Gradually blend in flour and corn starch.
  • Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Gently press down on each cookie to flatten using fingers or bottom of a glass dipped in sugar (to prevent sticking).
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown.  Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.  Ice if desired (see below).
  • Icing (this is the recipe we used, not the one that came with the cookie recipe – halve this and you’ll still have more than enough)

  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tbsp. butter, very soft
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2-4 tbsp. milk, depending on consistency (if too thin, add more sugar; if too thick, add more milk)
  • Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.  Drizzle cookies with frosting and top with crushed peppermint candy, if desired (When I make these again, I’m going to skip the frosting step – it’s good, but I think they’d be perfect plain).

    We had our work Christmas party today.  There was a bake-off as part of the festivities, so I attempted the Death by Caramel bars that I was considering as part of cookie weekend.  I couldn’t find dulce de leche in the grocery store, and I didn’t have time to go to the Latin grocery store, so I attempted to make my own by melting caramels with cream.

    The recipe calls for the dulce de leche to be dolloped on top of the batter in the pan and then swirled into it to create pockets of caramel, which, in theory sounds heavenly.  The batter was pretty thick, though, and I’m not sure much of anything could have been swirled into it, and if it could be, it wasn’t this stuff I cooked up.  I ended up with a layer of caramel sauce on the top that just cooked with the rest of the batter and didn’t come out gooey at all.

    The result was just ok, and I’m disappointed I wasted all of what it cost to make it on something that wasn’t anything special.  I’m willing to try it again if I can find the dulce de leche, but I’ve still got nearly the entire pan of this batch left (it should go without saying that it didn’t win the bake-off).  Boo.

    What’s Going On

    Vacation is what you take when you can’t take what you’ve been taking any longer.
    – Unknown

    Sorry I didn’t post yesterday – I was hoping to keep my daily streak up, at least until today – but I just couldn’t manage it. But here’s what’s happening in my neck of the woods:

    My tomato plants are not well. They were so tall, so I cut them back a couple weeks ago, which I know the guy who sold them to me said I could do, but I think I broke them. And my Alyssum never flowered. I still have just a bunch of seedlings, which are nice enough, but I was promised purple flowers, damn it, and I want them.

    Yesterday I was off work for an all-day CLE thing on professionalism that Virginia requires all newly-licensed attorneys to attend within one year of being admitted to the bar. I was bored to tears, but at least I got to get home by 4, which was nice. Then I went for my first real training run outside, which, as the running page details, was both better and worse than running at the gym.

    Today was back to work. My boss left at 2:30, and since I was the only one in the office today, he told me (with a knowing smile) that I could use my “discretion” as to when I left. Don’t think I didn’t seriously consider 2:31. But in the end, I held out until 4:15, and was home by 5. I could get used to this. I just went for a swim, and now I’m relaxing, waiting for pizza to arrive, and trying to pack for the beach.

    Tomorrow morning, I’m headed down to Richmond to meet Aimee and Ben and the rest of her Richmond family, and then we’ll all head east to Sandbridge where they get a house for a week every summer. I’m staying til Monday, and I cannot tell you how much I need this right now. There are things going on around these parts that are really wearing on me, and I just need to be away from it right now, and hopefully gain some clarity and insight and peace. Tuesday might be the day that provides the resolution, one way or the other, but I can’t be positive.

    Depending on what time I get home Monday, you might get an update, but you might not, either. Do try not to miss me too much!

    Un-Friends

    I just want him to kiss me, and then kiss me again, and then everything will become very clear to both of us. Aha! he will say. I forgot! I do love you!
    – from Until the Real Thing Comes Along, by Elizabeth Berg

    Today I did the one thing I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do. I told my Might Have Been boy that I can’t be friends with him right now. Since the talk last week, we’ve IMed at work almost constantly – it’s amazing that we get any work done, actually – and we rode the train together Monday like normal. I was doing ok, mostly. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but there was something in the back of my mind that wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, really, until last night.

    He came in early yesterday, which is unusual for him, so we got to ride the train home together again. We were standing on the platform, talking as usual, and then he pulled out his phone and started texting her, joking that for once he’s the one bugging her about when she’s going to be home (yes, they live together now – did I somehow forget to mention that?). I immediately disengaged – I looked away, turned my head, and just generally couldn’t even fake it. He asked if I was ok, and I lied and said yes. We attempted to make more small talk, but by the end of the ride, we were totally silent and I was near tears. He asked if I was ok, and this time I said no. He asked if I needed to talk, and I said, “It’s not going to change anything.” He nodded, rubbed my arm, and just sadly said ok.

    I cried all night when I got home yesterday, because what I realized is this: where before I felt like the best version of myself when I was with him, now I feel like the version of myself that is trying to do whatever I can to make him choose me. I’m doubting myself where I never did before – am I smart enough, do I look cute enough today, am I being agreeable enough to make him change his mind. And that kills me. I know his staying with her isn’t about me, but some part of me thinks there’s something in ME that’s lacking, and that if I could just figure out the right thing to say or do, everything would fall into place.

    So I wrote him a letter.  That’s what I do – I’m so much better in writing than I am in speaking, especially when my emotions are so close to the surface like they have been this past week.  There’s no way I could say this stuff to him without completely breaking down.  Because the truth is, not talking to him, not spending time with him, is not what I want at all.  It’s a thing that doesn’t even make sense in my head – I’ve talked to him nearly every day for 9 months, and the longest we’ve ever gone without talking is two days.  I can’t begin to understand how not to be friends with him and the thought of it breaks my heart.  But, after talking to two people who know me well and who I trust very much, and who have gone through similar things, I’ve come to understand that this is the way it has to be.

    We didn’t talk all day at work today until I IMed to tell him I had the letter just before I left – an hour early because I just can’t keep it together (though I will say that you’d be surprised at the number of tasks you can complete with tears in your eyes, as long as your office door is closed).  I went down to his office on my way out – he didn’t look as bad as I did, but he didn’t look great, either.  I handed him the envelope and he asked me if he should hold it for a few days in case I change my mind.  With my voice breaking, I said, “I’ve already changed my mind 100 times.”  And that’s true.  All day I kept going back and forth, and right before I told him I had it – the point of no return – I thought to myself, if you feel this bad about it, why not wait?  But there are things in the letter that he needs to know, and I know that it’s not going to get better if I wait, it’s just going to get worse.

    I knew I was in big trouble last night when I was writing the letter and in my head I accidentally called him J, because I literally spent YEARS trying to say or do just the right thing that would make J realize how much I loved him and that we were perfect for each other.  And I knew that I needed to give him the letter sooner rather than later, because at this point in my life, I just don’t have that kind of time to waste.

    But I’m miserable.  I don’t have any idea what life without him in it as my friend is going to be like.  It will probably be less funny and have fewer smiles for a while.  And apparently I’m on the heartache diet these days – I can’t really eat, which is unusual for me.  My plan is not to actively avoid him (that’s easy enough as it is – the nature of our jobs and the set up of our offices makes it so that I can go days without seeing him), but just to not seek him out.  I don’t know how long I’m going to last, honestly.  He’s the one I always want to tell everything to – how am I supposed to just let that go?

    I rarely do the right thing for myself when it comes to men – I have a long track record of figuring out what they want and trying to mold myself to fit that image.  That’s no good, though, because if you win him that way, you’ve lost yourself.  If I changed, and he left her to be with me, that wouldn’t be honest, and it would never last. And it’s not fair to ask him not to talk about her – if we’re friends, those are the things friends talk about – but I just can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt me to hear it.  So walking away, that’s the only option, right?

    Right?

    Spring Has Sprung

    Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
    is hung with bloom along the bough
    – A.E. Housman

    This what greeted me when I came up out of the Metro this morning:

    navy-boys-2.jpg

    Yeah, Navy boys (and one Navy lady) practicing maneuvers or whatever they call that stuff. Not a bad way to start the day, if you ask me.

    Then, at lunch, a co-worker and I headed down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms – the festival officially starts tomorrow, but it’s going to be a madhouse down there because of the National Marathon, the circus, the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Kite Festival, and my boss encourages us to take extra time at lunch to go and see them. It wasn’t as sunny as I’d hoped for picture taking purposes, but it was a great day otherwise – warm, breezy, perfect. We headed to the Mall, where I snapped these pictures (if they look cut off, click on them to get the full picture; trying to resize them all to the right proportions is making me crazy):

    capitol-resized.jpg

    monument-resized.jpg

    Then we came upon the, literally, thousands of cherry blossom trees that surround the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial. Here are my favorite pictures:

    blossom-beaver.jpg

    blossoms-resized.jpg

    mel-blossoms.jpg

    And here’s my really favorite:

    blurry-blossoms.jpg

    On the way back we saw this amazing tree, and I just love this picture:

    monument-tree.jpg

    And then . . . we saw this group of dorks, and I had to have a picture of them:

    segway-tour.jpg

    The guy on the far right is the tour guide. Yes, you can take a Segway tour of the monuments. Cool or dorky? I can’t really decide.

    Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and a great way to work in a 3-mile walk on my lunch hour (and a half). The schedule of events for the Cherry Blossom Festival says they have a guided running tour in the morning on both Saturday and Sunday. I’m tempted, but maybe I better wait til next year when I’m a real runner!

    So Much for That Idea

    Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.
    – Jane Austen

    Sorry I didn’t return to regular programming – I got busy dealing with the body shop, the insurance adjustor, a lying student loan company supervisor (Oh, you’ll call me back in 48 hours, max?  Really?  I think someone’s pants are on fire.), and crappy apartment maintenance people (Oh, you can’t come today like you said you would, but you’ll be here first thing in the morning?  Really?  Oh, you’re sorry you couldn’t make it this morning, but it’s after hours now and a dishwasher is not an emergency but you promise you’ll be here tomorrow?  Really?  Oh, you couldn’t make it again today, but this time you super-duper promise you’ll make it tomorrow?  Really?  Suck on it.  If I get West Nile virus from the nasty, standing water in the bottom of my dishwasher, I may go all Lawyer on you.) – and frankly, was not in the mood for Things to Be Happy About.  But don’t you worry, I have a bang-up Christmas edition all ready to go for you – it will be like an extra present for you to open Christmas morning!

    So the car: remember how I said how thankful I was that the damage wasn’t extensive?  Either I know nothing about cars, the body shop and insurance adjustor are ripping me off, or I jinxed myself.  I think it’s the first one, but I’m not positive.  We’re up to $2200 and they haven’t even put the car on the lift yet.  Awesome.  Thank god I wasn’t one of those people who said “Oh, I never get in accidents, so I can handle a $1500 deductible.”  I know myself better than that, and went for $500.  That hurts, especially at the holidays, but it could be worse.

    Remember also how I said how great my boss is?  He gave us Christmas presents yesterday, which I was not expecting at all (we already did our “annual round robin gift exchange,” you know).  Two words: Coach wristlet.  If you know anything about me, you know I do not care about labels and I would never buy myself Coach anything, but I was amazed at his generosity.  It’s beautiful and classic – plain black leather – but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it.  Does anyone use one of these?  I’m stumped in the face of such a thing.

    Speaking of gifts, I am officially done, and everything is wrapped, as of last night.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I left one thing for my brother unwrapped because I may have to exchange it after I get to his house tonight and see if he already has it.  He won’t be there til Sunday night – he’s on an out-of-town job – so it will be safe.

    And speaking of my brother, welcome him to the blogosphere, won’t you?  He’s not a great speller, but I love him anyway.