Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies--Recipe: Joy the Baker

Adventures in Baking: Holiday Treats

6th January 2016

Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies--Recipe: Joy the Baker
Baking makes me happy. Even when my treats are slightly overcooked, when I’m in the kitchen baking I feel oddly calm and relaxed. I made a lot of goodies for the dessert table at my wedding and for the most part, I was in the zone and totally unhurried. Chill. Then it all went to hell when it was more than just me in the kitchen and I started to get stressed the heck out. Still, baking. Ahh. Yes.

There’s not a lot of things that I can do for people for the holidays. I only have so much money and I’m not as crafty as I’d like to think I am. Instead, I bake.

Last year (in 2014, really), I made some special holiday treats for my Early Childhood team at work and left a tray of extras out for the rest of my coworkers. It seemed to be a hit, so I planned a similar thing for this past December. The first time around, I made Milk Chocolate Chip Gingersnap cookies, Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip cookies, Cranberry Bliss cookies, and Brown Butter Blondies.

This year I switched things up a little bit. I realized during my pre-wedding baking session that making Cranberry Bliss bars were a slightly easier alternative to the cookies, because it just took one huge baking sheet. I used three of Joy the Baker’s recipes, because she is awesome: Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip cookies, Butter Walnut cookies, and Classic Lemon Bars. Joy’s recipes are always so easy to follow and they yield amazing results. The lemon bar recipe is a favorite in my house, but the cookie recipes were new. The brown butter toasted coconut cookies were slightly over baked, but packed with so much flavor. Brown butter, man. It makes all the difference. The bits of coconut were yummy, but not too overpowering. The butter walnut cookies were to die for. I want to make those again and again and again. Super easy to make and they look really lovely.

Butter Walnut Cookies--Recipe: Joy the Baker

As an additional treat, I made chocolate covered pretzels. Such an easy process: melt chocolate, dip pretzels, and roll them in toppings. I had peanut butter cups (which I froze after chopping), kit kat bars, M&M’s, and drizzled chocolate. They make for such a pretty treat and seem like they are much more work than they actually are. Score one for me. Add some pretty packaging and you’re set!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I bought some greenery, used some fun Chinese food cartons (similar to these), brown paper packaging, mason jars, and a few filler flowers to present the sweets.
Adventures in Baking: Holiday Treats

Adventures in Baking: Holiday Treats

Adventures in Baking: Holiday Treats

What are your go to treats for gifts? Any recipes you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Farewell, Staycation.

3rd January 2016

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Why is it that I can never get into the swing of a vacation until the very end? I woke up early for the first few days off and then slowly but surely, I went to bed later and woke up later. It’s going to be very sad tomorrow when I have to get up at 5 a.m. But for now, the happy things.

A friend of mine posted an article at the beginning of holiday break that went something like this: Teachers, do not do work over vacation or your brains will surely explode! Which…is kind of true. I planned to go in to work over the break so that I could get things done. Clean, organize, set out new works for the kiddies. Ultimately, the pull of home was too strong and I realized there was plenty to do over here. It was nice to spend extra time in bed with my husband and the pup. It was nice to just kind of relax. One day, I didn’t do a damn thing at all and it was perfect.

This vacation was about cleaning the basement (my current living space), doing tons of laundry (so damn necessary), spending time with friends and family, and just remembering what life is like without a daily commute and stress. This was the recharge staycation. The next one deserves an actual getaway. We’ll see what we can do.

Today is Steven’s birthday. He’s 30! Yay! There are hugs to be had, special treats to be made, and laundry…always laundry. I hope you all have a great week and for all of the teachers out there: YOU CAN DO IT.

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2016.

1st January 2016

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So, we’re here. Made it through another 365 days of moments. Some boring, some bonkers, and some fun.

2015 was an interesting one for me. I finished up my first year as a head teacher and started the second one with even more responsibilities than before. I moved all of my stuff out of my childhood bedroom and into the basement, which was far more painful than I ever could have imagined. I got married. I got married! I’m a wife now! How the hell did that even happen? I still can’t believe it.

I thought of chronicling my wedding experience here–the planning, the chaos, the celebrations–but it just never happened. Never seemed like I had the time and then all of a sudden months passed and I wasn’t even sure if it made sense to post anymore.

Looking back on this little space, I think I spent a lot of time thinking that maybe my happy moments weren’t worth posting. I think I let too many outside forces convince me that this wasn’t a safe place for me anymore. And that’s sad. Because it doesn’t matter who reads this blog, it should be a place of joy. It should also be a place to unleash some sadness. Not quite the same as the online journals of old (Livejournal, I miss you every day), but a place of freedom.

I miss typing. I miss connecting with people. I miss the community. I miss making posts about nothing, just because.

When considering goals for 2016, I know some major things I need to focus on:

1. Do what makes me happy.
2. Stop overthinking every goddamn thing.
3. Stop making excuses.
4. Follow the fuck through.

Curse words are necessary because they are emphatically delicious. I want to hold myself accountable for my words, thoughts, and actions. I want to have an idea and see it through. I want to fill notebooks with ramblings, both good and bad. I want to have more moments like this…with my dog curled up at my feet, the smell of a candle burning nearby, and the squeaks of the floorboards above me as my parents mill about the house.

In 2016, I’ll turn 30. Seems like a good time to do what makes me happy. To stop over thinking every goddamn thing. To stop making excuses. And to follow the fuck through, Cristina.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”–T.S. Eliot

Currently.

2nd February 2015

Photo on 12-8-14 at 7.28 PM #4

*taps mic*

Is this thing on? I was looking back at this space a little while ago and realized that I hadn’t posted since November! Steven keeps pointing out that I need to do something. Write something, anything, and so here I am. I’m glad that I took a break from being here. I needed to do it to preserve my own sanity, but also because it didn’t feel like a safe space anymore. The less said about that, the better, but I will say that I’ve spent the past few months contemplating life, stressing about things, being utterly excited about things, and working hard to find peace in the chaos. I think I’m getting better at it.

There are a billion little things to write about and I’m not sure where to start. I think sometimes it’s hard to find a perfect way to jump back into something. Thank goodness for “Currently” posts. ♥

Reading: I’ve been savoring Anne Lamott’s book, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace” for weeks now. I bought Steven a copy as part of his Christmas gift and ended up buying one for myself, because I simply couldn’t resist the thought of having a “read off” with him. I used to do that with my brother when the Harry Potter books were released–we’d each get a copy and hole up in our rooms for hours reading until one of us had finished. The first person to finish was the winner, of course. But with this book, I just couldn’t do that. I think Anne Lamott is a person who was put on this earth to do great things, I really do. She is somehow magical and startlingly real at the same time. I don’t know how she strikes the balance of providing pure wisdom and examples of our bumbling humanity, but she does it so beautifully. I approach each new chapter with a mix of anticipation and dread thinking, Are we going to laugh today, Anne, or are we going to cry? Most of the time it’s both.

Sometimes, when I read the bible, I’m struck by a moment of complete understanding and grace. I can feel it in my heart. I know that what I’ve read is right for me at the time. And then other times, I have absolutely no idea what the heck is going on. I’d like to think that God knows this about me and provides me with other sources to dispense something into my mind, and so he brought me Anne Lamott. Because she’s funny and thoughtful and flawed. So when I needed a good piece of writing/thinking/inspiration to make me consider a big problem in my life, I was given pages and pages of words in “Small Victories” to help. I’d been working (let’s be real, I’m still working) on the idea of forgiveness and letting go and how hard it is to do those things. Then I read this…

1. “A lack of forgiveness is like leprosy of the insides, and left untreated, it can take out tissue, equilibrium, soul, sense of sense. I have sometimes considered writing a book called: All the People I Still Hate: A Christian Perspective, but readers would recoil.” (For the record, I would read that book so hard!)
2. “So you sacrifice the need to be right, because you have been wronged, and you put down the abacus that has always helped you keep track of things. This jiggles you free from clutch and quiver. You can unfurl your fingers, hold out your palm, openhanded.”
3. “Forgiveness is release from me; somehow, finally I am returned to my better, dopier self, so much lighter when I don’t have to drag the toxic chatter, wrangle, and pinch around with me anymore. Not that I don’t get it out every so often, for old time’s sake. But the trapped cloud is no longer nearly so dark or dense. It was blown into wisps, of smoke, of snow, of ocean spray.”

And little by little, I started to move on. Thanks, Anne.

Watching: There are two shows that I watch consistently: The Mindy Project and Extra Virgin. I’m not sure which one makes me happier. Maybe Extra Virgin, because it’s about food (food porn) and life and few things are better than that.

Listening: Shakey Graves! Well, one of his songs. I don’t even know what this dude’s real name is, but I guess it’s not important. This duo with Esme Patterson is perfection. As is Esme’s dress/boots combo. Priorities, y’all.

Loving: My daily indulgence: Lindt’s A Touch of Sea Salt dark chocolate bar. Give me a tiny square on the drive home from work and I am a happy girl.

Thinking: About school and teaching. Always, always, always. Also trying to figure out how to personalize our wedding as much as possible, while still making sure that it’s inclusive enough of other peoples’ tastes and traditions. On the plus side, I’m not thinking about what I’m gonna wear because I bought my dress during winter break (a goal I was so happy to have accomplished) and it’s all sorts of pretty. Booyah! It was a strange moment for me when I realized that I couldn’t Instagram a shot of it for my friends. What’s a social media lovin girl to do?

Working: I’m working on feeling centered as a human being. How much of a hippie do I sound like right now? But seriously. I promised myself at the end of last year that I would work on becoming my best self in 2015. I usually use this blog to write down my goals/resolutions for the year, but I felt like I needed some time to sit with them before writing them down over here. In a few weeks, I’ll be 29 and I thought it was a good time to get my shit together. Or at least some of it. There are a lot of things that are out of my control, but my health has a lot to do with the choices I make.

I set a goal for myself to lose 25 lbs by the time I get married. It’s less about a number on a scale, though, and more about helping to establish healthy habits. I’ve been working out at least 5 times a week and keeping track of what I eat. I’ve been more mindful about what I’m putting into my body and pushing it to do better every single time I exercise. I’ve lost 6 lbs so far and I plan to keep chugging along, not because I have to, but because I want to. I’m excited that my body is beginning to change in small ways. I can feel some confidence oozing in and it just makes everything better. I want to know that when I get married in October, that I feel great about my body. I want to know that I worked really hard for it, too, because then maybe it’ll help keep me on a better path as I get older. I’m doing this because I care about myself and I’m doing this because I care about the life I may have in the future. Because I want to be the kind of person who encourages healthy habits in her children.

I’m glad that right now, the wedding seems to be a huge incentive for the people in my life, too. My parents have been encouraging each other to eat better and will start incorporating more exercise into their lives soon. Steven signed up for a half marathon and I can see how happy it makes him to reach certain running goals, and so it makes me happy too. I will never ever be a skinny girl; I don’t want to be. That’s not what this is about. It’s about cherishing the life that I have, and the body that I have, and actively working to make things a little better.

I hope that you all have a wonderful week and that my fellow anal retentive folks cherish the thought that our month looks like this. Thank you, February. Thank you.

(Thank you to Dani Hampton of Sometimes Sweet for the continued inspiration behind these Currently posts. They make for a great start.)

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Sunday.

17th November 2014

Grace.

I went to church for the first time in weeks and prayed for a soft heart to truly hear and understand the message. We’re starting a study in Romans. Some of the passages in this book hold a special place in my heart, so I’m excited to dive into this.

One of the things I love about my meeting hall is that the last 15 minutes are devoted to people sharing what they enjoyed from the message and/or readings throughout the week. I tend to take notes during this portion, too, because some of the brothers and sisters share such beautiful messages.

Here’s my favorite part of the testimonials this week: “When you see what God sees, you love everyone.”

Thank you to the brother who shared that after the message.

A lovely thought to ruminate on as we get ready for another week.