Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cinnamon Twists

This past Sunday I was into baking again. I've undertaken a new personal weekly challenge so I can bake new things on a regular basis, so this was today's contribution. Another recipe from the Culinary Mystery Series by Josi Kilpack. I have seen other recipes for cinnamon twists that have turned out as a crispy pastry. Don't expect that from these. Instead, think of a cinnamon roll that wasn't rolled up in the traditional fashion. 

I didn't check the pantry before I started and didn't realize until I was into it that I didn't have brown sugar, so I substituted raw sugar. 

Cinnamon Twists
4 cups flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
11/4 cups warm milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup butter, softened
For the dough, mix 2 cups of flour with the remaining dry ingredients. Stir to combine. Add all liquid ingredients and mix well. Add remaining flour until dough is tacky to the touch, but not sticky. Knead 6 to 8 minutes or until dough is smooth. Grease a bowl and let dough raise, covered, until double (about 40 minutes). 
For filling, mix together brown sugar and spices. Set aside.
Sprinkle flour on the countertop and roll out dough into a 16x12-inch rectangle. Spread with 1/3 cup soft butter. Sprinkle butter with sugar-spice topping all the way to the edges. Let dough sit for 10 minutes. 
Use a pizza cutter to cut dough lengthwise into four 3x16 inch strips. Then cut every inch vertically so that you have sixteen 1x3-inch strips. Lift each strip from the counter and twist 360 degrees before placing it on a greased cookie sheet. (Twists should look like a bow tie with the spice mixture facing up at both ends.) Place twists about 3/4-inch apart. Cover shaped dough and let raise until double (about 30 minutes). Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 4 dozen twists.

Optional Icing*
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk (regular milk works too)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Mix softened cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; mix until smooth. Add more milk or powdered sugar until icing is slightly runny.
*Pretty much any leftover frosting could also work as the icing. Simply warm frosting to room temperature and add milk until “dippable.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Magic of an Ordinary Day

I was flipping through channels the other day and saw this movie title. I didn’t even read the description or watch the movie, but the title struck me! Sometimes I think I get stuck in this mode of living for the next moment or the next big thing, something like living off a checklist or schedule.
I love life…I mean, I REALLY love life. If you know me at all, you know that I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of person. I truly feel that life has so much to offer; there is so much good to be had – why would you NOT want to enjoy it? That’s where this movie title comes into play. Sometimes, our daily lives are that checklist, or we’re tied to a schedule, or we feel we’re trapped in a routine. Maybe we feel that if big things aren’t happening on a regular basis that we’re stuck.  I’m learning that there is a sort of magic to this type of day. It’s an opportunity to MAKE your own magic.
Last Wednesday was the last day of my last job. It’s been an interesting experience to get to this point, but it’s finally over. Thursday and Friday I kept myself busy pressure washing our house (please add this to this list of things I’m good at...look for my ad in this Sunday’s paper, haha), and was treated to a wonderful visit from my brother and sister-in-law and their kids, and then a wonderful date (can life get any better??). Saturday, I determined that I wanted to have a free day…I wanted do whatever I wanted to. The problem with that is that I woke up that morning and didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything (for a little while). Living in a small town provides a limited array of activities (and I’d already been to WalMart the day before). So, I realized then that I had to get creative and just do something. I made dinner – a semi-fancy dinner that I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I took myself back-to-work shopping and just got moving. It wasn’t super creative or adventurous, but it was what I needed.
Maybe that’s the magic. It’s not that something big happened to change the way I felt, or that something big happened to alter my ideas…I just did something! So, I’m creating a new challenge for myself, to see the magic of an ordinary day. On that day, it was just to get out and realize that, though it is a small town, it is still wonderful and I love it. There is NOWHERE else I would rather be. Tomorrow, perhaps it will just be the joy of seeing the sunrise (though in all honesty I have no intention of actually seeing the sunrise tomorrow – maybe this weekend). What will your magic moment be?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

High Tea Lemon Cookies

Another recipe for the Josi Kilpack Culinary Mystery Series...High Tea Lemon Cookies. These were absolutely amazing! So incredibly rich, you only need about two to satisfy; three will likely make you ill. The lemon makes them fresh, and if you are patient, I'm told they are even better the next day. Of course, I made these the day before I went out of town so I only had them on day one (and I had four, so I wasn't interested in any more). I will definitely make these again (and I commit myself to only eat two...at a time). If you're looking for a slightly different cookie, try a batch of these.

High Tea Lemon Cookies

2 cups butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups flour
11/2 cups cornstarch (this is not a typo)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour and cornstarch and beat until well combined. Do NOT refrigerate.
Roll by hand into 1-inch balls or use a well-packed scoop, placing cookies about an inch apart as they do not spread much while baking.
Bake 15 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets until bottom edges are light brown. Cool on wire racks before frosting with lemon glaze (below).
Makes about 5 dozen small, delicate cookies.

Lemon Glaze
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest (get zest from lemon before juicing)
1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice*
21/2 cups powdered sugar
In a medium bowl combine butter, zest, juice, and sugar. Stir until well mixed. Place a piece of wax paper beneath the wire racks where the cookies have been cooling and drizzle glaze over cookies.
* For best results when using lemons, choose the largest lemon you can find and roll it on the counter for about a minute before juicing in order to get as much juice as possible. Zest only the yellow part of the lemon peel; the white portion leaves a bitter taste.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

7 in Seven Challenge Progress

It’s been two and half weeks since I set myself up for my 7 in seven challenge. I’m happy to report that 2 things are done! Thanks to a long trip to Utah, I was able to read a book…an entire book!! I haven’t sat down to read like I used to since I moved back to Georgia…turns out I keep myself really busy. I read the most recent book in my favorite culinary book series by Josi Kilpack, Banana Split. This was also the first book I read on my iPod. I still like holding a real book in my hand when I read, but it was a great alternative and major space saver while traveling.
The second thing was a scavenger. My sister-in-law and I put together a scavenger hunt for the kids on Friday while they were here visiting. We were so excited about it, and would you believe they didn’t enjoy it?!? We were way more into it than they were. But in their defense, the heat index yesterday was between 110 and 115 and it was full sun. Still a little disappointed, but I’m totally crossing it off the list. J
Five things to go…4 weeks to do it!

A New Blog

Don't worry, it's not going to be more of me rambling. :) I've decided to create a blog for Lori's weekly emails. We've had several people express interest in reading them and I don't want to miss anyone by doing emails. I am making it private, mostly because she doesn't know I'm doing this and I'm not sure if she'd want the entire world to have access to it. So, if you'd like to keep up with her while she's away for 17 more months (!!), please send me your email address and I'd be more than happy to add you to the list!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


It's been a busy couple of weeks; so much has happened!! When I came back from vacation I found out that my boss had been looking for my replacement and the next day they extended an offer. In the middle of all of that, I received a call from a recruiter for a job here in town and just over a week ago they extended a job offer. And, on top of all of that, I had to go to Utah to train my replacement. So here I am, back in town and kind of starting my life all over again and I'm really excited. Things really do all turn out for the best in the long run...and sometimes the short one.

While I've been traveling I've had a LOT of time to myself. Several lay overs, a couple of quiet nights alone in the hotel, and long rides in the car. I've had time to really look at my life and appreciate all of the good things I have and that have happened to me, specifically since the beginning of the year. On this trip I recommitted to myself to be better, to live worthy of all that I've been given.

Last night I couldn't sleep. You'd think after only getting an hour and half of sleep the night before that sleep would come easy, but at midnight I was still lying in bed, wide awake. I opened the Mormon channel on my iPod and found the Conversations sections. I've listened to several before and have loved them! Last night I listed to the one featuring Elder L. Tom Perry and his wife, Barbara. It was exactly what I needed. It didn't really help me sleep - I finished the entire episode and then read some of a book, but inspired me and gave me much needed inspiration. If you have a few minutes (or several), I highly recommend this!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

7 in Seven

Today was a bad day...end of story. It started out great and then at lunch time it took a dive and went into a tailspin. By about 5 pm I was ready to hit something. Tonight I decided to use my frustration to my advantage as a motivator.
So (drum roll please), I give you the 7 in Seven Challenge. There are seven weeks of summer left (my definition of summer is that it ends with August) and I've compiled a list of things that I want to do between now and then. Wish me luck. Even better...do it with me (the scavenger hunt will be a LOT more fun with...well, anyone more than just myself!!).

1.       Be a tourist in Savannah
2.       Make French croissants
3.       Make/Go on a Scavenger Hunt
4.       Send a care package to my missionaries
5.       Make a useful craft…no frilly stuff to stick on a shelf!
6.       Read at least one book
7.       Index 1,000 names

Monday, July 9, 2012

One Hot Afternoon

When we came home from church yesterday, Dad told us he had just let Paco in - he had been outside for over an hour in the heat. Poor little guy was so hot and miserable. We made sure he drank some water, but I still felt bad for him, so I grabbed a popsicle from the freezer and let him lick away. 

I love his orange tongue (sorry its upside down - it refuses to cooperate and I'm not in the mood to fight it). The only thing I wish I had done differently would have been to have given him a blue one.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Parable of the Puzzle

I heard one of the best talks in church today. They were all really wonderful and inspired, but one in particular hit me.
Before church, each person in the congregation was given a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. When Brother Jones spoke, he asked everyone to look at their puzzle pieces to see if anyone was able to guess what the picture was of. Out of a 500 piece puzzle, you can imagine that with only one piece it couldn't be done. He brought out a couple ideas related to the puzzle.
First, you can have most of the pieces of the puzzle and can get an idea, or see most of, the picture, but it's not complete. He related it to the ward - we can have most of the people and the ward gets along, but we need everyone to make it complete and for it to function completely.
Second, each piece of the puzzle is different. Some are different shapes, sizes, and colors, but each one is an important part. The same with people...we are all different; different fingerprints, different DNA, etc., but we are each important to the Lord's church. We need each and every person.
I love doing puzzles. Every year I try to do at least one really big one. There is nothing more frustrating than to get the end of a huge puzzle only to find out that you are missing one or more pieces. Imagine the ward you are in...do you have all of your pieces accounted for? Who is missing? Let's find the missing pieces and make sure that we have a complete picture.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Cure

Another perusal of Pinterest yielded the cure to my blues...

Sounds like I'm in need of a funny movie and a comfortable bed. Yep...that's the plan. :)


I've debated whether to post this or not. I like to attempt to preserve appearances about myself, and I like the appearance that everything is fine. What people see in person is one thing and I can hide it - but once it's in writing, it's out there. However, this week hasn't really been fine. The big day came and went - Lori left on her mission - and life moves on. It was bliss to be able to spend two weeks with her at home, being with her when she was set apart as a missionary, and even those final moments before we dumped her off at the curb. I vowed to myself that I would not cry when she left. I didn't want it to be any harder on her, and I knew mom and dad would be crying...I would not give in. I made it except for 2 or 3 tears that escaped before I caught myself and have maintained a smile and have been "happy" ever since. I have kept myself as busy as possible and I really have been happy, minus the new void I feel.
Today though, the tears that I've been holding back for several days have caught up with me and I'm really struggling with the reality of this whole thing. I have talked to or seen Lori everyday for the last 24 years. It's kind of a long time. When we were apart, every time something funny would happen, I could send her a text and she'd simply send back a text that said "Haha" and I knew she was laughing at the same thing, or we could call, or skype - thank heavens for technology. I didn't realize how much I depended on her sharing so much in my life...until now, that is.
I know it will get better, and it probably doesn't help my feelings that I'm exceptionally tired today (thank you mid-night insomnia). It is just one of those days that I could use a hug...or a nap...or chocolate...Time to get back to being busy. I figured out today that it doesn't really matter what I'm doing, I just need to be busy. Already I've done laundry, cleaned my room, cleaned the kitchen, and gone shopping. Time to get to...something. Tomorrow - I will be back to normal. :)