Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2 More Trip Photos...

Unfortunately I have been hit a string of migraines. It started lightly on Sunday evening when we were out of town. And has gotten progressively worse. So today hasn't been very productive.

But here are a few more photos of our trip...

I love this shot that Michael got of the picnic table. I bet it would look lovely in black and white too.

This photo has an effect on it too - similar to the one in the last post. I have been wanting to play with those kind of things but often feel I shouldn't with Michael's photos. This one and the other one with the effect were shots I took while he was driving.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Escape to Ouray

Back from our overnighter. It was great! So beautiful! I packed sandwiches and such so we didn't have to spend money on food. And our night in the hotel was free too. So we just paid for gas. Oh we did stop and have breakfast on Monday in Montrose so that was the only meal we spent money on. So not too bad. And more importantly we had a lovely time.

So much snow that sparkled in the sun. It was so pretty. As I mentioned last time we had our overnight and went through there was no snow. And for some reason I just think of Ouray with snow. It looks good with snow.

When we got back in town we ran a few errands and then went to pick up a calendar. We got one with the art of Daniel Merriam. Surrealist that kind of reminds me of Michael Parkes in some ways but not at the same time.

A couple photos of our trip - and I will post more later...
(click on the photos to get a bigger view of them)
I did a texture on top of this photo to create lines in it.

This photo Michael took and it is beautiful hotel in Ouray.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Wrap Up

We had a really nice Christmas. It was very relaxed and leisurely. We didn't rush to open presents. We just kind of did it in stages and it was really nice that way. We relaxed, ate and watched movies. So a really quiet nice day.

Today we were out bright and early (although it wasn't very bright here yet at that time.) Our tradition is going to Target. I get cards, tags, ribbon, tissue and the like after Christmas for the next year. I noticed that there wasn't as much stock this year - before Christmas or after. I wonder if because of the economy the stores just didn't order much knowing they would be stuck with it? Not sure but that is what it seemed like as even before Christmas Target's Christmas card section was pretty small so after it was kind of slim pickins. But I still found some I liked.

Tomorrow we have to work most of the day with a client at her home. And then Sunday we will be leaving for an overnighter to Ouray, Colorado. It is a beautiful little snow covered town nestled in the mountains. I know they have snow now but when we passed through there on our last overnighter just before Thanksgiving they didn't have ANY snow which was really unusual. But this time there will be snow. Colorado has had quite a few snow storms - including Grand Junction. We usually have no or little snow at Christmas but this Christmas was a VERY white Christmas! Which I loved!

Here are a few random pictures...(click on pictures to get a bigger view)

We had really wanted an Obama ornament as the election played a significant role in our lives for 2008. And we are Obama supports so it just made sense to us to have an Obama ornament to represent 2008 on our Christmas tree. We got that off of cafepress.com. Cafepress always has a great selection of Obama merchandise.

Our table for Christmas Eve dinner - very simple. Those dishes we bought at Kohl's on Monday with some of the Christmas money my parents gave us. And then the candlesticks were a part of the 12 days of Christmas package my family sent us. The other candle is from our first trip to Ouray, Colorado. We bought it for our first Christmas together and it is always on our table for Christmas Eve dinner.

We got 2 of the round plates and then 2 square plates to use as platters for food and then Christmas goodies. Plus we got one 4 pack of appetizer plates that we used for goodies yesterday.

Also you can see the little village of ornaments behind the table.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Kitty Cat Christmas

We give our kitty cats presents in stockings for each. I wrap them and then we unwrap them for them of course. But I wrap them because they love sniffing and playing with the wrapping paper.

The other day when we picked up some toys for them Caesar instantly found the bag of them amongst our other purchases that day. He was a little frantic to get into the package, as there was a toy with some pretty potent catnip toy in the sack. I had to take the sack and put it on a high shelf in my studio to keep them out. But Chessie still smelled it and would stretch up on the shelving unit knowing it was around there somewhere.

So last night I wrapped the kitty cat toys. Caesar and Chessie had went to bed with Michael but as soon as I started to wrap here comes Caesar and he WOULD NOT leave me ALONE. I scooted him out of the room and close the door to wrap. I didn't dare put their stockings out as I feel they would have been ripped apart to get at that toy. So I again put them on the shelving unit. And sure enough as soon as we pulled them down this morning they were circling. Who ever says catnip isn't addictive...is on drugs themselves because oh my the stuff in this toy was potent catnip and they went crazy for it. We only got one toy like it was there was some fighting over it. Thankfully we bought a little container of the same type of catnip so sprinkled that around too.

So between the catnip and the wrapping paper and tissue that the cats love we had an amusing Christmas morning just watching them. They love wrapping paper and tissue. They hide under it and attack each other and toys. Michael filmed some and streamed it online to his parents. And they enjoyed watching our crazy kitty cats.

Photos: from top to bottom - Caesar with toys sprinkled with catnip, Chessie playing with the catnip toy, Caesar rolling on the wrapping paper from the catnip toy, Caesar on playing on the tissue paper, Chessie really getting at the catnip toy, and the last two are Caesar under tissue paper hiding and about to attack Chessie

Prayer for Christmas

A friend shared this in her Christmas card to us this year and I thought it was beauitful prayer for Christmas...

I salute you! There is nothing I can give you
which you have not; but here is much, that,
while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
find rest in it today. Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not
hidden in this present instant. Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;
behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this holy time, I greet you,
with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
--Fra Giovanni,1513

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hallmark Nostalgic Houses and Shops

My Mom started on me this set of ornaments in 1984 and I am missing only 2 out of the series. I don't use them as ornaments but instead set them up kind of like a little village. This year I put them on a counter that runs along one wall in our dining room and put little white lights behind them.

They really fit me perfectly for so many reasons. I loved dolls growing up - I loved playing with all sorts of dolls - paper, barbie and so on. I also as a little girl drew floor plans for "dream" houses. And although I an adult I still adore those things. So I always enjoy getting them out each Christmas and looking at each before lining them up.

Michael snapped some photos for me of them...

The little angels in front of them Michael calls the GIANTS. My Aunt Sharla gave me them many years ago but I lose them when I hang them on the tree. They are so pretty that I really like to display them even if not on the tree. So I thought they could be the guardian angels of my little village.

(click on photos to get a bigger view)

Christmas Eve Breakfast: Gingerbread Muffins - YUM!

The picture trying to show off one of our new plates in addition to the muffin.

Gingerbread Muffins
Makes 8 Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all-spice
1/4 tsp ginger
3 tbsp cooking oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line with paper baking cups or spray with cooking oil eight muffin cups. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamom, all-spice, ginger and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together oil and brown sugar. When blended add molasses, milk, egg and vanilla. Mix until blended. Add flour mixture and mix until blended. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center. If desired spinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm or cool.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Q&A

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? both -- I use some of each

2. Tree: real or artificial? growing up it was always a real tree in the living room and then sometimes an artificial in the family room. Michael and I have an artificial because of the cats. We think a real one would make them investigate it more. I do have to say I have some really good memories from my past - going to a tree farm where we got to go pick out our tree. Walking in the snow out through the farm was just really a nice memory.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually after Dec. 6th. Because of Michael's birthday.

4. When do you take the tree down? Around the 6th of January

5. Do you like eggnog? No and Michael's Dad I believe thinks that is a sin against Christmas. :)

6. Favourite gift received:
Really there have been so many wonderful gifts over the years...just a few coming to mind when I was a little girl a doll named Stephanie and when I was a teenager a pink long wool coat....favorite gift from Michael is these the little drawers...

7. Do you have a nativity scene set up? yes sort of. It has a manger, angels and sheep and that is it

8. Hardest person to buy for:
Michael because most of the time if he wants something he gets it. And although he has interests and hobbies, quite a few of them I have problems buying things for because I have no knowledge of them.

9. Easiest person to buy for: Several of my friends are very easy to buy for - I see things for them all the time. Carolynn - purple, tea and socks. Jessica - dragonflies, lipgloss and bath stuff. Moni - tweetie bird, bath stuff and coffee

10. Worst gift ever received: I have received some clothing items over the years that just haven't seemed like me. Those are probably the worst gift.

11. Christmas cards: I like sending them out and I like getting them.

12. Favorite Christmas movie:
Miracle on 34th Street and Polar Express

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I try to start in September or October but mostly it gets done in November and December.

14. Have you ever "recycled" a Christmas present? yes I have when something just didn't fit me but I knew it would fit someone else. I don't want it to go to waste. First I try to return it though. If I can't then I will try to find it a good home.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas: everything sweet! I have a total sweet tooth...sour cream cookies, chocolate caramels, cardamom cookies, my Mom's pecan tarts....and so on and so on

16. Are the tree lights clear, colored, or both? colored but solid colored. We have all red lights on our tree. Someday when we get another house -- I hope to have more then one tree and something else - all white or blue or even the multi-colored lights.

17. Favorite seasonal song: Grown Up Christmas List

This is Kelly Clarkson but really my favorite version is by Amy Grant

Grown - Up Christmas List Lyrics

18. Do you travel or stay home for Christmas? We usually stay home. We went to my parents in 2004 and last year we went to Michael's parents. But this year we are just staying at home and enjoying Christmas with just us.

19. Can you name Santa's reindeer? Blitzen, Donner, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid and Rudolph (are there any I am missing?)

20. Do you have an angel or a star on top of your tree? We have a star. I have a beautiful angel that now sits on our table on a metal charger because there is now way our little tree would have been able to hold it. But more then that we really wanted to have a star. We still haven't found the perfect one. We found one we loved 2 years ago after Christmas but it again was too heavy. This year I found a metal white washed star ornament but fairly large and so Michael drilled some holes in it and we tied it to the top with jute. It works but I think neither of us are totally satisfied with it yet.

21. Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? Christmas morning. Growing up my family always did gifts on Christmas eve and stockings and gifts from other relatives Christmas day. It always made Christmas very magical for me when we did them on Christmas eve because the candles, the glow of the snow through the windows.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year: the busy and loss of just spirit of Christmas

23. Favorite seasonal tradition: putting up the tree with Michael tied with going out on Christmas Eve looking at lights. We stop at Starbucks and get hot drinks to keep us warm while driving around.

24. Family member you try to stay away from: Not really anyone. I don't get to see my family very often so enjoy all time with them.

25. Do you attend any religious services in celebration? No not really anymore. Except when with family. But Michael and I don't. We just celebrate our beliefs right at home.

ps: Just as I am about to post this Grown Up Christmas List sung by Amy Grant came on XM Holiday Holly channel.

Christmas Tree Ornaments - Part 3

Pets are important to us so they get their own ornaments on the tree too. One for each the year we got them. And then we picked up that kitty cat ornament in 2005. It is the closest we have found to both of our kids.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Deals

This morning we were off the post office early as we had a package to get to Michael's parents. It has their presents but also goodies. I was waiting to get my baking done before sending it. It should get there in time since it is only going to Denver.

Michael received an email from Kohl's this morning about their deal of the day. They are doing a Christmas deal every day until Christmas. And today's deal was a down-alternative comforter for $24.99 any size. We have been talking about getting one for a while as it seems this year we are colder at night. Or at least we are feeling it more. So that was too good of deal to pass up. Unfortunately it is Kohl's and we both really do like Kohl's....I probably like it a little more then Michael but he found things today too. They had all their holiday dishes 75% off - well that is what they do after Christmas so why contend with the crowd. So we got several things. My parents sent us money for Christmas (easier being far away) so we used some of that toward it. We will have Christmas plates for dinner on Christmas Eve. And then we got a set of cute dessert plates that say dream, hope, believe, wish that will be good for Christmas goodies. I also got a 3-compartment tray and a little little bowl shaped like a Christmas tree. We didn't pay over $6 for anything. So really everything was a great deal.

Michael though was wondering if it was a good idea that we had even went into Kohl's by the time we were done. Although I know he likes everything we got. He did say I shouldn't ever need a Christmas dish again. But I know he has to be kidding of course!

I am sure we will be taking pictures of goodies on some of the dishes so I will post them when we do.

But speaking of dishes...here is a little plate from one of the gifts my family sent us as part of the little presents to open before Christmas.

Todays present was a really cute pair of candle sticks with gold stars on them. We picked up some candlesticks today as I didn't have any left (they all melted in the summer when we were away so air was turned off). I hope to use them on our table for Christmas Eve dinner.

Well that is about all for tonight. Tomorrow I need to clean house! It looks like Christmas exploded. I have a little table set up in the kitchen with all sorts of baking supplies. There is a ton of tins and containers on the table full of Christmas goodies. And 2 goodie containers started for our neighbors. And then I have been wrapping gifts all week so I have wrap and all that stuff in the living room. So as I said Christmas exploded. Time to clean up and get ready for Christmas...well tomorrow. Right now bed is calling me as I am so tired with just going going and going non-stop for a while.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Baking

Today was really just a good day - really good memories made today. We had a day of baking and making Christmas goodies together. Michael usually just lets me have my domain of the kitchen and baking. It is something I enjoy obviously. But I have been a little stressed this year with the everything. I just haven't had my mind in it as much as years past. So Michael spent the day with me in the kitchen and we had a lot of fun. Michael made a batch of Festive Bark and then helped me dip Ritz crackers in pepperminty chocolate. We laughed and just had lots of fun.

So this year I made:
Maple Fudge
Chocolate Fudge
Mint Thins
Festive Bark
Chocolate Caramels - which didn't turn out - we over cooked them so too hard first year that has happened
Sour Cream cookies - which didn't turn out either
Molasses cookies
Cream Cheese Cookies with white chocolate drizzled on them
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Cardamom Butter Cut Out Cookies
and Magic Bars

I made the magic bars because the caramels and sour cream cookies didn't out this year. I made them while listening to the Nutcracker. It is a favorite of mine. 

So heading to bed as I am tired tired. Will post pictures and recipes soon. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gratitude Friday

1. For having creativity to get some gifts made
2. For getting gifts mailed out this week
3. For Chinese take out
4. For finding 2 Christmas tree ornaments for 2008 - Santa Magic Man and then another we are happy we found but won't get here until the 24th
5. For XM Holiday Pops channel to hum with when baking and wrapping gifts
6. For still getting so much from Eat Pray Love - as I am reading it again - for the 5th time
7. For a winter wonderland here - lots of pretty white fluffy snow
8. For my family sending us a package of little gifts to open until Christmas. They are a lot of fun and cute! It was very thoughtful of them and I am thankful for their kindness.

Christmas Ornament - Part 2

Just a few Santa ornaments...which seem to be a favorite of ours. The one that my Aunt and Uncle gave us is a favorite of Michael's and mine. The 2008 Santa is called the Magic Man. We also have another yearly ornament coming but it won't be here until Wednesday. It is one that we were really searching for and having some problems. But did find one we liked on Cafe Press.

Just some daily stuff...Thursday night I made several batches of candy and then got dough ready to bake today. I made chocolate caramels, maple fudge, chocolate fudge and festive bark. I mixed dough up for molasses cookies, sour cream cookies, cardamom butter cut out cookies and cream cheese slice cookies. I haven't baked the cardamom cookies yet but will tomorrow. The sour cream cookies totally flopped. It seems to be an altitude issue as I never had this problem before living in Colorado. They just are flat and melt. I think I need to cut the sugar down but not sure. I still want to bake peanut butter blossoms and the cardamom tomorrow. Oh and the Ritz cracker mint thins - I need to make them too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Busy in Full Force

* We sent off a BUNCH of packages today. The clerk at the post office was amused that all our packages went to different places.... California, Idaho, North Carolina, Washington, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas.

* Our neighbor had Christmas carolers earlier. I think they were from her church. I was hearing fa la la la la la la and I couldn't figure out what I was hearing at first. But then muted everything and finally figured it out.

* I am utterly exhausted. Going to bed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Ornaments - Part 1

Michael and I buy one (or sometimes more) ornament a year. We haven't got ours for this year yet as it is kind of specialized and we are having problems finding anything like it. I think we are going to have go to cafepress or etsy to find it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Doing Not Thinking Challenge

Here is the last update for my Goals for the Doing Not Thinking Challenge:
1. I am at 120 books so passed my goal.
2. I did attempt making my own bread but haven't gotten it to where I want to yet. And with this busy time of year I broke down and bought some at the store today. But after the first of year I hope to get back to it.
3. And pretty much the same with this one as the one above.

Make sure to check out the Doing Not Thinking Challenge link above to see all the accomplishments of the others that partcipated.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful...
1. for some creative energy I have going on right now - especially when I needed it
2. for the book Soul Collage making me think and giving me me something I was needing
3. for finding my Christmas spirit
4. for one of my favorite Christmas traditions - decorating the tree with Michael. It is a very special tradition we both cherish. Going through each ornament as we hang them and reminiscing with memories associated with them. Sitting and just reflecting and enjoying the glow of the Christmas lights sparkling off the ornaments.
5. for more chocolate then need but was wanting....Michael came home with about 3 different chocolates this week for me. I complained about all my pretty Christmas bowls were empty. Well they aren't anymore although those dove chocolates do seem to be disappearing pretty quickly. :)
6. for the simple pleasure of coloring and watching Polar Express
7. for Michael's Dad doing so well after surgery

I recognize that I have much more to be thankful for in my life.

Book Review: The Gourmet Slow Cooker

The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World by Lynn Alley

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
The sub title of this book is "Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World" and I have to say it is perfect subtitle. This book is great way to use your slow cooker but in a way that adds just a little more to the meal. Any of the recipes would be great on any night of the week but also for a dinner party.

The recipes are delicious but the author also offers up drinking suggestions to go with it. The layout, style and photos of the cookbook just make it a lovely read.

It is a cookbook I would like to own. And I know it is one I would open quite a lot as I use my slow cooker year round.

Favorite recipes: Chicken and dumplings, Pork Stew in Tomatillo Sauce, Dublin Coddle, Beef Burgundy, Provencal Beef Stew, Chicken Piperade, Tarragon Chicken, Artichoke Risotto, Chicken Cacciatore, Apricot Chicken, Beef Biryani and just on and on as you can see.
View all my reviews.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blog Hopping

This site that I hopped to the other day features quite a lot of handmade etsy shops. And there is so many wonderful holiday items. But thought I would just give these 3 links on Poppy Talk.

Holiday Ornament 2008 Guide
101 Reasons to Buy Handmade
Holiday Gift Tags

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Season to be Thankful

Darby already did a catching up post -- so some of this will be duplicate....

We got back from Denver - and almost immediately landed with our feet running. Taking off a week means that no matter how well you were caught up before you left -- there's a great deal of work to be done. That adage turned out to be very true once again.

But enough of that stuff.

This is a special season for me this year - mainly because of the enormous hit my family took over this past month with news that my Dad had cancer of the kidney. We all took a gigantic deep breath and prayed for good news. The mass seemed enormous in comparison to the size of our organs and we were all very deeply concerned. But with each test, we got more cautiously optimistic - the cancer didn't spread, but he was definitely going to lose one of his kidneys.

Finally - surgery came and we would later find out that his cancer was encapsulated - good news. It was contained to the kidney and to one of his adrenal glands. The luke warm news was that the mass ended up being much larger than any of us had anticipated. The news is good for now - and he goes back to an oncologist in January for more tests to make sure no other organs or anything were affected.

So this is why this is my season to be very thankful. The totality of the last month has left us all exhausted -- but even in that very tired state, I'm once again reminded once again about just how precious life really is. It's something that so many take for granted each day -- losing precious hours in their driving commute while working in a less-than-fulfilling job only to punish themselves with a night of painful partying that takes two days to recover.

So please take a moment to send a thoughtful email to someone you love - a parent, a friend, a grand-parent, a sibling, a loved one and just talk for awhile. Even if it doesn't seem like much - the holiday season is upon us and it's a good time to slow down a bit and to reflect on the positives in our life while enjoying the warm company of the ones we love.

Happy Holidays!

64 Crayons

Michael and I were out of town all last week. As I said in an earlier post Michael's Dad had surgery. It went very well! He is doing so good. We are all very thankful that everything turned out so well.

He is at home healing now. But I am sure he is going to get antsy as he can't drive for 3 weeks. And he can't do lifting until February. Michael and I have business over in Denver 2 times in January so we will bring them another batch of movies. I gathered up most of my old movies (Quiet Man, North by Northwest, From here to Eternity, Giant and a couple of Michael's old westerns) plus all 5 seasons of Alias and brought that over last week. I am hoping that keeps them busy for a while but will bring over more in January too.

While in Denver, Michael bought his sister, Mom and I Christmas coloring books and then each a box of 64 crayons. And so every evening we would color while watching a movie. It was so much fun to color! We also got a chance to go to World Market while in Denver - okay 2 chances as Michael's sister had never been there so we took her. Really Michael and I are so lucky they don't have one here in Grand Junction as it is our favorite store and often can't resist spending money there. Our main reason for going there though is that Michael needed to pick up coffee beans. He loves their coffee! I also had some tea while there so we picked up some PG Tips which is Englands number 1 tea. I am a black tea drinker and the PG tips was quite good. We also picked up a few stocking stuffers for each other. But really we drool through the whole store as there are so many things we like.

Being gone for a week really made things busy before we left where I just didn't have time for much. And now that we are back - my to-do list is looking a little dauntless. I decorated Monday. And today I working on gifts. But also dug out all my recipes and will start baking tomorrow. I have lots to get done by this time next week. I told Michael that I am not really feeling it this year the holiday spirit and anyone that knows me probably has their mouth hanging open in shock about now - just as Michael did when I told him. I am hoping it will come as the more traditional holiday things I do. Michael said we need to watch Polar Express. I hope we can get the tree up tonight or tomorrow night and then watch the Polar Express after so we have the glow of the lights while we watch the movie. I am sure it will hit me at some point.

What else...Food of course!

Last night I think Michael and I were in food heaven. I made ham and bean soup and it turned out excellent. Better then ever. My mouth is watering as I type about it. We had a ham a few weeks ago and saved that ham bone and it just made that soup.

Saturday was Michael's birthday but we were coming home that day so I made sure we celebrated on Sunday. I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. And then for dinner his favorite - Beef Stroganoff. It turned out really good too. I took a cheap steak and cut it in strips and put it in the crockpot with onions, garlic, a cup of beef stock and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I cooked it so it was falling apart tender and then added the ingredients to make the sauce (except the sour cream) the last hour and half. And then the last 15 minutes added the sour cream. It turned out really good. For dessert I made what Michael is calling Maple Heaven Cake. I am not happy how it turned out though so until I get it better I won't be posting recipe or pictures. But it basically was a yellow cake with maple and vanilla extract. And then a butterscotch buttercream frosting (that turned out perfect). The cake was a little dry. I think I either over mixed or over baked.

Tomorrow I making teriyaki chicken and noodles for dinner. And enchiladas for Friday night.

I think that is a good catch up post.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Doing Not Thinking Challenge

Here is the update for my Goals for the Doing Not Thinking Challenge:
1. I am at 120 books so passed my goal.
2. We were out of town last week so no baking.
3. Same as above.

Challenge I think ends next week. I am glad I accomplished attempts at them even if I haven't got to where I want to be with the baking yet. And with holiday cookie baking starting for me I am sure I won't be making much bread for several weeks as I just won't have the time.

Cardamom Butter Cut Out Cookies

I have had a couple people ask about for the recipe for these cookies lately so thought I would post it here. This recipe is by far my favorite holiday cookie and it is the now the most requested recipe too. The recipe is originally from Epicurious - actually I saw it in Gourmet magazine and then looked it up on Epicurious. But I change the recipe a little bit because instead of doing in squares I roll the dough out and use cookie cutters.

For cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For espresso and chocolate icings
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted

Make cookies:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Form dough into 2 balls each on its own sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap and chill the dough until slightly firm, about 1 hour. After chilling, I remove the first ball of dough. Roll out and cut out with holiday cookie cutters.

Put oven racks in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

Arranged about 1 inch apart (chill remaining dough, wrapped in plastic wrap).

Bake cookies, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes total. Cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.

Ice cookies:
Whisk together espresso powder, vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk until espresso powder is dissolved, then add confectioners sugar and enough additional milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Drizzle the espresso glaze over the cookies.

Melt chocolate and then drizzle over cookies.

Let cookies stand on racks until icing sets, about 2 hours.

• Dough can be chilled 5 days or frozen, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until ready to roll out).
• Cookies (with or without icing) keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

Makes about 6 dozen.