the hyphens that define my life

Project Cookie 2013 Complete December 22, 2013

I’m baked out.  Done.  Here’s why:


Baklava.  Walnuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar phyllo dough and butter.  My twelve year old would eat the entire pan if I let him.


Buckeyes.  Gluten Free and Vegan.  Whoop Whoop!  A Buckeye is a chestnut family tree that produces this little inedible and Ohio’s claim to fame.  Ohioans created this candy out of peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and chocolate.  My eight year old believes he should be able to count devouring as many of these as possible for his protein intake.  I like the way he thinks, but no way.


Cinnamon Log Slices.  These looked like a sliced russet potato and are pretty boring if you just try one.  But if you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee with these, then yum.  The cinnamon laced cookie is rolled in cocoa powder and cinnamon prior to baking.  These will not make next year’s Christmas Cookie cut.


Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread.  These are the family all-time favorite cookie.  If I could force myself to only make one kind of cookie at Christmas, this is the one.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe that never fails.  The secret is the fresh grated ginger and hidden chocolate chips.  Spicy, sweet and chocolatey goodness.


Carnation Fudge with Walnuts.  I used to have a great fudge recipe and lost it (DB, if you have it message me please).  This year, we tried two fudge recipes.  Carnations evaporated milk recipe on the label with mini marshmallows and the recipe found on the jar of marshmallow fluff.  As reported above, the marshmallow fluff recipe was dry and chalky.  The Carnation recipe turned out nice and creamy. Two thumbs up.


Coconut Macaroons.  I made this recipe last year and my husband loved them.  This year, he’s iffy. I love toasted coconut and these, I think, are great.


Hrostule.  (Her-stah-la).  This is the cookie I swear I will never make ever again, occasionally swearing at the dough.  Then my husband walks into the kitchen while I’m pitching my fit and says, “Oh Hrostule, this is why I love you,” and I’m signed up for another year.  This year there wasn’t much drama, after 14 years of making this cookie, I think I’ve figured it out.  Six eggs, 1/4 c. whiskey, 1/2 c. butter, melted, 1 tsp anise, 1 T. vanilla, 4.5 c. flour, vegetable oil for frying.  Mix all the ingredients.  Working in small batches, roll dough very thin (this is where the swearing starts), cut into strips (I use a pastry cutter), and tie each piece into a knot.  THEN, once all the dough has been rolled, cut and tied, fry in 350 degree oil until just begins to turn golden at edges.  THEN coat in powdered sugar. Start to finish, today’s batch took me 1.5 hours.  These cookies appear at every event from my wedding to the birth of my children to any random occasion.  Hrostule will be on all future cookie lists.


French Cookie.  This is my mom’s recipe, maybe my grandmother’s recipe.  I followed the recipe.  I’ve made this cookie at my mom’s house growing up.  I know this cookie.  Yet for some reason, it didn’t turn out right.  Something’s missing and I don’t know what.  My twelve year old LOVES this cookie too.


Peppermint Meringue with Dark Chocolate Ganache.  My nine year old is obsessed with meringues.  He was very excited to help make these, but by helping I learned he only meant eating them.  Easy, but oven hogs as meringues cook low and slow.  This recipe is definitely a keeper. Oh, and the dark chocolate ganache is so damn good I almost crawled into the closet with the whole bowl and a spoon.  I didn’t but it was a close call.


Palmiers.  These are the easiest cookie.  Pre-made puff pastry dough, filled with sugar, rolled and sliced.  Simple.  My husband and youngest boy decided they are going to France to test the authenticity of my Palmiers.  Bring it.


Shaker Lemon Bars.  For my girl.  These are the best lemon bars you will ever have.  Another Martha Stewart recipe that uses the entire lemon in the filling.  The crust is a spectacular shortbread.


Sugar Cut Outs.  The quintessential Christmas cookie.  We have 12 different cookie cutters that we use.  This year, a lady in front of me at the grocery store told me that she had special ordered mini M & M’s so she could decorate her Christmas tree cookies with M & M’s.  I thought the boys would love that idea and bought some mini M & M’s. Not a good idea.  My boys, husband included, gave the full body Santa cookie nuts (below the belt line) with the mini M & M’s.  Oh, they thought they were a damn riot.  Me, not so much.


Ruthy’s Apricot Walnut Rugelach from Chelsea Market.  During my recent New York City trip, I purchased the Chelsea Market cookbook and attempted making rugelach for the first time.  Of the eight dozen I made, the first four were disasters – not to eat, only to look at – as I overfilled them with goodness.  The last four dozen turned out beautifully.  This is the best breakfast cookie and the recipe is a keeper.


Pistachio Almond White Chocolate Biscotti.  Meh.  I made this last year and couldn’t remember this year if I liked it or not so I made it again.  Never again.  Not bad but not fantastic.  I aim higher than this cookie delivers.

cookie plates 2013

Then, as if the baking took no time and effort whatsoever, the cookies get wrapped up and delivered.  Some homemade Christmas magic. And, plenty of magic left at home for my sweets to devour.

I hope your Christmas is sweet.


Christmas Vacation December 19, 2013

My friend posted on Facebook that her favorite Christmas movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswald. Hahahaha!  I can not even type the title and Chevy Chase’s name without chuckling to myself at the hilarity contained in this film.

Do you find this movie funny?  I think I find it so riotous because my life resembles Christmas Vacation so much.

This year’s Christmas tree is only 9’6″, chopped down from a tree farm, but twelve years ago, our first Christmas in Parks, Arizona, we, then only a family of four, ventured into the Coconino National Forest and chopped down a Griswald Family Christmas Tree. We were thrilled that with a $15 Christmas Tree Pass, we could cut down our Christmas tree.  We did remember a chain saw so we didn’t have to dig out the tree roots Griswald style, but the tree was a beast.  We had a Dodge Dakota Quad Cab truck at the time and the tree, when strapped to the roof, was anchored by the stump to the rear bumper and the tree top anchored to the front bumper.   Trees really do look smaller in the forest than they do when you get them home.

This tree was so big.  How big?  Once we somehow wedged the tree through our front door into our tiny cabin we called home, my husband had to bring a chainsaw, into the house a la Griswald, and chop off at least a foot just to get the tree erect.  Our home was small but it had really a high ceiling too.  Once the chainsaw was turned off, my husband, channeling Clark, screwed the Christmas tree base directly to the floorboards so it wouldn’t topple in the night.  He rationalized that we were going to replace the flooring anyway at some point, what’s the harm in a few screw holes?  For the record, the floors weren’t replaced for another 2 years.

To get the star on top of this monster, I stood on the partial upstairs level, leaning way over the edge while my husband pulled the tree top toward me while standing on a ladder.  Our children, ages five and almost one, watched as their stupid parents pulled off this stunt.  Yes, children, we are the Griswalds.

I will be posting a Christmas’ Past, Present and Future blog and will have photos of this tree soon, I promise!.

Having watched Christmas Vacation recently while laid out sick on the couch with my kids, my favorite part relative to 2013 was, of course, the squirrel attack.  I AM NOT ALONE!  I replayed this scene at least 3 times until the boys were convinced I completely lost my mind and begged for mercy.  Add squirrel attacks to our Griswald family resemblance.

We have never burned down a tree (nor will we), I’ve never burned a turkey, we do not overly decorate the outside with 25,000 lights causing a power outage, but I do have to flip a switch to get our outdoor lights to turn on.  The likeness between our two families is uncanny.

If you have never seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or if it has been awhile, sit down and laugh with us as we just want to celebrate Christmas.


C is for Christmas and Cookie December 18, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — multihyphenatedme @ 6:49 pm
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‘Twas the Wednesday before Christmas

And all through the house

Not a creature dared enter the kitchen

Not even a mouse.

For Momma is baking Christmas cookies galore

To give to as gifts to friends and neighbors

As she has done for years before.

Dad and the kids are the Chief Cookie Test Tasters

They proclaim, Delicious!

Not one is a hater.

With Ma in her apron, she bakes and she bakes

All cookies must be finished for weekend deliveries

Whatever it takes.


I stepped away to swap out batches and lost my train of thought.  End of poem.

What’s on your baking list this season?

The cashier at the grocery store told me she’s making homemade Almond Roca every night between now and Christmas.

With our cookie plates, I like variety.  This year I’m making:

  • Sugar cut out cookies (our youngest’s favorite to decorate but not to eat)
  • Gingerbread snowflakes
  • Palmiers (mini elephant ears)
  • Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread (my all-time favorite with chocolate chips and fresh ginger)
  • Baklava
  • Peppermint Pocky Sticks
  • Cinnamon Log Slices
  • Apricot Walnut Rugalach (NYC Chelsea Market recipe)
  • Coconut Macaroons
  • Shaker Lemon Bars
  • Peppermint Meringue Cups with Ganache
  • Buckeyes (you can take the girl out of Ohio, but you can’t take the Ohio out of the girl)
  • Cranberry Pistachio White Chocolate Biscotti
  • French Cookie, like a Specaloo, a French spice cookie, with finely chopped walnuts
  • Hrustle (her-stuh-la), my husband’s favorite
  • Fudge, peppermint and walnut

Totally over-the-top with 16 and that’s how we roll.  My mom makes 10-12 different kinds and ships them to us.  My kids love getting her box of cookies, because they are so deprived of baked goods on any given day.  My mom has been baking the same kind since forever, with a couple variations each year.  The French cookie and sugar cut-out cookies our only overlap. We’re German bakers.  We can’t help it, baking is in our blood.  Baking is what we do at Christmas, or better known as my every week.

I may have to add some Date-Choco Balls and some Ginger Spiced Pecans to my repertoire as a couple of our new friends are vegans.  Or, at least, the moms are vegan and their families suffer, I mean, support them.  I don’t want anyone to go without a little Christmas sweetness and cheer.

Some of my friends are already done, the overachievers.  Not me, not this year, not next year, not any year.  I like to deliver our cookies right before the holiday.  Late nights and early mornings for me for a few days, then I’m on vacation.

If you’re baking is not done, don your apron, grab a bowl and spoon and get baking!


Advent-ageous Day 9 & 10 December 10, 2013

Monday was pajama day because I thought I was recovering from a wild weekend.  I was recovering.  I was tired and dragging.  Staying in my pajamas all day, ever so thankful for working from home enabling pajama day.

My Advent-ageous message for Day 9 is to take care of yourself and allow yourself down time during the holidays to survive the hustle and bustle.

I thought I had lost my voice, or at least strained my vocal chords at the party Saturday night because the music was loud, you had to yell to talk and, there were those Bon Jovi and Journey sing-a-long moments that had us belting out the lyrics.  On Sunday my voice was strained.  On Monday, I thought I was just exhausted and my voice would come back eventually.

Today arrived and I woke with a fever, a cough, swollen glands and my throat far worse than better.  Although bummed to be sick, I had to smile.  Serves me right.  No sleep, partying with a nineteen year old and running all over town, I earned my illness fair and square.  Super suck though, I had to work, life goes on and I had to rally.

Now at 9:15, I’m finally done with my day.  There is no way I’m posting a double feature today, I’m barely holding it together to type this post.

My advent-ageous message for Day 10 is to do what you can, take things in stride and persevere.  There are only 15 days until Christmas and my to-do list is long.  What gets done gets done, what doesn’t won’t. Oh well.

Be well my friends and enjoy your Christmas season.


Advent-ageous Day 6 December 8, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 9:40 am
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After four very short hours of sleep Thursday night (my own fault for over booking and procrastination packing), my twelve-year-old son and I boarded Delta airlines direct flight from Spokane to LAX.  Before I begin my story, this is my new favorite flight.  Yes, even with flying into LAX.  Fast, direct, and reasonably priced, I will take this flight any day.  Flying into LAX is typically not my favorite due to crowds, chaos and traffic.  Friday morning was a breeze, from gate to rental car bus, less than 15 minutes passed and what was dreaded turned out to pleasant and easy.

My company’s holiday party was the purpose of my trip.  This party is not one to be missed and I would go to great lengths to attend, and have, each year.  Somebody had to stay with the kids and my husband readily volunteered as his company party is in the near future, he can only handle so many holiday parties.  Our son, thanks to improved behavior and grades, was treated to a trip south so he could spend the weekend with his friends, specifically his BFF whose birthday is next week.  Our son has really struggled with the move to Spokane, leaving his friends, his soccer team, and everything he knows.  As if tween/teenage years aren’t complicated enough, pack one up and move one a thousand miles away to really know a good time.  We told him he would have opportunity to visit and this weekend was the perfect opportunity.  His friend’s mother, my dear friend, had a complete agenda put together and published to guarantee he would see all of his friends and have an incredible visit for which I’m incredibly thankful.

Our first stop was Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes to meet Grandma and Teta for lunch on the coast. (  At Nelson’s, we sat outside and soaking up the sun rays – having left six degree Spokane weather Friday morning – and enjoyed our company and lunch.  My son loved Grandma’s new Fiat.  How many 82-year-old grandma’s drive a sport car?  His does, he knows it and loves her for awesomeness!

We then headed to Placentia for a party at the park with my son’s closest twenty-plus friends gathered right after school to play soccer, eat a ton of snacks and unsuccessfully attempt to avoid the Canadian Goose and Duck Poop that covered the playing field.  My favorite part of this party was that most of the kids While the kids played I got to hang out my mom friends.

A wonderful Mexican food dinner, to satisfy our out-of-town cravings, for thirty followed.  Thirty. For us?  We are loved and so thankful for each and every friend.  My son was glowing when he left to go play soccer tennis. I dragged my tired, disaster struck looking self to my hotel to end the first day of our travel adventure.

Advent-ageous Day 6 is dedicated to our friends.  Where would we be with our friends? Their love, support, humor, honesty, and graciousness is a true reflection of Christmas.  We are blessed to have our friends in our lives.


Festival of Lights December 4, 2013

Light the lights, it’s 21 days, 3 short weeks, until Christmas.

Today I attempted to channel Clark Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and spend my lunch break with the start of our outdoor Christmas light extravaganza.  My goal today was simple.  I thought my greatest challenge was working outside in 24 degree weather.  My task was simple, put five humble net lights on our front bushes. I allotted 20-30 minutes to accomplish this task with most of the time anticipated being spent digging out extension cords.

Before heading out into the frigid air, I plugged in each set to ensure the lights lit up without issue. With all lights working well, I donned my down jacket, scarf, hat and gloves and marched into the front yard with the five sets of lights.  I was speedy and efficient, laying out the nets just so.  When the nets were in place, I ran up the driveway to the garage to find the extra long extension cord.  The extension cord was plugged in, the lights were in place, I was ready for my Griswold moment of lighting the lights.

No sparks, no fizzles, no explosions, just unlit lights.  Not all, just two sections of two different sets didn’t light despite the fact that they just lit up in the house.  My conundrum was an invitation to my neighbors who were watching my efforts from the warmth of their homes.  A few trudged over to advise me to check the lights before I installed them.  Genius.  Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks ever so much for the great tip.

After a bit of time was spent yucking it up with my generous neighbors, I realized my allotted time was ticking away quickly.  I pulled all the nets off the bushes, chucked the whole pile into the garage and stomped into the house, defeated.

This afternoon I remembered the colored light strands that I would have normally used on the Christmas tree were available.  Aha!  I’m back in action.

Fueled with delicious latkes that I finally got around to make, in the pitch black darkness and 14 arctic degrees I headed back outside and strung colored lights on our front bushes.  More neighbors came out (stay inside you fools, it’s cold outside!) to encourage me, one couple told me we are just making the house more and more beautiful.  Really?  All we have done outside is planted six bushes that resulted in every fire truck in the city and shutting down multiple streets and now hung 700 colored lights, in a straight line, along the top of our bushes.

Hardly a festival of lights, nowhere close to being Griswold worthy, but we did manage to honor Hanukkah before it ends tomorrow night and, the neighbors are right, the lights do look beautiful.  Really beautiful if you appreciate a Charlie Brown Christmas.

[photos to follow when decorating is complete.]


Peppermint, Fudge, Caroling and Giving December 2, 2013

Day two of our countdown to Christmas was filled with holiday fun.  Peppermint, Fudge, Caroling and Giving and it’s only Day 2!!

First on our list was to make a test batch of peppermint fudge.  Test batch is the new phrase my kids have discovered as their means to getting me to bake something just for them instead of waiting for our baking extravaganza in the coming weeks.  “We need a ‘test batch’ mom, to make sure we like them.” They are currently over-the-top obsessed with Torani’s Peppermint Syrup in their hot chocolate which, thanks to the dropping temperatures, is our new morning and after school ritual.  In one of my magazines we found a recipe for Peppermint Fudge using Torani syrup and begged to make up a batch.  I gathered the ingredients and we planned to make fudge tonight while dinner was in the oven.  Opening candy canes was a fun “ooh aah” festive moment.  Candy canes are so simple yet bring so much joy.  And yet, nothing says Christmas in this house like taking a mallet and making candy cane dust.  The fudge was made then covered with candy cane bits and powder and put into the fridge to enjoy after dinner.

After dinner, but before fudge, we started stringing lights onto our Christmas tree.  For the first time, ever in my life, we will have white lights on our tree.  My kids want a rainbow tree like normal, but since I’m the official light stringer, I say white lights this year.  Rainbow Christmas outside, white Christmas inside.  We’re in a new city, new house, new living room, why not? The tree is still a work in progress.  1400 lights and I’m not halfway done.  The tree is nearly 10 feet tall and really wide and I’m a tedious light stringer, every branch gets lights.  I think we may have 3500 lights by the time we’re done.  My husband, Mr. Fix-It/Build-It read the box and ok’d the amps (as if I’ve ever checked that out before) and provided the power strip for my many light strands.

At some point, I was abandoned to hang lights alone, as the football boys went to the basement to watch the Seahawk/Saints game.  Left with my egg nog light, I stayed on task until someone surprisingly knocked on our front door.  When I answered the door, a group, a young man, four women and an infant, stood on my front porch with guitar and tambourines in hand and told me they were caroling to raise money for the Philippines.   They told me they were Filipino and wanted to help their families and friends in the Philippines.  My husband just happened to hand me some cash earlier tonight, because I never have cash on hand. He’s like my personal ATM.  Convenient.  It’s really his way of saying, stop making $3.35 debits at Starbucks. At least he isn’t saying stop going to Starbucks.   I had tucked the money away in my sweatshirt pocket and was happy to make a donation to their cause.  As soon as the money exchanged hands, tambourines jangled and they broke into song, Feliz Navidad. They sang three verses, Spanish, then in English, then the third verse gave thanks for the donation, said they would pray for me, and asked that I pray for the Philippines.  They sang loud and strong and proud and my family came running to see the excitement.

After the carolers left, we played a couple of hands of Uno, talked about the Philippines, the importance of giving and tried our peppermint fudge.  Though still slightly disgruntled over white lights instead of rainbow lights, the boys, especially (and shockingly) our youngest talked about the importance of giving, always, but especially during the holidays.   I can’t think of a better way to countdown to Christmas than to impart this message of giving to those in need to our children. And to do so with rocking carolers, family time and fudge too?  A Christmas 2013 memory we won’t soon forget.


Thankweenmas November 24, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 9:26 pm
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One of the most genius party theme’s I have ever experienced was the Thankweenmas party my then 20-something friends (they are not at least 30, while, I’m, well, 45), were kind enough to invite this old lady to in years past.

The Thankweenmas concept was one party to cover all holidays in October, November and December, including Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Decorations from all three holidays were around the house and competition for the ugliest Christmas sweater was part of the fun.  One year I think there was a mixed holiday craft project, or snow globes with turkeys or something.  I was drinking and I’ve aged since then so anything could have happened.

With Chanukah (JC that’s for you) beginning on Thanksgiving this year, I realized that Chanukah, Kwanza, and Diwali were omitted from the Thankweenmas festivities.  If we’re going to include the holidays, why not include them all? Thankweenmas would need to change to Thankwalinzaweenukahmas.  That’s a mouthful but it would be a more colorful party.

As much as I love the combined approach, I’m a one holiday at a time kind of gal.  It bugs me that stores have Halloween decorations out in August, Christmas stuff out in October and Christmas music playing before Thanksgiving.  As much as I love to plan, I prefer to appreciate a holiday a couple weeks before the actual holiday, shopping for gifts included.  I may make my lists in advance but I hold off until I’m in the holiday spirit.

Some of my neighbors don’t agree with me.  Christmas lights are already strung on homes, bushes and trees.  My husband’s theory is that these people are smart to not wait to hang their lights in the snow.  In a moment of quickness, I asked Senor Scrooge if he would be willing to hang the Christmas lights if there was no snow.  He said, and I have three witnesses, absolutely.  Great, the Saturday after Thanksgiving there will be no snow, thanks for volunteering.  Score one my side.

The boys then jumped on my case for having boring light decorations.  Single strand lights are not fun, apparently.  They each had suggestion, one wants inflatable lawn décor (never in my lifetime), one wants Santa, a sleigh and reindeer on the roof (really?) and the other wants me to buy fiber optic lights and create a light show (honestly, they know the lack of my technical abilities, how is this even considered?). I told them my plan to but a gigantic 3′ diameter wreath to hang on the big window outside of the dining room with berries and red velvet bow.  Their reaction, in unison, was a huge groan.  They may have mumbled “old lady” but with my hearing I couldn’t be sure enough to go after them.

The boys have acquired this holiday disdain from their father, Bah Humbug himself.  The irony is that for all the complaining and moaning and groaning about the amount of work or what we lack, as soon as Christmas comes together they are happy and anxious and completely giddy.

And here I am talking about Christmas when it isn’t even Thanksgiving.  Truth is, I did nothing toward making Thanksgiving happen today.  I went for a walk, raked up more, yes more, leaves and painted our bedroom.  It must be the paint, named Winter’s Sky, that has me thinking of Christmas.  Tomorrow I’ll get back on the Turkey Track.