Monday, November 30, 2009

The Blog Christmas Cookie Train

The Blog Christmas Cookie Train has arrived at Candy Cane Lane. . . or at this recipe for White Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies!

This recipe is a blending of a recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit in 2005, with a glazing inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe.

This recipe is NOT for the dietary conscious (but are any Christmas cookies?)

Time: 11 minutes of baking; but lots of time with the little details
Yield: 36 very large sandwich cookies. Just skip dinner and eat these.



3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), at room temperature
2 large eggs

Whisk flour, cocoa & salt in a bowl to blend. In another bowl, beat sugar and butter until well blended; beat in eggs. Add the dry ingredients to sugar mixture and beat until blended. Refrigerate dough for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll 1 level tablespoon of dough into a ball and then squish flat into a 2" round on the baking sheet. This works best if you actually measure out the 1 tablespoon rather than guess. Place about 2" apart on baking sheet.

Bake 11 minutes, and do not over-bake! Cool on pan for 5 minutes, move to cooling racks.


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 cups butter (1 1/2 sticks, at room temperature (did I mention that there
are massive amounts of calories in this? but let's not go there.)
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 drops, approx, red food coloring. aim for pink; red would look really ugly; this is one spot where substituting would be just weird; orange would NOT look Christmasy, would it?)
1/4 cup crushed red-and-white striped candy canes (about 4 ounces) (time to vent anger with hammers!) Put the crushed candy on a plate.

With an electric mixer, beat powered sugar and butter until well blended. Add peppermint extract, and now add coloring. (let's all hope bleach will work well on those formerly white cabinets!)

Spread about 1 tsp of filling evenly over flat side of one cookie; top with another cookie, flat sides facing each other; roll cookie sides into crushed peppermint.

1/4 cup white chocolate morsels
Melt white chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl placed over a small pan of boiling water. Stir the chocolate, and once the morsels lose their shape, remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Transfer chocolate into a zip lock bag.

Snip a tiny hole in one corner of the bag, and squish the chocolate out of this hole onto the cookies in pretty squiggles. Before chocolate hardens, sprinkle some of the crushed candy canes on top of the cookies. Cool in refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

Ward off hungry hordes demanding cookies until they promise to be at your beck and call, performing tricks or tasks. I vote for tasks.

Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days, or freeze.

Now, you lucky bunnies! You get to head over to the next stop on the fabulous, unbelievable, totally fattening Cookie Blog Train to another marvelous recipe! Have fun!

And just in case you get lost somewhere along the way, this is a list of all the stops on the Cookie Blog Train:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving & Mall of America

My sweet son. This was at the restaurant where we had our Thanksgiving dinner, and I pushed the envelope by using an ISO 3200, no flash, hand-held (f/2.8, 1/15, 28mm with 28-75mm Tamron). The Nikon 300s is such a fantastic camera!

And like folks in the movie "Night of the Living Dead", we were drawn to that place that "people know and love," the Mall of America, for Black Friday. And we did pick up a couple of bargains.

Tomorrow, I'm going to show you the recipe and baked/constructed for the Cookie Train! Think candy canes and chocolate. . . .

And soon, I'll also be showing you a few shots from a restaurant in Mall of America. Think mall cops, reality shows, and Angela getting chastised because of her camera. . .

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Feast . . . or 10 of them. . . .

Doesn't quite have the Norman Rockwell photo appeal, does it?

But these were 10 turkey dinners I prepared and packaged, and then Doug and I trekked off to Brian' s apartment 300 miles away. Now the guy has more than ketchup and beer in his refrigerator: turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans & stuffing, angel bisquits, and pumpkin cheesecake. . .

But we didn't want to eat up all the food we made for him, so we headed out to dinner at the neighborhood Monte Carlo Bar and Grill. He lives in a very interesting neighborhood, my young son. . . very "scenic" with little shops and restaurants, and bright, neon signs advertising the likes of "Sex World."

You can bet that Brian, who's in portfolio school for copywriting, has plenty to photograph in his neighborhood!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

And lest you think I'm burnt out on cooking and baking, I have a surprise for you! On Monday night, at 6 pm, the COOKIE BLOG TRAIN is making a stop right in the middle of my kitchen!!!

The train is traveling through 12 blogs, and along each stop will be a holiday cookie recipe and photo. I just finished baking one batch of cookies tonight, but there's a strong contender for the featured blog post, and I'll be checking out that recipe tomorrow. (For tomorrow's recipe, I'm combining part of an old Bon Appetite recipe, with a Martha Stewart recipe. Here's a hint: there will be stripes, but not the incarcerated kind.) The best of my two efforts will be on my blog Monday at 6pm, so be sure and stop by then.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, why couldn't it be a cool Nikon fish-eye lens that leapt into my cart instead?

Seriously, if something's going to mysteriously leap into my shopping cart, only to be discovered by me after I pay for it, and take it out of my shopping bag at home, don't you think it could at least be a Nikon lens? Maybe a fisheye; maybe a really nice wide-angle, or the 24-70mm f/2.8 that I can only dream about . . .

But no. . . it's just Wilton Dipping Candy that decided to GO ROGUE and sneak into my cart, escaping from the Target store.

I'm sorry, Martha. . . I had no choice but to melt this plastic-like substance made out of only God-Knows-what, and smear it all over these pretzels. I won't even think about reading the ingredients list. . .

They're not even pretty, but they'll be transported to Brian's house this Thanksgiving, along with all the other goodies I've been baking and cooking.

*Sigh* . . . but it could have been a monopod, or reflectors, or someone willing to sit still for me to photograph to my heart's content, other than a dead turkey. . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November Spring Weather in North Dakota

Its an odd world, when, in November in North Dakota the weather is in the 50s. Doug "celebrated" by again climbing a ladder, and beginning to string Christmas lights.

Carpe Diem! So much better when it's 50 above rather than 50 below!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blog Around The World Train

Feel like traveling around the world today? I've been participating in the Blogging For Scrapbookers class at .

We're coming to the end of the class, and some of us have joined a "Blog Around the World Train." Here, you're at the Grand Forks, ND, stop. We're each including a view out our windows, and mine, today, was a bit obstructed:

Roger is repairing what should now be the last of the windows after the Cedar Waxwings Attack. And he thought that I should also talk Doug into climbing the ladder about 20' above the ground for my photographic entertainment. So I did!

But then there's also this, which I can see out plenty of the other windows of my house:

I chose not to include the Port-a-Potties.

Apparently, Excel Energy decided that digging up the potentially exploding gaslines once in a month, and replacing the sidewalks, was not enough. So this week they came back and dug them all up again! I just keep wandering out there, asking "What are you doing?????" and they reassure me once again that oh yes, they ARE very competently replacing the gaslines to keep them from exploding and they certainly know what they are doing and nothing could go wrong (like what happened to the 13 people in the house in Fargo that blew up last year.) So, maybe I'll literally be on this train, being propelled around the world (but hopefully not!)

Now I invite you to follow a thread of approximately 40 bloggers as we circle the globe; head to Amber's blog, and then she'll direct you on your way to the next stop on the world-wide tour.

Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Bread

More Thanksgiving treats! How could it be Thanksgiving without pumpkin bread? Even though I have other pumpkin bread recipes, I checked out this one from Organized Christmas , and really liked that the batch is large enough to make 8 small mini-loaves.

I picked up the little Christmas ceramic bread pans at Michaels for a dollar each. Looks like I'll be making more of these in the little pans for some of those small Christmas presents that are nice to give at Christmas time.

Tomorrow, you're invited to travel the world with me! At 3 pm, North Dakota time, I'll be posting a view outside my window. I'll be linking to the next blog on our "Blogging Around the World Train", and you can visit exotic places like New Zealand by following along to each link as directed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Here We Come!

I made up a batch of these little treats for friends and neighbors, and family. They're "Thanksgiving Blessings Mix" from the Organized Christmas website. . . .
. . . because, oh yes! The holidays are just around the corner!

And I think it's exciting!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mom Collapses under weight of Worry-Mode!!!!

1. Brian calls and says he's running a fever, terrible headache, lots of fatigue. Yep--he's got swine flu, alone in an apartment, 300 miles from home. . . I know that if he misses any work or school, he's screwed. He's driving to his apartment; I tell him to stop and buy a thermometer, gatoraide, and ibuprophen.

2. Dianna, (my just-turned-21-year-old) is doing a semester abroad in India. She's on break, traveling with 3 other students. I haven't heard from her for about 2 1/2 weeks. I check the students' group blog and read that on the 2nd of their 3-day Camel Safari across the desert, one of their group falls ill and is put in a hotel by "Mr. Desert", their tour guide. I scrutinize the photos on the blog; there's a photo of three students on camels---and none of them are Dianna! And my cell phone is worthless when it comes to me calling her Somewhere in a Desert in India.

3. When I left work on Thursday, just as I got home, I realize I forgot my cell phone. I return to work to get my "umbilical cord," because my children might call me.

Scott, the oldest offspring (26 and in the Navy) is stationed in Virginia Beach. When I get home, I turn on the TV. Hurricanes are flooding the streets of Virginia Beach. His facebook update mentions "state of emergency" in Virginia.

But I won't leave you in suspense:

1. Brian got better in about 2 days, and maybe it's just some other virus that's doing it's dirty work on him.

2. Dianna called me last night. Yep. . . it was her that got sent to the hotel room, dehydrated, feverish, and other problems that she'd kill me if I mentioned. But is fine, and no, the train rides were not particularly fun. . . . but she's gotten so use to men staring at her that she can actually fall asleep now while they're doing it (and yes, she tells me, in a sexual way!!!!!!!!!!!) She also mentioned that she had been 60 km from Pakistan.

3. I reached Scott by phone this am, and he only lost a hub cap driving through the water in the streets of Virginia Beach.

Who says empty nesters have more fun?????

eta: All double chins, nose hairs, and excess weight are strictly the fault of the photographer, who shall remain name-less to protect his anonymity, but whose initials are DOUGLAS in case any blame needs to be laid at his feet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's Gone to her Head!

Thank you, everyone, for all your very nice comments on the Beautiful Ms. Bonnie and her book reviews.

But I fear it's gone to her head! She's now taken to donning sunglasses, to avoid being plagued by fans wanting autographs. . . .

Oh, there's no living with her now! She tries to place orders for treats (actually, she asks that pretty relentlessly in general).

But this is where I may have to draw the line. I WILL NOT fetch her ball for her,

. . . . no, I will NOT!

. . . but she disapproves of my laziness. . . .

Actually, if you like the Beautiful Ms. Bonnie's book reviews, you can click on the "books" label in the sidebar on the right, and read any you might have missed. And I'm sure sweet Bonnie will gradually return to her silly old self. . .

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie & the Four Agreements


The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie has just finished another book, and is pleased with it. She says she's more philosophical these days, being in her dotage and all, and liked grappling with some of these spiritual/meaning-of-life/what is heaven?/what is hell? questions.

The author, Don Miguel Ruiz, offers a code of conduct for humans, based on ancient Toltec wisdom, to make people happier:

1. Be impeccable with your word

2.Don't take anything personally

3. Don't make assumptions

4. Always do your best.

The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie thinks this is just fine for humans, gives the book 3 paws up, but made some amendments for the dog world. She said:

"1. What the heck? I ALWAYS keep my word, except for those very special circumstances, like if you leave a whole pan of cookies on the counter. Of course, I'll tell you I'd never ever, ever, touch them. But what self-respecting dog wouldn't? And about leaving the front door open a crack? I'm outa here! I'm sniffing out good dog poop and email messages in the neighborhood, and finding decaying-meat delicacies. On that, I give you my word!

2. Silly people, really, you shouldn't. I really, really love you from the bottom of my heart, all the time, even if I chew up the remote or throw-up in your shoes. But I will take it personally if you act like you're going to take me for a walk, and don't. How could you? Just look into my beautiful brown, SAD, eyes!

3. Well, clearly, this doesn't apply to me. I assume you will treat me every time you walk in the door.

4. I do, but people don't. You're all so . . . dramatic. . . and WHY are you trying to be best at those things? The real secrets of life should be to be best at these things: Sleep a lot, especially in the sunny spots. Smell everything. Never pass up getting body parts scratched. Enjoy your food. Know that your people are the Best and Totally Good. And know that you are loved."


"Books are humanity in print." Barbara W. Tuchman

Monday, November 9, 2009

Odd Desk Companions and a Search for a Favicon

Calling all Blog-Readers! My brain is depleted at the moment, and I'm stuck in trying to come up with a favicon for my blog. A favicon is a little image-doohicky-thingy that sits in the address bar to the left of a web address.

If you're viewing this through Google Chrome, you'll see the usual Blogger favicon, the pregnant-Letter B in an orange bubble. If you're viewing this using IE or Firefox, you're likely to see a blotchy-squished face of me, about the size of a tiny pencil eraser and looking like a smudge next to

Motivated by shimelle's Blogging For Scrapbookers class, and following these directions from blogging tips, I created a favicon. But I don't like an eraser-head-smudge-face for my favicon, and I'm asking all of you for suggestions.

What would make a good, simple, favicon for my blog? A letter "A"? Maybe Bonnie's little face (although I don't want to smudge her either)? Any thoughts on this? (I vote "no" on using the Evil Cedar Waxwings.)

And while you think about this, I thought I'd show you a photo of my phone being a couch potato, and my pen prepared to fight the good fight.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Blog, Therefore I Am.

Well, . . . not really. But I really, really do like blogging! And today, I thought I'd update you on how Bonnie is doing, and tell you about a new little tool I learned about in the Blogging for Scrapbookers class.

Bonnie's paw is a little better this week, but we're still not feeling very confident about this. I've read that older dogs are stoics. . . that there is survival-value for a dog to not reveal illness if it can help it, so by the time a dog is making it clear that they're hurting, they may be in a great deal of pain. I looked up the medication Bonnie was on, and found it that Rimadyl is not a steroid, but a pain killer. She's out of this medication now, and what I worry about is that she'll now show signs of being in pain again.


This past summer, while Doug was away, I indulged The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie with this food, and she's been quite impressed with it ever since. Pardon our blur, but she was on the move, and I was experimenting with my external flash. I'd set the external flash at +1 exposure, and the camera exposure at -1.0. Wait a minute! Hold the phone! I think I know what I did wrong! I set the CAMERA FLASH EXPOSURE at -1.0 instead of the CAMERA EXPOSURE at -1.0! Time to check the manual again; maybe that's why the flash didn't freeze the action!


The tool that I learned about has to do with Google Reader. Using the Reader is a great way to read others' blog posts, but it's nice to use the reader to conveniently gather the posts to read. What I learned is that if you sign into your Google account, and go to click on settings, and then click on "goodies" , you'll see a little bubble labeled "next." You can drag the "next" bubble right onto your browser bookmarks bar. Now, whenever you click on "next" on your bookmarks bar, you'll bring up posts in your Google reader.

Also at, in "settings", then "goodies", you can find the "subscribe" bubble. Drag this to your bookmarks bar as well. Now, everytime you're reading a blog post (like mine, perhaps?) and think you'd like to read this person's blog again, just click on your "subscribe" button that's sitting happily (or at least obediently) on your bookmarks bar. If the blog lets you sign on as a follower, this accomplishes the same thing (oh, look! Mine again!), but the "subscribe" button is handy when a blog doesn't have a "follow" widget already built into the blog. (And of course, you might like to subscribe to my blog, even though "I Blog, Therefore I Am" is not true, but I do have SOME narcissism, and really, really do like when people read my blog.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vacation Log

My friend and fellow-blogger Jeanne mentioned a class on her blog a few days ago, and I decided to check it out. I love to blog--in fact, I'm just a wee bit addicted to it, but every once in a while, I need a little burst of inspiration. I decided to sign up for the same class, Blogging for Scrapbookers, and even though I started late, am liking the the ideas. Whether  any of them find their ways into my blog remains to be seen.

I decided to post some photos of an album I've been working on: Our Vacation Log. The inspiration for this comes from the photo storage process I mentioned a few weeks ago:  What to do with the Photos? I keep finding photos that I fall in love with again, and want to feature in some way.

And there are some who might begin to notice that as they move through middle age (not that I would be so rude as to mention specifically WHO but I might be one of them), they don't always remember exactly which trip occurred when. And trips I have taken with family tend to be very near and dear to my heart.



So I decided to create a very simple 8" x 8" ringed binder that would have one page per each trip we've taken over the years.


And I'm really enjoying the process!


It's such a "trip down memory lane", perfect for the "empty nester", (and rather useful for advocating to one's spouse for other trips, as I keep sharing "remember when we. . . . . " pages.)


One of the best parts is that I'm forced to choose only 2, 3 or 4 photos that seem to represent the trip the best. It's really an album about the highlights, and I keep the layouts as simple as possible, so that the "foo-foo" doesn't grandstand and take away from the focus of the memory and the photos.


This last example was not exactly a "vacation", but was one of the more memorable sets of trips in our lives, a trip down to Texas following the Grand Forks's flood, leaving our children with Robert and Barb, (where they all seemed to overwhelmingly fall in love with each other), and then the trip back to get them way too many weeks later when our house was approaching habitable again.

I'll share more later about the wonderful geeky details I'm picking up from this class.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Signs of the Times and Oh! How I wish I could show you a photo of a gecko in a toilet!

Last week, I got into the elevator at work, and was greeted by this:

They're everywhere! The fight against H1N1 is on, but I'm beginning to feel a little stalked by hand sanitizers. The other day I shook someone's hand, and felt like a total social pariah!

Shhhhhh! Don't mention the rest of this blog to Dianna!

She tells me that her standards of cleanliness have dropped a bit, being in India. (If you ever saw her room, you'd be rather chilled by that statement!)I asked her how she does laundry in India.

"In a bucket."
"The same bucket you use to wash down the bugs every morning?"
"Yep. And there's a gecko that lives in my toilet."
"Did you try to flush it?"
"Yeah, but he just scrambles to the side, and lives on the ledge."


This past 3 days, she's been on a camel safari! Then she'll be on the Darjeeling Express, and will eventually get to Calcutta, take a plane to Chennai, and start her 2nd project in Pondicherry on airborne mosquito illnesses. I think Pondicherry is less rural than Karigiri, but more rural than Chennai.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Winners & Duds

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's photos of Halloween costumes and ghouls tonight!

Sadly, not many trick or treaters came to our door. I guess it's just too cold, or people are too afraid of H1N1 "treats", or they fell in the pit left by Excel. Only two groups made it to our door--a group of real trick or treaters, and a group that pretended to be trick or treating, but really handing out religious treatises on sin. Guess it beats being egged.

Actually, Excel worried about the pits as well. Friday, they came around and filled their doorways to Other Worlds with temporary cement.

We decided to head off to the "Tales of Terror" at the local little historical museum, which had decided to reveal some of the dark tales of Grand Forks on its premises. Kudos for their creativity! They told about a former mayor/physician (not be be confused with our current mayor/physician, Mayor Brown). Dr. Wheeler, in 1886, was a student in Northfield, MN (where Dianna is a student), and helped foil an attempt by Jesse Jame's gang to rob a bank. He killed a man and was able to acquire the body as a medical study cadaver. Supposedly he kept the skeleton hanging in his closet in Grand Forks.

Here are some shots of the museum:

Again, kudos for creativity, but what is this? Not a fashion statement, I'm thinking. Maybe something about protecting breasts from xrays???? I'm going to have to return to the museum when I can look around a little better and see if I can figure this out.

Basically, we stood in line for a long time. Long enough, literally, for cob-webs to develop on the historical exhibits:

The apple cider and home-baked cookies were great, but after about an hour, my husband and I decided that the queuing to be taken out in little groups of 5 into the more dramatic, gory aspects of the program, just wasn't worth it. We bailed out, and headed home to watch our Netflix copy of "Drag Me to Hell."

OK, this movie is just creepy!! One son pointed out that there were humorous elements, and thank heavens, because I kept trying to look for those moments to keep from being totally creeped out! Remember how scary Exorcist was when it first came out? Well, this was effective, even in this modern, jaded, age.