Monday, December 16, 2013

Cookies, cookies, cookies!

This year, my roommate and I decided to bake cookies to give out to our friends before everyone went home for the holidays. For weeks we've been browsing Pinterest for holiday ideas and sending them to each other, and so we decided this would be a perfect time to give some of the baking ideas a try. Baking is much more enjoyable with friends and so last week two of our friends came over to help. Our cookie party was epic. We spent a little over 3 hours decorating dozens of cookies of different varieties and had a lot of fun in the process!

We made two dozen sugar cookies using Betty Crocker's sugar cookie mix. For the Santa cookies, we dyed part of the dough red (using Wilton gel icing dye--the best in my opinion) and just rolled the dough into the shapes we needed. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be! The regular sugar cookies are pretty self-explanatory. We rolled out the dough (coating everything in flour) and used cookie cutters to cut the dough. For the frosting, we made buttercream frosting. It is super easy to make and so good!

All you need is:
- 1/2 C of Crisco
- 1/2 C of butter
- 4 C of confectioner's sugar
- splash of vanilla extract
- 2 Tb of milk

This is obviously not a recipe to choose if you are dieting. When the butter is softened, cream the butter, vanilla extract, and Crisco together with a mixer. I say use a "splash" of vanilla because it's a preference of mine--I really like vanilla. The recipe calls for a teaspoon. After that, slowly begin adding in the confectioner's sugar and keep the mixer going on low while you add in the sugar. When you are done, it should have a whipped texture and taste very sweet. Add in the milk, mix it slightly, and you're done! To dye the frosting, we used various colors of Wilton gel icing.

This is a small sample, but I think they turned out pretty well! :)

To make the reindeer cookies we used Betty Crocker's peanut-butter cookie mix and added in peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. The antlers and eyes were done using black (and sparkly) icing gel and we used cinnamon candies for the noses. I think these cookies were my favorite!!

I neglected to take pictures of the mint chocolate chip cookies I made, but here's a quick run-down:

- 1 packet of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix (follow directions on bag)
- 1/4-1/2 tsp of mint extract
- 6-8 drops of green food dye (I recommend 8)
- 1 cup of milk chocolate chips
-1 cups of creme-de-menthe chips

We rolled out the dough and used the cookie cutters on these as well, but many of them lost their shape while baking. However, they tasted good, and that's what matters!

I'm very grateful for my friends and an excellent night filled with talk, laughter, Christmas music, and cookies! Here's another of my holiday favorites:


Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Holiday Season Watch List

It has not been difficult to get into the holiday spirit this year. Christmas music has been playing constantly in my apartment, the decorations are up, and we just experienced a glorious (and rather lengthy) snowfall. It's a season of red cups from Starbucks, twinkling lights, family, baking, and, of course, hordes of Christmas movies. So, without further ado, I'd like to present (in no particular order) my top 7 favorite Christmas movies. Yes, the number is 7 and not 10. Sue me.

1. White Christmas (1954)

What can I say? I'm a sucker for the classics and this one doesn't disappoint. Starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen, this timeless film is full of pleasant moments, jazzy musical numbers, and a perfect ending.

2. Home Alone (1990)

This John Hughes-written film is a must-see holiday classic. Macaulay Culkin shines as the young kid whose family forgot him at home when they left on vacation. Hijinks ensue as he must figure out how to take care of himself and deal with a couple of shady characters in the process. It's sweet, funny, and great for family viewing. 

3. Elf (2003)

Speaking of a great family movie, Elf is simply perfect. In my opinion, Will Ferrell delivers one of his best performances as Buddy the Elf, who leaves the North Pole in search of his birth father (James Caan) in New York. It is fun-filled and heart-warming with a fantastic cast and probably some of the most quotable lines in holiday movie history. Personally, I'm unable to refrain from watching this one more than once during the season--it's just so entertaining. Oh, and the soundtrack is excellent as well. 

4. Christmas Vacation (1989)

This one is a favorite in my family and we watch it every Christmas without fail. It's a dysfunctional-family holiday romp and Chevy Chase's physical comedy really delivers. From uptight neighbors to crazy family members and everything in between, this film has what it takes to keep you laughing--and possibly think a little better about your own family. Note: The clip below contains "strong" language. 

5. Love Actually (2003)

This is one of the best ensemble romantic comedies out there. To make it even better, it takes place in Britain during the holiday season. Every story fits together with such seamless perfection that you are left smiling and content by the end of the film. The cast is STELLAR, featuring (but not limited to): Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, and Hugh Grant. See the full cast list here, or better yet, go watch it. It's current available on Netflix Instant Watch. Keep the little ones away though; it's rated R for a reason. 

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

I am, of course, a huge fan of the original animated version of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but this live-action version starring Jim Carrey as The Grinch is a winner as well. Carrey is excellent as the Christmas-hating grump of Whoville and in this version, we get a more in-depth storyline and discover why the Grinch is the way he is. The film features a young Taylor Momson as the adorable Cindy Lou Who, along with Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, and Molly Shannon, among others. 

7. Eloise at Christmastime (2003)

This movie is just adorable, and my sister and I look forward to watching it every year. I love the character of Eloise (played by Sofia Vassilieva) simply because she is so fun and has a lot of heart. The little pranks she pulls around the Plaza (her home) are entertaining. Add Julie Andrews as Nanny, a little romance, and some Disney Christmas magic and you've got a sweet movie perfect for the whole family.

There they are, my top 7 favorite Christmas movies. There are many other great films centered around the holiday season, but this list took a surprising amount of time to put compile so limiting it to 7 seemed like the best option. I will be posting more soon, but for now, I'm going to leave off with one of my favorite Christmas songs: 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Beginnings

Hello and welcome!

Like so, so many others before me, I have undertaken to start a blog that will be filled with posts about anything and everything I hold near and dear. 2013 has been a long and somewhat bumpy year and as it draws to a close, I have chosen to forge a new path for a better and more positive life. It's time to seize new experiences and opportunities for learning. Enjoy the journey. 

Also, I'm currently obsessed with this song: