Writing hard, cookies easy

I’m not getting any creative writing done because reasons, so to quiet the brain buzzards I figure I will share a baking adventure. WITH PICTURES!

(What are brain buzzards? YOU know. They’re the lurking voices inside that squawk, “quit whining and do the work, lazy woman, Real Professionals produce, you could do more if you tried harder, blah, blah, blah…I mean, they’re right, but I prefer to drown them out than listen.)

ANYway. Cookies.  Swedish butter cookies were a holiday tradition when I was growing up in the Morris household, (the M in K.M. stands for Morris) I recently found my mom’s mother’s recipe card for “Grandma Watson’s Swedish Butter Cookies”  complete with instructions for a “slow oven” and mentioning butter from the ice box. I haven’t scanned the cards yet, so no pic, sorry.

These cookies were a one batch once-a-year treat because, while they were delicious, making them was a demanding process requiring tons of work, complicated prep, and expensive ingredients. And drama. I remember much trauma with stickiness, wax paper, and fretting about wasted dough &  much worry over burning. And they never came out quite right despite always tasting fab.

Then I made them for myself the first time on my own, away from the traditions and procedures of my youth. And I learned a secret I’ll share today: THESE ARE THE SIMPLEST COOKIES EVER.

Unless you are a perfectionist. Then they are a hell recipe. I am not a perfectionist. My kitchen mantra is, “More flavor, less effort.”

I can whip together a batch of these cookies faster than the oven preheats–which is saying something because a “slow oven” is only 325 degrees F.

So. Let’s make Swedish Butter cookies together.

Start the oven preheating, make sure the rack is in the middle for best baking, and gather these ingredients: IMG_5238

Yeah, that’s all.

1 stick butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1-2 tbsp of syrupy goodness.  (I like half honey+half almond extract. Maple syrup is popular with others. The big thing is, some sugary syrup. Things don’t cook right without it.)

Here’s the one paragraph summary.

Cream the butter & sugar, add in the syrup & mix until creamy,  mix in the flour until it forms a lumpy dough, form up into a ball by hand, divide into four lumps and roll into sticks, dust with colored sugar if you want, and bake 20-25 min at 325 until golden. Cut while still warm. Done. SO. SIMPLE.

The devil is in the details. Pics are worth a thousand words, so here we go:

Cream butter & sugar, scrape down the bowl & add syrup, it looks like this:IMG_5239

Mix in the syrup until it’s all creamy like this:
IMG_5240

Then scrape down again (the red bit in the pics is my bowl scraper resting on the mixer stand) add the flour and mix until it comes together. Note that it isn’t all in a single ball, and it’s STICKY:IMG_5241

Don’t add extra flour or liquid or mix with the mixer until it’s a single lump, the cookies will get kinda tough (BUT NO BIGGIE IF YOU LOSE FAITH AND DO THOSE THINGS THE COOKIES WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS)

In any case, if the dough doesn’t come all the way together after a minute or two of blending, stop the mixer and push it together into a ball by hand with the scraper. Then divide the ball into 4 parts and shape into logs.

Did I mention it’s sticky? How gooey depends on too many factors to worry about. This is where I get mega-lazy. If the dough can’t be handled easily, I run water in the sink and wet my hands before dividing & shaping the dough, re-wetting whenever things get unwieldy. And don’t stress the logs being equal sizes or the same length or evenly rounded. Close enough is fine. Mine came out pretty well this time:

Sprinkling with colored sugar is totally optional. But yes, i flattened the tops to make it stick better

So, now all you have to do is bake them. 20-25 min at 325 degrees. When they’re going golden brown on top (or around the edges, if you sugared the tops) pull them and cut into slices. Cool and then try not to eat them all in one sitting.

So, there it is. A cookie post. Enjoy.

Inside my head, bleak events looming

First, the bleak. In this holiday season, this time of lights, celebrations, and laughter, darker things are closing in–real things not story things– hard, sad family things which are not mine to share in detail.

TL;DR edition: There is nothing good or easy about death’s slow approach. It sucks harder when it’s happening long-distance but not so distant travel would physically impossible or financially crippling. It sucks worst because death watches are not right for everyone, but some people think everyone should be there. (Apologies, that TL;DR was a little TL itself.)

The longer rant: Being present for a loved one’s last days  or moments is NOT necessarily the right thing. For many it is a crucial solace and a way to offer and receive support in grief. But it IS NOT RIGHT FOR EVERYONE, and there’s a cruel side to the accepted wisdom that it is. There is no special magic to “being there.” Pushing someone to drop everything to go to the bedside of a dying relative is a huge mistake.

Everyone’s relationship is unique. Not everyone needs to see a sib or parent or aunt or cousin or grandparent right up to the end of their life. Not in this modern age which often includes a long, blurred twilight of medical intervention. Not if the experience is going to color every memory and deliver deep, bloody damage to fragile hard-won, precariously-balanced mental health.

And that’s all I’m going to say about it now.  I am stressed and distracted and feeling very much the fierce-protector-beast at the moment.

The rest of the things:

  •  Reading: I have snagged up a TON of new SFF titles for my kindle through holiday sales & giveaways. But I’m reading the fluffiest of fluffy romances because I need hapily-ever-afters very much right now.
  • Viewing: I watched all the Lord of the Rings extended editions last week,  then checked out the Hobbit trilogy from the library, and then proceeded through the Lord Of the Rings again afterwards. On blu-ray. For those interested, yes, there is are noticeable differences in picture quality  & sound quality both.

    Christmas hibernation viewing has now proceeded to a from-the-beginning review of Game of Thrones, because Santa & Spouseman picked up the 7th season and we want to catch up. I am skipping all the scenes with Theon after he gets captured by the Boltons.

  • A new category: Submissions:  I have a short story I’m sending out to real, actual magazines. One rejection down, many more to come, I’m sure.  I’m waiting until after the New Year to send it out again, though.

And here’s the latest in searches:

  • Game of Thrones Wiki (lots of character searches, because I’m not up to bonding with characters who are going to die horribly.
  • Balsam Hill Christmas Trees (they had a sale. I HAD TO HAVE ONE It’s beautiful.)

Random cat pic: Scooter in his new Scooter Hut:IMG_5202

No no-context WIP snippet this time. I’m not getting a lot of writing done. The house is cleanish, Spouseman & I have clean clothes, there is fresh food & drink to be had, and I am stress-baking like wildfire. These are victories enough for me. I refuse to judge myself too harshly for not creating more.

And that’s all the all there is for now.

Life update: home again, home again, giggity-gig.

I had a lucky 7 things on my authoring to-do list for the week Spouseman & I were away:

1. Get a Gen Con hotel room issue fixed (NOPE)

2. Put a friend’s latest 2 kids books into Createspace. (NOPE)

3. Post the Restoration boxed set up onto Kindle (Yes)

4. Place Controlled Descent & Flight Plan into Overdrive for library borrows (Yes)

5. Finish two more scenes in Ghost Town (NOPE)

6. Get my edits back for Sharp Edge of Yesterday (NOPE)

7. Pick a title font & start back blurb for Sharp Edge (NOPE)

Not a great completion percentage. 😢 Lots of excellent family visiting happened and that was fantastic, but the time/energy/internet availability matrix didn’t work for anything more. Also, I always inderestimate how much travel will physically take out of me.

So now I’m tired and mentally drained facing a dauntingly busy August. (Excited, happy, thrilled, even, but also daunted.) Gen Con. Michigan Comic Con. Dragon Con. Plus all the to-do list things still to do.

On the + side, I did get halfway done with items 5&7, ordered more paperbacks for cons, and got a surprise convention opportunity wedged in between Gen Con & Dragon Con. So, YAY FOR GOOD THINGS!

While away I also re-read the Liaden Universe books in honor of a convention I couldn’t attend where the authors were Guests of Honor, and started a book called Freelance Familiars, by Daniel Potter, which is a nice treat so far. And I got Spouseman started on Tanya Huff’s Confederation books. Hee.

Movies? None, unless re-watching Thor: Ragnarok & Black Panther counts. It’s been a slow month for media consumption. Just. Too. Busy.

Lastly, have some random pictures from our trip. All taken near or around Seattle, WA.