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.

Hi, there.

Big, big gratitude to the good friends & other new readers who picked up my books recently and were kind enough to tell me about it. You’ve brought some highlights into a week of major emotional lows. Knowing you’ve read Rough Passages–and my other books–brings me a special kind of happiness.

Thank you for your support and excitement about my stories. It means the world to me.

Also–

If you ever feel moved to take a shelfie and send it my way, I promise to keep it and cherish it and comb its fur and call it George…or something like that. I would certainly share the picture on social media as proudly as any gleeful new parent shares baby pics. (but only with your permission, of course.)

What? What’s a shelfie?

It’s a picture of my books in your setting. In your hands, on a shelf or table, posed with a cute stuffed animal or family pet…wherever. So MANY possibilities. If you’re camera-shy like me, any old pic of my books living with the rest of your collection is lovely. (Plus that usually give me ideas for things to put on my TBR list.) Ebooks? Cover on kindle screen works. Or any page on screen. I’m easygoing about it.

In fact, if you don’t have my books, you can still make someone’s day/week/month/year. Take a shelfie of whatever you’ve read recently and liked, share it in a post or a tweet and mention that you liked it when you tag the author by name.

It creates instant joy, I swear.

ANYway.

Thank you all again. Happy reading.

Winter Checklist 7

Lessee, what did I do today? I’m sure I must’ve done something to get to 14,129 steps and 67 active minutes.

1.  GOT UP EARLY. My doctor’s appointment was at 07:30. Getting there counts as an accomplishment. I know many people are at work before that hour of the AM every day, but I am not one of them. So I drank lot of extra Scottish Breakfast tea, and took advantage of being out & about during hours I would be sleeping to get a lot of errands run.

2.  What kind of errands? I bought all the things in the world. (Not really, but it felt like that and filled up my wee tiny car.)  At one point I sent Spouseman a text  saying, “At Target, waiting for Costco to open so I can do the pantry-foods restock. Not impulse-shopping tho.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Big lie. Is it possible to visit Target without impulse shopping? Not for me. No guilt though,  since I only impulse-shop sale items that are either shelf-stable consumables or already on a needs list. Still, I had to smile when the cashier went all poker-faced looking at my cart. A snow shovel, a Christmas sweater with a llama on it, drain cleaner, a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats, a pack of metallic Sharpies, Tostitos, cat treats, and a leather belt. Among other things.

(I am not listing all the errands I ran or things bought because oy. It was just groceries and etc, but…So. Much Etc.)

3.  Getting stuff is only half the battle. By the time I got home and carried All The Things in, unboxed & put everything away, cleaned up the debris, and finished all re-organization that goes along with seasonal Big Purchases Day, I was exhausted & hungry.

4.   So I made myself a festive, celebratory lunch of New Snack Foods & Fresh Fruits.

4.5 And a fresh pot of tea. See: point #1.

5. Performed some overdue authoring maintenance and posted “I sell books” reminders to social media. And thing happened that’s never happened before: it resulted in a sale.  (I mean, I’m sure sales sometimes happen as a result, but immediately?  For the title I promoted? That’s unprecedented. And a happy thing.)

5. I also did make an itsy-bitsy bit of progress in Ghost Town between lunch and library time. And based on past performance, I’ll finish the short-story verbing project tonight before bed.

6. Oh, by the way, if anyone is wondering why I waste time blogging instead of getting more writing done, welllllll. It’s simple. I can blog while dead tired & distracted by other activities, so it’s easy to dash these off in the half-hour or so while supper is cooking.  Writing while supper is cooking is a Bad Idea. That way lies ruined food and charred pots at best. Creative immersion is…not compatible with worldly attention. So that’s a thing I don’t do.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures later this week.
(I meant to be a hermit all month long, but life has decided otherwise. Good times.)

 

Winter Checklist 6

It’s been a few days. I haven’t done many productive things, but I have done GOOD things, and HAPPY-MAKING things. (And a few not-so happy things too, because life.)

1.  Decorated the house. Holiday stuff takes up a lot of space in boxes, but it doesn’t fill up a lot of actual home. Hanging garland took the most time. Spouseman helped, and fun was had. We have room for more lots more lights on the walls, but the stores are already out of stock on the brands of LEDs with white cords I prefer. Noted on the October calendar for next year.

2. Ordered a new Christmas tree. We’ve been nursing along an old artificial tree for a couple of years, (I think it’s like 7 or 8 years old all told) and it’s time to accept that it’s long past the end of its life span. So to speak. (Dustier every year. Branches without needles. Broken branches. A Pisa-like list to one side…)

I’d love to have a “real” tree, but I’m a snot who only wants an actual fresh-cut one, not one that was harvested months ago then shipped dead and dry. We went with a company my Dad highly recommends. New toy tree will come pre-lit with MOAR LED LIGHTS IN MANY COLORS. That alone will be exciting.  I’ll report further once it’s delivered.

3. Had myself a downtown travel adventure day. Discovered a new pie place. This is excitement in my life. I also got fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and holiday gifts. Visited with a good friend, and met some neat new people.

4. I made a doctor appt for tomorrow morning. Go me, using the phone & everything. Why doctor? Because ugh, I’ve been doing the “watchful waiting” gig on a sinus infection for weeks, hoping it would clear on its own. But no. It gets a little better, then comes back worse. Headache, facial pain, sense of smell affected, and now I have pressure in my ears too.  Decongestants & antihistamines don’t touch it. I can’t fool myself any longer.

Bracing to be to told the usual bullshit about antibiotics being over-prescribed, probably viral, come back in 2-6 more weeks blah blah blah JUST GIVE ME SOME FERSHLUGGINER AMOXYCILLIN DAMMIT. Or Augmentin. Or even a Z-pack. *SIGH*

5. Got the last rejection for promotional ads I’d put in for Rough Passages. (Not shocked, the slots fill fast this time of year, and I was slow off the mark.) My dilemma now is, go still run a sale or not? It costs nothing to set up, but why bother when marketing is what gets me readers, not low prices?

That isn’t self-rejection. My personal reach is saturated. Reaching 30 pre-orders for Rough Passages took weeks of relentless, creative, well-shared social media work.  I have neither time nor spoons for that right now. I’d rather be writing.

6. So, because things #4 & #5 were not happy things, I am making comfort foods like crazy.  Today I have committed garlic bread & slow-cooked pepper chicken, plus more cherry cheater-cobbler. Yesterday there was bacon for breakfast. Bread is planned.

7. And part of the holiday prep involved going through the sticker/pin/lanyard collection I’ve been accumulating for a few years now. They’re sorted and the pins are on display. So shiny.  That’s another happy.

8. Also I have sorted loads of DVDs into binders. It’s my contribution to the Clear Out The Basement project. Tonight I start the last genre to be sorted: action/scifi-fantasy-horror/thrillers. Left that one for last because it’s the one most likely to result in distraction and viewing.

That’s it. This one turned into a bit of a rant-vent fest, but hey, that’s a thing I do sometimes too. So it’s valid.

Onward to tomorrow.

Winter Checklist Five

1. Haircut!  I did the usual “walk-over-to-the-nearby-salon-on-impulse” thing I do when I can’t deal with the stress of using the phone but also can’t stand my hair for one more moment. I go in expecting to make an appointment for the next day.

But lo, luck was with me! The wonderful stylist who used to cut my hair a zillion years ago is BACK. So my gray and mousy hair is buzzed short with perfect cowlicks, and I have a sample size of mauve temp color to play with. I will apply that in a week or two. There will be pics.

2. Researched & ordered accessories for my laptop, whose HDMI display connector gave up the ghost today. It’s over 5 years old, so not a shocker. Good thing I have other ports available. They aren’t HDMI ones, but hey, any port in a pinch, so to speak. I had to determine which adapters would be best and locate a source. And that’s DONE.

3. Laundry. ALL THE DIRTY CLOTHES OMG. Swear to gobs, it’s never-ending.

4. Paid bills. Yay, adulting win. So exciting.

5. Procrastinated the grocery shopping. I can live without yogurt until Saturday when I have to go out. But I made a list. Okay, sort of a list. I took pictures of the fridge & pantry shelves so I don’t buy what I already have. That counts, right?

6. Posted a picture of my festive holiday socks online. It will not be the last sockpost.

7. Did my strength & stretch exercises for hips and elbows even though OW DO NOT LIKE.

8. Read about historic architecture and modern off-grid living and the science of super-storms, because internet.

9. Gave the cat lots of attention and took his picture.

10. And yes, I wrote a little.  I would have written more, but for my screen going terrifyingly blank mid-sentence and then losing Too Much Time verifying that the fault lay in the computer port, not the cable or the monitor.

I’m taking the evening off from productivity anyway. Ghost Town and Sharp Edge will just have to be patient until tomorrow.

That’s two days in a row the list has had ten items. Coincidence? Well…yes, actually.

 

Winter checklist 4

1. I got out of bed. I’m honestly proud of that. The way I felt when I woke up, I really, really, REALLY wanted to pull up the covers, burrow under the pillows, and hide in bed all day. Instead, I got up and did some things. Slowly. Stiffly. Painfully. In a haze.

But I got up. Yay.

2. I made more words in Ghost Town. Not as many as I would’ve liked, but lots more than I expected given how slow my brain and body were moving.

3. Got my revision ideas for Sharp Edge all organized & answered some emails.

5. Went to a library meeting and didn’t feel entirely useless. Mostly, but not entirely.

6. Organized a bunch of DVDs (Part of the larger ‘putting DVD into binders’ project) I’m so comfortable with the breakdown structure of alphabetizing it’s now a soothing, meditative activity. Reminded me of the best workdays at Borders.

7. Did searches on dyspraxia, ADHD, epoxy resin chemistry, eagles of Asia, and sage propagation. Because internet.

8. Reworked yet another page of the brain-bending present-tense short story. Only a few pages left now.

9. Did some reading and jotted notes for reviews. I love the idea floating on Twitter right now of doing 30 reviews in a month, but I don’t read that fast, and don’t have a backlog of already-read-books I want to review.  I keep forgetting to mention it anywhere, but I do post a fair number of reviews. I dunno why putting “I REVIEWED THIS” on social media feels like bragging, but it does. I mean, I say I liked things here on the blog and so forth, but I don’t specifically mention that I also said I liked the thing on its selling site.  ANYway. Enough about that.

10. And I wrote down my doings here. It’s always meta fun to put the list as an item on the list.

Third Winter checklist

1. Put some pondering time into a tagline for Rough Passages. Current front-runner: “Super-powered grandmothers, elemental Marines, and extraordinary teens.”

2. Added loads of 2019 commitments to the Master Calendar so I don’t forget them.

3. Sent in days-off requests for my  recovery days for my confirmed conventions. (Concoction, WisCon, GenCon & Dragon Con)

4. Finished a scene in Ghost Town WIP. Yes. I wrote.  How many words? MANY.

5. added accountability tasks to my Habitica dashboard for Sharp Edge revisions. because I’ll be starting that soon <cue flailing>

6. Did NOT take ibuprofen in the middle of the day. First time in a week. That counts as an accomplishment. With any luck I will be able to stop consciously thinking about chewing every time I eat by next Monday.

7. Did research on cheap, quiet treadmills. Because I am a dreamer and hope to have both a bit of floor available in the basement and the $$$ to cough up for equipment.

8. Reworked another page of the short story. Bending verb tenses makes my brain hurt.

9. Decanted some movies from their cases & organized them. A very zen way to spend evening time after my brain turned to mush after work.

All that, and a walk, but I also feel like it was NOT ENOUGH. Bah.