Friday, December 21, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
I should be writing but I'm baking, booted still from recent ankle surgery. The boot prevents me from walking outside in the unseasonably warm December weather. It's sixty degrees on December 4th in Nebraska. To keep my spirits up, I tell myself how necessary this latest round of surgery was, and it means I'll be able to keep walking well into my dottage. Which sometimes feels like now.
But as long as I can remember how to turn on the oven, I like to do a little holiday baking....and reminiscing.
Here's a holiday baking 'rerun' blog post from November 29, 2009.
My mother didn’t like to bake so she taught me when I was very young. Soon I was adept at family favorites from both sides, including chocolate applesauce cake, date nut bars, tomato soup cake, best two egg cake….and inept at things like fudge and one concoction involving powdered sugar, cocoa, milk and Cocoa Krispies. I think it was supposed to be frosting.
In 7th grade I nearly flunked the sewing part of Home Ec (In middle school, my sons took BASE, which was…home ec with careers added. Sensible addition.). I did much better in the kitchen. I can still remember the day we learned the ‘water displacement’ method to accurately measure peanut butter. It’s slimy, but it works.
Well, writing became a much better (and lower calorie) outlet for my creativity. Then there was my husband’s diabetes diagnosis…and the fact the disease runs on both sides of my family. The oldest of Grandma Andrews’ four daughters was Dorothea, a nurse, who had a foot amputated due to complications from the disease. Also, while both my children enjoy an occasional cookie, and Erik is very partial to the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (recipe listed below), neither seems to have inherited my raging sweet tooth. Finally, the whole working mom balancing act ultimately left no time for laboriously rolling out cookies and decorating with colored sugar, not when there were papers to grade and copyedits due.
Now there are no more papers to grade, not for me. After 15 years at a large university, my husband and I were ready for a lifestyle change. This will be our second holiday season here on the prairie, in the town my husband wanted to live in for nearly 20 years. Long before we had children, we’d drive ‘home’ for the holidays from Flagstaff, Arizona to our folks in Iowa. This Nebraska town on Interstate 80 enchanted him, though at the time I thought he was nuts. And not the kind that go in cookies. Instead we went east. But when a job opened at this university of 6,500 students in his ‘dream town’ at the exact time we were ready for a move, it seemed like fate and faith were aligned.
It’s been a challenging yet wonderful change. Soon I will be realizing my life-long goal of staying home to write fulltime. It’s scary, exhilarating and, apparently, baking inducing.
Maybe next year I will pull out Grandma Rock’s cookie cutters.
What’s your favorite holiday cookie recipe?
Basic Cake Box Cookie/Bar recipe
- 1 box any flavor cake mix (Pillsbury Classic Yellow particularly good)
- 1/3 cup oil
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 egg
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Add one 12 oz. package chocolate chips or any flavor. Spread in a greased 9 x 13 glass pan. Bake at 350 for ten – twelve minutes til golden brown. Let cool and cut into bars.
You can also use this dough to make cookies. Bake the cookies at 375 degrees.
Bake at 375 7-8 minutes or until golden.
Frost or sprinkle with colored sugar.
You can also use a chocolate cake mix, but it’s drier so use ½ cup oil. Or just make brownies!
Lemon is also a good flavor. Just form into balls and let flatten as they bake. Make a thin glaze out of lemon juice, powdered sugar and a little milk or water.
Or bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan again til done and frost with canned lemon frosting.
Iowa State Fair Cookbook Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup shortening or margarine (I use margarine sticks)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 12 oz. Package semisweet chocolate chips
The dough works better after it’s been chilled a bit in the refrigerator. And the best thing about these cookies is you can freeze them as drop cookies or roll up as logs in wax paper. Either way you can bake right from the freezer when you want some.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
“Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!”
Nothing is more important than keeping traditions, he seems to chide. On this most un-traditional of Thanksgivings the concept of ‘traditions’ resonates with me.
Older son is in Chicago visiting a childhood friend who attends a big university there and whose parents now reside on the East Coast.
Earlier today younger son and dad were on the road to Iowa, listening on Sirius Radio to play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi call the West Virginia University basketball game. They had Thanksgiving dinner with one of my brother’s and his family (the other, a cop, has to work). Tomorrow they’ll head to the family alma mater for the WVU vs. Iowa State football game…and root against the alma mater.
Our Iowa State academic roots go deep, but our athletic hearts belong to WVU… where we spent 15 years.
My mom and I were invited next door (tho stayed home) and another neighbor brought us over the most magnificent cake to thank us “for being such good neighbors.” Both here on the prairie and in Morgantown, WV we have been blessed with wonderful neighbors.
A lifetime ago my husband and I made a decision not to travel on the holidays. Incidents like backing down an interstate on-ramp in a blinding snowstorm and spending the night in a Red Cross shelter contributed to this decision.
Last year we finally broke our vow and spent Thanksgiving with all my in-laws so we could celebrate a beloved aunt’s 95th birthday the day after.
We also like to be home - our home - for the holidays.
I know each family out there has its own traditions: some spend the holidays the same place their entire childhood and adult life. To each their own. That’s the real beauty of traditions.
When my three siblings and I were growing up we adhered to a strict Christmas ‘schedule.’ Church on Christmas Eve (except the year we ALL had stomach flu; God Bless my mother!), open one present on Christmas Eve, and stockings and the rest of the presents on Christmas morning. If we were at Grandma and Grandpa Rock’s shrimp cocktail was de rigeur.
Then I married a man with pure Danish roots. This Scandinavian family opened all their presents on Christmas Eve.
Needless to say, our son or sons (depending on if the older one is in the country…but that’s another story) adhere to ‘my’ family’s traditions.
Another tradition that’s biting the dust this year is putting up the tree the night of Thanksgiving or the day after. For years a dear friend in M’town would join us for dinner and good naturedly help with the decorating…which commenced the minute the last bite of pumpkin pie was eaten.
Today I’m in a boot, having had ankle surgery a couple weeks ago. My mom (who has lived with us for nearly a decade-and-a-half) stayed home to keep me company instead of going off to my brother’s. Decorating for Christmas will have to wait till the men are home and can haul things up from the storage room.
Recently I just finished reading Anna Quindlen’s eloquent memoir “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.” She writes beautifully in her chapter on faith about her family tradition of reading aloud Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with her three children and husband every Christmas Eve.
No doubt when/if my children have children of their own way down the road - and those children of my sons come to visit - one present will be opened on Christmas Eve and the rest saved for after-stockings on Christmas morning.
The rest is fluid. And embracing the fluidity of life is the best tradition of all.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
- Figure out the day of the week
- Reschedule dental apt
- Be brilliant writerly-wise
She is an organizational whiz, able to eyeball a room and know exactly how to pick up and arrange things perfectly in intelligent systems
Me, I handle maintenance.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Monday, July 9, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
Please note that some of the links here go to comics that are "PG-13ish" and may have offensive language. This is not my normal milieu!
Web comic artists sometimes work together as a "co-op" of 5-15 other artists to promote their work and merchandise. This provides a central place to sell books, merchandise, and t-shirts. By combining with other artists, they can help build traffic to their site and their store.
West Virginia artist Danielle Corsetto (she lives in Shepherdstown), who draws the web comic Girls With Slingshots, works with Blind Ferret Entertainment for promotion and sales.
Jeph Jacques, who draws the enormously successful comic Questionable Content, gets about 400,000 readers per day, but he's an exceptional example. He sells his books and merchandise through the online web comics store Topatoco. He's even had plushy versions of his robot sidekick characters made for sale. (You can read more about the origins of Topatoco here.)
Comics artists often sell an artist edition of their books that is signed with a small drawing at a 50-100 percent premium over the cost of the basic unsigned books.
Even established mainstream comic artists, such as Karl Kerschl, work at selling their web comic material on the side. His "day job" is drawing comics for major publishers, such as the Assassin's Creed books. His side project is drawing the adorable web comic The Abominable Charles Christopher.
A few web comic artists have become bestselling authors working with conventional publishers. Canadian artist Kate Beaton is an example, with her book of Hark, A Vagrant becoming a New York Times bestseller.
Some have made use of the crowd-sourcing Kickstarter to raise money to pay the cost of publishing paper versions of their books or to buy enough time off from a day job to get work done on a project. One person who has been doing this successfully is Gordon McAlpin with his movie-theater themed comic Multiplex.
Keep in mind that people trying to do this need to have an established following to begin with.