Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Official

We're moving to Texas!  The hubby received his official orders this weekend, and he's expected to report for duty in early April.  I about had a fit when he told me yesterday that he didn't see on the orders where I'm authorized to go with, until he finally realized it was one of the very first things listed at the top of the paper.  I'm not necessarily looking forward to living in Texas (I was hoping for a place that actually experiences all four seasons -- or at least has milder summers than Georgia has), but I'm very excited for the change and to be living under the same roof again!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Italian Rainbow Cookies

When I was little, my family's usual summer "vacations" were to head north to Connecticut to visit family.  Every time we went, we would always visit this little mom & pop Italian bakery in the town where my grandparents live to get various cookies and pastries.  The one treat that always stood out to me and that I just had to get was these little layered almond flavored colored cookies.  I think the main thing that excited me about them was their bright colors and the ability to break off each layer and savor them longer.

I had forgotten about them for a while until one day several years ago when I was in college and working for the University dining hall.  I was hanging out with the ladies in bake shop and we were all perusing some Taste of Home cook books looking for holiday sweets when I stumbled upon a recipe for this cookie.  I immediately made a copy of the recipe and was determined to replicate it at home.

I first made the recipe around Christmastime four years ago, and I fell in love with the cookie all over again!  It's not a recipe I make often because there are several steps involved in the assembly of the cookies and the process usually spans over two days.  It's very easy to make, it just takes time.

I have wanted to make these again for a while (I've actually had several of the ingredients for it sitting on my kitchen counter for about a month now), but I have now finally gotten the motivation to just do it.

I will warn you that if you're not a big fan of the flavor of almond, you probably won't like these cookies.  I have seen a recipe or two that also calls for adding almond extract, in addition to the whole can of almond paste that is already in the cookie, however I think that would be overkill and do not use the extract in my cookies.

Whipping up the batter and assembling the cookies is definitely easy, and I follow the recipe I've linked above exactly and come out with great results.  The hardest part of making these cookies is cutting them up as the chocolate layer on top likes to crack and break if you're not careful.  Per a recommendation I saw someone post online, the best method seems to be to first use a serrated knife to cut the chocolate layer on top, and the follow behind that with a regular smoother edged knife to cut through the remaining layers of cookie.  The edges of the cookies don't necessarily come out the smoothest, but the taste is really all that matters, right?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

M&M Kiss Pretzels

I have officially begun whipping up my menu of Christmas treats.  Last year's holiday baking & candy making ordeal took me an entire week of late nights and a 14-hour day on Christmas Eve in order to get everything prepared to pass out to our families.  In total I believe I spent just about 40 hours in the kitchen or at the table working on all of the various goodies.

This year I am determined to get everything finished before the hubby even gets home for leave, which means over the next several days I will find myself in the kitchen.  Fortunately I have decided to do a lot less this year, and plan on doing much less candy making and more cookie baking, which means the whole process will be a lot less time consuming too.

After seeing these treats pop up on Pinterest, I decided to give them a try.  They're super simple to make, with the most tedious thing in the entire process being to unwrap all of the Hershey's Kisses.

You simply line a cookie sheet with some parchment paper, and then arrange a bunch of pretzels on it all lined up to be topped with your choice of Kisses.  I decided to go with half of the regular milk chocolate ones, and then half with the white & milk chocolate Hugs variety.

I simply preheated my oven to 200 degrees, and then placed each tray in the oven for just a few minutes.  The cookie sheet with the regular Kisses baked for about 5 minutes, and then the sheet with the Hugs baked for about 3.5-4 minutes (white chocolate melts faster so they didn't take as long).  Then once they're out of the oven, you very quickly just go through and top each with an M&M, pressing the candy into the Kiss.

I found that my white chocolate kisses were a little more melted than the regular milk chocolate ones, even with the shorter baking time, so the chocolate spread out a lot more when the M&M's were added, but I find that I actually like the look of them a little bit better after all was said and done and they firmed up in the fridge.  Next up: Italian Rainbow Cookies!

Friday, December 9, 2011

You're Giving Up Your Career for Him?

Aside from a family member or two who cannot stand the idea of the hubby and I moving away to who-knows-where (currently Texas) at some point in the spring because they are worried about how they will be affected and what the change means for them, most people whom I have told about my husband joining the Army have been very positive and respectful of his decision and the new life we're beginning.

That was until I had a brief conversation with the woman who is currently performing an audit on our department and mentioned how I will only be in the office for another 3 or 4 months because come the end of March or so we'll be moving to our FDS.  The very first thing out of this woman's mouth was "you're giving up your career for him?"  Well, not that I consider what I'm doing right now a career so much as just a job, but damn straight I'm giving up what I'm currently doing for him!  Given the sacrifice he is making, it's the least I can do to show my support and be with him.  And it's not like I'm not going to try to find a new job, and hopefully I'll be able to get on board in the federal GS system so I can secure a position that will better allow me to move around.

It's been a good month since this conversation occurred, but I still cannot get what she said out of my head.  It probably doesn't help that her follow up to that was "why do you want to have children at such a young age?" when I mentioned wanting to start trying to have a family next year.  Since when is your late twenties too young of an age to have children?  This was then proceeded by complaints from her about her kids.

I'm sorry if you're not happy with how things are going in your life and/or you do not agree with how my husband and I are choosing to live ours, but please do not project your view points on me.  I have always been of the mindset that whether or not I agree with how you live, the choices you make, or what you believe, I'm not going to tell you what I think you should do because if there was one correct answer, then that's what we would all do.  This is not to say that I don't believe there are inherent rights and wrongs concerning some things, I just believe there's a reason why God gave us free will and with His guidance we're all able to choose the path in life that works best for us.

I apologize for the little rant here, but this is just something that has been bothering me for a while and I needed to get it off my chest rather than letting it continue to fester inside as I tend to do.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Proud Mommy

I just got the digital copy of Sunday's picture with Santa

Kiba and Saki have made me one proud mommy

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Today I took our dogs to the pet store to get their picture taken with Santa.  I last did this with Kiba three years ago, and she just hammed it up for the camera and was perfect.

Kiba with Santa, 2008

With this being Saki's first Christmas, I wanted to be sure to take the dogs this year.  I just about missed the big day, but thankfully I thought to pull up the pet store's site a few nights ago to see when they were planning on doing it, and saw they were taking appointments for today.

Saki is still very much a puppy (he'll be turning 1-year old three days after Christmas), and I was very nervous about bringing him.  Will he cooperate and actually sit still for Santa?  Will he think Santa's beard is fluff from a stuffed toy and try eating it?  Will he actually look at the camera rather than turning his head from side to side to check out the different surroundings?

Thankfully he was pretty good and worked with Santa and the photographer and made me a proud mommy.  The photographer said she got a really good picture of them.  And Saki was good and left Santa's beard alone, which I was VERY happy about given that his beard was actually real.  In order to be quick today with getting everyone in and out in a timely manner, they just took the pics today, and then on Friday I get to go pick up the picture of my babies.  I cannot wait to see how it turns out!