Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This is your heart, it's alive; It's pumpin' blood ...

Trot it like it's hot; Trot it like it's hot.

In exactly 12 hours (it really is 9:00 PM here), I will be shooting off like a rocket from the starting line. Well, actually, I will probably be crawling along at the pace of a strutting turkey, but I'll still be putting one foot in front of the other in a running fashion.

My Dad and I are running our first 5Ks tomorrow. On Thanksgiving morning. Because that seems like the perfect time to run your first real race.

To be honest, I'm pretty nervous. I am planning to run the entire thing if it kills me. If nothing else, it will get my blood pumping first thing in the morning on Turkey Day, clearing out the arteries for the onslaught of bad foods (and beverages;)) I will most likely consume later. I just hope I don't finish last.

Here's the thing though. I've been complaining all week about my Dad signing me up for this thing. But, underneath it all, I'm excited. I think it will feel great to be outside, in the cold, first thing in the morning. To see the city with my feet pounding along on the pavement, the music pumping through my headphones. Here's what will be playing. I think it's appropriate.

Hey heart, on the road again, moving on, forward
Sticks and stones won't break the bones
They're in the car, on the highway
It's so magical, feeling, that no one's got a hold
You're a catalyst to your own happiness you know
This is your heart, it's alive
It's pumpin' blood
It's your heart, it's alive
It's pumpin' blood
And the whole wide world is whistling.
("Pumpin' Blood" by NONONO)
 
If nothing else, I bought myself a brand-new pair of sweet-ass leggings to make the whole thing worth it. Wish me luck;). A/J



My Favorite Cookie Recipe: Little Twists

The snow is falling gently for the first time outside, and it seems like, being also the night before Thanksgiving, a perfect day to bake. I'm re-sharing this post from last year about my favorite cookies to make around the holidays, in case you are also so inclined. Enjoy!
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Via Spoonful. According to the site, "Rugelach (the word is Yiddish for "little twists") is a
popular Hanukkah pastry that's perfect for any holiday brunch.
Get your kids in on the preparation -- they'll love rolling out the
claylike dough and spreading the goopy, fruity filling."

When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than my grandmother's apricot rolls: the dough had a tang, the apricot preserves were so sweet. I could eat a million of them. Last week, our neighbors invited us over for a Hanukkah dinner, and the hostess made these delicious cookies that reminded me so much of my grandmother's my eyes welled up a little. I am going to try to make them today (I really hate to bake, actually, even though I love to cook; I think it's the unwieldy mess that comes with baking). These cookies are worth all the fuss.

(Adapted from Epicurious.com)

Ingredients

Dough:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces chilled cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 12 tablespoons cherry preserves or jam 
  • 8 tablespoons dried tart cherries
  • 8 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips 
To make the dough, follow these steps:
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and cream cheese and pulse until dough begins to clump together. Press the dough into a ball. After dividing the dough into four equal parts, flatten each part into a disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours. (Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Next, put it all together:
For these cookies, I use a silpat mat. You should too; you will thank me. They tend to get pretty messy and the pans are a nightmare to clean without it. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a floured surface to a circle (the dough should be about a quarter-inch thick all around). Spread cherry preserves over dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons dried cherries, then 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, and 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar. Press filling firmly to adhere to dough.

Cut the dough round into 8 equal wedges (like a pizza - I use a pizza cutter to do it). Starting at wide end of each wedge, roll up tightly (I'll be honest here; this takes some practice. It can be hard to get the dough to roll just so, but you will get it over time). Arrange the cookies, small-tip side down, on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough , preserves, dried cherries, chocolate chips, and cinnamon sugar (if there's cinnamon sugar left, use it to make the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon toast). Place baking sheet in freezer 30 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Brush cookies lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (if you want - not an obligation). Bake frozen cookies until golden brown (you really have to watch them to see how your oven cooks - they can take anywhere between 25 and 40 minutes). Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Can be made ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.)

Bake your little hearts out. ~Alice
 
 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Statement Sweaters and the Best Pair of Tights You Will Ever Purchase

My sweater is saying "Thanks for stopping by the Skull!"
I am obsessed this fall with sweaters that make a statement, literally. I am working my way through purchasing the entire line of loquacious toppers at the Loft Outlet as we speak. The next up on the list is the "Dream" one.

I love these sweaters so damn much, I even bought my two-month old niece one. She needed it.

Janie and Jack Bonjour Sweater
Once I finish it up at Loft, it's on to this Foxy sweater and its friends at Tar-jay.



Foxy Statement Sweater from Target
While we're shopping, let me tell you about my favorite pair of no-fail, go-to every time tights, since we are entering tight season. Here's the thing about tights. The bastards can end up around your knees in a heartbeat, and then you're stuck walking around like Gumby or, if you're like my sister in law, cutting the top off and holding up the legs with rubber bands (true story).

These tights will not fail you. And they are cheap!! They are from Express - the Body Shaping Full Tight in Black. You. are. welcome. You will love them.

Express Body Shaping Full Tight
What's your favorite sweater this Fall? Do tell. A/J

Taking Stock

Hmmmm......

As the last remnants of a vibrant fall wither away into winter, I'm left thinking. What do I want to happen next? Am I happy with my life the way it currently stands? What do I want to change?

Here's the thing. I get bored very easily and love constant "newness," but I also very much like routines and am, at heart, a creature of habit. In other words, I like to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning (peanut-butter toast), park in the same spot in the garage (Forbes, Level 5, center in front of the chain), and sit in the same chair for an hour or so every night before I go to bed (with a glass or two of wine), but throughout the day, I want to experience new things, read new books, see new places, eat new foods, wander through new stores and city streets. I want to explore and then come home.

These last few years, my husband and I have been knocked off the intended course of things, career-wise. The next few years promise more change. I have one final year left on my 5-year contract before I will, most likely, lose my job due to constraints on hiring practices at the university where I currently work. This is most depressing, since I love my job and I think I am damn good at doing it. The only upside to this is that maybe it will force me to do something new and different that will help me to grow as a benefit.

So, in short, I want permanence, stability, and comfort at the same time I want risk and change and a new "spring." Does anyone else feel like this? Do you feel like you've really landed where you are supposed to be in life or do you, like me, still feel suspended in the air? A/J

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why I Hate the Elf on the Shelf ...

Stop looking at me, elf. Via
They're baaa-ack. And in honor of their return, I'm re-sharing this post from last year about why I so dislike the little gremlins. I'm so sorry if you like them. I just can't do it. PS This year we're going to welcome Kindness Elves into our home instead. You can read more about them here.

----

I'm just going to go ahead and put this out there. I hate the elf on the shelf. I hate his shenanigans (which require me to have to come up with thirty-odd days of ridiculousness, such as Jack the Elf drives the choo-choo train, Jack the Elf poops Hershey kisses, and Jack the Elf spills flour all over the kitchen counters and then writes his name in it - after which, I then have to clean up Jack the Elf's mess because the little jerk can't do it himself). The last thing I feel like doing in mid-December after grading stacks and stacks of student papers is brainstorming a new elfish scheme every ... single ... night, because God knows you can't repeat yourself or then the kids think Jack the Elf has fallen victim to Alzheimer's or dementia.

Or, I get the lovely morning wake-up call of "Mo-ooooommm, Jack didn't move AGAIN." To which I reply, "Oh, honey, Jack's legs are just really tired after running back and forth to the North Pole to report on your behavior. Plus he has something BIG planned for tomorrow" (all the while thinking, Jack the Elf shouldn't have had that extra glass of wine last night. Oooooppps). On that note, I am thoroughly on to the fact that my oldest kid has been thoroughly on to this game from about day 5. I think she just wants Jack to come back out of his closet so she can torture me. She's been asking "When's Jack going to get here?" since Thanksgiving night, while I, on the other hand, have been continuously griping about the stupid elves like an old-timer complaining about Black Friday turning into Black Wednesday: "Goddamn elf on the shelf. Who came up with this crap? A man no doubt, because I don't see any fathers knocking each other over to join the elf movement. I'm paying $35 for my own headache, not to mention all of the elfy paraphernalia I have to buy."

Finally, the Elf on the Shelf might be the creepiest toy invented in the last fifty years. Just look in his eyes. You can see it. Underneath that smirky smile is a Chucky just waiting for his chance. I know one of these mornings I am going to wake up to that elf sitting on my chest staring at my face, smiling the most sinister smile since Bela Lugosi's Dracula.

So, to all you moms who love the elves, more power to you. I, on the other hand, am sincerely hoping that the little creeps go the way of the Mon-Chi-Chi and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots ... and fast. A/J

Friday, November 21, 2014

5 Fun #DIY Ways to Deck the Halls for the Holidays

Here are 5 of our favorite projects from the Skull from last year. Have fun! Share pics if you do any of them. We love to see your work! A/J


How to Make Nail-Polish Christmas Ornaments
Ornamenting the Stairs. Simple Project. Big Payoff!
This "Cookies for Santa" plate we re-created from Rook No. 17 last year. Such a great project. My sis-in-law loved it:))!!
How to Make Fresh Pine Garland for the Craft-Challenged Girls (PS, check your local tree-sellers. They will often give you the pine-clippings for free!).

A Christmas Tree with Exploding Stars. The post you'll read if you click on the link doesn't say a lot about how to recreate this, actually, but it's a meaningful post, so I'm linking it. I bought the stars at Michael's. And I stuck them on the wall with teacher's putty. The others I hung as I saw fit, and I used white lights on the tree.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Books I Plan to Read over Christmas Break

These are the books on my reading list for the Christmas break.

I've been holding off on this one, because I want to read it so bad. It's interesting though; I really don't care for Dunham's point of view sometimes. But I admire her bravado. Can't wait to read it.
I'll be teaching a dark fairy tales course in the spring. Gretel and the Dark, by Eliza Granville, seems like the perfect way to shift gears.
I read some Picoult over the summer (The Storyteller), and liked it very much as an escapist read. I've decided to try another.
I saw this one at Target last night (about Edgar Allan Poe's wife and a mistress). It looks interesting.
Four books seems doable, right? What are you planning to read over the holiday? A/J