December 30, 2012

Best of 2012

After the shit of a year that was 2011, I had high hopes for 2012....and it did not disappoint. Overall, this has been a fairly satisfying year. I won the area Teacher of the Year award in April, for which I was nominated by my students. I had a fun, relaxing summer. I finished fall semester with only missing two days and without any major break-downs.

In fact, most of 2012 was pretty stress-free. Who knew that life could be so peaceful!

I had a very low-key holiday this year....hanging out at home with Corey and the pup. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way. One night, as all three of us were snuggled in bed, I thought “I love my little family.” Pure happiness.

Sometimes I find it hard to be thankful for things. But not lately. I am so very thankful for Corey, the best friend, best partner I’ve ever had. I’m even thankful for my damn dog Arlo. He’s a pain in the ass sometimes most of the time, but I love him still.

My goals for 2013 are to keep focused on living a happy (aka "simple & beautiful") life, keep cooking & learning new recipes (like cassoulet, ramen noodles, and macarons), save money for a summer 2014 trip to Paris (to celebrate my 40th birthday), buy a new car this summer (I have my eye on a Fiat 500 or a new VW Beetle), read more about/by Jack Kerouac and F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, and work my way through the growing stack of books I keep accumulating.

But, before we start a new year, let's look back on some of my favorite posts, recipes, and photos of 2012:

December 11, 2012

Classic Spritz Cookies

In an effort to ward of my usual holiday funk, I'd planned on doing one festive thing each day in December. I even made a list of 55 activities (from eating candy canes to going ice skating) to choose from. It sounds like a great idea, right?


My December started off busy and stressful, and I simply didn't feel like being all holly-jolly every damn day. I did put out some decorations around the house (though, no tree this year) while listening to carols, watch Elf, make some gifts, do some online shopping, plan a menu for Christmas Eve dinner, continue knitting that scarf I started two years ago, and participate in my school's Secret Santa gift exchange. So, I haven't been completely scroogey.

Next week, once the semester winds down and I'm not drowning in things-to-be-graded, I'll hang some more lights around the house and do some holiday baking...gingerbread, pie, fudge, and cookies. Lots of cookies. Because my favorite part of Christmas is the cookies after all.

My Grandma Green always made spritz cookies for the holidays; green Christmas trees with sprinkles were my favorite. I bought a cookie press several years ago and always use the recipe that came with it...a recipe that calls for 3 sticks of butter! THREE STICKS OF BUTTER...what could be wrong? 

Classic Spritz Cookies
recipe from Pampered Chef

makes 6-7 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
colored sugar or sprinkles (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer about 3 minutes or until creamy, scraping down sides as necessary. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour; mix on low speed just until blended, scraping down sides as necessary. (Dough will be soft; do not refrigerate.)
  • Fit a cookie press with the desired disk; fill with dough. Press dough 1 inch apart onto a silicone-mat lined cookie sheet. Decorate cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles, if desired.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool cookies 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

December 3, 2012

Apple Pie, American Gothic Style

Remember when I mentioned that I was reading Making Piece back in September? Well, there's more to that story...

At the end of the summer, Corey and I took a roadtrip to Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair (foods on sticks!). On the way there, we saw one of those brown tourist attraction roadside signs in the middle of Iowa for the American Gothic House. Here's how it went in my head:

Does that mean what I think it means? I dunno, what do you think it means? That's the house in Grant Wood's American Gothic painting? Could be, look it up. OH MY GOD, it IS the house. Go, go, take the next exit!!

Sure enough...there is was:

Just like in Wood's iconic painting:

At the little visitors' center across from the house, we got dressed up and took our own American Gothic photo:

We also learned that a woman named Beth Howard actually LIVES there. We were told that she rents the house from the state, runs a pie stand out of the house on the weekends (summers only), and writes a blog. It sounded vaguely familiar, so when we got back into the car I looked up her blog. Beth wrote the memoir Making Piece, which the Novel Cuisine book club class at Kitchen Conservatory had just read. I hadn't read the book yet myself, so I decided to get a copy as soon as I got home.

When I finished the book, I emailed the author about scheduling a pie-baking class. So, yesterday we drove 4 hours (one way) to Eldon, Iowa, with a group of our foodie/blogger friends to bake apple pies with Beth IN THE HOUSE.