Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sugar Cookie recipe and tips

After my recent sugar cookie post, I told C.L. Hanson that I would give her tips on sugar cookie baking. I've had other people ask me about it before, and truth be told, this is my one real talent, so here goes.

This recipe gets full credit from Betty crocker. However, I've been using this recipe for so long, I really understand how it works and how to make it work.

For starters, this is a 3 day process for me. I make the dough one day, roll and cut them out the next day, then frost on the third. This is usually because I at least double, often triple the recipe. It is soooo yummy, I have to accomodate everyone. This recipe is so great because it doesn't have any nasty aftertaste, and it's not too sweet.

The recipe:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. In large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, the butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, almond extract and egg until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
2. Heat oven to 375°F. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured, cloth covered surface, roll each half of dough 3/16 inch thick. Cut into assorted shapes with cookie cutters, or cut around patterns traced from storybook illustrations. If cookies are to be hung as decorations, make a hole in each 1/4 inch from top with end of plastic straw. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until light brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

The tricks I use:

Lots of flour. I only use the amount required for the recipe, but when I get ready to roll and cut, I put a fresh layer on the counter or table, I sprinkle some on the mound of cookie dough, then I make sure the rolling pin has plenty as well. I keep the flour container handy and am constantly dipping into it.

When I roll the dough out, I leave it somewhat thick. If it's too thin, it'll fall apart and burn easily. It's okay to make less cookies than the recipe says it will. This is quality, not quantity.

I use a pampered chef baking stone. This gets the cookies evenly baked, without the burnt or crisp edges. This also makes them soooooo soft and they practically melt in your mouth. The first batch will always take longer to cook because the stone isn't heated yet, but I cut down the time by a minute or two after that.

I don't use complicated shape patterns. Hearts are perfect because they're very simple and easy to scrape up and out. I also don't mind pumpkins, christmas trees, stars, easter eggs, etc. When you get into tricky things like bats (the animal, not baseball), candy canes, flowers with stems etc., the dough doesn't stay together well and the cookies come out looking warped, not to mention they're more difficult to frost.

As for frosting, I use the Wilton buttercream recipe. I took a cake decorating class a couple of years ago where I learned this recipe, and it is delicious!

1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk**
1 pinch of salt

Except I use 1 TBS of meringue powder, water instead of milk, and clear butter flavoring instead of clear vanilla. (All Wilton brand products!). Also, I only use white shortening, in order to get the coloring I want. You can add more water to lessen the thickness of the recipe. For sugar cookie decorating, the consistency should be medium. Thickness is for things like roses on cakes, and thin consistency is what frosts a cake without getting crumbs in the icing.

Boring post. Any questions?

Monday, February 26, 2007

And the Oscar went to.... ?????

I used to be obsessed with the Oscars. I mean really. I saw as many nominated movies as possible, I would fill out my own ballots, and on the day of the show I would start watching the E network first thing in the morning to watch a history of the fashions, to the early preview of the red carpet, then I'd watch the show. The ENTIRE thing. Commercials, scientific awards, and all. This was my thing. This was my superbowl. And, I never wanted to host or go to an Oscars party, because it would interfere with my abitlity to actually pay attention. Just give me my TV and a comfy couch and leave me alone, you know?

I have only seen one move in the theater in the past year, and that was Borat. I don't even know if it ended up being nominated for anything? That's besides the point. I would have made no effort to watch the show this year, except that Ellen Degenerous was hosting, and I love that woman with every fiber of my being. She and Steve Martin have officially replaced Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg as the Oscar gods, in my mind.

So last night I decided to watch even if I didn't know any of the movies, and was glad I did. Ellen did not disappoint at all. And I loved that they had plenty of musical and dance numbers. They tried cutting that out of the Oscars a few years ago, and it totally ruined it, IMO. Then again, I think that life would be better in general if it was more like a broadway show where people break out into singing and dancing at a whim, don't you?

I only saw about an hour of it, then I got a phone call from a friend, and ended up talking for 2 hours. I don't feel bad about missing the Oscars.

And today, I have strep throat. Bah. Give me sympathy or my feelings will be hurt.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More about my therapy

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've recently started therapy again. Lemon Blossom kindly asked me for an update, and I thought I'd just dedicate an entire entry to depression/therapy experience.

It's no secret to any readers of my blog that I heart Dooce. Other than the fact that I believe she and I are total soul sisters, I so greatly admire how Dooce puts a human face to depression. She is living proof that depression does not discriminate based on race, religion, sex, upbringing, etc. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, I am SO glad to live in a generation where there is professional help readily available. I look at the way my father grew up and the way his father was, and it's clear he had depression too, but it wasn't widely talked about or treated back then.

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 12. It was the weirdest thing-- I had a picture perfect childhood. I had siblings that I got along with, parents who provided all of my needs and most of my wants and gave me a lot of love, and opportunities to do anything I wanted to do. The biggest challenge of my childhood was the fact that my dad worked for the US government so we had to move between Utah and Germany a couple of times... but that wasn't much of a challenge. Yes it was difficult to say goodbye to friends and family for a few years, but the experiences I had living in a foreign country were well worth it and I always appreciated that. So here I am, 12 years old and in seventh grade, and suddenly feeling like I was taking up too much space and probably ought to jump off of a bridge. I mentioned this to my parents during dinner one night, and thank GOD they didn't take it lightly and got me into a therapist and a psychiatrist in lightning fast speed.

I was told that I had a chemical imbalance, which didn't make sense to me until many years later. I finally came to terms with the fact that depression is not just a mental thing, it's also a physical ailment. From agest 12-20 I was off an on several different types of anti-depressants. I probably should have continued on the meds after 20, but I didn't think I needed them, and after that I went through about 8 dark years. Of course this is all hindsight. By the time I was 28, I had finally adjusted well to my life and made several positve (although difficult!) changes, and was at last happy with the skin I was in. But it's kinda like changing a lightbulb. You can change it and it burns brightly for a period of time, but if you don't change it again when the light dims out, you're left in the dark.

I'm at a point in my life where I'm able to see the signs that tell me when I need to seek professional help. Sometimes, we just can't make it on our own. There's no shame in that. It's not that YOU did anything wrong, or even necessarily because someone wronged you. It's because sometimes shitty things happen, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's absolutely no reason for you to be sad, sometimes there are. Regardless of the reasons, coping with life can be difficult.

I'm not saying that medication is for everyone, clearly it's not. I am saying that it can be very beneficial for anyone to talk to an unbiased, professional source. I didn't click with my first therapist, then clicked immediately and amazingly with my second. For me, the key to successful therapy is to be completely and brutally honest. They're not there to judge you, they're there to help. Anything you could possibly tell them, I can almost guarantee that they've heard worse. I had my second appoinment with my therapist today, and I went over the history of my last 10-15 years. She brought into light all that I've had to deal with, all the changes I've made, all that I've experienced, in a one hour session. She gave me some assigments before I see her again. I have to buy an artists book with a hardbound cover with a spiral attachment. I can use this to write in, draw in, scribble, do whatever I want. She gave me one artistic assigment (I'm not an artist, but she believes this task will uncover some of what's underneath) as well as 5 writing assigments. I told her "Oh, I blog! I blog! I write all the time" She thought that was great, but wants these writings to be so intensely private, that she won't even read them. It's all for me, in an effort to really discover myself.

There can't be any shame in the fact that I'm giddy with excitement over this. She is not only listening to me without judgment, but she understands me. She gets what I'm saying. She is giving me physical, not just mental suggestions. I am going to find myself, and I'm going to like it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Best opening to a movie EVAR!

I watched High Fidelity this weekend, I love love LOVE this movie.

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

Friday, February 16, 2007

The key to any successful relationship

I took a communications class several years ago. This is one of those classes that I absorbed every ounce of what was taught, and realy, truly internalized it. This class was about not just communication, but using communication to overcome your fears, which will help you become the person that you want to be.

The simple, yet complex, definition of communiction is Meaning and Understanding. For true communication to take place, the conveyance of the ideas through intended word meanings or nonverbal gestures must be totally received and understood by the receiver. It is imperative that both receiver and sender in an interpersonal encounter have a common background of shared experiences between them for meaningful communication to take place. The greater the overlap in shared experiences, the more enhanced meaningful communication is.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure that meaningful communication takes place? My professor believed that it was as much as 90% the responsibility of the sender, and 10% of the receiver, to ensure they understood what was meant. Take for instance, if someone gives me directions on how to get somewhere, they say "Just get on the freeway, take the 3rd exit, take a right and drive on that road for a mile, it will be the white house on your left. Where I live, I have I:215 that comes before I:15. Which freeway were they talking about? It is the senders responsibiilty to say "Take I:15", but if they don't, it should be up to the receiver to clarify. So many mistakes in communication take place when assumptions are made.

It is NEVER a waste of time to ensure that Meaning and Understanding have taken place. Everything that we are or wish others to think of us is exhibited in our behavior, verbal as well as nonverbal. What we are, influences how others react to us.

Meanings are not in words. Meanings are in people and their experiences. Words are poor conveyors of meaning. Offense is never given, it is taken. If you are offended by something, it is okay and certainly in your right. However, realize that if you are offended, it's because you chose to be. Try to understand where the other person is coming from, and be slow to take offense.

I went to dinner last night with a friend and she and I talked for over 3 hours non stop, and a lot of these thoughts came to my mind. Just thought I'd put them out there.

Cheers and Happy Friday to everyone!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sad Day

Like many other Utahn's, I can't stop watching or reading the news today about the teen gunman who went on a senseless shooting rampage at Trolley Square Mall. I'm not attempting to over-sensationalize this story, just express my sadness. As far as I know, I don't personally know anybody affected by this, but it's too early to say for sure. Trolley Square has always been one of my favorite spots in all of Salt Lake City. It's one of the rare and fascinating places that gives the city its unique fingerprint. I have always loved going there- as a child and as an adult.

My heart and sympathies go out to all of those who have been directly and indirectly impacted by this tragedy. While my own problems seem difficult to me, this puts it all into perspective.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I can be a domestic goddess when I wanna be!

I try to pretend like I'm a modern day woman who lives for every day conveniences, but there are still some things I like to do the old fashioned way. One of them, is baking. I love to make breads, cookies, cakes, etc., without pre-mixed packages. I still own and adore my rolling pin. There is something very satisfying about the process of creating something lovely from scratch. And if I do say so myself, I make the best sugar cookies!

My results:

And I have to brag about my BFF, Shiree! I had lessons to learn how to decorate, and she is self-taught and amazing!

Yes, Christy and Shiree rock at the cookies and no, you can't have any! Well maybe... some of you can...

I wanted to talk a bit more about therapy, and thank everyone again for your comments. I started going to therapy when I was 12, and have been off and on ever since. At times it's worked great, others not so well. I'm a big advocate of it, and I see no shame in admitting when I need help.

Now I'm going to go eat another cookie.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Oops, I originally published this without a title!

It's been two years since I admitted to myself that I no longer believed in mormonism. The doubts and questions were there for at least two years prior, but it was two years ago this month that I officially stopped paying tithing and said "Joseph Smith is full of shit!"

At this same time I found The DAMU, (although my preference is now the new and improved New DAMU AKA FLAK), and soon after that I found a non-advertised underground DAMUU that I would link to, but I think they like it small and want to keep their privacy.

The owner of the board at that time was Voodew (who has posted comments to this very blog from time to time!). Voodew was trying to get some new posts going on the board so he gave us all thread assigments. Mine was something to the effect of "I may have left mormonism behind but I still act like one in these ways...."

My response was along the lines that I was worried about lightning striking since I recently stopped paying tithing (lightning did strike, my entire department was layed off within a few months. Then I ended up with a great promotion within the same company immediately after!). My other sentiments were that I was always wondering what I could do to help others. Mormonism was all about serving everyone, sacrificing yourself, give give give, go go go, collapse at the end of the day, wake up and do it all over again. You can never give enough.

Nurturing is natural for me. It is innate for me to want to take care of and rescue people. There is nothing wrong with assisting or helping others, but not at the risk of losing myself. Mormonism made me feel that if I did what I wanted to do for me, I was selfish and self-serving. I am in the process of breaking that cycle!

It's no surprise to some of my blog readers that I'm in therapy, although it may be a surprise to others. I had been seeing a therapist who wasn't really clicking with me. At my wits end I called the place that I have to go through for insurance purposes, and demanded someone different. I saw a woman yesterday who provided an amazing sense of clarity for me, and who really understood where I was coming from and very intune to what I need help with. For so long I have done what other people want me to do or think I should do, so I'm being introspective and yes... some may call it selfish. It's impossible for me to grow and thrive if I'm depending on everyone around me being okay, in order for me to be okay.

So, that's where I am right now. I've been going through some tough shit lately, a bunch of stuff that I don't want to blog about. I have neglected responding to all of my blog comments, because I simply haven't had the energy. Thanks to everyone who continues to read and respond... each time I get a message in my inbox saying that I have a new response, I get a little excited. No need to worry about me, I'm going to be just fine. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am going full steam ahead.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

All About Me

My mother is making a great effort to dejunk her basement. I admire her desire and drive... although much to my dismay, I left a lof of stuff there (It's been a decade!), so she dumped it at my house tonight. In these boxes contained old cassette tapes, letters from friends, boyfriends and missionaries, old homework assignments, notes, etc. Among these gems was a folder from 8th grade, titled "All About Me".

The cover of the folder had a design I created with the coolest of fashion brand labels. Don't judge me here-- I had only been exposed to clothes I could buy at the BX (Base Exchange) on an Airforce base! This included labels for ESPRIT, Swatch, Gitano, and Malibu U!

The post that follows is from the brain of an 8th grade Christy. Keep in mind, I had just moved to Utah after living in Germany for 5 out of 6 years. I felt like I had not a friend in the world. Everything I type from here on out is [sic]. Even still, I got an A out of the assignment.

"Childhood Memories"

When I was about 7 years old I went to Switzerland with my friend and her family.

We went to Bern Switzerland to see the famous bears. After we saw them, we walked down the streets and in the shops. I looked down at something then when I looked up I couldn't find the people I was with. I got really scared and sat down and began to cry. After a while a swiss man came up and asked me what was wrong in a language I couldnt understand. I told him in English I didn't know what he was saying, so he got his wife who spoke English. I told her I was lost. She immediately took me to the Police station. The police asked me for a description for a family I was with. When I gave them a description, they went out looking for them.

After a while they came in the station.

(Is that story anticlimatic or what? I have a better rendition of it now, including when the police asked me if I wanted a coke and I told them "No, I'm a mormon and I don't drink coke!".... even though I really did!)


If I were to invent any machine, It would be a machine with 4 different powers to do 4 different things. One side a machine with a letter keyboard to type in anything you want, and it would come out the chute. The bad side of it would be that you would get spoiled, and everyone would want it.

On another pannel, a hair dresser that has robot arms that do you hair in the latest styles. The bad part is, that one day it could go chaos and cut off all your hair.

On the third pannel, I'd have a thing that comes out with only the latest style of clothes. A new outfit every day. The bad part is, is that your closet will get tool fool and you will end up with clothes all over your room.

On the last side, I'd have a homework doer. Put the paper in, tell what you want done, and Presto!

Next I had to plan a dinner party where I had specific rules of who I could invite. I had to make a guest list, the reasons why I invited each, arrange the table, and make a menu. I won't go into all the details, but this will show how 80's this was:
Guest List:
Sheli (my sister)
Erika (my best friend)
Andy (my 7th grade crush)
Stephen King
Rick Astley
Mikhail Gorbachev
Marylou Retten
Mike Tyson
Marilyn Monroe

(this must have been a "finish this sentence" assignment)

1. On weekends, I like to spend time with my friends.
2. I'd like to tell my best friend my deepest and darkest secrets but they're too personal.
3. The happiest day in my life was when I moved back here in the states.
4. If I were five years older I would be in colledge.
5. I am best at writing stories.
6. My favorite vacation place would be in London.
7. I like the kind of teacher who has us read and write a lot.
8. I get angry when people get on my nerves.
9. I trust those who are sincere.
10. I think my parents shouldn't nag so much.
11. I have accomplished to make many friends since I moved her.
12. My worse days are when I wake up late.

It's been over 18 years since I wrote this stuff. I am blown away by how I am still very much the same person that I was, yet so completely and totally different.

And, no typo's here. Remember.. [sic]!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

I love drunk dials

I've had calls from the right coast, from the left coast, from the United Kingdom (I love you Rip Zip and Wry C!), and a few from the same state I live in. It doesn't matter, I love them all!

To my friends who called me the other night (they know who they are... my very hip New Yorker friends!), I'm so sorry I missed your call! I saved that voicemail on my phone so I can use it to cheer me up when I'm feeling down.

Nothing warms my heart more than knowing that my friends are thinking of me when they're in a very happy, inebriated state.