How to Decorate Christmas Cutouts

For almost a decade I have been decorating Christmas cutouts with colorful glazes and a piping bag.

Traditionally, cutouts are decorated using royal icing and a technique known as “flooding”. Flooding is time consuming, tedious and very tiring on your poor fingers and hands.

I decorate hundreds of dozens of Christmas cutouts every year and instead of using royal icing I find that making a glaze of confectioner’s sugar, milk and a flavoring like vanilla or almond extract works almost as well and is much less time consuming.

To finish the cutouts and bring out fine details, I use a pastry bag and pipe on buttercream frosting which I think makes for a very tasty and beautiful cookie.christmas-cookies

In the You Tube links below I show you how I decorate my cookies and also how to package them so they don’t crush. Hope you enjoy these videos. Happy decorating! -MM

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 1

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 2

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 3

Christmas Cookie Decorating Part 4

Packaging Christmas Cookies

The Typewriter

typewriterI found my grandmother’s old manual typewriter in the attic one day and dragged it out of the case. I set it on the table and started typing. I noticed it needed a new ribbon so I hopped on Amazon and ordered a new one. Within 2 days I was typing my recipe cards on an old typewriter with a brand spanking new ribbon. It took me an hour to type just two recipe cards. Where the heck is the number 1 key? Where is the exclamation point?

After a little research I found that the manufacturer eliminated keys they found were redundant. In other words the number 1 and exclamation point could be made with other keys so they didn’t add them to the machine in order to keep manufacturing costs down. The exclamation point could be made by typing an apostrophe and then backspacing and typing a period. Easy right? The number 1 stumped me though. I couldn’t figure out how to type a 1. The upper case and lower case I’s didn’t work. The upper case L didn’t look right either. I looked at one of the recipe cards my grandmother had typed and bingo, it was a lower case L (l).

I get a lot of flack for even mentioning that I like using my old manual typewriter. “Why would you want to do that?” and “don’t you own a computer?” seem to be the common questions.

I love this typewriter. I love the sounds the keys make and the ding of the bell and the clicking sounds the shift and space bars make. I love that before computers and laptops and WiFi, typewriters like the one I own, were carried by their owners safely inside their carrying cases to report on the wars and conflicts and current news of our nation at the time. I love that someone I know owned and typed on this very machine and I love that over 60 years later you can still buy a ribbon for it!

Yes, you really have to push down hard on the keys but it doesn’t need electric to work and after some practice I am now able to type a recipe in about 5 minutes. Much better than an hour right?

I know people think I am nuts and I am fine with that. There is a lot of meaning in this old machine for me and that’s all that matters.

Have you ever typed on a manual typewriter? I would love to hear your stories. -MM

Parsley and Sage

Historically herbs have been used not only to add flavor to food but also to preserve and for medicinal purposes. Another passion of mine is the use of herbs. I have started to research the use of herbs for digestion and anxiety and cold and flu. I struggled this summer to find herb plants to purchase locally for my garden so for next summer I will either grow the plants I want from seed myself or buy them organically online from a reputable grower.

We had a fantastic year in our herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow plus animals leave them alone and they are virtually unaffected by insects.

Last week I cut a huge amount of parsley, sage and celery from the garden. I don’t really consider celery an herb but this variety produces more leaves than stalk so I dry and grind the leaves into a powder and use the powder to flavor all kinds of dishes including soups.

Take a look at my 6 foot island covered in what I cut. Keep in mind the amount of sage I cut was from one single plant and the celery and parsley were from only 6 plants. Wow huh?!

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It took me several hours to carefully look all the leaves over and remove them from the stems and clean them. About 6 hours in fact. But I enjoyed watching “Hot in Cleveland” on my phone while I picked.

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After the drying process in my dehydrators I ran all of the dried leaves through my mini chopper and got an entire quart of parsley and more than a pint of sage. I still haven’t finished the celery.

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I know you’re thinking I could have purchased dried parsley and sage from the grocery store and saved myself a lot of time and they wouldn’t have cost that much. Yep I could have. However those herbs wouldn’t be as fresh and Lord knows where those herbs are grown or under what conditions. I don’t mind the work. I enjoy it and other than the initial cost of a few bucks they are free. Also keep in mind I have been cutting the herbs all Spring, Summer and Fall and the sage is a perennial and the parsley reseeds itself. It’s definitely the gifts that keeps on giving.

For me this is “Old Ways meets New Ways” because I produced my own herbs (old) and entertained myself watching “Hot in Cleveland” (new). I love Betty White.

Do you preserve your own herbs?

-MM

 

Old School Address Book

This week started off badly. On Monday morning Doug missed the bus so I got to work an hour late and as I was getting out of the car to go into the building I realized I had forgotten my cell phone on the desk at home. GASP! This day was not starting out well. To add to that my store is going through a major renovation and the contractors are now working in my area of the store ripping and tearing.

Missed bus + no cell phone + renovations and mess = major eye twitch!

The entire day I was constantly wanting to check a cell phone that wasn’t there. Has this ever happened to you? I hate it. I hate that a cell phone is a drug for me. Truly. I want to drop kick it over a cliff. But I can’t. I don’t have a house phone anymore.

Ok, I said to myself so no one will bother me that’s all. No texts, no updates, no notifications and no phone calls equals peace and quiet and high productivity for the day right?

Yeah right. What I came to realize was I actually use that cell phone for more than just Facebook.

I use it as a watch. I use it as a calculator. I also use it to call my son after school to see how his day went. But hey, I can use the store phone to call him right? Wrong. I don’t even know his freakin’ phone number! I just usually push the button on my cell phone for the last time I called him and it dials it for me. Ugh.

So I called my husband from the store phone and sheepishly asked for Doug’s phone number. I felt like such a schmuck.

This is where old ways and new ways collide for me. They don’t print actual phone books anymore. I couldn’t have simply looked Doug’s phone number up in a printed phone book because there is no such thing now and his number is not a land-line.

Twenty years ago I knew everyone’s phone numbers by heart. I had to physically dial them for one thing. No pushing a button and it dials it for you. Everyone had a land line so the phone numbers all started with the same three digits and if you didn’t know the number you looked it up in a phone book that had three counties worth of numbers in it. People also kept a personal, hand written address/phone book in their desk or purse as well.

We count on our cell phones too much. My husband Scott shattered his phone (I really need to pay for the extra insurance next time if you know what I mean) and instead of taking it to a professional to have the glass replaced he decided to take a stab at replacing it himself. So with a replacement glass in hand and a handy dandy You-Tube video in front of him he gave it a go. Unfortunately it was much harder than he anticipated and after 30 minutes of tiny glass shards flying and burning his hand with the hair dryer he gave up. What was really unfortunate was he just threw the phone out. To add to that he didn’t have a clue what his user name and password were to retrieve his contacts in Google. He had hundreds of contacts in his old phone that are now permanently lost. Not to mention the photos.

Photos is another post in the future but the lesson for all of us here is that having a written back-up somewhere is not a bad thing. Yes it is old school but I plan on keeping a little address book in my purse from now on just in case. It won’t be all of the numbers I have in my phone, just the most important numbers like family numbers, school, the vet, stuff like that.

Look at this super cool Norman Rockwell inspired address book. I think I am going to see if Santa will leave it in my stocking this year. -MM

address-book

 

 

 

 

How Do I Get So Much Done?

Right now I am reading the Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder series and am currently on book 6. The old ways fascinate me. Believe me I won’t be giving up modern conveniences like proper healthcare, electricity, flushing toilets or hot showers any time ever, but I wouldn’t mind giving up cell phones and Facebook or even car payments for a while.

So many people ask me, “How do you have time for so many things and still work full time?” The answer? I don’t waste my time on Facebook all day. How many hours in your day are you wasting taking silly tests and looking at profiles of people you don’t even know? How about the 10,000 memes a day you have to wade through on your newsfeed just to get to one decent post that actually means something to you?

Let me ask you a question. What did you do with your time before the internet and cell phones and social media? Me personally? I can tell you I was a whole lot more productive that’s for sure. I actually cleaned my house for one thing and ran errands every Saturday from 8 am until noon after which I would come home and make myself lunch and watch the Victory Garden on PBS. I had a day of the week I grocery shopped and a specific night where I sat down in my cozy apartment kitchen and had enough money to enjoy paying our bills. I also hand wrote the envelopes and signed the checks to pay those bills instead of mindlessly using the bill pay option on my bank’s website.

We’ve lost the enjoyment of accomplishing things with our hands and millennials in particular have convinced us we need to do everything with the click of a mouse.

After writing an email to Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch I have a new perspective on how I want this blog to represent me. He asked me in his return email what I hope to accomplish with my blog. I thought long and hard about that question from him and I think I finally know what I want to accomplish with my writing. I want to educate, inspire and reveal to you that a combination of old and new ways can be more satisfying than you ever thought possible. I have a feeling that many of my friends and acquaintances are unsatisfied and unfulfilled in their lives but have no idea why. I know that I have been unfulfilled and unsatisfied because I have let the old me go and the unproductive new me take the forefront.

I hope you will join me on this journey of finding that balance between old ways and new ways. I know this may sound a little vague but you’ll understand more as you read future posts.

Thank you to Anthony Ongaro, who I greatly admire for his writings on the buying and social media rut we have found ourselves in, for his question of what I want to accomplish in my writing. If you would like to read some of Anthony’s writings or watch his podcasts please feel free to check him out Anthony Ongaro www.breakthetwitch.com.

-MM