my jar of cookies is half full

i made cookies, look

ready

You guys know how much I love cookies. I devoted an entire month to them last year and while you might have thought that I had then had enough, you would be wrong.

the set up

sugar and syrup

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brownies without eggs

You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.

I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.

It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.

The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.

Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.

Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.

[what is this, esther day?]

Egg-free brownies

So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?

**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!

adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz

4 ounces dark chocolate

3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)

1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.

Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.

thistle & weeds

For me, when I’m freaking out (or sad, or angry, or frustrated, or on the verge of becoming a basket case) it helps to cook. Specifically, to bake and if it helps other people at the same time, all the better. (Can you tell I’m a two on the enneagram? Let me look after you and I’ll save my freak out for when no one can see. I’m working on this tendency to not look after myself, but I digress. Let’s get back to the topic, shall we?)

I’m not exactly ready to talk about why I’m on the verge of becoming a basket case – the internet still seems so impersonal – but making snickerdoodles sure did help.

What are snickerdoodles, you may ask? Well, I would love to tell you. They are a cookie, and I’m pretty sure they’re American so yes, it’s cookie and not biscuit. They are a basic chewy cookie but they are covered in cinnamon sugar and the first time I made them, my friend described them as ‘like biting into a unicorn.’

Oh, yes.

So when my housemate came up to me and complained that she was hungry and we had no cookies, there was really only one thing to do. Because not only are they amazing, snickerdoodles are really easy to make. They only take ten minutes in the oven and it’s a one-bowl recipe. Genius. You may, however, have to make a few trays because they spread out quite a bit.

And yes, this did help me to calm down. Especially once I’d taken a bite.

Snickerdoodles

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

250gm butter

1 3/4 cups sugar (plus more if needed)

2 large eggs

3 1/2 cups plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (only necessary if you use unsalted butter, which I did. Usually I use salted butter, which takes one ingredient out of the equation.)

2 tablespoons cinnamon (plus more if needed)

Preheat your oven to 200ºC and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.

Cube the butter and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds (this is because in my house, butter lives in the fridge. It melts about half the butter and makes it easier to beat. If your butter is already at room temperature, skip this, although if your room is under 15ºC then you’ll probably want to do this anyway.) Beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar with an electric mixer (you can use a stand one, I only had a hand held) until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in both eggs.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift the flour, baking powder and salt in in two batches, folding it through until just incorporated after each batch. Beat with the electric mixer for about a minute, making sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar in a bowl. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop balls of the mixture and dump them in the cinnamon sugar; roll them around to coat the whole ball and place on the baking sheets. Place them pretty far apart; like I said, they spread out quite a bit. Place the trays in the oven and bake about ten minutes; if you have more than one tray, rotate them at the halfway mark.

When you remove these from the oven, try not to burn your fingers as you take them straight from the pan.

Thistle & Weeds from Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons; my new favourite album and right about where my mood is.

glee

Yes, I am talking about the TV show. I love it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! Well, maybe sometimes.

For someone who’s resisted the pull of soap operas for most of my life, it surprised me that I went for this one. Implausible scenarios, weird people, ridiculous situations and all backed up by song. I think it was the song that got me, to be honest.

I love to sing. I am not good at singing. I much prefer to belt out songs from the comfort of my car as I drive along, pretending to be as good as my radio or cd. I have previously indulged in singing with choirs, but there’s always that scenario where they ask you to sing solo. I like to not be there for that part.

I will sing in ridiculous circumstances and totally not being serious, but I could never sing the way I would like to. So in Glee I can live vicariously through the characters – and stop and wonder if I was that clueless in high school.

But I do love the singing, and so of course I love the Glee cds. Sometimes, there’s that one popular song that you always listen to, turn it up on the radio, belt it out in the shower, feel it touch you or at least your feet and you get up and dance. So many times it’s happened but I never want to go out and buy the album, or I really dislike the artist, or singles don’t have enough songs on them; so the Glee cds are awesome because not only are they awesome songs, but even if they’re not, they sound really good done showchoir style. Many of my peers would say that Glee ruined certain songs for them, that they destroyed it! – but I love it, in all its tacky splendour.

So go on. Put on your favourite cheesy cd and belt it out, sister.

it’s all up to you

I have been struggling recently with getting motivated to do stuff. I have wonderful aspirations all the time, but they only get set in motion some of the time, because I’m lazy and I leave things to the last minute.

However, I’m working on changing that, and I’m also working on being ok with that. It’s a bit oxymoronic (maybe just take out the oxy part of that word… : ) But, as Dan Parsons so eloquently puts it, it’s all up to you, firestarter. And I can start fires, I can do anything if I put my mind to it. It’s all up to me.

To journal. To contemplate. To cook. To garden. To be a better me, to write poems and make them live in other people’s lives, to create habits and to break habits, to do something. Anything.

sunday best

I never really dressed up for mass. (For all you Protestants out there, that’s what we call church. Mass is the gathering; church is the people. Or the building, depending on who you talk to. I always thought it was the building, but then I found out different when I got older. Excuse me, we don’t tell people what we believe, we try and make them guess by how we act. Unfortunately, this way you can get a little confused, especially if you’re only five.)

But hey. I digress. (Often. Clearly.)

Today is Sunday and I am in my Sunday Best. I went out for breakfast and you know what I was saying about the best way to break in new shoes is to dance in them? It’s true but the second best way may be to walk down a sun-dappled street on a summer morning after a beautiful breakfast. It was so good and I was so disappointed that I couldn’t finish it. I clearly need to make my stomach bigger. The walk was almost necessary just to get that over-full feeling from my stomach. I will never be able to stick to a portion-control diet. I think it’s ridiculous.

Sunday best for me today was my new shoes, a red dress pinned up to be bubble like (which, incidentally is great to dance in) and flowers in my hair.

I love driving slowly down sun-dappled streets with the windows down and the wind in my hair. It’s a beautiful way to get to know someplace and when I move I’m totally going to go on many new drives, particularly to orchards and pick your owns and particularly with my housemates and my friends. I’ll put on beautiful music and revel in life.

I love the idea of taking a day off from the rest of your life and remembering your roots, where you come from, where you’re going, what your purpose is. That, I believe, is the true meaning (or one of them) of Sunday services, although I think it’s either been lost or it just doesn’t get talked about enough. We are scared to tell our stories for fear of being told we are trying to convert people but what’s the matter with telling people the beauty and the mystery of life as we know it?

So I didn’t go to mass today (yet… there’s still time:) but I did remember what I’m trying to do in life – put the world back together. And part of that is loving myself and sending out happy energy into the world. Because to love others like you love yourself, you first have to love yourself, right? Well, maybe not first, but it’s definitely a part and parcel of loving the world. And remember 1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. You have to love others to love God. Everything is connected.

So go and connect yourself. Happy Sunday. Happy January 16.

it can wait

It’s official: the best way to break in a new pair of shoes is to dance in them.

And so, the cleaning, the tidying, washing, packing, cooking, calling, REALITY of LIFE can WAIT because I got new shoes today and they’re pretty and I’m listening to some awesome music and it’s sunny out and I am having a pretty awesome day.

It’s so weird how a mood can swing, up and down, from really crappy to really happy. But you know, you can make it happen yourself. Listening to great music, calling up a good friend, chatting away, curling up in bed with a good book and a hot chocolate until you feel ready to face the world again. It’s ok to figure things though at your own pace.

But the happier you are, the more happy energy you send out into the world, I believe, and I think that it’s a good thing to do. I don’t believe in karma or in a God who rewards those who do well and punishes those who don’t. I do believe that if you send out happy energy into the world, it makes the world a better place and it makes you a better person.

Because, you see, what you practise eventually becomes muscle memory, right? So if you are constantly asking yourself if it’s the right thing to do, if you’re constantly sending out happy energy, if you’re constantly trying to make the world a better place, then it’ll eventually just become second nature to you.

So clap your hands.

Don’t let go of the people that matter.

Kickstart the love.

Cut loose.

And just have fun, because everything else can wait.