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Let me start by saying that I’m no “cookier.” I simply watch a handful of decorating videos on Instagram and Facebook each day, and I finally got the courage to give it a try myself. I was geared with all of the necessary tools, my mixer was prepped and ready, and (thanks to a last minute trip to Wal-Mart) I had these neat little decorating pens to help make the decorating portion of the evening a little simpler.

Years ago when I was working on a story about Christmas cookies, my cookie-making cousin, Zelma, shared her sugar cookie and royal icing recipe with me. I can honestly say that these are some of the best sugar cookies I’ve ever tasted. They are not too sweet, not too almond-y, and the perfect bit of crunchy. When I started on the icing recipe, I did hold back on the amount of almond extract I used. I don’t tend to like too much of that flavor in cakes, cookies, or anything for that matter. So, you can go crazy with it if you’d like. It’s just not my taste.

Oh, and my first cookie to decorate was a disaster.

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They really mean it when they say flooding the cookie. Also, I think I didn’t beat the icing long enough with the mixer. After adding more coloring through the process, it finally stiffened up.

Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup sugar

2 sticks butter, softened

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter in mixer, then add the egg and extracts and mix thoroughly. After combined, add the baking powder and then slowly add the flour until all combined. Half the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour. Remove the dough, roll it out, and cut out the cookies. Repeat until all of the dough is cut. Be sure to keep the dough chilled through the entire process. Placing the baking sheets in the refrigerator will help the cookies to not spread in the oven. Bake the chilled cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely once they are removed before icing.

Royal Icing

8 tablespoons meringue powder

1/2 cup water

1 pound powdered sugar

Cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon karo syrup

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine meringue powder and water in the mixer and beat until frothy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Then, add a few shared of cream of tartar, extract, and kart syrup. Beat on medium to high for 5 minutes until the icing is thick. Add  coloring as needed.

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A while back, I wrote about different audiobooks I was going through on Audible during my Monday drives. I had listed to Crazy Rich Asians before watching the movie and loved that I did it that way. The book has much more detail to it and added to the movie so much for me. Recently, I trekked through the second and third installments of the trilogy and really wish that Kevin Kwan would go in for a fourth. The detail he puts into his characters, their language, and the intricate plot lines is phenomenal. I have loved every minute; and trust me, these are lengthy reads. I hope they are planning to make these into movies, too. Crazy Rich Girlfriend was my favorite of the series and would be hysterical on the big screen.

Give them a listen; and if you have any suggestions for my listening pleasure, SHARE!

I was scrolling through my photos on my iPhone (I have a lot of storage, so there were tons to sift through) looking for a recipe we’ve tried to share with you. I came across this amazing looking spread of miniature cupcakes my mom made for a Garden Club event last spring. Since it’s February finally, that means that prep can begin for another busy spring of events here in Natchez. Keep this simple recipe on hand for your potluck for anything from Valentine’s Day to Easter Sunday.

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Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing

For cupcakes, use a strawberry mix and prepare as directed in miniature cupcake tins.

For icing:

2/3 cup Crisco (butter or regular)

1-pound box powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 cup water (for mixing)

Beat all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth.  More water can be added if needed. Use a piping bag with decorative tip to ice the cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.

 

After spending the weekend in a Benadryl/Mucinex fog, I thought I’d share a round up of what I finished on the AppleTV the past few days.

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You (Netflix)

Now, I originally started this series on Lifetime in the fall when it premiered. However, I lost track 3 episodes in. I kept hearing people mention it over the past couple of weeks and thought what better time to binge through? It did not disappoint. I can’t wait for the follow up season (whenever that may be).

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Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix)

Another series that did not disappoint. I went in knowing the basic amount of Ted Bundy history, but I knew I’d be hooked to this in depth take on his terror in the 70’s. To hear his own take on his crimes was interesting, but can you believe someone actually married that freak? And can you believe Zac Efron is playing him in the upcoming biopic? I mean, I’ll go see it. But it’s going to ruin that beautiful man for me.

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Fyre Fraud (Hulu) vs Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)

Ok. Watch the Netflix documentary first. It gives more detail that the Hulu one misses. Plus, I didn’t know anything about this before watching. So, seeing Billy McFarland try to get through that interview in the Hulu special without throwing up on himself was entertaining by itself. I’m left with a lot of questions though. 1. Who would pay that much money for that? 2. Were these employees of his in a cult? Was he their leader? Do they need Leah Remini to save them? 3. How is Ja Rule still a thing? I’ll be interested to hear more opinions on this.

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I have a love for cheese. However, after my gallbladder incident 4 years ago, I had to break up with it for a while. I’m slowly working my way back into its good graces, but it’s hard to say no to a good cheese tray.

Over the holidays, I tried my hand at perfecting the cheese board for a couple of get togethers. I researched Pinterest to see what all of the professionals think is the key to a good cheese board. Hard cheese. Soft cheeses. Fruits. Vegetable. Nuts. Crackers. Bread. Jellies. and Jams. Everyone had a different take, but all stayed consistent on one thing. Cover the entire platter. Leave no open space.

So, off to Whole Foods I went in search of the perfect cheeses and accoutrements. Here is what works for me:

Cheese for Days Plate

1 block sharp or white cheddar cheese

1 block Edam cheese

1 roll goat cheese

Halved walnuts

Blackberries

Hot-pepper jelly

Wafer crackers (I used a sea salt and cracked pepper cracker and a rosemary cracker.)

Start by arranging the 3 cheeses in separate corners of the platter. Circle the cheese with the crackers of your choice. Place a bowl of pepper jelly near the cheddar and Edam cheeses. Create a mound of the berries near the goat cheese. Fill in your gaps with the walnuts. Make sure to have a cheese knife set to help with self serving of the cheeses.

 

So, I’ve really dived deep into the KonMari effect. I’ve changed the way I fold. I’ve thrown away more shoe boxes than is reasonable to have found in my closet. I’ve donated 5 large bags worth of clothing, and I haven’t even touched what is hanging in my closet. I’m working through the kitchen now and finding so much space. It’s amazing what gets pushed back in the pantry. Plus, those baskets are key to organizing that mess. I’ve found that keeping things together in families helps me see what I’m looking for rather than hunting for it.

I mentioned last week that I was working on my T-shirts. I was able to purge down all of my dresser drawers to where I have 3 empty at the moment. THREE! I can’t wait to keep going and see what I’ll get rid of. My house already feels like its lost 30 pounds of nonsense.

 

Who else is Marie Kondo-ing their life? I just started watching the show after hearing about her book several years ago and seeing several posts about it recently. While I don’t think I have quite the problem as most of her clients, this has been so helpful to spark me into my annual purge. I usually try to clean out my closet each year, but this year I think the entire house needs a once over. Every drawer, cabinet, and closet will get reorganized. After finding all of those plastic bags at the beginning of the year, I decided that I can probably end up with an empty kitchen cabinet at the end of this.

I. Can’t. Wait.