2015 Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies. For easy reference, I think it’s important to document what I made, what I thought and what I loved and want to make in the future.

So, way up high on the yummy scale were these Butterfinger Fudge Cookie Bars. I made them a few times and the husband loved them!  My only concern is that either I was overbaking them or I should have made them in a 9×13 pan to have a thicker bar with less likelihood of overbaking the base. These are definitely in the rotation going forward. 

  
I tried a brand new (to me) chocolate chip cookie recipe and after I botched up the first batch by forgetting the eggs, I quickly fell in love with the unique flavors behind this cookie. The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie uses Butter Crisco, cinnamon and even nutmeg to taste just right. I’m guessing my oven may not be calibrated right or I can’t measure flour because these tasted fabulous, but it didn’t matter what I did…they ended up a little dry. The first day they seemed perfect, but on the second day, I wanted to warm them in the microwave before I ate them. I used the Medium Scoop from Pampered Chef and baked them about 9-10 each time. I also should have taken a better picture, but it is what it is at this point. 

The recipe that worked out best for me was the Pistachio Pudding Cookie. I used the same medium scoop, but split every cookie in half and rolled it into a ball before baking since I didn’t have a small scoop. These are still soft from last week and they’re really good!  Loaded with white chocolate, pistachios and dried cranberries, I would say these are a must have for next year!

My vote for least time consuming and longest lasting treat would be the Wicked Chocolate Caramel Bars. Easy to make and the caramel stayed ooey gooey!  The next time someone asks me to bring something sweet and I’m short on time, I will definitely go with these bar cookies.

I opted for a No-bake Butterscotch Haystack to fill in the gap a little. I cheat and use the lightly salted peanuts from Aldi’s rather than the Spanish Peanuts the recipe calls for. Other than that, I stuck to the rules and these turned out just right!

Finally the two must tries for my next baking extravaganza are these Brownie Cookies and these Chocolate Toffee Cookies. My cousin Barb brought both on Christmas Eve and I wish I wouldn’t have been so full and could have indulged a bit more!

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The Chicagoland Blue Star Mothers are Searchable!

It’s no secret that I was about to get involved in something new. I love the work and the opportunities I have had with SLS and I will continue to do what I can when I can. I am grateful to my buddy Nick who came up with the concept and let me be a small part of SLS. I have made some of the very best friends through SLS, I met amazing people along the way for various reasons, I learned so much about homelessness/addiction/life, I learned about local resources and I learned a lot about myself. There’s still a lot to learn, but I’m going to take a slight turn on a different path for a while to see what else I can do.

In October, right before Michael graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp, I learned about the Blue Star Mothers of America. What I quickly found out is that we did not have a chapter here in the Chicagoland area. I was bummed. I didn’t want to drive to Wisconsin for a monthly meeting, but I knew that I wanted to get involved. And I was excited to learn that this was for all Branches of our Military. Well, four other moms and myself agreed to volunteer to be the Charter Members of the Chicagoland Blue Star Mothers IL06 and our chapter is being officially installed in just a couple weeks! (Military Moms: You can now Locate Our Chapter and become a member on the website.)

This is where you come in… If you are a Military Mom (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) or if you know a Military Mom, please reach out. WE WANT YOU!  Please share this information where you see fit. We will meet on the second Wednesday of every month in Naperville, IL at 7:00pm starting with open meetings on February 10th.

And to my supportive friends and family who aren’t Military Moms and don’t know any, don’t worry…as soon as we get the ball rolling and plan our first event/fundraiser/writing campaign/etc, I promise to share that info with you, so you can get involved too. 

Want to know what the Blue Star Mothers are all about?  Check out the website!

Posted in Air Force, Army, Blogging, Coast Guard, Family, Friends, It's New to Me!, Marine, MEPS, MEPS Chicago, Military, Navy, Parenting, Random, Uncategorized, United States Marine Corps, USMC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chicagoland Blue Star Mothers Chapter

  
When my son graduated from the United States Marine Corps Boot Camp a couple months ago, I came across the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. and quickly decided that I wanted to be a member. I took a peek looking for the nearest chapter and found that I had to travel hours if I wanted to attend a monthly meeting. Well that wasn’t happening and so I reached out to make sure I wasn’t missing the local chapter when I learned that there used to be a Chicagoland chapter, but the Charter Members were no longer running it. 

About a week later, I had secured five Charter Members and I was working toward kicking off the newest Chicagoland Blue Star Mothers Chapter. Here are four of the five Charter Members…I will have to get a good picture of all five of us in a few weeks. 

 
The Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. is a non-partisan, non-political, non-sectarian organization. They do not support any political candidate nor do they endorse any religious organization. The military represents all aspects of America as does their organization. Links to their website do not represent an endorsement.

They are mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. They support each other and their children while promoting patriotism. Their organization focuses on their mission every single day and will never, ever, forsake our troops, our veterans or the families of our Fallen Heroes.

Our Chapter will be officially installed on Wednesday January 13, 2016, we have our first non-charter member paperwork (and check!) already and I am so excited to see what happens next!  Looking forward to meeting more Military Moms in the area throughout 2016!

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Randoms of My Marine & His Brothers

   
    
    
    
 

Posted in Blogging, Daily Photo, Family, Friends, Funny Stuff, Random, Uncategorized, United States Marine Corps, USMC | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 BAM First Annual Cookie Exchange!

 Today, I co-hosted the First Annual Bartlett Area Moms Cookie Exchange. It was hosted at one of my favorite restaurants in Bartlett, O’Hare’s Pub & Restaurant. I had a great time planning and preparing with Jodi, Julie and Porsche over the past couple of months!  

  
Apparently we should have taken a picture facing the window rather than with our backs to it, but you get the idea. 

We ended up with 24 participants arriving with 24 pre-determined cookies. We provided the foil pans to take home their goodies and since everyone “reserved” their cookie in advance, we had no duplicates and we were able to provide a typed recipe book with all of the cookies included!  

Julie made the centerpieces and I just love them!!

   
 And Jodi handled the gift basket that we raffled off. Too cute!

  
Here are a few more glimpses of today’s festivities…  

   
    
    
    
    
    
    

 Everyone did a fabulous job on their cookies!  I think I’m on my sixth cookie of the day…can you spell sugar high??  

The imprint on the foil pans just cracked me up!  Yeah…72 cookies are heavy!!!

  
And the smartest thing I did today?  Individually bag and then Rubbermaid each cookie to keep them from melding flavors. Cuz’ I’m a smart cookie. 😉

  
I’m glad I volunteered to help with this event and I’m definitely looking forward to next year!  If you need me…I’ll be at the gym. 

 

Posted in Baking, Blogging, Cookies, Friends, Funny Stuff, Holiday, Random, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holidaze 2015

Somehow Thanksgiving weekend is just about behind us and I officially feel like I’m in a “holidaze”. The turkey was perfect but before we had even eaten dessert, I was planning the Christmas Eve menu, deciding on cookie recipes and debating the travel schedule for the month of December. 

I love the holidays!  My birthday is in October, so that sort of kicks it off for me. Lots of visiting with friends and family which leads right to Thanksgiving. More visiting, baking and making memories until we are at Christmas!  I’m all about the post-Christmas sales while I gear up for the New Year. These ~75 days are usually the highlight of my year. 

As life evolves, so do other things. Like, we kept my birthday nice and low key this year. And Thanksgiving was almost a quiet day. In an effort to keep myself distracted, I’ve decided to try some new things. I’m leaning toward starting new traditions. Yesterday, I attended a cutout cookie making/decorating class with my friend, Kelley. 

  We had such a good time!  I remember the first time I tried to make cutout cookies many years ago…what an ugly mess!  This time, I was more successful and I even have a plan to put my class into action. For a first-timer, I didn’t think my elf was that bad. 

  
We’ve got a lot of things coming up in the next few weeks… Two first birthday parties, making homemade pasta, packing holiday care packages for prisoners here in Illinois, a community cookie exchange… See!  Good stuff!  Plus I’m going to try and make cutout cookies on my own from start to finish. I think I will have better success than the last time. Fingers crossed!  I want to plan some holiday dinners/coffees/martinis with friends and family. I was thinking about visiting the Morton Arboretum for the first time to see their holiday display. 

While I was relaxing this morning, I entered a bunch of sweepstakes (I was feeling lucky)!  My friend, Aimee over at Shugary Sweets is participating in a blogger giveaway nine other bloggers all giving away some pretty sweet prizes!  Make sure to swing on by!  

I also wanted to mention the 12 Days of Christmas that Albanese Candies just alerted me to for December 1st through the 12th. They have the most amazing double chocolate dipped malted milk balls I have ever tasted. Make sure to enter!  

Last year, my buddy won the grand prize in the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort 12 days giveaway. Maybe someone in my inner circle will be lucky enough to do some winning of some sort through something this season!

I vow to keep myself busy while trying not to let the holidaze set in on me. Good luck doing the same!

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Let’s Get Serious

I have a very serious concern to address with you. 
Halloween Candy Wrappers. 
  
See. I told you it was serious. Why are they so noisy? One cannot just pop a fun size 100 Grand Bar in her mouth without the WHOLE OFFICE knowing that she was having a chocolate craving. What if she needs to have a Mini KitKat Bar? Does everyone need to be aware she has opened that bag? Can you imagine for just one moment that she opens a fun size bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s when her coworker comes sneaking – quietly I might add – from around the corner. Now she may have to share her chocolately treat! Had the packaging been silent, no one would have been the wiser and she would have been indulging in silence. Blissful, chocolate covered silence. 

  
Maybe one of our beloved candy companies here in the U.S. could work on the silent packaging for Halloween 2016. I would only ask for a small nod. Maybe they could name their newest dark chocolate candy bar after me. You know, something minor. I’m looking at you Nestle and M&M/Mars. 

  

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