Thursday, November 19, 2009

the dork days of christmas.

Listening to: Ice Dance by Danny Elfman (from The Edward Scissorhands soundtrack)
Line obsession: Somewhere, things must be beautiful and vivid. Somewhere else, life has to be beautiful and vivid and rich. Not like this muted palette - a pale blue bedroom, washed out sunny sky, dull green yellow brown of the fields. Here I know every twist of every road, every blade of grass, every face in this town, and I am suffocating. - From A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell {Scholastic, 2009}

Christmas transforms me. If you saw me, you would not realize the depth of the transformation. For the duration of the holiday season, I seem normal.* I wear normal clothes. I carry on with a fairly predictable routine. But on the inside, I'm like a tacky Christmas sweater. I am a Christmas dork. It's so bad. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I embrace all of it. I love the sweet, bright, candlelight parts everybody loves. But I also like the tacky tinsel parts. The commercialized part makes me laugh, not rant. Even all the cranky shoppers don't get me rattled. I laugh at them, not with them. I wish Christmas lasted all year long.

Last year, I came [----] that close to buying one of those Rudolph car kits for my car. Do you know what I'm talking about? The red plush nose goes on the front of your car. The antlers attach to the windows. I'm smiling so much just thinking about it. Sarah talked me out of it. Deep in my heart of hearts, I know she's right. Still. Everytime I go in Walgreens, I pick up the kit, cradle it close to my heart, and imagine how adorable my Civic would look with reindeer gear. But the car kit is only the beginning. Further proof of my holiday dorkdom includes:

- My obsession with specific Christmas CD's. I'll write more about this later on.

- The Christmas Honks. This tradition gets its own post. I hope you will embrace it too.

- Christmas movies. There are certain movies I watch every year.** Most people do that, I think. That's acceptable. But I also like the uber-corny movies that come on during the Christmas season. One year I rented a movie called ... wait for it ... "Mary Christmas." John Schneider, my lifelong crush, was the romantic lead. The movie was, uh, not so great. Who knew? :) I realize I just wrote about Travis Tritt videos and how they're too silly dramatic. Very often, made for TV Christmas movies are like the Travis Tritt videos except with Christmas trees. I don't know why I justify one over the other, but I do. (A note: my least favorite Christmas song, The Christmas Shoes, was made into a movie. I do not watch that one.)

- Baking. I'm not very good at it, but I channel Ina Gartan around the holidays and pretend I know what I'm doing.

So I thought it would be fun to kick off the holiday season here on the blog with one of my favorite cookie recipes. There's a sweet story behind the recipe too, which makes it that much better :)

The first job I had after graduating from college was in student ministry. My pastor, Gene, and his wife, Harriet, took me to lunch a few weeks after college ended and asked me if I would consider interning for the summer. My immediate reaction was: not a chance. I'm not a natural pick for a student ministry position. SM people tend to be very outgoing, very cool, very hip, and very other things I am not. Still, Gene and Harriet were convinced I could handle it. I decided to do it for one summer. I ended up working there for three years.:) I think the experience was great because the teens were so incredible. They were sweet, hilarious, and they weren't afraid to ask hard questions. (Which reminded me that it's okay to ask hard questions. And that sometimes I have to try and make peace with the questions I don't get answered.) I came home from college feeling like a momentous loser. Being around such genuine people helped me come back to life a little bit.

I met with Gene and Harriet every week to talk about work, ideas for events, life in general. And very often, Harriet would make these amazing cookies I'm about to share with you.

Here are a few more reasons I love this recipe:

1.) It is way easy. I turned the oven into a smoke pit when I tried to make them earlier this week, but that's because my oven conspires against me. It's hard to mess these up. My favorite cookie recipe is for chocolate chip cookies (it's Tyler Florence's recipe from the Food Network) but that one takes a sleigh full of ingredients and quite a bit of time. Plus you have to mix things in order. With these cookies, you can dump everything in at once.***

2.) They're so bright and pretty. They look like confetti cookies. One year I put them in a clear goodie bags, then tied the bags with hot pink ribbons (because pink is so neglected at Christmas), and gave them as gifts. Super cute.

3.) They make the whole kitchen smell delicious. Cake batter + Fruity Pebbles = divine. Unless your oven conspires against you. In which case it will just smell like you're having a birthday party in an ashtray.

4.) The cookie dough is so good. If you're the type of person who likes cookie dough more than the actual cookie, these will rock your world. Salmonella whaaaaat.

Here are the only two tips I've learned in baking these little piles of awesome:

Tip the First: This recipe makes a big batch, but they taste better if you bake them all at once. I tried to refrigerate half the dough over night, and the Fruity Pebbles got stale. The cookies still tasted okay, but they're better if you bake them pronto.

Tip the Second: After you spoon them out onto your cookie sheet, push down on them a little bit. The dough is pretty stiff so the cookies don't flatten much. They don't flatten for me, at least.

Here's the recipe:

Harriet's Amazing Fruity Pebble Cookies

1 box of yellow cake mix
1/2 cup of oil
1/4 cup of water
1 egg
3 cups of Fruity Pebbles cereal

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together cake mix, oil, water, egg, Fruity Pebbles. Drop by spoonfulls onto cookie sheet and bake for 11 minutes. Yields about 2 dozen.
* Harriet says they're also delicious with cocoa pebbles.

And they come out pretty, delicious, and ready to be consumed :) The best part is that every time I make them, I think of Gene and Harriet. I wish you could meet those two. They're both retired now, but they're still up to being their cool, genuine selves. (Gene makes mandolins. How awesome is that?) I'm grateful for their friendship. Having friends who believe in you when you don't believe in yourself even a little bitty bit is an incredible thing.

If you have a great recipe, I hope you'll share it in the comments. It doesn't have to be a cookie recipe. Just something you like to bake around the holidays. I don't want you to miss some of the fabulous sounding recipes already popping up : On Monday's post, Ashley left a recipe for stroopwaffles with ice cream and a Europen dessert called "doukissa cake." They both sound awesome. I'm going to Google "doukissa cake" as soon as I stop typing. Nothing says fun like converting European measurements. On Friday's post, Steffanie left a recipe for Monkey Bread that made my mouth water. (No monkeys are harmed in the making of the bread. ;)

In completely unrelated news, I'm off to see New Moon with my best friends this weekend. I'm hoping by the time we go (Sunday, to a matinee) we will miss all the screamers. And I'm not judging you if you're a screamer. I love passionate fanbases. I'm always in line for Harry Potter at the midnight showing. I'm just old and boring and screaming makes me want to throw whatever candy I happen to be sneaking in. I thought the first movie was silly. We had fun watching it for all the wrong reasons. I'm thinking this one will be pretty much the same (anybody seen it yet?). And that's okay. Regardless of how hard the movie bites (zing!), I can't wait to see my friends. Team Volturi. (Just kidding :)

Happy Weekending!

**Home Alone, Muppet Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown, Serendipity, Love Actually, and a tape full of Christmas Cartoons that came on when I was a kid. The best part is that the commercials are still on the tape.
*** Cooking purists will probably insist it is easier to mix the dry stuff before you put in the eggy stuff ... but you can mix it all at once and they taste good too ;)


  1. First of all, those cookies sound A-MAZING! I'll give them four honks! Second, I'm dreaming of a Smoky Mountain Christmas, with nothin' much that money buys, but everything worth while in some mountain magic and special pies! Third, what kind of delectable goodies are we going to sneak into the theatre this time? Rotisserie chicken? pizza? mac and cheese?

  2. There's a Christmas movie I like, that aired sometime in 2005--Christmas in Boston (an ABC Family movie).

    I've been thinking about having my 6th grade girls over to my apartment sometime, and baking cookies and watching a movie. You know, cheesy type stuff. Then I'd sugar them up and then try to make them go to bed...because that would be successful....Who am I kidding? I've considered a Christmas-time party...we'll see what happens.

    That cookie recipe looks pretty fun! Too bad neither cake mix nor Fruity Pebbles are available here, or I would make them!

    Have you ever had those (I don't know the name but here goes) mini-pretzels with Hershey hugs on top then with an M&M pressed into them after they're baked? They are bite size and tend to be gone in no time. I bet YOU could bake them (without burning anything)! Come to think of it, are you SURE you weren't the Cafeteria Lady too? ;) Just kidding.

    Maybe I'll find some old mix(video)tapes when I'm in the States of Christmas movies and bring them back here. Christmas here is celebrated on the 7th (the Christian part), and gift giving is on New Years Eve.

  3. MC, my only hesitation about sneaking in chicken is getting chicken funk in my bag. Otherwise, I would so try it! :) I am way excited about Sunday!

    Jessica, you must tell me more about these mini-pretzels ... I am so intrigued. And though I wasn't the cafeteria lady, I could empathize with many of her foodie mishaps :) That's so fun that you're celebrating on the 7th too! I love reading about Christmas in different cultures.

  4. The cookies look easy and sound yummy. I defintely need to try those. Also, the pretzels with hugs and m&m's sound way easy. I see weight gain in my future!

    Also, I'm sooo excited about Sunday! I know this movie will be better than HAS to be better! But either way I'm looking forward to seeing my besties. And eating afterward. :)

  5. "I wanna buy these shoes for my Momma please! It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size..."

    Sorry, I couldn't resist. ;-) I'll bet you're a big fan of "Butterfly Kisses", too?

  6. LOL Cheesy songs. Christmas is the only time I can bare them. Sorry all you cheesy fans! LOL

  7. Okay, so I'm totally hugging you right now (and you just don't know that creepy? It's a cyber hug, anyway. ;)

    I wish it was Christmas ALL year round. Although, actually, I'm glad it's not all year round or I wouldn't appreciate it as much. I know lots of people complain about the commercialization of Christmas, but I truly think that's part of the magic. There's just this unity. EVERYBODY (except, you know, the Grinch) is excited. There's an electricity about it all. People spend time with their families, and give of themselves, and wear dorky reindeer sweaters and watch Home Alone (best Christmas movie ever, no?...Okay, top 5.) and it's totally okay. And it's not ALL commercialized. Many, many people are focused on Jesus' birth.


    Omigosh, I could go on for hours. But I will spare you.

    I'm so going to make those cookies. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    P.S. I can't wait to hear what you think of New Moon! I'm rather excited to see it too! Oh, and I hear Rob Pattinson's hair makes an appearance...or two. ;)

  8. I love watching Home Alone on Christmas. :) It makes me want a cheese pizza and to go to New York. I like to watch them both on Christmas. Those cookies sound interesting. I am not a fan of Fruity Pebbles but I want to try them! :) Thanks for the recipe! I made Monkey Bread for the first time the other day, and it came out delicious. I was happy. :) Ah, New Moon. I am going to see it with my mom tomorrow. I actually think the movie will be better than the book. I love that you put Team Volturi. haha. It made me laugh

  9. eeeek! i love Christmas too!! lol this just gonna be short and sweet! oh btw my fav christmas dessert is trifle, (my mums, its delish! i have a summer Christmas btw.
    anyway gotta make this short, i have a choc mud pudd in the oven , yeap am in the baking mood already!

  10. I absolutely love watching old taped-over VHSs with Christmas cartoons, and I personally belive that the commercials left on there are the best part.
    Check out this old kodak commercial that came along with MY cartoons!

  11. I always know it is Christmas when I turn on the Amy Grant Christmas CD. That is what we always listened to growing up.

    ALSO on cookie dough - I have a tendency to eat all of the dough and never make cookies. One day I just wanted chocolate chip cookie dough but we didn't have any eggs so I just tried making the dough without eggs and IT TASTES JUST FINE! Now seriously no silly salmonella poisoning risk. I doubt it bakes the same (didn't ever have any to try that) but just for indulgence, try it without the eggs :)

  12. My favorite Christmas things - Amy Grant's "Home for Christmas" (word.), "Shop Around The Corner," "Meet Me In St. Louis," scarves, and pecan pie. And hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows. The cheap, watery kind of hot chocolate, too. I love it.

    So after watching last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother, I decided that in the sitcom of your life, Don the Chicken Man is played by Chris Elliott. That's exactly who I've always pictured in my mind as Don every time you've told his tales. I just never realized it until now.

  13. BB, I'm with you. Christmas helps the cheesy go down. Otherwise, it's a no. Well. Actually, that's not true. I like Nicolas Sparks movies and those are WAY cheesy :)

    Saviors16bak, I bet your chocolate mud pudding was divine. I noticed on your profile you were from New Zealend (else I'm dumb and read it wrong ... which is likely :). That made me squeal :) Thanks for stopping by!

    Sarah, I would hug you back because Home Alone is CLASSIC! My brother and I just watched it. We quote the thing all year long.

    Steffanie, I'm with you. The movie was better than the book. I thought the first book was really fun and moved so fast ... but New Moon was uber-depressing. I guess that was the point. But it took longer for me to get through. I can't wait to make your monkey bread!

    Jerica, I love old commercials too! That Dick Van Dyke is really ringing some bells. My favorite was a commerical about crayola crayons. I kid you not, the commercial comes on the video ... and my throat gets tight like I'm going to cry. It's not that emotional at all, but something about it makes me weirdly nostalgic. My bro converted all the videos to DVD so I didn't lose the commercials, which was a must :)

    Samantha, this is like a breakthrough. Cookie dough tastes the same without eggs?! Brilliant. It's my favorite part too. I love Amy Grant's Christmas CD's. When she sings Tennessee Christmas, Heirlooms, and Breath of Heaven ... it's like my holiday really starts :)

    Ashley, all those things are awesome! I even like the cheap hot chocolate. I don't much care for real marshmellows, but I really like the cheap papery ones that come with the little bags! :) I love your casting. Don is much older than Chris Elliot, but that doesn't matter. I think your choice is perfect. He could definitely nail the persona.

  14. A great recipe is for Pazuki:             PazukiHalfway baked cookies (chocolate chip works best)Ice cream (vanilla is good)Spread the cookies out into a flat surface on a baking pan. Top with scoops of ice cream and voila!

  15. lol i actually i stop by quite a bit, i love your posts lol so funny! and yeah im from New Zealand so you did read right lol
    the mud pudd was devine, im not gonna lie,
    and just to add i love Home Alone too peeps, its def Christmas when that comes on, also and this will sound p funny but our Christmas traditions are watching the Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the Jim carey one) and eating turkey sandwiches at midnight! yum!
    i'm loving BarlowGirls christmas album too atm!

  16. chocomonster, thanks for this recipe. I've never heard of a halfway baked cookie! I must investigate :)

    Hannah, The Grinch movie with Jim Carey cracks me up! I don't know why I don't utilize Christmas as an excuse to have a midnight snack ... but I totally need to start :)