Adventures of an Unprofessional Baker

2019 Theme and Cookie Decoder

If you’ve been reading a long, you know by now that 2019 will be my last year doing the quantity of cookies I’ve been doing.  Over the years, the project has morphed into something bigger and better each year.  I’ve been doing about 100 – 125 boxes a year.  That’s a lot of freaking cookies.  This year, that’s meant 45 LBs of butter, 12 dozen eggs, 50 LBs of flour.  Again, that’s a lot of cookies.  And I love it, I really do.  Haven’t regretted a moment of it, but I think I’m finally good now.  I’m ready to scale down, seriously. If you remember, last year was the phoenix box: fire and air elements represented in a molten spark, igniting change for the better.  Beauty rising from the ashes.  It was very representative of my life at the time.  I’d just “burnt down” everything I’d taken for granted and everything I’d come to know so that I could re-make my life and myself into something new.

This year, my boxes are teal and copper.  Water and earth.  The two most tangible elements.  In my boxes this year, you will find this represented: the teal swirls that I tried to form into the likeness of a wave’s curl, the earthly, soft gingerbread with copper glitter, the marbled, cool green and blur swirls of icing on the vanilla sugar cookies.
Vanilla Sugar Cookies

If you search for information on the color psychology of teal and copper, you’ll find some really interesting stuff.

Teal combines the calming properties of blue with the renewal qualities of green. It is a revitalizing and rejuvenating color that also represents open communication and clarity of thought.”

Teal blends blue’s tranquil stability with green’s optimism and healing properties. Teal is the color of restfulness and mental and spiritual balance. The calm shade has a natural dignity that is not contrived or “in your face.” Teal’s understated elegance encourages a calm, reflective mood. Brighter teal tones are unique and smart.”

“Effectively a dressed-up shade of brown, copper also embodies the color’s warm, homely energy. A hint of red lends it a more impassioned and lively energy, which is then further enhanced in its metallic form. Rose-toned coppers are more feminine and playful, while orange-infused coppers are energetic and exuberant.

An overwhelmingly warm shade, copper has a comforting, homely feel that makes it feel more approachable and down-to-earth than other metal shades, such as gold and silver.”

So what does all that have to do with ANYTHING?

This year has been about me trying to find balance, calm.  It’s been a really humbling year of growth, and perspective.  Those who know me would say I have glitter coming out of me most of the time, however I’d like to think that my sparkle isn’t holographic unicorn dust, but a more warm, earthy, humble copper these days.  Balance and grounding.  It’s what 2019 means to me.

Self-care has played an important role in my life this year.  Accepting my own limits, setting boundaries and learning how to say no on occasion.  Being less of a people pleaser, and acknowledging that I am enough as I am.  I don’t have to do extra to be loved and cared for—I am.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  So much so that I feel humbled by the embarrassment of riches and love in my life.  I have really happiness and real balance for the first time in, well, ever.  I am learning to forgive those who have hurt me in the past and most importantly, learning to be less hard on myself for mistakes I’ve made.

Which brings me to one last thought.  Hope.  At first I was going to use the word “Family” or “Strength” as the word on my cookies this year, but Hope felt more right.  To have hope means you are looking forward to something.  To have hope you must first have strength.  You have to truly understand what the low points feel like to truly appreciate the highs life brings you.  To have hope, you must we willing to finish off the ride, wherever it takes you and believe that what’s coming further down the road is an opportunity waiting to arise.  It’s the unknown, but not just that; it’s the anticipation of it.

Brown Sugar Spice

I have no idea what cookie time will look like in the future.  It’s not going to be this, for sure.  But I’m hopeful for the future and I know that no matter what it ends up being, it will be wonderful and from my heart.  Because it’s just who I am.  It’s never been about the cookies (ok, maybe a little bit), but it’s been more about giving something wonderful to all of you to enjoy.  And for the first time ever, I’m not sure what that will be next year.  But I’m confident it will still be from my heart and it will still be wonderful.

Christmas Cookies – Day 6

Start Time: 11:30 am

Stop Time: 1:20 am

Goal: 21 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & ready to deliver on Tuesday 12/17. And one Godzilla themed, gluten-free (among other things) birthday cake to deliver on 12/14.

Completed:   Pecan Sandies (4x), Coffee Sugar (4x), Snickerdoodles (5x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x), Mint Chip (4x)

The making is finally over. Finally. All that’s left to do is box them up. I started making boxes tonight, got about 11 done then decided my time was better spent cleaning up and clearing space on the tables and putting baking supplies away.

I packed up all my cutters, colors, glitters and dusts and managed to right the mess in my baking cupboard. It feels so good to put stuff away. like the end is really here. For the first time that I can recall, I’m really done with doing this, and I am relieved to be through it.

Had a great conversation with McIrish today. Since he was off, it was just the two of us in the house, working and watching TV. It was really nice to have some quiet time, just the two of us. We talked about my thoughts, that I may be done with cookie time, at least in this big production way that it’s been happening. He had a great point. What’s different this year is ME. I have been changing and self-evaluating and it’s true– I just crave balance and calm these days. That’s not cookie time.

So I think this is official. This is my last year doing the quantity of boxes that I have been doing. Cookie madness is not going to be madness anymore. I want to do less, and in doing less, I can do more quality for those who are close to me. I’m really good with this decision, but at the same time, I’m a little sad too. More tired than sad, but still a little wistful.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop baking completely, but I always told myself that if it ever stopped being fun, I’d re-evaluate and seriously consider not doing it anymore. It hasn’t stopped being fun completely– I LOVE the decorating and flooding part– but I just need to do a lot less so it goes back to pure enjoyment again. This is something I am really sure about.

It’s the last day of cookie time 2019. I did 6 less this year – only 17 types are in my boxes for a change. First time it’s been less than twenty in a long while. And I completely missed my self-proclaimed deadline to have them boxed and ready to go. They might even get mailed a little late too. We’ll see. I just need sleep, because tomorrow I need to go back to the real world, my job and responsibilities.

I’ve also got to take Miji to the vet in the morning. We discovered a big ol’ hot spot under her butt today and she’s licked it real good. So gross. I’m thankful I have a great boss who trusts me and allows me flexibility to work from home when I need to. I’m tired and need to sleep in a bit tomorrow, and thankfully the vet can see Miji in the morning.

Cookie time has been harder than usual, but I don’t regret a second of it. It is always such a fulfilling time and I do truly enjoy it. If I’m begin honest, I think I knew this day was coming for a few years now. This madness started way back when, while I was still in high school and then college and I had no money to buy all my family members gifts. So I made them a few kinds of cookies, in goodie bags. It’s where this all began.

I’ve come a long way since those days. I remember my tiny apartment kitchen in San Francisco, then the one in Daly City– no counter space, one oven, a few pans. When we moved to Pacifica, I thought, “Well, this is a huge kitchen! Imagine what you can do at cookie time in this house!”

I have no idea how I churned out the quantity I did in those kitchens. But I did. I graduated from cellophane goodie bags full of cookies, to shirt boxes lined with parchment to keep the cookie grease from ruining the packaging. I remember when I first decided to buy the brown pasty boxes and brand my efforts….and then the sealer, when this became a legit production where each cookie was bagged and sealed individually before going into a box.

This has been a real journey, of epic proportions and no matter what, I have loved every moment of it. But it’s time to enter the next phase. I’m not yet sure what that will be, and we’ll see what happens this time next year when I get the itch to be knee deep in dough for a week. Maybe I’ll go on a warm, tropical vacation instead, LOL. I just don’t know. Any for perhaps the first time in my life, I am totally OK with not knowing and not committing to anything now.

Once the boxes are packed, delivered or shipped, and the house goes back to normal, I’m not sure what I’ll feel. Will I be sad? Relieved? Happy? All I know it that right now, I’m sleepy and I can’t wait to turn in. I’ve got one more post to do tomorrow, and it’s about the theme this year. A theme that is somehow very fitting as being the final theme of my last cookie madness of this magnitude.

Time for bed and dog snuggles. Well, not Miji…she’s got a wet piece of pepperoni on her butt so she’s got to sleep in a shirt on the couch tonight. Poor pup.

Tomorrow is another day. And a chance for something new. G’night!

Christmas Cookies – Day 5

Start Time: 11:30 am

Stop Time: 1:20 am

Goal: 21 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & ready to deliver on Tuesday 12/17. And one Godzilla themed, gluten-free (among other things) birthday cake to deliver on 12/14.

Completed:   Pecan Sandies (4x), Coffee Sugar (4x), Snickerdoodles (5x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x), Mint Chip (4x)

Today was the last big baking day. I’ve got one more kind of cookie to bake tomorrow. One. Everything else is done. Including me. I need to get some sleep soon or I’m going to lose my mind. It’s funny– back in high school or college, I didn’t bat an eye pulling an all-niter or staying up until the sun was back out in the morning before oozing into bed.

Now, I can’t believe I’m still standing having less than 5 hours of sleep two nights in a row. Yeesh. This is getting hard. I’m too old for this… It got to the point tonight, when I was putting the finishing touches on the mint chip cookies that I lost complete sense of time and I think I might have fallen asleep while painting copper metallic edible paint on the edges of the cookies. I’m that gone right now.

BUT, I completed all but one cookie decoration. I didn’t get to the brownsugar spice cookies tonight — everything else has been totally completed and will be ready to bag in the morning. McIrish is at home tomorrow, and he’s planning on bagging and sealing all the cookies I left out tonight before I even wake up.

It’s been such a blur– all the days are blending together– and I’m not sure how many more sleepless nights I can handle. Tomorrow is supposed to be the day I box up all the cookies and ship them or take them to work to get eaten. The Husband is spent. The dogs are wondering when the house can go back to normal and my lap will be available for sleeping on again. And I can’t remember what it’s like to have nothing to do.

I have come to appreciate and miss my down time. I’m ready to be done for the year.

I’m already looking forward to next Friday, when we order DoorDash and sit in the hot tub. Oh that feels like a million miles away. But as of now, I’m done for the day, and I’ve got one last cookie recipe to make. Tomorrow is just Chinese almond cookies. The final batch. Then comes the boxing part. It’s probably the part I least look forward to because it’s more practical than fun. The cookies have to go into something, and once the theme is decided and the tags are made, it’s literally packing boxes and gluing on tags.

I’m gonna keep this post short– totally out of energy at the moment. Can’t wait to start delivering cookies. I’m really happy with how they turned out thus year. Tomorrow I will finish and my finger will look like I smooshed a smurf…Teal food coloring finger prints on Chinese almond cookies… I’m grateful McIrish is on a day off tomorrow. I need to be around someone else’s energy right now. I can’t make it on my own at the moment. I’ve really not felt this tired in a long time.

More tomorrow… G’night!

Christmas Cookies – Day 4

Goal: 21 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & ready to deliver on Tuesday 12/17. And one Godzilla themed, gluten-free (among other things) birthday cake to deliver on 12/14.

Start Time: 11:30 am

Stop Time: 1:20 am

Completed:   Pecan Sandies (4x), Coffee Sugar (4x), Snickerdoodles (5x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x), Mint Chip (4x)

Flooded:  Brown Sugar Spice (3x), Mint Chip (4x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x)

Today was cake delivery day! For part of the day, I was out of the house, doing non-cookie related things. The cake went over really well and thankfully, no allergic reaction (yay!).
You can’t really tell, but these are sparkler candles!

While I was out, MOTU and The Husband got a lot of baking done. They are my heroes today, hands down. It’s funny– when I got home, ready to sign in for my shift, The Husband said, “I didn’t get a lot done today.” And I chuckled because, this is the ongoing, never ending feeling of cookie time.

In reality they got a TON done. He’s been making the peanut butter cookies each year, since he found the recipe we use and he takes pride in the fact that his recipe is better than mine, to make it into the boxes each year. The chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin are both modified from their original state, my hand written changes on the cards, adding extra flour and baking powder here, more cinnamon and nutmeg there.

Yeah, I’m old school. I still have a recipe box and index cards. Some of them are yellowing on the edges or have stains on them from spilled vanilla or grease spots from melted chocolate being wiped off them. The Husband keeps telling me to go digital so I never lose my recipes. Yes, I think there is truth in that, however I don’t think I could go 100% digital. There is something about those hand-written cards, some of which were copied from Mom or Grandma’s own recipes as I grew to appreciate them over the years.

I’ve been having lots of thoughts this baking season. For the first time ever, I’m not thriving on the madness and mania that usually comes along with my cookie projects. I don’t know what it is, but all I want to do is get to bed on time and snuggle with my dogs. Could it be that cookie madness has run it’s course? Am I getting too old for this, for real?

I started late in the day today, so I had a lot of work to get done before I called it quits. I flooded cookies like crazy today. Potsie and her boyfriend stopped by tonight to see the show. Cookie time is something that is hard to explain to someone who has no idea. Telling someone “Jenn takes off a week to bake cookies for everyone” just doesn’t really explain the depth of the madness that is cookie time. Sometimes you just have to see the quantity and the piles to really get it.

MOTU had a concert to go to in the city so she took off shortly after I arrived home. She did half of the sugar work this year, making the gum paste decorations that are going on the vanilla sugar cookies. She would hate me for saying it, but MOTU has the hands of an artist, so this is something she’s really good at. Doing 100 of anything is a big project, especially smashing gum paste into molds to make tiny little thistles or plaques to stick onto cookies. It’s a labor of love. Or a labor of something.

My final task this evening was to do the marble flooding on the vanilla sugar cookies. It’s more of a dip than an actual flood. I learned how to do this last year by watching YouTube, and it’s become my favorite way to make things look a lot fancier than they are, quickly and easily. I am deliriously tired tonight, but I feel accomplished despite being away from the kitchen for most of the day.

The thought that I might be winding down on doing this kind of effort and quantity is really at the forefront for me. I haven’t actually said it out loud yet, but it’s there constantly in my head. For the first time this isn’t feeling as fun to be over-the-top in cookies. Some of this is feeling like work this year, and I’ve had thoughts of wishing I were doing other things instead.

As much as I love doing my annual cookie project, perhaps it’s time to dial it back finally, and cut down on the quantity of boxes I give out. I haven’t upped my numbers since last year, however the count isn’t going down either. I can’t shake this feeling that this could be the last full-blown cookie madness I ever do.

That is the truth of it though. This year, my pace is slower and the “jet fuel” I usually run on just isn’t there. I cut out another 3 cookie types today, simply because I wanted to be closer to the end by now. That’s 6 cookie recipes less than usual, and I’m not even a little upset about it.

I do think it has a lot to do with my state of mind and being these days. I’m putting in the work to achieve balance in my mental, emotional and physical being. And like I noted earlier, this project, while fun is the antithesis of self-care. It’s a huge revelation and I can’t wait to bounce this off of McIrish and The Husband tomorrow.

All in all, I am very proud and happy about my progress so far. I’ve done myself a favor and cut back to keep myself sane and I’ve taken breaks a lot more. It feels better this year in so many ways.

As I type all these feelings out, Moose is asleep at my feet, reminding me that I am missed greatly when I’m preoccupied with cookie time. She has been really good company this year, in the wee hours of the night when everyone else has gone off to bed and I’m still here, flooding, decorating or cleaning up the kitchen to reset for the morning.

It’s these moments that make me so happy and fulfilled. The quiet peace of a sleepy house in the early hours of the morning. That heavy, achy feeling in my body that signifies a hard day’s work of kitchen labor. A warm, sleepy dog at my feet, breathing heavily enough to make me sleepy too. It still feels magical to me and conjures up all kinds of memories of years past.

I re-read a couple of older posts I did in prior years and I’m so very glad to documented all these projects. While these posts are public and I don’t mind sharing them with anyone who feels like reading them, I really did these for me, to remember how I felt in the moment, when I was doing something extraordinary for others and for myself.

Anyway, I’m too tired to wax poetic about the past years of cookies at the moment. I’m so glad the flooding is done. I need those cookies to be dry tomorrow so I can add the detail and let them dry before they get bagged and sealed. I have this feeling I’m going to totally blow my original deadline and wind up delivering late, but I’m not too concerned. Again, another flag that my thoughts have shifted this year.

Tomorrow will be fun. I love the detail work of decorating, and I’ve got 4 kinds to do. I haven’t yet decided on what the brown sugar spice cookie decoration will be just yet. I haven’t yet picked the word that will appear on the face. It’s got to be symbolic of the year, of the theme and of who I am in this moment in time. A couple are rattling around my head, but we’ll see tomorrow.

For now, I need to wake up this little dog and take her upstairs to sleep. I hope I get some snuggles…

Christmas Cookies – Day 3

Start Time: 11:30 am

Stop Time: 1:20 am

Goal: 21 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & ready to deliver on Tuesday 12/17. And one Godzilla themed, gluten-free (among other things) birthday cake to deliver on 12/14.

Completed:   Pecan Sandies (4x), Coffee Sugar (4x), Snickerdoodles (5x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x), Mint Chip (4x)

Flooded:  Brown Sugar Spice (3x), Mint Chip (4x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x)

Day 3, in the bag. The usual complaints apply– tired, achy– but also the usual pleasures apply like satisfaction, contentment, happiness. MOTU is with me today and tomorrow to help and we did huge damage to the refrigerated dough. All the shortbread is done, packaged and looking really nice. They are so round this year that it makes the OCD hamster in my head really happy.

Today was really nice. It was just MOTU and me all day, working together. We got to have some quiet, working time, just the two of us and it was like old times. For me, it reminded me of the early days of our friendship where we worked in the same office. The two of us could share space and just work. No obligatory chatter if it wasn’t needed or welcome, deep conversation when there was time, and just comfortable silence in between.

It’s one of the things I love about her the most. We can just BE together and not have to think too hard about it. These days, it’s less about work than it is catching up on some of the stuff we don’t get to share since we don’t see each other as often. Today was a really peaceful quality time kind of day. Usually there’s so many of us in the house when she comes to visit that moments like this are rare. This was wonderful to have in the middle of cookie madness.

I also finished the Godzilla cake today. I feeeeeeeelllll like he deserves his own gallery at least, maybe a separate post as to the back story (ie, why does my grown-ass friend want a Godzilla cake for her birthday and why is it so “everything- free”) but I feel the need to include it here because it’s part of cookie time this year.

After the baking was done and the flooding was done, I took another break from cookies to shed my gluten-nut-ginger filled apron and sweatshirt to triple-clean my kitchen, myself and tools. After the bleeding on my raw skin stopped because of all the scrubbing (#JokingNotJoking) I mixed up the buttercream. Usually my decorator butter cream is half butter, half shortening in order to make it a consistent texture and spreading consistency. But because of the nut allergy part, it was 100% butter.

What I know about butter after all these years, beside the fact that it’s tasty:
  • It gets hard when it gets cold
  • It gets soft when it gets warm

I’ve torn up slices of bread by trying to spread cold butter on them many times in my life (mmmm, cinnamon toast…) and so I knew what I was up against doing an all-butter buttercream. It’s a bit harder to frost a cake and spreading consistency is kind of out the window. Especially because my house is unusually cold this year. Thankfully, the cake was supposed to look like a natural island/volcano so the rough look to the icing is ok. It just meant detail work was difficult and icing in corners isn’t a crisp or clean.

There is also the allergy factor. Most fondant, gum paste, edible glitters, fancy food coloring and pre-made decorations have a long list of ingredients, some of which I have no idea if mt friend is going to have an allergic reaction to. That meant a lot of my tactics for a fancy, “all edible” cake went out the window. So yeah, I bought some plastic trees. And I googled ALL the ingredients before incorporating even color into the cake.

What I found is that McKormick food coloring is pretty basic and they have lots of allergy information on their site. So does Chefmaster. Thankfully, I will never be a full-on snob about baking supplies (yeah, I have a ton of fancy professional food color, luster dust and glitter) but I still have the basics. I also stuck to the same chocolate I used in the cake (some brands add coconut oil to their chocolate) for the chocolate icing.

The end result is this rustic island which turned into a 3D diorama for Godzilla and Gidora to stage their final battle. Yeah…you KNOW we had some fun with a photo shoot… This is what McIrish does for a living, and Trash Panda is also really creative in that twisted way and is good at art direction. MOTU took the photos because she is kind of a pro and we staged a super silly photoshoot.

I’ll do a separate gallery so you can see the silliness in all it’s glory. Because, to quote Potise, we are RIDICULOUS people.

Anyway, silliness aside, I’m excited to see my friend’s reaction tomorrow. I think she’s going to love this. It’s completely silly and so perfect. Even though cookies took a back seat today, I feel accomplished and good about what I’ve done so far. I’m even proud of myself– I’ve eliminated 3 cookies from the list due to time constraints. And I don’t feel bad or sad about that.

I just want to go to bed. LOL. So that’s what I’m going to do. Godzilla gets delivered tomorrow, and I’ll be at a birthday party for a few hours so The Husband and MOTU are covering my shift. Again, I am so grateful for my family. Production doesn’t have to stop tomorrow because I’m not here. To me, this is what the holidays is about. There is no one I would ever count on more and they do it for me without hesitation. I am such a lucky lady.

More tomorrow. Gotta get some rest. Maybe run to target for some sparkler candles to make those volcanoes light up…

Christmas Cookies – Day 2

Start Time: 11:30 am

Stop Time: 1:20 am

Goal: 21 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & ready to deliver on Tuesday 12/17. And one Godzilla themed, gluten-free (among other things) birthday cake to deliver on 12/14.

Completed:   Pecan Sandies (4x), Coffee Sugar (4x), Snickerdoodles (5x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x), Mint Chip (4x)

Flooded:  Brown Sugar Spice (3x), Mint Chip (4x), Vanilla Sugar (6x), Coconut cutouts (4x)

I had no idea I had so many muscles in my hands… How do I know now you ask? Because they ALL ACHE. Holy moly, I was not expecting to feel this sore on day two. Getting older sucks. Gone are the days of being able to pull an all-nighter then be productive the next day. I am just not at that point in my life anymore. Did I mention my hands are shot?

This morning, I woke up at 8:30, realized I couldn’t move any of the joints in my hands, feet or arms then decided to not get out of bed right away. After a brief conference call with MOTU, where we compared ailments and broken-ness, and a quick snuggle/nap with the dogs, I got moving. Grudgingly. Dude, this hurts

Why I can’t get out of bed on the first try…

I started the day with baking the Godzilla cake. Since I did a reset of my kitchen last night before bed, everything was fairly clean. I still re-cleaned it two more times to ensure there was no cross-contamination and did a couple of “doctor scrub” hand washes. Seriously, I am not going to be responsible for sending my friend to the emergency room on her birthday because I didn’t clean well enough. Call me paranoid, but I can’t have that on my consciousness!

I had a stroke of genius for this cake. I really didn’t want to do something that was more suitable for a child than a certified nerd-girl. So here’s the plan. Tropical islands, volcanoes, and palm trees. I can’t wait put this together tomorrow.

I got a lot done, but I can tell my pace is just not as frantic as it used to be. I’m moving a lot more methodically, comfortably and all around not being as big of a spaz about things. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I usually just THRIVE on the madness and this year it doesn’t feel the same. It’s like I’ve somehow dialed it down a notch or something. I feel “off”.

The shortbread cookies are in the refrigerator, ready to go either tomorrow when MOTU gets here, or perhaps Saturday while I’m delivering Godzilla. Either way, they are mixed. I wanted to have some extra this year as we are always short on shortbread at the end, so I did a 5x recipe of each. These are some of my favorite cookies to have extras after boxing happens, so I think this is a good call.

I’ve been thinking a lot (big surprise here), and right now, Potsie is on my mind. She got her Tiny home this year (yay!) but that means she’s not around as much (boo), and I’m missing her energy in my orbit. She brought a brightness to the house and to cookie time, partially because I think she likes to “dumpster” the broken cookies (aka, eat them all so I can’t throw them out), but mainly because she’s super into things like this. She appreciated the madness and the process, and I love that.

This year however, I’m happy to have a new addition to the mix: Trash Panda. She’s been here, helping me and despite all the stuff she’s got on her plate, she’s all in too, helping me frost chocolate sugar cookies. I love my family so much. I know it sounds cheesy, but I can’t help but feeling very blessed this year. I’m not the kind of gal who has a wide circle of a million friends — my tribe is a small one– but the ones I do have are so deeply connected to me that it’s humbling.

I’ve had so many reminders of this, just in the past few months. I’ve never felt a connection to a traditional community based on proximity or shared location. I find people far too “people-y” for my taste and would rather be alone than make small talk with someone. To me, the world around me is just so disconnected and I have never felt like I truly belong.

However, my chosen family is truly my village. We take care of each other, no questions asked, nothing expected in return. If one of us needs, we all pitch in, simply because this is what we need to do to take care of our own. The world outside is so big, and sometimes it feels like we’re all islands, on our own trying to make it alone. But here, with my village, we have support and care for one another.

There is nothing superficial or obligatory about the way I love them, and in turn, the way they love me. This wonderful, supportive, healing village around me… There are no words. How lucky am I to have these truly wonderful freaks in my life.

Ok, getting a little weepy for some reason. I’m too tired. It’s been a day. I’m tired, sore, and feeling a bit behind. But it will be OK. Tomorrow MOTU arrives to work along side me and to help The Husband cover my shift Saturday where Godzilla makes his debut.

Tomorrow is another day, another recipe. Good night!

Christmas Cookies – Day 1

Start Time: 12 pm

Stop Time: 2:48 am

Goal: 21 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & ready to deliver on Tuesday 12/17. And one Godzilla themed, gluten-free (among other things) birthday cake to deliver on 12/14.

Completed:  Vanilla Sugar (6x), Chocolate Trees (4x), Coconut Cutouts (4x)
Mixed:  Teal Swirl (4x) , Gingerbread Cutouts (4x), Pecan Sandies (4x)

A day 1 for the books. Two thoughts are at the forefront of my mind as I write about this first day of Cookie Madness 2019:


Oh my god, I’m getting too old for this shit.

Oh my god, I’m feeling my age. I am so tired right now, my hands and arms are weak and shaky, my back is killing me and my feet…let’s not go there or I might cry, LOL.
Much like the rest of this year has been, I feel more unprepared for cookie season than I’d like to be. I wasn’t sure if my Guittard chocolate would show up today or not but it did. I am pretty sure I’m short on butter and will have to buy another case. I was able to do ZERO in advance this year. My timing is off and I’m struggling a little bit.

But man, it feels good to be back in this space.

The thing I realized, a loooong time ago, is that cookie time is about me being me and in some cases, battling my own high expectations. This year, I knowingly over-extended. A dear friend of mine has a birthday in December, smack in the middle of cookie time. Last year, I found out that she had to make her own birthday cake– she’s got a ton of legit food allergies, so it’s hard for her to do anything but make her own food. But you can’t have to make your own birthday cake…you just’s CAN’T…Especially when I love you. It’s just unacceptable. Every girl deserves a beautiful cake that stuns, that you didn’t have to make yourself.

Enter Godzilla. Yup, that’s right. I’m adding a gluten-free, nut-free, lots-of-other-stuff-free cake into the mix, and it’s a Godzilla theme. I’m honestly pretty excited about this project despite it meaning I need to stop twice tomorrow & Friday to detoxify my kitchen to bake and decorate it. I don’t mind. I love her and I love this kind of project.

Yet the reality remains that I now have a big ol’ cake to make on top of the 21 cookie types I’ve planned. What? I cut it down from 22 types… I’m totally doing less this year. (eye roll) This is what I mean– I am my own kind of crazy. My own expectations and desires are 100% responsible for how my body feels right now. That and dark chocolate Oreos. Those have not helped my body either.

On the flip side, my own expectations can be reset at any time. This year might be the year I cut back drastically and maybe NOT do the common cookie types. You and buy chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies. I don’t have to give them to you. My passion is in the decorator cookies anyway. Point being, it’s on ME to set my own limits and deliver what I think is good enough. And if there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that I am enough.

I’ve been on a year-long journey of self-care. I don’t feel like getting too deep into the weeds on it here, but I always thought you had to be a soldier or cop to have PTSD. You don’t. Anyone who experiences trauma can have it, especially when that trauma occurs when you are a child. Those wounds can lay the ground work for future patterns or behavior and leave you open to being taken advantage of by certain personality types.

For me, I just want to feel grounded and balanced without having to think about it so much. Last year was a year of so much change– good bad and ugly– and I’m in the process of getting my shit together. It’s only fitting that I tie that in this year, to a passion project that is both the perfect example of self-care but also is the antithesis of it. I love what I am doing, but I also recognize I’m putting my own needs aside to do it.

It’s what I have this year. Awareness. Choices. And I know that no matter how many cookies are in my boxes this year, or what kinds they are, it will be enough. And no matter what, that fills me with happiness and satisfies me. Will I wish there were more? Sure. I always do. Will I wish I spent more time or took one more day off? Absolutely. I feel that way EVERY FREAKING YEAR. But you know what? Something else I feel, every year I do this? Pride. Happiness. Satisfaction. Love.

And that is what the holidays are about. Gifts should be something you are proud of giving, and if you feel no joy in giving or the process of giving then you’re doing it wrong. There is so much I want my family and friends to have that I can’t possibly give them– peace, joy, safety, hygge–but this, I can do. In whatever shape it takes this year.

So here’s to day one. Yeah, I burnt about a dozen cookies again, and I have to re-make a batch in the morning but so what? I’ve got 6 days of cookie bliss ahead of me. And whatever gets done will get done. And I will be ok with that, truly. Because it’s this process that beings me joy. The sound of plastic packages being opened and the happy crunching. Yup. I think I’m doing it right.

However I can’t believe I just spent the last 2 hours making 125 gum paste thistles the size of a quarter… Did I mention my hands hurt? Yeeeah…

Time for bed. I might sleep in tomorrow. One of the roughest day 1s in a while, but I’m also comparing it to the most successful cookie time I’ve ever had, which was last year. 6 kinds of cookies, either mixed or baked at the close of day 1 is still damn good. We are well on the way.

Good night!

Christmas Cookies – 2018 Theme

The cookies are baked, the boxes boxed, some are delivered, others in the mail, going to far off places to be devoured, sentenced to a glittery, crunchy, sugary sweet death…

2018-12-17 21.49.432018-12-17 20.51.18

2018 Cookie season is coming to a close.

I have a confession.  I’m not sure how many more cookie madness years I’ve got in me.  No, not committed to throwing in the towel just yet, but I know I can count the of cookie insanity years I’ve got left in the tank on one hand(ish).  Next year’s theme is pretty locked down, and I’ve definitely still got brown boxes to use up, but for the first time I really allowed the thought to cross my mind in more than just a fleeting way.  I have no idea what the future holds.  And that, my friends, is a wonderful, beautiful, freeing place to be.

December 2, 2017 was the start of our new life in Concord, CA.  Everything I KNEW, just KNEW to be my life was flipped on it’s head, jostled around and rolled out with an unceremonious “splat”.  Remember Boggle, aka analog text twist?  The cube filled with letters gets shaken violently before being righted, and the letter dice just seem to fall into place and you need to make sense of it and then see how many words as you can make before time runs out.  Yeah.  Just like that.

I honestly didn’t see life being anywhere else but Pacifica.  I loved that town, loved our house and all the memories that were made there.  Things were in their places before they got flipped on their heads and it was comfortable, happy even in so many ways that matter.

That’s the thing about change that sucks.  You just never know when it’s coming and sometimes you don’t get to know why.  Choices are thrust upon you and you must choose and make what can be life altering decisions that have a ripple effect throughout all areas of your life.  Sometimes you just can’t see the impact, what lies beyond the moment and that can be utterly terrifying.  For someone like me who often plays the “choose your own adventure” game and over-thinks things through as far as possible, it’s hard to turn off your mind and just ride along.  You fret.  You wonder.  You hope.

Transformative change is the scariest kind.  Once you move forward, there is really no way to undo what has been done.   Like not being able to “un-see” Tom Cruise’s middle-aligned tooth or Ryan Reynolds’ small hands (thanks A LOT MOTU). It’s transformative for a reason.  You cease to be the person you once were or abandon the state of mind/being/body you just 100% knew you were a moment ago.  It’s awesome. It’s terrible.  It’s the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to you.  You are shook.  You are burnt, sometimes all the way to the ground and nothing is left of the old you but remnants, ash.

My life today barely resembles the life I led in Pacifica.  Yes, the pieces are somewhat the same, but at the same time, totally not.  I mourned that life, that Jenn, and it’s felt raw and a little crispy-charred here and there.  But there is also hope.  A glimmer of light, a spark, something new and great being born out of the rubble and wreckage.  I think you know where this is going.

“A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration.”

– The Feng Shui Handbook, feng shui Master Lam Kam Chuen

Transformation, change, rebirth and ultimately something beautiful rising up.  Freedom, flight, hope and renewal.  This year has been all of that.  I am far from flying at this very moment, but there is hope and beauty coming out of the dark.  It’s kind of fitting.  The last cookie box I did was all about darkness.  This one is what comes after.  The rise, the flight, the fire.  This is the year of the phoenix for me, and I’m sharing all that brightness, that beauty, that hope with you this holiday.

While writing this post, I did the internet rabbit hole thing, and found myself reading everything from mythology to religion, tattoo artist stuff and people selling spirit animal totem jewelry.  Yeah, random, but I did say I rabbit-holed a bit.  There’s a lot out there on this symbol and I think a lot of it fits perfectly to where I’m at and what I’m going through.  This site had some cool stuff and yeah, I gotta throw a little Asian on ya for a sec:

“The sighting of the phoenix is a good sign that a wise leader has ascended to the throne and a new era has begun. It was representative of Chinese virtues: goodness, duty, propriety, kindness and reliability.”

I’m not done transforming, and I’m still not out of the ash just yet, but for the first time in a long long while, something is absolutely right with me in a way it hasn’t been before.  I’m hopeful.  I’m starting to feel new again, focused, balanced.  I want to fly.  I need to fly.  I will fly.  I will rise anew.

So much good has happened this year, yet a lot of sad.  Weird sad.  Unexpected sad that reminds you just how human you are.  But I’m grateful.  I have my family.  My friends, my life.  It is good in so many ways, and I’m choosing to focus on that and to be here, in this moment and feel thankful for all that my life has become and to celebrate, not mourn how I have gotten to this point and the person I have become.

I love my family—The Husband, McIrish, MOTU—just a few among so many who affect and support me—I’m lucky to have them all (you know who you are, I hope).  I wish I could give them so much more than I’m able.  A pretty box of cookies just doesn’t cut it, but it’s a piece of myself that I can give to those around me who make life better and keep me sane and shiny even when it feels bleak and at its darkest.

So as this year ends, I want to reflect on that and yes, celebrate it and the beauty I have in my life right now.  Thank you, to my family, friends, co-workers—I wanted to give you something beautiful, I wanted to give you some of my hope and share all of this wonderful, terrifying journey with you however I can because it’s changed me, profoundly.  And while I have no idea what the future looks like or where I’ll be this time next year, I know confidently, where I am now and who I have become can take it, can make it and will always rise again and fly.

Happy holidays people. Hug your families, your pets and have a happy holiday season.

Once more, here is the cookie decoder:

Cookie Decoder 2018

Christmas Cookies – The Aftermath

Delivery is WELL underway.  Boxes were taken to work and handed out, and the first wave of shipping happened today.  All I gotta say is, Potsie is CLUTCH.

I can always count on my family to help me, that’s a given, but even with that, there are limits on what I would actually ask someone to do, due to my Asian guilt.  You just don’t ASK someone to overextend for you.  It’s bad enough MOTU seems to like helping me decorate.  I’d never ask her to do this, nor would I be mad if she didn’t help me next year.  It’s MY madness and I don’t expect anyone (well, except maybe The Husband) to help me at all.  Probably why he starts getting noticeably mad at me on day 3 and it just builds up until all the boxes are out of the house…

But back to Potsie and why she’s so fetch.  Dude, she mailed out 15 boxes for me today.  As in, took them to the post office, waited in that hellish line, and paid for them (I of course promptly paid her back!).  It floored me that she was willing to do that, and did it with a smile.  It’s not that I myself wouldn’t do that for someone I loved, but man, I just really don’t expect anyone to do this kind of thing for me.  It humbles me every time and I never know WHY someone would do something so kind for me.

I know that’s a “me” problem and some of you might be like, “So what, she mailed some boxes?”, but to me, it’s everything.   She helped me get my boxes out a bit earlier than I thought they would go (I would have had to take them at night, to Office Depot after work), and she did recon for next year.  Like I said, 11th hour, and totally clutch.

We did a total of 93 big boxes.  I totally screwed up and when copying my cookie list, mistakenly copied about 10 people 2x so yeah…no math gene here.  We have tons of cookies. 2018-12-17 23.17.35

I took as much as I could carry in to work today and made a cookie buffet for the department.  I mailed more off than I planned and some of my friends will get a nice surprise real soon, out of the blue.  Which I love.  I really like surprising people with something amazing and unexpected.

I think tomorrow might be the first night I get a good night’s rest and I can’t wait.  I’m so tired.  And I’ve still got some Christmas shopping to do.  I wish some of these winter holidays would get spread out over the year so there isn’t so much to do in October, November and December.  All the fun stuff gets crammed into 3 months.  It’s just not balanced.  I want to wear a costume to work in May…I guess nothing is stopping me…



Christmas Cookies – Day 6

Start Time: 10:50 am

Stop Time: 11:45 pm

Goal: 22 types of cookies, packaged, wrapped & read to deliver on Tuesday 12/18

Baked:  Extreme Brownie (8x), Chinese Almond (6x)

Mission accomplished.

Oh man, it was hard today.  But I learned a lot.  I waffled on my decision to eliminate the Extreme Brownie, then went for it.  3 POUNDS OF CHOCOLATE, yo. While that was chilling in the fridge, I began the Chinese Almond.  Historically, this cookie give me pain.  There’s so much hands on forming usually.  Today, I figured out how to make it an easy cookie.

This one starts it’s life in the food processor, where the shortening an dry ingredients get cut together like pastry or pie crust.  Normally, I do the whole blending in the food processor, but this year, I had a genius idea and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to figure this out.  Instead of finishing the dough in the food processor, I dumped the flour/shortening mixture into the kitchen aid and beat the hell out of it, added the wet ingredients and beat the hell out of it again.

What came out at the end was a nice, soft, pliable dough that gave me ZERO problems.  I sped through these this year.  I finished baking at about 4:30 pm, my hands aching from the cookie scoop and repeated squeezing, and I cleaned my kitchen for the final time.  Oh dishwasher, how I love you…

Labels are made, and the first batch of boxes are ready to go to work in the morning.  2018-12-17 19.09.21This year will be a strange delivery year, as I normally don’t post the cookie decoder until after the boxes are in the mail, but I’m doing to post it now so those who get their boxes tomorrow, have it for identification purposes.

I’m going to hold off on doing my post about the these though, until tomorrow.  It’s rattling around my head, and though I could bang it out tonight, it’s 2am on a school night and I’ve got to get in early tomorrow to deliver these.  I think most can tell what my theme is though, just looking at the array of cookies I’ve got going on this year.  You’ll just have to wait to read all about it in detail.

Final cookie day can feel a little melancholy, yet I feel relief.  It’s done.  Once again, I’ve accomplished something momentous and inspiringly crazy. 2018-12-21 18.09.18 Of course, it hasn’t been without pain, panic and doubt, and for the first time ever, I am considering how many more of these I have in me.  I know The Husband would be so happy if I stopped and just bought gifts for people like a normal person.  But this cookie time gives me joy as much as it makes my hands and shoulders ache.  More of this will come up in my theme post tomorrow, as it’s all part of the why behind the vision.

Anyway, it’s late and I need to get to bed, so without further ado, here’s this year’s cookie decoder.  I hope you all are as pleased with the boxes as I am this year:

Cookie Decoder 2018


Contains Chocolate:  Chocolate chip, Extreme Brownie, Mint Chip, Peanut Butter toffee Pretzel, Chocolate Sugar feathers, Cinnamon Imperial cut outs

Contains Nuts:  Extreme Brownie (walnuts), Pecan Sandies (pecans), Chinese Almond (almond extract), Coconut Sugar (coconut), Snickerdoodles (nutmeg), Brown Sugar Spice (nutmeg), Oatmeal Raisin (nutmeg)

Contains Caffeine:  All the chocolate cookies listed above, Paris Breakfast, Coffee sugar



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