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Monday, December 22, 2014

Sweets & Treats for the Holidays-- Part 1: Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

Happy holidays!

What a delicious season it has been so far, and it's not even Christmas yet!

I've spent the past week in my kitchen baking up a ton of treats to share with family, friends, teachers, and clerks at my favorite local businesses.

I kicked off my annual holiday baking season with these delightful Candy Cane Kiss cookies. The nice folks at Influenster sent me a VoxBox which contained Hershey Kisses Candy Cane Kisses. See?

Hershey's Kisses: Candy Cane seasonal variety. #MERRYKISSMAS

Pretty cool, huh? The only thing better than festive holiday Kisses is FREE festive holiday Kisses*. I couldn't wait to try them.

My girls were eager to rip into the bag immediately. I figured trying a couple for testing purposes would be reasonable, so we dug in and started tasting. This seasonal variety is mint flavored with characteristic candy cane stripes, and for added fun, little crunchy candy bits inside (you can see the flecks of red speckling the Kisses in my picture). The girls loved them and didn't want to stop at just one a piece, but I knew I wanted to make something delicious with them so we had just one more (what? it's the holidays, after all!) and then I set about to find the perfect recipe. For me, that's usually a cookie.

As usual, I wasn't disappointed when I checked in with my favorite sweets food blogger friend Sally at Sally's Baking Addiction ( Sure enough, she had a recipe using the Candy Cane Kisses (two, in fact, but I went with the classic sugar cookie recipe.) For the actual recipe, head on over to her blog and check it out. But I can tell you this: it couldn't have been easier.

I made the sugar cookie dough, rolled it into 1-tablespoon-sized balls, rolled those balls into my favorite festive sprinkles, then baked. When they were out of the oven, I let them rest on the pan for five minutes before popping a Candy Cane Kiss in the middle of each one and racing to get them in the freezer (full disclosure: my freezer is full at the moment, so I put mine in the fridge instead.) The point is: get them to a cooler climate STAT because those little Kisses start to melt their minty goodness onto your cookie. While it doesn't change the taste, it does change the appearance.

Once they're set, you have a festive-looking, soft and sweet sugar cookie with the crown of mint on top. My daughters loved them. My niece loved them. Everyone who tasted them loved them! And they were so simple.

Here's what they looked like when they were done (as you can see, next time I'm going to have to make it to the fridge a tad faster. Haha.)

Candy Cane Kiss cookies

I've seen some other uses for the Kisses, too, like as a topper for cupcakes and pies. Or, quite frankly, you can just eat them plain. They're that good.

Bottom line: this was a fun seasonal treat and one that I'll certainly make it a point to buy in the future. This cookie deserves a spot in the Christmas cookie line-up and was a fantastic starting point for my holiday baking adventures.

I'll share the full line-up of my treats in my next post. But until then, this is a good one to get you started. Happy baking!

*Disclosure: I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. However, all the opinions expressed herein are my own and are true.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Opportunity for Writers of Women's Fiction

It's not too late!
Writer's Digest via Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog is running its 17th "Dear Lucky Agent" contest. 
Even better? It's free to enter!
This year, the contest is open to writers of women's/upmarket fiction.
Writers submit a query letter, the first 150-200 words of their completed women's fiction manuscript, and a logline for judging by guest agent Paula Munier, Senior Literary Agent and Content Strategist at Talcott Notch Literary. 
The deadline is today, Friday, October 17th, so don't delay.
For all submission guidelines, information regarding prizes, and eligibility details, visit Chuck Sambuchino's blog.

Best of luck to all entrants. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Actually, April is the Coolest Month

April is National Poetry Month. How delightful that there's a month dedicated to celebrating words and meaning-making. Those things deserve to be celebrated. 

Better still, within National Poetry Month there's a day called Poem in Your Pocket Day. This year, it falls on Thursday, April 24th. On that day, people are meant to carry a poem in their pockets to periodically share with others. That way, people can enjoy a poem for its own sake and come together over meaningful words. 

I enjoyed doing that so much that now I take it a step further because I want to help spread that fun around. 

My good friend Jenny--scientist, mother, and children's books lover-- has a wonderful blog called Books, Babies, and Bows ( where she celebrates the wonders that can be found in children's literature (not to mention the joys and lessons of reading with one's kids)! She asked me to write a guest post for her blog explaining how I celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I was thrilled to share my story. I encourage you to check out her blog, and while you're there, you can read my post (published today). 

Of course, I still carry a poem in my pocket. Here's the poem that resonated with me this year, and the one I'll have in my pocket on the 24th:

The World Seems... by Gregory Orr

The world seems so palpable
And dense: people and things
And the landscapes 
They inhabit or move through. 

Words, on the other hand, 
Are so abstract--they're
Made of empty air
Or black scratches on a page
That urge us to utter 
Certain sounds. 
                         And us:
Poised in the middle, aware
 Of the objects out there
Waiting patiently to be named,
As if the right words 
Could save them.  
                           And don't
They deserve it? 
So much hidden inside each one,
Such a longing
To become the beloved.

And inside us: the sounds
That could extend that blessing --
How they crowd our mouths,
How they press up against
Our lips, which are such
A narrow exit for a joy so desperate. 

I hope you'll celebrate this year, too. Find whatever words speak to you and carry them with you on the 24th. If you're inspired to do more, wonderful. If not, just having those words with you is enough. No matter what, though, enjoy the day. I know I will.

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about making a cake to add to the excitement of the day. I pictured making a 13x9 rectangular cake and cutting the two corners off the bottom so that it forms a V shape down there, like it's coming to a point. That way, it would sort of look like a pocket. I'd ice it--likely in vanilla because that's my favorite, plus it's white which is a nice backdrop for any text I might pipe on there. Though, I'll admit I did consider tinting it blue so that it looked more like a denim pocket, but decided against it.--and decorate it with my special decorating tips, piping in some sugary stitching to add more authenticity to the pocket look. Then, I'd pipe "Poem in Your Pocket" on there in another color. And then for the best part: I'd get some of those plastic things they use in flower arrangements to hold the card, and poke them out of the cake. In each one, I'd have a poem on some card stock. It would look so cute. When people cut into the confection--and, of course, no one would want to cut into such a lovely cake, but they would because cake is meant to be eaten--they'd hit the jackpot because they'd get a slice of cake AND a poem. Perfection on a plate!

(What? You don't create imaginary cakes in your head as you fall asleep? Oh, well, you should; it gives the phrase "sweet dreams" a whole new meaning!)

Anyway, I still might make that cake. If I can find some of those plastic things...