Those Cookies We Like

Traditions are fun. Every year I don’t read her The Little Lame Squirrel’s Thanksgiving and then somehow I wind up making a batch of “those cookies we like”. In the past, Christmas was held here but now that folks have moved, we’re spread over four cities and two states. So it’s time to reveal the “secret” recipe for “those cookies”.

Basically the cookies are shortbread topped with almond paste and fruit preserves. Cherry and apricot go particularly well with the almonds.  To make them you’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 8 oz can of almond paste
  • jams or fruit preserves

Pre-heat oven to 325℉.

There are a couple ways to make the dough –

  • If you’re using a mixer, combine the butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat until fluffy and pale. Then fold in the flour to make a soft dough.
  • If you have a food processor. Put the flour and sugar in the work bowl and pulse to mix. Then add the butter (in chunks) to the work bowl and pulse to cut the butter in. It will look like coarse corn meal.

Turn out the dough onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. Press the dough out to form a giant cookie that’s about 3/8 inch thick.

Next, cover the shortbread with almond paste. It’s easiest to break up the almond paste into six or eight pieces and roll each piece out between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. Use a butter knife to score through the almond paste into the shortbread – make the cookie about 2 inches on a side.

Now add the fruit preserves. Make a small depression in the center of each cookie and then add a half teaspoon of preserves. Add more if you like — the food police won’t know. Keep in mind that it will tend to spread.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes. The shortbread part should be a pale gold. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Posted in Cooking, Food, Holidays, Traditions | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

An Open Letter to Wholesale Supplies Plus

Updated: 13 August 2013

I ordered 2 gallons of USP-grade glycerin through your website Wholesale Supplies Plus. Before placing the order, I carefully read the product overview including the “Points of Interest” section which states

All Natural. Vegetable Source. USP Grade.

I also reviewed the MSDS and the Declaration of Conformity provided under the documents tab. Together these documents state the product is USP-grade glycerin. The MSDS further states that the product is suitable as a food ingredient and provides nutritional information (432 Cal / 100 g).

My reason for purchasing this product was as a food ingredient. Thus you can imagine my dismay when I opened the box and found two jugs labelled Crafters Choice(tm) glycerin below which was written “Do no ingest”.

To find our what had happened, I called your customer service number. They explained that you repackage the glycerin in a facility which does not meet USP specifications so the repackaged product can’t be labelled USP-grade glycerin.

The customer service representative made arrangements for a return but was told “no” when she asked a supervisor about a return label. I would have to pay the shipping if I wanted a refund.

So what’s my point? The product description on your website is at best misleading. And under the circumstances, I don’t believe it’s fair to expect me to pay return shipping in order to get a refund.

To help others avoid this pitfall I’m posting this as an open letter on my blog and as a product rating on your website.

Update 13 August 2013: The Q&A section of this product page has come to life –

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 1.39.01 PM

Both the question and the answer (along with two unanswered questions) appeared on their site after this letter was published. A remarkable coincidence.

Posted in Ingredients, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Shoe Wall

Her: I need another shoe rack.

We looked for something suitable in the big box stores but everything was too wide or too tall. What we really needed was more space. Thus was born the shoe wall.

ShoeWall

The basic idea came from posts on not martha and Apartment Therapy – this is my variation on the theme.

For each shoe shelf you’ll need:

Look for EMT conduit in the electrical supply section of your big box store. It comes in 10 foot long sections. They make a special cutter for it or you can use a hacksaw. You’ll need a file to smooth the edges. We left the conduit plain — the shoes cover enough to temper the industrial look. We’ll cap the ends eventually but that’s a project for another day.

Posted in Remodeling, Shoes, Storage | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

This is gonna take more than a coat of paint.

A couple months ago, we came home to find our normally cool basement transformed into a Turkish bath . The hot water heater had sprung a leak. Normal people would clean up the mess, replace the appliance and move on. Then there’s us.

Our house was originally built in the 19th century and over the years, it’s had a number of additions and renovations. Like back in the 70s when the basement was remodeled as a three-room apartment. At least that’s what they started to do. No idea why they quit. Maybe it was the carpet.

And speaking of carpet, that’s probably when we fell down the rabbit hole. We looked at that sopping orange and brown mess and knew there was no reason to save it. Even if we hoovered up the water, the carpet would stay wet and grow things.

Once we had the carpet up, along with the remains of the foam backing, we expected to find bare concrete. Something that would be presentable with a little prep work and a coat of paint. Instead we found a layer of adhesive. Hot water won’t soften it. Nor will a hairdryer or propane torch. It’s unimpressed by a scraper in both the figurative and literal senses. The only option left is grinding. Or we can just tile over it.

Having removed the ugly carpet, we figured why not remove the ugly drop ceiling. Above it we found actual 2x10s that span the full width of the house. We also found this interesting construction detail from 150 years ago.

The spanning joists run left to right on the long sides of the chimney. Short pieces are tenoned between them to make a nailing surface on the short sides (there’s another one on the other side of the chimney). The square is the end of the tenon and the dark blotch below it is a cut nail to hold the joint together.

Okay, we’re on a roll – let’s take out an ugly wooden door frame.

Not what I expected. When the door jamb came loose, so did the nailing plugs. And so did chunks of mortar and plaster.  It looks like there are several coats of paint (including that lovely pink we’ve found elsewhere), a plaster skim coat, and a layer of mortar or cement all of which pops off in big chunks. And underneath it all is stone.

We haven’t decided whether this latest development is a good thing or not but I’m pretty sure we’ve got a new remodeling project and it’s gonna take more than a coat of paint.

Posted in Home Repair, Remodeling | Leave a comment

Health Care and Political Metaphor

If you’ve paid any attention to the health reform debate, you’ve probably heard at least one talking head claim that an individual health insurance mandate is just like making people buy auto insurance.

Bull.

We don’t require everyone to buy auto insurance – only those who want to license their vehicle for use on public roads.  Anyone who has no car probably has no reason to buy auto insurance. And not everyone who owns a car chooses to register it. Why would anyone own a vehicle and not register it?

  • They don’t drive
  • or can’t afford gas/maintenance/repairs/insurance.
  • The vehicle doesn’t run
  • or it’s a collectors’ item
  • or a restoration project.
  • It could be a race car,
  • off-road vehicle,
  • farm vehicle,
  • or a demolition derby entry.

There are undoubtedly more.

The point is that auto insurance is something people need as a result of choices they’ve made. Not everybody needs it. On the other hand, if you have a body, you will need health care and given our current system, that means you need health insurance. It’s not something you get to choose and the sooner the politicians figure that out, the sooner they can move on to other things like realizing we’re all in the same risk pool.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in Health Care, Politics | Leave a comment

Righthaven Liquified

It’s heartwarming to see a legal shakedown scheme stopped dead.

For those who don’t follow lawsuits, Righthaven is a company that was set up as a copyright collection agency. They searched for online quotations from newspaper articles, got the copyright transferred from the paper to Righthaven and then filed suit — lots of law suits. But Righthaven had no interest in the actual articles so the only thing they got in the transfer was the right to sue and according to the U.S. District Judge Pro that wasn’t enough to give them standing so one of their lawsuits, Righthaven v Hoehn was dismissed.

After winning the dismissal, Hoehn sought and was awarded legal fees which came to about thirty grand. Righthaven balked and delayed paying which led to Hoehn’s attorney, Marc Randazza, filing more motions and the debt grew. It became pretty apparent that the folks at Righthaven had no intention of paying so Hoehn’s next move was to ask the to court auction off Righthaven’s intellectual property which included about 275 copyrights. Based on the judge’s original ruling that led to the dismissal, these copyrights are worthless but if Righthaven no longer owns them, the dozens of other pending cases will be rendered moot. And they’ll make great souvenirs.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas everyone!

Santa brought me a knit hat — some assembly required.

It’s quiet around here. The nearest relatives are at least a state away so we got to sleep in. Outside it’s bright and sunny. A light breeze with a cloudless blue sky and no white stuff on the ground. A good day for a long walk.

Posted in Holidays, Knitting | Leave a comment