Friday, December 28, 2012

See's Original Chocolate Chip Cookies

If there is one thing I love, it's chocolate chip cookies. I grew up on the traditional Nestle Toll House variety, but have always wondered if there was something else out there... something better. I've been collecting recipes on Pinterest and trying different chips in search of the *best* chocolate chip cookie. This year, I decided to buy a bag of chips from my new favorite chocolatier: See's Candies

I love their chocolates, their lollipops, their truffles. To be honest, I've yet to find anything I *don't* like from See's, so it seemed like a safe bet. The chips were a bit pricy at $5.75/lb., but can we really put a price on culinary perfection? Nooooo... *wink* 

I couldn't believe how BIG the chips were. In fact, "big" is an understatement... these suckers are HUGE. Ginormous. Each chip is about the size of a nickel, maybe a bit bigger. Just seeing the size of the chip was the beginning of the end for me. I like a traditional sized chip. In recent years, my grandma started making her Nestle Tollhouse Cookies with their chocolate chunks rather than their chips and I even thought those were too big. BUT, I paid nearly $6 for these babies, so I wasn't going to let size deter me. I pressed on... 

I followed the See's Original Chocolate Chip Recipe on the bag (see below) and baked off a batch, fully prepared for heavenly chocolate chip cookie bliss, but I never quite achieved that state of sugar induced nirvana I was hoping for. The chips were hard to mix into the dough because they were so large. I ended up with some cookies that only had one chip and others that had several. They baked out very flat, but to their credit never got hard or crunchy (a serious pet peeve!). In short, I was disappointed. I wouldn't buy them again. In my honest opinion, Nestle wins this battle in a landslide. 

Here's the recipe if anyone would like to try it. I'm tempted to try it with the Nestle chips just for shiggles, but we'll see if it ever happens. 

1 c. Butter - cream well
1 c. Light Brown Sugar

Add gradually to above: 
1 c. Sugar

Beat into the above:
2 Eggs
1 1/2 t. Vanilla

Mix together, add to above, blending well:
2 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
1 c. Chopped Walnuts (I omitted. I have a serious aversion to nuts in cookies.)
2 c. See's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake @ 375˚ F 8-10 minutes. Yield @ 4 dozen cookies. 

There is also a recipe on the back of the bag for See's Gooey Brownies. I've been lamenting the fact that I didn't try those instead. I probably would have liked them better, even though I'm not really a brownie fan in general (but seriously, a GOOEY brownie? Who can resist that? Although honestly, since trying the Chocolate Cookie Dough Brownies that Bakerella posted a few years back I've never tried another brownie recipe. When you find something you love you just stick with it! 

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. If I love Nestle so much, why do I keep looking for something better? 

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Memorial Christmas Ornaments

A few weeks ago we received a post card from our family cemetery letting us know that they would be placing memorial Christmas trees in their chapel area and we were invited to bring ornaments in memory of our loved ones. We are blessed to have known many people who were laid to rest at this cemetery and I truly wanted to make ornaments for every single one of them, but that just wasn't practical. Instead, I chose a select few. We (my mom and I) didn't want to spend a fortune on the ornaments because no where on the invitation did it say whether or not we'd be able to retrieve them at the end of the season.

We bought plain, solid colored balls (a box of 8 for $4.95!) and headed to my craft room where we used paint pens, punches, and ribbon to personalize them. Each ornament got a double ribbon tie at the top, a name, and a hang tag. On the front of the hang tag was our loved ones full name and as much of the birth and death information as we had available to us, and on the back of each tag was a short personal message from us to them in heaven.

In addition to that box of 8 ornaments, I also purchased two separately. There was a lady at a local craft fair would painted names on ornaments for $5, so I bought one for our son Henry in orange (his favorite color) and added an orange ribbon and a paw print ribbon, keeping with his love of animals.

I also found a snowflake at Hobby Lobby that I just couldn't resist for my goddaughter Kejerah, who died at two months old of SIDS. I couldn't write a name on the snowflake, so I just hung the tag from the bottom and attached a small burgundy stitched ribbon at the top. Simple, but perfect. It was a snowy night, the night Kejerah died, and I always think of her when it snows even now. I'm sure I always will.

And here is the set of 8. We really weren't sure what to expect in terms of what other people would be doing. It was nice looking through the trees (as much as we could with a four year old in tow). There were shaped ornaments with no words whatsoever, and others that had names and dates on them. A huge variety. We may reuse these next year, but we may also swap them out for more meaningful ones for each individual person. A flamingo for my grandma (she HATED lawn flamingos... it got to be a standing joke between the two of us that we'd buy each other flamingo stuff when we saw it. :)), maybe a fish for my grandpa, the master fisherman. A daisy for Cheryl, our cousin whose life ended far too soon after a courageous battle with cancer, a cardinal for Aunt Ferne, the most recent relative to join our heavenly family less than a month ago.... We'll have to wait and see what we find. Or, maybe we will keep using these but add on for other friends and relatives we didn't cover this year. Time will tell.

In loving memory, this Christmas and always, of Henry, Kejerah, (Great) Grandma (Bessie) Hank (yes, we called her by grandpa's first name... weird, I know.), Aunt Ferne, Grandpa (Eugene or "Eug"), Grandma (Wilma), (cousin) Cheryl, (Great) Grandpa Hank (Henry's namesake), (Godfather) Rick, and Aunt Mamie.

May you rest in peace. 

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Origami Owl Living Lockets

Everyone has a story to tell...

You've heard me tell my story over the years, a story of creativity and love, grief and hope, and most importantly, a story of family. Origami Owl is a fairly new company that specializes in customizable jewelry including what they call Living Lockets, which allow you to tell your story in a way no other jewelry ever has. Think of it as a sort of scrapbook you can wear.

As Steph at Six Sisters' Stuff (love that blog!) so eloquently wrote, yours "might be a story of survival, a story of faith, a celebration of family, a special memory, or a realization of a life dream. Whether you've welcomed a new member to your family through adoption, become a grandma, suffered the loss of a family member or friend, returned from a dream vacation, or just want to share your hobbies, interests, or team spirit, Origami Owl can help you create a locket to help you share your story with others."

The beautiful thing about these lockets is that they are never final. The lockets are held shut with a strong magnetic closure and the charms and plates inside can be changed as frequently as you like. I am currently wearing two snowflakes with some red and crystal birthstones in mine (silently willing a white Christmas for Northeast Wisconsin!), but have changed it twice within the last week to reflect my love of the Green Bay Packers (2 green birthstones, 2 gold birthstones, football charm, "G", and "B") and the memory of my son Henry ("faith" plate, angel charm, birthstone). The possibilities are truly endless, and I love that.

I am beyond thrilled to announce that as of late October, I am an independent designer with Origami Owl. I would be more than happy to help you create a locket that is meaningful for yourself or for a gift. The holiday season is fast approaching, but there is still time to order for Christmas delivery! Orders placed by 10am CST on the following days will arrive in time for Christmas: December 13 for ground shipping, December 17th for three day shipping, December 18th for two day shipping, or December 19th for overnight shipping.

In addition to the Living Lockets, Origami Owl also has a new "tagged" line of pendents that are made to inspire and affirm life. In my own personal collection you will find tagged items that slide together on a chain to say, "I have faith". I've spoken on this blog about the death of my three year old son Henry, and this is a reminder to me and a proclamation to the world that I will see him again and we will be together for eternity. I am also exceptionally fond of the "I am" and "Enough" tags. What a wonderful gift they would make for a young lady who is struggling to find her identity and dodge peer pressure! Sometimes those words are exactly what a person needs to hear in this day and age of  media and feeling we need to live up to other people's standards: You are enough.

Please take a moment to click through to my Origami Owl webpage and take a peek. Maybe you are looking for a new opportunity to earn a little spending cash for yourself or even a new career. This company is new and fresh and at the ground level. We're just bursting at the seams and I'd love to have you along for the ride of a lifetime! We have a great team and a great mentoring system in place (even if you're on the other side of the country - trust me! I know first hand!). If you'd like to be a part of it, please look at the sidebar on my blog for links to email me for more info, or just do what I did and click the "Join My Team" button over there to sign up sight unseen! (I really did. True story.)

You can also stay up to date with the company and any specials or new product announcements by "liking" my Origami Owl Facebook Page. I will also be posting O2 related news on my blog occasionally along with my continued posts about cooking, creating, and life in general. Maybe we'll even have a giveaway in the new year!

I am an Origami Owl independent designer located in Northeast Wisconsin - specifically, Oshkosh, Wisconsin - in the heart of the Fox River Valley. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the Origami Owl products or business opportunity! Interested in hosting a jewelry bar or catalog show? Awesome! You can earn free jewelry with very little effort - it's well worth your time! It's a great company, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Let me know how I can help you.

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