Winter Weather and Cookie Chatter

Yesterday at 5 pm, it was 72 degrees.  Today at 11 am, it is 20 degrees and ice is falling outside.

Winter is here again with yet another big arctic blast for us today, and it appears that the temperature will not get above freezing until sometime next week.  Our low temperature on Saturday is going to be around *5* degrees, which is just getting ridiculously cold for us.  Add in even the lightest wind, and we will have chill factors below zero.

Needless to say, I am staying inside as long as humanly possible this weekend.

All of this wet stuff falling outside is going to remain frozen for days, and after dealing with ice and snow just two weeks ago, I’m seriously going to have to get my Christmas shopping list organized to make quick work of it when the streets finally thaw, since I opted to forego the madness of shopping after Thanksgiving once again this year to spend some quality time in the great outdoors, which I wrote about in my previous post.

I’m also going to try to put my time at home to good use over the next few days.  I still have some Christmas decorations to put up inside, and I need to start preparing my kitchen and freezer for my upcoming cookie baking escapades in a few days.  I need to clear everything off of all the cabinets in the kitchen to make as much room as possible for the baking process and for the baked cookies as they come out of the ovens.  My plan at this time is to get the kitchen re-organized over the weekend and start baking cookies next week.  I freeze the cutout cookies until I am ready to begin decorating them, and hopefully the decorating process will begin next weekend or shortly after.  I also freeze any other cookies that I bake until I am read to put the gift platters together.  To freeze the cookies, I first separate the layers of cookies with wax paper, then wrap them in plastic wrap as tightly as possible, and finally wrap them in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  The longest period that I kept them frozen last year was about two weeks, but I think they would be fine for a longer period of time when properly wrapped, too.

Christmas Cookies 2012 in detail,
with pictures and recipes

I delivered my cookie platter gifts about ten to twelve days prior to Christmas last year, and I hope to have them ready to deliver to friends and family about that same time-frame this year.

My Christmas Cookie Trays for Gifts
My Christmas Cookie Trays for Gifts
Decorated Christmas Cookies
Decorated Christmas Cookies

Decorating cookies is the highlight of Christmas food preparation for me now.  I even shared a bit of the decorating fun with a friend and her two little grandchildren last year, and we all had a fun time creating our own unique cookie works of art.

Until last year, I always purchased our decorated Christmas cookies each year from a fabulous bakery nearby, but I had to learn to make them myself last year after our treasured bakery closed for good.  Learning how to apply the icing properly was most definitely a trial and error process, but I finally got the hang of it after a few attempts with the flood icing.

The most difficult decision for me right now is deciding on the other cookie recipes to bake this year, along with the decorated sugar cookies.  Decisions, decisions!  There are so many great holiday cookie recipes to choose from these days, and if you really want to jump into the holiday cookie scene, just start searching on Pinterest.  Just make sure you have a few hours once you do.  It’s also a great way to unwind with a glass of wine after a spending an entire day dealing once again with an out-of-control extended family member or two as well.  Don’t ask me how I know that.  😉

Bring on the cookies!

Today’s holiday gift suggestion: “Decorating Cookies” – by Bridget Edwards – available online or at your local bookstore!

D
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A Great Thanksgiving Weekend

We had a truly blessed Thanksgiving holiday.  Even though we had a small group of four for lunch at our home, it was a great meal and good company, for sure.  Our son and my mom joined us for lunch around 11:30 am, and we all had our fill of traditional food and pie, followed by watching a few recorded episodes of Duck Dynasty, which I thought might be a hit with our little group.  My hunch was correct, and my 92 year-young mom laughed until I thought she would make herself sick, especially over the episode about the RV road trip.  Who knew that RV stands for “Redneck Vacation” anyway?  😉  Seriously, we laughed more than we have laughed in a very long time, and it was wonderful.  We also went on a little walk around the neighborhood before taking my mom back home.  We also got to talk to our California daughter by phone for about an hour late in the afternoon, too.  I miss having my girl close by, but she and her hubby are doing well.  That is something to definitely be grateful for.

Speaking of pie, I made a new pie recipe, and it was so good!  It was a Caramel Apple Pie, and that recipe is most definitely a keeper.  Of course it is.  It is from The Pioneer Woman.  Here is the link to that recipe, and it is also in her new holiday cookbook, too.

The Pioneer Woman – Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Around 5 pm on Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I left in our RV for a long weekend of camping at Caprock Canyons State Park.  The snow storm that hit earlier in the week apparently caused some other campers to cancel their holiday camping reservations there, so we were able to secure a reservation on Wednesday night for the holiday weekend, which was a big surprise for us.  We had just about given up hope of finding an open campsite for the holiday weekend, but when we checked online on Wednesday night, there was one 50 amp site available.  We reserved it right away and spent Wednesday evening loading a few more supplies for our trip.

Caprock Canyons is such a great state park, and fortunately, it is within a reasonable drive for us for a quick little getaway trip most any time of the year, as long as we can plan far enough ahead of time to secure a reservation for a water and electric site.  The more I go there, the more I love it, too.  It is a uniquely beautiful and secluded place, and it seems we learn more and see more with each return trip.  The park seems to be drawing more visitors from distant places now, as we note when we say “hello” and are greeted in a foreign language, which is always a treat for us.  One family greeted us in German on this trip, or at least we think it was German.

I will write a follow-up post with more details about Caprock Canyons sometime soon, but for now, I want to share some things about this particular trip that made it so special.  God surely knew how much I needed a sanity break right now, I think.  We camped next to a very nice family from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and we enjoyed visiting with them.  It’s always fun to have nice neighbors, and we’ve found this to be more the rule than the exception when we go camping, thank goodness.

We made two long hikes (for us), one that was three miles and another that was four miles, and on each hike, the scenery was just breathtaking.  Girly Girl loved hiking with us, as always.  Our first hike was along the Canyon Rim Trail near our campsite.

At our turnaround point on the Canyon Rim Trail
At our turnaround point on the Canyon Rim Trail

The view below is only a ten minute walk on an easy trail from where we camped in Honey Flat campground.  This panorama photo just does not do it justice either.

View on the Canyon Rim Trail
View on the Canyon Rim Trail. We call this “Hidden Canyon.” Breathtakingly beautiful!

We also hiked on Eagle Point trail for about a mile into the canyon for the first time.  Unlike the Canyon Rim Trail which is flat for about over a mile at the beginning, Eagle Point trail starts at the top of the canyon and goes down into it.  The weather was cool and wonderful, and we just kept going down and down into the canyon and enjoying the hike so much.  Of course, what goes down must come up when hiking, so the climb back out of the canyon took a little longer.  My legs “talked” to me a bit afterward, but it was totally worth it all to make that beautiful hike.

We also went on several shorter hikes, especially in the evenings just before sunset, and the stillness, the beauty, and the sounds of the birds and wildlife all around almost made me want to cry.  It was so very peaceful and good for the soul.  I took the photo below while taking a hike with Girly Girl while hubby was getting our fire ready to cook steaks on Saturday evening.  No one else was around, except a few birds and a coyote that was pretty far away but howling nonetheless in the distance.

On the Canyon Rim Trail just before sunset
On the Canyon Rim Trail just before sunset

We also enjoyed a nice, long motorcycle ride one afternoon, and we were even able to drive to another small town in the area for a quick visit with some friends that were there on their own holiday getaway.  As we rode back to the park, we made a quick detour to Monk’s Crossing to take a look at the “rail to trail” path there that leads to Clarity Tunnel.  This is an epic bike ride that we would like to make sometime, hopefully sooner rather than later, and it is also a part of the state park, even though it is several miles away.  On our way back to the park, we saw yet another amazing sunset.  Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but I had to give it a try.

Sunset near Quitaque
Sunset near Quitaque

Finally, on Friday night, a family with some children that were camped nearby built a campfire at their site, toasted marshmallows for s’mores, and sang Christmas carols around their campfire.  They sang very well, too.  We could see and hear them as we sat outside by our RV under the stars, which were amazing on that clear night with no moon.  We drank some hot apple cider as we star-gazed and listened to our wonderful carolers nearby, and it was as if God was saying that it was finally time to begin celebrating the Christmas season once again.  That was one of those special moments that I will likely remember for a very long time, too.

I also found myself missing our Big Ol’ Baby once again on this trip.  I will probably always remember him when we go camping, I guess.  I saved the last picture that I took of him and Girly Girl in the RV back in September when we camped in New Mexico, and I brought it up on my phone to look at it a couple of times as I sat inside and looked at the empty place on the sofa where he would usually sit.  Girly Girl is doing pretty good, but it is obvious that she is more insecure now, too.  This is the first time in her life that she has been alone, and we are not happy with how she is behaving since losing her buddy.  So, we will be getting a new puppy pal to join her in early January when he turns six weeks old.  We finalized the deal last week, and he will be our mutual Christmas gift.  Now, we just have to decide on a name for him, but fortunately we have five weeks to do it.  We are looking forward to adding another four-legged family member, too!  😀

This was our third consecutive year to go camping during Thanksgiving after our family meal, and I think it’s safe to say that this is probably now a new tradition for us.  I hope we can do this for many years to come.

D
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