Really (really!) Fantastically Soft Gingerbread Cookies

I posted this recipe on my Instagram and Facebook today and had some people message me about a printable copy. So because I’m such an awesome person, here is the printable recipe version.

These are seriously good gingerbread cookies. Soft center. Lightly crunchy outside. Just the right amount of spicy and sweet. (Wait. Are these my signature cookie? DOES ‘G’ STAND FOR GINGERBREAD?!)

The things we uncover when we blog…

G IS FOR GINGERBREAD cookies


INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons prepared dark coffee
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In medium bowl, combine flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking soda

In mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in egg, coffee, and molasses. Slowly blend flour mixture into butter mixture until incorporated; scraping down the bowl sides and beaters.

Shape dough into 1″ balls and roll in sugar.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheet – 1″ apart

Bake for 12-14 minutes. After 5 minutes, move to cooling racks.

ENJOY!!

(Tomorrow’s post will be a delicious salty and sweet butterscotch and pretzel cookie!) Is this a food blog now?! I can’t help it – it’s Christmas and you might have a few desserts still to make and I’m here for you! There’s nothing I like more than a good homemade cookie.

Support a Creative

The most important thing you can give to the creative in your life are the words that say, ‘I did not see the discarded canvases. I did not see the proofread scripts. I did not see the crumbled clay or the wadded paper. I didn’t see the frustration or the doubt (……ever, the crippling doubt.) I did not see the original idea or the multiple versions before conclusion.

What I do see, however, is the final result which looks shiny and easy and as if it spilled out of you as a whole and finished work. I see the energy you’ve put into your work. I see you struggling against the odds and showing up again and again.’

Appreciating art of any kind is somewhat easy. Wrapping words of appreciation around the art and offering those words to the artist as acknowledgement of their efforts, can alter a Creative’s perspective.

In this season of giving – and please oh please, all year through – if you’ve been given something that came from the creative’s unique talent, know that your words of encouragement are the power that undergirds their next step. It might seem simple to you, but it is soul-giving to them.

To all the creatives trying to balance passion and self-doubt, you have a grateful friend in me.

A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES by Shea Ernshaw

I was opening my Book of the Month box just as my dad called yesterday. I told him what I was doing and he (84 years old) immediately said he remembered the first Book of the Month they ever received: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962) He also said he remembered ordering To Kill a Mockingbird through BOTM. Can you imagine?! My parents’ neighbors told them about the iconic book club when they were a young couple and as a kid, I remember looking through the (magical!) catalog they received each month.

(This sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it? I promise it’s not. I’m just a fan.)

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw was my selection for December. Magical realism is a genre I didn’t know I enjoyed until a few years ago. And oddly enough, I enjoy reading it the most in the winter months. This month’s selection sounds like a thrilling one.

Everything I have read about this book mentions the brilliance of the atmospheric experience you go through while reading it. You are completely immersed in the reclusive community of Pastoral as Travis – someone who has the uncanny gift of finding missing people by touching an object of theirs – dares to enter where he isn’t permitted. When he goes missing too, the plot thickens. 

I’m excited to jump in with Travis and see what we discover!

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS by Alice Feeney

“Shhhhhhut UP!”

That is what I yelled into my empty home. It was just me, alone, reading the twists in this fast-paced thriller. 

“Wait. What?!”, I continue my one-sided conversation as I rapidly flipped back to the earlier chapters.

I still have questions. I’ve never googled, so quickly, to compare plot ending explanations online. 

1. Main character has prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces.
2. Old, secluded chapel turned into a home (complete with church pews, iron keys and a crypt!)
3. Takes place between London and the Scottish Highlands, for pete’s sake.

Quick read (seriously – put away all responsibilities.) Few characters. Multiple plot twists. 

I’m going to fix me a stiff holiday elixir and catch my breath. 

“Most people see the writing on the walls, even if they can’t read what it says.”

Have you read it? Let’s compare notes! 

in the in-between

I read an interesting description of Advent this morning in Common Prayer. While describing Advent as a time of waiting and expectation, the author wrote that ‘we are the midwives of another world.’

That sent me into a quick Google search of what a midwife’s responsibilities are: educating the parents before labor, nurturing the mother in preparation for labor, assisting her during labor, and caring for the parents and the child after the child was born. 

A midwife has their feet in the before, during and the after. Some of those stages are sanguine and reflective. Some are stressful and highly charged. And yet throughout, a midwife must remain consistent and always at the ready. 

Days like yesterday seem like the stressful and highly charged times. Senseless death. Another pre-adult’s life ruined by a violent act. Many more traumatized for a lifetime. We wept. God wept. When will the new creation come? 

Giving Tuesday was also yesterday. A time to pour resources of money and time into charities doing important work. Midwives, themselves. 

We stand, firmly planted, in two worlds. Each promising new and exciting things. We cannot abandon one for the other. We must hold them both with great expectation. We cannot forsake our fellow earth traveler in lieu of mansions of gold. We must walk with them, feeling their deep pain when needed, keeping each other healthy and whole. And we cannot ignore our Heavenly Father’s directives for the enticement of momentary earthly gain. 

A midwife exists in the in-between space, filling it with reassurance and direction and a calm confidence. 

‘Will you let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are trav’lers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.’
– The Servant Song

WHEN THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS AREN’T ENOUGH by Taylor Schumann

An excellent, excellent, excellent book.

I have been following Taylor Schumann for a little while now on Instagram and Twitter. I was excited when she decided to write a book because I was interested in reading her story in whole rather than the bits and pieces I’ve picked up over time. What I didn’t expect was to read a book chocked full of personal experience AND logical steps we can take to clarify and strengthen our society. This book met me at the crossroads of faith, patriotism, and common sense gun reform.

Taylor is ‘just a mom’. A young, married, mom of an adorable and precocious son – just like many other young moms you know. But Taylor was also shot, at 23 years old, while hiding in the closet of the community college where she was employed. Reading her account of this shooting was enthralling. Hearing about the court proceedings – so interesting. Feeling broken-hearted while reading her immediate and continuous challenges since the shooting (example: She can’t be without her phone. While hiding in the closet, she didn’t have her phone with her.) Taylor covers common myths, policy changes, and a very important item: how to discuss gun violence with others.

This book outlines some of the loopholes that would help strengthen all of our safety. Taylor doesn’t discount gun ownership. She lives a life based on faith and belief in God’s creation. I appreciate that she holds the two firm beliefs – Christianity and gun reform – in a balanced embrace. I firmly believe her approach is that of the majority of us, not the extremes we see on the nightly news. It was refreshing and affirming to read.

Here are a few loopholes that caught me off guard:

1) The Boyfriend Loophole: Currently, the federal law prohibits people from possessing or purchasing a gun if they have been convicted of domestic violence and/or are under a restraining order BUT only if the abuser has been married to, lives with, or has a child with the victim. The law does not cover abusive dating partners. Dating violence = simple assault. And simple assault doesn’t prevent someone from owning a gun.

2) The Stalking Loophole: People with a misdemeanor stalking conviction are not prevented from owning a gun.

3) If a background check doesn’t come back after three business days, the gun sale may proceed. Along with this loophole we need a notification to local police if a convicted abuser or stalker tries to buy a gun and fails a background check. Victims should also be notified.

Some states have these laws in place but without a federal mandate, people will simply travel from a strict state to a neighboring state that has looser gun laws for their gun purchase.

One of my favorite lines from the book actually came from Taylor’s husband:

“We all need to remember the last time we changed our mind about something.”

This isn’t one of those crazed books about taking away all guns or advocating for laws so strict that no one can afford a gun. This is a book about a personal encounter in a prominent shooting incident, the resulting consequences, and reasonable requests for gun safety purchasing and ownership.

I was so impressed by the totality of this book. I took more notes on this book than I have for any book in a very long time. Please consider picking it up for yourself. I think you’ll be as moved and empowered and challenged as I was. What more can you ask of a book???

Girl, don’t do it…

It’s not worth it.

I’m not gonna do it, I was just thinking about it. I’m not gonna do it.

I did it.

The recipe for Southern Living’s Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake. Holy nutmeg! The perfect marriage of spice cake and pumpkin bread.

I am NOT one of those people. I don’t like rushing seasons or holidays because I inevitably get bored with them too soon. I want to put things out at an appropriate time so I can enjoy them all season long.

But the spices in this cake… pure pumpkin heaven! I had to. Just this once. I’ll now go back to summer and 100+ days and flip flops and tank tops.

But for one little Saturday in August, I simply HAD to have a little bite of Fall.

Plus!, this recipe calls for candied pecans to be sprinkled on top but I used regular pecans so basically, it’s diet food.

Don’t make this recipe too soon, (don’t do it, girl) but put it on your Fall Bucket List. It’s one of the best bundt cakes I’ve ever had (no hyperbole needed.)

Looking forward to sweaters and hot cider and football games. But not yet. There’s a little more sand-between-the-toes days to come.

enjoy!

Midtown Farmers Market

We look forward to Saturday every week. The Midtown Farmers Market is the perfect size. It’s not an overwhelming market, so you can slow down and see it all. We are also developing our ‘favorites’ list of vendors we must stop and see what they have new for the week. For Scott, it’s the vendor who sells the freshest Brussels sprouts. He heads there first thing. For me, it’s a mixture of vendors: florals, boho, and plants. (Sidenote: I’d love to sell my propagated plants there someday. And some plant merch. Someday, someday, someday.)

Golden Hour Designs has such cute macrame’ rainbows, earrings and stickers. Speaking of which, I am SUCH a sucker for stickers. Cabbage patch kids… Convenient store gum that came with stickers… The current sticker craze is speaking my childhood language! The owner of Golden Hour is also so engaging and always nice to chat with. I’ve started taking my bags back to her to get them refilled with something new and delicious each week.

And while the farmers market offers all kinds of organically grown produce and adorable boho accessories, it’s also a fantastic place to people watch! I mean – look at this fantastic dad! I think if I threw three balls at him, he’d be able to juggle them while doing all the rest. Superman

We haven’t taken Tilly to the market yet, but we are almost (mentally) ready. She would love it, of course. But when it comes down to it every week, we get selfish and want to stroll aimlessly without the responsibility of watching her (see: super dad above.) The dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are plenty fun to watch too. I heard that someone was walking around with a plastic-domed backpack this week so their cat could also enjoy the people. -ha!

Each week we try something new. The bakery booth was filled with delectable things. Scott picked a cinnamon roll twist that I might have taken a few bites of.

We haven’t purchased anything from this jam booth yet, but their signage is straight up awesome. Love the creative simplicity of it.

Umm. A schoolbus converted into a vintage clothing shop?? Be still my heart. And again, watching the uber cool people coming in and out of it is worth pulling up a seat and taking notes. (Oh, and here’s another sidenote: skoolies. I’m thinking retirement??!)

A few weeks ago we purchased this market bag. It’s hard outer shell is perfect for tossing our veggies and flowers and goodies inside while we browse around. This particular booth features fair trade baskets from West Africa. It’s a very small way to help a family with healthcare and school supplies through each purchase.

And come on… how cute do flowers and carrot tops look, peeking out of the top??!

Live musicians, avocado trucks, seafood booths and freshly bagged chai leaves. The diversity and community-feeling that farmers markets bring to my soul is refreshing and renewing. Thank you, Sacramento, for bringing us all together to browse the streets, supplement our own garden and plan our weekly meals.

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN + Book of the Month

I was very honored that Book of the Month posted one of my pictures today on their social media. It was a photo of this fantastic book about J.P. Morgan’s assistant, Belle da Costa Greene, who helped build the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City in the early 1900’s.

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN is a celebration of art and ancient book manuscripts and Gutenberg bibles. I actually stopped midway through the book to re-watch The Monuments Men, which took place during a different time period but always gives me the same debt of gratitude for those who have gone to great lengths to preserve and uphold the honor in art.

You will stop and Google dates and names and it will spark an even deeper appreciation of the importance of the fine arts. This book will certainly be one of my top favorite books this year. Authors, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, went to great lengths to research this novel. Each author’s note in the back of the book were fascinating to read in order to see how they went about collecting Belle’s story as well as information about the beginnings and early days of the library.

Extraordinary. Extravagant. Empowering. Thought-provoking. This would make an excellent book club read and discussion. I highly recommend this book about a section of our history you may not know much about. I will be thinking about it for a very long time.

Thank you, Book of the Month, for using my picture but mostly for bringing to the forefront a life story that needed to be told.

Sidenote: I have been a BOTM member for five years and have very fond memories of the catalogs that used to come in the mail to my parents each month. I read the book descriptions in awe and thought that BOTM must be the most grown up thing you could possibly do. What a dream to have books sent to you in the mail, I imagined! I’m so glad I get to enjoy them now. Each month is a new adventure that begins with an exciting blue box waiting for me at my front door.

Another sidenote: the decadently delicious waffles were a new recipe that my DEAR husband was trying out. It very quickly went into the MUST MAKE AGAIN section of our recipe file: whole wheat waffles with bananas and walnuts baked inside. (They’re practically health food.)

Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

commonality

In a world of disconnection, it has felt even more comforting to gather with people all over the world as we circle the same scripture on the same day. That is the beauty of the liturgy, for me. Similar thoughts are being mulled over. Time of year is being considered. The great joining together happens at different times throughout the day and probably over different types of coffee or chai or a whiskey sour. We enter God’s presence with our burlap bags of angsty needs, we read through our ancient common prayer, and then leave that space, emboldened to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I find a great sense of connection with the world in those moments. Even in the solitude of my home.

SING, UNBURIED, SING

This family drama was true southern prose full of spirits and stories and spells. Sin and family and forgiveness. No one dies quite like a southerner, taking their specific cooking and unique lineage, leaving us our heritage and pockets full of stories to embellish for many generations to come.

“…. sorrow is food, swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe.”

This was a book with a strong second half. I appreciated the lyrical writing and ghostly references only a southerner could fully appreciate.