Travel in progress

I’m sitting here in DFW waiting for my flight to Tallahassee in a couple of hours. It’s going to be on a small regional jet so I’m in an area of the airport with very small gates. At the moment I’m sitting on the floor until another flight leaves and I can find an empty chair! No big deal. Air travel is never comfortable. My flight from LA was uneventful except for some turbulence as we were landing in Dallas. It’s very rainy here. I’m just thankful that it’s not colder or it would be snow instead! Flying through Dallas in the winter is always a gamble. I should have thought of that when I bought my ticket, but I waited too long to book my travel and American was the cheapest option at that point. Flying Delta through Atlanta would have been a better choice. I’ll remember that next year! Luckily it looks like today the weather isn’t going to be too much of a problem in Dallas. Phew!

Yesterday was my last day of work for the year and I’m very happy about that. Monday is actually supposed to be a workday for Boeing employees, but just about everyone is taking it off. Since I obviously won’t be there I used the hours that I worked last Sunday to avoid using any vacation time. That’s helpful. Work this week was really busy. I always say that the last few workdays of the year are my most productive because there are fewer people around to bug me, and that was mostly true this year. I had a lot of testing to do and then some documentation updates to make based on the results. (It doesn’t sound exciting when I write it that way, but I actually enjoyed it!) Unfortunately I didn’t finish everything I was supposed to before the end of 2013. Not that I didn’t try. I even got to work a little after 5 AM yesterday to run a test before anyone else got there. That was a success, but by about noon I was losing focus fast. I kept zoning out in front of my computer. So after checking in for my flight and printing my boarding pass I left for the day at 1:30 PM to go home and bake some cookies to take to Tallahassee with me. On January 2nd I’ll have get back to work with a vengeance, but I’ll worry about that later. The cookies were more important yesterday! I whipped up double batches of almond butter chocolate chip cookies and chocolate snickerdoodles (coincidentally the last two recipes I posted) as soon as I got home from work so I would have plenty of time to pack my suitcase afterwards. Of course I didn’t get to bed early enough (I had to leave for the airport at 4 AM), but I was able to fit all of my clothes, personal items, and Christmas presents in my suitcase. Hooray! Plus, I left my house in pretty good shape. Besides spilling a bunch of flour on the kitchen floor, and then wrestling with a defective smoke alarm that went off hours after I stopped baking (both before and after I switched out the battery), everything is mostly clean and tidy. That will be nice to go home to in a week. But for now I’m just looking forward to enjoying the next week in Tallahassee. See my family, hanging out with old friends, and celebrating Christmas. It’s going to be great.

It’s about time for me to start boarding my plane to Tallahassee. It’s a really tiny jet so I’ve got a seat to myself on one side of the aisle. And I’ve got “The Day of the Doctor” on my iPhone to entertain me on the flight. Have I mentioned how excited I am about the Doctor Who Christmas special on Wednesday? But anyway, I’m going to find a seat at my gate. I’ll check in again tomorrow from Tallahassee.

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #38

Chocolate chip cookies #38: Based on The Cooking Actress’s Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 11/24/13.

I was planning to post an eggnog cake recipe today since Christmas is just five days away, but after baking some cookies to take to Tallahassee with me tomorrow I knew I needed to share this almond butter chocolate chip cookie recipe instead. This is my second time making them and they are awesome. But let me rewind a few weeks and start at the beginning.

I have to admit that I skipped dessert this Thanksgiving…again. Like last year, I brought four different kinds of cookies to San Francisco to add to the Thanksgiving dessert buffet, but I was too tired after dinner to stick around long enough to partake. I heard these almond butter chocolate chip cookies were everyone’s favorite, though. So much so that they didn’t last until the next day! After checking out a few peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipes online I found this one that uses almond butter (and a lot of it!) instead. This recipe was especially appealing because I had a jar of almond butter just sitting in my cabinet. It was put to great use in these amazing cookies. With 3/4 cup almond butter in an 8×8″ pan (a whole 12 oz jar if you make a double batch like I did today!), the almond flavor really comes through. Delicious. If you like peanut butter cookies you’re definitely going to like these, and if you like almond butter you’ll love them!

Less than a week to go

“And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?”

Bastille, “Pompeii”

I am such a terrible blogger, but then again December is the hardest month to be one, as far as I’m concerned. There is just so much going on this time of year that by the end of the day I don’t have any mental capacity left for writing. I would love to document everything I’m doing to try and enjoy the holidays as much as possible, but the bottleneck keeping that from happening is putting it all into words for publishing. Hence the lame photo and song lyrics posts over the last four days. We all need more hours in the day, don’t we? Christmas is now less than a week away and I’m leaving for Tallahassee on Saturday morning. Not much time left! Fortunately I’m in pretty good shape to leave town. I got all of my laundry done and my apartment completely cleaned yesterday. Now I just need to close out the work year, bake a couple batches of cookies, and head to the airport really early on Saturday morning. Piece of cake, right? Doesn’t mean I’m not stressed out about it, though!

Boring Sunday

Here’s what I did today – I worked and I cleaned. Pretty boring, huh? But it was necessary. After eight hours at work there were lots of other things I wanted to do besides cleaning, but getting it out of the way today leaves time for more fun things later in the week. Now that I only have vacuuming the upstairs left, which will only take about 15 minutes, I’m relatively free to enjoy myself. I only have a few more days before I leave for Florida and I want to check everything off my pre-Christmas to do list by then. Besides work, I think tomorrow will need to be devoted to preparing for the holiday potluck on Tuesday. And hopefully going running. I haven’t done that since last Tuesday and it’s really bugging me. Since I’m ingesting a lot more calories this time of year you’d think I’d make exercise my first priority, but I haven’t had nearly enough free evenings at home this month to do so. It’s very frustrating. But I’m taking my running shoes to Tallahassee and dammit I’m going to use them! But anyway, I’m still trying to figure out how to spend all of my evenings this week, but I’m pretty sure laundry, packing, and Disneyland will be involved. I’ll let you know how it goes. But right now I have to go to sleep because I need to be at work as early as possible tomorrow. Good night!

Catch-up Saturday

Last week was brutal. I worked way too much and I was exhausted almost the entire time. When I got home yesterday I collapsed on the couch and stayed there until bedtime. There were a million things I should have been doing instead, but I just needed to relax. So when I woke up this morning I figured it was time to get caught up on all of the things I’d been ignoring for a week. I intended to go to an early movie since there are so many I want to see now, but I slept a little too late for that. So I went Christmas shopping instead. I got one last thing for my mom at the mall and also returned a few dresses. I order a lot of clothes online when they’re on sale (this time it was a 40% off sale at Loft) that ultimately get returned to the brick and mortar stores because they just don’t fit me correctly. But it’s worth it when I get something that’s perfect for a really good price. Anyway, after the mall I headed to Walmart for the last Christmas present I wanted to buy. Unfortunately they didn’t have what I was looking for (which is weird because Walmart has EVERYTHING), but I still managed to walk out of there with a boatload of baking supplies for myself. ‘Tis the season to treat yourself, or so I like to think, and as frustrating as Walmart can be, you can’t beat the prices. And since I’m going to share whatever baked goods I make with friends and family, the flour and chocolate chips I bought kinda count as presents, right? Before I went back home I stopped at the grocery store to get even more baking supplies (my final stretch of holiday baking) and I actually found that last present that Walmart didn’t have. So my Christmas shopping is now completely done! And eleven days early too! Woohoo! That’s definitely something I’m happy to cross off my to do list. When I got home it was tempting to collapse on the couch, but I didn’t let myself sit down and zone out in front of the TV. I cleaned the entire downstairs and then celebrated by putting up my Christmas tree, as you can tell from the above photo. I think I’m going to retire my little artificial tree after this year. I bought it during my first year of grad school and it just hasn’t held up well over the last eleven years. I can’t figure out why it leans so much! And not just to one side. It’s so unstable that it can list in any direction it wants. I had to use a block of wood and three instant pudding mix boxes (engineering FTW!) to keep it mostly vertical. It’ll do for this year, but I think I’ll look for a replacement tree when I get back from Tallahassee after Christmas. Until then I’ll enjoy spending my evenings with a Christmas tree in the room. The last thing I did today was go see a movie – “Philomena” with Judi Dench. Not bad. I probably should have gone running instead, though. Now it’s getting late and I need to go to sleep soon so I can go to work in the morning. I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s necessary with all of the work I’m supposed to get done before the end of the year. I can’t believe Friday will be my last workday of 2013. I’ve got another crazy week coming up!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate snickerdoodles

After she tasted them, one of my co-workers told me to definitely write down this recipe because she thought these chocolate snickerdoodles were amazing. Once December rolled around I figured snickerdoodles became seasonally appropriate, but this year I wanted to try something a little different from my favorite snickerdoodle bar recipe. Those are amazing, of course, but I was wondering if I could make a chocolate variety for Christmas 2013. So I started with the double dark chocolate cookie recipe I posted a while back (with a few small changes), added some spices, and sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top before baking. It took two iterations, but I think I got it right. The combination of dark chocolate and cinnamon is really delicious. Make these for the holidays!

1 stick butter, softened
1 c light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 c flour
1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl cream together the butter, brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. (I read in a magazine that adding your spices in this step helps distribute them better so I gave it a try. The jury’s still out on the result, though.) Add the vanilla, egg, and cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add the baking soda, cornstarch, and flour and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Spread the dough into an 8×8″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. In a small cup or bowl (I usually just use a measuring cup), stir together the 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on My Double Dark Chocolate Cookies.

Unproductive Thursday

Today I was supposed to cross a lot of things off my to do list. It was going to be great. I was going to leave work at 2 PM, do some final Christmas shopping, maybe take care of a few chores, and bake a cake for work tomorrow. Good plan, huh? Well, of course it didn’t play out that way. I ended up having to stay at work three hours longer than I planned (hours I didn’t get paid for) which pretty much killed all of my potential shopping time. That will have to wait another day or two. So at 5 PM I went straight home instead and whipped up an apple cider bundt cake that I promised my co-workers. It sounded like a great idea, but I was worried about how it was going to turn out when I poured the batter into the pan. It was thin and the flour couldn’t mix properly with the other ingredients (I blame the apple cider), so I wasn’t too surprised when it came out a little funny. The cake stuck to the pan in several places so it looked really ugly. Of course looks wouldn’t matter at all if it tasted good, but the few bites I salvaged from the sides of the bundt pan were pretty chewy. Very disappointing. I’ll still take it to work tomorrow to see if someone else likes it, but I expect this will end up being filed with my other baking fails. What a waste of an evening. I have so few days left until I go to Tallahassee for Christmas and I have a million things I need to do before then. Here’s hoping tomorrow is much better!