November 6, 2011

Ok peeps, you ready to talk cookies? ‘Cuz I have some STRONG opinions on the topic! I’m going to share my recipe with you, which is no big earth shattering deal except for a couple little tweaks. Before I lay out the recipe and the book for ya, I’m going to cut to the chase and get this out in the open, and I don’t want you to freak out, or be all, WHATEVER I’M OUTA HERE MELISSA.
I use the normal Tollhouse recipe. But the original recipe calls for 3/4 white sugar plus 3/4 brown sugar. I cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 white sugar and I swear to you with all of my being that you can’t tell the difference. In fact, once you try it a few times my way, going back the old way is going to taste too cloying and icky-poo sweet to you.
Now I can hear you, I swear I am hearing your thoughts right now. Um, thanks Melissa, but if I wanted a healthy treat I’d go make myself some hummus. Spare me your watered-down cookie recipe that supposedly tastes awesome with less sugar.
Friends, I’m a treat girl. And I like my treats to taste like flipping treats. I’m not wasting your time and my really poor typing skills here writing this down. Double pinky swear.
The other crucial element to my cookies is that I add 1/3 cup or so of whole wheat flour into the 2 and 1/4 cups white flour called for. So, I throw in my 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour into the first 1 cup measure, and fill the rest of it up with the white flour, plus the additional 1 and 1/4 cup white flour called for. Have I lost you again? This is CRUCIAL, more so than the reduced sugar. It adds. . . a richness and depth of flavor that all white flour just does not possess.
And the last thing is, I like STUFF in my cookies. Like raisins in with the choc chips. Or dried cherries. Dried cherries are fantastic, if you can find them! And I love pecans or walnuts but the rest of my family doesn’t, so you can either be lame like them or awesome like me.
My husband lives and breathes choc chip cookies and he swears that he will never go back to eating cookies the old way. And he’d be the first person to kindly tell me if they sucked.
Melissa’s Tinkered With Tollhouse Cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (add 1/3 cup whole wheat flour somewhere into this mix – see above notes)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon water (add it to the vanilla residue in previous teaspoon)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts or raisins or dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375° F.
  1. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add vanilla and water. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
  2. Refrigerate the dough for several hours or overnight. THIS IS IMPORTANT, OTHERWISE THE COOKIES SPREAD TOO MUCH.
  3. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Speaking of cookies, today’s book is a work of genius, I think.
How do you explain the word “trustworthy” to a small child? How do you define “respect” in words they can understand? “Optimistic”? “Modest”? If you’ve never stumbled over your words trying to define these concepts to a kid under the age of 5, well a tip of my bonnet to you! I sure as heck had NO idea.
And then ‘Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons’ by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jane Dyer came into my life. All of life’s lessons can be learned via a cookie. Duh!
“TRUSTWORTHY means, If you ask me to hold your cookie until you come back, when you come back, I will still be holding your cookie.”
I am in awe of the brilliance in action here in this book.
“HONEST means, I have to tell you something. The butterfly didn’t really take the cookie – I took the cookie.”
“Courageous”? It’s in here. “Open-minded”? Yep. “Envy”? “Patient”? In here and yes, it’s in here. So sweetly illustrated and like I said, who doesn’t understand the language of cookies? Pure genius, this one.
So, are you going to try my cookie recipe? TRUST me on the sugar and the smidge of whole wheat flour!

Cool Stuff I Like


November 4, 2011

Oh Anthropologie. Why must you break my heart? Why must everything in you be so lovely? And why must it all be so expensive? I simply could not believe the amazingness of this Enchanted Forest Jigsaw Puzzle when I happened upon it online. Look closely at those pieces! Some are shaped like birds, little people, butterflies. . .incredible.

Happy November! So, Julia has been wearing her holiday pajamas and we’ve been discussing Santa nonstop and we’ve listened to Christmas songs the past few days. IT IS SO WRONG. I’m not sure how this happened. I blame it on my slight cold. TOO EARLY! I’m going to try mightily to rein her in and put this all off until December. Maybe I should put our Halloween decorations back up...

I saw some Really, Truly, Incredibly COOL STUFF this week:

The Alphabet Animal Flashcards from Anthro are more reasonable. Really cute.

OK. I KNOW IT’S NOT DECEMBER. But look at this Fairy Tale House Advent Calendar!

Coolest Birthday Party ever. COOLEST. I am so doing this for Julia someday, and if she doesn’t want to, I’ll throw it for myself.

Want to have a Thanksgiving-esque dinner early? I made this and we all LOVED it.

My popcorn obsession continues. How about Maple-Butter Spiced Popcorn?

This lesson about bullying needs to be passed around.

I don’t know what to read now that I’m done with ‘The Night Circus’. Maybe this one?

This toy company has really darling puzzles, games, crafts for kids!

Cool Book of the Week: ‘Owl at Home’ by the genius Arnold Lobel. One of our all time favorites. I love the chapter on Tear-Drop Tea; Julia loves the one where Owl runs upstairs and downstairs all night, trying to be in both places at once.

Have a great first November weekend! Is anyone else really wishing this month would fly by so we can get into some serious Christmas biz? I’m both excited and terrified that the holiday season is Officially Here.


The Night Circus


November 2, 2011

I’ve been planning and thinking on this post for a few weeks now. I feel like I have to choose my words very carefully so as to best convey how I really feel about ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern. I don’t want to say much of anything that might spoil one second of the experience you will have in reading this book. I took out half of what I wrote for this post because I want you to know as little as possible. Except for how cool it all is!

How’s this:

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life.

Night Circus Book Trailer

The basic plot: A competition involving skills of magic, set in the forum of an enchanted traveling circus. About halfway through the story, the competition becomes something significantly more.
A third of the way in, it dawned on me, ‘Oh NO. At some point this book is going to end. And then what am I going to do?’ I thought and thought about what I should say, HOW I should say it. I realized that any words I use are going to be inadequate. I can’t tell you about this book. SHOWING you is a much better idea.

The light here is how I imagine the lights to be within the circus, just after it opens, before it turns dark.

Living statues, that move so slowly and imperceptibly, you’re not sure if they really moved at all, or if indeed they are really alive.

Magic illuminates. Or does it consume? Does it end? Should it end? What am I talking about? Never mind. Very cool picture.

Opens at nightfall, closes at dawn.” – from ‘The Night Circus’.

The Fortune Teller.

The Wishing Tree.

Clocks. Time runs backwards and forwards throughout the narrative – events sometimes unfold before you understand what happened to bring about that particular occurrence.

The Red Haired Girl.

The Ice Garden.

The Big Cat Tent.

This is a landscape of black and white. . . with dashes of red.


The Plot, while very intriguing, is almost secondary to the the world that Erin Morgenstern has created here. I’ve never been so completely wrapped up in the landscape of a literary world before. Erin’s entire universe of this circus that she’s envisioned is so complete, so perfectly realized. . . it’s totally unbelievable and I hear she is in talks for the creation of a film. There MUST be a film. What they’ll be able to do with the imagery. . . I can’t even imagine!

(I don’t want to say what this picture represents. Can’t reveal every amazing spectacle in the story.)

Go read the book and then come chat with me! Or chat with me now if you have!

This book has clearly had the same effect on others – there are tons of Pinterest boards that are devoted solely to ‘The Night Circus’. I’m hugely indebted to this incredible Pinterest board in particular, and also this one.

Although not as comprehensive, you can see my own Night Circus Pinterest board here. It’s my way of keeping the book alive in my memory!

I wanted to jump into the pages and never leave. I’ll be thinking about this one for the rest of my life.

(Image Credits: Pinterest)

Autumn Leaves and Paper Trees


I have a confession to make. I did this post a couple weeks ago and FORGOT TO POST IT. Um, maybe I should NOT stockpile posts? Anyhoo, I found this oh so darling Etsy shop – the cutest decorative paper trees, sewn autumn leaves to pile on your table, adorable candy corn banners and really super cute Halloween treat bags. I am so in love with the trees. I guess it’s too late for the treat bags. But maybe you need to stock up for next year?

Which do you like more? The Friendly Forest Crisp Autumn Day Collection (see above) or the The Friendly Forest Spooky Night Collection (see below).

You need to dash over to PS It’s in the Details Etsy Shop to see all of this cuteness plus loads and heaps more. I’m thinking I need some of these trees to decorate our windows!

Now, if one was Super Crafty and got hold of some thick decorative papers that are available in various craft stores, you could do this charming & darling decoration idea on your own. If you can cut a circle and use paste, you could do this! This is minimal effort, high reward, which is how I like my arts and crafts. I love how this could be done by tiny tots (let them glue) or Big Kids (let them do it all!). These would look AMAZING in a kid’s room or playroom, don’t you think?

(Image credits via PS It’s In the Details Etsy shop)

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