Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just Like Martha

Merry Christmas everyone! Ok, so it's a little after Christmas but the blogging has waited until now because I was traveling on Christmas to sunny California. So here I am, blogging from the left coast. In this blog post, I take creativity to a whole new level. Allow me to explain:

For the past ten years, I have thrown a Christmas party with a friend of mine which has gradually morphed into an elaborate and semi-formal dinner party with 41 people. I am allowed to take care of very few things myself in the planning of this party, but one thing I am responsible for is the place settings. And you would be foolish to think I make anything easy and just put placecards at everyone's seats. I have to be more creative than that. So, in honor of my recent baking, I figured I could make cookies to use as place settings. Recall, a few weeks ago, I made Martha Stewart's sugar cookies and she had many precious ideas for decorating cookies for the holidays, including turning the cookies into Christmas ornaments. Aha! A cookie that doubles as a placecard and an ornament! I fail to see how this could go wrong.

So, a couple days before the party, I made up the dough for the cookies. That was pretty easy and there was only one moment of uncertainty. The recipe calls for some brandy. In my house, we have 4 crystal bottles that hold various liquors. I don't know what they are but I knew one was brandy because my mom used it last time we made these cookies. Only she wasn't home to tell me which was which. So, I played a little Russian roulette with the bottles and just guessed and hoped. After all, liquor is liquor, right? I figured, "What's the worst that can happen?" In a bizarre turn of my fortune, I guessed correctly! Then again, apparently I had a 75% chance of guessing correctly because three of the bottles held brandy. But I didn't know that at the time so I declare it still a win.

Anywho, I made the dough and then got distracted so I didn't make the cookies until the next day. The original plan was to cut out the cookies with holes left for ribbon to be tied through to make an ornament and then pipe peoples' names on the cookies with red and green icing. I actually even bought the red and green icing. However, then I thought about it. I thought about how much my hands started cramping when I was piping the happy faces on the snowmen the other day. I thought about how many people have long last names. I thought about the fact that there were going to be 41 place settings to make. I thought that I must be crazy. So then I decided it would be a better idea to get gift tags that you tie onto stuff and write peoples' names on the gift tags. This somehow seemed less crazy to me.

And actually, it was. By the time I was cutting the cookies out, I had my mom and a friend from college helping me out (my sister had staunchly refused to help, deciding that I'm insane and should have just gotten some damn placecards). We picked out the most Christmasy of our cookie cutters so we had toy soldiers, snowmen, gingerbread men, hearts, etc etc. There were at least 10 different types. Martha even told us how to turn the cookies into ornaments. All you have to do is use a straw to poke a hole in the top of the cookie before you bake it. I thought this would be hard because sometimes the cookie dough gets a little sticky but it was actually remarkably easy! A Christmas miracle!

After baking (and yes, burning a few), we picked the best looking cookie ornaments to be the place settings. We got a nice assembly line going with me writing the names on the gift tags (how I obtained the gift tags is a story in and of itself and one I won't get into here but let's just say that I can't see things that are in front of my face) and my mom and friend tying the tags to the ornament/cookies. I was grateful for the helpers because that would have been the most annoying part for me. They all eventually got done and were adorable. Thanks, Martha for giving me the tools for a precious place setting for a dinner party:

The cookies were yummy, they were adorable, and (I'll save you the suspense) people really liked them. I'm not sure if any of the guests kept them as ornaments but several people did eat them before dinner was even served and then used the nametags as, well, nametags and attached them to their dresses, suits, etc. Overall, a success and while it may not be an interesting read, it made me very happy. So there.

Critical Reception:
The critics agree that pressed butter cookies are yummy. I even found someone to agree with me that the green Christmas trees are the yummiest ones. Which makes sense because they are. I ate so many of those cookies, it was insane. I'm a bad sharer when it comes to these cookies. I feel like I should make them a lot more often because they're so delicious.

A Disney Moment: Cinderella
We finally made it! A full length animated feature! And how nice to get back into it with an obvious classic like Cinderella. It was just sheer charm from start to finish. A delight really. I've always loved the "Sing Sweet Nightingale" scene where Cinderella bubbles start harmonizing with each other. I think it was a brilliant and whimsical move to tell much of the story through the mice (especially Gus-gus). The wicked stepmother is wonderfully wicked. I mean, the characters were all perfection.

One delightful moment for me: I never realized that Cinderella didn't know she was dancing with the prince. That was a pretty crucial piece of information for me. I never really thought of Cinderella as being a gold digger or prince-obsessed but it was really sweet to me that she didn't even know that she was with the prince. She just fell in love with this man that she danced with. It's a very endearing story in the end.

I have only one complaint about Cinderella. The scene with the fairy godmother is too long. Honestly, if that scene had been even two minutes shorter, this movie would win in this grouping of five movies. But as it stands, this was an exceptional grouping so Cinderella can only rank a 2/5. It was very very close to number one but it was a really tough decision and I hate labeling any of the movies in this grouping as low as even a 3. Except Ichabod. Which was way sub par compared to the rest of these. Anyway, thumbs up to Cinderella.

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