Perfect for Santa!

Or, just generally, anyone…

Today was a busy, busy day – my parents came over and we got started on getting the shelves up in my living room. I can’t wait to unpack those last five book boxes and finally be able to declare myself moved in!

And I also made a pie (which I’ll try to remember to post about tomorrow – it’s still chilling in the fridge at the moment) and sugar cookies.

It’s my mom’s recipe (I’m not entirely sure where it came from originally) that she made a lot while I was in high school – in fact, she calls them Sugar Cookies Popular With Girl Scouts and Madrigals.

3 cups flour*
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 yogurt

Put everything into a mixing bowl and beat until blended.**  Roll out on lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.***  Cut with cookie cutters.  Put on greased cookie sheet (or parchment paper).  Bake at 425 degrees about 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned around edges.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

For every cup of powdered sugar use about 2 tsp of lemon extract and some water (about 1-2 T.) to make a glaze.  It should be pretty thin, about the consistency of thick paint.  I put the glaze in a bowl, hold the cookie upside down by my fingers and dip the top into the glaze, skimming the excess off on the lip of the bowl.  You could also paint it on with a pastry brush.

*You’ll need lots of extra for rolling out the cookies – the dough is extremely soft, even after refrigerating!
**I couldn’t make myself do this – I creamed together the butter and the sugar, added the egg and the vanilla, then whisked together the flour, baking soda, and salt and added it alternately with the yogurt (beginning and ending with the flour mixture).
***My mom insists that she doesn’t refrigerate this before rolling it out. When I saw the consistency of the dough, I declared her crazy and put it in the fridge to chill while I made my pie. It was still super-soft when I took it out, so it probably doesn’t make any difference – just be sure you have plenty of flour on hand…

I was excited to use my new Wilton holiday cookie cutter set – they’re just the perfect size (so that you don’t feel guilty eating a few at a time) and with 30 different cutters (though I think there are two angels, so really only 29), you get lots of variety! 😉

YA: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan has so much going for it – I absolutely couldn’t wait to read it as soon as I heard about it! An alternate history story about World War I being fought between the Darwinists (i.e., England et al.) who have bred all manner of newfangled creates (including two-headed, six-legged dogs, lizards who repeat whatever they’re told in the voice of whoever’s told them, and the Leviathan itself, a huge whale that is used as an airship) and the Clankers (i.e., Germany et al.) who are the steampunkers of the group featuring a girl disguised as a boy and the heir of Austro-Hungary on the run?  What’s not to love?!

But I didn’t love it. At least not at first. It’s told in chapters alternating Deryn (the girl)’s and Alek (the heir)’s points of view and for the first thirty-odd chapters, Westerfeld explains his world-building. And fair enough, there’s a lot of alternate history to fill the reader in on, but I found that it got a bit tedious – I’m not sure whether it would have worked to just drop us in and let us figure it out as we read, but it might have been worth a try.

But once Deryn and Alek finally meet (around chapter thiry-four or so), things really pick up and for those last ten (or so) chapters, I was hooked! Lots of big action sequences and secrets to be revealed – including the one that leaves us hanging, anxious for the next book (I predict lots of political intrigue ahead…).

Like I was saying, Westerfeld has obviously done his homework and put in the time to think things through – here is what appears on the book’s endpapers:

Along with the endpaper illustrations, the book also features illustrations by Keith Thompson which I liked an awful lot (and during all the exposition, were my favorite part):

My rating: B (I want to give it a higher rating because of how I felt about it at the end, but with kind of uneven pacing, I just can’t quite do it…)

Disney has gone to the frogs!

The Princess and the Frog

I went to see this on Friday with some friends from work and was very pleasantly surprised by it! It’s being touted as Disney’s return to hand-drawn cartoons and, hopefully, to their golden days of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and, of course, The Lion King. I would say it’s not quite on the same level as those four, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

The music is pretty catchy, though I don’t think I could actually hum any of the melodies, even on the way out of the theater. It’s done by Randy Newman and usually I think a little Randy Newman goes a long way – his jazzy, sometimes folksy style works here, actually, seeing as the movie’s set in New Orleans in the twenties, so there’s plenty of dixieland to go around and the folksy part works once the main characters hit the bayou.

The characters are all appropriately likable, or creepy in the case of the Shadow Man, though big props go to Disney for making Lotte (Tiana’s spoiled little rich girl friend) a nice, though slightly crazy, sympathetic character who honestly cares about her friend rather than falling back on the rich bitch that she easily could have become.

I can’t think of anything I really didn’t like, but, for some reason that I just can’t quite put my finger on, it falls a little short. I mean, it’s a perfectly enjoyable way to spend an hour and forty minutes and, like I said, I think Disney is heading in the right direction again, but there’s something that keeps it from being a true return to glory for Disney’s animation department.

My rating: Good but not great – you may as well see it, but maybe wait and rent it?

p.s. – My favorite line is from Louis, the jazz trumpet-playing alligator who, at one point, says, “You know what this situation needs? A sharp stick!” Totally made me laugh.