Sunday, December 21, 2008

Have a Looky at my Christmas Cookies

I had a super Christmassy weekend- it was so fun accomplishing several items on my December To-Do list! The weekend started with seeing David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries at the Horizon Theater. I laughed so hard- it's a great and fun show and the Atlanta cast is marvelous. I also made my winter-themed playlist.

The best part though was being invited to bake a million, okay a dozen, different kinds of Christmas cookies with my dear friend Sandy. It was a perfectly Christmassy Saturday in her and Jack's beautiful home. As we baked cookies, Jack and his daughter Katy put up their Christmas tree in the living room. Our soundtrack was the holiday albums of the divas: Dolly Parton, Better Midler and Diana Krall. It isn't Christmas until you hear Dolly sing "We Three Kings" I tell you!

We made Gingerbread men and women, my favorite being the three-eyed Alien Gingerman in the corner:

We made Jack's favorite macaroons and delicious wedding cookies (referred to as "Nut Balls" on Sandy's mom's recipe cards):

We made several kinds of nutty cookies, including these hazelnut cookies dipped in chocolate:

I laughed so hard the whole time I was decorating these Mafiosa Snowmen- one is Robert De Niro and the other is Joe Viterelli (a.k.a. Jelly from Analyze This):

But my favorite cookies of all are the Ginger Rosemary cookies:

Sweet and savory at once, and they smell like rosemary heaven. Enjoy the recipe- my Christmas Cookie gift to you!

Ginger Rosemary cookies

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses


Crush rosemary with a mortar and pestal or a bowl and the back end of a knife. YOu don't need to grind the rosemary, just break it into smaller pieces.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, rosemary and cloves. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add the 1 cup of sugar; beat until fluffy. Add the egg and molasses; beat well. Stir dry mixture into egg mixture.

Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (1 heaping tablespoon of dough each). Place about two tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Roll balls in the sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart; add sugar to the bowl as needed.

Bake in a 350-degree oven about 10 minutes or until light brown but still puffed. (Do not overbake.) Let stand on cookie sheets for 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 24 cookies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prison Origami

One of may favorite things about the holidays is the variety of homemade Christmas greetings I receive from people in Georgia prisons. Some of the time, I don't even know the person sending them. It is extremely special to me that men with so little who don't know me but know my work make and send paper tidings with messages of gratitude. Today I got a great haul- a sweet little crayoned card, an origami reindeer and a paper tree:

The best part is the tree - so not to be crushed in the mail - came wrapped in a Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake package from the prison commissary:

These simple gestures mean so much to me, and remind me why we do this and who we do it for.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Delighted for Dr. Lowery

I couldn't be more delighted that my hero Dr. Joseph Lowery will deliver the benediction at Barack Obama's inauguration. At 87 years old and a month past surgery on his spine, I have not a doubt that he will move and mobilize each person that is lucky enough to be present for his breaths of life-long revolution, his words of struggle that challenge each of us to be and do more and his solidarity-filled heart.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cans of Mango

One night in a fit of insomnia I got up and decided to reorganize the kitchen. I was moving the cans over to where the unused cabinet was, and was scrubbing out cabinets. I noticed two cans of mango were stacked on top of each other, the bottom one bulging and pushing the cabinet shelf down. After unsuccessfully trying to dislodge the two cans, I wrapped a towel around the cans, put a jump rope around them, stood around the corner, and pulled. The cans dislodged and the bulging can hit the fridge and exploded.

It hit the ceiling. It hit the walls. It hit the cabinets. It hit the ceiling fan. It hit the kitchen floor and part of the dining room floor. It hit the cat and my slippered feet. It hit every single food item from the cabinets out on the counters. Everything smelled like rotten mango.

I cleaned with bleach. I was frantic due to thoughts of botulism. Every urban legend I'd ever heard about food poisoning was filling my mind. Several hours later I'm fine, the cat is fine, we are all fine.

I learned that yes, a bacteria caused the can to bulge, but that botulism needs an environment less acidic than mango. I wish everyone's concerns could be on the level of mine. How lucky I am. How spoiled. How blessed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Charming Little Tree

Yesterday, I bought my first ever living Christmas tree. Ela and I had a lovely time decorating it last night and I am already in love with it:

In years past I would get a Poinsettia and decorate it for my home in Atlanta. Because I spend Christmas in Chicago every year it made sense not to have a tree. The tree at my parent's house is beautiful and filled with ornaments bearing their own stories and memories of our family. I was surprised that in my first tree in my home ever, that my little stories came by simply and that they were stories unique to my life in Atlanta.

In addition to several beautiful big and little birds that I have used on my poinsettia in the past, I have a portrait of my home that Ela painted the year I moved in here, a blue star garland from Mica, a cat from Tiffani sitting next to the tree and it all sits on a kuffiyeh from Mohammad.

Even though I've been struggling with a migraine all day, my charming little tree makes me smile each time my eyes drift its way.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Carwash Whistled Jingle Bells

There's a homeless man who has lived on my street for many more years than I have. He goes by the name Carwash. He rides his bicycle up and down the street and gets by doing odd jobs for my neighbors and I plus the help of the nearby church. Sometimes in the very early morning he whistles eerie but beautiful symphonies as he cycles. His song has come to feel like the soundtrack of Mead Street in my head.

I wake up around 5am every day. Usually its because of my cat Eek standing on my chest meowing loudly for me to let him outside (a horrible, horrible habit that I cannot seem to break him of), or my chronic light sleeping and insomnia that doesn't allow for more than 3 consecutive hours asleep. This morning though, I woke up to Christmas songs in my head.

Listening closer, I realized I actually could hear music. It was pure, impeccably in-tune whistling. It was Jingle Bells, and it was of course, Carwash. After completing Jingle Bells, he didn't miss a beat going into Silver Bells. Then it was Joy to the World. I laid in bed and drifted back to sleep to his singular perfect notes floating through the air.

One night, as my friend and I were pulling out of my street to go to dinner, I saw Carwash sitting in his usual plastic chair on the sidewalk in front of my neighbor's house. To my surprise, he had a barbecue going in front of him. He was hanging out and cooking sausages! He was alone and clearly enjoying himself. My friend and I laughed hard; this sort of scene is exactly why I love Atlanta so.

When I got home later that night I chatted with him for a minute. He commented on the beautiful night sky and the stars we rarely get to see through our thick city smog. I couldn't help but think of Oscar Wilde writing:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

When I asked Carwash how he was doing and how his night was, he simply replied, "Blessed."

This morning when I was leaving for work I saw Carwash on his bike which he has decorated with a sprig of holly (possibly from the bush in my front yard) across the handlebars. When I asked him how he was doing this December morning, he replied again, "Blessed."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Luda, T.I., Jeezy for Jim Martin

I am in love with these pictures taken by Mikki Harris at the Atlanta Journal Constitution at tonight's rally at the Georgia State Capitol. The rally was for US Senate Candidate Jim Martin and featured legendary civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis and Atlanta rappers Ludacris, T.I. and Young Jeezy.

From left to right behind Jim in this picture: Congressman Lewis, music executive Kevin Liles, T.I., Jeezy and Ludacris.

I love Jim's and Luda's smiles in this one.

These men were surrounded by a large showing of Georgians from the state legislature and the community. I don't know that this has happened before at the Georgia State Capitol, this combination of people in such an sxciting, powerful show of support all out on a cold evening. It actually gave me hope and made me feel that change is indeed possible.

Don't forget to vote for Jim Martin for U.S. Senate and Jim Powell for Public Service Commission tomorrow, December 2, 2009!