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Today would have been my dad’s birthday, which always brings up all kinds of fantastic childhood memories of celebrations and holidays.  (My family did holidays really well when I was a child!)  One of those favorite memories is making Christmas sugar cookies, decorating them with my my mom and grandmother and eventually leaving them for Santa.  It seems like my love of making things from scratch started early in life.
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A few years ago, I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day in New York City.  I looked for indoor activities to occupy my time because it was so cold in the city!  Finding activities that didn’t involve shopping was a challenge, but I did enough of that in NYC as it is.

I ended up taking a cookie decorating class one afternoon with Toba Garrett at the Institute of Culinary Education. As a result of her amazing class, I bought her book. Toba taught us how to use royal icing to decorate cookies, and innovative decorating techniques. She also taught us about flavoring royal icing to match the colors because people expect things to taste like what they look like. Her class was GENIUS. If you ever find yourself in NYC, take one of her classes. She’s brilliant. It’s fun to meet people, too. (Really, all classes I’ve taken there were spectacular. I highly recommend the entire experience.)

Finding the perfect recipe for cookie cutters is tough!  There’s nothing worse than a cookie that loses its form after you have put so much time into crafting it. As a result of all my mistakes, I wanted to share my favorite cookie recipe.  This recipe was given to me during Toba’s class, and it’s never steered me wrong.  I don’t dare say it’s foolproof (nothing ever is for me!), but it is easy, simple, and perfect to use with royal icing because the cookies bake evenly.

Sharing an (almost) foolproof recipe for Christmas sugar cookies that can be used as a year-round recipe for cookie cutters! P I N I T

Christmas Sugar Cookies - Recipe for Cookie Cutters!
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter (let set out for 15 minutes before using)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with mixer for 2 minutes. Stop and scrape bowl. Cream for an additional 60 seconds. Butter and sugar should not be emulsified.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat until well combined (15-20 seconds).
  4. Sift together baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture 1 cup at a time to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly after each addition. Dough will be stiff. Avoid over mixing.
  5. Divide dough into 2 balls. Wrap one ball in plastic wrap until ready to use. (Could be frozen for 3 months.)
  6. Divide remaining dough in two. On floured surface, roll out one of the halves to about ⅛-1/4 inch thick. Use a large offset spatula to run under the dough to prevent sticking.
  7. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters, dipping cutters into flour before each use.
  8. Place onto ungreased non-stick cookie sheet or a parchment lined half sheet pan. Bake 6-8 minutes or until edges slightly brown. Let cookies rest on cookie sheet until ready to use.

Sharing an (almost) foolproof recipe for Christmas sugar cookies that can be used as a year-round recipe for cookie cutters! P I N I T

Notes from the Kitchen – Christmas Sugar Cookies:

  • Toba taught us that we shouldn’t use Tupperware to keep cookies fresh. A cardboard box is the best way to store them!  They will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks at 70F.  Don’t use the refrigerator either.
  • Make sure you have your cookie cutters before you start. I like the Wilton brand a lot, but Sur la Table has not steered me wrong either.  Make sure you get the metal ones because they have the cleanest cuts.
  • Lastly, even if you don’t have time to decorate these cookies, they are delicious on their own.

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  • Lexi’s baby shower favors! » my journey of doing - […] I baked the adorable dinosaur cookies, using my tried and true recipe for sugar cookies from Toba Garrett and Wilton’s royal icing to decorate them. I hit up the after […]ReplyCancel

  • Laura - I never heard about storing them in a cardboard box! So good to know, I will have to try that this year.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - They look literally perfect, my word. YUMReplyCancel

  • cara - These look so yummy! I’ve always been a fan of sugar cookies at Christmas time!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders - I love that you took a cookie decorating class when you were in NYC! That’s such a unique thing to do in the city and I’m sure that your checking account loved it over shopping too! I always love how every family has it’s own unique traditions that center around the holidays, and I can’t wait to come up with new traditions with the girls!ReplyCancel

  • Katie Elizabeth - These cookies look soooo delicious – a great way to honor your dads birthday! Thinking of you today! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Betsy - Those cookies are like perfect! OCD me loves that.ReplyCancel

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I’ve been wanting to do this post for awhile, but when I got the email with the Blurb discount for Black Friday, I could no longer make excuses as to why I haven’t done it.

I LOVE Blurb.  It’s the only site I’ll use for photo books.  When I was dabbling in wedding photography, it’s what I would use to make wedding albums for clients.  I made my own wedding album using Blurb.  I use it to chronicle to make coffee table books that chronicle all our travel adventures.  It’s the best way to look back on all the great places we’ve gone and show others where they have to go.  They really do make the best gifts.  Ashley uses them to create family yearbooks.  (I wish I was as on top as it as she is.)

journey of doing - blurb discount for black fridayP I N I T

What I love about Blurb is that there are so many different directions you can go.  Hardcover books, softcover books, magazines, lay flat books… the possibilites are endless.  They also have a great, free design tool, Book Wright, that allows you to use existing layouts, create your own, or auto-fill books with your photos.  You can also use a plug in for Lightroom or inDesign, but I’m not that fancy yet.

journey of doing - blurb discount for black fridayP I N I T

Blurb Discount Code – 50% off

Using the Blurb discount code FANTASTICFIFTY, you can snag 50% off on Black Friday and throughout the next few days.  I’m already plotting how I’m going to take advantage of this and try and get a couple holiday gifts done.

journey of doing - blurb discount for black fridayP I N I T

journey of doing - blurb discount for black fridayP I N I T

journey of doing - blurb discount for black fridayP I N I T

journey of doing - blurb discount for black fridayP I N I T

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  • Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders - I saw the email and I’m so mad at myself that I don’t have a book ready to go so I can take advantage of the 50% discount! Although I’m going to try and make some time and get a book done over the next couple of days! That’s a great idea to make a book for people for Christmas!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - LOVE those books! Between your amazing trips and gorgeous pictures, these are a must have <3
    Green FashionistaReplyCancel

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and you need an easy cranberry sauce recipe, am I right?  (Even if I’m not, this is still the best recipe EVER.)  Once you get over your initial confusion that I posted twice in one week (and they were both recipes), I’m happy to share this little bit of Thanksgiving goodness with you.

Seriously though, I used to be so dubious about homemade cranberry sauce (and if I’m being TOTALLY honest, any cranberry sauce with chunks).  I liked the Ocean Spray jellied stuff (go figure) and that was it.  I’m not a Thanksgiving food person AT ALL, so I’ve spent many a holiday existing on cranberry sauce.  It’s a little awkward actually.  I always put it near myself on the table and refuse to pass it around.  (You would too if that was the only thing you ate.)  This recipe made me a believer.  It’s delicious.  You can eat it by itself, put it on ice cream, or put it on anything else that needs a sweet-and-sour kick.

If you’re still dubious and thinking you need to buy a can of cranberry sauce, here’s three reasons you need this easy cranberry sauce recipe in your life:

  1.  Three ingredients.  That’s it.
  2.  It can be made in advance.  Who doesn’t love a holiday recipe that can be prepped in advance?  (My slice and bake cookie recipe is good for that, too.)
  3.  It’s delicious.  Seriously.  Trust the girl who ONLY eats cranberry sauce from the Thanksgiving menu.

Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

journey of doing - Super easy cranberry sauce recipe using only three ingredients.  Perfect for your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.  BONUS: it can be made in advance!P I N I T

5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: side dish
Cuisine: American
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of orange juice
Instructions
  1. Dissolve sugar in orange juice over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Stir in cranberries, cook until cranberries start to pop (approximately 10 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and let sauce thicken.
  4. Serve or store in airtight container until ready

 

journey of doing - easy cranberry sauce recipeP I N I T

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  • Jasmine - Yum!! Nothing like a good, sweet cranberry sauce to top off your Thanksgiving meal!

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  • Kimberly - You are my Thanksgiving twin! I, too, always ate more Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce than anything else, as it was really the only part of the Thanksgiving meal I liked. My dad would get exasperated with me about eating so much cranberry sauce and would tell me that it was a condiment, not a side dish. Of course at 6 years old that meant absolutely nothing to me! Thanks for your cranberry sauce recipe; I will definitely use it next year. Happy Thanksgiving!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving and I might make this anyway! It looks easy enough that even I couldn’t mess it up. I’m sure there are other things you could eat this with other than turkey… right?!ReplyCancel

Can I be honest here?  (Of course I can – it’s my blog.)  I’m a baking snob.  I hate ready-to-bake, processed items.  I LOVE to bake from scratch.  I also happen to be insanely busy, so anytime I can find a way to optimize my time, I take advantage of it.  Last year, I hosted a couple holidays in our home, and I knew I wanted to make cookies, but I knew that the oven would be occupied with other items, so I started working on a slice and bake cookie recipe that could be prepped ahead of time!

This toffee shortbread was a hit!  The cookies stayed moist, they weren’t overly sweet, and it was easy to pop them in the oven when I was ready to make them.  Clean up was super easy because all the “heavy lifting” was done ahead of time!

The easiest slice and bake cookie recipe for toffee shortbread! This cookie dough can be made ahead of time and popped into the oven whenever you are ready!P I N I T

Toffee Shortbread – Slice and Bake Cookie Recipe:

Slice and Bake Cookie Recipe - Toffee Shortbread!
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature, cut into cubes for easy mixing
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-1/4 cups of flour
  • 8oz of chopped, chocolate covered toffee bars
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Combine egg and vanilla into butter mixture until smooth.
  3. Mix in flour (dough will become stiff)
  4. Stir in toffee bar pieces.
  5. Turn out dough onto baking mat, form into log approximately 2" in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap until ready to bake.
  6. To bake:
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Slice dough into ⅓-1/4" pieces.
  9. Bake on lined cookie sheet for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. (Cookies may appear gooey, but they will set. Don't overcook.)
  10. Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

Toffee Shortbread – Slice and Bake Cookie Recipe – Notes from the Kitchen:

  • This hand chopper is my favorite thing for candy and nuts.  It makes everything so much easier and keeps it contained in one place.  It also comes apart for easy cleaning.
  • I think wrapping cooking dough in plastic wrap is way easier to navigate than using foil.  If you’re concerned about it drying out, you could put it in a ziplock bag to keep it fresh.

The easiest slice and bake cookie recipe for toffee shortbread! This cookie dough can be made ahead of time and popped into the oven whenever you are ready!P I N I T

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  • Sarah - I’m totally a baking snob- I won’t bake from a box either! We should bake together sometime! It’d double as therapy and hangout! <3ReplyCancel

  • Betsy - These look really good. I love an easy cookie recipe.ReplyCancel

  • familystrike.com - These easy Slice and Bake Butter Toffee Shortbread Cookies are rich and buttery, and perfect for holiday baking or to have along with your afternoon coffee.ReplyCancel

I have mixed feelings about self care Sunday, but all those melted away when I decided to book an appointment at Spa del Rey.  I was in LA for work and impulsively booked at room at the Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey because I wanted a late check out and I knew the area around the hotel.  I was traveling alone and I wanted to feel comfortable.  Linking up with B for weekending… because I actually did this weekend right.

Sunday morning, I woke up in the most relaxing room ever and decided to call down to the spa to see if I could add more enjoyment to that beautiful morning.  (I’m seriously obsessed with the renovation at the Marina del Rey property – full, updated review coming soon!)  The spa opens at 8:00am, and within a few minutes of leaving a message, they called back and offered me at 9:15 massage with Kevin.  I was totally in.

Note: I don’t take pictures at spas.  I just feel like it infringes on everyone’s ability to relax, including my own.  That being said, the pictures on the website are an accurate reflection of the spa facilities!

journey of doing - review of Spa del Rey at the Ritz Carlton Marina del ReyP I N I T

Spa Del Rey – Pre-Treatment

I walked down to Spa del Rey from my room approximately 25 minutes before my appointment.  I wanted to have plenty of time to get situated and check out the facilities.  The receptionist was super friendly, asked if I needed spa sandals, and explained the optional treatment options for my massage.  I ended up choosing hot stones and the scalp massage based on her recommendations, but I was definitely torn on whether or not I wanted to add the foot treatment.  That sounded amazing as well.  Once my treatment plan was settled, she showed me around the facility and recommended that I check out the eucalyptus steam room either before or after my massage.

I quickly secured my things in a locker, grabbed a robe, and headed for the steam room.  I’ve used these rooms at Bliss, and I love them, but they don’t even compare to the one at the Spa del Rey.  First, it was hot.  Really hot.  I had to grab a towel to sit on because the tile was so warm.  The steam was thick but the scent wasn’t overwhelming.  I could feel the toxins beginning to leave my body almost immediately.  I took a few minutes in there just to breathe for a few minutes (something I don’t do nearly enough) before toweling off and heading to the serenity room to wait for my massage.

Spa del Rey – Treatment

Kevin is amazing.  That’s basically the only thing you need to know.  Just book an appointment with him and move on your merry way.  But actually, I booked an hour massage and it seriously felt like time stopped for that hour.  I actually wondered if the treatment options had extended the massage, but nope – it was exactly an hour.  And, it was glorious.  It felt as though all the pain and tension in my body, even in places that I didn’t realize were carrying it, was finally released.

As soon as Kevin started using the hot stones on my back, it felt as though all the tension and stress was melting away.  Literally, melting.  That’s the only way to describe the sensation.  The scalp massage used oils that smelled refreshing but not overpowering.

Spa del Rey – Post-Treatment

After my massage, I headed back to the steam room.  I felt like I needed to finish releasing all the toxins in my body, but I also didn’t want the experience to end.  I rolled up a towel, laid another one out on the tile, and just rested until I couldn’t take it anymore.  I walked out, cooled down, and did it again.  The hot tile further relaxed my body and the steam hydrated my skin.  Between the massage and the steam, I don’t think I could have gotten more relaxed.  (And, my skin has never felt so soft.)

When I finished the steam, I decided to head to the spa showers, which offered full body sprays.  Again, I was all in.  The shampoo, conditioner and body wash had a refreshing scent.  The water pressure was great and the temperature was easily moderated.  I stayed in there as long as I could, but truthfully, I was so relaxed, I just wanted to lay down and savor this feeling.

I brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, checked out of the spa, and headed back to my room – which was a short walk away.  Perfection.  The best way to start self-care Sunday.

journey of doing - review of Spa del Rey at the Ritz Carlton Marina del ReyP I N I T

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  • Biana - What a luxurious experience! I love a good hot stone massage – those are my favorite! xo, Biana –BlovedBostonReplyCancel

  • pinky - You have me dreaming of a spa treatment. This sounds amazing.ReplyCancel

  • Sarita @ it's my girls' world - Wowza— what a way to spend a sunday! I just adore spas and this one seems so worth the spend.ReplyCancel

  • Bri @ My Life As - That sounds like heaven. I’ve never done the whole spa thing. I’ve gone in for massages but not all of the rest of the fun stuff! I might have to do the whole shebang in June once the school year is over.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I’m all about treating yourself whenever you have the means! This sounds like a brilliant spa experience. I like the sound of a eucalyptus steam room. I like anything eucalyptus so I’d be in there like a shot!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I’m so glad you treated yourself! You deserve it and I’m glad you were able to unwind & relax! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Amy Cotton - This sounds amazing!! I want to book an appointment at the spa right now! Haha!ReplyCancel

  • Kasie - Oh my gosh, this sounds like absolute perfection! The hot stone massage sounds so good right now, maybe I should head to Spa del Rey one of these upcoming weekends!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - Best impulse buy ever! Yay for treating yourself <3ReplyCancel