Monday, December 12, 2016

This Post Brought to You by Two Sick Kids (with a Lot of Interruptions)

It's a Lag Liv family first - two kids sick at the same time. Fevers- Landon's first in years and it's totally freaking him out ("Mom, I feel hot. Like on the inside? But cold on the outside.")- coughs, sore throats, tummy aches, and general listlessness abound in both big kids, with Landon falling first around 7 p.m. last night and Claire waking up with the same. Cora, who according to our patient portal visit history has never had a sick kid visit to the pediatrician in her life, remains fever-free, but was whisked off to school as early as possible to avoid contamination. Though really, maybe she's the one holding the cure and we should bring her with us for study. Landon has a field trip and the spelling bee later this week, so we're really hoping for a quick virus that will go away with powerade and a good night's sleep.

Not even trying to maintain a perimeter

But before the contamination, we had a weekend full of magical sugary goodness! Or rather, before the contamination was revealed, we had a weekend full of magical sugary goodness. Guess we won't be passing those cookies out to friends and neighbors after all, though I'm totally still eating every one.

But first! The reason I didn't post anything last week. I went to San Antonio for my first business trip in forever (like 3 years) and the kids were completely freaked out by my "traveling all alone" and were greatly relieved when I caught an early flight back and was reunited with them within 18 hours. I got to see all four of my grandparents on Monday night, which was absolutely wonderful, and then thanks to the standby on the earlier flight, got to eat dinner with the kids Tuesday evening. Perfect trip. (The work stuff was good too.)


But, the point- I started a new book series on the plane - Gena Showalter's (author of the Lords of the Underworld series I have enjoyed greatly, though you kind of have to slog through book 1) YA series the White Rabbit Chronicles. The first book is Alice in Zombieland and it is SO fun (I mean a lot of people are eaten by zombies and die, but overall, it's fun). So I read all four books between Tuesday and Saturday and got very little sleep (finished book 2 at 3:28 a.m. Thursday morning) and am now very sad they're done. It was nice to take a break from my computer, online shopping (though man eBates is killing it for me right now; we needed new suitcases and eBags has a 20% rebate. 20%!! That's a sound reason to also buy new packing cubes and a makeup case!), and just curl up on the couch with James and read each night. I usually read ~3 books a week, but I feel like photobooking, Christmas shopping, and watching Season 3 of The Fall really got in the way. But now I need books! Karen Marie Moning's final Fever book comes out in January and Kresley Cole has several lined up for the new year- and we're getting 2 new Ilona Andrews novels, which is always welcome, but I need more. Recommendations welcome. Nothing real or serious or that makes me remember that we're going to have a temperamental Russian-puppet-child as our president in the new year. Dystopian future books might have to be out for the same reason.

So there was a lot of reading, still some shopping (I got
this blouse for holiday parties and it is so beautiful; also Nordstrom has a 6% ebate), and at the end of the week, a lot of baking. First up, the precious sugar cookies.

I've learned it's best to spread out this project. Day 1 is cookie dough (recipe here; it's my great-grandmother's and it's amazing)- it has to chill for at least 8 hours but overnight is best.

I tripled the recipe this year instead of doubling, apparently I felt that last year I didn't come home from work and stuff my face with cookies a sufficient number of times. It nearly broke my KitchenAid.

Also, I discovered Cora doesn't like cookie dough. I cannot even with that child and her hatred for delicious things.

And I made the first part of the teacher gifts and then ate a ton of it as an appetizer for dinner. Yum! Then James and I went out on a date because fancy pizza is the best cookie-dough-chaser out there. And a stop at Stir Crazy Bakery, because our cookie dough wasn't baked yet.

On Saturday I taught barre (3 minute plank series, oh yes) and then procrastinated on starting the cookie rolling and baking until about 4. I also procrastinated in our crockpot dinner, so our whole weekly menu had to be rearranged. But finally, around 4:30 I decided yes, it's now the perfect time to roll, cut, and bake a million cookies. Probably mostly because it finally seemed acceptable to also open a bottle of champagne.

Cora was an enthusiastic helper. I finally had to send her on break so I could cut out my cookies in a logical manner that didn't require re-rolling the dough after every single cut, but as with all things Christmas this year, she was SO excited and so adorable about the whole thing.

Landon popped over and helped too.

12 trays of cookies later, I squared off with my Nightmares-from-Pinterest Bugle santa hats that I loathe and love every year. They're such a pain in the ass, but they're SO cute, so this year I lessened the torture by forgoing the bottom re-dip in red melting discs and white ball sprinkles. It cut out two steps and I honestly found the mouthful of crunchy sprinkles to be too much when it came to actually eating the mix.

But mostly it cut out two steps. Still, cute right?!

Claire did not help because she was off with a friend watching The Polar Express in pj's at the Science Museum's IMAXX theater. She didn't get to eat cookie dough (Cora again tried and forcefully rejected it), but she did get to eat popcorn and candy and watch a movie on a giant domed screen with one of her best friends. We'll call it even.

On Sunday I took myself to spin class in preparation for eating all the cookies once we'd decorated them. I was surprised with mimosas after class (10:00 a.m. "brunch" class at CycleBar Waterside- you should come!) and drank two to replenish my electrolytes. A sweaty stop at Target later to get something to jazz up the teacher gifts, and then a shower and blow dry of my hair because I knew I wouldn't have time later and Claire and I had a fancy date night planned, and then a little lunch to cushion the sugar, and it was time!! Let the sugaring begin!

Jazzy? Gluing a piece of ribbon is as crafty as I get if it doesn't involve sugar.

The special cookie-decorating table cloth was unfurled from its bin and the special cookie-decorating cups were filled with milk (all from Target two years ago and now deemed SACRED to the cookie decorating cause). The icing was made (2 lbs. of powdered sugar; oy). The colors were mixed (we added brown this year at Landon's suggestion; not normally in our mix, but admittedly appropriate for all the gingerbread men and reindeer that always had to be yellow in the past). The sprinkles released. The champagne poured.

And the decorating could begin.

Cora was Montessori-focused. She judged all our messy work stations and called out to me anytime icing dripped off one of my cookies. She carefully and deliberately covered a star in tiny snowflakes only to pick it up later and realize you need to put icing underneath them first. She loved it and worked so hard on the 6 cookies she had on her mat the whole time.

Claire was cheerful and well-paced. She was the last decorator left standing at the end and had a lot of creative ideas that didn't quite work in the execution. "Oh well," she'd shrug, "maybe next time."

Landon was creative and has some high-level technical skills. His cookies often had a story, but he found his creative juices tapped early and he retired from the table.

James had to fix all 50 strands of lights on our tree after a devastating electrical short, but thanks to a new electrical gun toy and a lot of switching fuses he got them all re-lit (YAY) and joined us for his traditional painstaking decorating of five cookies. Five.

I did my usual six at a time, all identical, knowing that if I want to stuff my face with cookies after work it's up to me to decorate them. I think I did about 70. And this year I've decided you can only eat what you kill/decorate, so they're all mine.

As soon as we finished the decorating and scrubbed everything in the kitchen and living room with soap and water, including the children, it was time for Claire and I to fancy ourselves up and head to The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall!

She participated in the Texas Ballet Theater's CityDance program this year, where TBT comes to various, generally underprivileged, local schools and teaches free ballet lessons once a week for six weeks. Claire still maintains that she does not like ballet, but it was free and an amazing opportunity AND on the one afternoon that our nanny had a lab and couldn't pick the kids up until 4, so she had to go anyway. She had friends go as well and she stopped complaining after the first two weeks. Then, as a treat at the end of the program, every kid got two tickets to see TBT's Nutcracker performance in December! I called to reserve the tickets, expressing my thanks for the program and the ballet tickets, and was told to get my tickets at will call on the night of the show. I fully expected to be in a back corner somewhere, but was shocked to find ourselves in the Orchestra- 7th Row Center. It was amazing!

Such a gorgeous theater and a special night downtown. We got dinner together first, walking around Sundance Square to see Santa and the tree, and then eating on the patio of Cheesecake Factory. I don't know that I'd ever had a meal with just Claire- she's such a communal creature, she really does generally want everything to include as many family members as possible, but it was really nice to just spend some one-on-one time with her. She made us sit side-by-side in the booth ("so I can be really close to you mom;" Claire continues to be our child who would prefer us all to be glued together) and we discussed vacations (Jamaica and Utah were her two faves) and future careers (school teacher, yoga teacher, mom, maybe lawyer).

We met her fellow reluctant-ballet-class-taking friend at the theater and they showed off a few moves in front of the tree. It was such a beautiful performance. Barre is about as far from true ballet as swimming, but it was still inspiring for me to see the foot positions I use in class, to see the gorgeous arabesques and long strong arms and legs holding such beautiful STRONG positions. Claire was mostly impressed by the clear cables holding up the flying ballerina and sleigh, but she did enjoy the performance and I hope she got a glimpse of what the purpose of all those "little moves" she did in class build up to. I think it's always amazing to watch talented people giving you the best of their craft.

And now, having been interrupted by an Orangetheory class that nearly killed me ("12 runners running" = a LOT of running, plus 1200m row, plus the longest floor series ever; their "12 Days of Fitness" have not made me feel very festive, though nothing has been worse than the "5 Rowers Rowing" and its 5000 meter row BAH HUMBUG) and a pediatric appointment (it's "justavirus" and not strep!), it's time to get back to administering ibuprofen, sneaking to the kitchen for more Christmas cookies (there are many reasons I need to go back to work tomorrow, but the 6 cookies I've eaten so far today might be the biggest one), and wondering how early I can go get Cora.

Happy mid-December to you all! May your days be merry and bright and your nights be quiet and fever-free (and cookie-filled).


  1. Hope the kiddos feel better soon- so glad you got in a good weekend before the illnesses hit!

    Here are some killer series that I've been loving lately. Most are fantasy or urban fantasy- some with more lovin' than others!
    YA books that are perfect for adults:
    - The Throne of Glass series by Sarah Maas is outstanding. Each book gets better than the one before- 5 books total.
    - Sarah Maas's Court of Thorns and Roses was also really engaging.
    - Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo was also fantastic!

    Adult books:
    - October Daye series by Seanan McGuire was great! First book took a little to get into, but once I got sucked in I was all in.
    - Have you read anything by Patrica Briggs? Both her Alpha and Omega and Mercy Thompson series are really good!
    - Nalini Singh's Archangel series made for the perfect mindless books- they were more explicit than anything I've listed so far.
    - If you want straight up fun/too-good-to-be-true, try Nalini Singh's Rock Hard series if pure fluff about rock stars and the women who they love.

    Happy reading!

    1. YES! Okay I haven't read any of the YA books you recommended. I don't read as much in that genre and I'm not sure why - yes sometimes it's too angsty, but some of my favorite series are YA (Hunger Games, Kresley Cole's Arcana Chronicles, which if you haven't read you should do so IMMEDIATELY), but I will get those downloaded asap.

      On the adult books:
      - I did try the October Daye but after slogging through book 1, I found book 2 to be just as impossible to get into. Tobey has yet to come across as a competent or believable detective and I just don't care about a single character. Usually I'm sucked into a book immediately, even bad ones, so I can't figure out what's going on with me there, but book 2 remains the ONLY book in my whole life that I have purchased, started, and not finished. Do I just need to keep pushing?
      - I have read all the Patricia Briggs. I have enjoyed Mercy Thompson quite a bit, particularly now that she's finally decided every wolf character doesn't have to hate Mercy all the time. I didn't find the Alpha Omega series quite as engrossing, I think because Adam is just such an aloof character, but I still enjoy them.
      - I started the Archangels series in Mexico! I read the first three books and enjoyed them immensely. Singh sometimes repeats herself, like word-for-word within the books, which I find odd, but I like all the characters and her world-building so far. I'll definitely check out her other series you recommended.

      For pure Urban Fantasty, I'm obsessed with Ilona Andrews' books- have you read them? And Kresley Cole and Larissa Ione will always be #1 authors for me- I am constantly torn b/w wanting them to write faster and being worried they're writing too fast. Thanks so much for the recs- let me know if you think of more!

    2. (ack- computer ate my reply, so I'm reposting. Apologies if this shows up twice).

      First, start with Sarah Maas' Throne of Glass series. The first book does have a little angst- but each book gets so much better than the one before it. The world building, the character development- really, they are worth investing the time in. Her Court series is also fantastic, but Throne of Glass just builds and builds that it's a blast to read. I have not read anything by Kresley Cole, but I will now!

      - As for Tobey- it isn't my favorite series, but I do enjoy them! If they don't grab you- well, life is too short to read books you don't love!
      - Agree with you completely about the Archangel series. It does get better- esp when she takes a break in the series to write about characters other than Elena and Raphael. Still, they are super fun diversions!
      - Same with Patricia Briggs. Mercy is my favorite, but the Alpha and Omega series tide me over in the mean time!

      I have read everything by Ilona Andrews and love her series! I also love the Fever series, although I do admit to skimming over some of the subplots b/c sometimes her books are a bit bloated. I haven't read anything by Larissa Ione, but I will soon! Sherrilyn Kenyon isn't my favorite either, but again- they pass the time without taxing my brain. ;) I also read the first book in The Other's series by Anne Bishop recently and liked that one too.

      You can see everything I've read here: It's a weird mix!

    3. Thanks, I will! And I'm excited to hear the Archangels series branches out to focus more on the other characters. I like Ehlena and Raphael, but my favorite series are the ones that continue branching out to new characters (except JR Ward who has taken that WAY too far and now there's too many characters and subplots to allow you to care about any of them).

      Totally agree on the Fever series. I was trying to explain it to a friend who hadn't read them the other day how I could be both completely obsessed (I'll download and read the book the night it comes out) and yet have SO MANY critiques and irritations with the way she writes and the seemingly pointless subplots she throws out and then doesn't follow through on. And yet, I will get no sleep on that Tuesday it comes out.

      I'm so excited you haven't read Larissa Ione!! They're super dark, but they are SO good. She has the Daemonica series (basically a demon runs an Underworld Hospital to treat other injured demons/paranormal creatures), which I enjoyed greatly, but then she followed it with a spinoff Lords of Deliverance series (about the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse) which I LOVE. I actually think it's the better series, but it still continues plots and characters from Daemonica so I still recommend starting there. She also has several novellas to finish out the stories of characters that recur in both. You're in for such a treat :).

    4. Alright, I just finished Poison Princess via audio book. I really enjoyed it- but I could do with about 50% less Jackson / Evie angst. The "should I trust him with my secrets" drama seems to be on it's way to be resolved, but does Jackson get over his chip on his shoulder? Do they have honest conversations? Can this horrible Selena/Evie/Jackson triangle go away? I've already gotten the second book in the series and I'm hoping it keeps getting better!

    5. YES. It definitely does. I've re-read the series several times, but only the first book once and even then it remained by far my least favorite. It's always a little angsty, but the novelty of the premise and world-building and the introduction of lots of new cards and characters keeps it in my top tier of fave paranormal series. (There are still some legitimate critiques, but for some reason, they don't bother me when I'm reading it- I just want more Tarot and more characters! But the love triangles get better for sure.)

    6. Oh good- I'm so glad to hear that!!
      I just realized we have not talked about Kelley Armstrong! I CANNOT believe I forgot her. I'm not the biggest fan of the Otherworld series- but her Cainsville series is so damn good as is her (non-fantasy) City of the Lost series.
      If you're looking for lighter fare (which is all my brain can handle during the holiday season), I've enjoyed the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones and The Other's Series by Anne Bishop. Happy reading!

    7. Evie picked HIM!?!?!? WTH!?!? And now he's DEAD?!? Curse you, this series and my job that prevents me from starting the next book immediately!

  2. Long time reader here. Thank you for introducing me to ebates! I gushed about it to my friends who were already in the know, and they introduced me to, which takes it all a step further by automatically finding and applying coupon and promotion codes! I'm planning to also try out the cookie recipe you so highly recommend this weekend! Thanks for all the great tips!!

    1. Yay! I'll have to look at joinhoney -- have you downloaded the ebates plugin? You download it and through computer magic, you get a little popup in the top right corner of any internet page that has an ebate rebate offer. It's so great! I never forget to activate my link now. And, if you google something to purchase, the ebates offer shows up in the search results.

      And yes, make the cookies! They're so good- so soft and flavorful, especially for sugar cookies (which I love, but can be a little bland).

  3. For books - have you tried Laura Florand's chocolate series? I swear, I want to move to Paris and just eat chocolate every time I reread.

    Sarah Morgan also - for a couple of nice comfortable contemporaries.

    Christina Lauren's Beautiful series.

    1. Thanks! I haven't tried any of those!

  4. Your cookies are just amazing. Kate and I made our first frosted, rolled/cookie cutter cookies this year (only about a dozen), and they were good but our frosting was a little too thin. Guess we'll just have to try again, darnit!! :) Hope everyone's feeling better soon! xx

    1. Great! The icing is tricky- I just mix it and play with it (more sugar, little more milk, more sugar, dash of vanilla) until it seems thick but still runny. And it's pretty wet when you drizzle and spread it on. Despite Cora's judgment there's no way to avoid lots of runoff which is why we decorate on wax paper. Then it will harden as it cools to make this marvelous coating that makes the cookies even softer and more delicious.

      And thanks! They both popped fevers again last night, dashing my hopes of a return to school today, but there's always tomorrow!

  5. So sorry the kids are sick. It's bad when it's one kid, but when you have more than one sick at once is torture. In January, there was a single week where all three of my kids and I all had positive strep tests. Easy answer as to why I'm out of leave at the end of the year.

    You may have already read as I'm very late to the party, but have you read the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (well, J.K. Rowling). I just finished the second one yesterday and wonder why it took me so long to pick these up.

    I made your cookies last year and bought everything to make them again this week - dough probably tonight, bake tomorrow night, decorate some Thursday for teacher gifts on Friday (last day of school) and finish decorating Friday afternoon since it's a half day. If you track what searches bring people to your site, I was looking for Lag Liv cookie over the weekend.

    1. Oy that sounds terrible. The kids have never had strep, but I used to get it ALL the time in Austin, back when I was at the firm and "sick leave" wasn't really a thing. It was so terrible. I can't imagine dealing with it while having to take care of anyone else.

      I haven't read the Cormoran Strike novels! I didn't even know they were JK Rowling! I'll definitely have to check them out.

      And funny enough, I googled the exact same thing this weekend. This blog has become a repository of all my recipes and it's easier to google them than go through my archives or recipe book :).

    2. Fortunately, I was the last to get strep and my kids were mostly on the mend. Oddly enough, strep kept going through my house the beginning half of the year. One kid had it 5 times in 5 months, which promptly got him referred to an ENT. Adenoids and tonsils came out in July and no strep since then. I think he was my carrier monkey.

      Please note that the Cormoran Strike novels, while very entertaining, are dark mysteries with no fantasy bent to them at all. I enjoyed the two I've read immensely, but am taking a break before the third because I want something lighter and fluffier.