We've just come home from our friends' New Year's Eve party (celebrated the East Coast's countdown, which is the only way for us West Coasters to do it with our kids) and the boys came home and immediately passed out. "Mama, 2009 was a good year, I gotta say." Mateo declared as I tucked him in. "But I know 2010 is going to be crazy!" A mischievous smile spread across his face. 

2009 was a good year, difficult at times, glorious at others, just as life is and should be. There were so many adventures, so many questions, so many meals, so many full, full days, that it all really went by so fast. I'd like to hope that 2010 will be a slower one, but it's not shaping up to be so. Most ominously, is our new home that is waiting to be built, and that will (hopefully) be completed this year. And of course there are two boys who insist on us showing them as much of the world as we possibly can. "What are we doing next?" is their daily mantra. 

At this moment, I feel very full with gratitude for this little family of mine. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I've been this blessed to have three enormously precious beings to surround me and love me. Every day really is a gift for me, and I can only imagine 2010 as a year of more abundance. 


One last image from Christmas morning: Southern-boy breakfast, not for the weak: hot-buttered biscuits with strawberry jam, tofu scramble, veggie sausage, and grits. He thought it was delicious.













Our winter break has been busy to say the least, but in such a great way. There have been holiday celebrations, seasonal celebrations, birthday celebrations, visits from friends and family from near and far, lots of belly-warming home-cooked meals, and some very lazy afternoons. One little excursion took us to one of LA's most special places, Huntington Gardens where we could get our nature fix. Around each corner is a gorgeous surprise, each one better than the last. 

And luckily for me, I've got 8 more days with these guys.   



Each year that I've done what feels to be a massive baking undertaking, with more and more friends and family added to the list each year, I'm pretty amazed it all gets done. Especially when I'm in the middle of it all, and there can only be less than a handful of days from the time they are baked to when they must be mailed/handed out. But it really is so satisfying to give something made from my hands and my heart to the people who mean so much to us. I know they're only cookies, but they really are small edible pieces of love. I wish I had the stamina to do more so that everyone could be covered, but until the boys are old enough to really pitch in (and I certainly plan on that), it's me and me alone, although my dear husband certainly helps out when he can. They help me in so many ways every day, that I can wait. Each year I get asked quite frequently what my recipes were and how I found them, and now that I have this little website, I can share them. They are all worth the effort. 

Alfajores (Argentinian Caramel Sandwich Cookies)

Adapted from Nook & Pantry

1-1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon rum extract
1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 13.4-ounce can dulce de leche*
Finely ground toasted almonds (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl often. Add egg, lemon peel, almond extract, and rum extract; beat well.

Add the 1/3 cup finely ground almonds; beat well. Beat or stir in flour. Divide dough into three portions. Cover and chill about 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet; set aside. On a lightly powdered-sugared surface, roll out one of the dough portions to an 1/8-inch thickness. Using a fluted square or round 1-1/2- to 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out dough. Place dough squares or rounds 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until tops are a very pale golden brown. Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. Repeat with remaining dough portions. 

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the dulce de leche on the bottom of each of half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down, pressing lightly together. If desired, sprinkle tops of assembled sandwich cookies with finely ground toasted almonds. Makes about 24 sandwich cookies.

White Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

From Martha Stewart Living

2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Toffee Crackle Cookies w/ Sea Salt

1 c butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ c flour
1 ¼ c toffee bits
Flaky sea salt (Maldon is best)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour and toffee pieces.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Sprinkle tops with sea salt. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 20 minutes until the tops are cracked and the sides are set. Do not let the edges brown. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. 

Lemon Bars

from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (less if you are using the thinner topping), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Peanut Butter Munchies

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat together butter, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the 1/4 cup peanut butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Beat in as much of the dry ingredients as you can with mixer. Stir in remaining dry ingredients by hand with a wooden spoon. Form chocolate dough into 32 balls about 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Set aside.

For peanut butter filling, in a medium mixing bowl combine powdered sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth. Shape mixture into 32 (3/4-inch) balls.

On a work surface, slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball and top with a peanut butter ball. Shape the chocolate dough over the peanut butter filling, completely covering the filling. Roll dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining chocolate dough and peanut butter filling balls.

Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. [NOTE: I rolled mine in powdered sugar before flattening slightly]

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until they're just set and surface is slightly cracked. Let cookies stand for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. Makes 32 cookies.

To Store: Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Dozens of cookies have been sent


My very tired mixer has been put away

Necklaces were strung


Sea salt scrubs concocted  

As were gingerbread houses that dripped with sugar

We received some freshly-picked neighborhood flowers  

Nico got a big hug from his buddy

Hot chocolate was sipped

And right before bed, there were cookies left out for Santa. It’s been a busy few days around here with lots of visits from friends and family, our annual winter solstice homemade gift exchange, many shared home-cooked feasts, and late night preparations for the day that’s ahead. While it may only be 54 degrees outside, (winter for us here in Southern California,) there’s still the sweet sense of the warmness of home, the closeness of family, the spirit of giving, the slowing down as the Holiday approaches.  I have a feeling it’s going to be an early morning tomorrow, as two little boys may be up before dawn. Merry Christmas everyone, may you enjoy all the joys of the season! 




Wishing you peace, warmth and reflection on this Winter Solstice.

"One kind word can warm three winter months." 

Japanese proverb


{Feel free to use the above video as soundtrack as you read on….}

There was a little incident at school this week with Mateo and his little posse of friends. To them it was funny, but to their teacher it was not, and it even warranted a letter home to be returned with a parent's signature. Whoa. I'll spare the details, but it was basically boy behavior gone too far. Still and ever the obedient little girl that I am, I was a little mortified at first. "I'm, not the kind of mother who teaches her son to do this!!" Teo and I had a very serious discussion about it after school and there were some consequences he was really unhappy about. It kind of wrecked my day. I had visions of my sweet boy morphing into some crude hellion running around school with his underwear on his head. 

I know that won't happen, but it was yet another good lesson for me to remember a couple of things: 1. Mateo will occasionally do things that break "the rules." Most kids do until they know all the rules. 2. Boys are crude hellions from time to time. It what they do. 

When I was pregnant with Nico and people would ask me what I was having, it always amused me how people's faces either fell with disappointment or filled with "oh, you're going to get it!" laughter when I told them it was another boy. Little boys have somewhat of a bad rep. On some level I understand it: they are rowdy, they like talking about butts and poop, they like shooting things, they like destruction. All these things must be inherently bad and may lead to some criminal behavior down the line, right? But probably not. 

Little boys cross the line often, that's what they do. Heck, that's what they do when they become men. With the incident this week, Matt, who I'm sure was quite the hellion himself at one time, told me to chill. "It's normal, he's a boy. He's just testing the boundaries." So I reigned in all my negative visions and tried to remember that on some level that a boy's job, to stir the pot, to shake things up. That's why there is never a dull moment around here. Ever. 

I'll try to remember that the next time Mateo pulls down his pants, turns around, moons Nico then poots right in his face. And does Nico cry? No. He laughs. 

It has become a tradition to turn my kitchen into a full-on bakery around Christmas, as we prepare to give away boxes and boxes of cookies to our family and friends. I actually do get excited about researching new ideas and then trying to balance tastes and textures while also challenging myself in the execution. Four years ago I started out with just two different recipes and I’ve grown it to include five or six (as it was last year, and which I concluded was a little too much to handle in the few days I have to get it all done and shipped while they’re still fresh). 

So now I’m in the throes of it again, and I’ve got five pretty incredible recipes I’m dealing with. I was hesitant to share and spoil the surprise for the friends and family who will receive these, so I think I’ll just share the two that I’ve just finished. The last three will stay underwraps until after Christmas. 🙂


Gingerbread Blondies w/ White Chocolate


And by special request by Matt, and one that I know my mom will love: Lemon Shortbread Bars


Yes, it's Tuesday and the weekend already seems far away, but that's how it's been going over here lately. Lots of holiday parties, lots of holiday and gift preparations, lots of cooking, baking, and hiding of presents from anxious little eyes. But we did manage to get to the arcade late Sunday night for some photo booth and skee ball action. 

Will it all get done??






Silent night! Is it really that time of year already? It feels really trite to write, but it really does seem like all this came upon us way too fast. Didn't we walk with the kids to the corner Christmas tree lot, pick out a nice looking Noble and carry it home by the trunk last week? I guess not. I guess it really was 365 (or so) days ago. Crazy.

So ready or not the mad rush begins. Right now we are all in list mode. Mateo decided to make a list for Santa last night. In case you can't read it 🙂 , it says:


Bot (boat)

HleKt (helicopter)

A farm (??)

A bee (???)

Optimus Prime (he got a little help with that one)

–Hopefully we can deliver.

Nico wanted to put off his list until another time. "Nico," I told him, "Time's runnin' out!" "Yeah Mama, I know," he answered with a sigh. Okay little man. 

I've begun investigating to see what I'm in the mood to bake this year. I've got about 42 ideas. So far. 

As those pesky Black Eyed Peas sing, "Let's get it started!"