Friday, January 2, 2015

New Beginnings

Happy New Year! 2015 is already off to a raring start!

So, I've been AWOL from the Interwebs since before Thanksgiving. A small part of it was laziness on my part. Okay, a somewhat decent-sized portion was laziness. At least half of it was the sheer craziness and frantic pace of the holidays. If you don't happen to know any musicians, you'll have to trust me - between Thanksgiving and New Years is our insanely jam-packed season.

So in the time I've been away, I've been running around like a crazy person, visiting friends and family, rehearsing, performing, and I actually managed to go out on a blind date (which I had to cut short due to the aforementioned rehearsing and performing). I've also...

... performed at the 25th Annual Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees, in front of this lovely audience. I also got to sing at a mall the week before Christmas, which was less crowded but five times noisier. My choir also recorded a holiday CD, which meant months of prep and a weekend of recording sessions - a very interesting process that I'm curious to try again, now that I've got a little experience under my belt.

...baked. A lot. And now I'm paying for it. But all of the new Christmas cookie recipes I tested this year were hits, so I think they're keepers! First, there was what I like to call "Christmas Crack" - pretzels topped with milk chocolate wafers slightly softened in a warm oven and finished off with a peanut M&M.

Then my brother and I made these delicious Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies that were so amazing and moist and easy that I'll be making them again next weekend for the cookie reception after my performances.

And, of course, it wouldn't be the holidays without eggnog, which is one thing I look forward to with absolute child-like glee every year. So I thought I'd try these Eggnog Meltaways. Lesson learned - I refrigerated the dough much longer than called for, so when I baked them, they didn't quite bake all the way through. Which, naturally, I didn't realize until I bit into one after I had already rolled the finished cookies in powdered sugar. So mine didn't turn out as lovely and powdery as pictures in the recipe, but they still had that fabulous eggnog flavor!

Finally, anyone who knows me at all knows that I am slightly obsessive over cranberries. I put them in everything - salads, scones, pork roasts. I just love them. So when I found this recipe for Cranberry Noel Tea Cookies, I just had to try it, despite my crazy schedule. After singing the late Christmas Eve service at church, I came home, pulled my double batch of dough out of the fridge, and baked long into the night, despite facing the drive across the state to my parents' house the next morning. Yes, I may have fallen asleep on the sofa Christmas Day while watching a movie with my family, but the rave reviews over the cookies made it worthwhile! Never having made a shortbread cookie before, I didn't realize how easy it could be, and definitely see myself playing with variations of this with different seasonal flavors all year long!

... rehearsing for my latest show, a review-style production of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas", in which I play Judy Haynes (the dancing sister, for those playing the home game).

The show was supposed to open mid-December, but half of the cast came down with the plague (seriously, I've never heard of people getting both the flu and pneumonia simultaneously!), so out of necessity, we postponed until next week. The show has been kind of a hot mess since day one, but there are some really nice moments, terrific choreography, and some lovely people involved, so I suppose the experience has been worth it.

...cataloguing and reorganizing my book collection. This sounds both nerdy and insignificant. The first I'll proudly cop to. The second... well, you can judge for yourself:

I started with the A authors on the
stairs to the second floor.
The C authors were too numerous for the stairs,
so they got their own room.
This is some of M-V in the sunroom, as due to how I had to wrap
the stacks around, I couldn't fit it all in the same frame.
As always, Georgia "helped".

 I've been working on cataloguing in a database, mostly to keep track of what I have and any reading orders for series. I started that project 6 years ago, before I moved, but I've since gone to writing conferences and bought or received enough to start my own library. I started again on Christmas Day, in preparation for the construction that we're going to be initiating in the basement in a few weeks (can I just say that I'm unbelievably excited for this to happen?). In the week I've been slogging through my stash, I've only made it through the L authors - for my fiction. I haven't even gotten to the non-fiction and reference books yet. And the law and academic texts are still living in the basement, because those boxes are too heavy to move if I don't have to!

I'm sure there's a great deal more, but those are the highlights. Now it's time to look forward to the next year. There are changes a-coming, and truth be told, I'm kind of excited for what the year may hold!

Happy New Year!

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