Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I am on a search to find an excellent sugar cookie recipe. I have used the "America's Test Kitchen" version before, but did not really like it because it uses a few too many specialized ingredients. Calling for super fine baker's sugar, cream cheese, etc...the cookies were good, but in my mind not good enough to justify the number of ingredients.

Yesterday, I tried out the dough recipe sent with my amazing Williams-Sonoma cookie cutters. The cookies held their shape well, but they were a bit tough. Decent, but far from spectacular -- though the cookie cutters themselves are absolutely wonderful. My next venture will be to try Sprinkle Bakes' sugar cookie recipe. I have much higher hopes for this one; essentially the same as the Williams-Sonoma recipe, but with two more eggs, a touch more vanilla extract, and the addition of some baking powder.

Then, it will be on to perfecting the icing. I still have not decided between using royal icing and buttercream icing. I will have to do a few test rounds to see whether the buttercream will dry hard enough, as the cookies are intended to be part of my sister's wedding favors in July, and will thus need to be bagged together. The royal icing is good because it dries to a hard, shiny, unsmudgeable finish, but it might be a bit too sweet.

Back to the kitchen....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I went to a dance competition a few nights ago, to meet up with an old friend and watch him perform. Not being particularly interested in dance, I was mainly interested in getting to hang out with him before he left town the next day. Much to my surprise, not only did I enjoy watching his performance, I loved all the dancing! It was ridiculously entertaining and inspiring.

Shortly after I arrived, feeling a sense of delighted surprise that I was really enjoying watching something new, IT happened. By "it," I mean a feeling I get much too frequently -- the nearly-automatic urge to transcribe my experience into a snappy, hip, humorous Facebook status update!

I whipped out my phone and pressed the "Facebook" button. Then, I paused. 'Why am I doing this?' I asked. And I realized while I always thought of this habit as stemming from a desire to let my friends and acquaintances know what I am up to, it is really just a way for me to seek their validation. 'Am I cool enough? Important enough for them to notice? Am I doing things that other people care about? Are people going to pay attention to me? Will they comment?'

I realized that my insecurities did not, in fact, fade away at some point in the last few years. Though I know myself well enough and am sufficiently comfortable in my own skin that I no longer feel a need to pretend to be someone I am not, there is still a significant part of me that wants attention and accolades. I had a thought once, mostly joking but with a kernel of truth, that nothing is real until it is on Facebook. Until people know about it, until I have shared it with the world, does it really matter?

Well, of course unshared events matter. And I posit that unshared events matter more than those thrust out for public consumption. We -- okay, at least I -- tend to share things that portray me in a positive light: intelligent, philosophical, funny...even self-deprecating stories put forth the image I want to portray to the world. I am far less likely to share events, feelings, and actions that cast me in a more negative light. But in reality, we are most human in our brokenness. Humans are not perfect, and any attempt to portray ourselves as such lends a sheen of inauthenticity. I am not advocating for myself or anyone else to "let it all hang out," so to speak; I think society needs people to wear masks to function smoothly. The problem arises when we are no longer able to remove our masks and be fully authentic.

Will I stop posting Facebook status updates? No. But will I be more aware of times when I am truly just seeking attention and validation? Yes. The more I seek validation from others, the less concerned and aware I am of my interior life. Conversely, when I am God-centered and focused on making myself righteous in His eyes, my need for outside validation decreases.

Monday, April 26, 2010


We had a meeting for the upcoming Wilderness Quest this evening.* Listening to discussions of the fasting process and suggestions that we be on a clean diet, at least relatively detoxed, before heading out, I realized how much my life lacks intentionality. I go through most of the day aware of what I am doing, for the most part, but also engage in a number of activities wholly without thinking.

Facebook and email come to mind. Also, and more relevant to the fasting discussion, food. How often do I graze casually on whatever snack-like food can fit in my hand? While I do usually set out a placemat for every meal, and sit at my kitchen table to eat it, that does not encompass much of the food I eat throughout the day. Food is so much more than mere fuel; in an ideal world -- perhaps one in which I did not live in a city and obtain all my groceries from a bin -- food would provide a connection to the land, to God. Yet I, along with much of society, too often treat it like a detached item that can say nothing of relevance. When we process foods to the point of unrecognizability, we divorce it from nature and reality. Not that processed food is inherently bad -- it is the way in which we relate to it that is bad, or that can be bad.

It would be helpful to remember that all the food I eat has a story, whether it came from a small organic farm or a massive, pesticide- or antibiotic-ridden factory. When I remember the stories, I can see the food for what it really is, and make an intentional decision about whether to eat it or not.

Similarly, with people. When I remember that each person I meet has his/her own story, hopes, fears, and dreams, I can see him/her as a fully developed person, not as a caricature of what my prejudices and judgments assume.

As I continue on my spiritual journey, I will strive for intentionality in all aspects of my life. Not that I will be perfectly intentional all the time, or likely even close to all the time, but I think it a worthy goal. Being mindful, pausing every so often to center myself and remember who I am and where I want to go, not just at that moment, but in life.

In the words of a wise man who spoke tonight, may my life be in alignment with my destiny. Hard to do that when I walk through life in a mist, devoid of mindfulness.

In the moment,


*What is a Wilderness Quest, you ask? In June, I will be going with a group of people for a week in the wilderness. We will have ceremony and sweat lodges, and from Wednesday morning through Saturday afternoon, I will be sitting in an approximately 10' x 10' patch of land, surrounded by 707 prayer ties strung around four willow sticks. Then, we will go back into the lodge, break our fasts, and leave the wilderness the following day.

Getting Started

Why such a long blog title?

I realize it is a mouthful...and takes a certain dexterity to type. But it does sum up quite nicely what I hope to accomplish with this blog -- though "accomplish" does sound a bit like I have a real end point in mind, which is not the case. My primary interests are God, the study of God, and making chocolates -- well, making desserts and baking, to be more exact. I figured "for the love of God and chocolates" sounded better than "for the love of God and baking," or "for the love of God and desserts." Possibly, I sacrificed a modicum of accuracy in my desire to have a better-sounding name. I guess that is the nature of artistic license.

In a few short months, I will begin a Master's program in theology, with the goal of completing a Ph.D. and becoming a Theology professor. Alternately, I may then return to complete law school, or study something else, and/or become a Catholic nun. All I know for sure is that my life is open to many possibilities and new ideas. A practicing Catholic, I am drawn to the contemplative life. I am most definitely a work in progress, and too frequently find myself an "active in contemplation," rather than my ideal of being a "contemplative in action." I have a deep interest in and love for God, which is no less strong for being a relatively recent presence in my life.

As for the chocolates, I am an aspiring baker and dessert-maker who likes few things more than spending days on end in the kitchen. I also cook non-dessert food, but I do gravitate more toward making desserts and baked goods. The precision appeals to me.

More will come later, but this seems to be a good start.

Until next time,