Friday, December 16, 2016

Merry Christmas Cookies

Began the morning with breakfast, then went right into more cookie-baking. The Molasses Roll-Outs, aka Merry Christmas Molasses Cookies, are probably the most complicated of the five kinds of cookies I make. These are cut-out cookies that need to be chilled, then flattened with a rolling pin and cut into the appropriate Christmassy shapes. I like to get creative. Along with the usual things - trees, snowmen, stockings, gingerbread people, stars, angels, candy canes - I pulled out a horse, a train, a teddy bear, a fluted heart, a small heart, and a half-moon.

It takes me a while to get it all done. I used to have problems doing these quick enough. I'd end up burning them. I've made them for Christmas for over a decade now. I have a far better idea of when to look in the oven and check on them, and how fast I can get them done.

Ran Hail, Caesar! while I baked. This love letter to the tail end of the Golden Age of Hollywood follows one day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the "fixer" for Capitol Pictures. Namely, he keeps the peccadilloes and scandals of the studios' employees out of the gossip rags. The guy does have a very full day, keeping track of a swimming musical star who is pregnant...with no father in sight (Scarlet Johanssen), the handsome dancing star of a big navy-themed musical (Channing Tatum) who turns out to be a Communist, a singing cowboy who is hopelessly miscast in an English drawing room drama, to the annoyance of its director (Ralph Fiennes), and the drama star (George Clooney) who suddenly vanishes, right before the filming of his current Roman epic's climatic scene. When a strange group called "The Future" claims they've kidnapped the drama star and want $100,000, Mannix has to figure out a way to get it to them, without a ruthless gossip columnist (Tilda Swinton) catching wind.

I seem to have good luck with renting independent historical-based comedies in mid-December. I enjoyed this as much as I did The Grand Budapest Hotel two years ago. Like that one (which also featured Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes), we get a picture of a time gone by that might not be as elegant and glamorous as you think. The all-star cast is having a great time with the pastiche of 50's movie cliches. (Who knew Channing Tatum could tap dance like that?)

However, I will add that you'll need to have at least some knowledge of the early 50's (especially the movies and politics of that era) and the Golden Age of Hollywood to get pretty much anything that's going on. The more you know about Hollywood history and what was going on in this time period, the more you'll like this. If you love movie or mid-20th-century history as much as I do, this is a very funny ride that's worth at least a look.

Switched to the original version of Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas while finishing the cookies. In the copy my family taped around 1988, Kermit the Frog narrates the tale of Ma and Emmett Otter, two river dwellers who barely make a living taking in washing and doing odd repair jobs for neighbors. They think they've found the answer to their money problems when their town announces a big talent contest on Christmas Eve. Mrs. Otter performs a lovely ballad solo; Emmett helps organize the title jug band. The ultimate winner of the contest is a surprise...and so's how the Otters' talents are discovered afterwards.

Did a quick Laverne & Shirley holiday episode while cleaning up the kitchen. Carmine convinces the regular characters, including the girls, to perform in his big Christmas show in "Oh Hear the Angel Voices." The others are less-than-thrilled when it turns out that they're performing at a mental hospital. Shirley's heard a few too many stories about family members who ended up in them. Laverne's too busy flirting with the patients to worry much.

Headed out around 1:30 to run errands. While it remains bitter cold, the lack of wind and sunny skies made the temperatures a lot more bearable than they were yesterday. First stop was Phillies Phatties for my usual slices of mushroom and cheese pizza and can of soda (Mountain Dew Pitch Black today). I ate inside, watching a replay of yesterday's Seahawks-Rams game (Seahawks killed them, 24-3) and listening to a family eating in the next table over chatter.

Dodged traffic on Cuthbert as I made my way to the Haddon Township Library. I was mainly there to return books and DVDs. They were really dead. I did shelve some kids' DVDs and audio books and CDs, but there really wasn't much for me to do. I didn't even take out any movies. They didn't seem to have too many Christmas movies left, and I didn't see any kids' Christmas specials that interested me.

Since I was already in Westmont, I did this week's grocery shopping at the Acme there. It was too cold to ride all the way over to Audubon! I'll get my schedule tomorrow.

I actually didn't end up getting a lot. There were no good sales on chicken or fish. Grabbed yellow cake mix, coconut, and maraschino cherries for baking this week. Restocked tomato paste, milk, eggs, brown sugar, and frozen peas. Picked up bagged spinach for fresh vegetables. Clementines were on a good sale again; got those and bananas for fruit. I also finally got the gift I needed to buy for the Oaklyn side of the family's Secret Santa.

It was starting to get cloudier and much colder as I left the Acme. This was no day for lingering. I went straight home across Newton Lake Park. Needless to say, I was the only one there. The park is showing signs of winter now. The lake is half-frozen; the trees are black calligraphy on the still-green grass.

Put everything away as soon as I got in. Watched an episode of Get Smart as I got organized and put leftover Chicken Vegetable Soup on the stove. Max is "Our Man In Toyland" in the first season when he and 99 are assigned to find out how information on a top secret project keeps going out of a department store. It's not all fun and games when the duo find out what's going on...and get caught.

Did a little bit of Luke and the Beanstalk next. Vader has trapped Han and Chewie under a heavy bowl while he prepares to cook them. Luke and Leia use a knife to lift the bowl and get them out. Meanwhile, Ben is preparing to confront Vader...

Started the Cherry Coconut Bars as soon as I finished eating. These are the last cookies I make for Christmas. They're basically Lemon Bars with a cherry-coconut filling replacing the citrus. As such, they're extremely sweet...and very popular. They're probably my second most often-requested cookie after the Molasses Roll-Outs.

(And while I'm now done with the cookies, I still have two loaves of bread for family and neighbors and cupcakes to make next week.)

Ended the night with the late 70's Wonder Woman TV show. "The Deadly Toys" from the second season is one of two semi-holiday episodes the series did during its run. When a scientist who had once worked on an aborted government project is found to have been replaced by an android, Diana Prince has to figure out who is kidnapping these men and why...and how a little old toymaker and the scientists' hobby of creating miniature battle scenes tie into it.

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