Thursday, December 25, 2014

Swedish Spritz Cookies

Family traditions are important to me, especially now that my family includes only Wayne and me.  Christmas has always been a time to remember our heritage.

Grandma's family came from Norway by ship and through Ellis Island. Her father (Swedish) was a chef, and was sponsored by the Adventist church to work at the Kellogg Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. Grandma's Aunt Mary (from her dad's Swedish side) served as a missionary in South America, but often visited at Christmas when my mom was young. Along with amazing tales of living in a far off country, she brought her Swedish baking skills for holiday goodies.

So, one of our family Christmas traditions has been to make Swedish Spritz Cookies each year. The old family recipe card is in Mom's handwriting with the title:

Sprits - Swedish Cookies (Aunt Mary)

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg (or three egg yolks)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons brandy (if you have some)
2 1/3 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Be sure the butter is firm and do not make on a warm day. Handle as little as possible.

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and flavourings. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Don't overwork!

Place dough in a cookie press. Press cookies onto a sheet and bake in a 335 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

Remove cookies to cool, and store in an airtight container. These are rich, crispy cookies that make a nice Christmas, or anytime treat.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Deception Pass, Whidbey Island

Deception Pass in Washington State is a narrow channel of water that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island connecting Skagit Bay in Puget Sound with the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Deception Pass was discovered by Joseph Whidbey during the 1792 Vancouver expedition to the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver named it Deception Pass because it had appeared to be a narrow bay instead of a strait.

A 976 foot bridge connects Fidalgo and Whibey islands. The two spans of the bridge were constructed high above the pass as a public works project in 1935. In the middle is tiny Pass Island. Here you will find a small viewpoint parking area. There are also turnouts and parking areas on each side of the bridge. The bridge itself has narrow pedestrian walkways for the brave (not me!).

Deception Pass State Park is located on both sides of the strait. It was also constructed in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) public works project. Today, it is the most visited state park in Washington. It offers camping, picnicing, hiking, boating, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Camp and picnic areas have shelters for fireplaces and picnic tables. Seeing one of the original ones at the north shore picnic area really brought back memories of camping when I was young. If you prefer something less rustic, there are hotels and motels in nearby Anacortes and Oak Harbor.

Because it's a narrow strait, the tides create a flow of water up to 6 knots. Sailboats with small engines can be seen waiting for the tide to change before attempting passage. Even powerboats with larger engines time their transit for calmer waters. For viewing, I recommend the north beach area on the Whidbey side of the park. Day use is free. The trail from the parking area to the beach is only 1/10th of a mile down a gentle trail.

Sit on a log and watch your cares flow away. -- Margy

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Butter Cookies

Usually I do my baking at the cabin, but this holiday season we will be in the States, so I decided to bake some cookies at the condo. I chose a simple butter cookie recipe and they turned out nice. This recipe makes a crunchy cookie that isn't overly sweet. It's great for the holidays, but it's a good cookie for nibbling any time.


1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
2 2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons almond extract

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter (I used margarine) and sugar. Add the egg, then the almond extract (or vanilla). Mix the dry ingredients together before adding them slowly to the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly. The dough will be crumbly like pie dough. Divide it in two.

Use your hands to roll the dough into a 1 1/2 inch diameter log. Place it in plastic wrap and roll back and forth on the counter for a uniform shape. Chill the dough for an hour before slicing. Cut cookies 1/4 inch thin and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate if desired and bake at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes. If cookies are slightly brown around the edges, they're done.

Remove to a rack (I use a paper bag) to cool then store in a sealed container. The cookies crisp after cooling.

I froze my second roll of dough so it'll be quick and easy. Are you busy baking Christmas cookies? What is your favourite kind? -- Margy

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

USC Sports-cation

USC Women's Basketball at CSULB
When the weather gets cold, we start our sports-cations to California and Arizona laced with University of Southern California sporting events.

This time of year there's football and basketball. Within a 10-day period, we took in two football games, several basketball games, and a Lakers pro game.

We flew from Bellingham to Palm Springs on Allegiant. Avoiding rush hour, driving to Los Angeles is better than airplane transfers.

USC vs UCLA at the Rose Bowl
We drove straight to Long Beach State University. USC women were playing against my alma mater. It was fun to return to my college after twenty years. USC won, but I was rooting for both teams.

Wayne coordinates hotels to match sports venues, so we headed to the Pasadena Hilton to position ourselves for USC vs. UCLA football. We sat in "enemy" territory and had to listen to a lot of heckling, even though UCLA won.

USC Men's Basketball takes Cal State Fullerton
We had a late at the Pasadena Cheesecake Factory in honour of the Big Bang Theory we watch on our laptop at the cabin

Between games Wayne picked the Montebello Hilton Garden Inn for some serious sunbathing. Heading to the suburbs, he got a good deal.

Next was USC men's basketball at the Galen Center.  Wayne got us into the Raddison next door. This can be difficult on football weekends, but at off times it's a good choice.

Sunny downtown LA
We headed to the Downtown Sheraton. From here we could walk or ride the Metro Rail to our remaining events.  First was the Lakers basketball game at Staples Center. It was exciting to see the players in action, especially Kobe.

On Thanksgiving we walked to the LA Auto Show at the Convention Center. It was a good way to see all models in one place. Later, we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the classic downtown Pantry Cafe.

Our last event was the USC vs. Notre Dame football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Metro Rail to Exposition Park was 35 cents each way for seniors, or $1.75 full fare. One great thing about a big city is inexpensive rapid transit.

The LA Coliseum
This game was more positive game with a win for our team. What a great end to a USC sports-cation.

Wayne does our travel plans and reservations. When game tickets go on sale, he purchases them directly from the schools. Our second choice is to use StubHub

You can develop your own sports-cations around your favourite college (or professional) sports teams. While Wayne is the USC sports nut in our family, I enjoy the trips and going to the games. Over the years, I've learned a lot about football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball. Because we enjoy both men's and women's events, it broadens the opportunities within a short period of time.

Do you follow a favourite team?
Consider crafting a vacation around their sporting events. -- Margy