My senior year of college, back when I was still going to become a teacher, I had to present a lesson to a class of fellow education majors, as if I were teaching high school students, and I must have practiced five or six times.
It had to be a certain length in size – maybe 15 minutes? – and it needed to include visual aids and an outline you handed the instructor ahead of time, with handouts maybe.
I don’t remember what I was teaching on, but I remember there was a puzzle involved.
So there I was, holding up cardboard pieces of some greater picture, lecturing about how each puzzle piece seems ugly and pointless on its own but beautiful when it fits in with the others – who knows how this linked to the subject matter – and my professor was in the back, looking at his watch, not calling “time,” which would mean I could stop.
Palms sweating, completely out of material, I kept yammering, on and on about those puzzle pieces, how our lives were full of small circumstances that were just segments of something larger, how the underside doesn’t reveal the master design, how you have to keep a bigger perspective about things.
The professor still hadn’t said anything.
So I did the one thing he told us never to do: I finished, picked up my things and sat down, tears in my eyes signaling the nervous breakdown I would have in the hallway later. (The irony was, a week or so later when I got my grade, I found out I hadn’t been under time, but the professor had just forgotten to signal.)
Anyway, I still think about that day sometimes, both about how ridiculously important that one assignment in that one class seemed and about how, while I talked about not forgetting the bigger picture, I was doing exactly that. Life feels busier in the summer.
Do you feel that way? There’s so much more you can do, so many more opportunities to do all of it, and even with so much more daylight, you find you drop things and start to feel behind, like you’re not catching up.
For me, there’s this blog party we’ve been talking about. On different days, I range from worried no one will come (and I’ll have all this food! and I’ll feel so silly!) to worried that everyone will come (and what will I feed them? how awful if we ran out of things to eat!), so I over-worry about lists and details and logistics, thereby sucking every bit of fun out of the process.
In reality, things are coming together, and there are lots of fun things to look forward to: My Facebook friend Melissa of Sugar Magnolia Pastries is bringing a cake, mousses and possibly pecan tarts; Andrews McMeel has donated three of their finest cookbooks for a giveaway; I have a rough menu in place (barbecue chicken with crusty bread, a strawberry poppyseed salad, fingerling potatoes, banana bread, biscotti, mint lemonade). As promised, there will be a cookie table, complete with icings and sprinkles.
I even tried out a new sugar-cookie recipe this weekend, which I’m posting here, so those of you who can’t come can still celebrate in spirit. It’s slightly chewy inside, with firm golden edges, perfect for topping with icing or eating alone.
Flower Power Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet (Alphabet Cookies), January 2004
When I got to the bottom of the dough with this recipe, I had the inspired idea of rolling little bits in cocoa powder and placing them in the center of the flower-shaped cut-outs. Crazy, right? See? I can have fun.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
*Recipe for icing
In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl to use with a hand mixer), beat together softened butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined.
Form dough into two balls, and flatten each into a six-inch disk. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out one piece of dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut out as many cookies as possible with cutters (I used my grandma’s vintage flower cutter – isn’t it adorable?).
Transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Bake cookies until edges are golden, about 12 minutes.
Repeat process with remaining dough. Let cool completely before icing.
*Icing: This is so unlike me, but I just threw powdered sugar, a squeeze or two of lemon and some milk in the stand mixer and kept adding whichever ingredient I wanted to change the consistency (more sugar for thicker, more milk for thinner). I didn’t use any measurements because the process was very simple.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna has a Masters in Writing through Depaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.