Worth the Making

For me, holiday season means baking season. I know we aren’t quite there yet but this weekend I made a big batch of sugar cookies for Halloween. I didn’t decorate them like I normally would have which makes me a little sad, but we truthfully don’t have the counter space or storage space for such an endeavor. Just making the cookies themselves took me 3 days. The kids helped make the dough on Friday and then I spent 2 days baking them.

Normally, it doesn’t take 2 days, just a few hours. But when you are living in a space that isn’t your own and you don’t have your regular tools and pans, things can get a little tricky. Like in this example, where the largest “cookie sheet” I have isn’t actually a cookie sheet but a 9X13-ish cake pan. The most cookies I got on that thing was 9 at a time and that was pretty squished. This recipe made nearly 60 cookies (I know, I should have halved the recipe, I usually do. I blame pregnancy on that particular decision-making moment).

As I was going through this baking marathon, before I had decided not to decorate them, I found myself wondering if it was all worth it. I mean yes, these cookies are good, but they aren’t the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Yes, they can look super cute when they are decorated well, but to truly decorate them well would have taken at least another 2-3 days depending on how long naptime was. To really go all out with these cookies is a multi-day extravaganza that usually leaves me with cramped hands, sore feet and no tupperware left.

For what? Someone to walk in and eat 2 cookies in under 2 minutes. Days of work for a brief moment of enjoyment. Surely it would be easier to go to H.E.B. (Texas’ version of Kroger/Jewel/Raley’s) and buy a box of cookies. Why pour my soul into something so fleeting?

I believe that we do these kinds of things because of the way we were created. God didn’t make us up or imagine us, He gave us life as a reflection of His very self. God poured His breath into Adam while fully knowing that this firstborn of creation would choose disobedience over obedience. God creates us still knowing that now, because of original sin, our lives on earth are but sparks in the night, there for a moment and then extinguished.

We are capable of reflecting God in all things, even in our creativity. Think of someone who is passionate about gardening. They work their soil, preparing it for seeds year after year, constantly trying to improve its nutrients and suitableness. They weed, they prune, they cultivate. They marvel at each flower and enjoy the fruits of their labor. They do all this, knowing full well that these plants that they have loved into existence will die come winter.

Or consider the people who have booths at your local craft fair or fall festival. These people have worked all summer, some all year, long to bring you their merchandise. The hours spent deciding on paint color, harvesting the right kind of wood, repeating the same pattern over and over, was done out of love for their craft. Of course, the financial compensation is also a motivating factor, but for many items these crafters are making pennies on the dollar when you consider an hourly wage and the cost of the materials. Their passion is both a testament to their creativity but also a reflection of the creative God who made them.

Naked pumpkin sugar cookies from the post "Worth the Making" on Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
Naked pumpkin sugar cookies. Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2016

So yes, the cookies are worth it. Even if this time they are naked =)Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Timing, Apparently It’s Important

In case my post about cleaning the bathroom wasn’t clue enough (check it out here), timing is kind of import to me. This is actually something I’m just starting to realize, specifically since I’ve started writing this blog. Perhaps it is because I’m taking more time to reflect on my day, my comings and goings, interactions or lack there of, etc., and trying to see where and how God fits into it all. I think that it has been an excellent exercise.

I was recently making some sugar cookies from a recipe that a friend gave me. She made these amazing, and I truly do mean amazing, bunny rabbit sugar cookies for Easter. They were decorated and thick, just like you would buy in a specialty bakery. She even individually wrapped them. So cute, I wish I had a picture to show you.

Anyway, she graciously let me have her recipe as well as the icing recipe. She included some of her tips and tricks for making these cookies. One of them has completely revolutionized how I make sugar cookies.

I should preface this with some information about sugar cookies for those of you who don’t make them or haven’t made them before. They can be hugely labor intensive. After mixing the dough, you have to let it chill for at least an hour, usually more depending on how big a batch you’ve gotten yourself into. Most cookies you can mix, plop on a cookie sheet and a few minutes later be dunking some hot but deliciously gooey cookies into your cup of milk. Not sugar cookies. Once the dough has chilled, you have to roll it out in sections with lots of flour sprinkled everywhere to keep your rolling pin from sticking. Then you cut out your cookie shapes with your cookie cutter, ball up the left overs, and roll it out again. Repeat until all your dough is gone.

Now you can cook them. Unfortunately for me, when I say “cook” them I actually mean burn 80% of them. But, I think I’ve figured out the trick to my oven which I will explain in a minute.

Pre-rolled sugar cookie dough ready to be chilled
Pre-rolled sugar cookie dough ready to be chilled

Ok, so that’s the sugar cookie tutorial. Now, how did my friend revolutionize my sugar cookie experience? It’s all about the timing. She suggests that instead of chilling the dough in a big ball, I should go immediately from mixing to rolling, but between two pieces of wax paper. No major flour mess that envelops the whole kitchen. Now, you can chill the dough pre-rolled out. Once it is chilled, pull it out one sheet at a time, cut and re-roll between the wax paper. Amazing!

Doesn’t sound super amazing to you? Sounds like all I did was change the timing of one step, not a huge deal. But it is, it so is, at least for me. Not having to roll out the dough after chilling has always felt like so much work and effort. I can pinpoint this step as the one that keeps me from making sugar cookies most of the time. However, rolling out the dough immediately after mixing is much less intimidating, and the following steps feel like I’m going downhill instead of up. It’s all about the timing.

I am starting to understand that the timing of when I accomplish things matters almost as much as how I accomplish them. I am more productive when it comes to housework in the morning than in the afternoon. I am also much more willing to run errands and be out and about in the morning. Ask me to go shopping with the kids after naps and you may as well be asking me to pick up after the dog. I’ll do it, because I know I have to, but I won’t be overly excited about it either. But, I am more creative in the afternoon and evening. As I write this post it’s 3pm in the afternoon and I’m 600 words in after only 20 minutes. I’ve been starting to pick up my guitar again and I’m finding that I enjoy playing it more in the afternoons and evenings.

Something I’ve noticed in my musings about timing and how I choose to spend my time is that I don’t have a steady time for God. I pray throughout the day, but I struggle with carving out a time for God. Our parish has started a prayer ministry and gives a group of us monthly prayers to pray for our parish. When I first started, I did such a good job, but after a few months I’ve fizzled out and I am struggling to get back into the habit.

In our homily at Mass today, our priest talked about how important it is to “waste time with God.” This phrase struck me. Wasting time, what do I waste time on? Who do I waste time with? Wasting time isn’t always a bad thing. When Ben and I were dating, we wasted so much time together while we got to know each other. We should have been studying for tests or doing homework (we met in college), but instead we were wasting time going for walks, eating ice cream, and growing in our relationship. We all know that there are lots of ways to waste time that are not as promising. Wasting time watching TV when there is work to be done, wasting time on our phone when we could be interacting with our children or other people, wasting time on side projects or hobbies while neglecting our responsibilities that should take priority.

When our priest talked about wasting time with God, he was talking about spending quality time with God, getting to know Him, allowing Him to help us get to know ourselves. Spending time in prayer, adoration, wonder, thanks, sorrow, despair, hope, anticipation, pick an emotion and spend time with it and God.

If timing is something that appears to be part of my subconscious make-up, I need to seriously consider how to better incorporate God into my timing routines.