Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cookie Day is coming again

Cookie day is Nov 22 this year. I have been convinced to cut back to 15 types of cookies...I think it might actually stick this time around--I just haven't had time to look up new recipes. Most everything we're doing is tried and true...only one new recipe--for Almond Snaps, which I gather are thin round cookies that we roll around a tube while they're warm. My mom picked up the tubes at a garage sale so we wanted to try them to see if they were worth keeping. I'll try to come back and post the recipe since I don't have it in front of me at the moment. Obviously I'm not much of a blogger though!
I have not baked for the soldiers since the spring. I really want to get back to it but things have been a bit crazy. Randy and I still live in two houses, Randy is still unemployed and furiously working at any free-lance work he can get. He has had an number of audio projects lately though--almost more than he can handle! Which is cool but it makes our time together even more scarce! I had a death in my family last month and spent four days in Georgia attending my grandma's funeral. It was really awful! Now I'm just concentrating on baking for Cookie day and holiday stuff like shopping for my four nieces.
Baking GALS is on facebook now, so if anyone wants to participate it might be a little easier. I think I will volunteer to bake for someone else's team for a while rather than head one up right now but I would love to get back into the organizing of the boxes of love. I know they need it! I don't know the details of this story, but on the news this morning as I was coming home from work, I heard that Obama had rejected ALL of the proposals that the top military gurus had given him about Afganistan. It breaks my heart and makes me sick to think about our hard working military not getting some aid that their top people think is needed! There's not much I can do about that, but I can send cookies and that's what I'm going to do! I hope everyone will take the time to send a care package this season, whether through or, or any way you like...they really do need our love and what better way to show it than a care package?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back to baking

Hello to anyone who is still reading this blog since there has been no activity here in months! I have spent the year so far studying and being sick :(. The sick is just the usual flu and cold nonsense that always goes around and I'm feeling fine these days except I smashed a thumb at work really bad Easter Sunday (in the great economy we are currently experiencing, it has been decided that I no longer get the day as a "holiday"). Anyway, things have been busy, I was taking five classes at one time and trying to nurse myself, Randy, and various other family members...ah, what fun!
Now, spring is here and Randy and I want to get back to baking for the people who are really making sacrifices for the lives we all lead: Our soldiers!
Our soldier for this round is a cousin of Kathy, who has been baking on our team since last fall. Following is a letter that John's mother sent to Kathy after she asked for his address so he could be our soldier for this round.

Good Morning K,

Wow… is so good to hear from you and my throat has a huge lump in it with the emotions of the information pertaining to the “Cookie Ladies” and your wanting to include John as a recipient of your endeavors. What can I say other than I’m so appreciative and thankful for you and these caring women. As the mother of a deployed Marine, these acts of kindnesses are comforting and heartwarming to know that so many have not forgotten these young men and women in our armed forces.

John has shared that they are continuing to receive packages in abundance from the mainland. It is such a blessing. They are thrilled to know they are not forgotten. John, at 38 +, is one of the older ones now. He refers to his young Marines and all they do. They are so dedicated to the mission and it is obvious John has a great fondness for them and their wellbeing. He praises their work and their determination to get the job done. He is keenly aware of how he felt at as a young Marine when he was first deployed during Desert Storm in early 1991. John entered the Marines in 1990. He has had a total of 6 deployments during his career. As it stands now, he will have one more deployment before retiring??? This is always subject to change. His unit is currently in Iraq and they could transition to Afghanistan………again this is uncertain at this time. When they deployed in late January of this year, they were to have been in Iraq for about 6 weeks and then transition to Afghanistan. At this writing, they remain in Iraq.

As to the number of men and women that would benefit from these cookies, I am recalling that there are about 45 in his immediate unit. They are always eager to share with each other anything that comes from home especially if it is cookies. John became a Warrant Officer last year and will become a W2 in August. This will be a nice promotion for him and I’m so proud of him.

John has 3 little daughters; Jeny 7 1/2 , Amber 6 ½, and Skylar 3 ½. John’s wife, Amy, and the girls live at the New River Marine Corp Air Station in Jacksonville N.C. He is able to have email contact and also the webcam works for them at times so that they are able see each other. All of this is the direct results of the efforts of the past 5 years. The Iraqi people are able to have amenities they never knew under the previous regime. During John’s first 9 weeks of this current deployment, things have been smooth and rather quiet. I’m sure that you heard we lost 5 soldiers from Fort Carson last week near Mosul. Things kicked up and John assured us that they were very busy but also were safe. Perhaps you received his most recent email. I will check and if your name is not among the addressees I will forward that email to you.

As to John’s favorite flavor, he LOVES vanilla. I have a cookie recipe that he dearly loves…….I got it from Mother years ago. They are ‘edited.'

I took out the cookie recipe because Kathy is planning to make it and after learning that John has plenty of friends there to share with, we want to make sure he gets lots of variety. It looks like there are anywhere from 48 to 250 soldiers passing through there, so we can not send too much. Randy's friend Dan is stationed in a place where he can not currently receive baked goods, so we will probably send all of our boxes to John this round.

I hope everyone who wants to help will go to and sign up with our team, JustAddNuts, to bake for these very deserving men and women. Please show them that we love and support them!

Oh, and on a positive note, I have learned that both Alex and Dustin, our previous soldiers are home and healthy at the moment. I know Alex sent letters and pictures to every one of the bakers he had an address for, but I also talked to his uncle a few weeks ago and learned he was home (for now). I haven't seen Dustin's dad for a while but I did hear he is also home and I believe he is scheduled to be married in May! So, once again, I truly thank everyone who baked and sent care packages. I believe that getting a package from home is a great way to lift the spirits...and when it's full of home-baked goodies...well, what could be better than that???

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back to blogging

I posted a note yesterday on the Baking GALS site telling all my bakers thanks for participating in the December round. If you are a baker and did not see it, THANK YOU!!! I will be communicating with Dustin's family in the near future and I'll pass on any news. I don't have information about the next round yet. I am betting Susan is as behind as the rest of us after the Christmas season. I'll pass on any info as soon as I get it.
I don't remember how much I posted previously about my personal life, so in case I didn't mention it, I'm a student as well as a full-time employee and family member and all that other fun stuff. I have been going to various schools and colleges off and on for the last ten years or so. To date there have been at least six. I don't have time to count, lol. I have always simply signed up for programs or classes that interested me. I've earned a number of certificates but never a degree. You would think that with all those credits and programs under my belt it would be a simple matter to just lump them all together and get a diploma but alas, that's not the case. So, at long last, I am working toward a degree. Last year, I was taking some economics classes (I know, but it's more interesting than it sounds!) but I rushed them from my end so I could finish all the work early and move on to my degree, which I began on Dec 29. Thank God I managed to get the other two done early because these classes are WORK! I am just now, almost two weeks later, beginning to feel like I have a handle on things. So that is my long excuse for not updating my blog regularly.
If you don't like that excuse, here's another: The snowplow took out my cable box! Yep, it's true. Last year on New Year's Day, he took out my mailbox...this year...well, technically I guess that was last year too...It was in the 20's of Dec '08, he plowed the snow from the road, up the end of my driveway, toward my neighbor's house, over the sidewalk and about 20 feet into the neighbor's yard. Unfortunately, the cable utility box was in the middle of that stretch between my house and the neighbors. So my entire neighborhood didn't have cable TV or internet for a couple of days. The cable company came out and got it going-sort of...they say they'll come back in the spring when they can dig to fix it right. Meanwhile, my internet is working once in a while but it's very unreliable. I don't know whether it's the hook-up or my computer. Randy has much better luck getting it working than I ever seem to but unfortunately, he is at his own house for a few days. So I'm mostly trying to get online from work but once in a while they want me to do what I'm paid for too, lol. This is really a drag since I'm taking online classes...even the reading material is online-no when I do get online, I'm always "in class".
Things should be getting better soon and in fact they are already a bit better. I'm getting caught up (which for me means ahead) in my classes and the stress level is going down a little. I have pictures that need to be posted on the blog. I'm going to see if Randy can do it from his house since I don't have access to them at work and home internet is so spotty but he's busy trying to get a job so it might take a while longer--sorry.
We had a nice holiday with both of our families and now we're back to normal til next year. I hope all my blog readers had a wonderful holiday season as well! I'll be in touch soon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Christmas Trout

I was just posting a bulletin over at the Baking GALS site and I realized I must be due to post something here too. I was saying that Randy and I baked this weekend and got our boxes in the mail. We put in a bunch of dollar store goodies and some DVDs and my niece was over and wanted to draw the soldiers a thank you picture. I wish I would have scanned the was a Christmas Trout! To be four again...what creativity! I think my New Year's Resolution for next year will be to open myself up creatively. Probably better than my annual resolution to quit smoking (I always succeed since I don't smoke...hey, who doesn't need a sense of accomplishment? lol).
I picked up boxes of Christmas cards and camouflage stockings at the dollar store and some wall decorations and DVDs (still left from my dad's stash he gave us to send over) along with the goodies made up beautiful boxes for both Dustin and Alex. We also sent a box of just cookies, a camouflage stocking and one picture from Katie to Randy's friend Dan.
We took a bunch of pictures and I'll get Randy to post one or two of them soon. I realize I owe you guys some pictures...some from Cookie day, some from the painting I did at Randy's and now some from this round of Baking is looking like I need to learn how to put pictures on here myself since it takes me forever to remember to ask Randy to do it and then it takes him a while to actually do it!
This is the recipe I sent to Dustin. It was one of the last minute add-ons for cookie day (thanks Mom!) and when I saw that Dustin's favorite baked goods were banana nut bread and chocolate chip cookies I knew we had to go with these!

Chunky Monkey Bites
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts
Cream the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the banana and vanilla, mix well. Add the baking powder, salt and baking soda, mix well.
Add the flour and mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (we may have added a few extra! lol)
Drop from spoons onto greased cookie sheets, you pick the size cookie you want.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Cool and eat! or send :)

So, that's the latest news...still trying to get the Christmas shopping accomplished...four nieces and so much other family...I like buying things for people but I'm not that fond of shopping! Randy and I went out to Great Lakes Crossing, a mall about 45 mins from my house today before I went to work. It was a nice mall but we didn't even cover half of it. We did well on his shopping though...we're getting there!
My girlfriend stopped by yesterday and she went to Home Depot with me. I got some paint for my own kitchen, so I'll be painting that soon, hopefully very soon! I am just about done with all the homework for two of my current classes. I'm hoping to have them all finished by the end of this week and turned in...then I get a couple weeks before the next ones start, so hopefully I can get the painting done during that time.
We have a party to go to on Saturday and I want to go somewhere and look at ice sculptures...I know a lot of cities have displays and I have never gone to see one but I've been wanting to. Seems like my bf who doesn't have a job would jump on the chance to give me a free gift...hint, hint.... :D
Okay, that's all I've got for tonight...back to work!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cookie Day 2008 report

Well, I am almost recovered from Cookie Day, and only a week later, lol!
We had a nice day of baking, and managed to turn out 30 kinds of cookies this year. One of our last minute add-ins didn't turn out, so that left 29 different types of cookies available for cookie trays. I will post some pics as soon as I get them...I was too tired to take any myself but a few of the participants did take a couple so I just have to gather them.
The biggest hit this year, as always, was the sugar cookies from my mom's recipe. They turned out beautifully. We only made Christmas trees this year to make the trays look more polished..not to mention save us work! Other favorites were the candy cane puffs and sandies. My mom couldn't find her cookie press at the last minute, so we ended up forming the spritz cookies into candy canes. We dyed half the dough red and made both colors into little half inch balls of dough, then rolled them out together into a rope shape. As we put them on the baking trays, we twisted the dough and shaped it into canes. They turned out cute but they didn't hold up all that well on the trays...hard for a thin shaped cookies to survive with all the heavy-weights on the trays!
Some of the cookies we added at the last minute were some Sugarless Star cookies, orange-pineapple drops, Chunky Monkey Bites and Red Velvet Whoopie pies (yes, I slipped up during the baking and called them whoopie cushions!). I will eventually post the recipes for you.
Next year we'll probably be reverting back to the cinnamon spirals (we gave them up this year because we were doing the Cinnamon-sugar cookies) because even though they're a lot of work, they look really nice when done, and taste better than the new ones did.
So, that's the cookie report for today. It has been a crazy crazy week. Baking Sat and Sun last weekend, working and visiting my family Wed...I helped my neice make the cutest turkies out of those striped chocolate cookies and chocolate covered cherries and candy corn, all pasted together with chocolate frosting. She was so excited to give them to everyone at the big family dinner on Thursday!
Randy got a last minute chance to go to Chicago for the weekend, so we stayed up after we got home on Thanksgiving. At about 2:30 am, he went home to sleep for a few hours before the drive to Chicago and I headed off to pick my mom up for Black Friday shopping. We hit our first sale at 4am and shopped straight through until around 10/11 am. We got back to her house, carried in our packages and fell asleep on the couch. We woke up later in the day and headed back out...what a day of shopping! We are not seasoned shoppers by any means...sometimes we do the after-Thanksgiving shopping, sometimes we don't...this year we did it and then some! We stayed out shopping until the stores all closed at 10pm, then headed for my parent's house. I spent the night there, then my mom and I got up the next day and headed to my house to pick up some supplies, then we went to Randy's house and painted his living room and kitchen. I had been planning to do it as a gift for him for a while now and his unexpected trip to Chicago provided the perfect time. The living room looks fabulous....maybe I can get him to post a picture. We worked until after midnight, then drove an hour back to my mom's house with a stop at White Castle as our reward. They have sweet potato fries there, those were good after that long day! I slept late this morning at my parents, helped my mom do a few things, then headed for home and work, what a weekend!
Now, I'm back to catching up on homework and BakingGALS stuff, so if you're one of my bakers, don't worry; we're on track for this round's mailing and things are good. I got an email from the father of this month's soldier. He gave me a little bio and his son's address. I posted the info on the BakingGALS site and I'll be sending out the address right before mailing begins.
And that's all I have to report for tonight....I hope all the blog readers had a wonderful holiday filled with yummy (and nutty!) baked goodies!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Finally Some Pics

Here are some long awaited pics from Round 4. Many thanks to everyone who participated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thank you Baking GALS!!

To all my bakers for team JustAddNuts, I have heard from Jaime, Alex's wife and she gave me permission to post her letter. Apparently the first email she sent me was lost somewhere in cyber land, so this is the one she sent after we figured that'll notice at the end that it has some comments about some of the earlier packages he received. I did tell her I couldn't claim ownership of the first packages but that mine and others were on the way. In the second note she sent, she says that Alex has set up a "sharing station" so that all the American soldiers passing through can grab some goodies as they go by. Jaime says Alex is loving this new duty of sharing our goodies! It sounds like everything got to him in great shape, and the only request he had was for ziplocks or more individual packaging to make the sharing easier. I think next time I send a package out I'll include a box of ziplocks in the mix, to make it easier for the soldiers to pack and take along.

I also want to take the time to thank all of you who baked packages to send out for Round Four. It was extremely successful for our team! I received pictures from some of you, which I'm trying to make into a collage of sorts and post here on the blog. It might take me a while to get that done though, considering my computer inadequacy and the time issues going on right now. I will try to have it done well before round Five starts!
Speaking of Round Five, mailing will take place from Dec 5-18, just in time for think about signing up for another round if you're able.

Here's Jaime's letter:

Hi Val,

My uncle Dennis asked me to contact you. I had sent a email a while back but you must not have received it, they are so easy to get wrong.. those email addresses. So, anyhow you sent a wonderful package to my husband SFC Alex Herrera in Iraq. He is greatly appreciative. Alex is a amazing man! He is such a kind loving caring person, sometimes it is hard for me to think of him as a soldier. He joined the US Army when he was twenty, he was a misguided young man at the time, I know I dated him then But still a special person none the less. I remember dropping him off at the bus for basic training and watching him walk away and crying all the way home, not knowing how many more times I would be dropping this man off to go somewhere. He was full time military for many years, a Gulf War veteran before he was 30. He joined the reserves, started attending college and we started our family. All was well until 911 which was when he really felt he needed to be involved. As God must have know he had this desire, he was deployed in 2004 to Iraq for a 18 month deployment. He returned home my same wonderful man, husband but secretly couldn't wait to go back. This was hard to understand even for me because I was never a Full time Army wife, but for some reason it is completely clear to me now. Alex is excellent at his job, he has skills that not every man has. He uses these skills at a time of need which is very important to him. He does his job so others don't have to. His primary job in all of his overseas tours, and man I think have lost count, is to train soldiers to protect themselves. He has trained American troops before heading into Iraq, which is so rewarding for him. A lot of these guys are young, scared and have not a lot of experience. So when they leave Alexs shooting range, they feel much more confident and secure with their weapons and have gained some real knowledge of what they are going to be headed into. His job title in Kuwait was a Tactics trainer. Currently in Iraq he is a "ADVISOR TO THE IRAQI ARMY". He teaches them how to teach their soldiers so they can protect their own country. Currently, he frequently gets American troops in for training as well, but his job title is advisor to Iraqi army. Ok this is the 4th tour, but he does get to come home during tours as well.

When he is home one of the first places we go to is St. Helen Michigan. It is like a retreat for us, a place our 2 boys just love as well. Up north is a quality time place for us. I also take the boys up frequently after their dad has left for a tour. They seem to acclimate better to dads departure there. I also have a ton of family that goes there, my awesome Uncle Dennis as you. Family is good for you in times like these. I could have never made it through these past few years if not for my family. Alex knows this as well, in some ways it is our family that allows him to do his job. He knows when we go up north Uncle Dennis and the rest of the family is watching out for his wife and kids, and that makes him a little more at ease with his job.

Well I hope this helps you understand the man you are supporting, it is just wonderful that people like you show support. He loved the packages and plans to share with other American soldiers. He really liked the Christmas lights, funny sometimes its the simple things. This is our second Christmas approaching that we will be apart, but hopefully the last. I have most frequently called this job a "calling" for my husband. He is a dedicated man as well as a wonderful father and husband and I am truly blessed to have him.

Thanks again, and may God bless you.

Jaime Burrell-Herrera