100 cookies.

This past week I was on the phone with Momma.  I asked her what she was up to for the weekend.  She said she was helping with our church’s Confirmation retreat for 40 high schoolers, getting ready to make their sacrament.  She was baking the retreat treats — 100 Cookies.

The recipe for 100 Cookies came to us because my mother bought too much shredded coconut back in the early ’90s.  She purchased five pounds of it through our county food co-op.  When it arrived, she was shocked to see how much five un-sweetened pounds of coconut from a co-op actually is.

Momma asked our friend Connie what on earth she should make with all this coconut, and Connie gave her the recipe for 100 Cookies.  We fell for them.  Hard.

I bake Neiman Marcus Cookies on a very regular basis, and think they’re delish.  So I imagine I haven’t baked 100 Cookies since moving to Colorado.  Therefore, dear C has never had any.  I baked them and brought some to an event we attended up north last weekend.  100 Cookies were a hit.  C asked me why he’d never had any of these particular cookies before and requested I skip ever making Neiman Marcus Cookies again.  In fact, I imagine if we weren’t married already, he would have just asked me to marry him right then and there.  These cookies are that good.


Here is the totally rad recipe from the kitchen of Connie, through my Momma.

1 c. butter
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 c. Rice Krispies Cereal
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. coconut
1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, oil and sugars in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer in a large mixing bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Mix.  Add soda, salt, flour and cream of tartar.  Mix.

Stir in other ingredients by hand, one at a time.  Mix well!

Scoop cookie dough to desired size.  Bake at 350 for 10 – 12 minutes on a baking sheet.  Ensure the bottoms of the cookies are light brown before taking them out of the oven.  Cool on a baking rack.  Makes 100 cookies.  Or thereabout.


Auntie Grace Story. A quiet reverence.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” – Matthew 6:5

This week’s story from Auntie Grace is another story about her mother, Catherine.

When Auntie Grace and I were on the phone a few weeks back, she told me of the Rinaldi family who lived across the street from her family in Brooklyn.  Mrs. Rinaldi had three girls, and had been on her own since her husband passed away.  Grace was good friends with one of Mrs. Rinaldi’s young daughters, Marian.  At one time during their childhood, Grace recalled that Mrs. Rinaldi lost her job and Marian expressed worry to Grace.  Being so young, Grace just knew in her heart they would be okay and didn’t worry for Marian.

Years later, after Marian had moved out west and become an older lady herself, she was on the phone with Grace and began talking about how wonderful Catherine had been to their family growing up.  Grace assumed that Marion meant Catherine had been a comfort and support to Mrs. Rinaldi, emotionally, as a girlfriend.  What she didn’t realize, and what Marian told her, was that during that time when Marian’s mother was unemployed, Catherine paid for all the Rinaldi family groceries at their neighborhood market.  Catherine had gone to the market after she heard the news of her neighbor’s unemployment and told the grocer to put all of the Rinaldi’s market items on her tab until Mrs. Rinaldi again had a job.

Grace said she was taken aback and told Marian she never knew her own mother had done that. Marian said it was like Catherine to share a quiet charity, and live out her version of the golden rule always.


More ski sky.

With M as my guide and sidekick, just like old times, we skied Vail this past weekend.

I often give C and M a hard time about loving on Vail so much.  I sometimes find it pretentious, crowded and of course, overpriced.

But then there’s a weekend like this past weekend, where the perfect storm dumps on the valley and it’s been snowing at the peaks for days on end.  Weekends like this make me remember why Vail is an absolute paradise for skiers.

On Saturday we skied blues and groomers with Kay and Jessica.  On Sunday, sans Kay, the three of us took on the back bowls, filled to the brim with beautiful powder.  Even in the late afternoon, after getting off the t-bar at Mongolia, there was so much untapped fresh snow, we could hardly get through it.  Right there, on my first descent into Bolshoi Ballroom, I caught an edge ever so slowly and tipped sideways into a soft bed of perfect powder.  It was heaven.

Here are some shots of the weekend.

From Blue Sky Basin.


A beautiful, mostly soft, snow fell all day.

Waking up in Gypsum the next morning, we were greeted with a calm, early twilight and no snow!  It’s amazing the landscape looks so vastly different just 40 miles west of Vail.Vail_3

Auntie Grace Story. My brown coat.

My Great Aunt Grace is the matriarch of my father’s family.  She’s the last surviving McConnell child, the youngest of a very fun, Irish bunch.  She is my grandmother Elizabeth’s sister.

Aunt Grace is full of stories.  I like to chat with her about once a week to see what she’s up to and almost every time, she ends up telling me a unique piece of her history, my heritage.

Today our discussion included cleaning stuff out of our lives.  She started off by telling me she’s giving many of her LP records to the library for their rummage sale.  Then we both commented on how TV news stations in nearly every large city host coat drives for the needy each autumn.  It seems common.  Stations collect coats at local dry cleaners and the dry cleaners offer their services for free and on a particular weekend, the coats are available to anyone in need, in school gymnasiums and other gathering places.

Aunt Grace grew up in Brooklyn, the only one in her family to do so.  The other, older kids, my Grandma Betty included, grew up in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.  Aunt Grace was most likely a change-of-life baby…or rather, as she imagines, the one her parents got absolutely right.  She stayed single, living with her mother in Bay Ridge.

As we discussed coat drives, she said, “Have I ever told you the story of my brown coat?” I said I didn’t recall, but wanted to hear it.

She started.

Aunt Grace and her mother, Catherine, had a cleaning lady named Mrs. Brown.  One particularly frigid Brooklyn evening, when Aunt Grace arrived home from work, Catherine said to her, “Grace, you’re going to need to get yourself a new brown coat.”

Aunt Grace said, “Mom, I already have a brown coat.”

Catherine said, “No, dear, you don’t.  I gave it to Mrs. Brown today.”

Aunt Grace said she was immediately furious.  ”What!  Why did you give away my coat?”

Catherine said, “Because you have a blue one, a black one, and a red one in the closet already.  Besides, would you believe Mrs. Brown came here today with nothing but a light jacket over her clothes?  You can get another brown coat.”

Aunt Grace continued her sour streak and snapped, “Well, if you gave her the coat I hope you gave her one of my purses to match!”

And Catherine said, “Oh yes, dear, I’m so glad you mentioned it.  I did.”

She’s oh-so-London.

Blog reading is like opening a magic portal.  Reading one post leads you to another link, and another and then all of a sudden there are seventeen tabs open on your Google Chrome and oh sheesh, there goes the evening.

Yesterday, I found lizzystewartdiary through Cup of Jo.  This site is Lizzy Stewart’s life diary posted on Tumblr.

I love that she draws her days and nights and events.  I love that she lives in London.  And I love that she is trying everything out and learning how to be and grow and make it.  She’s the perfect character.




Oh, Lizzy.  Some of her entries just seem really, really familiar.

I remember eating salad mixed with macaroni and cheese for lunch and dinner for weeks after I figured out that no, indeed, I was not making enough money at the news desk to send my sheets and towels out for laundering.

[Stewart's really awesome professional work can be found here.]

Impossible [insert your fave savory ingredients] pie.

The first time I remember eating Impossible Ham Pie was at my Aunt Marge and Uncle Eddie’s house in Vermont.  Their house in the country was immaculate and simple and beautiful, with lots of light in the kitchen, maple furniture and Hummel figurines in the living room.  Aunt Marge was a very talented writer, crafter and seamstress.

Whenever my mom got together with her Hanlon Aunts (of whom Aunt Marge was one of three at the time) – her mother’s sisters, there was certain to be some sort of Quiche – likely Impossible Ham Pie.  I loved it even as a little girl when every piece of food on my melamine Cabbage Patch Kids plate seemed to require a dollop Heinz Ketchup before I’d put it in my mouth.

The best thing about the Impossible Pie is no matter your taste, you can add the savory flavors that suit you. This past Saturday, I was in the mood for asparagus, leek and Gruyère, so I subbed it in for the ham, onions and swiss cheese and called it Impossible Asparagus Pie.

Impossible Asparagus Pie

2 C. asparagus (Use top tender parts only, cut on the diagonal)
1 leek (white and light green parts only, cut in half, then quarters and washed thoroughly)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pat of butter
1 C. shredded Gruyère
1 1/2 C. whole milk
3/4 C. Bisquick or Jiffy Baking Mix
3 eggs, room temperature

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease pie plate.

On medium heat in a skillet, melt butter.  Add leek and asparagus.  Season with salt and pepper until asparagus is tender–about 8 minutes.  Let stand and cool.

Sprinkle leek and asparagus in pie plate.

Beat remaining ingredients until sooth – 15 seconds in a blender or 1 minute with a hand mixer.
Pour into pie plate.

Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.*
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
* High altitude (3500 to 6500 ft.): Bake 35 to 40 minutes.

Take a deep breath.  It smells very, very good.

This pie plate is Emile Henry from Williams-Sonoma, a gift from my mother.  I’m a huge fan.

Mmmm.  Saturday.

Before Kevin and Chris dug in I yelled, “Hold up!  I need to fetch my camera and get a shot of this beautiful pie.”  I most definitely did say “fetch.”

So delicious.
Here is the original recipe, from my Momma (possibly by way of Bisquick at some point in time.)
Impossible Ham Pie
2 C. cooked ham (chopped into cubes)
1/2 C. chopped onions
1/2 Tsp. salt
1 C. shredded Swiss cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 1/2 C. whole milk
3/4 C. Bisquick or Jiffy Baking Mix
3 eggs, room temperature
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly grease a pie plate.
Sprinkle ham, onions, salt and cheese in pie plate.
Beat remaining ingredients until smooth – 15 seconds in a blender or 1 minute with a hand mixer.
Pour into pie plate.
Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.*
Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
* High altitude directions (3500 to 6500 ft.): Bake 35 to 40 minutes.

Grandma Dietz’s love.

She left us with her legacy, and to pick up the pieces of her life.  Through stories and tears and laughter, we have started weaving together the chapters of her time on this earth.

C’s Grandma Dietz passed away Monday July 9 and it was quite a shock.  Seven days before, we took her out to dinner.  Ten days before that, I visited her with C’s mom.  Two weeks before that she read a blessing she wrote and danced the polka at our wedding in New York.

And just a few short weeks later, she left this place and all of us.

Her four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and their spouses mourn her.  Her sister, sister-in-law and many cousins and friends came together to wish her well on her next journey.

Though I only knew her two years, I found her joyful, silly and thoughtful.  Her house was warm and inviting and her smile contagious.  She loved with a big heart.  C loved her right back.  I was lucky enough to love her right back too.

When I had been dating C less than a month, he took me on a date with Grandma.  That’s correct.  I went on a date with C and Grandma.  Every year, she met up with her family in Windsor, Colorado, for a family picnic.  It takes place the first weekend in August, and it has for a long while.  Grandma’s Russian-German small town farming roots brought her to the reunion every year she could.

This past winter, C and I drove Grandma home one evening after dinner and we sat with her on her sofa for a few hours and poured over the family photo albums.  She smiled at the sweet kid photos of C’s mom and her brothers and I couldn’t help but get a warm feeling in my heart as Grandma talked about what a beautiful blond baby C was – and how he was so kissable.  I learned about Fritz the family dog and a bit about Grandma’s life in Fort Morgan, before the farm failed and she and her husband moved their family to Denver to start a new life in the city.

This weekend, C and I will go to the Windsor family picnic without Grandma.  We’ll figure out how to make her famous rival kuga from her worn recipe book and sit under the wide pale blue sky of Colorado’s eastern plains and think of her smile, her warmth and her love.

Thank Heaven for Little Boys

When my brother was three years old my mom went out to lunch.  Literally, not figuratively.

It was only that one time, too.  Otherwise, she was home with us always [wink!].

She left us in our dad’s care for the afternoon and he thought it was the perfect sunny day to attach a trailer to his riding lawn mower for some heavy-duty yard work.

And since we were both too small to be trusted out of his sight, he let us ride in the trailer attached to the mower.

And since my brother was the most curious little boy you’d ever meet, he decided to fiddle with the pin holding the trailer to the hitch at the back of the riding mower.  While we were driving up the driveway, he pulled out the pin and the trailer came unhitched from the tractor.

And we tumbled out.

Because little brother was concentrating so hard on pulling that pin out, his tongue was sort of hanging out of his mouth in deep determination and when the pin came loose his sharp little baby teeth bit right through half of it.

Horrified by the sight of all that blood and dear brother’s screaming (which he rarely did), my dad ran to our neighbors to drop me off and took him to the emergency room.

By the time my mother got there – did you know, btw, tongues can be stitched? – my dad was pale as all get-out and my brother was sucking on a freeze pop, sharing stories of his afternoon at the hospital in garbled, swollen tongue talk.

My good friend took her little boy to the emergency room for the first time this week after he jumped off the sofa.  He was acting okay, then he started limping and complaining.

He’s totally fine now and back to his little boy self.

She said she swears he’ll give her heart failure at a very young age.

Why I don’t go tanning…

Maybe it’s not the reason you think.

It starts like a lot of my stories.

“This one time, when I was in college…”

I had a roommate who was platinum blonde and tanned and wore shorts so short they made my little brother’s [and my dad's] eyes bug out of his head the day I moved into my freshman dorm.  She had been in Albany over the summer living in the dorms getting a head start on her courses so she already knew the neighborhood and had friends.  I was lonely as all get out and a ball of nerves.  Plus, it was simply sweltering humidity that first week.

“You’re so tan,” she said to me.

Are you for real?  I thought.  I wanted to compare arms to see if she still believed I was tanned next to her.  Instead, I said, “I was lifeguarding on a lake all summer.”

“Oh, so it’s totally natural!  That’s so bad for you.”

And she judged my real tan, and I judged her fake tan and then we had a pony beer together and it all got better and we became good friends.

The semester flew by and and winter break dumped me back at Lima Hall with dear roommie, and she had an idea.

“So. I just bought my spring tanning package at the salon over on Madison Avenue and I’d love for you to come with me.  You’ll be all set for summer!”

I told her I would think about it because there’s something just so…plastic about tanning.

Of course, at that time I was totally up for trying new things [that could potentially be dangerous for my skin and start breaking down my precious collagen.]

We got to the storefront and signed in.  I paid cash for a trial session and the only available room had a booth, not a bed.

“It’s fine,” my roommate said.  ”I like the booth.”

So I got into the room and the desk attendant told me how to turn the booth on.  ”Your ten minutes starts when you flip this switch, then it automatically turns off.”  And she closed the door behind her.

I put on my mini-eye-protection-goggles, got naked and got down to business!  I shut the door to the booth and the blue lights went on and so did some hip-hop music.

It was awesome.

I busted some moves I’d been trying out at The Post, a basement dance club we went to every weekend on Washington Street and twirled around and suddenly — BRWWNNN, zzzzz.



“Hello?!” I yelled.  And before waiting for an answer I panicked.  I reached for the door handle and tried to shove it open.  It wouldn’t budge.  ”Oh my god, HELLO?!”

I took as much of a step back as I could in the booth and threw myself against the door again.

Nothing.  ”HELP!”  I screamed and tears started welling up in my eyes.

All of this unfolded in about 30 seconds and then the lights went back on and the music started up.

There was a knock on the room door.  ”Hello there, everything okay?  We just had a little power surge.  No biggie.”  It was the attendant.

“Please get me out of here!” I yelled as I threw myself against the door again and stumbled out into the room.  Wearing only mini-goggles.

“Oh!”  the attendant jumped back.  ”Are you okay?”

I was not even embarrassed.  I was horrified and my heart was beating so fast I thought I may throw up.

“Please tell Laurel I’ll see her at home,” I said as I pulled my panties on in front of the attendant.

“Okay,” she said as she closed the door.

On my two-block walk back to the dorm, I felt flush from the excitement and nerves and panic…and then embarrassment.

Never. Ever. Again.

I’m just not cool enough for tanning.

What makes it better?

In October, after a road trip to South Dakota, by way of Wyoming, I declared I was done with McDonald’s.  I had had my last ever Two Cheeseburger meal with Coke.

My reasons were more health-conscious decisions than political.  I thought it a good thing to wash my hands of this sort of fast food.

It was good and it was permanent.  Forever.  Done.

It’s not that I eat McDonald’s very often.  I will do the occasional fries and a Coke or order off the dollar menu when I’m running errands–no more than once a month.  And, I’m a huge fan of their iced coffee in the summer.  Light and sweet.

I’m going to side note here for just a tick.  It’s a McDonald’s story.

When I was at school in London in 2003, a friend of mine was telling us over lunch in the refectory that her economics professor started their first class with a question for the students.  ”What are some patents you can think of that came out of America that have had a global impact?”  A hand shot up immediately from the back, a girl in our dorm from Czech Republic.

“Yes, go ahead,” the professor said.

Mac-Donalds,” she remarked in a British-English accent and the class roared with laughter.  Snark, snark.

“How about the light bulb, idiot?” my friend hurled back at her.

I think they got into a fist fight later on in the term over who was standing in line to use the payphone first.  It was hate at first breath for those two.  There were political and social issues in that school – quite a few now that I look back on it.  The school was a mash-up of European, British and American students mostly living together in tiny rooms just as things were getting extremely tense in Iraq and American involvement and war was imminent.

I digress, as I told you I would.

That day in Gillette, Wyoming, I decided I was over McDonald’s – as it were, Mac-Donalds.

I did really well for three months.

And then, while at the airport in Hartford in January with C, after being seen off by my parents who had turned around to leave once we went through security, a lump rose in my throat like no other and I knew I couldn’t keep it down.

I burst into tears and had to excuse myself and go to the restroom.  I hate leaving home.  Every single time.  I haven’t lived at home since I was 18, but there’s something so comfortable about my childhood and my parents and my cat, Miles Glitter Kitty, that I just sometimes feel like I need to hold on.

When I came back, C was sitting in a white wooden rocker (they have those at Bradley International) and had saved the one next to his for me.

“What can I do to make it better?” he said in his normal, calm demeanor.

I sniffled.  ”Egg McMuffin, please.”

And that was that.  I didn’t shed another tear and we were back in Mile High by noon.

How do you self-soothe?