Fitting it all in at this Stressful/Joyous Time of Year

Time management. These words strike fear in the hearts of many. They certainly did me when I was in high school. I was the worst. Between cross country, gymnastics, color guard, school, and homework I was a wreck. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day. I had many iterations of the same Mickey Mouse watch, but they all told me the same thing: I was late for every activity. Imagine my surprise when I actually started using the day planner that the school provided at the beginning of the school year beginning my sophomore year. All of a sudden, once I wrote things down, I was starting to be on time! Recently, I had to coordinate with some friends to dog-sit for a mutual friend’s dogs. They were all shocked when I told them I was writing down the details of who was going when on my paper calendar. The joke was on them though, because later on in the planning, someone didn’t know who had what morning and I was the only one who could tell them. I didn’t have to scroll back through the conversation to find out. All I had to do was flip back one page on the calendar. Sometimes it pays to be old school. The habit I gained in high school was strong enough to make it through to adulthood. Maybe you don’t like the idea of a paper calendar. That’s cool. There’s an app for that. My usual day-to-day involves my phone’s calendar and the paper calendar for anything important.

Time management skills are even more useful during the holiday season. A plan is probably the only thing that’s going to get me through. We have so many trips coming up and presents to make that if I don’t write it down, I fear I’ll forget to make my grandma the cookies she likes (see below for recipe) or might space on seeing a relative. One thing I don’t have to worry about fitting in though is holiday shopping. Where I live, it’s 40 minutes to anywhere for shopping. I’m saying FORGET THAT this year. I’m going to do all my shopping online. It’ll be such a timesaver. I won’t have the transit time. No waiting in lines (and is it just me or do they seem to get longer every year?). I can have the gifts wrapped by professionals and shipped directly to the recipients. The internet is so cool. T-shirt for the husband? No problem! Earrings for my aunt? Easy peasy! Train paraphernalia for my little cousin? Absolutely. The internet has everything.

But what about the rest? It’s important to not underestimate how long things actually take. A general rule of thumb I like to use is to assume the task will take X amount of time. Then I double X amount. So if I think it’ll take half an hour, I double it so that I have a block of an hour to work with. Or you could schedule your day like lawyers do, in six minute increments. Then a task that would take you an hour would be ten units of time. If you have trouble keeping to your task, you can always use a timer so you don’t go over your allotted time. Just a few instances of going over your allotment will probably serve to make you work faster to come in under the deadline.

Sometimes though, despite your best efforts, a task takes an astronomical amount of time. Like these cookies. They’ll take as long as they take. You can’t rush perfection.

Yaya’s Birthday/Xmas/“Any Time You Want to Make Me Those Cookies” Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies

(You can make these the way I write them or for a healthier option, substitute the ingredients in parentheses.)

  • Nonstick spray coating OR parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup butter (margarine) softened, not melted
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar – I usually use light brown
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger – Yaya usually gets 2 tsp in her gift batches since she loves it so
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 2 cups flour (1 ½ cup all purpose flour, ½ cup whole wheat flour)
  • ¼ cup extra fine granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray. If you don’t want to use spray, you can use parchment paper instead. Set these aside because you won’t need them for at least an hour. This whole process is easier with two cookie sheets.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter on high with your mixer for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, baking soda, ginger, and ½ tsp cinnamon and beat until combined.
  3. Beat in the egg and molasses.
  4. Add as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. If your mixer can’t handle all that flour, add any remaining flour with a spoon.
  5. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. No, seriously. They don’t turn out right if you skip this.
  6. Shape your dough into 1 inch balls. I know, that’s not really helpful, is it? Let me put it this way. For best results, your cookies should be no bigger than a quarter. Too big, and they won’t set right. Too small and they’ll be hard.  6a. This is going to take forever. And you'll get a sticky coating of cinnamon and butter and sugar all over the palms of your hands. Take off your rings first.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350
  8. Mix together the extra cinnamon and granulated sugar.
  9. Roll your cookie balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture, one at a time. Fill one cookie sheet at a time and you’ll be almost done rolling your second sheet full when the first one is done baking.
  10. Place your cookie balls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets and bake for 10-11 minutes. When the tops and edges begin – JUST begin – to crack, they’re done.
  11. Cool your cookies on a wire rack. Don’t leave them on the pan to cool, because they’ll continue to cook.
  12. Cookies are best presented in a holiday tin.

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2016