December 6, 2016

It's Not Christmas Without Nutty Fingers!

Have you been to any Christmas parties yet?

I attended one last weekend, and although I didn't get the time to make nutty fingers, I hope to take them for the next party.  I shared this recipe four years ago, but the moment we flip the calendar to December, I start thinking about these cookies.

Nutty fingers have been a part of Christmas as long as I can remember. When the large red cookie tin with the clipper ship on the lid appeared on the side counter, every member of my family knew what was inside. It didn't take long before someone eased over and popped open the lid.  The sound is unmistakable.  Anyone within earshot flocked to the tin,  fingers itching to sample this years' batch.  Before you knew it, you'd eaten six or seven or a dozen.

Some of you may take one look at this recipe and decide to not bother because it will look like a wedding cookies recipe. That would be a BIG mistake.  If you follow the tips I list below, the nutty fingers will come out light and melt-in-your mouth.  If you ignore these tips, the disappointing result will be hard, heavy wedding cookies.

You choose.

Essential Tips
1. Don't refrigerate the dough. Your cookies will become dense.  Don't refrigerate!
2. Use a metal cookie tube without a tip. This helps you deliver the perfect quantity and consistency of dough for each cookie.
3. Keep blending after the dough is mixed.  This was where I messed up for several years (and had to get my mother's help to figure out the problem).  When combining the ingredients (step #2 in the recipe) in the mixer, you want to keep mixing until the dough has a smooth, butter-like texture. This will take several minutes The dough should have enough consistency to not run out of the cookie tube but smooth enough that it slides easily from the tube when you press the plunger.


Nutty Fingers

2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup flour
3 T sugar  (to triple recipe, 9T = 2/3 cup)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 325 o
  2. Combine ingredients, cream in mixer until smooth and butter-like consistency
  3. Separate into cookies:
    • Use a cookie tube without a tip
    • Dispense onto cookie sheet, separating into 1 1/2 - 2 inch lengths with a knife
  4.  Bake for 20 minutes
  5. Cool on wire rack
  6. Roll in confectioner’s sugar
  7. Store in air-tight container with wax paper between levels
Warning, these cookies are addictive if made properly.  Watch them disappear.

Merry Christmas!

November 29, 2016

Should You Give Life to Inanimate Objects in Your Writing?

What do you notice about the following phrases?
  • the door whispered shut
  • the sigh of the wind
  • moisture fled
  • my body screamed
  • the fragrance assaulted me
  • tears threatened

These are examples of personification, animating something that is inanimate. Another term for this literary device is a pathetic fallacy.

What is a Pathetic Fallacy (PF)?

I recently attended a short story workshop where the instructor called these pathetic fallacies. He told me not to use them. The comment surprised me. I like them. defines pathetic fallacies:
A fallacy is a type of mistake, especially an illogical one. The word pathetic can refer to things that involve emotion. The pathetic fallacy is the illogical act of saying that something inhuman has emotions. Although the pathetic fallacy is a kind of flawed logic, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Poets use pathetic fallacy all the time in phrases like “the wise moon” or “the generous sun.”

My instructor pointed me to John Russkin's essay Of the Pathetic Fallacy for guidance.  I looked up the essay, and though it took intense concentration for me to follow the convoluted verbiage of this writer, his point is that the writer shows weakness in his writing when attributing emotions to something that can't have emotion. The essay focuses on poetry, and he declares that the second order of poets, weaker poets, use this approach to writing. He claims the higher order, or first order of poets, steer clear and use truth in their writing.

Removing PFs

The story I submitted to this workshop had quite a bit of personification, and I struggled to accept the idea that I should eliminate any trace of it. I attended this workshop to gain a different perspective for my writing, so I rolled up my sleeves and gave it a try.

During the workshop, I rewrote two sections of my short story. My first question was how to drop them. The instructor's advice was to say what I meant instead of using PF.  For example:

  • doors whispered shut  changed to hearing the whoosh of compressed air as they closed behind me
  • moisture fled changed to I licked my lips

It worked.

The next time my writing group met, I shared this insight.  Their reaction? Complete horror and disbelief. They like pathetic fallacies and continue to use them. In a way, I felt vindicated.

Will I stop using personification?  Probably not, but I will be more aware of this device and how I use it as I move forward.

What do you think? Is it ok to use it or is this a trope we should avoid at all costs?

November 22, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

This week, all across this great country, we will gather with family and friends to celebrate our heritage.

Certain weeks are not meant for blogging but for taking the time to be present in the moment, so I will be brief and leave you with the wish of a wonderful week.

If you're celebrating Thanksgiving, may your turkey be moist and tender and your table sag under the cornucopia of good food.  If you're not celebrating (many people in other countries read this blog) may your week provide you joy, fellowship with good people, and good food.

My family, many years ago sharing good times.
Based on the clothes, it wasn't Thanksgiving.
I'm the blur on the back left corner.