CHRISTMAS!!!!  🙂  🙂  🙂

My family had lots of Christmas traditions growing up as a kid:  eating cookies, eating chex mix, eating fried dough on Christmas Eve, etc.  One of these traditions (prior to the eating) has always been frosting sugar cookies!  We used my ‘Aunt Sheila’s’ kick ass recipe every year, a quickie almond glaze for decorating and sprinkles, shredded coconut & nuts galore! Sugar cookies are one of the first things that come to mind when I think of Christmas because it really is fun at any age.  You could be a mom with small kids that is just hoping any of the icing ends up on the cookie or a baker that is dying to try out their new cookie cutter.  IT SHOULD BE FUN!!!

Whatever you do, don’t listen to THIS lady…  😉

This haggard old recipe has as many miles as Santa’s sleigh!  *snort*


Now… deep breath…  I need you organic crunchy types to look at me. It’s going to be as hard for me as it is for you. Personally?  I’m not a fan of Crisco or any processed chemically things. GROSS!!! In fact, this is the only recipe I used that has Crisco in it. These cookies, however?  They need Crisco.  And, sadly, not the organic stuff.  Substituting butter makes these cookies delicious but crispy.  (I don’t believe in crispy sugar cookies). Substituting organic Crisco also makes them crispy– just not the same fat content. So if you don’t want these cookies to melt in your mouth with a satisfying chew and you’re going to substitute, go with the butter! But really, just use the dang Crisco.


Sugar cookies can be a little daunting due to the need for a rolling pin, but trust me… YOU GOT THIS. First things first, set your oven to 375 and clean your countertop where you’ll be rolling out dough. I throw my flour and salt into a big bowl.  I then combine all of my wet ingredients (evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla) in a separate bowl.



I use a measuring cup because it all fits in there and who doesn’t like less dishes!?  



Then, I throw my butter and Crisco into my dry ingredients,  and with this fancy pie cutter, I cut all of the fat up until I get little bitty pea-sized pieces of butter.  You can also use a cuisinart instead!  Just pulse lightly until you get the desired pea size consistency. 



Like these guys.  🙂



Then, throw your sugar in there and give it a mix. 


Make a well in the dry ingredients and fill it with the wet ingredients. 20161127-dsc_4342


Give it a light mix until everything is barely moistened. 20161127-dsc_4346  

Flour your countertop and dump out the goods. 20161127-dsc_4351


And then begin to knead it a bit and squeeze, adding the remaining crumbs along the way…



Until it comes together into a ball!  It will be flaky.  🙂



I always cut my dough in half just because it’s easier to roll out.  Always lightly flour on both sides so nothing sticks to the countertop or the rolling pin every time you flip, move or spin the dough. 



You want to continue to roll out until its about a 1/4 inch.  20161127-dsc_4366


Then the fun part… Use those cutters!  🙂



Lay them out on a cookie tray.  They can be fairly close as they don’t spread much.  Then, bake for 8-12 minutes depending on the size of your cookie.  If you see brown around the edges, you’ve gone too long.  I’ll actually lift a cookie up above my head with a spatula to see what it looks like on the bottom.  

Also, I believe in Christmas lobsters and Christmas martini glasses… 


And then decorate!  Okay, maybe this is the most fun part.  🙂  For the icing, you just sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.  Add a little melted butter, a whiff of almond extract and a teaspoon of milk at a time until you get the desired spreading consistency. Separate the icing into separate bowls and add food gel to make various colors. 



And remember… YOU CAN’T SCREW UP A SUGAR COOKIE.  JUST FROST IT AND EAT IT.  “Or I’ll pull up quick to retrieve it!”  😉20161127-dsc_4416



Sugar Cookies
Buttery, melt in your mouth sugar cookies that retain their shape beautifully for icing!
Write a review
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
2 hr
For cookies
  1. 4 c. flour
  2. 3/4 c. butter
  3. 1/4 c. crisco
  4. 1 1/2 c. sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 5 T evaportated milk
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 1 tsp vanilla
For icing
  1. 4 c. powdered sugar
  2. 1 drop of almond extract
  3. 2 T. melted butter
  4. Milk to desired consistency
  1. In a large bowl, whisk your flour and salt together. Cut in butter and crisco with a pastry cutter until chunks resemble the size of small peas. Mix in sugar.
  2. In a sepeate bowl, whisk together the eggs, evaporated milk and vanilla.
  3. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the middle. Mix until barely moistened.
  4. On a floured surface, dump out the dough and knead until it forms a ball. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies with cutters.
  5. Lay cookies out on a tray with parchment and bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on size.
For icing
  1. Sift powdered sugar in a bowl. Add extract and melted butter. Whisk together and add milk until a teaspoon of milk at a time until desired consistency.
  1. Sugar cookie dough is like pie crust dough. It will be flaky! Be careful not to overwork.
  2. Check the bottoms of cookies to check doneness. If the edges have browned, you've gone too far.



Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Are you stuffed to the gills?? Enjoying leftovers??  🙂

I had an amazing Thanksgiving.  We served over a hundred folks at the hotel where I work and everyone left stuffed and happy, including me! I’ve been working as a Line Cook on the savory side of things, so it was actually fun this week to work on desserts again.  I did about 30 pies and a variety of mini desserts. 

“Hello! I’m a Sea Salt Caramel Upside Down Apple Pie.”  


As hard, stressful and exhausting as it can be to work in a tourist town, with its ‘all or nothing’ ebb and flows, it really is rewarding to be a part of a team that helps to create a person’s vacation experience.  I mean, if I still lived in a big city and got to ‘go up to the cabin’ for a quiet holiday weekend in a gorgeous ski lodge-esque resort, huge fire going with a romantic view of the lake, I would be over the moon!  And then to eat a super delicious Thanksgiving meal there??? It just really makes me happy to be a part of it.  🙂

“Hey y’all! I’m a cherruh pa!”


It’s always interesting to work in the food industry during the holidays.  They tend to be a blur!  You prep like crazy the week prior (months even), plow through the holiday and before you have a chance to watch ‘Home For the Holidays’ (best movie ever!!), you are already prepping for Christmas.  It’s kind of insane.  People that love food THAT MUCH to do this full time are nuts.  A rare breed, indeed!

“Vhy, hello deer!  Ve’re Gingerbread Stout Cake vith Lime Cream Cheese Frosting.”



“And we’re pumpkin pies.  Don’t forget about us.  Write that down. Pumpkin pies. If you forget, everyone will hate you. You will ruin the entire day. We’re important like turkey.”


“Yes, we’re made with dark rum. We hate that question. It’s for enhanced flavor. We’re not party animals. Oh my God, is she really posting the picture like this?  This is irresponsible. We’re gonna have anxiety…”  


“Hello, mon cherie… Je suis une chocolate brownie weez espresso ganache.”


“And we’re the Chocolate Chip Cookies!  Mandi sprinkled us with sea salt!  It felt so nice!!!”  



“What?  Oh, gosh! I get another picture?  Wow! Well, I wasn’t expecti–“


“Pecan Bars.  Dipped in chocolate.  Fleur de sel. Bout it.”


Prior to Thanksgiving, I got to do an event for our local theater.  It’s not something I’m doing full time but is fun on occasion for a good cause!  Here are some of those treats… 🙂

“Um, hello.  We’re failed pistachio macarons that Mandi turned into Pistachio Mexican Wedding Cookies because, um, pistachios are expensive.”


“I’s Eez-a Venetian Cookie.  Eez-a Thee Italian-a Flag-a.”


“First of all, BORN FREE. WE are PROUD to be liberated from the can.  Second, we are Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a gingersnap crust and a bourbon white chocolate ganache.  We are nothing like our Pumpkin Pie mothers.  Seeds don’t mean we’re weird.  And we’re PROUD of our drizzle.”


“Candy Apple Pies, man… If only she’d deep fry us, stick us and sell us at the fair!”


“I’m, like, Oprah rich. Like, seriously.  Salted caramel on the bottom, peanut butter mouse and dark chocolate ganache finish.  And then, like, an almond italian shortbread crust?  Get you’re nails done first, ladies.  That’s all I’m gonna say. Oh yeah, we’re Caramel Peanut Butter Mousse Tarts.” 


These treats are A LOT but I love them all.  😉

This weekend I’m going to be sharing my go-to Sugar Cookie recipe with you!  Just in time for CHRISTMAS!!!  🙂  🙂  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!!


I love following world travelers on Instagram.  It inspires me to travel more, introduces me to places I haven’t seen yet and sets my own intention of what I want in my life, living vicariously through someone else.  At the same time, I also have a little chuckle because Instagram is a world of perfection. […]

My first inspirational post comes from my dear friend, photographer & writer, Stacy Osterman.  Stace is inspirational to me for many reasons– she’s an amazing photographer, for one, but she also inspires me with her enthusiasm for travel, adventure and by marching to the beat of her own drummer.  Stacy and her husband do their lives different than most.  Rather than having children, they save up to travel the world.  So when I asked her to be my first inspirational guest blogger, I was expecting something about photography or maybe about living a lifestyle that is different than the cultural norm. When she sent me this, I was surprised but knew its timeliness could touch a lot of people this week.  It is both lovely, thoughtful and beautifully written.  I also asked Stacy to include some of her photos and she picked what she thought might bring more beauty into the day.  Keep playing today, kids.  xoxo.

Note:  This is about an artist expressing herself through writing; This is not a political piece up for debate. All comments for artists on MandiCrocker are to always remain positive and encouraging!  Be sure to leave her lots of love. xoxo 


As my deadline loomed I did what any good writer would do, browsed Facebook. It was a minefield. Hours after the presidential election was called my friends woke up to a world they didn’t recognise. That’s a feeling I’m familiar with, being an international traveler, and although I was disappointed in the outcome, and know that people need to go through their mourning process, I’m a little jaded when it comes to politics as I was a poly sci major in college during the Bush elections, a Dean supporter and Bernie will always have my heart. I know to get up and keep working because that’s what we have to do every day, even if we suffer a loss. The world goes on and we get another chance in a couple years to make a change.

Then I came across a post from my 19 year old cousin. A sophmore in college she was raised in a suburban town and had a hard time understanding her sexuality in that environment. Now in a more diverse space at college she is thriving, settling into her new queer identity.


“What I want to say is that I fear for my life. HE is not exactly what scares me. He is just the fuel for the flame that frightens me. What scares me is the fact that I’m living with people who agree with most of the things he has said. You can tell me all about how “not all his supporters agree with the way he’s treated women, POC, LGBTQ+, etc.” But that is exactly my point. We still have millions of people out there in the world who DO agree with how he treats all the groups I stated. And being a queer woman myself, I am terrified to live with people that believe that my basic human rights should be stripped right out of my hands. I am terrified that our soon to be Vice President believes that you can shock gay people into turning straight. I’ve struggled for the past two years to become more confident in my queerness. I still feel slightly uncomfortable holding a girl’s hand in public because I see all the stares and I let my anxiety get the best of me. I’m afraid this election will make it even worse to be me. I’m afraid to exist as myself.”


I have reached the point in my life where many of my friends are having children. Grappled with the idea of telling their daughters how a man like Donald Trump could be elected president they penned open letters to their babies, apologizing for how the future may look. I don’t have to wait, I have a young person in front of me asking why. I dropped the article that I had researched for the last two weeks and wrote this letter. It’s a little different than what most people would say to someone who is afraid, but I don’t think anyone should be afraid of fear: we should use it. It’s one of our most valuable possessions.


Dear Jolie,

Although many of my friends are in shock, mourning the loss of their political party and literally crying while holding their newborn children, I’ve not shed a tear. Knowing many of these people have not participated in the political process other than complaining on Facebook about the options for President has made me apathetic to their sadness. No one mentioned the Senate or House races. No one talked about the initiatives and propositions. I didn’t see a single mention of any debate other than those which our media promoted as earth shattering. This country has gone through Watergate, Clinton’s impeachment, wars, terrorist attacks, the Bush/Gore election and we have not imploded. I wasn’t worried nor was I too surprised at the results.

It wasn’t until I saw your post that the sadness settled in. The panic crashed over me and I became irrationally angry. She could lose her freedom! She could be called out in the streets for simply being herself! She will have to live in fear!! These thoughts were just as horrifying as the first time I saw you get hit by the opposite team while playing ice hockey. I couldn’t believe how hard they ran into you! And you just got up and kept playing!

You just got up and kept playing.

Three months ago on a particularly lovely day I decided to walk to the grocery store up the street. On my way home a man exposed his genitals to me before dashing off in his car so quickly I couldn’t catch the licence plate. I got back to my apartment, told my husband what happened and then I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. The experience triggered me to remember when I was younger and the same thing occurred, a man exposed himself to me on the street as I walked home from school, but at that time I was told it was simply because of how I was dressed and to be more careful. I was 12 years old. No one ever called the police to report it.

It’s only been in the last couple weeks that I’ve allowed myself to walk down that street again and in the meantime I’ve noticed that all the clothes I currently wear cover myself as much as humanly possible in the heat of the summer. I haven’t taken any photos of flowers in months, one of my favorite activities since I usually have to be so technical in my image making. It took me this long to realize I’d changed my clothing, my daily routine, my ability to enjoy my surroundings, basically everything about me because of this 30 second encounter.  I felt just as helpless as I did when I was a little girl being told it was my fault.

I had to get up and keep playing.

I had to remind myself that the first thing I said when this man tried to take away my power was “I didn’t need to see that’. Those words came right out of my mouth as soon as he opened his pants. My strength caused him to run away. I didn’t initially fear him, I was angry and I expressed it out loud. That comes from experiencing this over and over, from constantly walking into situations where I was scared, nervous or anxious and making it out ok. Battle scarred, but still here.

My friend Shawna is a unicorn. She has short, delicate pink hair. She wears leotards and shirts from the kid’s section at Target. She dances like a fairy with the little girls she teaches and she inspires the adults she coaches by telling them not to let anyone “crush their shine”. Her significant other delights in walking behind her in a crowd as he gets to see the smiles and looks from those who have just experienced Shawna’s presence. She is just existing in the world but because she doesn’t blend in she is occasionally taken down by those who don’t like it when others are out of the ordinary. People have singled her out and berated her on the street, insulting her looks or her demeanor. But every day she gets out of bed, laces up her sparkle shoes and greets those who may look at her strange.
She keeps playing.

The television is going to tell you to be afraid. That when you step outside your door you will be ostracized because of your sexual orientation. That the world is a scary place so tune in at 11pm and watch it all burn.

Unfortunately they are right. Kinda. Nothing in this world is that black and white.

We will continue to make strides and then we will take two steps back in our fights for social justice and human rights. No matter where you travel in the world you will come upon those who want to harm you just for being you. Maybe it’s because you’re a woman, maybe it’s because you’re gay, maybe it’s because you cut them off in traffic: the threat is always present and it hasn’t changed in my lifetime. I don’t see it changing in yours. There will always be ignorant people who fear what is unfamiliar. There will always be people who would rather hurt another human than understand them.

This means you have to be strong. You have to hold the hand of the woman you love while walking down an unfamiliar street. You need to shave your head (or dye your hair purple) and know that people will look at you strange and that’s ok. You need to travel the world and go to places that take you away from everything you’ve known and shakes up everything you’ve ever learned. You need to learn to live with fear. Fear about who you are means you don’t get to be you, and that’s not something I’m going to let happen, but a healthy fear about the world around you is normal and will help you to…

Get up and keep playing!

Find your tribe, those who love and support you when the world seems like it never will.  Seek out  your Shawna to help you fend off those who want your shine to be crushed. Remind yourself that those who try to hurt you are hurting themselves. That we need to love them but that we don’t need to be around them if they cause us pain. Learn how to protect yourself, how to be self sufficient and how to manage your anxiety when it gets to be overwhelming.

And I promise to always help you stand when it seems like you can’t get up and keep playing.

I hope one day you don’t need to write a letter like this to your own children or to the young people in your life but just in case you do I hope this reminds you that the world is what we make of it.

Make it beautiful.

I love you,



Croatia 2010


Big Island Kamoamoa Fissure Eruption 2011





Sunrise Over Sikeu


Waterfalls, Croatia 2010

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally be launching MandiCrocker. It’s been half a year in the making and an idea that has been marinating for quite some time! I started this site because it was the one place where all of my loves could come together: food, photography, travel and inspiration. Even more so, it is a place where I could build an online community of dreamers and creatives.




As an artist, it is important to me to create something that means something and with all the crazy that can, and is, going on in the world, I wanted to dedicate a good chunk of my life and energy to something positive. I believe that the world and its people are ultimately loving and good, and that living an authentic life, true to you, is one of the bravest things you can do. I believe that we should fearlessly create, not just for a successful or monetary outcome, but for the joy of creating itself! It can be a healthy outlet that brings us joy in the mundane or it can be a challenge that stretches us and makes us think. I find that our lives and the world around us always benefit.




While MandiCrocker is named after yours truly and I’ll be posting my adventures and culinary creations, this website is really about the community we create here! Where have you traveled? What are you making? What did you create today? What did these things teach you? Send me an e-mail and submit your poems, art, travels, photography, baked goods, etc. I’ll also be looking for guest bloggers with fascinating stories to tell that I will publish weekly, so please nominate someone that inspires you or have them reach out to me!


I am currently in Los Angeles with my honey. We drove down the coast of California to end up at a friend’s epic Halloween party. When I come home, I’ll be sure to share my adventures with you! In the meantime, please introduce yourself in the comments below and let’s begin to play!! 🙂


Much love,