Gorillas and Lions and No Tigers, Oh My!

Holidays at our house involve a lot of baking, cooking, and eating. I’ve posted my favorite Thick Sugar Cookie recipe below. You can do all sorts of fancy things when you frost them, or just sprinkle sugar on top. They hold up in give-away boxes too. It’s nice to give someone a box of cookies instead of crumbs. I also use this recipe for the base of fruit tarts in summer—just make sure you do a solid curd and let it set in the fridge, so you don’t get a soggy bottom. You know you don’t want one of those.

Speaking of soggy bottoms… I try to balance out the deliciousness of the season with exercise. Swimming and walking in my case. Here in Texas, most walks are flat with barely a rise in sight, so it behooves you to go some distance so you can have that cookie or whatever makes your mouth happy.

If you’re lucky, you have a family member that has a zoo or arboretum membership. You can walk for miles looking at pretty flowers or interesting animals and not notice until you stop walking that you’ve gone a fair distance. I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ll feel great, positively glowing with athleticism after a long walk. Hop in the car, drive home, and then… find myself in the precarious position of not being able to get out of the car. I have to institute a sort of roll and drop which comes factory installed with a deep groan. My legs just quit and forget to tell me. Please tell me this happens to you, too.

This past weekend we went to the zoo on a membership pass, which meant we were inside an hour before everyone else. There was an added bonus of deliciously crisp and chilly weather with a clear blue arch of sky that makes it feel like all things are possible. I believe there were more zoo workers than guests for the nearly two hours we were there. It was like having our own private zoo tour.

The Dallas zoo is a manageable size, with pleasantly rolling paths that meander through different exhibits. It’s shaped a bit like a butterfly, with two big wings and a long tunnel between them. There are plenty of bathrooms, as well as places to get a cup of coffee or refreshment. It was super clean, not a bit of trash anywhere.

We were hoping to see the baby tiger, which is on the far-right wing of the zoo along with the otters. How can you not be happy when you see a sign like this?

We walked all the way over there twice, but no luck on the tigers. The otters were out the second time, though. Perhaps it was too chilly for Sumatran Tigers, but the flamingos seemed happy, and they are hot weather creatures, so I dunno, maybe they were being Tiger divas.

We scored big time at the gorillas, which are located on the left wing of the zoo. Dallas zoo has two troops. One is a family unit, complete with babies, and the other is big bachelor males. “It’s like a frat party all day long over there,” said one of the staff. They keep the troops separated by large walls. Evidently, the papa gorilla on the family side would not take kindly to other males near his tribe. The staff member hinted at bloodshed if that happened. Not the zoo experience you’d want the kids exposed to.

We also got to see the lioness up close during an excellent keeper talk. I took this picture as she tracked the movements of the painted dogs across from her enclosure. Lions are so deceptive, they just lay there, looking lazy and nearly pettable. Then their attention is caught, and you see the ferocious wild in them. We were glad there was thick glass between us and this beauty.

We did the entire zoo, which included penguins and a fun trip to the children’s petting zoo. Delightful!

Here’s hoping your holidays are happy ones!

THICK SUGAR COOKIES (for royal icing)

3 cups flour

½ t salt

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temp

1 t baking powder

1 T vanilla

Sift together dry. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add flour in 3 batches. Knead and shape into a disk. Put in fridge overnight or 4 hours before rolling out.

375 10-11 minutes (turn sheet halfway) Cool on pan 5-7 minutes and then on rack.

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