‘Very possible’ shutdown could last into new year, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says 

Erica Werner Congressional reporter focusing on economic policy December 23 at 10:10 AM The partial government shutdown may last through the New Year and into January when Democrats take control of the House, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday. “It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” Mulvaney said on Fox News Sunday. Mulvaney put the onus on Democrats, saying the White House is now offering to open the government for less than the $5 billion in funding for a border wall President Trump had previously demanded. Democrats have refused any new money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Trump while campaigning promised would be paid for by Mexico. The impasse created a stalemate that led large portions of the government to shut down at the start of Saturday. But Mulvaney also acknowledged that Trump’s approach to the presidency played a role in shuttering federal agencies and sending workers home on furlough just before Christmas. “This is what Washington looks like when you have a president who refuses to sort of go along to get along,” Mulvaney said. The House and Senate have been sent home until Thursday, after several hours of fitful negotiations at the Capitol on Saturday yielded no result. But Mulvaney indicated little optimism that there would be any deal to reopen the government before the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3. The likely incoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has already said she intends to pass a spending bill to reopen the government as soon as she takes control of the House majority. It would provide $1.3 billion for border security, a level Democrats have endorsed and that would contain no new funds for building a wall. Mulvaney said Sunday that the White House made an offer on Saturday between $1.3 billion and $5 billion, and “the ball is in their court.” Democrats have firmly opposed any new money for Trump’s border wall. Pelosi says the wall is “immoral.” Mulvaney played down the impacts of a shutdown, noting that the federal government is effectively closed until Wednesday anyway because of the Christmas holiday. He said that paychecks will go out on Dec. 28, the next federal pay period. “I want everybody to understand no one is working without getting paid,” Mulvaney said. Next pay period impacted is Jan. 11. Some 400,000 federal workers are expected to be furloughed under the shutdown that affects about 25 percent of the government that Congress funds -- including the Homeland Security Department, and the Justice, Interior, Agriculture and Housing departments, among others. The rest of the government - including the Pentagon -- have already been funded through September under spending bills Congress passed earlier in the year and the president signed. The government also went into brief partial shutdowns in January and February, making this the third partial government shutdown of 2018. When ABC’s Jonathan Karl reminded Mulvaney of Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, Mulvaney said the technical process cannot work so easily. He tried to argue that the renegotiated trade deal among the United States, Mexico and Canada could generate revenues to the U.S. Treasury. “You could make an argument Mexico is paying for it in that fashion,” Mulvaney said, without offering specifics. He added, “We really think we’re in a good place in terms of getting the wall built and also getting Mexico to participate in our border security.” There is no mechanism for direct payments from Mexico’s government to the U.S. government for a wall in the trade agreement.

When 'Cookiers' Take Holiday Cookie Decorating To A Whole New Level 

A growing number of creative bakers, known as cookiers, are taking the art of decorating cookies to a whole new level. Courtesy of Ann Clark Cookie Cutters hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Ann Clark Cookie Cutters A growing number of creative bakers, known as cookiers, are taking the art of decorating cookies to a whole new level. Courtesy of Ann Clark Cookie Cutters For many people the holidays wouldn't be the holidays without baking and decorating cookies. But a growing number of creative bakers, known as 'cookiers,' are taking their art to a whole new level. Mary Thode of Chittenden, Vt., is one of them. This time of year, she bakes all sorts of cookies — some of the recipes were her mother's, she says, which bring back nice memories. "But I do like a painted cookie," she says, nodding toward the nine coffee cups on her dining room table that are each filled with different colored frosting. "That's meringue icing," Thode says, picking up a spoon. "Made with meringue powder and it hardens up really nice." "I just stir them, because the color tends to go to the bottom a little bit," she adds. The cup of red frosting becomes much brighter and creamier as she stirs. If it's too thick, she thins it with water until the consistency is just right. Once the frosting is ready, Thode reaches into a nearby Tupperware container and selects a plain, heart shaped cookie. Using a fine tipped paint brush she picks up a dollop of frosting and with a few careful strokes, covers the shape with a shiny red glaze. "I don't go to the very end of the cookie — I like to have a little edge so that it sort of frames it. I just think it makes it look nicer," she explains. Then she takes a tooth pick, adds a tiny dab of blue frosting and creates an intricate design. Mary Thode, of Chittenden, Vt., hand decorates hundreds of cookies every year for Christmas. Nina Keck/Vermont Public Radio hide caption toggle caption Nina Keck/Vermont Public Radio Mary Thode, of Chittenden, Vt., hand decorates hundreds of cookies every year for Christmas. Nina Keck/Vermont Public Radio Thode makes cookies all year — baby-bottle shaped ones for shower gifts and pumpkins at Halloween. But during the holidays, she'll bake about 700 cookies, half of which she'll paint, often with many layers of different colored frosting. "I know my husband says I'm like obsessed with this," she laughs. "But those little details I think make it, I don't know, nicer. It makes it my cookie." Cookies as an art form Thode is among a growing number of people, who've changed bite-sized treats into an art form. Many, like Thode, are hobbyists, who give their cookies away as gifts. But it's also big business. Some of the most elaborate designs by top artists sell for $150 per dozen, or even more. Ben Clark makes cookie cutters for a living, and he says some of the cookies he's seen are unbelieveable. "Literally, they're like art gallery quality. And it's a cookie," he says, shaking his head. Clark works with a number of elite decorators — people like Elizabeth Adams, who's known in the cookie world as Arty McGoo. McGoo has made a career out of cookies. The California resident has more than 80,000 followers on Facebook and now devotes most of her time to teaching others her craft. "I was kind of a hobby hopper until cookies, because I think it satisfies so many different areas of art for me," she says. "From the design process and the colors that you choose, and then even photographing the cookies later." These Santa cookies are an example of Arty McGoo's cookie handiwork. Courtesy of Arty McGoo hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Arty McGoo These Santa cookies are an example of Arty McGoo's cookie handiwork. Courtesy of Arty McGoo "And it doesn't matter to me that it's going to be eaten, or you know, basically destroyed," adds McGoo, laughing. "It's kind of beautiful to think, you know, someone's eating a piece of art." McGoo will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming CookieCon in Reno, Nev. The three-day conference in March will bring together 800 avid cookiers and accessory manufacturers from all over the world. Event organizer Karen Summers says interest in cookie decorating has exploded in recent years. "It's really big in Australia and Spain and South America," she says, adding, "We've been contacted by a few people in Japan who want to start a CookieCon-type thing there." Summers says the 500 tickets they had for last year's CookieCon in Indianapolis sold out in 20 minutes, which she says completely crashed the event's website. "After the fact, the software guy said, 'Well you didn't tell me it was going to be this popular,'" Summers says. "He said they were getting 1,800 hits per second when the tickets went on sale." Cookies as big business The popularity of decorating cookies has been great for companies like CK Products, which manufactures and distributes things like edible glitter, sprinkles, meringue powder and piping gel. Kelly Pineda, CK's vice president of sales, says they can't make enough ready-made frosting. "As soon as we produce it and put it on our website the business, we're literally chasing it," Pineda says. "We can't keep up with the demand." Ann Clark Cookie Cutters, a family-owned business in Rutland, Vt., that began in 1989, has also ramped up production. CEO Ben Clark says 52 employees work two shifts and their assembly line churns out 22,000 cookie cutters a day. The factory floor at Ann Clark Cookie Cutters in Rutland, Vt. The plant will make 4,500,000 cookie cutters this year. Nina Keck/Vermont Public Radio hide caption toggle caption Nina Keck/Vermont Public Radio The factory floor at Ann Clark Cookie Cutters in Rutland, Vt. The plant will make 4,500,000 cookie cutters this year. Nina Keck/Vermont Public Radio "We worked really hard and got it so our cost to manufacture is the same as the cost to import cookie cutters from China," explains Clark. "So then it became a marketing game. Since then we've roughly quadrupled our business." Part of their marketing strategy is to better harness direct sales through Amazon. But Clark says they've also worked hard to satisfy the growing number of cookiers, who want new and different shapes. He says their plant currently makes about 2,300 different ones, adding new shapes each week. For instance, Clark says llamas are big this year: "We immediately said 'let's do a llama.' And are our creative director said we're going to do two; we're going to do one that looks like a llama and we're gonna have one that's more of a cartoony llama." "Ten days later," Clark continues, "both of those products were dominating Amazon as the llama cookie cutter. So by the time our Chinese competitors' product got to the United States, we already owned the market for llamas." Clark says his company's relationship with cookiers is vital. So they too will be at the cookie convention in March ready to hear about what new shapes they need to make next.

5 new books you won't want to miss this week: 'Watching You' by Lisa Jewell 

"Watching You" by Lisa Jewell(Photo: Atria) USA TODAY’s Jocelyn McClurg scopes out the hottest books on sale each week. 1. “Watching You” by Lisa Jewell (Atria, fiction, on sale Dec. 26) What it’s about: In this twisty thriller set in Bristol, England, a well-liked schoolmaster with the Austenesque name of Mr. Fitzwilliam may or may not be a stalker. The buzz: “Crafty. … Jewell does a masterly job of maintaining suspense,” says Publishers Weekly. 2. “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die” by James Mustich (Workman, nonfiction, on sale now) What it’s about: At nearly 1,000 pages, this compendium recommends everyone from Wordsworth to Wolfe to Woolf to Whitehead, and that’s just the W’s. The buzz: Get a jump on your reading list for 2019 (and beyond) with this exhaustive guide, which is fun reading on its own. 3. “An Almost Perfect Christmas” by Nina Stibbe (Little, Brown, nonfiction, on sale now) What it’s about: Humorous musings on the holiday and what can go wrong (and right). The buzz: “Funny, smart, sweet, and tender … readable any time of year,” says Booklist. 4. “Quarterback” by John Feinstein (Doubleday, nonfiction, on sale now) What it’s about: The best-selling sportswriter goes “Inside the Most Important Position in the National Football League,” as the subtitle puts it. The buzz: “A worthy offering for fans of the … game,” says Kirkus Reviews.  5. “Homer and the Holiday Miracle” by Gwen Cooper (BenBella Books, nonfiction, on sale now) What it’s about: Inspiring true story about a blind black cat named Homer, who after a long, happy life, might not make it to his last Christmas. The buzz: Cooper’s “My Life in a Cat House: True Tales of Love, Laughter, and Living With Five Felines” alsohas just been released. Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2018/12/23/5-new-books-not-miss-week-watching-you-lisa-jewell-nfl-quarterbacks-john-feinstein-homer-cat/2219097002/