Thursday, January 29, 2015

love is...

if you are as old as i am, you might remember the love is... comics. when i was growing up, we looked for them in the newspaper every day, and my mom or dad would cut out special ones and put them on the fridge or bulletin board or other such place.

they sprung to my mind - out of the blue - as i started to think about what has happened this month that shows love in and around our home.

here are some of my love is... moments, in no particular order:

love is...the affectionate ways in which we joyfully greet each other when someone returns home from school, work, or a quick shopping trip.

love husband bringing me a bouquet of flowers after his long commute home from work. just because.

love is...him playing with the kids so i could have some time alone to work on arranging the flowers. ikebana meditative time.

love is...hugging each others' avatars in minecraft and using heart emoticons with each others' avatars in animal jam.

love is...ander hugging a particular favorite school staff member every day, and then welcoming me into that hug, bringing us all together.

love is...snuggling a furry pet.
love is...diana cheering ander up after a tough day by making his minecraft avatar a new skin. his design, her implementation. 

love is...sitting down to watch the same episode of "peep and the big wide world" just one more time because it makes ander happy.

love is...diana and steve playing rummy together to wind down before bed.

love is...everyone snuggled together in the big bed to sleep.

love is...diana filling her tummy with lemon curd and my homemade vanilla scones. or warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

love is...delicious, body-and-soul-healing, hot soup from a friend, simply because i mentioned i wasn't feeling well.

love is...sharing funny things with each other.

love email, or several, from a friend saying all the right things in all the right ways to reach my heart when it feels heavy.

see? i do have enough. yes, i do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


a dear friend and her girls were enamored of the scones i made the other day and asked for the recipe. it's so yummy that i thought others might enjoy a go at them too.

i found this recipe by googling (i find many, many of my recipes that way) and sifting through (you like that baking pun there?) to find this one by the king arthur flour people. not that i use king arthur flour regularly, except when it's on sale at the store. i really appreciated the "tips from our bakers" section. it was like having alton brown giving one of his excellent explanations.

here's my slightly-modified-and-actually-works-well-for-me version:

2 3/4 cups flour. i use all purpose bleached flour. no sifting, as i am not that patient.
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. i like having my salt in the bigger chunks like this for baking. really for everything.
1/2 cup cold butter. i vary between salted and unsalted, depends on what i have available. i usually go with unsalted.
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or other flavoring. if you can, go with pure rather than artificial. the taste difference is noticeable.
2/3 cup milk. i have 1% on hand. if i had cream, i'd use it.
(optional) 1 cup mix-ins
(optional) fancy white sprinkling sugar

combine dry ingredients. cut in cold butter with a pastry blender. if you don't have one, get one. not expensive and works wonders. very useful kitchen tool. if you use mix-ins, add them now.

in a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and flavoring.

add wet ingredients to dry and stir with large spoon until all dry mixture is moistened and holds together.

here is where i am very particular about my tools, and it makes a different when i am baking. i bake these ONLY on the pampered chef rectangle stone. not metal. i don't know how other sheets perform with this recipe, but i do know how mine function. i've had them for over a decade and they are well seasoned.

using my large scoop - also from the pampered chef - scoop out leveled scoopfuls onto the baking sheet. ideally, i can get twelve of these evenly spaced on a sheet. any more than that and they tend to crowd each other. they need room to spread a bit and have warm air around the sides in addition to the top.

if you are going to use the sprinkling sugar, now's the time to shake a little on the top of each one. gently press down to make sure they stick.

put the scones into the freezer for 30 minutes. just do it. it makes a difference.

meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

bake one sheet for 18 minutes, then check for color. we prefer light golden rather than dark. make sure the sides look dry rather than wet. if necessary, keep in for another two minutes at a time.

cool briefly on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. serve warm. store in airtight container.

so about the optional ingredients, we like these combinations to varying degrees:

- vanilla extract with milk chocolate chips
- orange extract with dried cranberries
- peppermint extract with dark chocolate chips

diana is not fond of almond flavoring, but i am. almond extract with dried cherries. perfection.

diana's current favorite is vanilla with no mix-ins. she eats them with lemon curd. they are enough to keep her supplied with breakfast and snack food all day long. the cranberry butter from trader joe's is yummy on the orange cranberry scones for me.

ander, being ander, still prefers my pumpkin biscuits. that's just fine by me. i bake All The Things my babies want. i'm happy to put hugs into their tummies.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

that's christmas to me

what? a post about christmas? that's just so . . . last year.

that sentiment might be true for others, but not for me. our christmas season lasts into january. our decorations stay up through epiphany, at least, but more often beyond. i'm following the example of the muppet christmas carol's character of ebenezer scrooge and keeping the christmas spirit in my heart all the year through.

my current favorite singing group, pentatonix, went platinum with their holiday album, that's christmas to me. there was a twitter hashtag and other such commotion about the title song. i spent this christmas season away from my blog and with my family and friends, embracing those moments. i hope you enjoy these little glimpses into what christmas means to me.

first, you have to listen to the song. watch the video, too. it has clips of each of the singers as children. diana calls it the mini-pentatonix song.

getting a tree: one for our family. plus one for diana. plus another for ander.

neither cold nor rain was going to keep us from completing our mission

we each got antlers from the lovely young ladies at the front door of the nursery
decorating the trees: we are fortunate to have so many ornaments. each of them has a special meaning or memory for us, so i cherish unpacking them every year.

dinsdale, the family tree, was initially decked out in woodland winter solstice attire especially for me
diana's scotch pine named biggles

ander's baby alberta spruce, named peace
dinsdale redecorated for christmas
quiet time with friends: a weekend with my dear leigh as she dealt with some difficult family responsibilities in florida

i did mention it was florida, right?

i cannot seem to manage to look right at a phone camera for selfies. then again, i have independent suspension for my eyes, so when i am tired, they don't look in the same direction together. so that will be the story i use here.

looking at lights: meadowlark botanical gardens winter walk of lights

everyone looks better in capes, i think

lovely weather for a sleigh ride together

holiday legos:

counting the days:

music: singing along with holiday favorites by pentatonix, nat king cole, amy grant, john denver & the muppets, mercy me, lori line, trans-siberian orchestra, charlie brown, listening to my girl perform her holiday solo for voice class

ander asked daddy to play the twelve days of christmas for him to sing along to. so daddy did.

games: parcheesi with family and friends

with grandma & grandpa. we had to call the game a draw after two and a half hours

the Winter Solstice Fairy oversees the daleks attempting to exterminate the wild animals. as you do.
gingerbread houses: we made a village based on graham crackers

diana's house (under construction & remodeling)

my gazebo

ander's house

ander's garden

steve's clock tower

tanya's barn & grandma's snowman in the back
leaving treats for santa & his reindeer: ander carefully counted out eight carrots and eight slices of apple. why not nine? what about rudolph? he's not in the original poem of twas the night before christmas, that's why.

hugs: family, friends, each other.

with uncle brian

and more uncle brian


gifts: to, from, for.

diana made this bird feeder for me out of a recycled orange juice carton

more lights: there's no such thing as too many lights. especially if a camel is involved. at bull run, we immediately recognized samson from bar c ranch. remember that we met him at temple hall?

steve got to ride with ander this time

the girls' first time on a camel

it was a very cold carnival at the end, but fun nevertheless
baking: chocolate white chocolate chip cookies for solstice, cake for birthday celebrations, gingerbread for decorating

diana's creations. note the pirate in the center.

mine and ander's
snow: the kids were really hoping for a white christmas, especially after the excitement of a snowy thanksgiving, and, lucky for us, the snow did arrive on epiphany.

 i hope your holiday season contained enough happy little moments for you to treasure in your memory and get you through until spring comes to your part of the world.