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PastryDough2You know … I was once quite the baker. That was back when I had the time, and was able to bake – and cook – with some sort of regularity. (I even have a little recipe box to prove it!) But how frustrating is it to finally set aside the time to bake, and have what you were going to bake be a disaster!

I know – this isn’t the first time I’ve spilled some baking tears on this blog, but I also know that those of you who do bake share my frustration when you spend the time with such a gorgeous end product in mind and it comes out wrong, or not at all. (Insert huge sigh here.)

So there you see the photo. That wasn’t what I was planning on making. At all. What I’d planned on making was Hamantaschen, those wonderful little triangular pastries with delicious fillings of fruit, poppyseed or almond. And I had the recipe that I had made them from  in the past. I went online and checked some recipes to see that my older one was in the range of what was still being done and all looked good. (By the way, if you want to see what beautiful Hamantaschen look like, their history, and how to make them, take a peek here. This is where I’ll be getting my next recipe from.)

So this morning early, I prepped my pastry dough so it would have at least 3 hours to chill and went about my other chores. Long story short, the dough was terribly crumbly, and was not pulling together any better with some ice water. I’d rolled out 1/4 of it and saw that this was not going to work; there’d never even be enough dough to make what the recipe said. So I made some cinnamon and sugar strips, (above), just to have something come from my efforts.

I brought out the next quarter of the dough and knew I was just wasting my time, and sadly, I chucked it. Half of it still sits in the fridge, why, I’m not sure, but there won’t be any Hamantaschen coming out of this kitchen today. And I wonder … could using organic ingredients make a difference? Are the ingredients used today sufficiently different from those on hand when I originally made that recipe to have this result?

Or … (insert very deep sigh here) … have I lost my touch? I won’t accept that, maybe just a little out of practice. That recipe has followed the too-crumbly dough into the great beyond, and when I next feel Hamantaschen-ish, I’ll check the recipe linked to above. Such is life.

p.s. This is not at all what I’ve been wanting to post about, but there you have it …

Guilty

FrenchieCrocusOne of the tough things about having a blog is that you really do want to keep up with it, and yet sometimes it’s just not on the top of one’s possibility list. Unfortunately, this infuses me with a certain amount of guilt. Things are running through my head constantly that I want to write about – it’s never for lack of subject material – it’s for the luxury of time to write it well and to provide images that you’ll enjoy seeing.

So consider this a teensy tide-me-over and more will be coming soon.

Looking Up

Back when I lived in the city, walking about Manhattan, there was a very good reason to look up. Gargoyles. Fabulous gargoyles. Bumping into people on the street, apologizing, face-to-the-sky, gargoyles. New York is full of them and they’re all over the place. However, this post is not about gargoyles … maybe someday … but another reason for looking up. Icicles.

WinterTexture-Icicles2

The recent 6 – 8″ of snow we had recently, followed by a drop to 4˚ at night, followed by a day of brilliant sunshine has these 2 and 3 foot daggers hanging off roofs everywhere. And although today was kind of cloudy, kind of sunny, I thought to photograph a few because I believe this is the last we’ll be seeing them until next winter.

WinterTextures-IciclesII2

Neither the main roof nor those of the porches on this house have gutters, which may be why there are so many icicles, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that when you walk around certain parts of the house, you best be looking up and stepping lively. Periodically during the day, you can hear them crashing outside the windows, just waiting for an unsuspecting soul to walk by.

WinterTextures-IciclesBricks2

Witness a few misses to the side of my house, the walkway where I come and go daily. Of course, there’s also a sheet of ice to navigate as well. Ahhhh – winter!

WinterTextures-OverRailing2

Having taken that photo, I became more interested in the textures created by the ice and snow around the house, often so beautiful as to look like abstract art. I peered over my back porch railing where the ice was dripping into the snow. Icicles were breaking and melting around the hydrangea, as eager for spring as we, I suspect.

WinterTextures-RoseBush2

And then, the last of the roses, encased in ice, also surrounded by broken icicles.

I could have gone around the whole property photographing these icy textures once I began, but such is not my day. These brightened my artistic soul, maybe yours, too.

The Winter Blues

Where am I?

Snow-Feb4-BushesFence2

I’ll tell you how I feel – kind of lost. It seems like this Winter is just going to go on forever. And by the scarcity of posts by the fellow bloggers I know, I dare say that I am not alone. Of course, there may be other reasons, but a great deal has been written about the effect of weather such as we’ve been having on the human soul/psyche. Speaking for myself, the endless rounds of snow every few days and the concomitant shoveling plus the record lows in temperature such as I have never seen in my lifetime conspire to keep me, (and possibly you), indoors. Add to that, those of us who work from home and you have the perfect scenario for a serious case of the Winter blues and blahs.

Buddha2I suspect many of you, like myself, are looking for ways to brighten these 9˚ days. Getting out for even a breath of fresh air is always good, as is curling up with a good book, or watching some decent movie or TV. Each day when I journal, (a mood-lifter for me), I also look for some spiritual/metaphysical thoughts to pull me back into my more inspired self. Today I remembered this (favorite) quote from Buddha: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.”

I am reminded that I am creating my day on every level and that my thoughts and feelings affect the energetic level of the planet itself. I searched a little further.

From The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: “For this is the great secret, which was known to all educated men in our day: that by what men think, we create the world around us, daily new.”

 

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Now, while I’m not yet bursting with boundless joy, at least I am smiling, happy and more content. I am remembering that Spring will come in time, and that there is still plenty of beauty in every moment of the day that is here, right now.

FrenchieValentine2

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe,
deserve your love and affection”

~ Gautama Buddha

I have to give it to Budweiser. Year after year they come up with the most brilliant commercials – smart, touching, visually beautiful. Their most astounding was the one they created the year after 9/11, which they only played one day, but each year they come up with something amazing for the Super Bowl featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales.

This one, called “Lost Dog,” is worth a minute of your your time – so touching. Take a look.

 

It’s A Soup Day!

Soup-CloseUp2Actually, to me, almost any winter day is a soup day, but it’s been way too long since I’ve made a big pot of homemade soup. I think about it; sometimes I even buy the ingredients, but end up using them for something that takes less time. Sometimes I’m sure I’m going to make the soup at the end of the work day, and that never happens. So, today, (Sunday), I just got started earlier. My soup? A (vegan) Russian Potato and Bean Soup.

I’d been looking and looking among my many cookbook and recipe sources and wasn’t finding what I wanted. Then I remembered – and was staring right at it! – that I had this great recipe box from years ago from Vegetarian Times. It was a freebie for taking a subscription, I think. There are nice little divider sections and each group is color coded, as you can see below. Definitely a handy item to have.

Soup-RecipeBox2

They had so many yummy soup recipes, and I picked this one. It was already vegan except for the sour cream, and I had a plan for that.

I used all organic produce, and scrubbed and cubed some nice Russet potatoes, thin-sliced some onions, trimmed the green beans, and got ready to cook. I used Imagine brand vegetarian “No-Chicken Broth” which is quite tasty. The recipe called for 5 cups of broth, and this broth comes in quart containers, but, aha! I have a fabulous vegetable base for making soups, and I whipped up a cup of that.

Soup-InPot2

The basic soup ready to bring to a boil.

I sautéed the onions in the broth and a teaspoon of canola oil, then added the potatoes and beans for a bit. I added the rest of the broth, brought to a boil and simmered for 1/2 hour.

The next addition was a mixture of 1/3 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 T. of flour. I had some concerns here because I had vegan sour cream, which has a tofu base, and I wasn’t really sure how that would work out. The recipe asks that you add the mixture to the soup by the spoonful and blend in. Here’s where, if you’re not vegan, I’d go with real sour cream; if you are, go with the time-honored way of blending some of the stock with the flour separately and then mixing it back into the main pot. That’s what I’ll do in the future. Add in 3/4 cup of sauerkraut, 1 T. of dried dill and simmer another 15 minutes. While you’re invited to add seasonings at the end, I found the sauerkraut and dill provided plenty of flavor on their own.

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Bon appétit!

The recipe for this soup is not available on the Vegetarian Times website, however, I did a search and found it on another site. If interested, here’s the recipe — enjoy!

 

Wonder-RJPalacio2I am always a big fan of these, which, to me, are more or less the same thing. I tend to think of them as quotes, but in the book I just finished, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, these are referred to as precepts by Mr. Browne, a character in the book and a middle grade English teacher at Beecher Prep. (I will write more on Wonder soon – this is what lit my spark today.)

Mr. Browne found that his students were more inspired by a quote he had once discovered than by how it had greatly influenced his life, so at the beginning of each month, he wrote a precept on the board. The class discussed it during the month, and at the end of the month, the students wrote an essay about it. Over the summer, his students were encouraged to write their own, or some other inspiring precept and send it to Mr. Browne. What a great teaching idea for real life, eh?

The copy of Wonder lent to me by a friend was part of a boxed set which also included a second volume called 365 Days of Wonder, Mr. Browne’s published selection of a year’s worth of quotes on the issues written about in Wonder, which, in a nutshell, is about kindness as well as overcoming adversity and bullying.

Midsummer Eve painted by Robert Hughes, 1908

Midsummer Eve by Robert Hughes, 1908

He also includes some precepts submitted by his fictional students. This is a really great accompaniment to a book that addresses these issues so well and would hopefully be an inspiration to Wonder‘s middle grade readers, (not to mention a brilliant marketing idea.)

So I started to read the precepts/quotes.

I was entranced by the quote on January 2nd written by Roald Dahl, (of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach fame, if you’re not familiar).

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

It just brought a rush of imagery and creativity to me – “glittering eyes”, indeed, and sparkling thoughts. I am always amazed how such seemingly small tidbits drop right into our laps when we least expect and need them most. Or I am just paraphrasing Roald Dahl?

Have an inspiring day!

EarthPlanet-space2As 2015 begins, a song crosses my mind whose first two lines are, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” This is not a new thought; it has been taught and shared for centuries in one form or another by those well-known and those far less well-known. Who doesn’t want peace on earth?

This wonderful gift begs a question … what are we, as individuals, doing to help create peace on earth? To fight hunger, eliminate poverty, and expand kindness to all beings on the planet? How are we consciously working to change our own thoughts to those of greater tolerance, forgiveness and understanding? What efforts are we making to behave in accordance with those thoughts?

Our troubled world needs our help more than ever, and peace does begin with me and with you. It’s never too late to make our own contribution; 2015 seems like a perfectly wonderful time, does it not?

My wishes for a happy and enlightened New Year to you!

MerryChristmas2014-2

 

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