Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Center of the Storm

The past few days have forced me to spend a lot of time in quiet - and in not-so-quiet contemplation. And I'm not just talking about Hurricane Sandy here.

I'm not sure if the fact that I started to get sick last week - and I'm a little hormonal to boot - made me more aware of my actual self, my body, my health and my mind, or what, but I'm sure that's part of it.

I am also seeing friends, family and loved ones experience personal heartbreak, emotional highs, and face heart wrenching decisions that *no one* should ever have to even consider.

As I struggle to make sense and find my place and role in it all, I have come to understand and contemplate some basic things. Things that many of us know, but often take advantage of, take for granted or, let's face it, completely ignore.

In the past few days ...

I have been reminded to be grateful for *all* things, big and little. I am grateful to be surrounded by a circle of love made up of friends and family. I am grateful that I have my health, a home and a way to keep it warm, with or without power. I am especially grateful that I have all that I need, and more appreciative for all the extras that I am blessed to have.

I have been reminded to take care of myself. That it is okay to say no. That it is perfectly acceptable to sleep when you need it, eat when you're hungry (even if it's not the healthiest choice for you at the moment) and not push yourself if you think you're only going to make things worse. I have been reminded to be more vocal when it comes to this; it is sometimes helpful to remind others that you can't take care of what they would like you to until you take some time for yourself.

I have been reminded to cherish what you have and hold those you love near. To say I love you often. To give and accept more hugs. We all know, yet often forget that we never know if it will be the last. Treat every goodbye like it is.

I have been reminded to try and balance taking care of others and taking care of myself. To keep reaching out to let others know you are there, without letting them pull you in. Otherwise, as my years of life-guarding and swim instruction have taught me, then you have two victims. In this, I have been reminded that even though I've never been one to walk away easily, sometimes it is necessary. Even if I have physically walked away, it's usually not that far. And it still hurts. A lot.

I have been reminded to find the balance in many things. Between living in the moment and appreciating the moment. In finding the beauty in the disaster - and sometimes the reverse. In going with the flow and letting the flow go around you. Between holding on too tightly and letting go too gently. Between fighting to the death and not fighting at all. And, just as importantly, how to make these decisions mindfully and with grace.

I hope that whatever this weekend of tragedy and destruction has brought into your life that you are able to find a quiet moment and reflect on not only what you have lost, but all that you truly do have in your life. I sincerely hope that you have what you need and you are surrounding yourself with love, grace, understanding and patience.

Above all, I hope that you are safe and well.

Dandelion 2

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cooking Challenges -- The Braid!

This is the second of Willow Bird Baking's Challenges.

The Task:

This week's challenge was to make our own Braid based on Julie's Raspberry Almond Braid.

The Changes:

My changes were small this time around. Instead of Raspberry, I used a jar of Peach preserves I had in the pantry. Instead of almonds, I used walnuts. Also, for the icing, I followed it as written, but also sprinkled in a little ginger and cardamon. It gave the icing a little kick to combat the sweetness.

The Results:

One of the easiest recipes ever! Instead of doing it in a food processor (mine's not big enough! *hint Santa*), I made the dough in a bowl with my pastry blender. Because I'm old-fashioned. Also, despite of my unevenish cutting of the strips on the side, it still looked really good. The only thing I might do differently is to put more filling in, I erred on the side of caution and the dough could have handled more I think. Since this was so easy (maybe just over 30 min start to finish) - I definitely see myself doing this again!

The Pictures:


Peach Walnut Braid 1


Peach-Walnut Braid 2

Tastbuds Say:

Yum! This is great breakfast food. I don't think I overworked the dough at all, and it still didn't come out airy and flaky, more like a pie crust consistency, which really works for this recipe. The addition of almond extract and the cream cheese also makes it a very full-tasting dough. (Did that make sense?)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Year Three - At an End!

Today is the end of the CSA Season. The Winter share will begin in December and run until March. Hopefully this year I'll document the winter share, at least a picture. Last year I did a wonderful wrap-up post about everything I learned from our CSA. (You can read it here.)

This year, I can't say I learned anything new. I can say though that come September, I'm fried. Not from all the good food, but from the documentation process. So, next year, I think I'm just going to simply post a picture. If I do something unique, I'll post it, or a helpful recipe, but I think the answer is the usual, "keep it simple, stupid". I don't want to stop sharing it, but I want to do it in a way that's helpful to me and you.

So, I'm starting early. Here's the slideshow of all of this year's good food!

And, here's to Winter Shares and more good food! Since I put so much of it up this year, maybe I'll try and share more cooking (mis)adventures over the winter. I know there will be lots of poutine involved!

Monday, October 8, 2012

12 for 2012: September Dump - All Caught Up!

So, after the weather cooled down, the school year started and our first Fringe Festival ended I could settle into a routine again. I also cleaned up the Studio a little, which helped immensely.

So, let's see -- up to today I've had...

January - Wedding Wall Hanging Present
February - Valentine's Wall Hanging + 1 birthday_blocks
March - 3 x blocks for birthday_blocks
April - Finish 2011 BOM top
May - 2x blocks for birthday_blocks
June - finish blocks for SIL present
August - 3x blocks for birthday_blocks

First up -- July - Assemble very late wedding quilt topper

Well, it is assembled. Also it's with the long-armer at the moment. Hoping to gift it soon.

2012 Top Complete

Once it is all done, it's going to have a post all its own.

July - Assemble very late wedding quilt topper

Next up -- September - cut t-shirts for very late t-shirt quilt top

Forever ago I made my first college roommate a t-shirt quilt from shirts she had acquired from all the different races she's run. I was really happy with how well it came out.

Finished Quilt

So, I went to the box where I had been keeping blocks and surprise -- all done!

September - cut t-shirts for very late t-shirt quilt top

October - 2x blocks for birthday_blocks

First up was Jule's block.

Jules' Block

Then Cat's block.

Cat's Block

The colors didn't come out very true on this one, the yellow is more of a cream color.

October - 2x blocks for birthday_blocks

See? All caught up! I even got a couple of bonus projects done. The Phoenix is done and that will be back from the framer's soon, so that'll have it's own post too when it's done.

Bonus Finish for September

I had the September block for our 2012-2013 BOM on LJ and I picked one of my favorite blocks from this year's birthday block, "Glory Boxes", so here it is:

Round 5 - Block 5

It feels great to be caught up! And I only have two more things on my 12 for 2012 list! I've already started compiling my 13 for 2013 list, although I have a thing or two that may keep me from getting it all done next year....

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cooking Challenges - Cinnamon Rolls

One of the things I've always loved the most about the internet and the blogosphere has been the communities (I'm still over on LiveJournal mainly for the communities. I like being able to talk (and especially) craft with like-minded people from all over the world.

Given that I have an addictive personality type (is *that* why the Mumford and Sons CD hasn't left my side since its release date?) - it really shouldn't be any surprise that I love reading blogs. Back to community.

It was thanks to the aforementioned LiveJournal that I "met" Julie from Willow Bird Baking. I've been following her kitchen adventures, her lovely food photography, and her tales of being a teacher (she teaches middle-school so I think she's a saint) for a while. I followed her on Facebook and she started issuing food challenges to some of her followers. So, the first baking challenge was "cinnamon rolls". After a Google hangout she gave us one of her own recipes and challenged us to make it our own.

The Task:

Her recipe was these delicious Coconut Almond Buns/Rolls.

I admit it, I was pretty nervous. I had never made a cinnamon roll. I knew that the dough was really finicky and baking has never been my forte (so *I* say - I know plenty of others who would argue that point!). I took a deep breath and threw caution to the wind, I mean, seriously, what was going to happen if I failed? I'd learn something at the least.

The Changes:

So, my changes to Julie's initial recipe were simple. I first changed the 5 cups of all-purpose flour to 2 cups of wheat and 3 cups of regular all-purpose flour. I had decided early on that I was going to do a more savory take on them. I knew I had a pound of breakfast sausage that needed to be used, so I decided to make sausage, egg and cheese rolls. (My challenge to myself for all of these challenges is to buy minimal ingredients, and really try to use what is on hand first and foremost!)

The Results:

The result of my "building kitchen confidence"? The dough was really easy to make ahead of time since I had everything on hand. To make the filling, I just used scrambled egg, cooked and crumbled sausage and some Mexican shredded cheese I had in the fridge.

Although I really wanted to document all the steps, I really resisted. I wanted to really take this experience as a challenge, and push myself. I knew that if I focused on taking pictures every step of the way, that would be my focus (trying to get the *right* shot) instead of the cooking itself.

The one thing I would do differently is to make sure that my surface was completely floured again before I started laying my layers. When rolling, the dough was stuck to the counter in a few places, which made it really hard to be consistent. Plus, the lumpy filling made it difficult to roll evenly. One of the things I did that worked was constantly flouring my knife, it made cutting the rolls apart really easy.

The Pictures:

So, here are my "rolls" after cutting and placing in the dish. They're not pretty.

In dish

After rising. On the warm stove, these took about 90 minutes to double in size.


After baking.

Baked Nom!

Tastbuds Say:

Nom! These were delicious. I omitted the extra butter in the filling, and these could have used a little more something. I think that if I were to do these again - I mean when I make these again, I would drizzle them with a cheese sauce instead of a glaze. I loved the wheat blend in the flour. They came out like an breakfast sandwich in roll/bun form.

I encourage you to join us in the fun. You can see everyone else's roll/bun creations over at Willow Bird Baking!