Friday, May 13, 2016

A Portrait of Sir

One of my favorite photos of Stuffed, this one was a quick capture taken yesterday afternoon when he settled himself beside me while I wrote in my journal.  What a face.  Seventeen years old now.  Stuffed the Magnificent. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May at My Parents' House

This visit found my parents' gardens coming back to life, the start of a season my mom and dad yearn for all Cabin Fever-filled winter.  Both planting, repainting, and repairing things in their yardDad out for his walks.  Dad fishing, almost chortling later as he recounted the morning's successesMom getting ready for Sunday's visit with all her kids and grandbabies.  Plant-shopping with MomA now-traditional slice of lemon meringue pie and an iced tea for me at a local restaurant, and a toasted gluten-free roll with jelly and a cup of hot tea for Mom.  Laughing when I found her an imitation-pewter George Washington plate in the local Goodwill and not in Boston three weeks prior as I had hoped.   Talking bee-keeping and the 1956 Chevy Bel Air (his pick) vs. the 1957 Ford Fairlane (my pick) with Dad.  Oohing over handsome Hal Linden while watching "Barney Miller" with Mom.  Laughing with my brothers and their kids this Sunday.  We are blessed.  'Such a sweet weekend home, and I am now homesick for everyone as I always am post-visit

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

And My Birthday Cake (Lilac Petals Cupcake)

My birthday fell the day before Mother's Day this year, making my weekend home even sweeter for both me and Mom.  Some years, we mail each other our cards and goodies, and other years, we just wait until we see each other to exchange gifts.  This time around, Mom made me my usual cheesecake--and the only cheesecake I've ever liked (with a chilled-not-baked filling of lemon gelatin, cream cheese, sugar, evaporated milk, and vanilla)--for Saturday night, and we all had leftovers of that and Mom's berries-and-flowers Mother's Day cake on Sunday, so by yesterday, a single cupcake back here at the apartment seemed like more than enough.  I froze a few Lilac petals I'd pulled from one of Mom and Dad's shrubs before leaving yesterday morning and they were still a pretty shade of lilac when thawed and sprinkled over the cupcake last night, but the camera refused to capture the color.  In any case, this was my tiny 39th birthday cake, a simple end to a sweet weekend and a pretty start to the last year of my thirties.  

A woman I spent some time talking with in my hometown bus station yesterday morning asked me if I was a student, and I was momentarily flustered by the question, answering clumsily, "Oh no, I'm out of school--Done with school.  I'm older.  I'll be 40 next year"--because I'm smooth like this in conversation, clearly (see:  Goals, cross-referenced with Val, Self-Improvement Needs of)  :)--and she exclaimed, "Forty!?  I was thinking maybe 24 if you were out of school!  Well!  Good for you!"  Noooo, thank youuuuuuuuu!  We talked some more, and it was part of an otherwise already-lovely kick-off to the year ahead.  Lisa and Cheryl, if I looked 39 or 40 or 45 to you in-person last month, let me have a week before you burst my bubble.  ;)

Last year's birthday wishes and goals included finishing a first draft of the 80s memoir I've been working on, and while I've written a lot, I learned early-on this past year that producing a rough draft by this May wasn't a realistic goal, so the work on that continues.  I continue to write, though, and I'm still walking my way back into running shape, dreaming of spending the morning of my 40th birthday finishing my first full marathon.  I have a lot of (gained, lost, and re-gained) weight to (re-)lose before then, and many miles to walk and then run before that day, but it remains the goal.  Here's to the year ahead.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day Cake and Cookies (Edible Flowers Love)

That this cake ended up looking exactly as I'd envisioned was one of the sweet things about a wonderful weekend with my family.  It was a simple two-layer yellow cake--gluten-free so Mom could enjoy it, of course--but the filling and frosting marked my first desserts made with either ricotta cheese or edible flowers.  Now I want to sprinkle flower petals over everything I bake.  :)
I played around with a recipe I'd found online until all my own frosting/filling had in common with the original recipe was the 16 ounces of ricotta. My own, then:  16 ounces ricotta cheese, 8 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, a generous splash of vanilla--you may remember how I love my vanilla--a pinch of salt, a pinch of cream of tartar, about a tablespoon of honey, enough powdered sugar to help thicken it all (maybe a cup here), and a few diced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and edible flowers to add some texture, color, and flavor. 
I pressed a few extra petals and berry slices into the sides of the visible filling-layer to add extra color there, as well.  The frosting had set nicely before I'd even refrigerated it--no berries or flowers puddling around the cake.  I added some petals to a few sugar cookies for Mom too, but the cake thrilled me more.  
And everyone raved about it--even Dad who isn't much of a cake person and Mom who actually prefers cookies and pies--which was so satisfying, of course.  The cheese/cream mixture gave this cake a more sophisticated flavor than my cakes usually have, and between that and the edible flowers, it was nice to branch out a bit with this one.  A sweet end to a sweet Mother's Day and weekend.  I miss everyone already but get to go home again next month, which does my heart good. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together. ~ John Burroughs

It has been a wearying work-week.  "One!  More!  Day!"  And it is weeks like this one, especially, that I am most thankful to be able to get outside for my walks, and pretty much as long and as often as I want to walk, in order to get away. 
A professor I didn't like in college said at least one thing in the semester I had with her which I did appreciate and it was that when life was getting us down, we needed to remember to head outdoors and soak up nature for awhile.  Yes.  My walks--the eight-mile ones, the ten-mile ones, and even the one-and-a-half-mile ones--have saved my sanity this week (and many other weeks).  Thank God for them. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Six Beauties

A visit to a local butterfly forest exhibit this rain-drenched week was sadly underwhelming in terms of butterflies, but the garden center's statuary and spring blooms were as beautiful as ever.