Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday's Walk

'Getting back into my eight-miles-a-day after a few months of shorter walks.  This evening's weather was perfect for a couple hours outside, with soft light and just enough of a breeze.  Love, love, love.  ♥  It is past time to replace these shoes, though, and finding new ones will be one of the next couple weeks' projects.  They have seen me through so many gorgeous walks. 
Ah, this glorious golden hour when even my 5'2" self looks lanky and leggy! 
Temperatures are only supposed to reach the sixties the next few days, which will make the next few walks at least as pleasant.  Here's to springtime, good light, and good health. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yellow Squash Roses & Ice Cube Misadventures: Easter 2017

It stormed here both while I was cooking and while we were eating dinner, so all the more reason to enjoy a colorful and sunny Easter table today.  I forgot to make the mashed cauliflower, my Daffodils from the grocery store barely opened before dying, the Dandelions wilted, the edible-flower-filled ice cubes melted almost instantly and became a loose-flower mess inside our water glasses, and in the last-minute rush to finish, I forgot both to season the quinoa and to add the leftover edible flowers to the salads, but--!--the meal came together, everything tasted good--even the quinoa once I'd seasoned it after our first couple bites--and the table was pretty enough to make me happy even if not quite as flower-filled as I'd intended. 
I was originally going to make tomato roses as garnish but then saw online on various sites that stripes of squash work too, and since the yellow of squash seemed more springy than the red of tomatoes, I went with the squash.  One yellow squash made four of these roses.  I just sliced the squash into thin strips of various lengths, microwaved the strips for about a minute to soften them enough to make them pliable, then patted them dry and rolled them up into the wells of a muffin pan, the shortest strip in the center of each soon-to-be-rose, and the other strips around it until the well was filled with the rolled-up strips.  I wanted to be sure to keep a nice golden color on each squash-rose so mixed some turmeric into a beaten egg and drizzled that mixture over each one too.  For the last few minutes of maybe a thirty-minute-total bake-time, I sprinkled some cheddar shreds between the squash strip-petalsThey kept their shape even after being transferred to the plates, which delighted me.  (It's the little things.  :)   )  I shaped spinach patties into leaves, although I see now that raw spinach leaves likely would have given me more of the look I was envisioning for these.  I have to think this would work with carrot-strips and any other vegetable or fruit that would soften enough to be rolled.  For a first attempt, I'm quite pleased. 
I also made the balsamic carrots that I first posted here last year, ultimately-seasoned quinoa, a mushroom stuffing dish that seems to grace all our holiday tables and deserves its own post one of these days, although it's not remotely photogenic, green beans sauteed in garlic and olive oil, side salads, and our usual Easter dessert of robin's-egg-blue-colored peanut M&M candy "eggs" inside peanut butter/marshmallow/pretzel "nests." I dye my hard-boiled eggs inside too but left one uncolored to slice for our salads and added the blue and pink ones to our plates.  After years of eating my deviled eggs at Easter, Mike finally told me he prefers hard-boiled ones, and I don't have a preference, so I skipped the filling this time around and just left them plain.  Since I color the egg-white part regardless, they add a pop of color either way. 
I found the two red potatoes closest to being egg-shaped and fried slices of them to add to our salads, along with yellow, orange, and red grape tomatoes.  
The edible flowers that were supposed to dot the tops of the salads were forgotten and remain in the fridge to be used elsewhere this weekAlas.  The last few minutes of holiday meal-preparations are always so chaotic, even with all the planning and list-making. 
The edible-flower-filled ice cubes looked gorgeous in the trays but melted almost as soon as water hit them.  'Not impressive.  Maybe if the water had been ice water kept in the fridge, the cubes would have lasted a bit longer, but I doubt they'd have lasted long enough even then to make me want to try this again.  With mint leaves or lemon bits frozen into the cubes intended for iced tea, sure.  With flowers specifically chosen to complement the flavor of the drink they'll be going into, yes.  Flower-filled ice cubes for bowls just to chill bottled drinks, of courseBut not like this again.  
I added oats to the recipe--such as it is--to the nests this year to make them more like healthy no-bakes than candy.  Two microwaved marshmallows, a few broken pretzels sticks, about two tablespoons of peanut butter, and maybe a fourth-cup of rolled oats were enough to make these three nests come together.  The bags of pastel-colored/Easter peanut-filled M&Ms always include a few gorgeous aqua ones that already look like little  eggs, so they're my go-to for this dessert
'A sweet end to a sweet weekend, and a colorful Easter after a rather dreary and depression-filled start to this year.  Here's to flowers and faith and life's many other lovely blessings.  

Friday, March 3, 2017

An Old Cat and a New Robe

'How we're spelling comfort here today. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February Mail

Diana, who reads along here, commented in January that she had found a rock with a heart painted on it, and recently, said heart arrived in my mailbox.  What a treasure she's passed along here!  Sweetly packaged with tiny heart-shaped beads and a pendant and the dearest letter. . . .This made my day.  Thank you again, Diana.    This little package has been one of the bright spots of this winter. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

A _Little Women_ and Louisa May Alcott Package

The end of my January project!  After finding these Little Women book character dolls on ebay a couple years ago, I finally have them fixed-up the way I want and ready to mail.  When I started donating books to my former elementary school's library, Little Women was one of the first titles I sent copies of, but it took me awhile to find character-dolls that appealed to me.  Most I've seen online look little more like generic old-fashioned dolls than they do any specific character, and many are porcelain which is impractical for a children's library.  After a long search, I found the handmade dolls below--Beth, Meg, Jo, and Amy, from left to right--(and would I love to wear Jo's entire outfit in real life?  Yes.  Yes, I would.  Have I mentioned before how much I love almost every charming stitch designed by clothing line Ivey Abitz  Gah!!)--
--and knew these were what I'd had in mind all along for the kids.  
Each doll is marked with the initials SL and dated 2011, 
and the detail and care put into these by their maker is impressive.  I wanted to personalize them a bit more for the students, though, so I wrote each character's name onto her dress in fabric marker and then stitched over the marker in case the ink fades in the future. 
I hot-glued-and-then-sewed-on a few iron-on patches to each doll that depicted the character's interests too.  Meg wears a watering can and home/garden gate and her twin boy-girl babies. 
Beth wears sewing needle and thread, a kitten, her beloved piano and music, and my attempt at an "I love my family" patch. 
Amy's patches are mostly art-related, with easel, crayon, paint palette, and a Paris one since she was the lucky sister who got to study abroad instead of Jo. 
And dear, bold Jo!    I added a pencil and paper to the front of her dress along with writing/reading-related patches.  (Her dress!  I'd change into it right now.  Those colors!)  It was a shame to alter the beautiful dolls, but I think they will draw more interest to the books this way.  Sometimes kids need a nudge. 
Louisa May Alcott is both a woman and writer I deeply admire, so I fixed up an Alcott doll to accompany her March sister creations.  This doll was on etsy a few years ago and had a simple enough face to be perfect as Louisa May. 
I removed the little basket of felt strawberries that had been sewn into its hands and replaced it with a miniature copy of the Little Women book--sewed it and then hot-glued it into the hands (trying to make these dolls last as long as they can with kids handling them).  :)
 This is another doll with which such care was taken.  Look at that braided hair.  So sweet.  
As I had with the character-dolls, I labeled the Alcott doll with the fabric marker, as well. 
I have already donated a couple copies of Little Women, a "Little Women at Christmas" excerpt-type book, and The Little Women Book:  Games, Recipes, Crafts, and Other Homemade Pleasures.  Now the dolls will arrive along with two copies of a Louisa May Alcott biography, a picture-book version of Little Women for younger readers, and The Louisa May Alcott CookbookOhhh, if the kids who attend this sweet school don't become interested in this book or author, it won't be for lack of trying on my part!  Here's to good books (and cozy January projects).  :)

Monday, January 30, 2017

~ We are how we treat each other, and nothing more ~

I've had this song on repeat-play most of the day here.  'Love, love, love.   ♥  

Friday, January 27, 2017

January Comforts

I have reached "that"point in January and am sure some afternoons spent tromping through the woods or some long walks in general would lift my spirits, and as soon as the sky stops spitting out rain and rain-that-isn't-sure-if-it-would-rather-turn-into-snow-yes-let's-be-snow-now-no-let's-turn-back-to-rain every day, life will feel a bit brighter.  We had a couple gorgeous days in the sixties last week, but I had hurt my back and didn't feel up to getting outside to enjoy them.  Ohhhhhhhhhhh BLEHHHHHHH, January 2017 is getting to me, but it is especially book-filled, and Stuffed has been making a nest of a throw pillow and sometimes an afghan on my lap every time I sit down to read lately. 
In addition to all the usual news articles, I've made my way through my probably-annual rereading of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, have gotten a few chapters into The King's Grave:  The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds by Philippa Langley, and am now beginning chapter forty-three of Stephen King's The Stand.  'A rather mixed bag the past few weeks, as my reading tends to be, and I'm enjoying it all--as  much as one can use that word for taking in some of the news (and some of The Stand, for that matter)Winter after winter after winter--in any season, but ohhhhh, these winters, especially--the reading saves me.  And thank God for this floofy little cat on my lap while I do it

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Especially for Jenny, Another Birthday Candle

This is how the candle-taped-to-the-treat-idea began, Jenny.  :)  I couldn't get home for my 2009 birthday, so in the package Mom mailed that year, she included a pink candle taped to a store-bought cupcake.  :)  (The little one-story pink house beside it was a flea market find from just the day before, she had explained on the card.  [I am always looking for cute one-story houses.])  The candle really is a charming idea, and one I need to remember more often.  I clipped from a magazine years ago the idea to mail someone a box of already-blown-up gifts along with his/her birthday gift, and I love that but have yet to try it.  (I always imagine the balloons bursting during shipping.  [I should mail blown-up balloons to myself first as a trial.]  Anyway, here's to sweet moms and sweet ideas. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The First Ten Days of the Year

The new year is beginning with a flurry of book-buying for my former elementary school.  I will have donated about six hundred books by the end of this month so am very much on-track with my goal of donating a thousand by my fortieth birthday in May.  "Did you know that all media's now half-off on Sundays?" the thrift shop cashier asked me last week as she rang up my stack of books.  I did not, and the new prices will make my goal even easier to reach this spring.  'Fifteen like-new hardcover books last week for practically nothing--like a wink from the universe.    I also did not know that Mary Poppins dolls existed--!--and lo and behold, this one, complete with carpetbag and umbrella, will soon be flying off to the school with the related books. 

Mom's January 4th birthday proved tricky to get a package out in time for since there was no mail here January 2nd for the New Year's postal holiday and I didn't want to mail it the Saturday before and have it--with cookies inside--sit in a post office or postal truck over the three-day weekend.  With a few little wrapped gifts nestling them inside the box, gluten-free nut roll cookies ended up being Mom's birthday treat this year.  I used a bag of Bob's Red Mill-brand gluten-free pie crust mix and was completely charmed by the packaging.  This would make a darling print.  And it's pink! 
My original plan had been to make rugelach, but the dough was too sticky to roll properly and I hadn't remembered to leave myself enough of the flour for that purpose, so after a messy attempt at the rugelach, I ended up making a dozen nut roll cookies for Mom instead.  Had I put a bit more thought into my Plan B, I'd have made a tidier thumbprint cookie with the nut filling so they would have looked prettier.  Next time.  These turned out, though, with the nut-mixture mixed right into and around the dough, and they tasted good.  
The nut-mixture was about 7 oz. of walnut-meal, maybe 3/4 cup whole milk, a cup or so of sugar, an egg, and most of a stick of butter--cooked until boiling, then just kind of rolled into the pie crust-cookie dough.  Next time I make these, I'll add some of the walnut-meal to the flour so there will be more nut-flavor throughout. 
I baked them early in the morning on January 3rd--the day before Mom's birthday, so. . .cutting it close--practically ran to the post office with the package as soon as I'd finished wrapping it all, and was told that it likely wouldn't reach her until the day after her birthday.  Bah! to postal holidays!  And no, it did not arrive in my parents' morning mail delivery on Mom's birthday, which made me sad.  (She did not care--"Getting mail tomorrow will just extend my birthday, Vally!"--but I very much did.)  We talked just a few minutes that afternoon since she and Dad were on their way out dinner and a movie.  She called me before I left for work the next night to let me know that just as they'd been leaving for dinner, a postal van had pulled up to drop off her package--an unprecedented second mail delivery in a single day for them--so she had received it on her birthday, after all.  ♥  And yes, she loved the cookies.  :)
As the temperature outside has bounced from a painful 8° one day to now-raining-and-near-40° a few days later, I have mostly been a homebody, contentedly sorting books and puttering around the apartment, save for walks to and from work, the thrift shop, and the post office.  'A peaceful and most satisfying first ten days of the year.