A Complete Delight!

Yesterday i had a feeling. The Sunday before i was told i had a long nose because i could smell it in the air. At 230, my instincts rang true and the snow began to fall. i was like a child, i could not contain my excitement and jumped around clapping. Needless to say all the ogres i work with were not as impressed and rather annoyed with my delight. I do not apologize. I have been waiting for the snow for weeks!

 
my front yard

It was fun to walk to my car after work in the snow and scrape off the 2 inches already accumulated and pull out onto the street and slide just a bit. i was so excited i could barely handle it.

 then i hit traffic. i was in complete awe of the bizarre behavior around me. People were doing weird things and some people didnt mean to, they just couldnt drive at all!  My favorite part was cutting up onto the side roads and driving on the new untouched snow while people were building snowmen and frolicking in the streets. Everyone had their christmas lights on and the snow was dumping from the sky….then i had to once again cut to a main road and the madness began again.


note the pile of snow on my hood!!

All in all it took me 2 hours to drive the 8 miles to my house. When i got home i checked the chickens and gave them a little extra corn to stay warm. Timmy was romping around in the yard like i had been doing at work. he was sooo happy!

i decided that i would make cookies!  i had bought a cookie cutter shaped like a giraffe for my friend Denise and decided to bake her a batch. I was really excited how they turned out! now i want to go buy them all and make an entire herd of animals!

I made marshmallows the day before and used my little cookie cutters to make the shapes. they melt perfectly in cocoa, i tested!

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What a treat

This Christmas was lovely. I hosted my first holiday meal for a pile of my favorite loved ones and the prime rib was awesome! The weather has been cold and sunny and beautiful and there is always a pot of chocolate heating and a perfect cookie to munch.
On christms morning my first gift was from Erin and matthew in Russia. I had been told that they worked hard on it and were very excited. So of course so was I!
This is what I opened. Seriously how lucky am I?!
Merry Christmas!

SAY CHEESE!!

Last weekend i went up to visit family in Olympia for a pre-christmas romp through the streets of my childhood. I LOVE Olympia around Christmas time. It is the perfect small town.  About 20 miles south of Olympia is a bitty little town called Adna where the owners of Black Sheep Creamery live and make incredible cheeses.

When the floods hit the Chehalis River in 2007, no one was safe. For a 100 year old farm, it seemed like one more mess to deal with but withstand. For the Gregory family it was a nightmare! they lost 75% of their flock that horrible day along with their home and farm. For their own report on events click HERE. i defy you not to get a tear in your eye. Later that spring a beautiful benefit event for the Black Sheep Creamery was held in Portland’s EcoTrust building. People from all over the country donated time, money and cheese to help the Gregory family in any way they could. The event was a huge success and the photographs of the farm were incredibly compelling.  

 

I spoke briefly to Meg that evening about coming up to the farm to see how the cheese was made and maybe help in some way with some part of their overwhelming cleanup. 2 years later, i finally made it up there! To say that this small family creamery has risen up above the muck and devastation is putting it mildly. They are incredible! Right now they have 80 sheep, i think, and several are already pregnant and will be ready to lamb this spring. The cheese cave is full of beautiful cheeses that make me swoon a little and the farm is looking farmy again.

It was such a treat to visit the farm and see the acres of land in every direction. On January 9th, i am heading back up to help the Gregory family with their shearing and vaccinations. I cant wait to stomp around in big boots with the stinky wet sheep. I think a farm is in my future. I realize it is a 24 hour job of immense proportions but every time i go to a farm, i am immediately at home. The smells and physical labor it takes to keep that many bodys warm and happy is not for the faint of heart but i think i am up for it! some day. plus baby sheep? come on!

Baby Birds and the Education of a Nation

Last night i went to see Greg Mortenson speak in Portland about his work in Pakistan and Afghanistan and his new book. I had read Three Cups of Tea a couple years ago and was impressed with the passion this man had for his vision. Today, with his help millions of girls are getting an education in these devastated countries. He read us a proverb last night

Educate a boy and you educate an individual, educate a girl and you educate a nation.

Girls who are educated, then teach their mother to read and their mother become educated and understand their power and do not allow their boys to be taken by the Taliban. The Taliban destroys girls schools. they understand the power of an educated woman. they are fearful of an educated 8 year old who will in turn become an educated woman. that is powerful. 1 in 3 children die before the age of 1. in one village, a girl fought for her education and graduated from highschool, she left and became a nurse. She returned to her village and in the years she has been back, not one child has died in birth. EDUCATION! We take it for granted but we are so lucky.

The military is so far ahead of our own government in its thinking. Instead of bombing villages, the heads of the military understand that the people of these countries must be empowered and given education to regain control of their own land. Mortenson believes that you can not understand poverty and war from behind your desk, you must taste it and feel it and see it to understand it. Three Cups of Tea is now mandatory reading for all military deployed to the middle east. The men and women who are being sent there from our country are the people who are going to help pick up the pieces and give them back to the people of these countries. They will be the educators.

We spent about 90 minutes listening to Mortenson speak and view his slides. It was an incredibly educational evening. Ignorance breeds hatred. i hope if you have a chance to become a little more educated in anything, you grab onto it like a life jacket. It is the only thing that is going to safe us from ourselves.

Now, on a completely different topic,  I learned how to knit a hat with earflaps. I know your brain is trying to transition here so i will be brief.  This may not sound like a big deal and for many knitters, it probably isnt  but for a girl who only understood knit…not even perl…this was a big move. Now i understand increasing, knitting, perling and i can make my hats have a bit of a pattern.

This wee hat is for my dear Rowan because his head keeps growing. I needle felted the little bird onto it, for fun :)

The Joy of the French Macaroon

While i was trying to find my recipe for French Macaroons i came across several website and blogs describing introductions to the French macaroon. People describe it like a religious experience. many people were lucky enough to have this come to Jesus moment in Paris. I had my moment in a tiny French pastry shop in Portland Oregon called PIX. Of course the owner had lived and trained in France so i pretend this counts. i understand only too well the passion and dreams that stem from that first bite of crisp chewy goodness.

Now  Most people think of a macaroon as that mound of coconut and stuff that makes the mound a mound. they are good and sweet and very coconutty. I have no idea how it even has the same name as the French Macaroon.  After my first dreamy bite of goodness i thought, i wonder if i can make these? They are about $2 each and you cant have just one and for the price of a dozen, you could afford an entire cake at a fancy bakery.

So i set out to master the French Macaroon. I was NERVOUS!  Apparently i had no need to be. I think i am one with the FM and they spoke to me. i humbly thank you for this.

I very cautiously measured and sifted and whipped and folded and baked and my little pillows were crisp, chewy and had the infamous foot that seems to elude so many.  I didnt go crazy (like i tend to do) and make a dozen different flavors and colors on my first round. I opted for a simple white chocolate ganache in the center.

next time i would love to try pistachio, raspberry or my absolute favorite passion fruit. but one thing at a time. If i learned anything from the blogs i read, it is to master the foot first.

before i begin i have to give the highest of props to the blogger i got this recipe from. I think i was so successful because she graciously figured out all the issues and shared them with the world.  I got lucky! Also if you have questions or issues, her post is very thorough.

French Macaroons (insert flashing lights and fun music)

2  cups of finely ground almond flour ( i used Bobs Red Mill Finely Ground, perfect.)

2 1/4 cups of powdered sugar (i ran out so i ground my own in a blender using regular sugar and no cornstarch)

5 egg whites room temperature

2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat Oven to 200 degrees.

sift together almond flour and powdered sugar in large bowl.

whip egg whites to soft peak. add 2 tbs sugar whip to stiff peak.

soft peak stiff peak

Fold 1/3 of egg whites into flour mixture quickly. its ok not to “fold” the first third. this is the mixing stage

fold remaining 2/3 of egg whites into flour mixture gently.

the batter

place this handy dandy template onto your cookie sheet. place parchment paper over the template.

pipe circles onto parchment paper and gently slide template out from under parchment paper. Let sheet sit for 15 minutes. This is when i lit my candle and began to pray to the french pastry gods.

I used a plastic baggy with a hole cut from the corner for my piping bag. make sure the hole isnt too large!

place sheet in oven for 6 minutes to set the circles

remove sheet and raise oven temp to 375.

place sheet back in oven for 7-9 minutes. I learned that 9 minutes gave my cookies a very light brown top and made them pop off the sheet easily. anything less and they stuck like glue.

this is how they looked right out of the oven. notice the small “foot’ around the edge and the smooth shine to the tops. mine kind of baked together but a gentle slice with a sharp paring knife took care of that.

cool cookies on sheet and GENTLY pop off. If they dont come off easily or start to crack, slide parchment paper onto a damp towel for a few minutes. this should loosen the cookies. be gentle, these little critters are fragile.

set aside and make your filling. i made a very simple white chocolate ganache but you can make anything you want!

heat 1 cup of heavy cream

pour over 2 cups of white chocolate bits and beat with whisk until smooth.

add vanilla if you want to or grand marnier or …whatever delights you.

cover bowl and set in fridge until chocolate becomes very thick and spreadable. i think i had mine in the fridge for about 4 hours.

place about 1 tbs of ganache onto cookie and sandwich with another.

I then place them back in the fridge. i like to eat them cold.

Finally i dare you not to eat about 20 of them…good luck with that!

Music, Snow, Bits and Baubles

It has been well over a month since my last blog posting! that should be illegal! I have been to a few shows that blew me out of the water, read lots of books and crafted till my fingers bled…literally! I want to blog about each and every thing i have done in the past 35 days. Maybe i will get to it! I have pictures.

 I spent Thanksgiving at the coast in the sweetest log cabin i have ever seen with family and good friends. we had sunshine almost every day and lots of good food!  It is also here that i learned to knit earflaps on hats. EVERYONE GETS AN EARFLAP HAT! ok i am getting ahead of myself.   

The weather has not gone above 30 but has dropped well below 20. The chickens are all snug in their coop with red heat lamps to keep their waddles warm (what is keeping my waddle warm?) and Kerouac has gotten a Get Out of Jail Free card because i cant bear to toss him outside in the 14 degree weather. Lucky CAT! Mr Big has decided peeing on the deck is ok in these dier circumstances and timmy and kudra, well they still hang out outside and sleep on my bed 20 hours a day, respectively.     

  

First i would like to give you this link. Last year the calendar was free…this year it is about $5 US. i think it is still worth it and the prints are lovely. They do have a couple of free options too.  http://www.mibostudio.co.uk/#/2010-calendar/4536430197   

Second I have been working on so many projects and fun things, but most of them are christmas presents and since the people I love are also the recipients of many of these gifts, i cant show them yet! this makes me just as sad trust me. I have been busy!

This weekend we are supposed to get snow…or freezing rain. Now to me there is a vast difference between the two options at hand. One is fun and silly and offers hours of entertainment plus visions of cocoa with marshmallows. The other leads to recluse-type nature and the inability to leave your house. i am opting for the snow. I think baking cookies and stoking the fire while watching christmas classic movies it the perfect day. I am pretty i will do this regardless of  snow or ice.

Speaking of Christmas cookies, i have big plans this weekend in that department. On my list this season are caramel, French Macaroons,  marshmallows, sugar cookies and rum balls!  

  

The first two things on my list are the most important. Of course the Rum Balls are a no-brainer and will be made first so i enjoy myself. I have always wanted to make the perfect caramels. i want the kind you can wrap in paper and give as gifts that make people swoon. I also want to make to die for macaroons. I would sell my fingernails for these on a daily basis. Of course the blogs i have found regarding hte making of a macaroon is terrifying. One woman had to do it 9 times before making the perfect cookie. She is my new idol.  I think i am up to the challenge. I want to be that lady who makes macaroons as gifts and in 10 years people will be waiting impatiently for my delivery. i want to be the macaroon lady! I have big dreams. maybe i want to be the caramel and macaroon lady! humph!  So i have been carefully collecting my ingredients and am preparing to spend a very patient and lovely day in the kitchen. Hopefully the chickens have laid enough eggs for me to make a few batches.  

stay tuned! ohhh just loading that picture makes me giddy!