30 December 2012

December images: week four

Thank you, dear friends, for sharing your pictures with me this month.  You were good sports to participate despite your busy lives.  We'll have to do it again next yearFarewell 2012.


:: Bonnie ::

baby steps.



he never looked back.



:: Melodie ::




over the river and through the woods . . . 








hope rises. after several low visibility days on the hill, we were rewarded with a sunny blue-bird day at last.




:: Jill ::


she loved the peppermint cupcake and I loved having her all to myself in the middle of the day.

































:: Karen ::

frank gehry's emp seen through 13 year old eyes.






rachel and sam in a human size snow globe art installation by reel grrls.

































:: Dana ::

the reason I just checked out peggy orenstein's book cinderella ate my daughter.






the reason I am not worried about my daughter, inspired by jean arp's silent at the cantor arts center (likely though just inspired by the opportunity to pose for a photo).





























:: Helen ::


sometimes the best view comes while lying on the ground.



































gotta get them in before that pesky new year's resolution arrives.





























:: Darcy ::


137 years in two cups.




::  Amy ::

most of the yard just looked slimy and needed tidying. then i noticed my camellia ready to bloom. i think it's a sign and january is going to be full of great new things.





About the guest photographers:

Bonnie spends her spare time doing yoga with a toddler, running long distances for charitable purposes, and enjoying quality time with family and friends.  Her non spare time is spent at a law firm.  She lives within walking distance of The White House and thoroughly enjoys Washington D.C. 

Melodie lives in the beautiful Skagit Valley with her family and a terrier named Toby.  Her proudest bucket list moment was on December 11 when she realized, while driving her kids to school, that she knew the Big Sean rap in the bridge of Justin Beiber's As Long As You Love Me, stone cold. She also makes outstanding panini.

Jill feels fortunate to live near San Francisco and to be a full time mom to six-year-old Sadie.  She stays busy volunteering, hiking and trying to not look completely ridiculous in Zumba class. She's very thankful that the 2012 election is over, as are her Facebook friends.

Karen, who is on the back nine of life, has more appreciation than ever for homemade meals, dahlias, classic musicals, sweet dogs of all ages, poetry, and her friends and family. She is an arts administrator, gardener, and mother of two living in Seattle.

Dana is a writer, a lawyer, a boxer, and, among many other things, a passionate force for government and corporate accountability.  Although a resident of Maine, she currently lives in the Palo Alto area with her husband and daughter where she is enjoying the sunny weather, taking in lots of museums, seeing shows like Pinkalicious, The Musical, and going camping.

Helen lives in the beautiful napa valley with her husband and two amazing children. Though educated in the law, Helen recently shelved her legal skills for dress-up tea parties, "if you're happy and you know it" marathons, and travels with toddlers. She has yet to look back; she's having too much fun.

Darcy is a champion for the environment, the voice of reason in a large family, a gardener, and a lover of music and dogs.  She lives in the emerald city in a green house with beautiful roses, along with her son and husband.





23 December 2012

December images: week three


: Melodie :



patience.



: Helen :


let the festivities begin!



: Darcy :

over the passes and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go.








































backseat driver.



: Amy :

 i am astonished that he puts the lids back on when he's done.









































my toast, had I given one, would have been:  to our lovely hosts who have brought us together on this winter night to remind us that warmth and light can be summoned and to celebrate that our darkest days are behind us.



About the guest photographers:

Melodie lives in the beautiful Skagit Valley with her family and a terrier named Toby.  Her proudest bucket list moment was on December 11 when she realized, while driving her kids to school, that she knew the Big Sean rap in the bridge of Justin Beiber's As Long As You Love Me, stone cold. She also makes outstanding panini.

Helen lives in the beautiful napa valley with her husband and two amazing children. Though educated in the law, Helen recently shelved her legal skills for dress-up tea parties, "if you're happy and you know it" marathons, and travels with toddlers. She has yet to look back; she's having too much fun.

Darcy is a champion of the environment, the voice of reason in a large family, a gardener, and a lover of music and dogs.  She lives in the emerald city in a green house with beautiful roses, along with her son and husband.

19 December 2012

All in a day's work


I surprised even myself by how much we accomplished on Sunday.  It was a day filled mostly with holiday baking and confection making.  It brought back fond memories of similar days around Christmas when I was a kid.  Cookie- and coffee cake-baking marathons were part of my childhood, and as I remember it, my mom and dad gave away lots of baked goods every year.

We do too.  And on Sunday we mixed and baked and cooled and ate and watched football.  Then repeated the same. 


Motivated in part by the goal of preparing treat bags as gifts for Byron's team at work, we set about making chocolate-pistachio-cranberry bars, my red and green version of these bars.  Then we tried our hand at homemade vanilla marshmallows.  Simple ingredients, time consuming, but really tasty results.  Better than jet-puffed by far.


Then there was a break for lunch and the making of chex mix.  The oven version. We always make chex mix at Christmas.  Always.


More marshmallows -- cinnamon mocha this time.  Dusted in dark cocoa they were pretty tasty.

 
Somewhere midday I got six oranges peeled and started on my candied orange peel.  This was a new one for me, but after finding this recipe I wanted to give it a try.  I made the thick version and it's delicious.  (I had planned to make orangettes with some of it, but much of it has already been eaten or given away.)
 

Then we made jam thumbprint cookies.  The same ones my mom always made.  The ones you roll in chopped walnuts and put a little blog of jelly on top of.  Wyatt helped.  He more than adequately pulverized the walnuts in the food processor while I was paying attention to something else.  But it surprised me that making the thumbprints wasn't actually his favorite part.  (I should have known because there were no buttons to push.) Turns out, making thumbprints made his finger sticky.  Oh the horror.  So, being the resourceful child that he is, he used my finger -- held tightly in his little hand -- to make the depressions.  I don't mind sticky fingers so much.

Once cooled, I filled them with the Shuksan strawberry jam that I made this summer.  Let me just say I'll be making more of these for Christmas. For us.


Somehow, by midnight, all the treat bags were finished.  The marshmallows and bars and extra cookies were stored, and the chex mix was almost gone.  I didn't clean up the kitchen.  I just brushed my teeth and crawled into bed with my two snoring boys.

Jam Thumbprints
from my mom's recipe box

2/3 cup salted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
(1/2 tsp. salt, only if using unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

finely chopped walnuts (for rolling before baking)
good-quality fruit jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light in color, a couple minutes.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour all at once (and salt if using) and mix on low speed until combined.  Don't over beat it, but make sure the flour is incorporated.

Shape the cookies into a small ball using about a teaspoon of dough for each one.  You want it to be just a little bigger than a marble. Then roll the ball in the finely chopped walnuts or hold the ball in your hand and gently squeeze the walnuts into it.  Reshape it to be round and place it on a parchment- lined (or lightly greased) baking sheet.  Make a depression in the center of each cookie with your finger (or a toddler thumb) before baking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes.  The cookies are done when the bottoms are lightly golden and the center is fairly firm to the touch.  Don't expect the cookies to look browned.  Cool on the tray on wire racks.  When cool to the touch, drop a small blog of jam in the center of each cookie.  The warmth of the cookie will help the jam flow and settle in.

Makes about 36 small cookies.

December images: week two

Sorry for the delay in posting these photos taken by everyone last week.  I promise to have this week's pictures up on Sunday!


: Sarah :

mesmerized by Downton Abbey.  really, she watches it.


cup of herbal tea at Sitka.


reindeer caught grazing.


: Bonnie :

word of the day: moon


the desk


  
: Helen :

i want this to be the beginning, not the end.



: Amy :

i noticed that everything was sparkly, more sparkly than usual. then i rememberd the cleaning guy had been here.




About the guest photographers:

Sarah is a lawyer by day and a recreational soccer player, dog-lover, and consummate hobbyist the rest of the time.

Bonnie spends her spare time doing yoga with a toddler, running long distances for charitable purposes, and enjoying quality time with family and friends.  Her non spare time is spent at a law firm.  She lives within walking distance of The White House and thoroughly enjoys Washington D.C.

Helen lives in the beautiful napa valley with her husband and two amazing children. Though educated in the law, Helen recently shelved her legal skills for dress-up tea parties, "if you're happy and you know it" marathons, and travels with toddlers. She has yet to look back; she's having too much fun.

14 December 2012

It only took me 18 years


Last weekend I finally started a family photo wall.  This is something I've wanted to do since I was married, nearly 19 years ago. In my mind it's a wall for hanging pictures of parents and grandparents and great grandparents.  For pictures of significant events and travels and babies, and well, you get the idea.  I've seen walls full of photos like this in other people's homes and always loved the idea of creating a wall of my own.

I haven't really come up with any rules about what goes up and what doesn't.  Just enough pictures to tell the life story of a family, I suppose.  And not so many pictures that they don't fit.  Byron noted that we could put pictures all the way up to the ceiling.  So it could get a little over the top.  We'll see if self-restraint kicks in before that happens.

Although it's taken me a while to get this wall going, I've been collecting photos for it for a long time.  I have a few blank spots that are place holders for pictures I need to print.  And I can tell already that I'm going to need more frames.  But, hey, the important thing is I actually started pounding nails and hanging frames.  I'm on my way.

Of course, a big part of making this project happen was finding the right wall.  The wall can't be right in the middle of everything because, although they look nice and are special to me, these aren't pictures I wanted to decorate my house with -- a stairway wall seemed perfect to me.  And now that I think about it, this is the first house we've owned that has a staircase.

So here it is.  The beginning of our family photo wall.



09 December 2012

December images: week one

This month we are in for a treat.  Each week I'll be posting a collection of photos taken by me and a handful of lovely women friends who live all over the country and whom I wish I saw much more frequently than I do.  I've included bios of these special women at the end of each post. They are generously sharing a little of their lives with me (and you) this month -- a lovely gift.


: Helen :

She laughs for no other reason than she feels joy. I am powerless to this laugh. I must join in.



all it took was one intriguing email to change the way we look at life


: Becky :


working from home


: Amy :






the green is what caught my eye



downtown lights, a little shopping, a bit to eat, and my camera . . . this has become my tradition


About the guest photographers:

Helen lives in the beautiful napa valley with her husband and two amazing children. Though educated in the law, Helen recently shelved her legal skills for dress-up tea parties, "if you're happy and you know it" marathons, and travels with toddlers. She has yet to look back; she's having too much fun.

Becky lives in Seattle with a new husband and three old cats. She's an educator, a knitter, and the sister of a blogger.

05 December 2012

Sweet tradition

I'm talking about making doughnuts each fall with our family and friends.  It's a tradition we continue because it's a nice way to see friends before the holiday frenzy sets in and because it's our way of remembering and honoring Byron's mother.  It's her recipe -- The Kneller Doughnut Recipe -- that we make (and riff on) each year.  I can't really believe she has been gone from us for 16 years already. 

I've meant to post this recipe before now.  As you celebrate with your loved ones this season, maybe you can find a time to fit these in.  They'd be awesome for breakfast.

In any case, here's The Kneller Doughnut Recipe, including footnotes. This post is authored by the one who makes them every fall, my husband Byron.


This recipe is written in my mother’s handwriting in the back of her Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook and credited to Mother Kneller (my dad’s mother). The title is "Our Doughnuts (Risen)."
It’s pretty much deep-fried brioche.
    1 1/2 cups warm milk with 2 tsp salt
    3/4 cup warm water
    2 tsp sugar
    2 pkg yeast
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 cup shortening
    4 beaten eggs 
    8 cups flour

There are few instructions. After the flour it says:
"Makes dough slightly soft and sticky–more flour may be needed."  Then all it says is:
"Let rise till double then punch down. Then roll out, cut and let rise again. Cook. Dip in syrup after cooked."


Mom’s doughnuts, my way
This is not the way Mom did it. But I don’t remember how she actually did it, and she’s not here to ask. So here’s my re-creation of the recipe. It’s pretty similar to the recipe printed in the New Picture Cookbook on page 124, so I’ve cribbed a lot of those directions.

First, I combine almost everything in the bowl of our KitchenAid stand mixer:
    1 1/2 cups whole milk (I microwave it for 1 minute to take the chill off)
    3/4 cup warm water[1]
    3/4 cup sugar
    4 eggs
    2 tsp salt
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup softened butter (I prefer this to shortening)
    Yeast (I prefer SAF Instant yeast, which you can add to dry ingredients. It’s also a little more potent than non-instant yeast, so I use a little less. 2 packages would be 4 1/2 teaspoons, so I use 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon).

I mix the whole mess together with the…whatever the attachment is that’s not the whisk and not the dough hook.  Then I switch to the dough hook and add the rest of the flour (4 cups), plus enough extra flour to make it all come together in some kind of a ball.

Then I dump it out on a floured surface and knead it a little, adding just enough flour to make it workable. I put it in a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise until it’s doubled in volume or so (maybe 1 1/2 hours).[2]


When we make doughnuts it’s for the doughnut party we do every fall, and I end up making several recipes. So I usually stagger the batches so they’re not all ready at once; I also sometimes let them do either their first or second rise outside if the weather’s good to slow things down a bit.
Then punch it down and let rise again (30 minutes more).

Roll it out to something like 1/2 to 1/3 of an inch. Cut doughnuts with a floured cutter (or use a glass for no holes, or cut them into squares for…square doughnuts).


Let them rise again (!) on a cookie sheet for 30–45 minutes until they’re fluffy, then fry them in 375ºF oil. Drain on newspapers or paper towels and glaze (recipe below) or shake with sugar and cinnamon in a paper bag.


Glaze
    2 cups sugar
    1/2 cup margarine (again, I use butter)
    1/2 cup water
Boil 5 minutes and add 1 tsp vanilla
________________

    1.    We subbed out the water for apple cider for a variation. Also added a couple of teaspoons of mixed cinnamon, cloves and something else and a cup or so of apple brandy-soaked raisins. Awesome. 
    2.    We made three batches this year for our doughnut party. The third batch got mixed at 12:30 PM or so and wasn’t rolled out till maybe 3; it didn’t get a second rise, really, and did just fine. Maybe even better than the other batches. 

04 December 2012

Reuben season


My limited research (and by that I mean Googling it) reveals there is some debate about who created the Reuben sandwich.  Apparently there are several men named Reuben who take credit for it -- from Chicago to Nebraska.  Despite having no real idea where it came from, we are big fans of the Reuben.  In our house we see an uptick in sauerkraut consumption once the weather turns cool and I put the soup and sandwich meal back into the supper rotation. The hot and gooey Reuben appears often.

That said, there is one thing that's even better than a hot Reuben sandwich -- an entire loaf of Reuben sandwiches.  A loaf, you say? Yes. It's true. You can make a baked version of this beloved cheesy-krauty sandwich that is large enough for a group or, better yet, provides lots of leftovers for lunches (as it travels well in lunchboxes or pockets).

I see, after closer examination of the faded recipe clipping I use to make it, that Fleishman's yeast deserves all the credit for the Reuben loaf idea.  I found this recipe more than 20 years ago and have been making it with a few tweaks ever since. (Is it really possible I've been cooking that long?) My main twist:  I make it with veggie beef.  Heresy, you say!  I know.  A Reuben is all about the meat . . . but I think it works this way too.  Of course, make it how you like.


Hot Reuben Loaf
makes one loaf

3 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. SAF-instant dry yeast
1 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup hot water (125-130 degrees)
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
8 ounces sliced corned beef or veggie meat slices
1/4 pound sliced Swiss cheese
8 ounces of saurkraut, well drained
1 egg white, beaten
caraway seeds

In a large bowl, mix together two cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast.  Stir in the hot water and butter.  Add only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for four minutes. (Be sure to give it the full four minutes).

Grease a large baking sheet and put your toddler to work rolling out the dough to measure about 14x10 inches.  If you don't happen to have a toddler handy, you can try it yourself.


Spread the dressing down the center third of the dough.  Top with layers of meat, cheese, and sauerkraut. After you've piled up the filling, cut one-inch wide strips along both sides of the filling and fold the strips at an agle over the toppings, overlapping and alternating. (See the photograph above for a fine example of this technique.) Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and set it in a warm, draft-free location (proofing drawer or oven is great) for about 45 minutes, or until it has risen to be about double in size and the spaces between the strips have filled in a bit.  Brush with egg white and get your toddler to sprinkle it with caraway seeds.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 35 minutes -- until the bottom is crisp and the top is lightly browned and filling is bubbly.  After cooling slightly, slice and serve it warm.