Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Need Four More of ME

Although I've been planning and dreaming about (as in, June I started planning) the amazing, hand-made, lovingly toiled over Christmas presents I was going to create for my nearest and dearest this year...Although I spent the money on allllllllll the materials...I realized about a month ago that they simply were not going to come to fruition this Christmas. SO, I dreamed a new HANDMADE dream, bought allllllllllll the materials, and started afresh. Until I realized on Monday night (with tears in my eyes) that the eight hours it took me to make ONE was going to be hard to complete for all seven female family members. I didn't let it go though (even when I had to fight Jeremiah to keep him from prying the needle from my fingers), until I pulled my one masterpiece out of the dryer and saw that my super-cool "textured" fabric was UNRAVELING.

And now, it's 12:45 in the morning, 8 days before Christmas, and I have a lot of good intentions with only one partially defunked product in my basement/craft area--that now looks like a field of broken dreams. Excuse me while I rub this large knot in my neck so that I can type again.......

Can I please just show you a few happy pictures and maybe a few crafts that have turned out right? And you can pat yourselves on the back as you look at my measly cookies and know that all your presents are wrapped snugly and awaiting nothing but your loved-ones eager hands on Christmas morning. I know you're all ready. Don't you lie in those comments to make me feel better.
I was in charge of the favor for Pace's class' Christmas party (I wish you could follow that 'lil arrow at the bottom of the page and see the back is even more CRAMMED full with writing than the front. It's my own fault. I mean, I do it to myself. USE YOUR PRINTER DO-DO BRAIN!) My Lucy also got baptized this weekend...Isn't she beautiful?!!!!
And isn't she really theirs and not mine :) Not this week she isn't! Ha, HA! (I sound crazed don't I? This is why I shouldn't blog in the middle of the night)We have also had a lot of really fun Christmas parties. And, at some of them I had the opportunity to be "that inappropriate woman with children."And at some of them, I got to be a grown-up, without my little chicken wings!Like here, at my book-club Christmas party in Bryan's loft. (This picture, and the group shot below, were taken by Stephen Fitts. Hey Stephen, if the lawyering doesn't work're a pretty awesome photographer :))
Does it make anyone else's heart leap for joy that Stephanie took the time, not only to make mini-cake bites, but to place a flag for every book we've read over the past year in each one??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love these women. I seriously do not know how I am going to move to Seattle and leave them behind...And I'll end with one last shot of a project I did complete. "cold noses..."
"warm hearts."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Love Being From the Deep South, BUT

I wish we could have a "Snow Day."

The kind where you have to crawl out a window, because your door has too much snow piled up in front of it.
The kind where Jeremiah cannot POSSIBLY get to the hospital and "has" to stay home with us all day, building roaring fires, holding big bowls of hot soup in our hands, as we gaze out at the crisp white landscape.
The kind where we have to stay huddled together under blankets for warmth...and read by candlelight and watch the snow fall softly.The kind where children make huge snowballs......and throw them at each other.
The kind that is just that magnificent for one whole day but then disappears the next morning.

P.S. I did happen to turn on the news yesterday morning (for the first time in about a month :)) and saw that a large part of our country is having dangerous amounts of snow. I know some of you are thinking that that much snow sounds about as much fun as a hurricane. I hope you don't think I'm being insensitive...I just think it could be fun...for just one day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Little Women

"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman; and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg; right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it; so that, when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world,--marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing,--and, when well used, a noble thing,--but I never want you to think it is the first and only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."
--Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

So Wrong, and Still Ohhh So Right

Bread...scares me. It seems like a whole nother level of "cook." You've got to really know what you're doing, and you have to plan ahead...starters, and rising times.... I've had some forays with the bread machine, but the bread is always dry and pasty. A husband who loves homemade bread as much as life itself plus an MIL and SIL who make the best bread ON EARTH equals: one insecure, scared-of-bread-making wife.

SO, I've been experimenting lately. Trying to find some bread that felt like it was more on my "level." This is what I've found, and I still fail miserably at it :) However, even after my failure IT STILL TASTES INCREDIBLE AND LOOKS LOVELY. And now, I want to share it with you. And I want you to laugh with me at my improvisations for proper bread-baking tools. And I want you to tell me where I am going wrong if you are one of those illustrious bread-making-divas. And I'd love you to send me a picture of yours if it actually does rise and look like it's supposed to :)

If you have the Birmingham Junior League, Tables of Content, it's on page 135 (how many times do I have to tell you to BUY IT!). It's called "Rosemary Olive Bread," but I hate olives and substituted olives for different kinds of cheeses on my first attempt. However, all the spices were too pungent without the olives--so now, I just dump cheese all over the bread instead. MUCH more delicious and MUCH easier.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup of warm milk (100 to 110 degrees), 1 Tbl sugar, 1 envelope dry yeast, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 tsp salt, several heaping handfuls of the cheese of your choice, 1 Tbl yellow cornmeal, 1 egg, 1 Tbl milk, 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt.
Mix the warm milk, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and let stand for five minutes (possibly my favorite step, because it smells like a bakery and makes me think I've arrived at bread-maker status). Stir in 3 Tbl of the olive oil. Add 2 1/4 cups of flour and 1 1/4 tsp salt and stir until soft dough forms. (Already, does that look like soft dough to you?)
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add enough of the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, 1 Tbl at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. The dough will feel tacky. (Ok, maybe I'm still alright. This looks like a ball of dough from TV, right?)Coat a large bowl with 1 Tbl of the remaining olive oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, turning to coat the surface. Let rise, covered, in a warm place (85 degrees) free from drafts for 1 hr or until doubled in bulk. (I turned my oven on 350 and left my bread sitting on top like so. I also tried it just sitting over there with no oven on. Both times, it didn't rise even one lil' bit!)Gently press 2 fingers into the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough. Punch the dough down (as though it's rising uncontrollably and I have to get violent with it to make it stop) and let rest, covered, for five minutes.

Sprinkle a sheet of baking parchment with the cornmeal. Roll the dough into a 9x13-inch rectangle on the baking parchment with the cornmeal (Note here that I use wax paper instead of parchment, and my "rolling pin" doubles as glass. Such a chef!)If you use wax paper like me, try to transfer the finished loaf off of it before you bake it. It will come out unscathed if you forget, but your home will smell like melting plastic instead of baking bread. And let's face it, you don't need anything else to discourage you at this point.Choose your cheese:And sprinkle evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 in border on all sides.Starting with the long side, roll jelly-roll fashion (as though I know what that is), pressing the edge to seal and tucking the ends under. Place the baking parchment (but not wax paper!) and bread loaf, seam side down on a baking sheet.Let rise, covered, for 1 hr or until doubled in bulk...Don't hold your breath. It didn't rise this time either.

Preheat the oven to 425. Whisk the egg and milk in a bowl until blended and brush over the loaf (Do you like that the only brush I could find to spread with, was my old bottle cleaning brush? Such a chef!). Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Make three 1/4 inch deep diagonal cuts across the top of the loaf using a sharp knife.Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Remove to a wire rack to cool.OR slice into it immediately because your mouth is watering and you can't wait to taste your homemade bread with the yummy gooey cheese running out. Call your husband to the table and place it before him with a dramatic flair...and watch him gobble it up without even realizing that you failed miserably, because is still tastes DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Canoeing the Choctawhatchee

Cold morning sun, spreads light across hearts eager with anticipation.
A river, shrouded in mist, welcomes its morning travelers.
Sunlight filtered through the clouds, made tangible for the first time in child-like hearts. Souls buckle in reverence at His beauty splayed all around.Each touch unique in its wonder.Each riverbend bringing a new feast.Warm coffee and ham biscuits soak through cold, wet bodies.Gliding under light filtered through autumn leaves.Roots that run deeper than time. Love that's greater than all our sin.The hidden mysteries. Joy that comes from water and wind and motion.
God gives man the capacity to create beauty.The journey may end but the adventure, never.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowliness. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain