Friday, March 12, 2010

Butter is truly God's gift to bakers

     I am knee deep in a book - The Professional Pastry Chef - not a novel, but a cookbook.  Oh, what a delicious cookbook - I gain weight just reading it.  I have sticky notes throughout it of "must try" recipes.  This afternoon was a Basque Cake.  To be honest it is two Basque Cakes as the recipe is a double one.  I knew I was  in for a treat when the recipe called for 1 1/2 POUNDS of butter - not sticks, pounds.  Ah, the joy of finding a cake which might replicate the pound cake I ate once in my childhood and have never found (nor been able to replicate) again. 
     To add to the gastronomic joy is the custard which is cooked into the middle of the cake.  The almonds on top don't hurt either!  The house is permeated with the scent of toasted almonds and sweet cake.  Bliss!
     Of course, I will be required to start taking the dog out on more regular walks to work off the possible pounds, but all that's worth it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This is Why We Have Friends

     I have a friend.  "Great," you think, "everyone should have a friend."  My friend is extraordinary in many ways. "Even better," you think, "extraordinary friends can be interesting, fun to be around, and can keep you on your toes." This person I have known since we were freshmen in college.  She was extraordinary, even then, having graduated from high school a year early.  We became roommates the second semester, and then sophomore year, she went to a different college, where she was a legacy.
     M and I have stayed friends because she and I are very different and yet have a similar mind set.  I have big dreams, want to travel the world and meet more extraordinary people.  She has big dreams and DOES travel the world, meeting extraordinary people.  More importantly, she meets ordinary people, but in places so far removed from my realm of experience that when she writes about them, describing the people and the culture of where she is residing - which changes every few years - these ordinary people become extraordinary.
     One of the very cool things about M is that she is fearless.  She is currently teaching in Oman.  She has visited Yemen!! She has lived and taught in the United Arab Emirates. She has traveled to Australia as a tourist (alone!) and visited places I had to look up on the globe to locate, like the Seychelles. She walks/drives/flies/ into new situations with the attitude of someone who knows she can manage to adapt to a different culture or learn a new language.  She studied in Germany, and can speak several languages. At one point, she was a secretary at a major New England university - telling no one there that she has a PhD - so she would have time to write.
      And oh, can she write! M is one of the wittiest and most observant writes I have ever read.  On a regular basis, she sends all of her friends "missives" describing her latest experiences as an ex-patriot, which read more like Oscar Wilde than Hemingway. I have saved every one of her missives and cards and one day, if she does not, I will bundle all these amazing stories of the different sides of human nature that she has come in contact with, and I shall get them to a publisher for all the world to share.
      With all these amazing things happening to her, and fascinating people she befriends, she never forgets those of us who have chosen a different, more conservative path. I frequently get postcards of gorgeous clothing, or accessories, or ancient forts or grand manor houses, because she knows I am interested in costumes and architecture.  She NEVER forgets a birthday - and, damn!, I just missed hers - AGAIN!  When she vacations, she will pick up exquisite fabrics and mail them to me because she knows I will appreciate them. When my Girl Scout troop was studying Oman for Thinking Day, she sent dresses, incense, incense burners and food, so the girls could get a full understanding of  the country they were reading about.  Her generosity is as endless as her wit.
     What prompted today's accolade was a gift from her that arrived yesterday.  If you read this blog on Tuesday, you might have noticed my slight longing for flowers and planting time.  I arrived home from work last evening to find a large flower box waiting for me which contained a stunning silver vase and a bouquet of yellow, white and orange flowers:  the summer colours I have been hankering for. Just knowing that she "gets" the need for flowers when still in the snowy north, (she lived in North Dakota during her PhD studies and understands winter!!) makes rough days and chilly evenings easier.  Thanks M3, you are the best!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Flower Power

As the sun shines brightly for the third day in a row, I am getting urges to grow things.  Far too soon to be putting things in peat pots, but I have some flower seedlings starting in a hanging planter - first really warm days, it will be out on the patio and blooming! I feel like this bee and want to dive, face first, into Spring!


This is summer.

Monday, March 8, 2010

For the birds

Still snow on the ground, but it is melting .  The birds don't seem to mind too much, as long as we keep the feeders  stocked.  Can you see the male cardinal in the spruce?  It is his favorite morning perch as he surveys his domain.  I have yet to get a shot of our resident flock of blue jays - we have eight who live in our trees and make quite a joyful noise when arguing at the feeders.
King Cardinal

Sunday, March 7, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream - not in this house, sister!

Why is it on the tired nights - you know, the nights when all you really want to do is hit the pillow and not move for eight hours - the dog decides she must go outside a mere an hour after you have drifted off?  And your youngest comes in about an hour later and tells you he had an accident requiring a shower, new jammies and a complete change of bedding?  And then the morning dawns clear and bright and the darn sun decides to pierce your shuttered eyes with the intensity of a spinal needle being stabbed through your pupil??

      To be balanced,  the children were unusually quiet today.  The youngest had a play date with his friend, Sam.  Very grown up, he stayed there without Daddy and had a grand time! The older two went around the neighborhood to hawk Girl Scout cookies to the neighbors and check out the activities of all the local dogs - a yearly ritual. All I want to do is bake bread and be a sloth for a day, but I shall have to wait sometime before things slow down enough for me to grow algae. (Good thing, I think!)
        Made bee candy - looks less like candy and more like wet sugar - it hit 270 degrees and dried out.  Now I bake and I make candy and I have never seen sugar do this, especially after cooking for 45 minutes.  So I dumped the mess back in the pot, added more water and started over.  I think the bees will eat it - it is not scorched - but it is less like hard candy and more like a clump of sugar formed in the sugar bowl on a humid August day in Southern Maryland.

      Quizzes to grade and dinner to cook and then off to watch a dress rehearsal of Richard III.  Love the play - reserving judgment on the  production - but I am making my students all see it and write  paper, so I must be able to identify the production style and any specific gimmicks used. (I have been forewarned of a make-up gimmick and am eager to see the outcome.)  Some of my students are in the show, so I want to support their endeavors.