Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Sweet Tuesday

This Tuesday began with sleeping in, even with the windows open. And breakfast with my favorite cereal & the comics page of the newspaper. And appreciating the beauty of the (late) morning.

And then a trip to the dentist, which I find oddly relaxing. Except for when I'm laughing so hard that the hygienist accidentally stabs me in the gums. Why? Because she was telling me a story of when she almost got into a fight with some woman at a Rick Springfield concert.  Normally she is just a mild-mannered Midwesterner, devoted mother of two, who cleans my teeth every six months. But girl, you just try and get in her way when her favorite 80s pop singer reaches out to touch her hand. Mmhmm, this "Jessie's Girl" 'bout to put her fist in yo FACE.  And so you can see why that mental picture had me in stitches (almost literally).

Moving on,

The sweetness was a little bitter because it was my last day with my buddy PJ. 

P-man. Blonde-headed, not yet standing on his own, sometimes calls me "Ai-ya" or "Da-da", depending on the day. Wears guitar-printed onesies like it ain't no thang. Nods his head whenever music plays. Puts everythingeverythingeverything in his mouth. Squeals with joy when he sees his sisters and likes to use Callie (the family dog) as a footstool. Primary form of communication is pointing and grunting. Likes to rest his head on my shoulder after his nap, because he's not quite ready to deal with being fully awake yet.

My absolute favorite not-quite-one year old. 

And his big sisters. Who I had the privilege of spending part of their summer break with for the last 3 years. Sweet as pie, the both of them. Different as night and day but in a way they will come to appreciate when they are older.  

We couldn't spend our last day doing boring stuff like homework and watching Callie drool while she sleeps. 
So we filled it with sweetness:
Sno-cones, climbing trees, a trip to Target, driving with the windows down, fits of giggles as we put various hats/scarves/shades on ourselves & PJ, buying as much candy as we could for $5, playing "twisty-twist" on the swings, and laying in the grass watching PJ intently pick tiny pebbles out of the dirt and put them in the grass, appreciating being outside at the end of summer. 

And goodbye hugs.
And a promise to bring by one more loaf of bread in the morning.
(That last one was me.)




Thanks for such a sweet day.
Miss you already.
Be good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recipe: Petits Pains au Chocolat

One of the best things about French culture is the food, of course. And one of my favorite French foods is a bakery staple: pain au chocolat, or chocolate croissants as we Americans call them.

I recently came across a quick and easy recipe for a mini version of these pastry delights and of course, had to try it.

Here are the ingredients:

(Plus a little sanding sugar for dusting, which I forgot to put in the picture)

The quality of chocolate is very important for the flavor. Cadbury works fine but of course it would taste so much better with Swiss chocolate. ;) You may use milk chocolate if you like, but personally I like the rich, less sweet taste of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. As Cadbury is thicker than say, Lindt bars, I actually only used half of what the recipe called for. 

Break chocolate apart into rows. 

Yeah, this is happening.

Spread out the puff pastry (or phyllo dough) and cut each sheet into 12 equal squares. Brush each square with egg wash (an egg and a tsp of water mixed together) and lay a row of chocolate at one edge. When I make these again, I'll add vanilla to the egg wash for a little extra flavor.


Tightly roll each square of dough, sealing the edges tightly around the chocolate. This is important or it will split open during baking and the chocolate will spill out.


Lay seam-side down on the pan and brush the tops with egg wash.

See the hole? Yeah, that one was a mess after it baked.

Sprinkle each roll with preferably sanding sugar but regular table sugar will do. Feel free to dust with a cinnamon/sugar mix, if you prefer.


Bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. 


Now pour yourself a cup of coffee and practice conjugating your French verbs. 
Bon app├ętit! 

Again I have created a nice little photo card for your baking pleasure.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What do these things have in common?









Answer: They're all in Boston, Massachusetts.

Well, from Boston. Or live there. Or are just named after it.

Ok my POINT is, I'm moving to Boston. Well, a town just outside of it.
But technically---
well you know what I mean!!


It's been really really nice to be home in Indiana. It's part of me. Literally, my blood probably contains part corn syrup.
But now it's time for another adventure.

And so eastward it is! I'll be living with my favorite Massachusetts family....my dear Berwaldts!
And hopefully working in a bakery (fingers crossed).

But mostly I'll be learning to appreciate roundabouts, and Mansard roofs, and no sales tax, and the Cape, and windy roads, and talking fast, and Shaws grocery stores, and the Celtics.

Nope, already appreciate the Celtics. and Mansard roofs. 


Oh, and being many hours closer to some of my best friends.


Yeah, that'll do it.
See you soon, coasties.



The pictures are, as follows:
1. yours truly          2. Boston Brown Bread
3. cousins               4. Boston terrier
5. aunt and uncle   5. Boston Tea Party

Truth is...

The truth is a key to unlocking understanding--
it remains true, whether or not we believe in it.

antique keys.


Truth is, I don't think Bruno Mars would literally catch a grenade for anyone, unless whoever threw it forgot to pull the pin.
Truth is, even then I think he would run away screaming like a little girl.
Truth is, grenades are serious business, Bruno, and this is no time for music and games.

Truth is, there is a Switzerland-shaped hole in my heart that I'm not sure will ever heal.
Truth is, I'm not sure I want it to.

Truth is, I love my new bathing suit, even though there has been a marked increase in the ladies at the pool asking if my 8 year old brother is my son.
Truth is, it probably does make me look like his mother.
Truth is, I don't actually care.

Truth is, I am up far too late due to downing two glasses of ice tea at an unacceptable hour for caffeine consumption.
Truth is, I should regret it.
Truth is, I don't because my iced tea is so magical, they should teach a course on it at Hogwarts.

Truth is, I'm far too old to reference Harry Potter as frequently as I do.

Truth is, seeing my little sister go off to her last year of college was harder than I thought.
Truth is, my siblings are like pieces of me I didn't know I needed but can't really live without.
Truth is, I'm not very good at telling them that.

Truth is, I'm more comfortable hiding in the deep end of a pool of written words then looking anyone in the eyes and telling them what I think.

Truth is, I have a serious shopping problem.
Truth is, we should go back to the time when goats and chickens were used as currency because I don't have any of those.
Truth is, then credit cards would finally be useless.

Truth is, I secretly like it when I get roped into helping my dad because I like the conversations we have while we're working.

Truth is, you're reading this hours and hours after I actually wrote it because I was too embarrased to admit how late I was awake.
Truth is, inspiration is a fickle mistress and won't let me sleep until I've heard what she has to say.
Truth is, I've already written two letters and this blog post and she still won't quit.

Truth is, I haven't been this productive at this hour since college.
Truth is, I miss those days.

Truth is, I'm going to regret this in the morning.

---
Truth is, it's a good thing I slept with the window open because if it hadn't been for the lawn mowers at dawn, I never would have gotten up on time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mother's Secret Stash Bars

Today I found myself baking.

"This is not news," you say.

I know, but this time it was not a pre-meditated endeavor. Here's what happened:

I got a craving for chocolate and went searching for chocolate chips in the baking cupboard. Lo, there were none to be found. But all was not lost. Suddenly, I remembered my mother's secret cabinet, the one where she ferrets away sweets and things she doesn't want to share just yet.

Inside, I found a tin of weird chocolates that looked older than me. Fortunately I also found a bag of these:
 

"Aha!" I cried, triumphant.

But then my conscience struck me. After all, these aren't technically mine. I mean, Mother never put an "Offspring Keep Out" sign on the cupboard door, but they are hidden for a reason.

After a long argument with myself, we all agreed that it would be best if, instead of either eating them all or putting them back untouched, I would use them in a recipe, to share the wealth. This way, I figured no one would mind that I'd found the secret stash.

Within minutes, I found myself whisking together a little sugar, a lot of butter, some flour, and a few other ingredients to create a base, rather like blonde brownies.


After spreading the lot in an 8x8 pan, I added the peanut butter cups, which I had roughly chopped into halves and quarters. 

45 minutes later, this deliciousness appeared out of the oven:


Tasty treats, indeed! Warm, buttery, and extremely rich. You're welcome, family. 

And thus, Mother's Secret Stash Bars were made.

I made the recipe look all nice and pretty for you. Go me.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Toute la nature crie qu'il existe"


Title translation: "All nature cries out that He exists." -Voltaire

step outside, close your eyes, stand completely still, barefoot in the grass.
feel the gentle sun rays seep behind your eyes, filling the space with a warm red orange light.
wait for the smallest of breezes, like a soft hand plucking the loose strand of hair from behind your ear to barely brush your cheek.
let your mind empty out as your head fills with the sound of the earth moving around you. a bird twittering, a cricket sighing, the faint rumble of tires on the highway a few miles away.
smile at the small hole in the soundscape, the silence left by absent cicadas, signaling a surprising mid-August reprieve from oppressive summer humidity.
calf muscle twitches unexpectedly as an unassuming ant moseys up the back of your left leg. keep your eyes closed, but lift your right foot to casually brush him off.
breathe deep, pushing out your stomach to fill all the corners of your body with outside air.
drop your head, open your eyes, just barely, to see the blur of colors between eyelash fringe.
open wide, focus and then narrow again, taking in the detail in blades of grass between your toes.
then head tipped back to drink in the sky, a perfect circle of blue and white at once right above you and at the same time, untouchably distant.

it's times like these when I want to stretch out on the ground and pull the sky down over me like a blanket and just listen to the earth's heartbeat as she spins and turns through days and seasons, constantly repositioning herself around the sun. and then rise above, to run my hand along the ridge of worn mountains and dip my fingers in the churning seas, stopping to rest in a forest to watch a seed grow from tiny sprout to a towering tree, in real time.

it's times like these when the glory of being alive sinks in, a delicious sensation of feeling, hearing, smelling, seeing, tasting everything and nothing at the same time. when every shade of color ever created by God and named by man is right in front of your eyes if you look hard enough. when the tiniest details are magnified and the biggest, most obvious things disappear.

it's times like these when I realize it's a blessing and a curse, my deep love for this earth.
a blessing in that when all else is lost, Nature is there to lay a comforting hand on my soul. in that, even when it rains for days, when there's casing of ice and snow on everything aboveground, when tremors, winds, and waves rip through cities and homes and lives, I cannot be angry.
but a curse in that I am far too attached to my temporal dwelling and often unwittingly fall into the trap of worshipping Creation and not her Creator. that I forget the most beautiful, most worthy landscape is entirely unattainable by human power and might: God's kingdom.

but then what a heartbreakingly lovely thought occurs: if this is the magnificence made for our physical dwelling, think how much more exhilarating and incomparable Eternity must be!

and these are the things I think about, with my chin resting on my knees, in a backyard on a golden Tuesday afternoon in August.


Ten on Tuesday: Summer

 Ten Favorites from my Summer:

(1) La mer (the sea)


(2) NoDa neighborhood in Charlotte, NC


(3) Biking



(4) Painting


(5) Sunset in Front Royal, VA



(6) Seeing my sister for the first time in months


(7) Kayaking


(8) everything's better with cousins


(9) laying under Sun-dappled trees



(10) Hammocks, always



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Along the Way

Good evening my dears.

As is usually the case at the end of the summer, I packed up my suitcase and headed East for a couple of weeks.

I'm still on the road, but here are a few cell phone snapshots from along the way.

First stop, to the wilds of New Hampshire for four days of fellowship, catching up with old friends, and sleeping under the pines in a tent.

Immediately followed by a roadtrip to Virginia for a much-needed visit with my grandparents, a short kayak trip, and some quality time on the old tree swing.

Tomorrow I head out once more, to a valley in Pennsylvania for four more days of fellowship with friends and family.

I'll be home in a week, but until then (as my sister likes to say), keep your knees bent and your smiler smiling.

 

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