Paleo-ish Blueberry Muffins

I tried this a week ago and they came out okay, so I decided to make my own paleo flour mixture and try them again. To make your own paleo flour mixture, Google paleo flour mixture percentage and pick one (I found more than 3). Mine included almond, coconut, tapioca, and arrowroot flours.

Here’s the muffin recipe:

2 c paleo flour

1 tbsp baking powder

2 tbsp fructose powder or coconut sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp hemp hearts

1 egg, beaten

1 c milk

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 cup blueberries

Sift first 4 dry ingredients. Mix in hemp hearts. Toss berries in flour and mix. Make a well in the center and pour egg and milk in. Add coconut oil and mix well.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray) and fill muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes.

I make 6 muffins, but it could probably make 12 small ones.

I admit, this is a picture from last week, but they look close to the same. That said, I haven’t tried this batch, but the batter tasted okay when I got some on my finger before I baked them. 😊

If you live in the south, you may want to refrigerate them.

No, I’m not going paleo, but I thought I would try to bake stuff that was a mite lower carb. (After I made chocolate cake for mom earlier)

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Greek Easter Bread for Othodox Easter

So no, I’m not Greek. Nor do I celebrate in an Othodox … manner (?) … style (?) … church….we’ll go with church. But my dad was big into making Easter bread around this time of the year. And not to be outdone by my dad…hahaha…I like to make it too.

Now bear in mind that Antone was a fan of anise (licorice) flavored Tsoureki. Jim is not so much. So this year I decided to try my hand at flavoring mine a little differently. The first one (pictured) is a mild vanilla flavor. Too mild for my tastes, but it had the right level of sweetness. I think, however, my idea for a more honey-vanilla flavored bread was a success. So here is my version of a recipe dad took from the Boston Globe in….probably the late 70s.

1/2 cup of warm milk (no more than 110 degrees)

4 1/2 tsp (two envelopes) active dry yeast

3-3 1/2 c flour

1/4 c sugar

2 tsp vanilla powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 tbsp honey

6 tbsp softened butter

1 egg yolk beaten

Bloom the yeast in the milk.

Sift the flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla powder into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl). Make a well in the center.

Pour the milk mixture into the well. Add eggs and honey. With the dough hook, mix well until a tacky dough is formed. Add butter. Mix well.

You may need to add a bit of flour. The dough should be slightly sticky but not wet.

Knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Place in a greased bowl and let rise until at least doubled in size.

Punch down and roll into a 2″ diameter log (on a lightly floured surface). Roll into a tight coil, set in a buttered baking pan, cover and let rise for 30 min.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush bread with egg yolk. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, candy sprinkles, or jimmies if desired.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown and crusty. Cool on a wire rack.

You can always put a boiled egg in the center of the coil if desired. That’s a traditional way tsoureki is made, but if you don’t want it with the boiled egg (in the shell, FYI), no biggie.

I may try making a coconut version and/or lemon version of this too. Right now I’m pretty happy with honey-vanilla.

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The Best Daddy

So, it’s the day before the hardest day of my life. It used to be considered the worst day of my life but it’s now the hardest day of my life. The constant reminder that dads are special people and that if you’re close to your dad, you probably don’t realize how important a fixture he is in your life until he’s gone. I’m going to try to stick to a theme of recognizing what you have when you’ve got your father in your life during this blog but if I stray, it’s because I’m hating the next 24 hours and all it has come to mean to me.

I didn’t have a remarkable upbringing. Really. Regardless of what anyone else says, I would categorize my youth as normal. My dad had a full-time job that meant he left for work before or at the same time I left for grade school. My mom, try as she might to stay home with us, had to work because when we moved to Peabody, the housing market was FAR more expensive than that in Newburgh, NY and the only house they could find that fit the piano (yep, I said it) was probably a good fifteen thousand dollars more than what they sold the house on Gedney Way for. I didn’t understand at the time…because I was 6…but they were mortgaged to the hilt. And mom had to work. She tried substitute teaching at our school and a few others in the area until she came to the full realization that she really hated grade-school teaching. She ultimately found a part time job at Carmelite Gift Shop as the main cashier and the quasi-bookkeeper. Maybe someday I’ll do a blog on mom’s careers and such…this blog’s about dad.

Dad brought us to Massachusetts because the job as a college professor of music and choral director was way above what he was doing in the Newburgh city schools at the time. I don’t remember much about NFA aside from riding bikes in the parking lot (okay, my tricycle…my beloved red tricycle that they wouldn’t bring to Massachusetts because I was too old to ride a tricycle…sorry, I digress). Salem State was where my parents’ long-time friend Betty Gillette was teaching and she took my dad’s resume to Tim Clifford, the music department chairman at the time. I remember very little of this aside from at some point having to go stay with Betty in her apartment in Salem, MA while my parents looked for a house they could actually afford (which really wasn’t what would happen…). And we were off. Moving to Massachusetts. Starting first grade in a new school. Learning about Boston accents. And starting a life that to me was relatively unremarkable.

I could blather on about the times we spent following the Salem State College chorus around North Shore Shopping Center singing Christmas carols, or putzing around St. Adelaide’s before choir practice. I could probably tell stories that would amaze some people regarding living our lives around the Boston Symphony Orchestra and associated glitterati…I’ve got about 20 years of those stories. But what I really want to talk about is something that both excited and devastated dad.

Salem State College’s Music Department was a part of my father’s life-blood. Being a choral conductor was in his DNA, I’m positive. He was a singer, for sure. He was a brilliant tenor and strove constantly to know the most he could about the human singing voice, vocal production, vocal retention, the physical and the mental part of producing a beautiful sound with the vocal cords. He probably could have focused on vocal coaching and taken the place of his early voice teacher I knew only as Mr. Geri (or Gary, we called him Mr. Gary because that was what we heard my dad say even though I knew he was Italian…) in NYC. Instead of that, he decided he wanted to teach … fledgling adults. He was very “close to the chest” with his motivation for wanting to work with college-age potential singers but it was clear this was his passion.

Again, I could blather on and on about the performances he did (Dido and Aeneas comes to mind where he made papier mache “armor” for Aeneas…which hung around the house in Peabody and then in Salem for years…) that were beyond the normal college-chorus-repertoire. He never wanted to stick with the status quo. He wanted us, as kids, but as growing to be adults, to get immersed in works by composers such as Kurt Weill and Jerome Kern…not just Handel, Mozart, and the “ever popular” Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Having the opportunity to help shape the choral minds of kids that were potentially going to go on and get master’s degrees and maybe even doctorates in music, or theater, or art was an immense joy for him. He remembered names…Leah Miles, Janice Cohen Papolos, Katherine McDonald, Pamela Brotherton, Judson Greene, Josephine Kennedy (and so many others) from choruses past. We spoke of them up to the last few weeks of his life. If I didn’t mention your name, doesn’t mean he didn’t remember you. It means I am not remembering you right this moment…or I haven’t heard from you in a while.

So the students…the potential for affecting young aspiring singers, composers, actors, conductors, or anyone in the music/performance world…were what drove dad to do what he did. He loved his students. Oh, not every one of them. I remember sitting between a couple of students in the 8:30 AM Intro to Music that he didn’t like too much. But remember, it wasn’t about having butts in seats for dad. He didn’t care if a class had 4 people or 40 (although he preferred the 4 to the 40). It was about learning. If you finished a class with him … notice I didn’t say pass, but finish … he wanted you to have learned something. Come out of the class smarter than you came in.

He and I had conversations in the last month of his life about how he hated having retired. He told me multiple times that he regretted retiring and wished he had stayed in Massachusetts. Now, understand that I still have no idea why he chose 1994 to retire and why he chose Calabash North Carolina as a retirement spot in 1994. It worked out beautifully for me – I moved to Calabash, then got a job at a fantastic company in Charleston, SC, moved to Charleston in 1996, and I’m still working for them 22 years (going on 23) years later in 2019. It worked out well for both my mom and dad as I moved in with them in 2011 to take care of dad until he passed and now I take care of mom since she has dementia. If they were in Massachusetts, I probably would not have moved back there because well…snow…and no one would have been there to help them make the decisions we made as time and health issues advanced. (Yes, I have a brother. No he is of no use. And yes, if you know him, you can tell him I said so.)

Dad lamented leaving the music department. He was sad that he no longer performed with the TFC, JOC, and all the other stuff he was doing in 1994 before he moved. Quite honestly, if you were involved in any sort of classical music on the North Shore in Massachusetts in the 80s and 90s, you knew my parents. You saw them everywhere, you attended performances where they were either featured or were involved. It was exactly where my dad ALWAYS wanted to be. He wanted to be the guy. The guy you saw with his hands on everything musical. In his final weeks, he definitely wished he had never left the Boston area.

Now I’m gonna spend a few lines talking about the culturally-devoid Grand Strand area of SC/NC where I currently reside. Please know that although I am about to slam the area, in the past ten years or so, things are improving…we do have a fantastic symphony orchestra and I will talk about that a bit in another blog, I’m sure.

I never completely understood how my educated, musical, culturally diverse parents landed on moving to the Grand Strand. Yes, I am aware that my dad’s sister had purchased a house in Sunset Beach, NC and that was 99% the catalyst of their decision to move south. I’m guessing that they also needed to get away from the bazillions of inches of snow they got in winter 1993. But I am positive that a few moments of research back in 1994 would have proven that South Carolina, with the exception of maybe Charleston, was completely culturally vapid. Myrtle Beach (a.k.a The Grand Strand) is the home of “shag” dancing, country music festivals, pop music, “Vegas-style” shows, and beach music (if you aren’t humming the tune, “I love…beach music…” you have never been here before…). Not really what my mom and dad were ever involved in. Ever. Heck, I couldn’t even get my parents to listen to the music I listen to. So no. Mom and dad were not into this type of music. Oddly, neither were my aunt and uncle. But my aunt and uncle were into golf and golf is a way of life on the Grand Strand. Dad, on the other hand, was never a golfer. Could he play golf? Yes. Did he enjoy it? Absolutely not. Maybe someday I will write the story of my dad’s disappointing his father by not playing golf. However, he was never an athlete. At all. Mom & dad did try to play golf. They took golf lessons the summer before they moved south. Mom never really took to it. And solo golf is kinda not a thing. So, if mom wasn’t into it, neither was Dad.

His end-of-life lamentations of how he made a mistake moving south might have been just the disease taking over his mind and his brain. Or, it might have truly been something he regretted. I tried to appease him by reminding him how great his choice was for ME and how having me with him every day was something only afforded to him because of his choice to retire to the south. I’m glad they chose the Carolinas because in the big picture, I do love it here. I don’t love it specifically in CALABASH but I like South Carolina. It’s one of maybe four states I can see myself living in long term. But for whatever reason, he was “sorry” he moved and gave up everything he had in Massachusetts.

Here’s one of the things I want to tell about the last month of his life. I usually worked on the couch at the time. I guess I didn’t expect I would spend the next seven years (plus) so I didn’t have a work space as I do today. I decided this one day that I would work sitting on the bed in his bedroom. We were probably watching Ellen. He liked Ellen. I am thinking we were watching Ellen because for some reason I connect this memory to Ellen on the TV in the master bedroom here. Could be not true, but I make that connection. I remember holding his hand and telling him he was the best daddy in the whole world. I remember him squeezing my hand and giving me a kiss. He truly was the best daddy in the world.

And the other thing I wanted to mention is this beautiful picture of him I’ve got attached. Yesterday, Salem State University Center for the Arts posted it on their Facebook page and called him the FATHER OF CHORAL MUSIC at Salem State. For all of you who read this who do not know my dad and never did, please know that it is true that he gave his all to Salem State College (now University). So much so that there is the Antone Aquino Memorial Scholarship, set up by those former students who he loved so much, while he was still alive! He was the “extra dad” for many of the students, and he was definitely a pioneer in choral music at Salem State. He was the best daddy in the whole world to those who experienced his passion for music in general and choral/vocal music in specific.

Seven years ago April 25, the world lost that best daddy. It is my worst day of the year to me. For sure it was the worst day of my life. Don’t pity me. It’s fine. I believe that when we lose someone that is so special to us, we deserve the right to grieve that loss for as long as it takes. And if that means every year on a day such as April 25 is to me, grief wins, then yes it does.

 

dad

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Can I Just Say Thanks?

I haven’t had much time for my personal blogs lately. Work has been busy, mom has had a bit of a change in schedule, my volunteer stuff has been “up” lately and I am still trying to put in at least an hour of climbing a week.

Climbing has helped me in so many ways. And I have to thank three people for this new “obsession”.

1. Pamela Clare. Honestly, if I hadn’t read her Colorado High Mountain Series (Scarlet Springs), I probably wouldn’t have thought about climbing for a moment. But, after getting through the first five books, I REALLY wanted to give it a try.

2. Cynthia. Because she has been one of my biggest cheerleaders in this area. We definitely cheer each other on in many ways but…well…

Picture = 1000 words.

3. Jim. Because just because. He drives me to climbing every week and supports my efforts just by getting in the truck and indulging me. He’s awesome.

Having people support you is inspiring.

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Hatch Chile Wheat French Bread

I am a fan of Hatch chiles. If you don’t know, they are chiles from Hatch, NM. And it happens that Fresh Market has the little cans of them on sale 3 for $5. I now have 8…wait, 6 cans of Hatch Roasted Chiles. I decided that 8 cans was just two too many for one house to have. So, it occurred to me that I could maybe do a recipe “mashup”…just to see how it goes. I can tell you it smells fantastic, and so for that reason I am sharing the recipe BEFORE I try a piece.

1 cup lukewarm water

1 packet active dry yeast (I actually use 2 1/4 tsp from a jar of Fleishmann’s)

3 cups of all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour

1/2 tbsp salt

2 cans (the small ones) of Hatch Roasted Green Chiles (I use the mild, but you can use the hot ones, I imagine)

1 tsp Ancho Chili Powder (optional)

Oil for the bowl the dough rises in

Cornmeal to dust the baking pan with

Bloom the yeast in the lukewarm water for approx 15 minutes.

In the bowl of your mixer (or any large bowl if you’re going to hand-knead), mix together the flours (save back 1/2 cup whole wheat flour) and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour the yeast mixture in the middle.

Incorporate the yeast mixture with the flour until it comes together. Add the chiles. Mix on medium until the dough holds together. You may (or may not) need the extra 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour to make a moist but not wet dough.

Knead until smooth and elastic.

Place in a well-oiled bowl, ensuring all sides of dough are covered. Cover. Place in a warm area and let rise for 1-3 hours until at least doubled in size.

Once it has risen, punch down and shape into a loaf. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and place loaf on pan. Cover with a moist towel and let rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 450° .  Score the top of the loaf 3-4 times. Bake for 25 minutes. You can always take the bread out and coat with an egg wash, returning to the oven for 5-10 minutes if you want. I never do that.

Let cool, or cut and enjoy. I am considering making an ancho-chile butter but it’d probably be fine with normal ole butter.

If you try this, let me know in comments how it turns out. Mine smells fantastic. I might be bringing it to a friend tomorrow so I will know soon if it’s worth repeating!

20190126_1954314001836888138655806.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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Fabulous French Bread – a la Mary

I probably should begin by saying this is only PARTLY my recipe. As always I start with a base recipe and “adjust”. So this base recipe has been blogged before…way back when I first got my Kitchen Aid. I think that was in 2011, but it might have been early 2012. Anyway, this is a modified version of the recipe that came with my Kitchen Aid for French Bread. That recipe matches 90% of the other French bread recipes I’ve seen over the years. Here’s what I did.

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one envelope)

1 1/4 c of lukewarm water

1/2 tbsp salt

1/2 tbsp butter

2 1/2 c bread flour (white)

1 c whole wheat flour

Cornmeal (around a teaspoon)

All purpose oil for greasing pans/bowls

STEPS:

Assemble your ingredients

Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of the mixer. Here’s my tip/trick: warm water. Measure the temperature. It should be above 98.6, but not above 110. Too warm a temperature will kill the yeast, thus no rising.

Let the yeast sit for about 5 minutes.

Add salt, butter and flour.

Mix on medium low with the dough hook for 2 minutes or until dough begins to come together.

If dough doesn’t seem to hold together, add a splash of milk. Not a lot, just a splash. If the dough seems too wet, add no more than a tablespoon of whole wheat flour.

Knead on medium low speed for 2-3 minutes or until the dough is smooth.

Dough will be sticky but not wet. Form into a sphere.

Transfer dough to a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides of the sphere.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts for at least an hour. I personally let mine rise for 2 hours. It should be at least doubled in size.

Punch down and roll into a rectangle (about 12-15″ long). Then, roll up the dough until it is the shape of a log. Taper ends if you want.

Grease a baking pan and dust with cornmeal. Place the dough on the pan and cover. Let rise again for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 450°. With a sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of the loaf.

Bake at 450° for 25 minutes.

[My oven is unreliable and runs hot, therefore I stopped at this point because the bread was fully baked]

Remove from baking pan and cool on a wire rack.

Bread_French_Wheat

Looks like bread!

I guess French bakers also add a step of brushing the top of the loaf with an egg white mixed with a tablespoon of cold water after baking for 25 minutes and then return the loaf to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes. I didn’t do that.

This bread was soft enough to eat without the cavalcade of crumbs that frequently happens with crusty French bread. It was substantial enough that it cut easily with a bread knife. And, although often times when you “enhance” a bread recipe with whole wheat flour, you wind up with the heavy, dense bread…not so here! It is soft and fluffy. My husband isn’t fond of the crusty boule kinda bread and he really liked this. So win-win.

If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

 

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Reading and Writing in 2018/2019

So 2018 is over and 2019 is upon us. I’m not planning this blog to be a weepy missive on current events or personal events of 2018 and planning for the brightness of 2019. Instead, I’m on a path to examine what I read and wrote in 2018, planning what to read and write in 2019.

2018 saw me finally reading the Stephanie Plum series. I had “planned” to read it for years. Enough years that there were at least 20 books for me to read in 2018! I enjoyed most of them…I can say that Janet Evanovich has a way with weaving funny and interesting into her suspense novels. Truly, I had been excited to read the new book when it came out this past year…but sadly, I was a bit let down. As much as I like Stephanie, Moretti, Ranger, and Lula but the storyline was a tiny bit weak and I truly got bored of what I think was supposed to be suspense.

I also read books from a few of my other favorite writers…If you’ve followed me for a while you might have heard of them:

  • Diana Gabaldon (Outlander stuff)
  • Bethany Claire (historical romance/time travel romance…I especially like Bethany’s style)
  • Wendy Wang (paranormal/lowcountry mystery…Wendy’s lowcountry books are awesome)
  • Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles mysteries)
  • Regan Black (paranormal romance, suspense…Regan writes well…I’m looking forward to reading her newest book that came out this week)

This year, I also learned about a few new writers I have come to like a LOT. I’m gonna recommend you look these ones up and check out their books if you’re a romance/suspense fan

  • Carly Phillips – I read her Dare to… series. I think I read a few others too…I’m a tad too lazy to look on Goodreads but y’all might be able to look at my “read in 2018” list on Goodreads. I especially liked Dare to Rock, and you KNOW why that is.
  • Zoe York – early in 2018, I read a handful of her books. I liked her style. I follow her on Goodreads and Book Bub…maybe even Amazon. The last book I read of hers had a few editorial issues, but the content was decent.
  • Jennae Vale – She writes time-travel romances too. She put out a new book this past year and it was decent.
  • Kaylea Cross – She wrote a couple of really cool books (Fractured Honor and Buried Lies) that grabbed me in late 2018. I highly recommend.
  • Tarina Deaton – I liked Stitched Up Heart, Half-Broke Heart, and Locked-Down Heart. Had a bit about PTSD and veterans issues…really great stories.

And then I get to my new, favoritest OF ALL author…

Pamela Clare. If you haven’t heard me gushing about her newest book, Chasing Fire, you don’t follow me on Facebook, I guess. I bumped into Pamela’s Colorado High Country series through Book Bub (if you’re a reader…especially an eReader, you NEED to be on Book Bub). Her first of that series, Barely Breathing, not only snagged me for life, but also rekindled an old crazy dream of mine to learn to rock climb. Indoor, of course…I gobbled up all eight of those books. Okay, I’m guessing it’s 8 but that’s what I feel like it was. Once I consumed them, I had to spill over into the I Team Series. I read all of them too and had to go into the historicals, which I’m currently wading through. I’ve read three of the historicals – I’ll finish those up this quarter, I’m pretty sure.

Anyway, if you have any uh…leanings towards romantic suspense, EMT, police, outdoor character fiction, Pamela is your gal. Check out her stuff on Amazon or join her Facebook groups:

The Scarlet Springs Readers Group

Pamela Clare’s I Team

I admit, I’m doing a shameless plug for her. She really changed my life starting long about August…it took me until November to get vertical, but I plan to climb every week and hope my belay skills improve.

And now…moving on to my writing –

I have to admit, I’ve got five books done. By done, I mean probably over 50K words for each book (except for Flying Sky Blues…it’s a mini-novel). They’re kinda like this:

The Wild Child Series:

1. Straight From the Heart

2. Burnin’ Up the Streets

3. Two Lives Changed

4. Little Girl Gone Bad

5. Flying Sky Blues

I’ve got two other stories started, but I keep going back to the first five and “fixing” them. Maybe 2019 will be a year I will self publish. I don’t know – I think the series is good, but I wrote it. I think each story still needs something but I’m feeling good about 1, 2, and 4. Of course, those are the three I’ve gone back to in the past few months and “fixed up.” I still need to work on book 3…it’s the longest of all of them and I still have no idea why.

Anyway, keep an eye out – I have another WordPress page for my author name AJ Childs. I actually have a Facebook page for that too…

AJ Childs – Romance Author on Facebook

AJ Childs WordPress site

Follow me on both of those sites. You never know what’ll happen, huh?

Final thing:

I’m gonna try hard-copy journaling every night this year. Maybe just writing a few things that I’m thinking about. Lots of my stuff that I start, I never finish as witnessed by a gazillion arts and crafts projects I have spread across at least two states. But, if I can just keep my ADHD addled brain focused for…well, they say 21 days makes a habit…maybe I’ll do it for the whole year. Here’s hoping.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Us

Posted in Crazy Random Thoughts, Fiction, Journaling, love, Romance, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Twas the night….

So here it is. Christmas eve 2018.

And the spirit is still…well…not exactly here.

But, I do want to say how much friends-that-have-become-family -because-my-family-is-small mean to me.

I do have some awesome cousins…they are wonderful and they mean the world to me. I’d love to post a picture of them…but well, I ain’t got any. They hopefully know who they are and even more hopefully know how much I love them.

And then there are those friends I’ve known forever…I cherish them…junior high, high school, college, and just after college…you are all my sisters (and a couple of brothers) and you are family by choice.

Then my rock n roll sisters and brothers…wow, there are a lot of you. Some near, some far. All are dear to me. Thank you for rockin with me (and now Jim too) all these years.

My work family…in a few weeks, 22 years strong. I feel you all have made me a better person by encouraging me and caring about me. So many family members here. Even some that are no longer employed by Blackbaud…still part of the family.

And while I don’t have a ton of local friends, some have recently become very dear to me. Thank you for being part of my family.

In 2019, let’s try to be kind to each other.

Let me leave you with a picture of or two that I love.

 

Posted in Crazy Random Thoughts, Dad, Journaling, Life With Mom, love, Music, My Thoughts and Musings, Photoblogging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Little Bit Of Cheer

I wanted to write about this because it made a huge difference to my mood around the holiday this year.

My faithful readers know that I kinda hate the Christmas holidays. Have I mentioned that occasionally? Well, it’s a little bit true.

This year, I got involved in a couple of really great Facebook groups that I will not name specifically but I truly love the vibe in them. The subject of a Card Exchange came up before Thanksgiving and because you could choose the amount of people you send cards to, I agreed to five people. I figured I could commit to at least five cards.

When it came to be December…I scrounged through my junk room (who am I kidding, every room in this house is a junk room) and found the box of cards I had planned to send five years ago…and never did. I pulled out the names I had been given and addressed them, added a personal note to each one, and then slapped postage on and off I went to the post office. What happened next…well…was unexpected.

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I kinda thought I’d get 5 cards. Because I had signed up to send five cards. But instead, I’m blown away by the really SWEET notes and just…wow. Rarely am I speechless. But I am.

After watching Ellen DeGeneres’ special, “Relatable” today, I keep thinking about “Be Kind To Each Other”…and how a bunch of people I have never met in person and probably never will totally brightened  my holiday this year.

Now I just have to get on with some of the projects I wanted to complete in 2018. Like the books. I’m done with five. Three are actually at the point where I could have them edited and maybe published. Two need work. I was gonna do that during the holidays. So far I’ve been on vacation almost a week and I haven’t touched the books. Nor have I actually accomplished anything I wanted to get done. I hope to get some stuff done this week…maybe by Saturday. I did get my Christmas shopping done. Okay, I bought stuff on line and Mom will have a bunch of things to open on Christmas. Jim and I have kinda given each other our gifts. Queen tickets are the lion’s share of gifts…

Anyway, I digress. My goal for 2019 is to commit to 15 cards in the card exchange. And to actually rock climb 4 times a month. And, to get my life squared away so that I can retire in 2029. I have big dreams, don’t I?

That’s it for tonight. Two blogs in one day. Can’t be all wild like this every day.

 

 

 

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Bread(stick) is Life

So, in my continual quest to be able to bake any kind of bread, I tried bread sticks tonight. Kinda a traditional type of bread recipe, so nothing wild and crazy there. I originally had planned to make them with fresh garlic and butter but changed my plan when I decided today was the day. And I wanted to get the dough rising 45 minutes before dinner needed to be on the table. So, I delved into my All American Baking Book and came up with this recipe. The measurements are from the book. The technique is all Mary.

1 packet of active dry yeast (I do 2 1/4 tsp but it’s the same thing)

1 1/4 c lukewarm water

3 c flour

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 egg (could have gone with a couple of tsp of egg-white instead. I wasted an entire egg and only used about a tbsp)

Sea Salt (or I used Pink Himalayan salt)

Garlic powder

Dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the flour, salt, sugar and olive oil in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer with the bread hook attachment. Spin that sucker about 5 times around to combine while you’re waiting the 15 minutes.

If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, you can use a food processor, or do it the cave-man method. With a spoon.

Slowly add the yeast  and water mixture to the flour mixture until it comes together. It may be sticky…I found I had to add about 1/4 c more flour to get the consistency correct. The dough should hold together and be slightly moist, but not sticky.

Knead (by hand or by Kitchen Aid) until smooth and elastic. I did about 5 minutes in the Kitchen Aid and about 2-3 min by hand to make sure the dough didn’t become wallpaper paste.

Turn into a greased (oiled) bowl and cover. Let rise for 45 minutes at least. Doubled in size.

Depending on the size of bread stick you want will depend on the size of ball you will tear from the dough. I did half mine in golf ball size, and half in a bit larger (probably around 2 1/2″ diameter) size.

Roll on a board until they are the length and width you desire. I think I came up with 12 total, but you could have thinner bread sticks and wind up with 18-24.

Once you have your bread sticks on an ungreased baking pan, brush with egg and then sprinkle on your flavorings. The recipe I read in my book suggested sesame seeds (toast those suckers first!) but I could see poppy seed, or caraway seed…kosher salt, maybe red pepper flake, or an herb/garlic mixture.

Let rise again for about 20 minutes. Don’t get excited that they’ll rise a ton. Just a little bit. At this point you can preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

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Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Shut the oven off after fifteen minutes and let them sit for another 5 minutes in the oven with the door shut. They should be nicely golden but not brown.

Let cool for a few minutes then remove from the baking pan. Serve warm or room temperature. You can always put them in a pretty wrapping and set them on the table too.

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You could probably turn these into sweet bread sticks too, by sprinkling sugar or brown sugar instead of salt on them. Cinnamon-sugar would be nice.

Let me know how you like them…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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