Sunday, January 19, 2020

A Snow Storm

The other day there was a big snow storm sweep through the area - it disrupted our weekend plans.  We were supposed to go over to Minneapolis, to the temple, but it came in just right to cause us to cancel our plans.  We would have been driving into the storm the whole way there and chasing it back, with lots of wind and drifting snow all the way back.  Given enough time, we probably could have done alright getting there but wind and drifting snow is worse for driving than snow that is just falling.  So we ended up not going.  It was bad enough that the temple actually closed for the evening and next morning that it was snowing.  Anyway, at our house the snow started Friday afternoon and continued until late Saturday morning.  Then, as it quit, it was time to get out and shovel.
When it was all done, the storm left not quite seven inches all over everything.  It's always kind of pretty when we get a big snow fall.
It coats everything with fresh, white.  Very nice.
I like how the yard looks, especially if there's been light drifting.  The wind sculpts the snow into some pretty amazing shapes.
But then you have to do the shoveling.  So about the time the snow was almost done falling, out we went to clear the walks and the driveway.
Our snow blower was in the shop earlier this month so we were really happy to have gotten it back in time for this storm.
Unfortunately, the wind was still blowing while we were out working.  That makes using the snow blower tricky.  If you blow the snow into the wind, the wind will throw it right back at you.
When you're' blowing the snow, throwing it the same direction the wind is blowing, it works pretty nice.
So you plan your work so that the wind helps, works with you rather than against you.
Having all that snow thrown right back at you can be pretty unpleasant, all cold and wet as it hits you in the face.
Pretty soon Brombeere and Schwartzbeere were finishing up out front, getting the last of it with the shovels.
The real nice thing about today's work was that when the plow went by it was early in the job, they hadn't gotten to the end of the driveway yet.  Unlike that other time a few years ago when it came closer to the end.
I was in charge of the deck.  Nice to be getting back to where I can help with this kind of stuff again.  So in the end, the snow got cleared and we were able to sit back and enjoy the fresh, new layer of beauty all around the yard.  Pretty nice, I think.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Commonplace Book

A Commonplace Book. “Commonplace”, from the Latin 'locus communis', meaning “a theme or argument of general application.”  For me, it is a collection of thoughts, ideas, anecdotes, poems, observations, and quotes that stood out and caught my attention, some with comment, some without. Essentially a scrapbook, a repository of thoughts too good to just pass over and let go.

"There isn’t one road to bliss, there are millions of them, and the sole thing they have in common might be that they’re all paved with at least a few dubious choices. Makes the road longer, hotter and uphill, sure. But it’s not about being perfect; it’s about developing some skill at managing imperfection."
(Carolyn Hax, Washington Post Advice Column, July 20, 2005)

"As the Lord did with the [Joseph Smith Sr] family failures, He is also able to make us strong, teach us new lessons, and prepare us through failures and setbacks for a much different future than we imagine."
(M Russell Ballard, How the Lord Prepared the World for the Restoration, Ensign January 2020) 

"Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
(Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States) 

"I, the Lord, am able to do mine own work" (2 Nephi 27:20, 21), but we are like little children that the Lord allows to help in His kitchen."
(First Counselor in the Stake Presidency, speaking in Sacrament Meeting in our ward, December 15, 2019)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Sometimes It Takes Two Tries

Back on the first day of the year I decided to make some bread.  We were a little low on wheat flour so I had to start by grinding some wheat.  That's not so bad, as long as you get the lid on the container good and tight
I didn't need a lot, I wanted to use the end of what we had.  So I only had to fill the hopper once.
So pretty quick I had some nice, fresh wheat flour and was all set.
I was trying a new recipe, one I had picked because it was very simple.  Just a few basic ingredients, stuff we usually have on hand.
I put it all together in the mixer and ran it for a few minutes until it was all well mixed.  The recipe specifically said it was to be mixed, not kneaded.  I liked that. 
Then I needed to let it rise a while, which I did.
I began to get worried when it was time to put it in the pans.  It didn't seem to be rising like it should so I gave it extra time.  But it still didn't look quite right. 
Nevertheless, I cooked it anyway.  The loaves were pretty sturdy, they hadn't fluffed up like I think of good bread doing. 
Hot bread is always the best.  We tried this and it was okay.  But in the end I pronounced it edible but not good.  It got tossed.  It was pretty heavy and had a taste that was slightly off - not quite right.
So tonight I decided to try again. Except for grinding wheat, everything went along similar to last time except this time I was very careful to follow the recipe exactly.  I think where it fell apart last time was the water; I hadn't made sure it was warm and I hadn't mixed the maple syrup with the water just like the recipe called for.  This time I was careful to do that.
And this time the loaf rose up much better.  When it was time to go in the oven it looked much more like it was supposed to.  I chose to cook it on the stone this time instead of in pans just because it seemed easier.  Plus I like how the loaf looks when its cooked on the stone. 
It came out of the oven looking much more like a proper loaf of bread.
It also came out of the oven right as dinner was ready and going on the table so it got served with dinner, still warm and oven fresh.
Serving Suggestion
And it turned out tasting much better.  We're still learning, remembering that our oven cooks a little hotter than most so we need to cook it not quite as hot and not quite as long as recipes call typically for.  But, all in all, it turned out much better this time.  We will be keeping this loaf.  And we will be trying this again, trying to get it just right.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

What's for Dinner?

So, the other day we saw a recipe on social media that looked interesting so I saved it.   Then, a little later, after I had taken a closer look at it, I realized we probably had all the ingredients, without going shopping.  Now that doesn't happen every day!   So tonight, when I got home from work, I started scrounging around the house, gathering up all the stuff.  The corn turned out to be the hardest thing, I was almost deciding we didn't have everything after all when I found some in the back of the freezer.  Callooh Callay!  So I got busy turning this ...
... into this: Chickpea White Chili!
Actually, it turned out to be pretty good.  Brombeere had an appointment and just as she was going out the door she reminded me that there was some chicken in the fridge that needed to be used so I diced it up and threw that in, as well.

Some people feel that chili can't be any good without a whole bunch of stuff added to it, like shredded cheese, crackers, corn chips, sour cream, and so on.  So all that was there, available, too.  But even on its own, it turned out pretty good.  We might have to have it again some time!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

And the Tree Came Down

So it was News Year's Eve and Brombeere and Schwartbeere were in the bedroom changing the sheets on one of the beds when Brombeere mentioned that she was thinking the Christmas tree should be taken down soon.  Little did they realize that Schwartzbeere's youngest was also there, listening.  She promptly left the room.  Almost immediately we heard a crash and a bang so everyone rushed into the living room to discover that the little sweetheart had pulled the Christmas tree over.  Guess she thought she was helping.
"Well, I'm outta here! Can't do any more damage here!"
Oh, well.  Rather than try to repair it all we just finished undecorating the tree, took it down, and put it away until next year.

Monday, December 30, 2019

'Tis the Season!

Some families go crazy with their Christmas baking. They spend hours, if not days, cooking Christmas goodies, turning out treats galore that they then give away or enjoy themselves all through the holidays.  My own Mom used to bake all kinds of cookies, cookies of every imaginable kind.  She'd make enough to fill a couple of five gallon tins that then sat out on our unheated porch, staying cool and available all through the rest of the Christmas season.  Lots of snitching went on, but I don't remember that it was a bad thing.  Nothing tasted quite as fine as a cold cookie from off the porch.  Anyway, as a general rule, we have never gone crazy with Christmas baking.  We generally would make a few things but not to excess.  I guess "excess" is relative; those families that do all that baking don't consider it an excess, its just something they do.  In any case, while we do some baking, we don't get carried away with it.

This year, however, we probably did do more than normal.  It began when I saw a recipe for orange frosted cookies that caught my attention.  I decided to make some.  So one day after work, I pulled out mixer and got started.
One of the things that had attracted me to this recipe was how simple it was.  It only took a few minutes to throw all the ingredients together, including running a couple of oranges through the blender.  That part was fun.
Part of the liquefied oranges went into the cookie batter, the rest went into the frosting.  The result was some cookies that were light and yummy.
Not made for any particular reason, just because they looked interesting.  And, as it turned out, they were.
There were also some "Grinch cookies".  Chocolate chip cookies, only green.  They turned out pretty good, too.
There was a family in the ward that dropped off a box of treats one evening.  Sugar cookies, Chocolate chip cookies, and an assortment of candies that was really good.
There is one baking item that has become a tradition at our house; candy cane bread.  Brombeere got out her Mom's old mixer and made that one afternoon.  Candy cane bread is so good.
Its a sweet bread filled with any kind of filling you want to put in it.  This year it was a raspberry chocolate filling.
You fill it and then weave the top closed.  Then you put it on the pan and curl the top around into a candy cane shape.
Then you bake it.  The recipe makes enough for about three medium candy canes.  We made them just a little smaller this year so that we got four out of a single recipe. Delightful!
Then you drizzle a frosting over them, and garnish them with M&M to make like little holly berries on them. So, so good.
There was also banana bread.  Not for any particular reason, other than we had some ripe bananas sitting around.  I made these, my first time.  It actually turned out pretty good, I thought.
Brombeere needed some treats for school so she made a whole bunch of sugar cookies.  Snowflake sugar cookies, real pretty to look at and real yummy, too.
She needed a lot, enough to make a treat for each student in the whole third grade at her school, quite a few.  So it took a while to get them all made and decorated.  Thank goodness there were a few that weren't quite good enough to use for school so that we were able to enjoy some at home.  That was nice.
Then there were the "paw print" cookies we tried.  They didn't turn out quite like the photo with the recipe but they were still good. Chocolate chip, how can you go wrong?
Then Brombeere wanted to make some blossom cookies.  I ended up peeling almost two packages of Hershey kisses but it was worth it in the end.  They were yummy little morsels.  And these were just so we could have some goodies around with all the company we were expecting over the holidays.  Definitely a worthy cause.
And last, but not least, we were fortunate enough to have Erdbeere here for her birthday.  So, of course, we had to make some kind of birthday cake.  We went with cupcakes.
Cupcakes served with the traditional birthday ice cream.
So, yeah, even though, as a rule, we don't get carried away with Christmas baking, we ended up doing plenty of that this year and ended up with lots of baked treats.  No wonder new years resolutions so often include weight loss goals.