3.21.2015

hush light.


If you wonder why I can't stop waxing poetic about Spring's lazy arrival, it's only because it feels like I'm greeting an old childhood friend, like that new girl from 6th grade who had the nerve to show up wearing eye shadow and pumps and didn't stay for long, but whose memory still makes me smile.

I'd still sit and have coffee with you, Dawn, I quite like nervy girls.

Things are prone to changing around here, but the one thing that never, ever does is the teetering stack of to do lists by my bed. And on my floor. And strewn around the entire house.

I'm heart-deep right now in spring cleaning, which I'll have to tell you about in a separate post because right now I don't have enough words for it.

These days, the weather is drippy and impetuous.
Coldish and breezyish.
I'm doing my best to enjoy March as-is.

Under her influence, I'm a wild optimist, a risky dreamer, a friend of the rainy day. By March, in Ohio, Winter starts to wane.  It does not follow that Spring kicks in.  Sun happens, March through May, in small, non-contiguous, lingering bursts.  But it will be two months, anyway, before Spring is here to stay.

April is, after all, no stranger to snow.

March is not ambivalent in the least. It totally has a purpose, and it is called pause.  Respite, re-calibration, ramping up.  It is March's job is to make sure we're sick and tired of winter, and ready and waiting for spring. Roger, that.


And even if March is raw throats and runny noses, sick days and sleepless nights, it seems like last gasps, like end parens, on a season that surely is near done.  Right? Right! Besides, it opened up a Friday to finish an over due project, between tissues and appointments and tea.

March is rain, rain, (snow), rain!  After Winter's deep freeze, its kitty-paw snow, I'd all but forgotten that plip-plop, plip-plop.  It actually woke me up one night.  Then hypnotized me right back to sleep.
Then you send the odd flurry of snow.  The day after Winter is over, say.  It didn't stick around, but still...On the second day of Spring, it is forty three degrees...

I think, March, it's fair to say you also have a sense of humor.


You are crunchy brown earth, too thuggish to dig, too ugly to not at least feel the itch.  Yes, I'm the one who orders seeds after Christmas, poking with a spade, eager to begin.  I recognize that this March moment's important, this awareness that someday soon, something must be done.

You are pre-daffodils I dare to cut, when the buds are barely more bulge than stem.  I know I'm pushing it.  I expect nothing.  They bloom anyway.

And then, there's the light, the last faded light, the final throes of Winter's soft hum.  Raging bright sun is returning with a vengeance, and I'm dusting off my soon-requisite squint.  And doubling down, drinking my fill of the intermittent, exquisite overcast.  The flannel skies, the tip-toe mornings, the pale monochrome afternoons.  Hush light.

In the past week, between clear and glare, I've been gifted a few pigeon-belly grey days.  Oyster shell days.  Damp newspaper days.  Old sock, fresh concrete, dirty mop water days.  Days with light so gauzy and fair that even laundry baskets look appealing.  Full, unfolded laundry baskets.  Did I mention I love this light?   

So while I might not call March my most favorite month, it seems I rather like it, turbulent temps and all.

This, I cannot fix.  It's during this last, long peninsula of winter that I double down, take stock, get serious.  When I pause long enough to pay heed to the daffodils, appreciate the moments, give thanks for a new season.

just sayin'

 

1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 thick-cut slice seeded multigrain bread, toasted
½ teaspoon pepitas (pine nuts)
½ teaspoon sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. In a medium bowl, combine the avocado halves with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Using the back of a spoon, lightly smash the avocado until chunky but not yet a smooth spread. Season to taste with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper, if needed.
2. Arrange the toast on a serving plate and spoon the avocado onto the middle of the toast. Spread the avocado slightly to cover the toast. Sprinkle the avocado with the pepitas, sesame seeds and red-pepper flakes, then drizzle with olive oil before serving.

3.13.2015

it's simple stuff.



Mornings just come naturally to me.  Night time's not really my time.  I work at it. I get a second wind around eight, hit my stride by ten, and soar through sleep through the rest of the twilight hours.  Well, the early ones, anyway.  The later ones, it's time to start over, all fresh and perky-like before sunrise.  Less soaring, more dragging.  Which I'm the first to admit is pure causation.  I love this kooky, sun-centered universe.  So, I'll never be a night owl, and in all honesty, there's a lot more to love about mornings.

 Lists.  Bird song.  Crisp early air.  The daily paper.  Oily beans, freshly ground.  Golden bolts of sun, dust mites and all.  The whole morning light business.   Glorious stuff, that last one.  So much better, really, than the midnight glare of a compact fluorescent.  That alone was enough to make me an early bird.

 Add to that dusky walks with the puppies.  And very rare mornings when there's no agenda, nowhere to go, no hassle, no hurry up!  Most especially, when I can sport pajama pants until lunch.  You know how it is then, how sometimes, mornings are just magical.

Speaking of magical!   Daffodils, a buck-fifty a bunch?  Makes any morning. Strutting around all sassy and frilly and traffic-stripe yellow.  Because right now?  Feels like a benediction.  Am I the only one to notice.  After months of looking at drab I finally cried foul after breakfast the other day.  "Hey, let's get some pink.  And red!  And yellow, I neeeeed yellow."  Need, indeed.  Those jolly primaries went way beyond want, lighting up my kitchen and spirits.


 Our skies have been blue, and I'm back in the pink (thank you, kindly, for all your well wishes!)  So, I'm unplugging this week, to spend time with my peeps (Mom's back in the hospital today), knitting by her bedside, soaking up the sun whenever it shines, reading seed catalogs and thinking about getting a good black line of grime under my nails. remembering last year this time, San Francisco with mom!
dreaming of a trip to the ocean. It's simple stuff...  

Like biscotti. It always sounds a little silly, to me, to say "I make my own biscotti!"  I'm not really that self-sufficient; stitching buttons still ruffles my every last feather.  But homemade biscotti, oh, have you tried it?  It's something else.  The texture's lovely, silky and pliable, and fresh out of the pan, the warmth is unbeatable.  It's delicious and all-natural and all that jazz.  It's also cheap, and fast, and dead-simple, but none of that's the main thing.

The main thing is, homemade biscotti is happy.  It's happy because you can do no wrong.  There's never that sad moment And because I like my coffee strong and thick as tar (absolutely non-negotiable), it sometimes requires something to go with.  Something slightly sweet, to offset the rich bitter; with crunch, to offset the slosh; with protein, to offset the zzzz's; with no prep time, to offset my schedule; with a small footprint, to offset the fact I'm not really very hungry but just need a little something to offset that right-back-where-we-started coffee.   Something delicious.  Did I mention delicious?  Because what's the point of eating if it's not?  Something like biscotti.

Now, biscotti hardly need an introduction.  You and I both know these hockey pucks masquerading as biscuits, half-filling glass canisters in coffee shops across the land.  Commercial biscotti fill a funny niche, not food so much as ballast against that awkward end-of-day hour when all the light, flaky, good baked goods have sold out.  Sturdy, tough, practical, biscotti make a perfect pastry of last resort.  Orthopedics in a sea of Manolo Blahniks.  With a taste to match.

Maybe, it occurs to me, this isn't the best lead-in to a biscotti recipe.  But the biscotti that I love, that I mourned running out of not long ago, isn't really of the same species as those over-the-counter billy sticks.  Not even the same Phylum, actually.  Take the texture.  Fine cornmeal yields a sandy crumb; heaps of nuts, a toothsome give; a bit of butter, much-needed lightness.  This biscotti has a pleasant, welcoming crunch.  It snaps.  It crumbles.  It doesn't need to be soaked an hour for fear of undoing expensive dental work.  I don't even dunk it.  Hockey puck has never sprung to my mind while eating one.  Addictive has.    And then there's the flavor.  To read the recipe, there's a lot going on here, orange and rosemary, anise and almond, and I'm not sure anyone other than Claudia Fleming could have pulled it all off.  But pull it off she does, and along the way makes this motley crew taste like manifest destiny, twice-baked.  Of all those star players, not one gets out of hand.  (Who knew anise could be a background note?)  The original is subtle, harmonious, just lovely as is.  But for me, they are lovelier still with double the nuts.  I like how their tender crunch plays off the crisp biscuit, and appreciate the protein they pack alongside.  They're not perfect, these biscotti.  They can't undo the effects of turning in too late, and were totally deaf to my Daylight Savings wailing.  They don't guarantee a great morning.  But they've made for many a good one. 

Experiment with the nuts, here.  I've used hazlenuts and pine nuts as well as the almonds and walnuts called for below, sometimes all together, sometimes just solo.  I'm especially fond of the walnuts, here, for their buttery crunch and sweet flavor, but each variety offers something special.  Play around.
Also, a polenta note: Fleming calls for medium-grind, which I've used often and liked fine.  What I've loved though, of late, is a finely ground, instant Italian polenta, which provides all the sweet flavor and sandy texture of corn, without the grit factor.  The brand name evades me, but if your grocery has such a good, it will make these biscotti sing. and maybe you too.

just sayin'.


1 1/2 cups almonds and walnuts, lightly toasted, roughly chopped
4 Tablespoons salted butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup unbleached flour (or 50/50 white and whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup fine polenta, Italian instant if possible
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon anise seeds
2 large eggs
Egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread nuts out on rimmed baking sheet and toast gently in oven, tossing occasionally, 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  Keep oven on.
Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stove, turn off the heat, and add the chopped rosemary and orange zest to melted butter to infuse.  Allow to cool, but not harden, 20 minutes or so.

In the bowl of an electric mixer set to low speed, mix together dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and anise).   Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add cooled, melted, downright heady orange-rosemary butter, and mix to combine.  Stir in the cooled nuts.  Let the dough rest 5 minutes.

With wet hands, form dough into a log roughly 2 inches wide and 10 inches long, and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush log with egg wash and bake until top is a deep golden brown, around 30 minutes.  Let cool, 20-30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 200°F.

Using a long serrated knife (a bread knife is best), slice the log on the diagonal into 1/2" thick slices.  The steeper the diagonal, the longer your biscotti.  A 20° angle will get you respectable biscuits; 45° and you're approaching serious fortification territory.  When I scale up the batch, I try for both.  (Some mornings, you know.)  Arrange biscotti on parchment-lined baking sheet, 1/2" apart (they do not spread), with cut sides exposed (set on their bottoms).  Allow to dry in the low oven until crisp, about 1 hour.  Cool completely, then store in an airtight tin or jar.  These keep beautifully for months. 

3.06.2015

busy being fabulous


It finally came to me. Yesterday.

Holy cow!

I know experiencing an epiphany is not uncommon, not miracle status by any means. But I've just had one! I understand for those of you who are accustomed to such things that this is nothing to write home about. yet it's kinda exciting to me. a thrill. a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. a sort of comprehension or perception of reality. intuitive realization. a spiritual flash, if you will  that can change the way I view myself (hell-o Gandhi!). can you imagine. I understand this. I'm not really new to it. But...

I'm writing home, anyway.

It didn't start out so grand.  Actually, the day before, I was rather blasé.  I knew it was coming, I've been thinking about it, for weeks months actually. due to the fact I wanted to have this settled by New Year's Day. Pshaw, I thought.  Take another day. think on it a bit longer. What's the big deal?

Did I mention my middle name is procrastination Perfection?
The big deal, it turns out, is that it was there all along. my very own ruby slippers. clear as crystal.  not exactly earth shattering. just enlightening to boot. Maybe I ought to ease up on the drama. savor the occasional magical moments, I'm oh so glad when they happen. and the memory has been hanging with me, perhaps because I've been hankering after it for so long. In fact, I adore it. cherish it. I look forward to the entire year of living with it, and maybe if I'm lucky it will stick around. forever...... there are many, many facets. layer after layer of awesomeness, built up over time like soft patina on an old spoon.  done well, this has personality, depth, character.  I tend to be of the mindset that says if it doesn't have character, if it's not all that why even bother?  This may be extreme, but I don't think I'm alone.
SO, this year's word? drum roll please!

Fabulous!!!

Really, really inspired. Because sometimes, you know, a person just needs fabulous. say it out loud.  f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s! And let's face it, things could be worse, I can think of worse fates. Looking back, I can see I might've known to expect this.  Apparently I crave fabulous. I say, bring it on! Spunk and twinkle aside, queue the fabulous. the sooner, the better. The thing is really two things, if you will, fabulous on the outside, and the fabulous that accompanies on the inside.  I mention this because I'm ordinarily just an inside kinda gal. But, but now I want outside fabulous, too! nothing seems too baroque for fabulous?  Borderline genius. But every once in a while, the fabulous is everything, like when you want your 64th to boom! (you know the "will you still love me, will you still need me?") be the best ever. a celebratory fabulous. This is one of those once in a whiles.That may be too much build-up for a year?  because for all that, the only work here is yoga, walk, scoop, drizzle and shake.  It is nothing more than will power. a bit less here. upping the exercise. dialing down the sugar. every few months another size down. endless health benefits. and extra oomph all around. It really is lovely, in fact, in all sorts of ways, little smudges adding unidentifiable, wonderful depth.

But I've not yet added it today. Until now.  I won't make that mistake again.This year, this is the fabulous I'm queuing, the one that I'm craving, and keep coming back to.  It came together in a most unlikely moment, Tuesday afternoon, post nap walk. It saw me tumbling in at three in the afternoon. Two hours. divvied up for good measure.  I'm not sure where your inspiration comes from, but mine rarely begins with a two hour nap. But somehow, on this particular day, between the crucial ten minutes it took the water to boil and seep green tea, it came to me.  I scavenged my journals, came up with some thought or another, and set to work improvising a plan.  I'd had, at the back of my mind, for months, a vision. I didn't write it down. (I still haven't), but the idea of the thing spurred me along.  The reality of the thing has kept me coming back for days. yes, I know it's the beginning of March! But this was a big decision—to think about and live by this word all year long. It takes a special kind of self determination to go there and never look back. It's taken me awhile, but I'm doing it now baby! I’ve done it. I'm living it. I've picked my word, it finally clicked, and now I'll see where it takes me. Naturally, I will need something to remind me. to center myself on. something more than the simple day-to-day tasks that seem to fill the moments, hours, and days to overflowing.

F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!

I’m going to wrap my head around that word and see where it takes me.

Go ahead self.  I dare you.  

In the meantime dude, I'm busy being fabulous.

just sayin' 



frozen yogurt covered blueberries
 1 (6 oz) Container of fresh blueberries
 1 (6 oz) container nonfat blueberry Greek yogurt. NOTE: I have also used honey, vanilla and strawberry. All are delish!


Start by washing your blueberries and lining a small baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Using a toothpick, dip each blueberry into the Greek yogurt and swirl until the blueberry is nicely coated with yogurt. Place on baking sheet. Continue this until all blueberries are coated.
Place baking sheet into freezer, and let freeze for at least an hour.
After about an hour, your Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries can be placed in a ziplock baggie and stored in the freezer. Take out what you need for snack time and enjoy!


P.S. also dipped strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.