season: summer, all the way. Hot, like in the 90’s, and humid because it still wants to thunderstorm every day. Kinda icky, I’m wallowing in the air conditioning as my electric bill creeps up. But it’s nice in the evening and the fireflies, oh the fireflies!! They were going bonkers last night when we were watering the plants, my whole yard was all twinkly. I can’t believe I went most of my life without ever seeing or catching a firefly…
feeling: anxious and excited for a new start! It’s official, I’m starting a new job on the 5th of July. The old job ended, this was not unexpected though for a while there it was uncertain exactly when it would end. The process for finding the new one was a little rough but thankfully quick and the timing it turns out was absolutely perfect. I get a mini-holiday for my birthday and don’t have to worry about unemployment, that sour pit of uncertainty in my stomach has gone away and has only been replaced by a mild case of imposter-itis. Woot!
growing: I’m not sure if my plants are enjoying this heat all that much but at least the sugar peas are producing. I think everything got pollinated a little better this year than last, except maybe the crabapple tree. We rescued some raspberry bushes and a few fruit trees from a friend’s garden they were emptying out, if they make it until next year I’ll be ecstatic! The cherry tomato plant in the basement is just about finished producing, we harvested about 20 fruit off of it which is the best I’ve ever done with cherry tomatoes, even outside. Everything else is shuffling along slowly but I think we’ll have a good crop eventually.
playing: I picked up a discounted copy of Sims Medieval and am pleased that it’s much more task-oriented than the Sims, and still can be played in nice workable chunks. An interesting game that really only uses the Sims as a platform. I still haven’t started Mass Effect 3 since I wanted to wait on the patch that allows me to import my Fem Shepherd, Very important, that is.
cooking: I tried roasting chickpeas for the first time. It sort of worked, I needed to roast them for longer and I stored them poorly so they softened up. Not quite as addictive as those wasabi peas, but the honey and cinnamon flavor is really good. I also made a garam masala flavor and for some reason it reminds me of egg salad. Meh. They opened up an Asian market a lot closer to our house that carries an excellent brand of mochi ice cream (black sesame, where have you been all my life!) and giant boxes of Hello Panda, I’m still doing happy dances about it. Also made these mochi brownies (hey, gluten free!), they are light and spongy like marshmallows and way too easy to eat quickly, and these Tuscan lemon ricotta muffins, which were super moist and a little bland according to Teo. I think blueberries would perk them up just the right amount.
On another note, I want to have a to-do list for this summer that I can actually check things off of. Here’s what I have so far:
- Make and can peach jam
- Make and can tomato sauce
- Find a pick-your-own farm that has strawberries
- Find a go-to recipe for rice pudding
- Find a go-to recipe for caramel sauce
- Find a go-to recipe for chocolate sauce
- Knit at least 3 pairs of socks
- Turn my pieced Tshirt quilt-top into a quilt
- Sew a top from one of the patterns I have
- Knit myself a shawl
- Read at least 3 novels
- Go camping
And with the Munchkin:
- Make sushi
- Make quiche
- Make homemade ravioli with ricotta and pasta from scratch
- Make ice cream
- Make soft pretzels
- Make a balsa wood airplane
- Go to a water park
- Help him finish his knitting project
- Teach him how to crochet
season: I’m hoping it’s finally settled on spring. The temperature has fluctuated between unseasonably warm and freezing so much that I’m glad my plants are still indoors, but they aren’t.
feeling: Glum and stressed, unfortunately. I don’t like uncertainty and I’m dealing with a lot of it right now, the kind that lingers in the pit of your stomach and makes a sour taste in your mouth. I feel paralyzed by it and everything seems dampened down around me. I’m hoping that’s a light at the end of a tunnel and not a freight train barreling towards me, but I will likely know for sure in the next two months…
growing: I have a 5 foot tall cherry tomato plant blooming in my basement that has never been outside. I’m actually pretty pleased with it, I started it in December and we ate the first fruit this weekend (it tasted delicious!). We’ll see if it produces enough to be worth the effort, but at least it’s totally safe from invasive bugs. We also have a pot of carrots and we’re going to try some greens and bush beans indoors to see if they work out too. I’m planting the rest of my seeds and seedlings in the ground this weekend so fingers crossed it won’t freeze again!
reading: I’m really enjoying the Millennium series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.), I can see why they became bestsellers. I haven’t seen any of the movies yet and I’m a little confused that the Americans made the first book into a movie again just 2 years after the Swedes did (plus the Swedes did all three books), but maybe the Swedish one is unapproachable for American audiences? Good characters, weird sadistic and intriguing murder mysteries, Swedish names, and lots of coffee and sandwiches. I’m also enjoying Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, although it’s fairly different from the movie. They explain more in the book, and there’s more monster fights, and you also get a lot more backstory for the characters though. Looking forward to the next one! I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which started off like it was going to get interesting and then…didn’t. It was just too improbable, too sweetly happy, and kind of boring. Bummer. Also finished Prince Caspian, and found it not nearly as good as the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’m thinking of tackling a non-fiction next, waffling between The Man Who Ate Everything, The Sociopath Next Door, and The Female Brain.
playing: finished Skyrim (yes, I can say that. At least all the non-radiant content), played about 75% of the way through Red Dead Redemption, dabbled a little in a new neighborhood in the Sims (I needed some cathartic vicarious living), and am working my way back to The Old Republic. The munchkin and I played a lot of the Lego video games while he was in town for spring break, they work really well for coop play. It can be a little hard to keep him on task so it frequently reverts to arena-style attacking each other and stealing coins from each other, but when we’re on we can beat almost everything together. We even introduced him to the Indiana Jones movies since he’s played the game so much with me and already loved the characters. I think we need to get the Pirates of the Caribbean one next :)
crafting: not much at all. I’ve felt rather uninspired (probably goes hand-in-hand with the glumness) and have barely made progress on the projects I currently have on the needles. Bah.
pondering: It’s funny how modern life skills require managing different input feeds and ongoing lists. Thanks to technology, I now have even more things that require regular maintenance or they start to pile up – in addition to dishes, laundry, and dirty floors, there’s now blog feeds, Facebook updates, Pinterest pins, DVR’d shows, and so on.
My inner completionist cringes at the thought of all these things never, ever being “done” or “empty,” but the part of me that craves the new and is always curious loves it. There’s a huge amount of inspiration derived from these that fuels my lists and lists of projects to make, books to read, and recipes to try. Lots of good things have come out of it, even if I do occasionally feel smothered by the information overload.
purging: This season’s theme has definitely been one of purging. There was just enough clutter in the corners of our house that it was feeling oppressive, clutter that just needed to be dealt with, already. Expired food in the cupboards and freezer, a mess of camping equipment that needs a storage solution, a yarn stash scattered among three mis-matched containers and inviting moths, a half-demoed bathroom, etc, etc…junk needed to be disposed of, organization needed to happen. Deciding to start dealing with it, Teo and I have been chipping away at the mountain of projects we have.
It’s been a little painful and embarrassing to acknowledge my weakness for hoarding things that I *might* be able to use someday (which has also rubbed off onto Teo!), but it’s been really refreshing to clear out the useless and move on with a clean slate. We rearranged the basement to allow for the wood stove we’re going to have someday and now that all the freezer-burnt food is gone I can see that I’ve got the makings of tomato sauce and also peach and berry jam ready to go. I reorganized the yarn stash into fewer containers and made a resolution to use up a lot of it before buying more yarn, I don’t want to turn into Lina’s grandmother in City of Ember. Teo also moved a light fixture in the basement and updated the wire and outlet next to it with the proper gauge, all the while going on about how crazy the person who wired it up must have been. I love watching my guy use his mad skillz.
I’m also pleased with how pinning recipes I’ve been wanting to try onto Pinterest has indeed motivated me more to try them (and thus purge my to-try list as well!).
crafting: Here’s why I love knitting socks:
- They’re portable – with either dpns or circular needles and even with all the yarn, they can be squashed down into a space the size of a purse. And not squashed in such a way that stitches get dropped and tears are shed.
- They’re efficient – they take just one skein of yarn for the pair, usually. No dye lot matching required and they’re easy on the wallet. Sock skeins also make great gifts, I think.
- They’re just repetitive enough – especially if they have a texture or pattern to them. There’s just enough going on to keep it interesting and right around the point where you’re starting to tune out, it’s time to construct a different part of the sock.
- They’re just cool – handknit socks rule. They’re colorful, custom fit, and there are endless varieties to play around with so you never have to make the same pair twice.
reading: The foray into fantasy is going strong. I finished the first Sword of Truth book and am considering buying the second one, along with Anne Rice’s new book for Teo. I can take my time with it as I have a way of doing with 1000+ page books, and it fits my requirement for being a “keeper” since I would read it at least 2 more times. I also started Prince Caspian and The Book of Ti’Ana, both of which have been languishing on my shelf for years waiting for me to return.
playing: I’ve completed most of Skyrim (I think). I finished the main quest storyline, became leader of the warrior, mage, and thieves guilds, did all the bards college quests, completed almost all the non-radiant side-quests, and unlocked the final dragon priest mask. I still need to finish the assassin’s guild storyline, find 5 dragon shout words, find 11 Stones of Barenziah, side with the Empire or the rebels in the Civil War storyline, become Thane of Windhelm and buy the house there, and get one last Daedric artifact before I consider the quests “complete.” And even after that there are many caves and dungeons to explore before I’ve cleared everything and the completionist in me will be truly satisfied, but I’m happy to have cleared out almost all of my quest journal. Ah, purging.
…is this thing on?
Long story short, it’s February 2012 and I’m working on getting back to this space as a way of chronicling the days since they seem to whip by so fast when you don’t stop to capture the moment. Is this the right forum to document this? I’m not sure yet, but we’ll give it a go again.
season: pretty mild winter. A few snow storms that left inches of snow that melted just a few days later when it warmed up again. It almost wants to be spring, but there’s still snow in the forecast. Spring can be such a tease here.
growing: started my seeds in newspaper pots in the basement and the one tomato plant I’ve been nurturing all winter has a blossom on it. This year the garden will focus on trying to grow some champions from what did well last year: spaghetti squash, sugar pie pumpkins, zucchini, bush cucumbers, sugar snap peas, beefsteak, cherry, and plum tomatoes. The only newcomer will be purple pole beans. We’re still undecided about the sunflowers since they are a magnet for stink bugs, we might try planting them far away from everything else as bait. Also been growing green onions from the roots in a tray in my basement and haven’t had to buy any since, which is awesome.
crafting: finally started a toe-up pair of socks for my mum with yarn I’ve had stashed for ages now. Judy’s Magic Cast-On kind of blew my mind, and I’m cruising along with the cute little scroll lace pattern. Might even have them done for Mother’s Day. They’re the first thing I’ve knitted since Christmas, all that mad production and furious felting really knocked the wind out of my knitting sails for a bit. In case you’re wondering, I tried to felt the slippers in the machine, but ended up hunching over a bucket of slightly soapy warm water and some rubber gloves and just rubbing the snot out of them. It worked but it took a movie or two, and they took several days to dry.
cooking: tried a few new recipes that I’ll definitely make again, including this awesome hot corn dip and these super rich salted caramels. Also I think I might need to keep frozen banana bites in my freezer at all times. Teo and I are in a nice kitchen rhythm these days: some days I cook, some (slightly more often) days he cooks, depending on whose tried-and-true recipe we’re having that night. He does most of the shopping so he determines a lot of the menu (which I maintain is why he cooks more often) but I put in requests. I make pizza dough and let it rise overnight, he hand tosses it for pizza or calzones. I make a large batch of Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with our super secret flavor weapon and freeze the extra jars, he takes care of the noodles and garlic bread. He does dishes on weekdays, I do them on weekends, which is when I’m usually cleaning up a big mess from trying a new recipe anyway.
Had to clean out a ton of jars of old jams and jellies from my cabinets that never got eaten or gifted. Kind of a bummer but I needed room for the 8 jars of apple butter I canned last weekend and anything else that will be made this year. Loving that the apples were all gifted, along with the pounds of peaches waiting in the freezer to be turned into pies and peach butter. Also loving that there are bags and bags of tomato puree from my garden in there as well, soon to be turned into tomato sauce.
reading: have finally read almost all of Jane Austen’s books but unfortunately I really only loved Pride and Prejudice, the others were just okay. Loved the Hunger Games trilogy though, they were exciting and I totally cannot wait for the movies. Am currently in the middle of the steampunk Leviathan trilogy and they’re a lot of fun, finishing up my second read-through of the first of the Sword of Truth books and eagerly looking forward to the rest. Also read (or rather listened to) Game of Thrones and am eagerly waiting for the library to make the next one available. Making my way back to the fantasy genre and it’s good.
playing: Skyrim. Lots and lots of Skyrim. I love it. I might be a little obsessed with it, sometimes I catch myself playing the background music in my head. But I don’t love the bugs that are preventing me from turning in quests, and are ultimately the reason why I started a new character after getting all the way to level 47, boo. Also we moved from Rift to Star Wars: The Old Republic. I love the way the game design makes you think critically about your character’s actions over time, so you have way more invested in your avatar and their relationship with other characters than in a typical MMO. Cool stuff. In the queue is Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (ziplines!) and Red Dead Redemption, and of course Mass Effect 3 when it comes out in a month (eee!).
pinning: kind of obsessed with Pinterest. Also moving all my bookmarked to-try recipes from diigo to Pinterest because really it’s the picture that makes you want to try the recipe.
noteworthy: we got engaged on our anniversary. I’m already procrastinating like a champ. And daydreaming about details. And pinning things.
- Never buy a potato you can’t look at first
- If you love your fingers, wear gloves that have fingers when pumping gas in zero degree temps
- My phone’s camera is barely adequate, but at least it’s quick and I can crop the pictures (even if they are a little blurry)
- I’m officially in love with baking in my little cast iron skillet
- Goat Cheese and Grapes were made for each other
- I really dig listening to books on CD while working, I feel *so* productive
- Teo really likes making soups in the winter, and I really like letting him
- Austrian cheese soup is freakin’ awesome leftover (and fresh, but especially leftover)
Traditional Austrian Cheese Soup
Adapted a tad bit from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 2 finely sliced celery stalks
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 2 large potatoes, cut into cubes
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 8 oz container plain yogurt
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the celery, leeks, and potatoes, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pot, and cook the soup slowly for 35 to 40 minutes.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the cream cheese, yogurt, salt and pepper. Stir continuously until they melt, then blend everything thoroughly.
I’ve decided there’s a few things I must do in 2011:
Make more tarts.
Harness the powers of good bacteria.
Be better to my spine.
Make myself a shawl.
Paint. And not just walls.
Now to just decide on a shawl pattern, whip up a bacon and leek tart, and settle in with my paintbrushes…
It shouldn’t take anyone twenty four years to getting around to trying a recipe. Especially one as tasty as this! But alas, that’s what happens when you let cookbooks languish on the shelf.
This recipe is from the first cookbook I ever owned, which is ironically also called “My First Cookbook” and is by Rena Coyle. I must have spent hours looking at the totally adorable illustrations but only managed to try just a handful of the recipes throughout the years.
Seriously though, how adorable are these illustrations?
I did make many, many teddy bear pancakes in my day. Still do, actually, with little chocolate chip faces and buttons.
Did you know, indeed?
Okay, back to the the recipe I wanted to talk about.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
I think this recipe is the longest one in the book since it has detailed instructions for proofing and kneading dough. I can honestly say that I was intimidated by recipes that involve yeast for the first 27 years of my life.
I’m over that now. Way over it.
Rainy Day Bake-Off: Cinnamon Raisin Bread
- 2 cups milk
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup raisins
Scald milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Stir together yeast, 5 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the milk. Stir until it forms a stiff dough. If it isn’t stiff, add another 1/4 cup of flour.
Sprinkle a clean surface with flour an turn out the dough onto the surface. Knead for 5 minutes, adding small amounts of flour if the dough starts to stick. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour. Punch the dough down, replace the towel, and let rise again for another 30 minutes.
Butter the insides of two loaf pans.
Stir together 4 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl.
Sprinkle a large working surface with flour and roll the dough out into a large, thin rectangle. Spread the butter mixture over the surface of the dough and sprinkle the raisins over the butter. Roll the dough up as tightly as you can and cut the roll in half to make two loaves. Place them seam side down in the loaf pans, cover them with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the tops of the loaves and bake at 350 degrees F until the tops are golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it, about 35 minutes.
Pop the loaves out of the pan and let cool on a rack. Serve with cream cheese if you like (I certainly did).