Monday, January 30, 2012

casing the joint

A smallish hawk landed in one of our backyard trees yesterday.

He was pretty, but my brother chased an unsuspecting squirrel out of his way. Let him work a little harder to find food.

That reminds me of a story. Way back in the late 1980s, we got a book in at the library called Merlin, by Norma Lorre Goodrich. It was a scholarly work about the legendary mentor of King Arthur, and I always loved the Arthurian stories. Her conclusions were that he was a Christian bishop or something, and all the legends just rose up and became embellished over the centuries. She wrote one about Arthur too - I gobbled them both up (but they were very dry, I have to say).

Anyway, I remember it was winter. I was immersed in this book, dry as it was. Looked out one day (it was a Sunday - I remember!) and there was a small hawk on top of the bird feeder. He sat there about an hour. At that time, I was beginning to get an interest in indentifying birds, and I grabbed our field guide for birds.

It was a merlin.  A merlin!  I felt like he had come to visit me while I was reading about him! Such a funny coincidence. He hung around for a week or so, sitting on a short stockade fence on the side of the house; right outside my bedroom window, in fact.

One of those odd things that happen sometimes.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"sponge" cake recipe

This is for Carmen - she wanted the cake recipe from yesterday's post.

Lemon and Walnut Tea Bread
1/2 c. butter or margarine, room temp.
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, separated
zest of 2 lemons
2 T. lemon juice
scant 2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt

Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan. Set oven to 350.
Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and combine well. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix flour and b. powder well. Fold into butter mixture alternately with the milk. *
In another bowl, beat egg whites with the salt till stiff, then gently fold into the batter. Put into pan and bake 45 - 50 minutes.  (I would check it after 40 mins.)

* I used the mixer to add the dry ingredients and milk - didn't notice I was supposed to fold it in! Now, I'll have to keep doing it the same way.

The lemon sauce I used was this:  heat up 1/4 c. superfine sugar, the juice of 3 lemons and 5 T. water till all is dissolved.  (although it seemed a lot to me, and I used maybe half of it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

a lemon cake for Millie

My elderly neighbor had a birthday coming up, and she asked me if I'd make her one of those little quick breads with the lemon glaze poured over while they're still warm.  I said, "sure!", but when I went to get my recipe, it wasn't there.

I'd never actually made the recipe, but had tasted it, and then asked the baker if I could have it. This was at least twenty years ago. It was delicious, but I suppose I must have cleaned out my recipe box from things I'd never made.
So, I looked through a few cookbooks, and found two hopefuls - one for the cake, one for the lemon sauce for the top.

They were in 1000 Great Recipes, by Martha Day. It's an English cookbook - you can tell those by the "funny" temperatures and measurements - but it also has the American equivalents; a very sensible arrangement!
I made the Lemon and Walnut Tea Bread. Left out the walnuts, and put less lemon in, because I think these cakes are supposed to get their lemonyness from the icings. The sauce was from another cake recipe on a different page - it seemed good to me, so I went with it!

When I took it out of the oven (you're looking for another disaster story here, aren't you?  Nope.), I heated up the sugar, lemon and water, then poured it over the cake, after poking holes all over with a toothpick.

This recipe is a keeper, let me tell you. Sponge cake is what came to mind when I tasted it. It only has two eggs, but they were separated, with whipped-up whites folded in at the end, and I guess that's what does it.  I can picture this cake - with or without lemon flavoring - in two eight-inch layers, with jam between, just like Victoria Sponge!  

As for the lemon sauce, it made everything very tasty and lemony. But it wasn't the usual sugary, lemony icing you find on these cakes which gives almost a sugary crust. I'll have to look for the proper thing online. 

But it was good, and Millie was glad to have it.

And I was glad to do it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

cat atop a laptop

Yesterday I was looking at the other blogs participating in Leila's weekly posting, but somebody suddenly came up and got in my way

She stayed quite a while


 Because it's there.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

bread, snow and Jane Austen

I was happy to find a good rye bread recipe for the machine, from The Complete Book of Bread & Bread Machines, by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.  I know I'll keep trying new recipes, but I'm glad to have this one. 

We had a snowfall on Saturday, and I have to say, it was PERFECT, if you have to have snow. We only got about three inches, but quite enough to transform everything into beauty and freshness. And, because it was so cold - in the teens - it was light as dust (well, almost), and could be disposed of very easily!  What could be better?  This winter is perfect so far, and a real blessing against last year's terrors.  I hope it may continue!

my boots, mittens and 180s after a very easy little sweep outside  

I was also very happy to find a bread slicer. I've been struggling to slice my bread and making a mess of it. Isn't this pretty?  And it folds up neatly afterwards.  
{happy} and {pretty}

{funny}    I've been reading Mansfield Park - I'm nearing the end. Fanny has gone home to visit after many years away, and is dismayed by the lack of order in the household and lack of discipline among the inhabitants.
Jane Austen's very dry wit gave me a laugh this morning -

""Betsey too, a spoilt child, trained up to think the alphabet her greatest enemy..."   

Apparently Mary Russell  Mitford once said that she could almost cut off one of her hands if it would enable her to write like Jane Austen with the other.

round button chicken           Thanks to Leila & Rosie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

hoping...he were the husband of some other woman"

"Henry Crawford came and sat some time with them; and...her heart was softened for a while towards him - because he really seemed to feel. - Quite unlike his usual self, he scarcely said any thing. He was evidently oppressed, and Fanny must grieve for him, though hoping she might never see him again till he were the husband of some other woman."

                      -  Mansfield Park,   Jane Austen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Henry plays

with his catnip fishie, crocheted by the gracious Beth.

more birdware from Cyndi

Cyndi, the bird-lover, has given me a lovely little bird-decorated plate and bowl - I'm getting quite a collection of bird things from her -

I had tomato soup in that bowl the other day, and homemade rye bread on the plate!  It looked very well, I must say.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"meat" cookie recipe

Just kidding.  About the "meat" part, I mean.

Jackie asked for the recipe, so here it is - and I hope it's legal to share it:

Pistachio-Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
Chop up enough pistachios to make 1/2 cup,  and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat 1 stick of butter and 3 ounces of cream cheese for a bit, till soft and mixed.
Add one cup of xxx sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt, beating till combined.
Beat in one lg. egg and 1 tsp. vanilla thoroughly.  Add 2 and a half cups of flour, 'tho it may be that you end up stirring it in if it gets too stiff. Add 2 tsps. orange or lemon peel, if you have it.
Divide dough in half, and roll into two logs approx. an inch and a half in diameter. Roll each in the pistachios, wrap in plastic and chill at least one hour.
Cut into 1/4 inch slices and bake on ungreased sheets 7 to 9 mins. at 375 degrees F.  Makes 44 cookies. (which is exactly how many I got!)

recipe from Better Homes & Gardens 100 Best Cookies 2011

Hope yours turn out prettier than mine!

prettier than any cookie

Thursday, January 19, 2012

what does it look like to you?

My friend, Emily gave me a miniature rose for my birthday a few weeks ago - it's still blooming, and very {pretty}.

I'm {happy} that I finally made myself finish up my pumpkin colored hand warmers.

a great challenge to take a photo with the left hand - when you're right handed

I still need practice in getting them just right, but since I have a thing for hand warmers, that shouldn't be a problem. (even though it's too cold here right now for anything resembling incomplete gloves)

My {funny} consists of some cream cheese cookies I made. They're good - no disasters here this time!  You shape them into logs and roll them in chopped pistachios.  However, I found that when I tried to photograph them, they end up looking like slices of poultry!  See what I mean:

Now doesn't that look like turkey to you?  Except the little browned one at the top, maybe. I wonder if it's the knife I used.

round button chicken

Thanks again to Leila.

Monday, January 16, 2012

first snow

That October storm doesn't count - it was an aberration.  But it's finally snowing now.

Just a couple of surreal images through the front window.

Henry looks up

We sometimes see Henry looking up at the wall - a shadow catches his eye, or movement of light. It's interesting - I mean, he's low to the ground, so to speak; what makes him even notice something up so high, relatively? Dolly doesn't.

Yesterday he was laying on his back in that ridiculous, undignified way he has - legs akimbo, but he was observing something.  Then he sat up to look at it.  Then, he jumped on the chair to get a better view of it.

There was a patch of sunlight on the wall, and wavy lines - I don't know what from.  He was interested in it.

For a long time.

It's just something which is kinda cute about him.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

winter blackbird

I was surprised yesterday to see this grackle at the feeder - they always fly south for the winter.  He didn't appear to be injured.

I wonder how he's feeling today - it was about one degree at sunrise this morning!   Brrrr!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

cookie monsters

One of the things I got on my birthday was a jar of homemade cookie mix!

Very promising.

The directions were on the back -

hmm.  No, it didn't say whether they were bar cookies, drop cookies or rolled-out cookies.   During a lull in the wave of cookie gifts to my brother, I decided to make them.

There were colorful shots inside.

When I mixed the dough, it turned pink!

From the shots, maybe - or the dried cranberries. It also had vanilla or white chocolate chips. (couldn't tell which)

Henry came along while I worked.

I told him that cats don't eat cookies. *

The consistency made me decide to drop them, so I did. They looked good!

There were four dozen.  I tried one.  

It was way too sweet.  Maybe the shots sugared it up a bit?  Or the wrong amount of sugar got put in the jar.
I knew I couldn't eat them.  I decided to bring them to work - my co-workers love sweets. I didn't know how they'd be received, but thought I'd give it a try.

The next day, there I was, and my co-worker and fellow blogger walked in. She has a young adult group, which was meeting that afternoon, and she'd forgotten to bring refreshments.  And there was nothing to be found in the library kitchen. I said, "I have cookies!"

At first she said teens wouldn't appreciate homemade goods.  But she really didn't want to go out again, so she took them. 

They ate the whole thing.

What is there to be said about teenagers who will eat anything with sugar in it?

The end.

 (oh -  * I think cats eat cupcakes. But not cookies.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

"even the sandwich tray"

"A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself; and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man's heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment. was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray..."

                  -  Mansfield Park,     by  Jane Austen

Sunday, January 8, 2012

the heavenly light

"...the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising."

                                       -  Isaiah 60:3

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Twelfth Night {p,h,f,r}

I was trying to photograph the Christmas tree's reflection in the glass of a  painting and it came out {pretty}, I think!

{Pretty} was also Dolly on the New Year's table, posing with a {pretty} box of cookies from one of my brother's customers.

And, unbelievably beautiful was this evening's sunset on the backyard trees and everything out there; but I couldn't quite capture it, even though I took so many pictures.  It was gold-er and less orange than this  -  the cloudy sky was that deep dark blue which clouds sometimes get against the sun

but which I cannot seem to get -  It was fabulous, though!

Tonight is Twelfth Night - I put the shepherds away and got out the Three Kings.  And I made a star for the tree. A Star of David, which seemed like the right kind of star to put up there, considering.

It's a very simple affair, which is about all I'm capable of doing, made from the same fabric I made the garland from; with unfinished edges sandwiched together with batting between and quilted with two strands of red embroidery floss.  Very basic.

You can see how homemade it looks.  I trimmed it a bit after stitching, to neaten it up.  Then I stuck a skewer up into it, and strapped it to the tree with gold cord.

I'm {happy} it's done. I have to assume the kings are, too. They needed the star to find their way, didn't they?

It looks good up there - I like it!  A star, finally!

round button chicken

Thank you, Leila. Happy New Year to everyone!