• weekend watch, #10

    I decided to do a series on making pie crust. Here’s part one.

    ***

    And the other weekend when I made waffles, I hooked the camera to the hanging lamp to film it.

    This will be the last post of the “weekend watch” series — at least for now. I figure that by now y’all know where to look if you want to see the videos, and you probably have gotten a good enough feel for my video posting schedule and content, and you can always click the YouTube tab on my blog header to see the running tally of videos.

    But if you haven’t subscribed, feel free! 1K subscribers and then I can monetize, woot! (And don’t worry: subscribers shouldn’t get any irritating alerts unless you choose to turn on the notifications — new videos will just show up when you open your subscriptions tab in YouTube.) Coming soon: videos about calving (!), grocery budgeting and shopping, cheesemaking, parts II and III in the pie series, what we eat in a week, etc.

    Thanks for watching, friends, and have a good weekend! xo

  • the quotidian (5.16.22)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    For winter teas (and maybe a cake).

    Early harvest.

    This, but with rhubarb and grape purée.

    If you like a wallop of spice with your crunch, try Vicki’s Jalapeño Chips from Costco.

    We might not be able to live on bread (and cheese) alone but we sure can try!

    For smoothies, frozen spinach is better than fresh. I had no idea!

    Stale bakery sourdough makes for the best grilled cheeses.

    He started his summer job at the garden. (I love my washing machine.)

    The little mushroom-growing project may be getting out of hand….

    Chicken Lady.

    I love it that the kids are old enough to own the family pets and pay for all the food and vet bills.

    This beaut just randomly popped up in the yard.

    Nap interrupted.

    Sunday hike.
    photo credit: a friendly stranger

    This same time, years previous: inclusion, surprise!, the quotidian (5.16.16), Captain Morgan’s rhubarb sours, help, a burger, a play, and some bagels, ’twas an honor.

  • weekend watch, #9

    Meet the ladies!

    Emma’s in the homestretch now. Her bag is bulging, and we’re checking on her at least three times a day. Soon!

    ***

    Here’s how I tackle it.

    Have a good weekend, friends! My husband just signed us up for a free trial of Paramount so we can watch The Lost City for family night movie this weekend, and tomorrow we’re going on a hike with friends. Oh, and I made that berry cobbler I filmed for YouTubed, only this time I used rhubarb and grape puree (mixed with a little brown sugar and some cornstarch) instead of blackberries and it’s so yum. xo!

  • currently

    Good afternoon, friends. How are you?

    Right now I’m…

    Feeling… sluggish and bored. Zero energy. Therefore, I’m…

    Drinking… English Breakfast tea with a little sugar and…

    Forcing myself… to write this post, just to get something out. Must. Produce. Words. (Already I’m beginning to feel a little better.)

    Mustering up the energy to… tackle some kitchen work. Seven-plus gallons of milk are culturing on the stovetop and will need to be turned into a cheddar in short order. It’s time to make yet another menu for the next week, and I have a whole bunch of small kitchen tasks I need to get to, like slicing a half ham, freezing some rotting bananas, mixing up some yummies for the week’s lunches, making a white sauce for supper. Once I jump in, it’ll be fine. It’s the period before — the dread transition — that kicks my butt.

    Wishing… it would just rain already. The air is thick, the clouds low and heavy. It makes everything feel ponderous and blah.

    Looking forward to… watching another episode of Julia with my husband tonight. We’ve both been enjoying it, me more than him (no surprise there), though the random Julia quips do make him laugh out loud with surprising frequency.

    Reading… Here We Are, a memoir by Aarti Namdev Shahani about her family’s immigration story. It’s not a hard read, but it’s taking me forever to finish. Maybe I’m just not in a reading mood? Or maybe I’m just delaying finishing it because then I’ll have to find something new to read and, like I said: I dread transition.

    Trying to remember… all four of Bryan Stevenson’s points in the talk he gave at my son’s graduation. That’s right: Bryan Stevenson, the Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy (READ IT) and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, was the commencement speaker, whoop-whoop! (I joked to my son that none of us were coming to see him walk — we just wanted to hear Bryan.) To make change, Stevenson said, we must have 1) proximity to the people/issues/problems that we wish to help/impact/solve, and 2) hope, which is just another way of saying “being faithful,” but the other two points? I can’t remember! (And yes, I’ve devoted quite a bit of shower-time to racking my brains.) 

    Eating… my second iced maple pecan cookie of the day, mmm. I need to make another batch — I have some ideas for improvements — so maybe I’ll do that this afternoon? Also, I’ve been thinking about maple oat scones an awful lot lately. Might need to scratch that itch, too.

    Babying… the roof of my mouth. I went on a baguette-making kick this week and my mouth took quite a beating from the (marvelously) crusty loaves. After eating yet another piece of fresh baguette slathered with butter, I announced to my husband that I didn’t want to eat anything else for the rest of my life. Just, fresh baguettes and butter. (And yet, I still want scones.)

    Mulling over… the rising food prices. On my latest shopping trip, I spent twenty-five percent more than I thought I would. Is that an accurate representation of the rising costs or did I just overspend?

    Ordering… another pair of Brooks running shoes, more rennet (soon) from New England Cheesemaking, and a second pair of crocs for my restaurant kitchen-worker daughter. She got one pair to keep at work and then she decided she liked them so much that she ordered another pair for at home. (She orders through our account and then pays us back.) 

    Listening… to this podcast on intuitive eating and perimenopause — again. Mind-blowing new concept (start at the 46-minute mark): just as pre-adolescent girls often put on extra weight before they hit puberty, women often gain extra weight when they are perimenopausal because — GET THIS — the extra weight is the body’s way of slowing the drop in estrogen and lessening the side effects of peri! The extra weight is not “a spare tire,” as it’s often called, but rather a freaking LIFE preserver. A shifting body shape isn’t a sign that a woman is letting herself go; rather, it’s normal and healthy. That this surprises me so much illustrates just how much I’ve absorbed our culture’s skewed perceptions of health and aging without even knowing it. I knew weight gain was common, and a thickening middle was maybe inevitable, but I had no idea that this was actually the body’s way of protecting us. I still don’t want it to happen, of course, but this new perspective helps me to be a little more gentle with myself — or something. I’m still trying to figure it out.

    Glancing obsessively… out the window to see if Emma is showing signs of labor. (Not yet!)

    Gearing up… to plant the garden. Even though I’m still missing winter (I’m secretly fantasizing about moving to Canada), I have to face it: summer is coming. So this morning I went to the greenhouse and picked up a bunch of starts — tomatoes, peppers, herbs, as well as some flowers. 

    Getting up… to go make the cheese. Bye!

    This same time, years previous: currently, when they’re “nothing” to eat, the quotidian (5.13.19), the quotidian (5.14.18), driving home the point, on getting a teen out of bed in the morning, crock pot pulled venison, maseca cornbread.

  • double chocolate scones

    Who’s in the mood for chocolate scones? Me! 

    Actually, no, I lie. After multiple trial bakes of the same recipe, I’m a little sconed-out . . . but hopefully you’re not!  

    I got my inspiration for this recipe from my aunt. When we stayed at her house last month, she made chocolate scones for breakfast.

    The scone from my aunt. (Hers had dried cherries, too.)

    She’d dry mised the ingredients prior to our arrival and then assembled and baked them while we chatted. When I asked after her recipe, she said it was the one in her cookbook but with a few changes which she then spelled out. I tried the recipe with her adaptations, but mine didn’t turn out anything like the scones she’d made for us — but that didn’t stop me!

    Four bakes later (the photos are a mash-up from the various bakes), I landed on a pretty basic cream scone recipe, but with loads of chocolate chunks and chips, and then a ganache that gets layered in, like so:

    first rectangle: spread with ganache and cut

    stacked

    smooshed back down into a rectangle again

    spread with ganache

    cut and stacked (you get the idea)

    the layering complete: shaped into a circle and cut into wedges

    It looks complicated, but it’s not. Just, a little messy — but the ganache is surprisingly satisfying to work with. Don’t be scared.

    This wasn’t the first time I saw this ganache-layered effect. One of the bakers at Magpie had done something similar, but if I remember correctly, she used a single layer of ganache, and it wasn’t pressed down so, in the heat of the oven, the top layer often slid off. These scones don’t have this problem and there’s a lot more chocolate marbling, which I love. 

    I think there’s still room for improvement (a bit of buckwheat would be a nice addition, yes?), but when I sent some over to my mom with the kids, she emailed back, “What worries you about these scones? They’re lovely.” So perhaps I’m just getting silly obsessive? I am sconed out, after all. 

    Anyway. I’ve decided they’re plenty good enough, but if you find a way to make them even better, do tell.

    Double Chocolate Scones

    For some of the variations, I subbed in a little whole wheat or rye, and I think buckwheat might be good here, too. For the ganache, use semi sweet chips — not melting wafers, which don’t pack the necessary chocolate punch. And while I made one batch with mini chips in the dough, I like it better with larger chunks of chocolate, even bigger than regular sized chips.

    for the dough:
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    ¼ cup sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    1 stick butter
    ¾ heavy cream
    ½-¾ cup chocolate, chunks and/or chips

    for the ganache: ½ cup of chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons cream
    for the garnish: pearl (or sanding) sugar and a little more cream

    to make the scone dough:
    Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter, making sure to leave some chunks. Gently stir in the cream. Toss in the ¾ cup of chocolate chips. The mix should still be a little dry (the ganache will add some moisture) — take care not to overmix. 

    to make the ganache:
    In a small bowl, heat the ½ cup of chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of cream in the microwave for 30-60 minutes, just until melted. Stir well.

    to assemble:
    Dump the dough onto a work surface and shape into a rectangle. Spread a third of the ganache on two-thirds of the rectangle. Cut into thirds and stack, with the UN-ganashed portion ending up on top. 

    Gently press down the dough into a rectangle and repeat the process.

    Aaaand repeat one more time, using up the last third of the ganache. (I’m writing this recipe with three ganashings, but sometimes I did it with two. Do what works for you.)This time, shape the dough into a circle instead of a rectangle and cut into 8 wedges.

    Place the wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush the tops with cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and the middle feels firm when pressed.

    This same time, years previous: currently, the quotidian (5.11.20), Thursday snippets, prism glasses, the quotidian (5.11.15), immersion, happy weekending, one more thing, lemony spinach and rice salad with fresh dill and feta.

  • the quotidian (5.9.22)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Heavy haul.

    Mmmmmm.

    Trimmed.

    Wedding chili, still.

    Seasonal eating.

    My younger son is on a mushroom-growing (and jerky-making) bender.

    Sweetness.

    A hard day’s evidence.

    He finally got his pony!

    The graduate (wearing her old gown that’s two sizes too small for him).

    And then she snapped one of us.

    This same time, years previous: where in the world, our sweet Francie, settling in, the quotidian (5.8.17), Moroccan carrot and chickpea salad, rhubarb crunch vanilla ice cream, how it is, black bean and sweet potato chili, the family reunion of 2012.

  • weekend watch, #8

    This cobbler is ridiculously easy. Seriously.

    (Don’t forget the ice cream.)

    ***

    After the cheese party, the cheezer felt so empty! (Which was good.) This particular day, I reorganized it and flipped all the cheeses.

    (When I re-packed the Derby, I tasted a sliver and it was soooo good. But that Colby? Pure rubber. I think I need to dial back the rennet next time.)

    Have a good weekend! xo

  • eat more spinach!

    I usually keep a couple cartons of frozen chopped spinach on hand, but getting it from freezer to cook pot always feels like a bit of a production.

    First, it needs to thaw, and since it’s basically a block of green ice, that takes awhile. Then the soggy spinach has to be squeezed and drained, which kinda makes a mess of my strainer and sink. And then, since by that point the spinach has turned into a solid baseball-sized lump, I have to break it into little pieces again. It’s not a terrible problem — and it’s certainly easier than growing and blanching it — but it is a deterrent.

    Enter my latest brilliant idea: to do the frozen spinach prep — in bulk! 

    Here’s how it goes. I thaw a whole bunch of boxes all at the same time, do the drain-squeeze-shred thing, and then I place the bits of shredded spinach on a parchment-lined baking tray and flash freeze it. Once frozen, I re-package the spinach into zip-lock bags and re-freeze. Stored like so, I can grab as much (or as little) spinach as I want, and on a whim, too. 

    I’m loving the upgrade. Now that I’ve got spinach that’s accessible and easy (and cheap!), I pop it into white sauces, soups, quiches, scrambled eggs, whatever! Next up, green smoothies with frozen spinach. (I always thought one needed fresh spinach for smoothies, but I just took a quick whirl around the internets and learned that, according to some, frozen spinach is even better than fresh. Who knew!)

    I realize my excitement might seem a little outsized — this is just spinach, after all — but it’s the little things. And spinach at the ready all the time is pretty darn awesome.

    This same time, years previous: milk, anzac biscuits, with my children, stages of acting, the quotidian (5.4.15), the quotidian (5.5.14), creamy avocado macaroni and cheese, rhubarb diaquiri.

  • a good place to start

    A couple weeks back, on our drive home from Massachusetts, I finished this book.

    I wouldn’t normally reach for a grandparenting book — I was reading this book because my friend wrote it — and, to be clear: I don’t have grandchildren, nor am I pining after them. And this is not an announcement. (When I shared the photo of this book a couple weeks back and a bunch of you commented that you thought I was making an announcement, I got a good laugh — that had never even occurred to me!)

    Still, I was surprised at how much I appreciated the material. I don’t look forward to aging — and I haven’t even really thought about grandparenting all that much — but thinking about the next stage and how I might chose to handle it, I felt hopeful, almost excited. (Confession: I actually teared up a couple times reading the book, though that may have been because I was feeling the whole cosmic circle-of-life thing a little more than normal since we’d just said goodbye to our daughter.)

    Here are a few of my book-inspired thoughts: 
    *Grandparenting is often viewed as secondary to parenting, less valuable or important. And it is different from parenting, yes, but this book underscored what I’ve gleaned from watching my parents grandparent my kids (and my brothers’ kids): an available, engaged grandparent is a tremendous gift. I’ve seen excellent grandparenting in action; now I was reading about it.

    *In our culture where older people are often overlooked and undervalued, the overarching thrust of the book — that elders have tremendous power and relevance — struck me as delightfully counter-cultural. And encouraging! Even as I get older, I can still find meaningful work (grandchildren or no), should I so chose. It’s a comforting thought.

    *Grandparents know cool things. They have power and perspective and experience and are, as a result, in a unique position to inspire, teach, and listen. Grandparents: own this.

    *Also! As much as possible, grandparents have a responsibility to stay informed and relevant, and, throughout the book, the authors pushed bigger, more complicated issues, accordingly — like global warming, and racial and economic inequalities. These are the things that matter, and “good ancestors” know this.

    *While this book wasn’t a how-to — to me, it seemed more a reflection on being an elder in relation to younger generations — I appreciated its few well-placed concrete directives: When the parent is disciplining the child, it’s usually best for the grandparent to step away. When grandparents feel powerless to help a struggling child or grandchild — and they often are — simple things, like lighting a candle, can help to make the do-nothing waiting feel more productive. 

    *I absolutely loved the book’s push to keeping things simple — away from consumerism and towards the things that really matter: nature, relationships, and community. The more I get this message, the better off I am.

    *Here’s an excellent tip: make a conversation more purposeful by announcing, “I’m gonna ask two questions about that,” and then having two questions (or three or five, whatever) ready to go. Done this way, ordinary conversation becomes more engaging, almost playful, like a game. 

    *And here’s another tip: make lists instead of gifts: 3 things I’d like you to teach me, 7 things I hope for you this coming year, 5 stories I’d like to hear again (Chapter 35, Marilyn). These list gifts can go both ways: kids to G-ps (parents, take note) and vice versa. 

    However, my biggest takeaway was something that I already knew but still appreciate thinking about: I don’t want to just slide into grandparenting — I want to be intentional about it, thoughtful and proactive. Even if I never end up having grandkids, my future relationships with children will probably be more grandparent-esque than parental so it’s worth it to start thinking about these things now — and this book was an excellent starting point. 

    Thank you, Shirley and Marilyn. Somehow you managed to be realistic without being discouraging, loving without being sentimental, hopeful without being trite. Finishing it, I felt like I’d just been loved on. Recommend! 

    Starting today, the book is available for sale. Get your copy here, or wherever you get your books. And you can read Goodread reviews here. 

    This same time, years previous: freezer coffee cake, a simulation, the definition of insanity, burning the burn pile, how to get your bedding/house/kids clean all in one day.

  • the quotidian (5.2.22)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Two chicken, one duck.

    Daisy giveth (and giveth and giveth).

    Butter o’clock.

    We is RICH.

    Loving my maple crunchies.

    Behold!

    It’s like magic. Every time.

    Emptied, cleaned, and filling back up.

    Accurate.

    The only child to ask her father to play catch.

    Fashionista.

    The kitchen’s going in!

    From the newlyweds: a photo book thank-you.

    Springtime in the Shenandoah Valley.

    This same time, years previous: an under-the-stairs office nook, Puerto Rico, the quotidian (5.1.17), the quotidian (5.2.16), coffee crumb cake, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, depression chocolate mayonnaise cake, baked-in-a-pot artisan bread.