Monthly Archives: January 2015

Snow days

The blizzard hit pretty much as predicted in our area. This morning I went out the back door and waded through snow above my knees. We took Sudo out the front instead, so there was only a little deep snow before the street, which had been plowed at least once during the night or early morning. Coming back in, Ben was going to dig a little path through the snow banked between the street and the front steps, but Sudo had had enough of being outside, and tried to jump straight over the snowbank. She kind of got stranded on her belly, since the snow was taller than she was, but she paddled on through, ran up the stairs, and tried to push the front door open with her face. She’d be shocked to learn she’s the same species as a husky.

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In this one you can see how she’s squinting her eyes against the snow and wind.

Inside, we’ve been well provisioned, having purposefully created leftovers for the past couple days in case the power went out (it hasn’t). Fresh baked bread, North African stew, pasta with homemade sauce, chocolate chip cookies, and lots of tea and hot cocoa. And that’s just the food! We also have stacks of books. I finished God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet (thanks Erin!) and am trying to decide what to read next – The Art of Fielding? The first in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series? Vanessa and Her Sister? Decisions, decisions.

Back inside and ensconced in her armchair once again.

Back inside and ensconced in her armchair once again.

 

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Winter rose

The miniature rose bush I pruned back to nearly nothing is doing extremely well indoors.

November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

Once these blooms start to fade, I’ll cut it back again. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I really should read a gardening book one of these days. Any recommendations?

Aside from the rose bush, most of the other plants are still doing well indoors too (except one of the African violets seems to be dying, I’m not sure why), and I’ve added an orchid to the bunch. My track record with orchids is so-so; I know to drench them and then let them dry out completely before watering them again, and keep them out of direct sunlight (they actually do okay in offices). We’ll see how long I can keep this one alive.

New orchid, January 12, 2015

New orchid, January 12, 2015

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On Letter-Writing, II

2014 yielded 4 inches of letters.

2014 yielded 4 inches of letters.

A year ago, I read Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter and Lewis Carroll’s “Eight or Nine Wise Words On Letter-Writing” and was inspired to start writing letters again. Luckily, I had four equally dedicated correspondents, plus a few friends who send postcards when they travel (and sometimes even when they stay home).

Reading and writing so many letters this past year has been a pleasure, and it’s an activity I plan to continue this coming year. Letters are a different quality of communication compared to e-mail, talking on the phone, or social media; they’re a little more organized, a lot more thoughtful, and they have more personality. I’ve loved recognizing friends’ handwriting on envelopes when I pick up the mail, seeing what stamps they chose, what kind of paper and ink. I’ve sent and received beautiful and unique cards and postcards, and I’ve learned about more facets of my friends’ lives than I would have in any other way.

To my letter-writing friends, thank you. Here’s to 2015.

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Cinnamon swirl cookies

A vision came to me. It was a cinnamon-bun-meets-cookie vision. To make this vision a reality, I used the dough recipe for “Fig Pinwheels” from Martha Stewart’s Cookies (page 101) and the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling for the cinnamon roll recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (page 37).

This isn’t the type of recipe you can whip up in a snap, not because it’s difficult but because the dough has to chill three separate times: twice for an hour each, once for half an hour. You could definitely make the dough the day before and chill it overnight, but – hold on to your hats – that does mean starting a day earlier (i.e. you have to know you will want cookies tomorrow. Then again…when is that ever not the case?).

Step one is to make the dough – butter, brown sugar, white sugar, flour, baking soda, salt – then split it in half, wrap each half in plastic, and chill for an hour.

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Step two is to roll out each ball of dough into a rectangular shape on a floured piece of parchment paper, then chill for a half hour.

Step three, melt the butter for the filling and have the sugar and cinnamon to hand. PW’s cinnamon roll recipe is scaled to feed hungry cowboys, and it’s decadent; for the cookies, I used just 1/2 stick of butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1.5 tsp cinnamon.

Step four, spread melted butter on each rectangle, then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the butter. Roll each rectangle into a log, and chill the logs for another hour, turning occasionally so they don’t flatten on one side. (Then again, this is according to Martha Stewart; not all of us are as keen on perfect appearance. Most of us figure staying out of jail is a good enough appearance. But I digress.)

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Not perfect circles, but they came out fine!

Finally, slice the chilled logs and put the cookies on a baking sheet; bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through. Remove to a rack to cool; store in plastic containers with parchment paper between layers of cookies. (Martha says the cookies will keep for three days.)

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Appearance-wise, they turned out great; they look like little snails, but unlike real snails, I will eat these. I was worried that the filling wasn’t thick enough (the original recipe calls for a homemade fig spread, or failing that – and yes, failing is the right word, thank you, Martha – a store-bought jam), but it turned out fine. They might be a tiny bit on the bland side, but I bet the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling made them a lot easier to handle; a fig or other jam filling would have been slippery and sticky.

We’re bringing half this batch to a fellow Hampshire alum who has invited us to tour her farm this weekend; I couldn’t go empty-handed. Must remember to pick up some carrots for the horses on the way! (Sudo’s staying home. As much as I’d love to see what would happen if she met a goat face to face…)

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