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Waiting and Watching

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To be in a state of waiting and watching is so very appropriate considering the season we are in.  My days have been ticking by, a blur of snow (lots of it), Advent musings, and waiting.  Waiting for things I can define and for things I cannot.  It is a strange season of life for me, but one that I have a feeling will be remembered as beautiful.  I am a stew of mixed feelings and emotions and have decided that my current status is undeniably good therapy for a recovering control freak.  (Have you checked out the statistics on “due dates?”)  I am thankful for a concrete experience of waiting on a Savior, One who is promised and certain to come.  I’m glad He did for countless reasons, but especially considering how much I have always needed Him and need Him now.  Polly is just waiting for our walks to start again.  I wish there was a way for a dog to understand why there hasn’t been one…

Hey Mr. Postman

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I used to love receiving catalogs and magazines in the mail.  But it started to get out of hand and I realized I was glutted with all these little, or often not so little, glossy booklets of stuff I don’t need.  Not to mention the environmental impact of being a junk mail junkie!  So, little by little, I have weaned myself down to my Martha Stewart subscription and the Bas Bleu catalog.  Or I should say I have tried to do so, since many of my requests to be removed from mailing lists seem to go unheeded.  If there is a point to this post, it is to tell you that one catalog worth receiving and enjoying is the Bas Bleu catalog.  When I see it in my mailbox, a mundane day suddenly becomes a little extra special!  Bas Bleu is French for “blue stocking,” which apparently is also a reference to a literary woman.  It is a catalog of off the beaten path reads and all things book and literary related.  This is a catalog I actually read because the reviews of books and products are so well written.  By the time I get through my Bas Bleu catalog, it is earmarked all over the place and my next step is usually to hop on-line to our library system and see if any of those reads might be available to check out.  You could certainly shop from or peruse the website, but in the case of Bas Bleu, getting that beautiful little catalog in your mailbox and poring over its pages is the way to go.

A Prickly Paradise

My husband and I decided to go to Los Cabos, Mexico at the tip of the Baja peninsula for our honeymoon.  A decision we do not regret!  If you are a nature lover, bird watcher, mountain seeker, ocean lover, whale watcher, desert walker, seafood eater, art appreciator and want to meet some very kind and loving people, I suggest you try to visit this area of the world in your lifetime.  We enjoyed every minute of it and the tremendous diversity its landscape offers.  In a 10 or 15 mile radius you can experience ocean, desert and mountain all.  The baby shower the ladies of my church held for me was this past week.  A friend and fellow church member commented that she liked the new banner on my blog.  She thought that it might be a picture I had found somewhere on the internet.  It is actually a slice from the above picture that I took on our honeymoon that first week of October in 2006.  My husband surprised me with an outing to an unknown destination that ended up being CactiMundo, a cacti botanical garden that seems to be sort of planted in the middle of nowhere.  We had walked and walked down a desert like boulevard and to be honest, I was getting a little hot and frustrated about where exactly we were going since it didn’t look like we were headed anywhere.  And I think my husband was starting to get nervous that somehow he had his directions wrong while his new bride broiled in the desert sun.  We finally rounded a corner and came face to face with a tall stone pillar that announced the entrance to a botanical garden.  I was like a kid in a candy factory touring that place!  I’ve attached just a few of the pictures I took.  As far as the picture above, it was a much larger area of cacti than my camera captured and I also have a picture of myself standing precariously in the middle of it.  I was determined to get in the midst of all those cacti and have Henry take my picture.  It was a challenging photo set-up, let me tell you!  So, there you have it, a prickly post on a prickly day.  I’ve decided that best describes this historical election day and that’s the extent of my political commentary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Photography by and property of blog author.

Wintry Mix

It is hard to believe that I snapped this picture about eight days ago and tomorrow’s forecast is suggesting a wintry mix.  Today it’s snowing in the Upper Peninsula!  The seasons in Michigan are nothing short of dramatic, that’s for sure.  But aren’t these white anemones gorgeous?  The white of the petals is the creamiest white I’ve ever seen.  Almost like the most decadent white frosting you can imagine.  It seems a little strange that they bloom in October and now I feel like making a wedding cake instead of a pumpkin pie.

Playing Favorites

It might be official that fall is my favorite season.  It’s just so hard to decide, but this time I think I’m convinced it is. I have so enjoyed my walks lately, watching God’s artistry unfold before me as they get crunchier and crunchier.  Crunchier as in the leaves keep falling and swirling around us more and more as the autumn days go by.  Part of me wants them to stop so it will all last longer, but there is beauty in the falling too.  I can’t decide if I should look up at the blazing treetops above me, or down at the ground to the glowing tapestry under my feet.  It is truly glorious and we are soaking it in as much as possible.  It is as if God’s art exhibit is officially open and every day there are more shades and tones to see.  We are having an especially beautiful fall in our area. Picturesque, pleasant days followed by nippy, snuggly nights! Henry and I have started packing our garden down for the winter and as we cleaned out our vegetable beds, we ended up with an unexpected colander full of vegetables.  I always like to think of us as potagers, with our raised bed gardening system, but this past week we felt like foragers!  It is amazing to me what still survives and thrives under all the dying down plants.  The sun really bakes that side of the house and I am sure the brick helps to keep the garden beds warm in spite of the few frosty nights we’ve had.  I had to show you the swiss chard because it almost steals the tree show.  There is more of it than this picture captures.  Swiss chard is an amazing vegetable.  It hangs in there for quite awhile and falls into that “cut and come again” category.  Every time you break a leaf off at the base, a new one grows in it’s place.  This goes on for quite a long season, so we actually have more than we can eat.  I like to strip the leaves from the ribs and then slice up some of the ribs like celery.  I saute the sliced ribs, some white onion and minced up garlic in olive oil with salt, pepper and a little crushed red pepper.  After it is wilted down, I add the torn leaves and lid it on low.  It cooks down pretty quickly (like a fast version of greens), and then I finish it off by stirring in a spoonful of balsamic vinegar.  I could easily eat a daily plate of that mess ‘o greens.  One of my favorite blogs, Farmgirlfare, has a few odes of her own to the amazing chard.  I love her recipe ideas and fervent support of chard.  I’ve yet to try anything other than how I always cook it, but doesn’t just looking at it invite one to try?

 

-Photography by blog author

The Review

I’ve been a little MIA from this blog.  And I had told myself that if I ever did the blog thing, I would do my best not to let that happen.  Well, life has a way of speeding up too fast at times and my best intentions go out the window.  Then today something struck me so funny that I remembered the blog and just had to share it!  With so much of our world’s information and communication nowadays centering around the internet, there is a plethora of reviews on absolutely everything from books and movies to the remotest of products.  I mean people are actually taking the time to review a bag of flour for Pete’s sake!  But in actuality, I am thankful for the people that take that time because more often than not I head for the computer to quickly google an item or brand I am considering purchasing.  I want to get it right the first time and I end up putting quite a bit of stock in those on-line reviews.  I have definitely been “review reading” when it comes to all this baby stuff.  I can’t believe how much is out there in the way of baby products, diapers, clothing, etc. and the reviews are helping me wade through it.  Especially the ones that tell you the item turned out to be very unnecessary and was barely used!  One of my go to sites for review reading is Amazon, for everything from a book to a grocery product.  This morning I was on Amazon and saw a cake decorating kit.  I really enjoy decorating cakes and would like to expand my reportoire of techniques.  Mostly I have done fun kid cakes out of women’s magazines for nieces and nephews or the children of friends, but I know there are so many more things that can be done in the realm of cake decorating that are classier and more grown up than what I’ve done so far.  So, I was looking at this cake decorating kit and one of the reviews read, “I got this item as a gift for a family member.  I believe all is well with it, but can’t confirm 100%.”  I just started laughing and the more I thought about the pointlessness of this review, I laughed even harder.  I mean, why bother?  But I did think it was kind of cute that this person took the time to “review” a product and maybe didn’t even realize they said absolutely nothing regarding its value or “purchase worthiness.”  Then I realized that for all the reviews I read, I never submit my own.  Is that completely selfish or what?

Empanadas de Guayaba

 

I just love the Goya website. Chances are you have seen Goya products before in your local supermarket, usually found in the “ethnic” or “Hispanic Foods” aisle.  If there is a Latin market in your area, they probably carry a more extensive line of Goya products.  I didn’t realize just how many Goya products there are until I visited their website!  And on top of that, you’ll find a crash course in regional Latin cooking.  Lots and lots of recipes can be found on the website that are organized not only by course, but also by country. I’ve always been intrigued by the long bar of guava paste that I would see at the grocery store in the Goya section, but was unsure of what to use it for.  The first time I ever saw someone use Goya guava paste was at the home of a very dear and long time friend.  My friend is Puerto Rican and she told me that when she was growing up, they would eat slices of guava paste with Gouda cheese on crackers.  The crackers that she always had at her house kind of look and taste like huge oyster crackers.  My friend recently moved out of state, but among other things, she definitely got me hooked on this wonderful combination. I have fond memories of the two of us on many a Friday night, sitting at her kitchen table playing cards while we snacked on a plate of Gouda cheese, slices of guava paste and her favorite crackers.  A month or so ago, I was at the grocery store and decided to buy some Goya guava paste.  It’s been sitting in my cabinet and last Saturday night, I decided to try making Guava Empanadas.  Turns out they were pretty easy and oh so good!  They are not especially sweet, and that is partly why they are so perfect with a cup of strong coffee.  I did drizzle mine with a glaze of powdered sugar, milk and almond extract.  I don’t think that is necessarily traditional or authentic, but my husband and I ended up liking the glazed empanadas better than the unglazed.

Empanada Dough:

Fill a glass with ice and water and set it aside.  Stir together 2 1/4 c. flour and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cut into the dry mixture a very cold stick of unsalted butter (I stuck mine in the freezer for a few minutes).  You want the end result to be free of large chunks of butter, nothing bigger than a half of a pea or so.  I used a pastry cutter to cut the butter in, but a couple forks would probably work too.  Make a well in the mixture and stir in one beaten egg.  Then, add the ice water tablespoon by tablespoon until you have a dough coming together that is not too dry, but not too sticky.  I think I ended up adding 5 – 6 T. of ice water.  Pat the dough into a nice big round and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Chill for about an hour.

Assembling Empanadas:

Separate the dough into about 10 round pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a round circle (approximately 5 or 6 inches in diameter).  In the middle of the round, place a nice slice of Goya guava paste (about a half inch thick) and an equally sized slice of cream cheese off of an 8 oz. brick.  Fold the dough over and pinch and seal the edges closed with your fingers.  Then, crimp around the sealed edge with a fork.  It will look kind of like a half moon shape.  Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. 

Baking and Glazing:

Bake the empanadas on a greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Keep an eye on them, you want them to be golden brown on the bottom and maybe a little around the edges.  By the way, empanadas, whether savory or sweet, are often deep fried.  These could be too, but baking them came out just fine, with less fat and mess.  While the empanadas are baking, whisk together about 1 c. powdered sugar, 2 T. milk, 3/4 tsp. almond extract.  The glaze will be pretty runny and thin.  When the empanadas come out of the oven, drizzle the glaze over the tops of them.  A lot of the glaze will seep around the edges and underneath, which is fine.  Once they have cooled, give them a second glazing.  

Take it from me, these are even better the next morning with a hot cup of strong coffee and cream!