Archive | January 2012

Who’s afraid of the Fangs of Dang and the Toothy Cows of Skree?

I can feel it through the computer screen that all you readers are either laughing or deciding whether or not to just navigate away without spending the time reading whatever might be contained in a post bearing such a silly title.  MH is probably considering revoking my co-blogger privileges.

But have no fear.  There is a point to my silliness.  I’ve just finished my first book!  Huzzah!  (And just in the nick of time I might add as it’s January 31st as I write this, and therefore the last day in month 1 of my book-a-month goal.)

I actually bought this book as a gift for Hubs for Christmas.  Ann Patchett,  author of Bel Canto which MH just posted about recently, opened a fabulous bookstore in Nashville a few months ago called Parnassus Books.  In effort to support not only our new bookstore, but also a local singer/songwriter-turned-author friend of Hubs and I, I made this purchase, and as I was deciding what to read for my blog goal, this book just kept calling my name so I picked it up and read the first 80 pages last night.  (run-on sentence, anyone?) Then, after dreaming of what might have become of the Igiby children on their perilous adventures, I picked the book back up this morning, and Read. The. Entire. Book. In. One. Sitting.  It was fabulous!  Dying of curiosity yet?  It’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: The Wingfeather Saga Book One by Andrew Peterson.  Sure it’s written for “young adults” but I was hooked from the moment I saw the map illustrations on the inside front cover all the way to the appendices which include copies of Podo Helmer’s “Permission to Shovel Hogpig Droppings Form.”

Peterson does a fantastic job of weaving together a fantasy world not unlike the Narnia’s and other lands created by the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R. Tolkien and even J.K. Rowling.  You’d like a synopsis you say?  Here goes:

The three Igiby children live with their mother and grandfather (an ex-pirate) in a little cottage outside the town of Glipwood in the land of Skree, which used to be a very pleasant place apparently, but which is now governed by the menacing and smelly Fangs from the land of Dang who would look like humans if they didn’t also look like lizards.  After the youngest Igiby kicks a Fang who is trying to snatch her beloved pet dog, an all- out Igiby vs. the Fangs of Dang war is waged which only becomes worse when the head Fang from across the sea finds reason to believe that the Igiby family are harboring the valuable lost jewels of Anniera.  What unfolds is a tale of family love and valour, good vs. evil, and a vast menagerie of various creatures that roam the dark, shadowy corners of the forest (including the terrifying toothy cows).

It’s the sort of read any child with a wild imagination would devour with glee, or any adult could easily find themselves lost in to the point that when the last page is turned, they must remind themselves that they are indeed adults and that the magic of the previous few hours of reading was just a fantastic literary snack. My personal favorite feature of the book is Peterson’s extensive footnotes explaining the culture and history of Skree, without which, the book would have lost just a bit of its clever appeal. And if you’re dying for more of Janner, Tink, Leeli, Nugget, Podo, Nia and Peet the Sock Man…(as I am)…you’re in luck!  The Wingfeather Saga has 2 more books!

MH: We got your letter in the mail yesterday!  Many thanks!  I only wish you could have mailed a box of cinnamon rolls with it as well!

Bookworms: What types of books do you prefer?  What is your favorite probably-written-for-kids-but-I’m-obsessed-with-it-anyway story?

P.S. stay tuned…project “15. Surprise my husband (somehow)” is in full swing!  I’m whisking him away tomorrow on a top secret trip.  details to follow this weekend!

Cinnamon Rolls – Round 2!

Future patrons of my bed-and-breakfast: be excited!  My second round of cinnamon roll baking was much more successful.  (Here’s the first – whomp whomp whomp.)My baker-extraordinaire friend Caitie suggested I try this biscuit-based recipe. No yeast, so no kneading, rising, waiting, worrying, etc etc etc. I loved the way they turned out too – lovely and “homemade” tasting.  Very fast too. I woke up around 6:30 and they were on the table within an hour.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp melted butter, for greasing the pan (9 or 10 inch round cake pan)

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted

Dough
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 Tbsp butter, melted

Icing
2 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 425.

Cinn-Sugar filling- combine sugars, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir until consistency of wet sand. Set aside.

Dough- Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 2 Tbsp of butter in small bowl. Add liquid to dry and stir until liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer crumbly.

Pat the dough into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 Tbsp melted butter. Sprinkle filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Press the filling firmly into the dough. Starting at the far long side, roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal. Turn seam side down and cut into 8 even pieces. Slightly flatten each piece to seal the open edges and keep the filling in place. Place one roll in the center of the pan and the other seven around the perimeter. Brush with the remaining 2 Tbsp butter.

Bake until the edges are golden brown, 23-25 min (check after 20). Run a knife around the outside to loosen the rolls, and invert onto a large plate. Then, invert again onto a greased cooling rack. Let cool about 5 min before icing.

While the rolls cool, place a baking sheet lined with wax/parchment paper underneath the rolls to catch drips. Whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in a bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Spoon over buns and serve!

Tips from Caitie:

  • The recipe calls for 8 Tbsp melted butter total, so just melt it all at once and portion it out as needed.
  • Don’t knead too long, just until the dough comes together and is smooth.

Tips from me:

  • Alert! Even though the dough ingredients list 6T of butter, only 2 actually go in the dough.  The other 4 are for brushing on.
  • If you accidentally put all 6T into the dough, well, nothing bad happens.  Just go on about your business.  These are forgiving biscuits.

I definitely class these as a success but I’m going to try one more recipe before I scratch this one off the list.  Here’s a photo of my main taste-tester.  Looks like he enjoyed them too.

1. Visit a new country

I mean, it’s first on my list.  Why not have it be the first thing that I check off.  Officially.  Like not just finished “part” of it, but Check. It. Off. The. List.

Last week my sweet husband and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary!  The past two years have flown by and have been this wonderful flurry of memories!  We’ve gutted our built-in-1920 home, gone to Tahiti, Africa, Colorado and many other destinations, adopted a cat, researched our family history, seen a wide array of concerts, and also spent many hours curled up at home doing nerdy things like playing board games.  We highly recommend marriage.  It’s been a blast!

We both love to travel and were sure we wanted to celebrate two years with some sort of trip, so when husband’s brother said he and his wife were taking their two daughters on a cruise (which happened to be over our anniversary) we were excited to jump on board…(Get it? on board? it’s a cruise?)  (for the record, husband’s mom and stepdad booked the cruise as well so there were 8 of us total!  It was happy, hilarious chaos for sure!) It wasn’t until after I’d made my list that I realized one of the ports of call was a new country for me: Belize!

Read More…

Foto Friday – Episode 3

So me and Bethany: not only are our birthdays only 5 days apart, our maiden names were also remarkably close alphabetically. You know what that means?!? Yearbook pictures!

Click through to see the whole page.  All you CHS Falcons in the Mighty, Mighty Class of 2000:  you know you love it!  This is from our ninth grade year book, 1997.  I am sporting my “pulled half-back” hairstyle, along with one of the worst haircuts of my life.  A personal hair low, I believe.

But wait, there’s more!  We were both voted “Best Dressed Freshman Girl”!!!!

No, not really.  But we were both VERY active members of the Beta Club.

Also, I played the oboe!

And Bethany was “Maria” in the high school musical – West Side Story.  In case you are uncultured and do not know this, Maria is the female lead, and she sings some very high notes.

And of course, what yearbook post would be complete without a shot of the signature page?

For reference,  you should know that email had just been invented approximately 2 years before.  So cutting edge we were, with our fancy hotmail accounts.

*BIG Sigh*  Good times, folks.  good times.  Now, who can play me a rousing rendition of “The Boom”?

My Never Ending Hair Battle

My personal hair journey has been a long and winding one.  Long, short, wavy, straighten, frizzed out, tried ’em all!  It occurred to me that in 9th grade I had only three hairstyles:

  • down (just regular)
  • ponytail
  • pulled half-back

And now, at age 29.4, I have… exactly the same three general hairstyles!  Granted, I’ll give myself alittle bit of credit because the situation has improved overall since adolescence, drastically even.  (Check back for tomorrow’s Foto Friday and I will prove that to you.)  But still, its obviously time to shake things up a bit.

So #11 ended up on my list out of a realization that I need to put in a little more effort into the hair department.

11. Learn a new hairstyle

And now its crossed off!  I tried something new, worked at it just a *tiny* bit, and actually sported my new hairstyle to work one day.  I think that satisfies the requirements of the list.

Anywho, the style is called a “gibson tuck”, taken from a tutorial at Simply Stardust:

Gorgeous in an nice understated way, yes? Of course, with hair that color, who really cares how its styled.

My one modification was that I used spin pins instead of bobbypins. Get some of these. Fork out the $6.29 for two little pieces of metal.  Its worth it.

Here’s a crappy cellphone self-portrait as proof of the end result:

And for what its worth, it basically held all day long and induced absolutely no head-aches (common ponytail problem for me!).

p.s. wouldn’t earrings take this look even further?!? 🙂

And some other general updates:

  • I’ve got a very promising cinnamon roll recipe for the weekend.
  • I’ve tried some other “from scratch” type recipes which I promise to share ASAP.  One includes bacon and kale.
  • Husband and I have our 2nd dance lesson tomorrow night.
  • My mama’s comin’ to visit next week and that may induce a spontaneous pedicure, you never can tell.

That’s all for now, folks! Check back tomorrow because, in addition to Foto Friday, I think Bethany will be popping in with an update about GOING TO ANOTHER COUNTRY.

January Book Review and Thoughts on Excellence

First book finished! I read Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, recommended by Bethany. I have a question for all you ladies that are in book clubs: what do you talk about exactly?  I mean, do you really talk about the book?  Like, what you thought about it?  I’m curious, because I’m really struggling with what to write here.

A brief plot summary: A fancy dinner party, full of powerful people, gets hijacked by a band of underprivileged jungle kids.  They spend the next few months together exploring their roles as kidnappers and hostages.  And one of the powerful people happened to be a world-famous opera singer.

My review: A beautiful and fascinating story.  Interestingly, the author spoils the story’s outcome right at the beginning, but that made it even more mesmerizing.  The whole book is set basically in one room, and so there’s a lot of exploration of how each person handles the situation.  And then there’s a surprise plot twist right at the end.  I’m not sure it quite fits with the rest.  Maybe I need someone to explain it to me.

Another theme that runs through most of the characters is excellence.  Lately I’m fascinated by people who are experts, even fictional ones as these were.  Bel canto was full of them.  Of course there’s the opera singer, as well as a piano player, a chess whiz, a chef, a language translator.

I am naturally more of a “breadth” person, rather than a “depth” person… i.e. I try to do lots of different things, but not necessarily all that well.  I want to change this a bit though.  And that’s why I’ve got a new item on the list:

26. Learn to play “Wagon Wheel” on the banjo. and play it well… all the way through… no stopping.  Must sound like its supposed to.

Did you know I “play” the banjo?  Not very well.  I never practice.  But that will have to change or else I won’t be able to scratch this one off the list.  So that will be a small step toward excellence.  Granted, I won’t be a banjo expert at the end, but it will require perseverance and sticking with it even when it gets hard or boring.  I think that’s a good first step.

And then Bethany and I can give y’all a concert of our respective musical accomplishments in August.  j/k.  I don’t know for sure but I bet Bethany’s Bach piece is.. in a different… stratosphere.  Speaking of excellence, there ya go.  Girl’s been playing that fiddle since she was 3 or something.

On getting old and technology

Hello blog!  Its just me this week.  Bethany is off floating in the ocean and getting a “tan”. I have a ton of ideas in my head though, so don’t worry about being neglected.

First up: Getting old and staying hip.

Do you ever think that one day you’ll wake up and realize the technology-wagon has completely passed you by?  Like, one minute you’re kickin’ it with your record player, and then by the next one, you’re wondering what the internet is.  I assume that’s what happened to my own grandparents.

I’m kidding about the staying hip part.  Who says hip anymore anyways?  But I’m a little serious about the need to make a concerted effort to keep up.  Its about having the best tools.  Otherwise I could miss out on some great stuff.  You know, I kinda resisted the smartphone trend.  Now I love it, of course, but that’s my case in point.  And I bet my granddad would’ve LOVED google-ing all of the following:  Civil War generals, bio-diesel, rarely issued coins, CSPAN, etc etc.  So much information!

So the concerted effort:  Kick myself whenever I think “oh kids these days”  (Twitter anyone?).  Don’t give up on something just because its confusing.

Here are a few new things that I am kind of learning:

  • Pinterest: Its like a virtual bulletin board where you “pin” ideas you have and  organize it all graphically.  I haven’t *quite* got the hang of it.  But I have come across an few great craft/recipe ideas from other people’s bulletin boards.
  • Spotify: If you listen to music of any type while using a computer, you need to try Spotify.  Its basically a huge collection of music that you can play at any time for free.  Want to hear a certain Van Morrison song about a jelly roll?  2 clicks, done.  The music collection is vast – Bob Dylan to Beyonce.  Want to hear the latest Glee album but don’t want to own it?  Bam, done.
  • WordPress:  Duh, this blog!  The layout, formatting, etc has turned out to be no small challenge.  What is an RSS feed?  I still don’t know.  I’m about to add a “follow me” button to the right hand side, which will allow you to get our updates via email?  I think?

So tell me, folks –  Anything new that you’re loving?  Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter? What about e-readers? There’s one I haven’t gotten into yet.

OOH.  And this all reminds me.  I guess I still have a myspace page floating around in cyberspace.  Should probably go shut that down.  I think we can safely say that the myspace era has passed.

Foto Friday – Episode 2

Since I mentioned my bridesmaids’ in last week’s FFF post, I figured these photos were the next logical follow-up shots.  Four out of my five bridesmaids among the ladies at Winter Formal 1998.  The only one who wasn’t is my husband’s sister!  Aren’t they all lovely? I think we grew up quite well!

Anyways, have you ever read a bridesmaid horror story that started out “I had to wear a chartreuse dress!”  I have honestly read that story before. Yes, I was that bride!  Alas, I truly loved that color. In fact it still makes me quite happy.  Bonus: at least they were like, $40.  Because they were on clearance.  Because they were chartreuse, no doubt.

I have heard of them getting reused here and there, most notably by Bethany.  She once called me on Halloween and told me she was going to re-purpose hers as Tinkerbell costume.  Not sure if she really did that or not?  I like to think so.  And hopefully she ratted up the hemline a bit.  And wore glitter makeup.

Well Tinkerbell or no, this next shot was most definitely her idea.  I remember her saying “ok now make crazy faces” and none of us missed a beat, obviously. Check out that crazy eye action on B!! How in the heck?!?

So there ya have it.  Great wedding day memories.  One of my favorite parts of my wedding was being surrounded by dear friends (these and others!) who I rarely get to see. Such a blessing.

Have a great weekend, folk! Look for more embarrassing high school shots in the coming weeks!

The Book of James

My junior year of college I started memorizing the Biblical book of James with one of my dearest friends, Amanda.  We honestly didn’t get very far.   I think I made it through verse 8 of chapter one and then that was it.  I don’t remember how far Amanda got.  It had all been inspired by my reading the (non-Biblical) book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury set in an age where “firemen” search houses and set fire to any books they might find there.  The rest of the story is a little muddy, but I remember that there is a scene where this band of rag-tag “rebels” discloses to the main character that they are each a book…meaning that each person in the group has memorized an entire book so that it might be preserved despite the physical destruction of paper copies of books.  That, coupled with the following portion of Psalm 119 (which I LOVE is called “Beth”)

Psalm 119:9-11

New International Version (NIV)

   ב Beth

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

made me decide that I wanted to memorize an entire book of the Bible.  and James has always been my favorite.  So i picked James.  And then only got through verse 8.

 

Fast forward from sophomore year of college to present day.  Amanda and I find ourselves living exactly half a mile apart in a city 7 hours northeast from where we went to college.  And this past month she emailed me wondering if I’d be up for doing the newly released Beth Moore Bible study on none other than the book of James.  So we met for the first time this past Wednesday night and delved into the background of the author of this fantastic book and decided we’d take Beth’s challenge (both Psalm 119 Beth, and Beth Moore!) and memorize the book…this time finishing it!  What a sweet chance to finish what we started eight years ago!  We’re very excited.  So it’s on my list.  22. Memorize the book of James  and I’m thankful to have the accountability of Amanda and three other girls to memorize along with me.  (and if you want more information on the Bible study we’re reading through, you can find the materials available on Lifeway’s website here!)

In other news…..hubby and I are only FOUR days away from celebrating our second wedding anniversary!  We are so excited!  We decided to beat the cold-dark-rainy weather in Nashville by taking a cruise to celebrate!  We’ll be joined by his brother, sister-in-law, 2 nieces, and his mom & step-dad….i do feel a tad sorry for any business travelers that end up on our flight! (that’s right….we’re going six wide and two in front on the plane flight there!) So, that means that I’ll be incommunicado for the next week or so and my lovely co-blogger will be flying solo!  She has lots up her sleeve she assures me, so stay tuned!

Question: Have any of you ever memorized anything lengthy like a book of the Bible? or the entire US constitution or an hour-long one man play?  Any tips for how I should tackle this?  I’d love to hear!

Baking from Scratch

1. Make cinnamon rolls

This Saturday I made my first attempt at homemade from-scratch cinnamon rolls.  This goal represents a few different things for me:

  • I’ve never really successfully gotten bread to rise.
  • I have an alternate life fantasy where I end up running a bed & breakfast.  Primarily so I can cook rich, fattening breakfasts every single day.
  • I love big breakfasts! (see previous)
  • I like the idea of being able to cook a thing or two really well.

I selected this recipe – Overnight Cinnamon Rolls – because most of the prep work could be done the night before.  After all, what b&b owner wants to get up at 3am everyday?  Not this one.  My cheery hostess smile would be all melted before the guests even made it to the table.

And they turned out… just OK.  I’d give ’em 3.5 stars.  Not awesome exactly but pretty good.  Kinda looked pretty:

#1 downside: Time intensive!  The Friday evening portion took from from 7pm to 11pm (with a big long break for the yeast to rise).  Then I got up at 6:30am Saturday morning, and they were on the table around 8am.  Is there some kind of Girl Scout badge I could get for this?  For all that work, uhm yeah, these better be literally the best cinnamon roll I ever put in my mouth.

#2 downside: They weren’t.  I mean, not the best cinnamon roll ever.  Likely culprit is that pesky yeast which did not, in fact, rise.  Even though I waited.  And at 10:30pm this mama was done waiting.  If someone who knows how to bake would like to weigh on why this might’ve happened, PLEASE do.

    

The recipe said the dough should rise to double its original size.  Guessing what I got there is not exactly “double”.

So in the end, I’m not scratching this one off my list.  yet.  Because what I really meant was more like:

1. Make the best cinnamon rolls you ever tasted.

Other updates:  Book checked out.  Really enjoying it.  Also, I’m really enjoying this blog/hobby/process.

Questions for our faithful followers:  Did I over-knead? Under-knead??  Any recipes I need to try?

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