3.31.2009

.I Remember.

From this episode of Speaking of Faith, in which Alzheimer's patients write as a form of exercise for their memories. The simple scenes of memory from somewhere beautiful and distant in their live's histories inspired me to reflect on similar happy snapshots from my own memory as they come to me randomly, surfacing out of the depths.

I Remember . . .

Sitting in the bucket seat of my father's bicycle riding through endless apple orchards.

Eating cherry tomatoes out of my grandmother's neighbor's garden and feeling (slightly) guilty about it.

Sitting on the corner of the counter top watching my mother cook, the cabinet doors beneath clamoring rhythmically as I mindlessly swung my legs as we chatted.

Riding through the upper-jungle in Peru, oblivious to the noise of the crowded bus as I pressed my nose up against the window. Scenes of lush green, winding tributaries, and the treasure I was on the lookout for: the seldom road-side grass hut and glimpse of life, blurred before my eyes, glowing in the fog of my breath on the window.

Observing my own grandmother, herself robbed by Alzheimer's of the memory of our names, familiar places, and the how-to of day-to-day tasks, humming along to an old hymn on the radio . . . one thing, at least, she still holds onto.

3.30.2009

Something Different to Do on a Saturday Night:

Saturday night started out as it often does in our little Birmingham community. A group gathered for a shared meal, in this case spaghetti, with plans to watch a movie. But when the movie fell through, we faced that age-old question. What should we do tonight? 

Well, my wonderfully creative husband saved the evening with a brilliant, out-of-the ordinary, and very fun idea.

Recipe for fun below:
  1. Find a lovely picture in a magazine or newspaper.
  2. Divide into 9 equal sections, and cut.

  3. Cut pieces of paper to larger, but proportional sections.
  4. Let all of your friends choose one or more of the sections to reproduce on the blank pieces.

  5. Be filled with awe and amazement as your finished masterpiece comes together, a coherent whole, that also wonderfully demonstrates the unique point of view and talent of each of your friends!(From top left, moving across and down: Eli, Lauren, Cory, Ryan, me, Jamie, Cory, Keith, Matt)
    We all enjoyed this little activity so much! I highly recommend it for any group setting. 

3.24.2009

Soft Pretzels: A Quasi-Lenten Treat

(sorry for the weird and unappetizing quality of the photo, I haven't figured out how to take pictures of food after dark, when I have to rely on unnatural light. And of course, the only one that remotely turned out doesn't even look like a pretzel :) But don't let the photo fool you, these were delicious.)

I love soft pretzels.  So, when I saw a recipe, I jumped at the opportunity to make them myself. Little did I know that they actually have a history connected with the Lenten season. When families would clean out their cabinets of all decadent ingredients for Lent, they still had flour and water, maybe a little salt, the necessary ingredients for pretzels. Even their shape is made to look like arms crossing in prayer (apparently back in they day people folded their arms over their chests in prayer, rather than simply putting their hands together.) So there you go, a little history lesson for the day.

I must admit, my version is not as guilt free as its Lenten roots, cinnamon-sugar pretzels are just so much more fun to eat. I tied most in traditional pretzel knots, but as you can see in the picture, you can make then whatever shape you want. 
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose or bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour 
4 cups  water
5 teaspoons baking soda
cinnamon-sugar and butter
In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, and flour until a dough forms. Knead until the dough uses its stickiness. note: I use my food processor with a dough blade to make the dough. Mix together the ingredients until the dough cleans the sides, then let it go for 45 seconds in place of kneading. A lot easier, and it works perfectly. I use this method for bread too.
Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl, covered with cling wrap or a damp towel for at least 30 minutes. Preheat over at 475 degrees. After the dough has risen, pull off golf-ball sized pieces (for small-ish pretzels) and roll into a thin rope. Shape into pretzel twists, or whatever you feel like.
Now for my favorite part. Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and add baking soda. Dip pretzels, two at a time, in the water and let them go for about 30 seconds, then flip them for 30 more seconds so both sides have spent time face down. This process makes the chewy crust unique to pretzels and bagels.
Arrange the pretzels on a baking sheet, they wont expand anymore, so don't worry about how close they are, and bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Remove from oven and place the pretzels on a plate or two. To coat them with the cinnamon-sugar, I just take a stick of butter, peal back the paper, and rub the stick over the tops of the pretzels. Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top. (I think this controls the butter/sugar amount, but if you want to go crazy, use a dipping method.) Eat while they are warm. YUM!

3.23.2009

.Signs of Spring.


Spring has officially arrived in Birmingham, and it is so beautiful! I have always loved that my birthday is on the first day of spring, so fresh and new and colorful. Keith gave me a hammock that we can enjoy anywhere, and this weekend was a perfect time to test it out. There is something so great about hanging out in the trees, reading in the little cocoon of a hammock.  I could do it for hours . . . and now I can :) I hope you are noticing and enjoying the first signs of Spring.


3.19.2009

.Etsy.

I just added an Etsy button to my blog, so I figured it's a good time to post some of my current favorite things in that neck of the woods as well. It makes me so happy to know that people all over the world are making beautiful things with their hands.


These cards, by paper+twine, and the way she photographed them.

This print, entitled "A Portrait of a Poet's Journey" by LilyMoon.

These adorable book-end bean-bag/modern poppy bookends by pillowhappy.

The English major in my can't resist the Shakespeare hair pin by PaperAffection.

And, a little ambitious inspiration for the pottery class I'm taking in June. Sunshine coffee cup by dbabcock.

3.16.2009

5 Things I'm Looking Forward to about SPRING:

On this rainy, quiet (3/4ths of the office is out on furlough) day, I'm feeling a little restless and ready for Spring, and the things it will behold, to arrive.
  1. Emerging with our neighbors into the streets and sidewalks of Crestwood. Warm evening walks, picnics, frisbee in the park. Maybe I'll even go wild and start running again. The possibilities are many.
  2. Keith is getting me a hammock for the ol' birthday. I'm pretty excited about lots of reading time in that thing.
  3. Venturing to Colorado with my family in April. Mountains of the west, fresh air, skiing, reuniting with old friends . . . And another travel adventure, Guatemala in May.
  4. Camping. We've made it a Davis family and friend's goal to go twice every Spring and Fall.
  5. Getting rid of the glasses, for the second time, in June.
What are some things you're looking forward to??

3.12.2009

Due time for a food post.

I haven't posted about food in a while . . .


(photo courtesy of Heidi Swanson, 101cookbooks.com)
I haven't been repeating a lot of recipes lately, because there is just so much good stuff to try. Until this year, I hardly ever used recipes, and just relied on my own culinary intuition to guide me. The things I know worked out pretty well, but I've learned that using recipes and cookbooks has opened me up to all kinds of flavors and techniques that I wasn't using, simply because they weren't in my arsenal. And now that I've started, I just can't stop. Recipes are fun!

That being said, there is one recipe that I do keep coming back to. I've made it three times, twice for a crowd, and it is always a winner. Tasty, healthy, so simple, and quite beautiful, this Wild Fried Rice from 101cookbooks has awesome texture with the bite of the wild rice, big fluffy pieces of egg, and sweet peas that pop in your mouth. It's seasoned only with sesame oil and soy sauce, and is a good lesson for me of the value of simple flavors, as I often dump everything in my spice cabinet into one dish. I must admit that I omit the tofu, but you can be adventurous, or add meat if you please!

This is how I adjusted the recipe to what I have in the kitchen on a regular basis:

1 cup (uncooked) wild rice
1 yellow or red onion chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 handfuls frozen peas
5 eggs, whisked (we like a lot of eggs, especially w/o other protein, but you could certainly do less)
1 Tbs sesame oil
olive oil
soy sauce
Cook the rice according to package instructions. You'll probably need to drain it and set aside. In a skillet or wok, heat olive and sesame oil and pour in eggs. Let cook as a thin layer and flip when the bottom begins to brown a little, keeping the eggs together. Remove from the pan when eggs are cooked through and slice the eggs into 1 inch strips. Add a bit more of both oils to the pan and add onions. Cook until translucent and add then add garlic. Cook for about 1 more minute and add peas (and any other veggies you want. The other day I added frozen corn and chopped green peppers. If you go that rout, add the peppers with the onion and the corn with the peas). Add a few shakes of soy sauce and stir in rice and eggs. Remove from heat and serve. Add more soy sauce to taste. Enjoy!


Speaking of tofu, I was thinking the other day about how silly it is, with all of the chemistry experiments that we call "food" out there, that we're scared of tufu, a totally natural, healthy protein. I know that I have a weird aversion to is simply because of the general wariness and skepticism against it. One of these days I'm going to go for it, but I might have to convince the person who shares my dinner table of it first :) Are there any tofu lovers out there to encourage us? 

3.11.2009

.The Farm.

There's also nothing like ringing in a new season on a country farm with people you're crazy about. This past weekend we adventured up to Jamie's family's rather luxurious Tennessee farm, a favorite gathering place. The weather was warm, sun-burn inducing even, and the hours were filled with music, soccer, laughter, dutch blitz, donkey piƱatas, swimming across freezing lakes, camp fires, hammocks, rocking chairs, and all things relaxing and wonderful. Whenever I visit a place like this, the peace is so good for my soul. I find myself wondering if I could trade the vibrant activity of the city for the peaceful solitude of the country. I imagine myself waking up to quiet mornings, tending to chickens and gardens, cooking everything very slowly with food grown in my own soil. Never missing a sunset. It's a romantic thought, especially when I insert all of our friends into the dream as well. Commune anyone? I think I've decided, at least for now, that the city is the place for me, but the occasional trip to the outer-places is so crucial. What about you? Do you ever wonder if life on the farm is for you?

This may be my favorite picture of Keith that I've ever taken. I love my banjo-rockin' man.

These pictures are from a past trip to the farm, but they give you a good idea of how cozy the place is.

3.10.2009

Spring Fever

Nothing says Spring fever quite like . . . a new dress. I was driving home yesterday, and some undeniable force pulled me off of 280, into the Summit, and into Francesca's Collection. *Sigh of happiness*. 

Dear Spring,
I appreciate you holding off on your annual visit until Snow had a chance to show her lovely face. It was kind of you to let her have her day in the limelight. Now, please know that you are welcome here anytime.
Yours truly,
elaine

3.05.2009

Something Positive


We encountered this fellow outside of Powell's Books in Portland on our honeymoon (notice the bike rack). We asked him, "Why?" 

His response? "I had some free time, and I just wanted to do something positive." 

We'll take it.
----------------------
Last night my husband said something profound. He does that from time to time ;) He said, "You know, I think I need to realize that maybe I don't need to remind myself of the sobering side of life all the time, I need to remind myself of the hope."

A downward spiraling economy. Tax season. The crumbling neighborhood next door. Broken hearts. Hungry children. Disease. Hate.

There's plenty out there to worry about. And I think we are called to notice these things. To care.

But we are also called to hope. And I think part of that is noticing beauty.

In early signs of spring. Soft morning light. Sticky-faced smiles. Little girl dances. Smells of home. A hug from a stranger.

So I'm passing along the reminder to you today: 

"Beauty surrounds you even in the oddest, most sterile of places. Open  your eyes and notice things, and you will remain open to wonder."
-Mike Howerton, Miles to Cross

3.02.2009

I hate to say I told you so . . . but I told you so: SNOW!


Let me tell you a little something about myself. I have a sixth sense; it has to do with snow. 

When I was a little girl, growing up in New Jersey, a place more well-endowed with snowfall than my current home, I could wake up in the morning with no knowledge of weather predictions and after just one inhale of morning breath, before my eyes were even open, know, deep in my bonesthat magic had graced my world during the night. I'd jump from my bed, run to the window, and part the blinds with my little fingers, and sure enough--the world had changed into a wonderland blanketed with soft and glistening white. 

Seriously, this happened all the time. I just knew. The air changes when it snows.

I love snow. I would trade cold, snow-frequented winters for hot, muggy summers any day. When there is snow in the forecast, I become giddy. I check the weather channel every five minutes just to make sure they haven't reneged their predictions. Don't begin calling me naive, I've lived in the south for long enough, I don't believe them every time and I laugh in the face of irrational, way premature cancelations, and the mad rush for milk and bread at the slightest "chance of flurries." But I've been tracking snow predicting verbiage for long enough to read between the lines. Chance of snow, means if the hype gets up high enough you may miss school, but forget about snowmen. BUT when you hear Snow {notice the omission of 'chance of'}, expect 2-4 inches, well then you can begin doing the snow dance. 

---

On Friday I was driving to work, and the thought crossed my mind, My, it's almost March, and still no snow. But March is a great month for snow, and I'm still holding on to the hope that we'll see snow yet.

I began doing the snow dance on Saturday, approximately around 3:00 in the afternoon. But did anyone join in with me (yes, my sweet husband did)? (but besides him,) NO! Oh there were nay-sayers and "realists" (another word for pessimist), a regular bunch of doubting Thomas's. Those who wanted to squash my winter-white dream. But I just laughed in their faced and continued with my snow dance. It's all about faith.

And sure enough, as you all now know as you sit shaking your head in shame, on Sunday morning snow came to Birmingham. And this was not a half-hearted snow. This was a persistent-late-into-the-day, big-beautiful-flaked, perfect-for-snowmen-and-snowballs, thick-cover-on-the-ground, SNOW!

And it was delightful. Thanks to all who enjoyed it with me! What a fun day!