“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand - and melting like a snowflake.”
- Francis Bacon

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Kittens, cat beds, Easter bunnies, it's PINK SATURDAY!

What can anyone say about PINK SATURDAY other than it's pink, and fun and that I have enough pink stuff in my house to participate for the next thirty years or so!

I live in a 100 year old Edwardian home. As a result, I have radiators and hot water heat, YUM! Once you've had that type of heat you will never, ever want anything else to heat your home. The plus for me is that all of my radiators are original and are extremely ornate...a work of art in themselves. But I'll save that for another blog entry. Today I am showing you how I tie baskets to my radiators, fill them with blankies and invite my kitties for a little spa treatment. I swear, those kitty-cattys of mine love to bubble and steam in their little, heated beds every chance they get. The filled basket you see here is in my dining room and is used by all of the girls. I guess Forrest (black kitty) thinks that I fixed this one up way too feminine and girly for a guy of his regal charm!

My next goodie is a little early to show to you but I think it is just too sweet and precious to keep hidden for much longer. I found this adorable pink bunny garland the other day at Big Lots! and fell in love. In fact, I grabbed all of the pink that they had on the rack (I'm really stingy about pink stuff). I'm not positive where I'll use it yet for decoration but just knowing that I have it makes me happy and that's all that counts, at least to me, hehehe! Each strand is nine feet, and I have several, so I may be looking at pink bunnies in quite a few of the rooms of my home. I just love Easter. Not only for its true intent, but for the added fun of the baby animals and pastel colors.

Lastly, and pulling up the rear is Rosemary's cuddle donut bed. It sits on the dining room chair closest to the kitchen so she can catch a snooze and still be near her mommy. I'll see her lift her head every now and then, barely open an eye to check if I'm still where she saw me last and then drift off to kitty dreams once more. Other than my dogs, Rosemary needs to know where I am every minute of the day. She follows me like a puppy and when I sit down she feels that she MUST be in my lap. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't...especially when I am eating or knitting or taking a bath, or working on the laptop, or putting on my shoes. The rest of the time, if you see me, you see Rosemary. She was found in a ditch at about the age of 2.5 weeks and brought into our shelter. As a volunteer at the shelter I was there a lot and spied a little calico kitten with a huge meow that wanted a LOT of attention. From that day on, whenever I would go to the shelter to volunteer, I'd take Rosemary out of her cage and carry her around in my sweater pocket. She bonded to me like the dickens and I fell in love...hard. When I finally decided to adopt her, we were a mutual admiration society with two members. As a baby she'd ride around on my shoulder as I did the dishes, swept the floor, made beds, etc. The things that I did with a lot of movement, like vacuuming, she referred to sit on the sofa and watch. She's not afraid of loud noises, loves company and is the light of my life.

Don't forget to take a jog over to Beverly's at HOW SWEET THE SOUND, our hostess. She has many, many more people who have signed up for this fun day. Go for it. Even if you like blue, pink is just as good and maybe even better!
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Whip up a batch of Forgotten Cookies to melt away the winter blues

Yesterday I shared with you my thoughts about all of the white that I see around me, not only in the winter, but the summer, too. I mentioned the Forgotten Cookies that I made for my sons as an after school treat. Today, I would like to share with you the recipe for this easy and very low-fat cookie. Light and crunchy, they are perfect with a cup of tea. Very versatile, you can add a variety of ingredients (chocolate, nuts, coconut, crushed peppermint) or colors so they will fit in with just about any winter holiday.

With it being so close to Valentine's Day, all you have to do is add a bit of red food coloring for a tiny, pink cookie. I've also added green coloring and mint chocolate chips for St. Patrick's Day. During the Christmas holidays I color them red and green by using food coloring in the batter or I will leave them white and just sprinkle colored sugar on the tiny tops before baking. There was always the "what to do" with the egg yolks. Most times I'd just cook them up for a treat to add to my dogs' food. Just throwing them away didn't seem right. After all, it was food and my mother taught me to never waste anything and that everything could be useful if you just thought about it long enough.

Almond-flavored Forgotten Cookies are popular throughout Europe. Most likely, these cookies began as macarons de Nancy in France, where they sometimes contain chocolate. Italians call the same cookies amaretti and make them with bitter almonds. Hazelnuts, and sometimes cocoa or cinnamon and lemon peel, are used in similar German haselnuss ballchen or makronen. Also related, Swedish valnot maranger contain walnuts. So do Austrian makronen-schnitten which are formed with channels and filled with apricot jam.

These delicate clouds of meringue are drop cookies, the easiest type of cookie you can make. First, beat egg whites with sugar and fold in ground nuts. Then, simply drop the batter from a spoon or push it through a pastry bag or a food-storage bag onto cookie sheets. Instead of the usual kind of cookie baking, bake Meringue Kisses in a very low oven, turn off the heat and “forget” the cookies while they finish drying in the cooling oven. If possible, make Forgotten Cookies on a dry day. If it’s humid, the cookies can absorb moisture from the air, flatten out and lose their crispness. These are very versatile cookies!

Forgotten Cookies or Meringue Kisses
Makes about 60 cookies

4 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar OR 3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups (8 oz.) ground almonds and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In large mixing bowl at high speed, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating constantly until whites are glossy and stand in stiff peaks. Add vanilla. (If using granulated sugar, rub just a bit of meringue between thumb and forefinger to feel if sugar has dissolved.) Gently fold in almonds. Drop by tablespoonful or pipe through pastry tube or food-storage bag onto lightly greased or lined (foil or waxed, brown or parchment paper) baking sheets.

Bake in preheated 225° F oven until firm, about 1 hour. Turn off oven. Let stand in oven with door closed until cool, dry and crisp, at least 1 additional hour, preferably overnight, which is best. Store in tightly sealed container with waxed paper between layers. (If stored cookies lose crispness, warm in preheated 200° F oven about 15 to 20 minutes.)

To make variations:

Use amounts listed for 1 batch of cookies. To make 2 variations at a time, divide meringue mixture equally between 2 bowls. Beat or fold 1/2 the ingredient amounts listed for a variation into 1 of the bowls and 1/2 the ingredient amounts listed for a second variation into the second bowl. For all variations, omit ground almonds.

Brandy Alexander – Beat in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon brandy extract.

Cherry/Almond – Fold in 1 cup chopped, drained maraschino cherries and 1 cup chopped almonds.

Chocolate – Beat in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Citrus – Beat in 2 tablespoons grated orange peel, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract and a few drops yellow food coloring.

Mint/Chocolate Chip – Beat in 1/2 teaspoon mint extract and a few drops green food coloring. Fold in 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels.

Rocky Road – Beat in 2 teaspoons vanilla. Fold in 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels and 1 cup chopped nuts.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wrapping my heart and home in white...not cold and colorless after all

For those of you who aren't aware, my home is less than a mile from the Canadian border. Winter is rough around here with current temperatures running anywhere from below zero to about plus five, as it is this afternoon.

A couple of days ago, I bundled up and braved the cold to run some long put-off errands. I remember that as I was walking to the garage it struck me that my whole world has been white for months. The roof of my home and my neighbors' is piled high with white. Of course, all of the yards are blanketed in white where just a few months ago you could see green lawns and a profusion of flower plantings in every color of the rainbow. I thought to myself that white certainly was a cold and unfriendly color as I pulled the collar of my coat up around my cold ears.

That evening, all tucked into my warm home and covered with my favorite blanket, Camille, my white kitty, jumped onto the sofa to snuggle with me as she does most times when the twinkle of day turns into the dark quiet of night. Camille certainly isn't cold. In fact, she is all soft and cuddly and warm and cozy. As I was thinking about her and enjoying the warmth of her body, I realized that what I initially thought was a cold color, really wasn't so cold after all and that white could not only be warm, it could also be very pretty and...useful.

My mind drifted off to remember the snow-white Forgotten Cookies that I would bake often for my boys. Those little goodies with their lighter-than-air texture, piled high on a plate looking like tiny clouds, were a favorite in my then filled nest. I can still see my sons walking through the back door piling books on the kitchen table after school. Next they'd fill a glass to the brim with milk (another white blessing) just before grabbing as many of the cookies as their hands could carry.

I warmed myself by traveling back to hot summer days when my perennial Sweet Peas would wind in and out of the backyard fence. Their velvety texture and pristine beauty is always remarkable. Each fall the lovely blossoms fade and die leaving in their wake a profusion of seed pods. Basket in hand I carefully collect my fall bounty in order to gift friends and family with the bounty left behind by the memory of summer and the promise of spring to come.

Just this afternoon a package arrived with its contents wrapped carefully in crisp, white tissue paper. Ordinarily, the tissue would be placed aside quickly in order for me to admire my goodies. Not today. I really looked at the tissue with its numerous creases and folds. The tissue reminded me a little of whipping cream or maybe an iceberg, both lovely in their own right.

Sitting here at my kitchen table, I see the sun streaming through the white lace curtains in my dining room leaving intricate patterns to dance on the walls, table, chairs and floor. A little bit of decoration added by Mother Nature to an already lovely room.

Tucked away in a corner of my living room there sits a sweet and soft feather tree exactly where I placed it just before the holidays. For one reason or another, I can't bear to pack it away. So, there it is, looking adorable, bringing a smile to my face each and every time I pass by.

With all of these white pretties prancing around in my head, I now see that white isn't the cold and chilly color I originally thought a few days ago on my way to the garage. To be sure, I live with a lot of white for a very long time in my neck of the woods. Snow will often appear at the end of October and remain on the ground until sometime around the end of April. But now I have a new appreciation for what some call a colorless color. White is the color of snow and of icebergs, but it also graces my garden in the summer, the coat of a little cat I truly love, my holiday feather tree, lace curtains that produce dancing patterns on dining room walls and of tissue that protects treasures that arrive in boxes from far away.
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