Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Springing

We have early signs of spring around here -- the sun has been shining, the skies have been clear and blue, and spring flowers are beginning to appear. I'm loving it!

This week in our yard, the first of the tulip magnolias and camellias have bloomed. Beauties!
Our hot summers are no fun, but it's easy to forget all about them when we have February days like these. What has been springing for you lately?
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Three Rivers

Just forty-five minutes away from us is the small town of Three Rivers, where Robby's grandparents built a cabin around twenty years ago. It really is quite beautiful, just a short drive from the entrance to Sequoia National Park. On Friday, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and Jeff and Nathan's visit to spend an afternoon there.

We had a delicious lunch of Grandma's chili and lots of toppings and sides by Debbie. Most of the afternoon was spent on the new deck, enjoying the sunshine. And of course we stopped off at Reimer's Candies on the way home.

We're sad that Jeff and Nathan had to return home, but we're so thankful that they made the long trip out to visit!
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Valentine

Valentine's Day has already come and gone, which is really too bad, because I love Valentine's Day. I love the cards, the hearts, the loves, the oodles and oodles of red and pink everywhere.  The hub and I had a simple celebration this year thanks to the busyness of putting on a youth weekend retreat, but it was still nice. Dinner out, a custom See's box of scotchmallows and bordeaux chocolates, and a nice evening in Three Rivers was pretty perfect. I was with my Valentine on Valentine's -- what could be better?

Recently, I spent a little time on a few projects that lent themselves to sprucing up our home around our favorite heart day.

Project #1 was simple framed fabric (who doesn't love grey chevron?), but with a little fishing line wrapped around the fabric, it becomes a place to tuck photos and other sweet things, like the felt red heart below.
 
Project #2 was a chalkboard...finally. I used chalkboard spray paint on a piece of canvas (totally works!) and then silvered-sprayed the frame.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Scones Have My Heart



I love scones. The strange thing is that I often forget this. When I'm thinking about something to bake or a treat to share, I don't usually think of scones. I blame Starbuck's for this. Too often I've hastily grabbed one of their scones in a fit of low blood sugar even though I know better. They can hardly call them scones.

And then I'll make a batch of cream scones, the recipe Kelly shared with me a few years ago after discovering it in her Sur La Table cookbook. I'll make a batch, thinking to myself how incredible it is that flour and salt and baking powder and butter and cream--simple basic ingredients--can come together so beautifully. I do it by hand with a pastry blender, trying to be quick so as not to overwork the dough, and within a half hour, I'm seated with a cup of tea or coffee, scolding myself for not making these everyday of the week.

Sunday my mom and I watched an episode of Unique Sweets, and Darling Coffee Bakery did the most brilliant thing. They made their scone dough and split it so as to have two mounds to roll out as rectangles, making one slightly thicker than the other. Then they made a scone sandwich by adding a thin layer of jam and fresh fruit to the thicker half and topping the beauty with the other half. You can find their recipe here, but I kept the tried and true recipe I've come to love, Sur La Table's Cream Scones. Hop over to either site for an original recipe, or follow the one I've made only slight adjustments to below.

Cream Scones
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into tiny cubes
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (add to the cream)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional - mix in with the cream)
1 egg for egg wash (after pouring out the cream, add the egg white to the cream dish, then mix well to make a nice creamy egg wash)
A good amount of of turbinado sugar

Tip: To keep things extra cold, put your mixing bowl (metal, if you have one) in the freezer, as well as your pastry blender or any other metal tool you might use, such as a large spoon.

Blend together dry ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the top, and using a pastry brush, cut butter in until mixture has pea-sized pieces. Pour cream mixture over the top and quickly mix. Use a spatula to scrape edges and bottom and help dough come together. Cut dough into two pieces, roll each out to a rectangle making one thicker than the other. Top the thicker piece with a layer of lovely jam (I used a gifted home-made pomegranate jam) and fresh fruit (blueberries worked beautifully). Cut into squares or use cookie cutters (heart, for Valentine's Week of course) to make the scones extra sweet. Brush each with egg wash then top with a generous amount of turbinado or raw sugar.

Bake in oven at 425 degrees for about 16 minutes until the tops are perfect golden brown. Let cool slightly, and then serve those beauties!
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Reminiscing...

Saturday JK made the long drive to Visalia to spend 24 hours with us. The plan was to stay about 12 hours, but we coerced them through a heavy meal and promise of uninterrupted sleep into staying the night. We had a great evening--not unlike many many others we have spent together. We sipped coffee, talked incessantly, ate delicious meals, snacked on home-made caramel corn and Triscuits, and played Scene-It, which somehow has become "our" game -- thank goodness newer versions of that thing come out often. We talked about our homes, yards, jobs, families, and spent a good amount of time mulling over the problem (and of course, our solution) of today's education. It was good.
It got me reminiscing about how Kelly and I became friends.

Over seven years ago, Kelly and I met. I had just taken a teaching job at Whittier Christian and was in my classroom, which at that point was filled with piles and boxes. The teacher who had had the room before me had left quite a bit of stuff -- some helpful, some junk-- and I was sorting through it and the pieces I had accumulated in student teaching. I was pretty pleased with an easel this teacher had left and  set it up with a welcome board.

As I laid posters out and made paper towers, in walked Kelly. She was lovely and friendly, introduced herself and welcomed me, and said the reason she had come was to take an easel the previous teacher had promised her. Drat, I thought. The one good thing she left me! I was a bit embarrassed that it was already set up, but it didn't matter. Soon she and I were chatting, and I knew (seriously, I knew) that this girl and I would become friends. We had all sorts of things in common -- newlyweds (our wedding dates are within two weeks of each other) and new teachers (freshmen for me, sophomore for her) who loved cooking and reading and shopping and coffee. Starbuck's was down the road, and we would spend many hours there over the next few years.

Kelly and I had a fantastic three years of teaching together. Except for the actual teaching moments, we were practically inseparable. This, as you can imagine, was something the students ate up. They loved that their two favorite math and English teachers (oh yes, we were the favorites) were also best friends. And they got an even bigger kick when John joined the teaching staff, and Rob came onboard as a sub. (Incidentally, Kelly and I set up John and Rob on a coffee date one afternoon, and their friendship was as immediate as ours.) I like to say that John and Kelly were our first grown-up friends as a couple, and even though early married life had its struggles, it also was a blissful, carefree time for the four of us! We were in southern California, afterall, where ocean waves and Mickey and Minnie were a short drive away. We have stayed close after all these years, through moves and babies and new jobs and new churches.

It is rare to have friends like these--Rob and I are blessed to have a couple of these deep friendships in our lives--and it's amazing what sometimes brings such friendships about. For me and Kelly, it was an easel.
An early picture of the four of us chaperoning a Winter Formal for school.
I need to find the original -- this is from an old blog post, hence the tiny nature of it.
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