Friday, December 24, 2010
My son and I took Charlie to the off-leash dog park this afternoon for a long romp this afternoon: he loved it! So did we.
The place was teeming with other similarly-beloved dogs: pugs, a beagle, a South African Babul (?? big sweetie, like a fawn Great Dane with jowls. . , never heard of it, can't find it on google, but that's what his peeps told us), an Australian shepherd, two other goldens, a chocolate lab, a Boston terrier-type (but beige rather than black and white) and lots of assorted "originals".
Our fenced dog park area is a generous size and an interesting terrain but quite a long hike away from the parking lot. We took the route through the woods to get there: up and down steep hills. The white pines were heaped with snow, the sun dappling through their trunks.
Charlie certainly knew where we were headed and wanted to zoom as quickly as possible: easier for him than us with his claw-equipped traction paws!! But he waited for us as necessary, smiling and wagging every step of the way.
We rewarded him for his patience with two complete circuits of the dog park path and lots of play time. Then took a different long route back, this time beside a gurgling brook with acrobatic chickadees on the overhanging branches.
The new happiness research tells us what we already knew: doing stuff creates more pleasure than acquiring stuff. I'm pretty sure that the hike through the sunny woods to the dog park with Charlie and Dave will be one of my best memories of this holiday season.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
. . . . when I got out of bed at about 2:30 a.m. to check out the winter solstice lunar eclipse.
The moon was a moody dark orange with a bright penumbra of light. Brilliant stars spread across the cloudless night sky, our birch tree a white skeleton. Behind it the forest of tall red pines soughed in the wind, laden with snow. The air was so cold it sparkled and tingled in my nose.
I was not here the last time this happened. I'm not at all likely to be around the next time it occurs either.
And so yes, it was worth stumbling out of bed, sliding my feet into my sheepskin slippers, wrapping myself in my dark green dressing gown and stepping out onto the back deck.
Yes, it was.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Those who check out my blogs regularly will know: I'm not very domesticated.
But: amazingly, this far before the 25th, I have already decorated the tree, set up my Victorian village in billows of cotton wool on our living room mantel, and this morning actually baked shortbread.
Shortbread are DH's faves. The recipe is simple. No rice flour, no white sugar, no icing sugar, no cornstarch: none of these. Just good ol' salted butter, brown sugar, white flour (almost never used in my kitchen any other time of the year) and a touch of pure vanilla. Just like my Scottish ancestors made them . . . yeah! No red and green sprinkles or maraschino cherry bits on top, no chocolate chips or pecans baked in. Basic buttery goodness with just enough flour to hold it together.
(And I know there will be many for whom the quintessential shortbread and all the memories are baked up differently, but these are the ones that do it for us).
Of course DH likes them rolled out and cut into little shapes: that's fussier. But, once a year and seeing as how it's him -- why not?
So here's the recipe:
5 cups all purpose flour
1 pound (2 cups) salted butter, room temperature
1 packed cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
Cream the butter and the brown sugar till fluffy; add the vanilla. Incorporate the flour gradually until the dough comes together. Roll out small portions on lightly floured board, about 1/4 inch thick, using as little extra flour as possible: cut out the shapes, bake at 325 for about 20 minutes (until very lightly golden). Reroll and repeat with the scraps (I chill the dough while I"m waiting for the first batch to bake). Cool on wire racks and then store in closed tin with layers separated with wax paper.
Makes about 60 small shortbread cookies. Calories/fat/carbs??? We don't wanna know.
Now, that lightly golden part? Charlie NEVER ever helps himself to anything off a counter or off the table -- not even a juicy rare steak (I don't eat these, but the resident carnivores certainly do . . . ). Charlie is a gentleman who waits to be offered anything special. With the occasional exception of . . . butter.
But: these ARE mostly butter. And if they are "lightly golden" that would have to mean that they were specially baked for the golden, right?
I could not believe my eyes when I came back to the kitchen to pack away the second batch only to discover a number of shortbreads missing from the cooling racks, the remaining cookies in disarray and tell tale crumbs on the counter and on the floor!! Looked over at Charlie who wagged at me forgivingly . . .
"Shoulda used the dog bone cookie cutter . . . but that was clearly just an oversight. Still quite acceptable, thank you."
Oh, Charlie. Guess they're your faves too!! And it was kind of you to take only a few!!
Since I had a couple myself -- gotta get to the gym for a little extra cardio burn! And after that, I should probably run Charlie around the block as well!!.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
My usual Saturday morning soup-making venture -- checking to see what needs to be used from the vegetable crisper before I go grocery shopping -- resulted today in an amazing rainbow production too robust to be characterized as a mere soup. This is hearty!
Purple cabbage; two cans diced tomatoes (low sodium); five ribs of celery; about twenty baby carrots; a little brown rice, a little barley, a can of black beans rinsed carefully (all from the pantry, of course); a small yellow pepper, a small orange pepper, a small red pepper, a large green pepper; and a cup of fresh green beans. Plus a big whack of oregano, some red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper, and a small amount of salt.
All simmering away and ready when I got back from getting my hair trimmed (so that it looks just the same way it always does . . . exciting, no, but that's the goal).
Now, suitably warmed up, (having enjoyed two cups of chocolate almond coffee as well) I can head out and buy a few Christmas presents!
I like to think that I'm a reasonably modest person about most things -- I have a lot to be modest about, actually.
But: my soups are so good. I cannot deny that I am a veritable star at soup making!! And there's supper probably for most of next week (depending upon how greedy I get) -- ready to reheat in the microwave when I walk in the door.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Christmas is coming . There is lots and lots and LOTS of snow here -- and although the work is piled as high on my windowsills as that snow, still I see Christmas in the not-so-distant future, and a bit of a breather at the end of the month.
So: I'm not really slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. More like staggering towards Christmas when I plan to spend several days curled up in my armchair in front of the fireplace, toasting my toes and reading something that is not remotely related to any case or file or work-related topic.
Yessssss. Skiing downhill towards Bethlehem!! Whoooosh!!
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