26 December 2007

Christmas cookies~~ part 2!!!

yes...we are still baking! only now, it is for the upcoming weekend of girlfriends. what do girlfriends like in their baked goods?? why, chocolate of course! girlfriends on holiday *need* their chocolate sweet treats. there's that & the fact that someone has eaten all the chocolate chip cookies that were baked last week. i wonder who did that?? not one single chocolate chip-smeared face will fess up to it.
on the agenda for this week...chocolate chip cookies (toll house cookies) & my personal favorite from this year's selections...parma chocolate cookies from michelle scicolone's la dolce vita cookbook. i'll direct you here for that famous toll house cookie recipe...& i'll share my slightly modified version of ms. scicolone's cookies for what's cooking wednesday.

preheat oven to 350 & butter your baking sheets.

melt & cool 3 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate...i used valhrona 72%...oooohhhhh

beat 12 T. butter, 1/2 c. sugar & 1/2 t. salt with a mixer til light & fluffy

add the cooled, melted chocolate, beating til well blended

gradually stir in 2 c. flour

cool dough if necessary for better handling...then shape into 1 inch balls

now here is where ms. scicolone & i differ...she rolls them in finely chopped hazelnuts...my children would declare anarchy if i were to do that, so i don't...not yet!

place cookies 1-1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets

poke a hole in each cookie & fill with jam of your choice (i love me some seedless raspberry!), being careful not to over fill them (the jam will run over if you do)

bake 18-20 min...then cool on a wire rack

try not to eat all of them at once!

23 December 2007

Christmas joy!!

(the fruits of today's labor...Christmas cookie baking!)

who would not be drawn to a season that began with an innocent baby & speaks of a world at peace? i have so enjoyed reading some very beautiful memories other bloggers are sharing of their Christmases past & present. i love the thought of the joy garlanded around our world right now in bloglandia. with a cup of tea each night in the quite house, or with my morning coffee at sunrise, your shared joy is bringing smiles to my face! thank you...
reflecting on those times etched on the heart is part of the beauty of this season...some of my favorite Christmas memories give an extra layer of warmth to my heart today...

i remember going to Christmas Eve Mass as a little girl to the magnificent church of my grandfather's & momma's childhoods. every year that Mass drew my momma back, a faraway look of love in her eyes. our own church was a very small mission church. the weekly Sunday Mass was held in a donated home & i am not even sure if they had Christmas Eve Mass. that probably didn't matter to my momma. she was at home in the church of her early faith. i was always amazed at the soaring sky blue ceiling with stars & angels, so beautiful by candlelight.i was tickled pink to be snuggled warmly between momma & daddy, not caring how long the homily might be. the holiness of the eve was palpable. one particular Christmas Eve, the pastor of this church had just concluded the Gospel reading. that year there were so many babies at Mass & that meant lots of baby noises...all very dramatic in this big church. before beginning his homily, Father smiled the most beautiful smile & when the last little one quieted down, he said..."ahhhhh, listen to our own precious choir of angels on this holy night."what a joyful thing to say. as a mother so many years later, that comment came back to me time and again when my little ones would cry. i wonder if he ever knew what a ripple of joy his words would send into time.
the eve of Christmas eve...my senior year in high school. i was a band geek as were most of my friends. that year we had the dreaded half day of school on december 23 (we much preferred to start the break before then ;) in reality, there was very little in terms of school work accomplished on that day...exams were over & it seemed to be just a day to log on the calendar to bring us closer to the required 180 per year. with some creative time on our hands, a bunch of us who could play instruments & a few who could sing, decided to go caroling that night at the assisted living facility & nursing home in our small town. our recent band concert fare provided us with ample memorized music of the season.we agreed to meet & walk the town, playing for the elderly folks & anyone else who happened to be in our path. i rushed home to bake cookies that afternoon for our group & at dusk we met at one of the group member's home. we had the most wonderful time. i could not believe i had never done that before! part way through our caroling, an unexpected snow began to gently fall. amazing. i can still see those flakes drifting through the lights of Christmas. our little group was hushed for a bit in humble gratitude for such a gift of beauty. i went home glad we had a half day of school, glad we followed the trail of serendipity...
2006...the eve of Christmas eve again! last month i mentioned one of my sacred objects...the 17 roses that washed up on our beach. i promised the story & since today one year has passed, this Christmas memory seems perfect to share. D., Little Man & i took a jaunt over to our beach in the afternoon of 23 december in between the storms that were blowing in from the sea. it was one of those days that absolutely everything was dressed in a shade of perfect beach grey with a wind blowing that moves through every cell of your being, taking away every care you could possibly harbor, leaving you with only a fresh cleaned soul. Little Man & i crested the dune & headed south while D., moved in the opposite direction. against the backdrop of grey, a brilliant red caught my eye just a short piece away. i could not believe it when i scooped up a red rose petal, all soft & tender. it seemed so out of place. Little Man just shrugged...neither of us could imagine how it came to be there. no houses or people were nearby. in a moment another flash of red caught my eye & then another....more petals! i told Little Man in a burst of joy that we were being led down a path to a glorious surprise. he just laughed at me in his pragmatic, scientific-meteorologist kind of way. (they generally don't forecast roses around here!)in another moment, my breath was totally taken away...a perfect, long-stemmed red rose washed in on the tide!! as i plucked it from the seafoam, i heard D. on the wind...running & yelling~~ he came bearing yet another perfect rose! the 3 of us began running toward the next flash of red on the tide...laughing, rescuing roses from the turbulent sea. this was a trail of pure joy. when we reached rose number 17, my arms were full & there were no more dots of red against the grey. the storm clouds once again began to threaten & we turned for home. i took those magnificent roses home, gently washed the salt water away & put them in a place of honor for the holidays...they lasted past 1 january!! they were a true Christmas miracle & a moment of unrestrained joy. i felt like a child running along that beach from one to the next, knowing that this was a gift beyond any reason, with heart full of gratitude!
may the joy of this season speak to your heart in the voice of love...may you hear the words & feel the peace...

(moonlight over the bay...tonight's perfect light.)

22 December 2007

deck the halls...

...with love & memories~~ the very best decorations of all.after the rushing about, it is so good to be back home on a cold night. to light the candles. to light the tree.unpacking ornaments means a journey through times past. each year something special is added to everyone's collection.some ornaments hold laughter of a time that was silly. some hold memories that show just how much we have grown. some hold memories of love for those no longer with us here.there is no theme. there is no color coordinating. our tree is a patchwork of love...pieces of ourselves.amid the joyful lights there are glimpses of where we've been on nearly every branch.a tree bursting with warmth & love on a cold winter night....topped with our Christmas Angelsilently watching down on us all.
may your Christmas be lit with love & topped with joy!

21 December 2007

quick update between everything else!

exams...one to go. sigh. (poor kid!)

cookies...3 batches made...3 to go!!

cookie dough...way too much consumed!

celebrating the season...happening right now!!!

may you find a moment of quiet peace in the middle of it all...

17 December 2007

when boyworld & exams collide...

this is what happens when the stress of studying & exam-taking beings to take its toll...

& you find things like this little gem...
& if that wasn't bad enough...you find this...
i think these posters explain L.'s recent need to be glued to my leg!

is it time to bake cookies yet???

15 December 2007

to do

is anyone else out there wallowing in the joy of the season?? i was not blogging last year at this time (i was only lurking!) & so i did not wake up mornings during Advent saying to myself, "i will blog this 'n that" only to collapse into bed a bit later than usual saying to myself, "oops i was too busy & am now too tired to blog this 'n that!" my blog is teaching me things about myself...even though i am striving to keep this Advent season quiet & thoughtful, i am still much, much busier than i hoped to be. but i will take it all with joy!

Baby Girl is home! for a month! that is such a gift to us...her smile lights up the house like the lights on the Christmas tree & she makes a mean cup of evening tea for our talk times.

Boyworld & K-Bug are still in exam mode...one more to go for K-Bug & a few more for the boys early next week. i keep hearing..."when are we baking cookies???" the cookie bake is like a dangling carrot being used to encourage studying! (i can't wait to bake either!!)

next weeks "to do" list is forming in my head & it looks something like this:

1. get those boys to the end of their school quarter

2. breathe **huge** sigh of relief (even the teacher is ready for Christmas break!)

3. bake cookies till the counters overflow

(4. eat cookie dough on the sly)

5. finish decorating the tree...it only has lights right now!

6. light some candles every night & steep in the moments of quiet that present themselves

i like that list. very much.

12 December 2007

weather or not...& feasts!

good morning, y'all!!(this morning's misty sunrise over the bay courtesy of D....thanks!) by the bay the calendar may say december, but the weather certainly does not. according to my resident meteorologist, yesterday's high of 78 broke our local record. today the forecast is for more of the same...a good travel day for Baby Girl's homecoming for Christmas break! Little Man is not only busy with local weather, he is deep into monitoring Olga...our post-season (it "ended" 11/30, so they say) tropical storm that is churning up the waters of the Caribbean. now, my cavalier attitude about december storms was brought in line promptly by Little Man this morning...he produced a historical hurricane map of a *category 2* hurricane that actually made landfall *right here* in december 1925!! i guess i just better pay close attention to Little Man's forecasts for the next few days ;) ...i like having this kid around!
last week i was indulging one of my favorite internet hobbies...reading food blogs & i found Paola. her fall recipes had me drooling! when i came across her "soul-warming soup" & it matched my pantry contents perfectly, i knew what i had to do! i know this what's cooking wednesdayrecipe may seem a little odd for nearly 80 degree weather, but all the same it is a very tasty, very satisfying find on the dinner table...& it is, indeed, "soul-warming!"
thank you, Paola!
soul-warming soup (with slight adaptations)
peel & dice 2-3 sweet potatoes, sprinkle with sea salt & olive oil...roast until tender
dice 3 stalks celery, 2 large carrots, 1 yellow onion, 3 cloves garlic
add olive oil to stock pot, then add diced veggies...saute gently for ~5 minutes
add 1-14.5 oz. can pinto beans, 3-1/2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth, & 3 cups tomato juice
add 1 t. mace, 2 t. cumin, 1 t. ground coriander, 1 t. chili powder, & 2 t. brown sugar
cook on medium for ~15 minutes
add roasted sweet potatoes & cook ~5 more minutes
puree the soup in small batches & reheat if necessary
serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley & a dollop of creme fraiche (0ptional)
today's feast day in the liturgical calendar...Our Lady of Guadalupe...

11 December 2007

lights of december...

darkness seems to fall so unexpectedly in these days. one hour i am sitting at my desk with a full flood of sunlight pouring into my room.in the passing of just one hour i look up from my desk to see the last pink rays of a setting sun illuminating the eastern horizon...in a whisper the sun sinks into the west & the world goes quiet. before lighting the candles, i grab the camera & head for the western view to see this...what a glorious prelude to the deep velvet night!

next up...the lights of the Christmas tree...

07 December 2007

amid the all the hustle & bustle...

you might call me crazy, but i love being out & about this time of year. once upon a time of early motherhood, i thought it wise to shop for Christmas early with a plan to be wrapped & ready for december 1 so that i could really settle into Advent properly, quietly, reflectively. actually it did seem to make some sense, but do you know what i would do? hide the presents & forget where they were...or worse yet, that i had even bought them in the first place!

after a few seasons of this silliness, i realized that i was also missing being among the mass of humanity preparing for & celebrating the season. i missed the bell-ringers. i missed the hearty greetings rarely exchanged other times of the year. i missed the impromptu conversations struck up in the spirit of the season with others.

so back i am to the routine of old...i do no shopping for Christmas until december 1st! now, for sanity's sake...i go for a simple gift-giving approach~~ one with a budget & one done with love...no buying for the sake of buying, no impulse shopping, no demonstrations of love with dollars. (i do keep a running list of present possibilities throughout the year when inspirations strike!)

and with this task at hand...i go out into the world with joy! i am shopping for those i love. i am shopping for those who cannot. & i have a chance to give a warm smile & word of encouragement to every single person in my journeys.

what about the times when this season raises stress levels & brings out the uglies? (this is bound to be part of the journey...)

i found this timely reminder 2 Christmases ago & have kept it close to read frequently (even in other seasons)...to keep it all in perspective as i go about my path & bump into others on theirs...
Dear God...help us to remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mom who worked nine hours that day and was rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry, and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattoed, seemingly disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19 year old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans next semester.

Help us to remember that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day is a slave to addictions that we cannot even imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she received last week, this will be their last year they go shopping together.

Please gently remind us each day, that of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. it is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. open our hearts, not just to those who are close to us, but to all of humanity. Let us be slow to judge, and quick to forgive, to show patience, empathy & love.
i wish i could attribute these beautiful words, but i found them without the author's name. whoever you are...thank you!!

05 December 2007

boyworld goes green...

...finally!! we have the green light from our internet service provider.after several days of no access, we're up!! thank goodness this did not happen during NaBloPoMo ;)

it was just in time to share last night's adventure of hot chocolate & Christmas tree shopping in 30 degree weather!brrrrrrr... i do miss the days of going to a tree farm & picking out a balled tree which we were able to plant in our own yard after the new year. but in this area, that is not possible. last night a nearby lot full of Christmas trees became boyworld as the guys searched diligently for that very perfect specimen.sadly the girls could not join in the adventure, but if we had waited until the college students returned home, there would be no trees left! so the guys did their best & of course, we found the perfect-for-us tree.& i must say there is nothing quite like sipping your hot chocolate on a cold almost-winter night surrounded by these joyful trees, inhaling their magnificent scent!
after the lack of internet for so many days, i almost forgot that today is wednesday...what's cooking wednesday?? in the flurry of Christmas preparations, there are some easy eats on the menu for this week & next. (really, la cucina is a bakery right now!) this week's recipe is easy & quick & nutritious too.
homemade veggie & goat cheese pizza

brush a store-bought pizza crust (i use whole wheat) with olive oil (remember, it's that busy time of the year & i am not making my own crust...that's for january!!)

add a layer of fresh spinach, a layer of sliced roasted red peppers, thin slices of red onion, & torn leaves of fresh basil (all to your taste)

sprinkle the veggies with a handful of pinenuts

spread goat cheese over all

season with sea salt & fresh ground pepper

drizzle all with olive oil

bake according to crust manufacturer's directions & enjoy!