My mom finished her wall quilt. Check out the deer and bear! She is always impressing me with her sewing skills. Her patience for crafting is infinite. It is now happily displayed in their home in San Antonio, but I think it would look perfect in a snow-covered cabin high in the rockies.
The sky is still my favorite part. Beautiful!
April has come and gone in a whirl of activity. My work has consumed me this month. When I haven’t been behind the computer at my desk, I’ve been editing my book on the home laptop. The good days had a bit of domesticity here and there. It’s been a stressful month and I’m ready to be more balanced.
I’m happily looking forward to May. I’ll be hearing this woman speak at a nutrition conference, traveling to San Francisco and checking in with one of my favorite friends and making my annual voyage to Nicaragua — preferably pronounced with a Barney** accent.
May will bring heat to Phoenix and fewer flowers to my garden. My skin will turn a darker olive, my hair will get lighter from long runs in the morning sun. It will bring ample time to celebrate, including birthdays, graduations and weddings. It is the unofficial start to summer.
And of course, one of my favorite days of the year: Cinco de mayo! Bienvenidos mayo. Vamos a tomar una margarita en celebracion a su venida!
* In no way is this a reference to my least favorite condiment.
** Have you read Barney’s blog? A girlfriend mentioned it to me the other day. My God it is hilarious.
So, I lied. I couldn’t take a break from baking, like I promised. I suppose grinding it out in my kitchen is just part of who I am these days. I truly take delight in going through my cookbooks and shelves and whipping up sweets that are different and pungent and spicy.
Plus, I love the way baking makes my little house smell like a home. There are times I catch a whiff of chocolate cake rising in the oven and I’m transported back to my childhood home, my mom pushing her children out of the small kitchen and back to the small yard.
Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cookies
(If you like either of these, you’ll love them together. The salty sweetness is perfect with a glass of milk. Or a shot of Jose. Your choice.)
‚Ä¢ 1 1/4 cups flour, sift or stir before measuring
‚Ä¢ 1/2 teaspoon salt
‚Ä¢ 1 teaspoon baking powder
‚Ä¢ 1/2 cup shortening
‚Ä¢ 1/2 cup peanut butter
‚Ä¢ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
‚Ä¢ 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
‚Ä¢ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
‚Ä¢ 1 egg
‚Ä¢ ¬Ω cup canned pumpkin
‚Ä¢ ¬Ω teaspoon nutmeg
‚Ä¢ ¬Ω teaspoon cinnamon
Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside. Cream shortening, peanut butter, and sugars; beat in vanilla and egg. Stir in flour mixture, blending well. Add pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon last. Shape mixture into 3/4-inch balls; place on greased baking sheets.
Flatten each cookie with the tines of a fork; dip fork in flour periodically to keep it from sticking to the peanut butter cookie dough.
Bake peanut butter cookies at 375¬∞ for about 10 to 12 minutes. These will be cake-like in consistency. Be patient while they are baking! They are worth the wait.
I made these violet capelets for April birthday gifts. The pattern is exceptionally easy and they knit up in no time. I like using the JoAnn’s brand wool because it is soft, stretchy and affordable.
Let’s Add it Up, shall we?
One cute shrug
Two skeins of chunky yarn
Three glasses of wine while knitting
Four stitch markers
Five-finger discount, when your friends try to steal this out of your closet.
In the last six months my parents have moved to Texas and my brother has moved to Denver. I am suddenly the last member of our very close family living in the desert. I don’t like it. Not one bit.
I’d love to play tough and tell you that this mid-20 something gal doesn’t need her mommy nearby occasionally, but that would be bunk. My mom is one of my best friends, and while we definitely drive each other crazy at times, I really do miss her presence. Same goes for my Papi, who was my swimming buddy. Mostly, I miss our Sunday night family routine of bbq, eating on the patio and watching TV or playing a board game together. On a good week, my brother would be home from college and the Trivial Pursuit would take on a new competitive edge.
But as of yesterday, my lone sibling packed his mini-van to the gills and gleefully hit the highway headed toward the Rockies.
Perhaps a touch too gleeful for my liking.
And yet, I don’t think anyone had the heart to tell him that the Rocky Mountain High they sing about perhaps isn’t the one he was hoping for.
I’ll miss you Cody. Do great things in Denver and know I’m rooting for you.
Apparently I’ve been making a few of you hungry with my recent baking posts. It is too bad y’all don’t live closer because I’d be happy to feed you. I’m often looking for people to feed and the regulars are starting to get grumpy about a wee bit of weight gain. (Like I force feed them?)
So, no more photos of what’s coming out of my oven this week. Instead, I could get on my soap box and lecture about counting calories, getting your daily 5 servings of fruits and veggies and making a point of exercising — if you’d prefer. But really, who would? My dessert philosophy: life is short. Enjoy sweets in moderation and learn to enjoy exercise. Voila, you’ve got balance. I must admit, I rarely eat what I bake, but last night I thoroughly enjoyed a chocolate cupcake left over from this weekend’s festivities. It was divine.
On to other domestic joys — knitting. I’ve got several large knitting projects I’m researching. I’ve got to get the right yarn, take some measurements and I suppose I’m even going to knit a swatch or two. In the meantime, I’ve taken a complete nose dive off the Use What You Have wagon and gone a bit crazy with pretty new art supplies.
Like pink cotton. These baby bibs are inspired by those lovely ladies at Mason-Dixon and their fab new book.
I’ve got a crop of friends having newbies this spring. Who wouldn’t love a little sweetheart bib around their neck when learning to love all things Gerber? Plus, mom will love that she can throw it in the washer and this cotton will bounce back quite a few times.
The buttons came from my mom’s stash — so technically I did use something I/she had.
And speaking of my recent shopping adventures, here’s a before Backtack III photo. I’m turning these black, white and accent colors into a softie for my partner. I loved Mariko’s idea of hosting a BTIII party where others who are participating could come over and swap ideas. Alas, I am apparently the only one in Arizona backtacking this season. I suppose I’ll just throw myself a party. A lazy Sunday afternoon, a pretty pink sundress with pearls, a tall cool glass of pinot grigio and Yo Yo Ma on the radio. My stitches will be as wonky as my smile.
Do you have a type of music, or perhaps a band, that immediately lifts your mood? It’s Bob Marley for me. I just can’t seem to frown when I’ve got Bob on the iPod. I daydream of being on the beach in the Caribbean, with the waves crashing nearby and the drinks arriving with little fruity umbrellas.
I had such a nice weekend! While I didn’t get to those croissants, I did manage to spend time with friends, and bake — two of my favorite weekend activities.
Ms. Jenny celebrated a birthday a couple weeks ago. We swooped on the opportunity to celebrate when she was home this weekend. Min suggested margaritas and the rest is history.
I made the dessert — chocolate cake topped with Cool Whip, by request.
Baby Gray inhaled with approval. Look at those cheeks!
My camera battery was slowly dying during dinner. I must admit, however, this is the way the world looks after a pitcher of Macayo’s fabuloso sangria margaritas.
In more sobering domestic news, I tried out the Martha Stewart Living Cookie of the Month recipe for May: Orange Cardamom Madelines. It took a bit of driving and patience to find the appropriate baking pan, but thanks to Bed Bath and Beyond, it was acquired. Also, I don’t own cardamom, so I substituted a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. These have been a big hit. I love how they are soft and cakey, but the orange glaze balances the sweetness with a touch of bitter zing. Yum!
My only suggestions when baking these are to use as little batter as possible in each pan. They are easy to overfill and the results are uneven. I would suggest even using a measured tablespoon per madeline mold. Also, watch these carefully when they are baking. They do not cook evenly and I had one batch burned on the bottoms and raw on the top.
If you are ever looking for a Martha recipe or article, check out the MarthaDex. It is an impressive tribute to domesticity.
Got to run. Bob’s calling. Something about shooting a sheriff?
Many of you commented on what I should do to make a bundt cake representative of Arizona for that contest I’m entering. Thank you!
After reading the NordicWare web site, I see one of the requirements for entry is — of course — baking in their pans. I have no idea if my pans are the same, but I guess I have to go shopping this weekend. Darn it! I mean, I just hate to shop, especially for new baking gadgets…
My first entry: Sonoran Cornbread
2 packages of Jiffy instant cornbread (I’m being honest. I’m sure when I bake this officially for the contest, I’ll use a from scratch cornbread recipe.)
2/3 cup of milk
1 can of black beans, drained
1 cup of chopped nopal (pickled prickly pear cactus)
1/4 cup of chopped green chiles
1/4 cup of stone-ground yellow corn meal
Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray your bundt cake pan with Pam, or preferably Baker’s Joy. The added flour in this product helps the cake to come out of the pan with one clean flip. Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl.
Mix for one minute, making sure to work ample air into the batter. Holding your batter bowl, gently pour the mixture into the bundt pan, allowing the batter to distribute itself around the pan. Then take a small spatula and slowly work a small bit of the batter up the outside edge of the pan, about one inch. This gives the batter a boost and makes the details of the mold more evident on the finished product. Depending on the depth of your bundt pan, bake 20-35 minutes. Take bundt out of the oven when the bread bounces back after pushing on it slightly. The color should be a consistent golden hue.
Let the cake cool in the bundt for 10 minutes. Slowly and carefully run sharp knife around the outer edge. Flip cake on to your serving platter. Let the cake cool at least another 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro and salsa.
Viola, Sonoran Cornbread.
This sweet, embroidered bread towel courtesy of Atpanda.
On deck: Pistachio Prickly Pear Praline. (I need to work on the name.)
Pretty African violets from my mother’s garden to balance out the vulgarity of this post.
I’m listening to my stomach gurgle and hiss and make very angry noises at me. I’ve been trying to cut down on sugar and dairy lately and it’s been going well. Until today.
I attended a work lunch that was prepared at a colleague’s home. The meal was incredible — quiche with feta cheese and bruschetta, maple pecan French toast with fresh whipped cream, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, and fresh fruit. All topped off with generous mimosas.
What do you do in that situation? Grimace and push away the only food offered? Or dive in and recognize that if there is any time to break your own rules, this is the moment to do so.
Adios diet, bienvenidos sugar and dairy. Welcome to the wonderful world of AfricanKelli digestion, a land where taste buds and stomach rarely agree. Where the brain can’t seem to make the right choice and the mouth regularly takes rein. The meal was a sweet, cheesy mess of deliciousness. It was so good I nearly had another serving, and am quite thankful now I did not.
My belly is on strike. It did not give my mouth the courtesy of pre-emptive strike negotiations. As the two battle this feast out, I listen.
Gurgle. Gurgle. Cramp.
The weather in Phoenix is still remarkably wonderful. For mid-April I cannot believe how pleasant the temperature is. We are in full Spring swing and loving it. This afternoon I’m day-dreaming. I’m thinking of the new recipes I’m going to try this weekend for that Bundt cake contest. I want to sew up a few little treats for girlfriends with babies due in the next two months. I want to finish knitting a special gift for a friend’s birthday next week. I want to find a madelines pan and make the “cookie of the month” in the May issue of MSL. I want to put on my bikini and work in my garden and feel the warm earth in my hands and the sun on my back. I want to make a huge pitcher of sangria margaritas and turn on some Shakira and shake my hips around the house.
Saturday, please arrive soon. The guest room is ready and I promise I will be a good hostess.
P.S. Don’t forget to bring some fresh lime and ice.
1. My new pet peeve: finding certain magazines on the newsstands before they are mailed to my house. Hello! I am a subscriber! I should get first priority, non?
2. Speaking of one such offender, the May issue of Martha Stewart Living is their 150th issue and is awesome. The staff has really outdone itself. Love it! Because of their persuasive photos and clear writing, I’m going to try to bake croissants from scratch this weekend. Tell me that isn’t insane? Regardless, bravo MSL gang!
3. I love the way Sandra Oh’s character on Grey’s Anatomy can convey so much by simply saying, “Seriously?”
4. Barney on How I Met Your Mother is just about as great as television characters come. This week’s scene stealing line was, “That’s the little cherry on top of the big cherry on top of the giant ice cream sundae of awesomeness that is my life.” This was the same episode that flashed back to the time he was leaving to Nicaragua for the Peace Corps. He is too funny. Although I can’t help but wonder when Wanda is going to come in and she and Doogie are going to run off into the sunset together.
5. I was listening to “Talk of the Nation” today on NPR and the topic was the current situation in Sudan. Samantha Power, goddess that she is, made a great point in that other countries have to step up to the plate. The US is already providing the majority of the funding the United Nations is using to support the 3 million refugees living in camps near the Chad border. It is time for France and China specifically to provide more funding (and in my opinion man power) to get this conflict under control. Let’s flash back to 1994, shall we, when another certain genocide was taking place a few thousand miles south of Sudan. After Rwanda, we all said we wouldn’t let this happen again. We wouldn’t ignore the Africans. Well guess what? It is happening again and this time it is worse. And the US isn’t exactly in the place to make a big push on the ground with troops in another country with an Arab jihad problem. So, France, China, are you listening? Please step up. Pronto.
6. I need a new novel to read. I’m dying under the weight of serious books for work about poverty and J.M. Coetzee’s “Elizabeth Costello” for pleasure. Oy.
7. I’m loving my ability to download podcasts to my iPod and have something interesting to listen to in the car. Anyone know who Brini Maxwell is? I’ve got her podcast and she is amusing to hear, but only because she is obnoxious. I think she might be a British domestic advice columnist?