Monday, April 28, 2014

For The Love of Her Brother + Biscotti Recipes

Ethan loves many things including coats, bags and field notes (small, paper journals).I don't know what it is about them that he finds so attractive, but he has a growing collection. When Ellie found Field Notes made with wooden covers, she purchased a set of them. Then she decided to personalize them. I love that she did that for him. (I love how she shows her love for others. It warms my heart.) I love the drawings and quotes that she put on them for him. I am certain that he will love them, too.

She drew pictures of the different environments that Ethan loves.

She added quotes that she thought that would speak to him. Ellie felt unsure about her handwriting. I think it is the best thing about the gift. I reminded her that her handwriting is a part of who she is and so part of her goes with him when he takes the journals with him.

Ellie wanted some biscotti to enjoy with her evening tea. When she was little she thought that it was something so special that it could not be made. I told her that it would be easy to make her a batch. She is a purist who likes her things straight-forward. With that in mind I picked through a bunch of recipes for biscotti on Foodgawker and came up with a traditional Italian biscotti which by its nature is extra hard and crispy. (American biscotti is a bit softer and fall apart once dipped. This is due to the addition of butter in the recipes.) She likes the recipe that I made, though she would prefer it to be much sweeter next time.

Classic Tuscan Biscotti
via: Nick Malgieri

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (Ellie would like it much sweeter, so I will increase the sugar next)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) whole unblanched almonds (I used sliced almonds)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon; stir well to mix. Stir in the almonds.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla then use a rubber spatula to stir into the dry ingredients. Continue to stir until a stiff dough forms.Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Roll each half under the palms of your hands into a cylinder a little shorter than your baking sheet.

Place the logs of dough on the baking sheet, making sure they are neither too close to each other nor to the sides of the pan. Press down gently with the palm of your hand to flatten the logs.Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the logs are well risen and have also spread to about double their original size. The logs are done when pressed with fingertip they feel firm.

Place the pan on a rack and let the logs cool completely.Reset the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds but leave the temperature at 350 degrees. Place one of the cooled logs on a cutting board and cut it diagonally into slices 1/3-inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on the prepared pans, cut side down. It isn’t necessary to leave space between them. Bake the biscotti for about 15 or 20 minutes or until they are well toasted.

Cool the pan on a rack.Store the cooled biscotti between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Makes about 60 biscotti

I would like to try an American biscotti sometime.

American-Style Vanilla Biscotti
via: King Arthur Flour
You might enjoy their blog entry about the recipe that includes photos.

6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
coarse white sparkling sugar, for sprinkling on top, optional

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) one large (about 18" x 13") baking sheet.

2) In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, almond extract (if you're using it), and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

3) Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdled. At low speed of your mixer, add the flour, stirring until smooth; the dough will be sticky.

4) Plop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Divide it in half, and shape it into two 9 1/2" x 2" logs, about 3/4" tall. Straighten the logs, and smooth their tops and sides; a wet spatula or wet bowl scraper works well here. Sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired, pressing it in gently.

5) Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven.

6) Using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the logs, making sure to cover the sides as well as the top. Softening the crust just this little bit will make slicing the biscotti much easier. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

7) Wait 5 minutes, then use a sharp chef's knife or serrated knife to cut the log crosswise into 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Or cut the biscotti on the diagonal, for fewer, longer biscotti. As you're slicing, be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan; if you cut unevenly, biscotti may be thicker at the top than the bottom, and they'll topple over during their second bake.

8) Set the biscotti on edge on the prepared baking sheet. Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, until they feel very dry and are beginning to turn golden. They'll still feel a tiny bit moist in the very center, if you break off a piece; but they'll continue to dry out as they cool.

9) Remove the biscotti from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool. Store airtight at room temperature; they'll stay good for weeks.

Yield: 30 to 40 biscotti, depending on size.

*** Tips from our bakers:
Variations: Add up to 2 cups nuts, dried fruit (dried, not fresh), or chips to the dough, along with the flour. Adjust the spice to suit the add-in, if desired; e.g., add 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1 cup chopped dried apple and 1 cup diced pecans. Or substitute hazelnut, butter-rum, or your favorite flavor for the vanilla. A classic Italian anise biscotti is made with 1/2 teaspoon anise extract (or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon anise oil, to taste), and 1 tablespoon fennel seeds.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Things are Buzzing Right Along

Today Ellie and I picked up 3 pounds of bees and an Italian Queen bee. Last year we started two new hives and things did not turn out as well as I had hoped, so I was not going to get more bees this year, but Grandpa Don really wanted me to, so we compromised on one batch of new bees, instead of two.
We get our bees from Apis Hives out of Grand Junction. Last year was a terrible year for bees; He says that this year is so much better. Last year he was luck to get 500 packages to sell. This year he has over 1,000.

(This box contains 3 pounds of bees and one queen, tucked into a special box of her own.)

We've decided to move one of the hives to a new location to see if more sunlight will increase the honey production. I was a little nervous since I did not have Ethan or Aaron to help me this year.

I begin by spraying down the bees so that they cannot fly away so quickly.

Then I remove their feeding can and the box containing the queen. I replace the cork with small marshmallows. She will eat her way out of the box in a few days. This gives the bees time to get the hive cleaned and set up for business.

By this time the bees in the box are creating and interesting, continual loud buzzing sound. I gently tap them out, similar to how I would tap out cereal from a box. Sometimes I have to knock the box a bit to gather more bees in a similar place in the box in order to remove them easily. I then use the soft bee brush to help them find their way into the box. When I am reasonably sure that they are tucked in enough, I add another box on top of that one. The new box also contains frames that have a special rice paper that will support the new honeycomb. I put a special lid on that has a slit in the top. I place a large jar (a 2 gallon pickle jar that has been emptied and cleaned) that has a 50/50% solution of water and dissolved sugar upside down on that slit. I have made a series of small holes in the lid so that the bees can lick the sugar water out. This will help them eat while there are still very few flowers for them to feed from. In the end there will still be some bees in the box that I cannot tap out. I leave the traveling box next to the hive. Worker bees who are getting things set up will come out and show the lost bees the way to their new home.

Later in the afternoon I tilled a small bed out front to ready it for peas, only to realize that the peas should have been planted about 5 weeks ago. Now I am trying to decide if I should plant them anyway, or want to plant something else next month in that same spot.

I also tilled the coldframe that my dear husband had cleaned out. I planted "Giant Caesar" Lettuce, "Icebuerg" lettuce, "Black Seeded Simpson" lettuce that was sent as a tape (super easy to use!) and "Cherry Belle" radishes. I only planted one row of each. I will add more rows next weekend so that there is a staggered harvest.

Out in California, The Lady Washington is docked in Crescent City where he has gone tide pooling and visited a lighthouse on his day off. He was also happy to find that the community among sailors is strong there. Some sort of handle broke on the ship. Ethan and Sophie went to purchase a new one. They did not have any luck. However, the people who run an industrial shop near the dock invited him in and let him use their welding equipment to make a new handle. The captain was thrilled with the fact that Ethan could replicate the handle and has made duty roster arrangements that will allow Ethan to go back to the shop on Monday and make a few more much needed items. Ethan really enjoyed being able to spend some time welding and he felt good about being able to contribute something important to the ship. Today he and a few of the other guys on the ship will go visit the redwood forest. The ranger there used to be on crew, so he has been coming down to the ship to get people from the crew and take them for a tour of the part of the forest that he oversees.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Color and Feel of Spring + a Couscous, Fruit & Cheese Recipe

Spring is in all of its glory in my gardens. I'm so happy to see green things growing in my gardens and my yard that I don't mind the fact that much of that green is actually some form of weed.
At night I sleep with the window near by bed open just a bit. In the wee hours of the morning my sleepy consciousness is teased into waking by the chirping and singing birds with their call and response to each other. A gentle, cool breeze wafts in through that crack in the morning. Sometimes I even sit on the edge of the bed before getting up so that I can take it all in; it is the quiet before the chaos of teaching ninth grade boys that will ensue shortly.
The dew that has gathered on the new greens stirs in my nose and makes the yard feel so vibrant and alive with growth. Sometimes it even feels like an unspoken promise of what is to come.
All of the tulips are in the front yard and I leave from the back of the yard, so I have to make a point of going out to see them. The tulips reward me with a nice show of color and new combinations that I don't recall from past years.
All of this makes me hope that I have time time, energy and motivation to plant some Johnny Jump Ups and Pansies in the garden this weekend. I also hope to till the soil so that I can start peas, radishes, beets, lettuce and spinach outside.

By the time I am dressed, have my tea snuggly stored in my messenger bag and my lunch packed, the sun has already begun to rise. Turning my head to the east as I head out of the alley and onto the street, I am treated to a pink and orange sky that magically paints itself light blue by the time I come to the big, deep hill just before I arrive at work.

We enjoyed a recipe that I found via Foodgawker earlier this week.

Israel Couscous with Raspberries and Cheese (translated from Dutch into English, and measurements converted from metric to standard.)
via: In My Red Kitchen blog

350 ml (1 1/2 cups) water
125 gr (1 1/4 cup) Pearl or Israel Couscous
150 gr (1 1/2 cup) Halloumi*
4-5 branches Parsley Leaves (large leaves), coarsely chopped
40g(1/4 cup) Shelled Pistachio Nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 green apple, diced
60 gr (1/3 cup) Raspberries, fresh (I made this recipe with fresh raspberries, but they are very tart right now. You could easily substitute strawberries, cantaloupe, etc.)

For the dressing:
2 tbsp orange juice (freshly squeezed!)
1 tbsp strawberry or raspberry vinegar
1 TBL. Olive Oil
salt & pepper

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and add the couscous. Cook for about 6 minutes (depending on the type of pearl couscous, check the package) and drain.
Make the dressing by mixing all ingredients mixed. Pour half the dressing with the warm couscous and stir with a fork.
Cut the halloumi into cubes and grill them quickly and briefly in hot oil ( I did not use oil. I simply put a tiny bit of melted butter on the bottom of the pan to keep the cheese from sticking). Drain on paper towels.
Stir well the parsley, pistachios, apples and raspberries into the couscous.
Serve with fried halloumi and remaining dressing.

* I was able to buy the halloumi cheese at Whole Foods, a local organic grocery store. The cheese is solid and a bit squeaky (like fresh mozzarella) and salty. I think If you like, you can also make your own halloumi cheese by following the directions from Simone's blog.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Easter was a pretty quiet affair at our house. Ellie and Kohlton decorated eggs the night before. We had the traditional egg dyeing kit, one that also included very fine glitter and another for creating golden eggs by painting them.
Remmie had scrambled eggs for breakfast for a few days. It seemed silly to waste the eggs, but none of us wanted eggs cooked with a bit of spit from blowing them out.
The painted eggs were not as pretty as the ones on the package, of course, but I really enjoyed working with them.
(found at Curbly)
I had planned on doodling on a few, but I ran out of energy to do it. Maybe that will happen next year.
I am also smitten with these rabbits that I found through Pinterest.
(Really fun handmade animals found at Brichopas About Toys)
On Easter Sunday we had brunch at my mother's house and watched part of the epic "King of Kings."
Monday afternoon I hosted an Easter Egg hunt for Ellie and Kohlton since Kohlton could not join us on Sunday.I had glittered eggs for Ellie, camouflage eggs for Kohlton, a few larger eggs for bigger candy, a gold egg and a silver egg. I stuffed them with jelly beans (regular and Jolly Rancher flavored,)fizzy sour candies, gummy cola bottles, chocolate truffles, a coupon for a local amusement park 2 for 1 (I had two of those), free Chick-fil-a sandwich cards, 2 movie tickets (so that they can do dinner and a movie date)and two Nerf water guns for the big prizes.

And of course, I have a fun video:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Christy Graduates and a Story About Ethan in Eureka

It has been a crazy week, and not just for me, but most of the people I know. Perhaps it was the blood mood on Monday. Part of it for me was the plethora of meetings I had this week. I was in so many meetings that it felt like actually teaching was the side gig. but that is enough of that.

The highlight of the week was Christy's graduation on Wednesday. She and her family had moved from New Mexico to Denver to be part of the school when she was three years old. Wednesday's graduation was the capstone of a long, fun, crazy, dramatic and lovely journey for Christy. She was the only one graduating this year, so the show was all for Christy. Bruce and Larr gave speeches.
Even though I have heard my husband give speeches for years. Even though I listen to each speech many times in order to help him perfect it, I am still drawn up in the magic of his speaking. I love to watch the emotion move across his face. I love to hear the rhythm he will add to the live performance. It is truly magical. Part of me is very sorry that Ellie will not get a chance to see what speech she would write for him. That speech is delivered by the thesis panel chairman, which cannot be your own father.
Missa, Christy's sister, is the president of the school so she had the joy of awarding Christy her diploma.
The school gives each graduate a few gifts. There is a silver coin and a special book. She also received a fountain pen and a ticket for a train journey so that Christy can go on an adventure. She also received an Underwood 5 typewriter from the Cure family. Christy mentioned that she wants to write a novel on a typewriter, so Aaron got her the iconic one.
There was also a casual reception that evening.

Out in California Ethan continues to have adventures. They are currently in Eureka where the crew of the Lady Washington was approached by a woman who wanted to honor her dead husband who was a sailor by hosting a party for them. She arranged for the shindig to take place at a mansion in the Redwoods. She also arranged for a group of her friends to shuttle the crew from the boat to the party. There was a first class BBQ, lots of interesting people and good times. Ethan continues to have a wonderful, interesting and educational time on the Lady Washington.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Working Christy's Graduation Celebration Slide Show + Meatloaf Recipe

I've spent the last couple of days working on the slide show for Christy's graduation celebration. How lucky Ellie and Christy are to have such a long lasting friendship.
Here's to celebrating a wonderful girl who has grown into a great young lady. It will be fun to see where life takes her next.

Traditional Meatloaf
via: Brittany's Pantry

1 lb ground chuck or sirloin
1 egg
1/3 c quick cooking oats
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 c your favorite barbecue sauce, plus more to glaze the top
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a shallow, oblong baking dish with foil and set aside. In a medium bowl, gently mix all the above ingredients together until well combined. If mixture seems dry, add 1 T of cold water or a bit more barbecue sauce. Don’t squeeze and overwork the meat or it will bake up tough. Place the mixture in the lined dish and gently shape into a ‘loaf’, pressing on it until it is a bit more flat, allowing it to cook faster. Pour a good amount of barbecue sauce over top and spread it all over with the back of a spoon. Let bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and the fat content of the meat. It will be caramelized and brown and the juices bubbling out will be clear. Remove and set aside to cool for a few minutes before slicing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Paper Blossoms

Last week the folks at Two Hands Paperie put our a call for people to help them make paper blossoms for a new window display. I had to respond, of course. I never miss an opportunity to be creative with other people.
It was super fun! They had been inspired by an article in an issue of Kinfolk magazine that came out last spring. They kept it in mind until it was the right season. The people at Peerless Transparent Watercolor were also kind enough to donate some of their great watercolor color sheet for the project. They had also pre-cut a huge stack of special Sumi paper to be folded into the forms that would make the flowers.
Mia explained how to fold the flowers and we set to work.
It took about folding 10 of them to get the hang of it; the folds were very different from the other origami I had done in the past. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to cut them out just right. Next up, we used pieces of the Peerless colorsheets to create colored dipping waters to dye the paper.
With so many of us helping, we had a ton of flowers in no time. We left them on the table so that they would be dry by the morning when the people at Two Hands would begin to flower the branches that had fallen out of a tree during a recent windstorm.
As a token of thanks for helping, Mia created little kits for each of us to take home. It housed squares of paper and a nice selection of the Peerless colorsheets. I picked up some more of the paper and the special waterbrush so that I could make some of my own. I started making the flowers last night. Now I have to find the perfect branch.

In typical Mia fashion, she had used some of the same blossoms to make a new pajaki. (I still have not made one of my own, even though I have created some flowers for it, maybe I will make a spring one.)

In other news, Ethan is now on the Lady Washington and is currently the engineers mate, though he may also become the bosman's mate soon. The engineer works with the mechanics of the ship, while the bosman deals with things like the rope rigging, painting, fixing the sails - keeping the boat in good shape.

His trip back to San Fransico on the train ended up being a great choice for him. It was restful, interesting and fun. By the time Ethan returned to the boat, they had one or two nights left before they headed out. On the first Saturday of the month the Barclutha (a ship in Fisherman's wharf) host a sea shanty singing party that goes on all day and well into the evening. Ethan sang his heart out, introducing them to a new song once the adult hour (11 p.m.) had arrived. One of Ethan's shipmate also shared a new sea shanty that he had written. Ethan loved, "Barnacle Bill" best, though the real version of the song is not for young company. Here is a funny version of it. The song is traditionally done in two parts in a call and response manner.