Monday, March 25, 2013

"L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs" - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Coincidence that "bonnes" kind of looks like "bunnies"?  I don't think so. 
So, I saw this cute picture on Pinterest and immediately thought, "I should do an entire bunny family for Isabella's Easter basket!!" 
Good intentions: Check.
Road to hell paved with such: You betcha.  Good call Saint Bernard.
"Bunny family" quickly turned into "2, maybe 3 at most"...and there was no exclamation point anywhere in sight.
Bought two pillowcases and ribbon at Wal-Mart for about $5
Turned the pillowcases inside out and sketched the body
Cut him out and then flipped "right side out" so the ink marks didn't show
Quick stitch around the outside
Used plastic bags as stuffing
Ready to go in Miss Isabella's Easter basket
Finished product
Recipe recommendations for the week...
Yogurt-marinated grilled chicken from Dinner: A Love Story
Recipe also available here on Rosenstrach's blog.
Black bean burritos, also from Dinner: A Love Story
Recipe available here

Homemade ravioli via The Backyard Homestead
Mix 2 1/4 c. all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp. salt in one bowl. Beat 3 eggs in another. Make well in center of flour mixture and pour in eggs. Combine and then knead on floured work surface for 5 minutes. Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
Roll dough to 1/8-1/16" thickness and use pizza cutter to shape into rectangle (my own directions). I then sprinkled pepper and a dried herb mix on the dough.
I used the pizza cutter again to make 2" squares and placed fresh mozzarella in the center of half of the squares.
I put the squares together and used a fork to seal the edges.
At this point, I froze the ravioli.  When I want to have a few for dinner, I remove from freezer and cook in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes.

Pistachio cupcakes with butter cream icing
Recipe available here.
I wanted them to look like Easter baskets filled with that grass stuff that gets everywhere.
I'm not sure I've ever used a piping bag. Sandwich bags work just fine.
Finished product
If you're close to Cumberland County, I definitely recommend you stop in Jone's Ridge Market and try their sausage. It is as close to Papa's "Turner Farm" sausage as I've had in a long time.

Homemade biscuits are not hard. Take the time to make them.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Patrick" does roll off the tongue a little better than "Maewyn Succat."

Thank you for such thoughtful comments on here and Facebook in response to the previous post about tips/advice.  Here are a few that readers sent me this week. 

1. Keep a journal or jot things down. You won’t remember things that you think you will. Plus, it’s thrilling (sometimes cringe-worthy) to find these musings years later.

2. Always take a sweater.

3. Learn to love coffee or hot tea. It’s comforting when you’re alone and social when you’re with a friend.

4. When you’re really stressed about something, ask yourself, How much will this matter in 10 years? or even a year from now? Learn to let it go.

5. Buy yourself some school supplies every year, even if you haven’t been in school for a long time. There’s something revitalizing about a batch of new freshly-sharpened pencils, a clean notebook, a superb new pen

6. If someone is happy with their life don't try to change them just because they don't meet all your expectations; accept them for who they are.

7. If someone you love is in a bad situation, do what you believe is right. If they don't want your help, just let them know you'll be there for them when they need you.

8. No matter how down you feel, if you smile and act happy you will soon find yourself feeling happier. It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.

9. Do something good for someone just because you can, not because you want people to think you're a good person. If you're a good person, people will already know it.

I truly consider myself fortunate to call these ladies "friends." Because I have a weird quirk about things being on odd numbers...

10. Put yourself in the company of people who think/say/write/live stuff like this.
I don't care how cute your green, fake vintage t-shirt is, I'm betting you don't know the history of the holiday either.

Some of my favorite greens...
Fresh basil on homemade pizza
Whimsical ink pens that write really well
Themed parties and high school letter jackets
Spring gardens
Paint projects and summer melons
Surprises in the shrubs
Cushaw...well, at least all the delicious sweet stuff it can be made into
Homemade Christmas ornaments
Asparagus, downtown restaurants (The Bristol) and enjoying a meal by yourself
"Just because you feel like it" projects
Smoothies and best friends
Neat bathrooms
Discovering beautiful landscapes with your best friend
Mini-marathon shirts and the Jeff Ruby's meal afterward
Hilarious and creative friends that send you e-cards with green backgrounds
Pistachio bread and cupcakes
Pistachio Cake (from
1 (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 oz. package instant pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. almond extract
7 drops green food coloring

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour bundt pan or cupcake pan. In large bowl, mix cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and put in eggs, water, oil, almond extract, and food coloring.  Blend and then beat for 2 minutes. Pour into pan and bake for 50 minutes (if using a bundt pan). Let cool for at least 15 minutes before inverting on wirer rack. (If you so choose, top with buttercream icing:))
In the next Pillow Book post, I'll be talking about the Silas House writing workshop Neal & Jennell Poindexter and I attended at Berea College, offering a couple of recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Dinner: A Love Story, and reviewing Ben Hewitt's book, The Town that Food Saved (one of my favorites I've read in a long time). I specifically want to think about a question he poses about 1/2 way through: Do people make a town, or does a town make its people? I encourage you to be pondering this.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Baz Luhrmann. Name his song. Do it. Now.

Do you remember the song about wearing sunscreen? The one where a guy basically talks the lyrics, giving advice on everything from flossing to enjoying the power of youth? The one that became the senior class anthem for probably millions of late-90s' high schoolers? (That's right, that was nearly 15 YEARS AGO. If you're like me, you were probably thinking, "oh yeah, that was popular 6 or 7 years ago.")

Well, here's a little history, courtesy of Wikipedia...
"Wear Sunscreen or Sunscreen are the common names of an article titled "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune as a column in 1997, but often erroneously attributed to a commencement speech by author Kurt Vonnegut. Both its subject and tone are similar to the 1927 poem "Desiderata." The most popular and well-known form of the essay is the successful music single "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)," released in 1999, by Baz Luhrmann" (Just FYI, Schmich, who wrote "Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now," the article I've referenced on here numerous times, gave permission and did receive royalties from the song).

A friend and I were talking about the song the other day and you know what? It's actually pretty spot-on.  As I get older, I appreciate things like: "Don't be reckless with other people's hearts; don't put up with people who are reckless with yours." and "The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind: the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday." much more.  I know these sound bites offer a limited perspective on life...and I am fully aware that I've critiqued the throwing around of cliches on more than one occasion on here...BUT, I also know that we are a society that lives in quotes. We pin posters on Pinterest that "move us." We copy and paste one-liners into our Facebook status updates.  When trying to make a convincing argument, it's common to reference our favorite songs, philosophers, or celebrities. Granted, all offer a skewed, surface-level take on a particular situation, but they also have the uncanny potential to motivate, to inspire, to actually cause change.  Sometimes it's just a matter of hearing what you need to hear, when you need to hear it, and from the voice of someone who affects you. 

So, with that in mind, I encourage you to go back and listen to the sunscreen song. Afterward, maybe make your own list of tips/random bits of advice that, for some reason, might be just the thing that someone else, or you yourself, needs to hear.

Here are mine:
1. Tell people you appreciate them. Be specific. Explain why.
2. Never say, "They get paid to do it." as a means of exonerating yourself from responsibility. Pick up after yourself whether at a hotel, ball game, movie theater, clothing store, etc.
3. Read a few pages of SOMETHING every night before you go to bed.
4. Create SOMETHING everyday.
5. Just tell the truth.  Other than simply being the "right thing," it is bound to come out at some point. You're better off having control over how that happens.
6. Try at least one new recipe every week.  Cook. Have supper with people you care about....if at an actual table, even better.
7. Print your pictures. Your grandkids probably aren't going to find you on Facebook.
8. Figure out (definitively) how you like your eggs; what your favorite type of music is; what book influences you the most; the types of personalities you want to be around. Know yourself.
9. Spend extra money to purchase name-brand paper towels and toilet paper.
10. Plan themed parties for no other reason than they make you happy.
11. Always have one really good ink pen.
12. Send at least one "just because" card or email daily.
13. If you don't like something, change it.
14. Tell animals that you love them just as often, and with just as much sincerity, as you would your family.
15. Make gift-giving a priority. Be thoughtful. Give someone something that looks like them, not that you happen to like. Spend more time, less money, on it.
16. Don't keep your phone on the table during meals. Make sure the people you're around have your attention.
17. Smile and look people in the eye when you meet them on the street, in the elevator, in the grocery store aisle. A "hi" never hurt anyone either.
18. Recycle.
19. Create your own art. Define "art" anyway you want.
20. Take at least two classes of some sort every year. Teach yourself new skills. Always be learning.
21. Do 5-10 minutes of yoga every morning.
22. Take your dogs for rides. I've yet to know one that didn't like riding in the car.
23. Order something different at restaurants every time you go. NEVER order what the person next to your ordered.
24. Grow some of your own food.
25. If you're worried or curious about what someone is thinking or feeling, ask them. Don't assume.
26. Don't settle. At the same time, make sure you acknowledge and appreciate the constants in your life.
27. Do things that scare long as they're not unfathomably dumb.
28. Never fool yourself into believing that life is about choosing between good and bad; that would be too easy. More so than not, life is a matter of grappling with two "good" things.  Choose the one that is the BEST for you. Have the courage to sacrifice good for great.
29. Keep cards you get in the mail and love letters that you are fortunate enough to receive. Hand-written affection is an anomaly. Hang onto these gifts.
30. Take notes/do oral histories with people who fascinate you.
31. When the seasons start to change, go for drives with the windows down (even if you have to keep the heater on).  Take in the scenes and smells that seem reminiscent of a season you are likely romanticizing.
32. Have a favorite gas station. Frequent it enough that the cashiers know your name and you know the Thursday lunch specials.
33. Have dessert every night.
34. Put your shopping carts in the parking lot bins. If you get something off the shelf and decide you don't want it, put it back where you found it.
35. Use your public library. Go to local events. Be present in your community.
36. Let people really get to know you.  Keep people around who like you for the reasons you like yourself.  Appreciate the select few who capture you with a line like, "the written spirit of a cowgirl with turquoise boots who enjoys the crisp cold of a winter morning in the pasture, a meal plated perfectly at supper."
37. Get up early...even on the weekends.
38. your living room, in your car, at wedding receptions. Don't hesitate to pull out moves that were popular when you were 16.
39. Make a dessert or a loaf of homemade bread for someone for no particular reason.
40. Even if you show them in deed, make sure you tell people you love them.
41. If something stays on your mind and makes you feel happy/inspired/motivated, quit thinking about it and try it.  So, for instance, if you are sitting in your office and a co-worker mentions painting her living room, a statement that suddenly reminds you that you really like all the pictures you've seen of stripped walls, go to Brown's Supply that afternoon, buy paint, excitedly rush home after work and start drawing some lines.

If you do make homemade bread for someone, try this easy, but nonetheless pretty good, beer bread recipe...
3 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. sugar
12 oz. favorite beer
Combine and pour into 2 small (or 1 large) buttered loaf pans. Bake at 350 for approximately 50 minutes (I typically cover with foil the first 30 minutes).  About 15 minutes before you take out of the oven, coat with melted butter.
Oh, and wear sunscreen.