Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Not-So-Daring Baker

Some of you might have noticed that my Daring Baker post didn't appear on the 27th, as it typically does. That's because I lost my sense of adventure this month. The DB assignment was to make an English suet pudding. All month I struggled with whether or not to take on this challenge. I even tried a non-suet version, but found it rather bland. An English "pudding" is nothing like what we, here in the US, call "pudding." It is more like a steamed (not baked) cake/bread. Maybe it was the thought of finding, buying and rendering suet that put me over the edge. I just couldn't drum up any enthusiasm for it.

INSTEAD, though, I came up with my own baking challenge - a wonderful little Czech sweet bun known as kolache.

We were introduced to kolaches by Chris and Kelsey, who get them for breakfast every Sunday morning, before church. As far as I can tell, there's nowhere in Albuquerque where they're sold, and I've never seen them anywhere else we've lived. But in and around Houston, there seems to be a hotbed of little kolache bakeries. My self-assigned mission this month was to find a good recipe for kolaches. HERE's the one I used.

The unbaked kolaches, ready to go into the oven.

Today was the day! I mixed up a half-batch of that somewhat sweet, light, yeasty dough this afternoon; let it rise; shaped it; let it rise, briefly, a second time; put the thumbprint indentations into the little buns and filled them with apricot and cherry fillings; let them rise a third time; baked them; and slathered them in melted butter and a light sprinkling of extra-fine granulated sugar.

Apricot filling

Cherry filling

Dan and I just finished feasting on hot kolaches. They were really, really good. I know we'll enjoy these more than we would have enjoyed a figgy pudding or any other English pudding.

Sometime soon I'd like to try the same basic kolache dough recipe, filled with scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, and cheese. The recipe would also make a wonderful dinner roll recipe.

I'm hoping to be back to my daring self next month, and up for the official Daring Bakers' challenge.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Home Again

I was thinking, the other day, about all of the places Dan and I have lived since we got married almost 41 years ago. I wrote out a list and it totaled up to four states (one of them twice), six towns (one of them twice), and 15 places of abode (including five temporary ones, during transitional times).

I thought it might be fun to list each one of them and write down one memory that pops into my mind from each of our 10 homes (not counting the five short-term transitional places). Limiting it to one memory proved difficult, but I've done it. I purposely tried not to make this all about the kids, which would have been easy - births, first days of school, first broken arm, first driver's license, graduations, etc. That's what baby books and scrap books are for. This is for other kids of memories.

1. Our first apartment, on Cedar Crest, in Abilene, Texas – Summer 1969.
In this apartment, we watched Neil Armstrong take man’s first steps on the moon during the Apollo 11 Mission, in July, 1969. (We were married June 15.) We watched it on our first TV, a little black-and-white one that we bought just so we could witness this historic event.

2. Our apartment on E. N. 16th Street, in Abilene, Texas – Fall 1969 through Spring 1970.
Dan and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple in this apartment. That was the Christmas I made a bad deal. Dan had always opened Christmas presents with his family on Christmas morning. I had always opened them with my family on Christmas Eve. Dan suggested a compromise . . . we'd open them on Christmas Eve until we had kids, then we'd switch to Christmas morning. I agreed. I got "my way" for four years, and Dan has had "his way" ever since.

3. Our rental house on Avenue G, in Anson, Texas – Summer 1970 through Spring 1971.
My mom and dad came to visit for my college graduation. We were so proud to have a two-bedroom house, with a guest room for them. Up until their visit, though, the spare room had been without furniture, so we borrowed a bed from our very old landlady's storage shed. "Very old", in that sentence, modifies both - the landlady, Mrs. Orr, and the shed. And, to be honest, "very old" could also accurately modify "bed." Years later Mom confessed that she and Dad hardly slept a wink on what turned out to be a dusty, squishy, broken-down mattress and a frame with squeaky bare-coiled springs. (Sorry, Mom.)

4. Thunderbird Terrace Condominium, in Juneau, Alaska – Spring 1971 through January 1973.
Dan did a little traveling for work while we lived here. One time, when he was out of town, I heard a strange scratching noise coming from our clothes dryer. I couldn't imagine what was in there, but I quickly turned it on and off, then listened some more. No sound, and, later, when I opened it up, there was nothing inside. After Dan returned, we started smelling something, and it was NOT a good smell. It got worse and worse. To make a long story short, we ended up having to tear into a wall to get to the dryer vent, which ran between the walls, from the back to the front of the condo. Finally we found the source of the rank odor . . . a nest of field mice, all dead. I must have injured the mama, when I turned the dryer on and off; she went back to the nest and died, as did the babies. Ugh!

5. The first house we bought, on Jerry Drive, in Juneau, Alaska – January 1973 through Spring 1978.
Our house backed up to forested land, and bears frequently came on our back deck, looking for food in our garbage can (we didn't have a garage, so the can sat outside). In the beginning we thought that if we latched the lid on tightly that they wouldn't bother it, but soon learned that we were wrong. If they couldn't get the lid off, they would drag the can off and, eventually, shred it to pieces to get to the good stuff; so we began leaving the lid unlatched. That way they would tip the can over, the garbage would spill out, they'd eat their fill, and leave our can in tact. Of course, it meant picking up the garbage every morning during bear season.

[Transitional apartment: We lived for a month or two in an apartment, in Salem, until we were able to close on our house.]

6. Our house on Wyant Ave., in Salem – Spring 1978 through Summer 1984.
We lived in this house when Mt. St. Helens erupted, on May 18, 1980. The house directly behind ours was vacant at the time, and it had a second-story deck. From there we joined some neighbor friends in watching it. Even though we were well over 100 miles away, from that deck we could see the volcano's towering plume. The wind carried the bulk of the ash to the east, but we got a fair amount in Salem. There was a fine layer of ash on everything, and we were all warned to keep children inside and wear masks whenever we were outside.

7. Our house on Gemini Lane, in Newberg, Oregon – Summer 1984 through Fall 1991.
I think of these years as our "Exchange Student Years.” We hosted a number of teenage boys, some just for summer stays, and three of them for long-term. Takashi, from Japan, was the one who was most like a “son” to us. I remember staying up until all hours of almost every school night, helping him make sense out of his American history assignments. These sessions led to some great discussions and debates. Takashi still keeps in touch with us, sporadically, and not long ago sent wedding pictures so we could see his new bride.

[Transitional house: While waiting for our new house to be completed, we lived - more accurately, we camped - in an old farm house.]

8. The house on Bramble Ct., in Newberg, Oregon – Spring 1992 through Spring 1998.
This was the house we lived in during the entirety of my dad's valiant struggle with cancer, which ended in 1997.

[Transitional apartment: I stayed in an apartment after our house sold. Dan went on to Juneau to start his new job. We were four months apart.]

9. Our condo, on the Douglas side of the Gastineau Channel, in Juneau, Alaska – Spring 1998 through Fall 2002.
On September 11, 2001, Dan had just had knee surgery. As directed by his doctor, he was staying home that first week. Before I left for work, I went out to get him some coffee. As I was driving across the bridge, I turned on the radio and was stunned to hear the news coming from New York City. I dashed in and got his coffee, at Alaskan & Proud, where everyone there was watching the TV, in silence. I didn't have a cell phone back then, so I had to drive back home, with the coffee, before sharing the devastating news with Dan.

[Transitional apartment: After our condo sold, we moved into an apartment, with Tim, for about 6 months, until we left for Albuquerque.]

[Transitional apartment - again: When we got to Albuquerque, we lived in an apartment, with Tim, until our house purchase closed, only about a month.]

10. The house (our current one) on Rio Los Pinos, in Albuquerque, New Mexico – Spring 2003 to present.
It was in this house that both Dan and I turned 60 years old, and each of us hosted a surprise party for the other. Dan's was a party that he shared with our friend, Keith, who was turning 50; therefore I invited everyone to their "110th birthday party" (60 plus 50). As for mine, I'm still in shock over how Dan got Chris, Kelsey and Clara here without my pre-knowledge, and how he put together a surprise dinner party at Black Angus, with thirty or so guests.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scrappin' My Way Through 2010

Here are a couple of recent pages for Clara's and Robert's annual scrapbooks. Although I design the pages, the wonderful photos usually come from Kelsey. (Thank you!)

I'm finding myself a little behind schedule this year. Somehow, it seems like making two books more than doubles the time and effort involved! I'm not complaining, because two grandkids more than double the fun, as well. Still, I don't think I could keep up with it without one marvelous resource, my membership to Linda Sattgast's "Scrapper's Guide Premier" ( As Linda words it, it's "a toolkit for scrapbooking success." Every month I receive a new digital kit, with digital papers and elements. For instance, the black curlicue frames on Clara's page, below, come from the April kit, Sugar and Spice. I designed the background paper myself. The background paper and elements on Robert's page come from the March kit, Lucky Ducky, designed by Miss Mint of Peppermint Creative. I'm really thankful for my membership!

In case you hadn't noticed, I posted twice today! I'm trying to make up for a long, dry spell.

Bits and Pieces

DAN REMINDED ME, YESTERDAY, that had our Ireland plans worked out, we would probably have been overseas and trying to return home when the Icelandic volcano blew, leaving our flight stranded in Europe, along with 63,000 others (so far). Now that would have been a blog-worthy story!

OUR GRANDSON, ROBERT, made his first trip by air this month. Kelsey, Clara and Robert flew west to be with Kelsey’s family for the big, annual Easter egg hunt out on the family farm. What a trooper Kelsey is, taking an almost 4-1/2-year-old and an almost 4-1/2-month-old on the plane by herself!

AND, SPEAKING OF THE GRANDS, we’ll be driving down to see them in a few weeks. We’ve timed our trip to coincide with Clara’s spring dance recital. Clara is growing up so fast! We talked with her on the phone a couple weeks ago, and she wanted to tell us her memory verses. I sprung a couple tears while listening to her recite five Bible verses, slowly, precisely and accurately! Another verse – not one she recited – popped into my head at the time. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)

ON OUR TEXAS ROADTRIP, we plan to make stops in Lubbock to see our good friend, Keith; and in Belton to visit with friends, Darren and Stephanie and their children, who lived here in Albuquerque while Darren was in medical school at UNM.

TIM IS STILL IN TRAINING for his new HP job. Sixteen weeks of training is a long time; it’ll be completed on June 1. He’s still enthused about the position and eager to move on to the “real work.” In other news about Tim, he recently had his eyes evaluated to see if he could have Lasik done on them. Turns out he’s (in the doctor’s words) “a perfect candidate.” He hasn’t yet scheduled the surgery, but is seriously considering it.

TO ALL OUR TEXAS FRIENDS who hesitated coming to visit us in New Mexico because Blue Bell ice cream wasn’t available: Blue Bell has come to Albuquerque! Blue Bell ice cream, made in Brennan, Texas, is a Texas icon, and most Texans, it seems, think there’s no other ice cream worth eating. Y’all come! It’s here! I just might go buy my first half-gallon today.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teacher Training

I had a great day, today, attending a Bible teachers' workshop taught by husband-and-wife team, Mike and Teresa Glenn, from Crossville, Tennessee. The classes covered teaching philosophy, methodology, and lesson development. We each went home with a three-ring binder chocked full of information, inspiration and ideas. There was a good turnout, and I know our Bible classes will be richer because of the things we learned. If your congregation is considering hosting a teacher training seminar, I'd highly recommend contacting the Glenns.

Mike Glenn, wearing his "Thinking Cap."

Teresa Glenn, standing in front of one of her bulletin boards.

The ladies, during the "Make and Take" session.

A shot of most of the attenders. Of course, I was the designated photographer, so I'm missing from this photo.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dan says . . .

. . . that I need to post something new, to move that sandstorm photo on down the page. But I've been very busy with all sorts of totally uninteresting business this week, leaving me with no news and no time for posting.

At least, with this little explanation, the sandstorm no longer has top billing on my page. Maybe I can do better this weekend.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool

Oh, yes! Our fair city played an April Fool's Day prank on us, turning what started out as a nice spring day into an ugly sandstorm! This is what it looked like as I drove home today, around 1:00. The wind was buffeting my car so hard that it was difficult to drive a straight line. The camera is aimed out the passenger-side window, looking toward the Sandias, but the mountain was completely hidden from sight.

Those strange looking trees over there are what's left after the 2003 fire that swept through the Bosque. Some of the dead trunks have been carved into beautiful animals and birds. (You might remember some of pictures I posted earlier of those carvings - right HERE.)

It's now past 7:30 in the evening and the wind seems to have died down at last.