Sunday, December 17, 2017

Almond Flour Lemon Cookies

My original post for the recipe of these cookies was still a work in progress. I have some new information and ideas that I thought I'd pass along.

First, I make these in a batch of ten and then we have them with our coffee first thing in the morning...  so one recipe makes 10 cookies and that lasts for five days. It's a just a tiny bit sweet and they have a good amount of protein. We like to have our coffee and cookie, then tackle "a thing", then eat an actual breakfast about ten, once we have had time to accomplish something and work up an appetite. "A thing" is really anything that makes us feel like we accomplished something. It could be a writing task or something more physical outside.

Second, which type of flour to buy. You can buy one pound bags like the one shown (that's what I bought) at many grocery stores these days. You can also buy it in bulk markets. The almond flour I bought this time is the brown variety which I chose because it is higher in protein than the white variety - the brown skins of the nuts were left on and ground up in this flour. I expected more of a gritty texture, but it is really fine.
Third, a bag of almond flour is expensive if you're used to only buying normal flour, and we don't want to waste a single bit. One one pound bag is 5 cups (not packed, just loosely poured into the measuring cup). Since each batch of cookies requires 2 cups of almond flour, we have a dilemma. Either we can use almond flour for two batches and then go buys some more...  or if you're like me and go through cooking phases, it's best to use the one bag and say "done." If we divide the five cups by 3 batches, we should use 1 2/3 cup of almond flour per batch. I decided to supplement this with 1/3 cup normal flour to make the entire 2 cups needed for the recipe rather than calculate for a smaller batch (it's hard to divide one egg! haha). There are 108 g of protein per bag of flour.  If we make 3 batches of ten cookies, that's 30 cookies and we still get 3.6 g of protein per cookie (plus the egg and small amount from the normal flour) which is still a respectable coffee snack plus the good kind of fat and fiber that are also in this flour.


Here's the recipe:
1 2/3 c almond flour (not packed, just scooped or poured into the measuring cup)
1/3 c ordinary baking flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 c sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/4 c melted butter
juice of one lemon (about 1/4 c)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine the dry ingredients. Add the zest of one lemon. Add butter, lemon juice, egg, and vanilla and stir. Nothing fancy, just stir it until it looks completely integrated.
On a greased cookie sheet (I use "Baker's Joy" spray), plop 10 cookies (one heaping spoonful per cookie). If you have a wee bit leftover, you can spoon the leftovers onto the other cookies. Cookies will spread and then puff a little, your scoops of dough do not need to be perfect.
Bake for exactly 15 minutes. The bottom edges have a noticeable browning to them and they have puffed up slightly and evenly. The color of the rest of the cookie gives you no indication of doneness. Set the pan of cookies aside to rest for ten minutes. They should then slide easily and maintain their cookie integrity if you want to place them in a container to seal and eat later. Let them cool completely before sealing the lid.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Civil War Letters

Anne's family has a batch of letters from during the civil war. The contents of these letters include courtships, deaths, war happenings, and all sorts of other details. There is a second batch of letters from 1896 to 1902 from one woman as she is courted by a man... these letters end in their marriage. There are only her letters, not his. Though it is believed they MUST exist somewhere, no one has been able to find them. As I scanned these letters (I scan photographs and paper memorabilia as part of my self-employed organizer life), an idea occurred to me. What if we wrote those letters?!?!

A novel could be written using the letters we have. Her voice could be elaborated. His voice and his letters could be written fictitiously based on many details and comments made by Ethel. I'm sure someone has done this with some batch of letters. The task would pose challenges in the historical sense, but it seems like it would be a very interesting challenge. Because of the actual letters, it would draw readers who love historical fiction with real actual ties to true lives.

By the way, if you ever want to "steal" my ideas, they are freely given to you! I think the world is big enough for us all to offer our creative endeavors. The more the merrier...  and I'd love to be your reader!!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Memory

I have this secret goal to write here every day. It's a secret goal! I don't want to tell myself about this goal because I don't want to let myself down if I fail, which if I have my own history to use as a guide, I will inevitably run out of things on which to write....  or will I?

I walk through each day making mental notes. "I should write about THAT!" I think all day long. Then, I sit down like I am this morning and can not remember a single damn thing. Nothing. Sometimes, I'll at least remember that I baked cookies and I can share that recipe, but I swear, there were at least a dozen other things I had thought about using as a post here.

How about I write things down????  Yeah, I hear ya. I have a cute small green journal that I had planned to use for just this purpose and somehow, I don't. I am so sure that I will remember these morsels. It is obvious that I will not. I need to commit to writing these ideas down. Which reminds me of a story.

Excuse the details, Mom, as I'm sure you probably remember certain details differently. It's a particularly humorous story now that it applies to my life AGAIN!

Once upon a time, there was a smart but bored 11 year old girl in the fourth grade. The girl decided that the homework assignments were stupid and she had better things to do. So she didn't bother doing them. One day, the teacher told the girl's mother about this lapse in the girl's sense of responsibility. The mother was annoyed because the girl was obviously smart enough. Mom, "Why don't you do the assignment? You did these other subjects, why not this one?" Kid responds, "I forget about them by the time I get home." Mom, "Well, I suggest you write them down." 

A month goes by and the mom gets another notice that the assignments are going un-done. Mom, "Didn't I tell you to write things down?" Kid, "You didn't tell me to, you SUGGESTED it."

I SWEAR to you that I was NOT trying to be a smart ass, but as an adult, I find this story hilarious. Watch what you say to kids, they hear the specific words...  and only sometimes their meanings.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Big Show

I have been singing with Cayla and Alesha in this a cappella trio idea for a couple of years now. Alesha has been trying to get us to nail down a date for some shows for ages, and she finally forged ahead and organized an entire production. She rented the small auditorium in New York City, advertised, got us there, planned the program. Cayla and I simply needed to show up. We both felt a little guilty, but Alesha insisted this was a thing she truly wanted to do, she knew some people, and she would ask our help if she needed, otherwise, just support her and show up and sing.
We arrived at the auditorium where we met with our sound engineer and lighting guy. They were both super nice and both were people with whom Alesha had worked previously. We had plenty of time to warm up, check out the place, and get ready for our performance.
At 7:03, because you never start a show directly on time, we went onto the stage. There, in the shadows of the seats, were two people sitting and waiting for us to begin. Alesha was unphased by the size of our audience and so we began our first number, Africa. This was the first song we started to work up, and so we know it backwards and forwards. For some reason we were simply out of tune. I kept trying to adjust my tuning, but it seemed impossible to hear each other and the situation never really got better. We got to the second verse and Cayla cut the verse in half. Cayla and I are the pips on this song. I thought that maybe this was Cayla's way of getting us to end this song that we were clearly not tuning, but this upset Alesha noticeably. I saw her start to cry even though she continued to sing. Somehow the end of the song came together a little better and with its ending came a few more audience members. Cayla apologized quietly and Alesha shook it off.
As we continued the show, our audience increased. It was as if somehow our time had been advertised wrong. The place was full by 7:30. We ended the first half about 7:40.
A friend of mine in the audience came to find me and explained that she needed to run to a drug store. It was urgent. I took her backstage and found our driver, Mark Carboni a friend from the fair who knew NYC quite well. He had wanted to see our first show and volunteered to also be our driver. Mark, my friend, and myself hopped into the car and went the couple of blocks to the drugstore. Mark stayed with the car so that we could just run in quickly.
The pharmacist was taking more time than I had planned and I started to panic. I needed to get back to the concert hall. I tried to remain patient. Alesha was a genius at stretching things and stalling. It would be ok, I kept thinking. Finally we had what was needed and hopped back into the car.
When I walked into the concert hall, another group, high school aged possibly, were singing their hearts out on the stage. I laughed....  OF COURSE Alesha would have invited other groups to sing. As I looked on a program, I saw she had five different a cappella groups performing at the top of the second half. This was the third. I still had time to breathe as the other two would still take up another 15 minutes.
The second half of our performance began.... The cat jumped on my stomach and woke me up. It was just about time to start the coffee anyway. Goofy cat.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Growing Older

I am honored to have a friend like Pat who opens her home to me anytime I want to stay or even drop by. She also hosts Stoli for months at a time when I travel. She is so very dear to my heart. Her generosity, kindness, love, jovial nature are things that put me at ease as I take advantage of her hospitality. She has never, not in all the many times she has been ill, or not feeling as jovial as usual, NEVER made her hospitality seem like a burden or chore. She is a widow of 7 years now. She has two kids and 5 granddaughters that boasts like the most proud grandma ever. Her life is full of love, but also, her life has seen so much loss.
Yesterday, she hosted a Christmas gathering for members of the chorus where I met her. It was a gathering of 7. I had been a member of the chorus with Pat and two of the other ladies. The other 3 women at the table had been members at different times. Every year, members gather like this. Every year, we assess who has passed. Someone asks about news of another member. "Oh, she passed away, 5 or 6 years ago." We can't quite keep track. Everyone is getting older, the funerals more frequent, and as I think about this, I see one dear woman has fallen asleep at the table.
As I write this, tears build in my eyes. I want to skip this party every single year, but I go when I can because I love Pat and I know it means something to her to have me there. She asks what days would be best for me and she tries to make that happen. There is another reason tears well up. I feel guilty about not looking forward to these parties. I feel guilty that I can't be more help, I can't do anything, and that I feel so exhausted and depressed after visiting with these ladies.
The older we are honored to become, the more friends we have to watch pass away. That, right there, is the hardest thing about growing older. I can handle all the aches, pains, stomach and memory problems. Watching others depart this world is hard. With this group, most have lived full long lives, but as we live, even those who are our own age and younger fall victim to accidents and disease. Those feel tragic, even those I don't know well.
As I grow older, I need to realize this issue isn't going to go away, if I am so honored to remain alive. I need to grow up and find a way to be more graceful in their presence, as in not allow this to depress me. I need to embrace the honor that is supporting and loving people around me who may be nearing the ends of their lives....  and hell, we are all at risk of living our last day today. Maybe that's the key. Treat everyone with support and kindness because no one knows the struggle of their neighbor or amount of time anyone has here on this Earth. Don't add my own grief or guilt until the time is truly appropriate... these feelings do nothing to help myself or them as long as we are breathing!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Children

10 ways you know your child might be spoiled:
1. Your child has his own bedroom and his own game room, but most of his things are in absolutely every other area of the home.
2. If you counted your 7 year old child's collection of X, there would be more of them than starving children in Africa.
3. Your child can't find something but doesn't fret because you will text the help and she'll know.
4. Your child has 7 unopened boxes of Legos that he got for Christmas LAST year.
5. Your child has one unopened box of weird-toy-I-can't-even-explain from his birthday party last month...  probably because the container where the collection of this particular toy is kept is overflowing.
6. Your child has more shoes than myself, my partner, and my mother combined.
7. Your child outgrows clothes that he never even got around to wearing.
8. There are crayon and ink drawings on the walls of every room in your home. There are also stickers and blobs of play dough decorating these drawings. And you think this is cute.
9. Your child believes that Santa's Elves decorate her home every year for Christmas. And he knows the elves do not do this for his friends' homes.
10. Your child thanks the help for doing something you told him he needed to do before Daddy comes home. And you appreciate the fact that you don't have to enforce your threat because you wouldn't have anyway.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily diary

Every day when I sit down to try and write a post, I have to seriously THINK about what the heck I did the day before. I can't for the life of me trace the day. I think of just ONE thing and latch on to that hoping that one tiny flicker of memory will provide me with a bridge to other memories. I do stuff every day that while I'm doing them, I think, I could write about this for the blog." Then, it's gone, like a dream.
I am determined to write here as daily as possible. To those of you following, I apologize for the absolute lack of consistent content, but maybe in the randomness you'll find something amusing. I'm beginning to believe for myself, this may be a great way for me to actually remember what the heck I did with my days! When I wrote that post a couple of days ago about the soy flour cookies, I used my own keywords to locate the almond flour recipe that I had luckily written about in this blog because I have lost the little piece of paper on which I had recorded the recipe.
What I'm saying is I'm writing for myself! This selfish turn of mindset might be exactly what my motivation lacked. So far, I've always been pondering, "What will interest X-group of people?" and try to write for them, but the problem is, I have a variety of friends and audiences. I have my music-related world. I have the tiny-house and DIY world. I have the writing world. I have the travel world. And then I have my ordinary mundane day to day life. I can't satisfy ALL of those groups with any one post...  or can I? If I write for myself, to preserve my own memories, maybe I will begin writing with more of a personality like a writer should and with that my various lives can all be satisfied reading whatever news-flash-bulletin I feel like sending into the world! Haha. I laugh because it seems awfully self-serving to write like this, but who am I kidding...  This IS self-serving. The only way my life works is by sharing it. I think that's the only way ANY person's life works, by sharing their life...  And we all find the best way in which to do that for ourselves. Living life is self-serving or else why bother?  In the sharing, I hope it brings smiles, ideas, thoughts, inspiration to the lives of others, truly, that's my wish. Again, otherwise, why bother?
This rambling post brought to you by your friendly introvert with too much time to think this morning!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Arranging Songs

I was asked to arrange some music for a trio. A trio plus possibly me. The first song I was to arrange was "Landlord, Fill the Flowing Bowl" or "Three Jolly Coachmen" as some people know it. I tried to arrange it for the three voices the group usually has plus the added soprano/alto voice that is me if I happen to be around. The challenge is probably an obvious one for those who know anything about chords and arranging. The three fill out most every chord...  what do I do with the extra female voice me??? I think I managed to provide an unusual top voice that will add an entirely new flavor and character to the tune.
I emailed the finished product to the commissioner. I have either been entirely brilliant or a complete failure.  This is the plight of the artistically inclined. We are always certain that we are either abslutely brilliant or a complete failure!!  Haha...  no, actually, I'm not kidding.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Soy Flour Lemon Cookies

This is the first version of this recipe. I tweaked the original that I found online, and I will change a couple of things when I try again. My original plan was to make ALMOND flour lemon cookies. I have a tried and true recipe for those. They are delicious with a good texture and being almond flour, a decently healthy protein source particularly tasty with morning coffee. Unfortunately, the grocery store had no almond flour. I chose the SOY flour for the nutritional values.

1/4 c. melted unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 c soy flour
1/4 tspn salt
1/4 c. lemon juice

Mix ingredients. Place five flattened balls on the sprayed cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

I put a light coating of glaze on them after they cooled.

1/2 c. confectioners sugar
1 tbsn melted unsalted butter
1 tbsn lemon juice
lemon zest

The cookies are not a bad texture, but I think I will add just a little more sugar. They are a tiny tiny bit bitter. I think that's the soy flour. My recipe for almond flour lemon cookies requires more almond flour and less sugar. Cookie is trial and error. Let me know if you find a perfect combination!!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Snow in Texas

My home is a little unusual in that you must leave the warm bedroom, go outside, and walk 200 feet to another building to get to the bathroom. There are other ways we could set up our sleeping and bathroom arrangements, but for 345 days a year, this works out just fine. I woke up in the middle of the night as usual with the pressing need to visit the little girls' room. The cat sleeps to my right curled up against me. Anne is to my left blocking an easy exit. Our bed is situated sideways where one person can leave the bed easily and the other has to carefully crawl over to get out. I designed this bed to be my own space, not to be shared with someone else, but here I am sharing, and I'm just fine with this arrangement.
The cat notices that I am awake. He stretches and reaches one of his paws up to my forehead. He knows he's cute. I know that when I leave, he is going to sprawl into the space I once occupied because it is so warm and cozy. He almost encourages me to leave with his patent pending paw to my forehead gesture. OK, fine, you win, cat. I creep carefully out of bed, put on my wool sweater, open the door, and escape the warm cozy building.
It is cold. Texas version of cold, keep in mind. It's about 33 degrees, and I see light dusting of snow through the moonlight. I'm in a hurry to make my journey across the 200 feet to the other building, but I can see the dusting is quite bright and beautiful atop the mighty oak trees the cover the property.
On my return from the bathroom, I take in more of the beauty. It will certainly still look like this in the morning, say 4 hours, so I make my way back into the bed carefully pushing the cat aside. I look at my phone out of curiosity. It's 6:30AM! I'm surprised because we almost never sleep through the night. That wasn't moonlight, it is sunrise. Anne stirs and, thinking it is the middle of the night, grumbles about needing to go to the bathroom. I tell her, "You should! It's beautiful out there!" She thinks I'm kidding. I respond that I am absolutely not kidding, and even better, it's almost time to get up anyway. She is also surprised by the time.
I give her a couple of minutes to complete her mission before deciding to join her outside to watch the sun rise over the beautiful white world that we may never see again here in South Texas. It's a giddy feeling seeing this snow. It doesn't happen often, especially this far south. This will melt off by noon leaving no trace, no inconvenience to anyone whatsoever. We walk around taking pictures of the entirely different perspective this white coating provides. The lines of the trees are highlighted like some perfect classic painting of winter. The grass is still green in places which makes for a nearly humorous photo of the fire pit and back tree line.
When our toes are too cold to feel, we retreat to bed where we plug in the percolator type coffee pot that we set up on the dresser beside the bed the night before. The smell of coffee fills the bedroom. We open the curtains, enjoy a cup of coffee, and read a few chapters of the book were are currently enjoying.
What a glorious way to wake up.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Neglect

I have neglected this blog for a full year. This year has been big on transition. Most of my transitions are lightning fast. People are often surprised and even worry for me when I come up with an idea and the very next day set the wheels into motion. This year of transition has been a little different for me. I had plans but other things moved in and crowded those plans. I had been planning to record another CD, but the inspiration to do such a task was never quite there. Then some other things shifted. Travel came to the foreground as my parents and I planned a trip to Alaska in the summer of 2018. Writing plans combined with travel plans felt like the newly percolating focus rather than recording a CD. And then, my personal life took a twist.

I am a creative independent person. When life throws lemons at me, I instantly try to figure out how to make a living with those lemons. Some of them might be lovely lemons, in fact, I love citrus. And some of those lemons might be bitter picked too early unjuicy crappy lemons. Either way, I do NOT allow missed opportunities to slip through my fingers. There is always art to be made from life's twists and turns.

My bad lemons were the feelings that I had not achieved what I had planned, mainly the new CD that never happened. The good lemons, however, far outweighed those pesky feelings. The travel plans became clearer and clearer. The writing plans that coincide with those travels became more and more certain. The writing partner who had been a confidant strictly behind the screen became a face to face partner which made the traveling and the writing become even more absolutely necessary.

My partner, Anne, and I have now set up the groundwork for our 2018 writing project. We have a blog to be updated weekly as we travel. We have an adorable EggCamper to shelter us in our adventures. I plan to write here more frequently for anyone who cares to read along...  or for my own record keeping when I start putting the final book project together.

Here's to celebrating the lemons of life!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Gray Tree Frog

We have so many tree frogs around here.  There are many ponds; nearly every property has one.  Still, it can be fairly dry and these guys show up all over the place.  In the spring they can get so loud at night that you might think they are about to attack.  It is nearly impossible to locate them and even harder to catch them singing.  I was amazed to find this one and I did wait quite some time before he sang.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Cat Games

Stoli creates games to play with me.  One of his favorites is talking at me through the window.  We go through this routine at least once a week.  Silly silly cat.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Cat Walk

Probably not what you're thinking. This has nothing to do with models. Stoli insists on going for walks with me. We walk the half a mile to the mailbox. We walk to the swing by the pond. And by walk, well, this video shows you what we actually do.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Skinny Advice

I hate advice.  The fact that this is an advicey post isn't lost on me.  It's my blog and you chose to read this post, or you can just move along.  All the same to me.

We all have that skinny friend who thinks she's fat.  Maybe this dress makes her hips look big or she can't seem to find a bathing suit that doesn't make her feel gross.  And you're standing there saying, "You look great!  You're not fat.  *roll eyes and waves hand*  Puhlease, look at ME!"

If you have ever been the one to say those phrases, especially including the dismissive hand wave and eye roll, listen to me.

Your "skinny" friend is living in the same visually judgmental, male-dominated, pretty-equals-value world that you live in.  While you may see your friend as thin, gorgeous, every man's catch, there is a very good chance that she feels as insecure as you do about your body.  I'm not saying you shouldn't tell her she's full of crap, but do it slightly differently with a little more grace.

We are all in this battle together.  Short, tall, fat, skinny, jolly, insecure, confident...  DOESN"T MATTER!  We are all in this together.  If your friend, any friend, makes a comment about her body, just say, "I hear you.  Would it help to go shopping together so you have another pair of eyes?  Some things are hard to see in a mirror."  Then point out the positive qualities of the clothing or the less attractive qualities of the clothes, NOT her body.

Women of all shapes and sizes have body issues.  There are a few women who are above it all and move freely through this world not listening to anything but angelic voices and puppy kisses.  Most of us are not so enlightened.  A thin friend may have heard "I'm fat" from a thin mother her entire life.  A thin woman may have recovered from anorexia or bulimia.  A thin woman may lose interest in food in times of even light stress becoming ill out of both ends - yeah, I said it.  A thin woman may be self conscious about lumps or coloring because our culture is just mean like that.  Am I trying to say thin women have it worse than heavy ones?  NO.  I'm NOT.  I'm saying STOP COMPARING! And if you love a friend who says something negative about her own body, listen and love her some more.  Do not be dismissive and don't turn it around to a statement about how fat she must think YOU are!  Her statement about herself has zero to do with how she sees you.  If you're the heavier gal, you wouldn't want to be dismissed and told "just love your body." Women go to workshops and read books for advice like that.  You go to your friends for love and support. In a perfectly rainbows and unicorns world, we would all simply love our bodies.  If you are so enlightened, be gentle with your less-enlightened friend!

No matter what your size, no matter what the size of your friend, love, listen, realize there may be more to their experience than what you immediately see, and above all else do not compare and dismiss their feelings.  Their body image is possibly just as damaged as yours.  We are in this battle together.

Alternately, if your friend seems loudly obsessed with her body and how awful it is, a heart to heart about why she does this might be in order.  If it stabs you in the heart because it reminds you of your own issues, talk about it.  Maybe she's never had someone truly listen.  It is possible that she's fishing for compliments, or otherwise self-absorbed....  in which case, you have to make a healthy call for your own sanity.  This post is food for thought for that friend that might say something occasionally and could use a little support just like you.