Hot Cross Buns

DSC_0383 (2)

Good morning from the other side of winter storm Stella!

With upwards of a foot of snow predicted, school was cancelled before the storm even started. Snow day! A snow day sometimes feels like a gift, an unexpected (and much-needed) opportunity to slow down a bit and rest.

So I did plenty of that.

But I also puttered around the kitchen. As you’ve read before, nothing centers me quite like baking, and I’ve been looking forward to experimenting with hot cross buns for Lent. I honestly don’t much care for currents or other dried fruit typically found in these breakfast buns, so I tossed some cranberries in the dough to see how they’d turn out.

It was an adventure.

First, I almost broke our hand-held mixer. I really, truly thought I could get the dough to a semi-mixed consistency and hand mix the rest,  but it got too thick , too quickly. It was almost a disaster for that ancient mixer of ours.

Next, I think I added too many cranberries. By following the recipe, I added as many cups of dried cranberries as the recipe called for raisins and other dried fruit. Personally, I think it was a bit too much. Maybe cut the amount by a fourth.

After that, it was all Stella who stole the show because her drama-filled high winds knocked our power out just as I set the buns for their final rise.

Power resumed about two hours later, and by that time, I was ready for bed.

I did what I could to save the dough by refrigerating over night and baked this morning.

Stella’s gone now … and I think these buns are soon to follow suit.

Here’s the link to King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Easy Hot Cross Buns. Follow as is, or try the cranberries for something a little different. Enjoy for Lent … or any random Tuesday morning.

Snowstorm optional.

Reading Love

dsc_0346-2Love.

LOVE.

Love my students.

Love reading.

Love my students reading.

Here’s a quick little Valentine bookmark for the book lover in your life.

Supplies:

  • scrapbook paper
  • card stock
  • heart-shaped paper punch
  • ribbon
  • rubber stamp
  • gold ink
  • ribbon
  • coordinating marker
  • washi tape

Originally, I shopped at Walmart for multi-pack Valentine cards for my students. Since I have 30 students, and the cards were $7.97 for a pack of ten … I decided I could do better on my own. I didn’t even like them really.

These bookmarks are soooo much cuter. With a bonus: it’s a reading love note too!

dsc_0349

And made with love.

 

Seven Ways to Write

dsc_0547-3

It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten.

I’ve forgotten how quiet my usually ever-racing mind can become  when finally given the opportunity to speak.

I’ve forgotten what it’s like to stare at an empty screen. Without writing on a regular basis, I’ve forgotten how the cursor blinks. And blinks. It’s annoying, all that blinking.

And I listen for the rush of all those words I wanted to write back a only few days ago when time wasn’t my own. At the ready only a few days ago, all those words tired of waiting around for me to find the time – to make the time – and moved on. So now all I hear is … silence.

So starved for attention, any of the words I’ve tried on at first didn’t really fit right anymore.

But I’m not worried.

Because even after all this time of irregular writing,  I remember.

Here’s what I remember about finding my writer’s voice when it’s – temporarily – lost:

  • Just Start: Start somewhere or anywhere, doesn’t matter. Just start. Write and write and write because even if what you write is mostly unusable, you may just find a word or two of truth somewhere among the riff raff you can develop more fully next time you write.
  • Set a Timer: I can do anything for 15 minutes and so can you. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time passes, and you’ll be left wanting more.
  • Find a Prompt: A prompt can be a word, an image, a quote. Pick a theme of interest to you: kindness, courage, fear … and explore it.
  • Make a List: Lists are great sources for a writing jump-start. Animals you’ve loved. Things that make you feel squeamish. Favorite foods. Friends from childhood.
  • People: Describe who helped you when your car broke down. What do you remember about the woman two tables over at the coffee shop. Your toddler. The best friend you could call in the middle of the night. Recall an overhead conversation in line at the grocery store.
  • Places: A setting from your life is pure visual inspiration. Close your eyes and see it. A family dinner. A drive.  A remembered football game. Your last hike. One treasured scene from your last vacation.
  • Memories: Make it specific and small. Firsts. Lasts. Onlys. Those memories once-upon-a-times are made of.

Do you have a strategy for finding your writer’s voice? Please … please share!

 

 

Holiday Simmer Pot

dsc_0328

There are between two and six scented candles lit every night in our home.

A sort of visual prayer.

In our current rotation you’ll smell seasonal Christmas pine, cinnamon stick, gingerbread, and some sort of white linen set of four I picked for the size and color, not the scent, because they were destined for our Advent wreath on the table.

I’m a wee bit addicted.

Ask anyone.

Well, yesterday afternoon we took a candle intermission and tried the simmer pot instead.

Like any of my homemade soups, my simmer pot concoction is never the same recipe – or smell – twice. As with the soups I make, what’s in the pot depends on what I have around.

I knew the pomanders from last week’s project were aging, so they were ingredient number one with all their orange clovey juicy goodness. Cheery too, floating there in the black cast-iron pot. I also added:

  • cranberries
  • star anise
  • a sprinkling of cloves
  • chopped cinnamon stick
  • rose hips
  • about a cup of apple cider
  • water

A simmer pot is a warm scented free-for-all. I’ve also been known to add chopped apples, maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg, lemons, and honey.

Seriously, any good smelling combination goes in the pot. Turn the stove to low and simmer away the day … all your troubles float away in the sweet-smelling steam.

(Add more water as necessary throughout the day.)

Home. Sweet. Home.

I think the candles were jealous.

 

Pomander Balls

Every year, we put holiday candles in our windows. Most of them hand-me-downs my husband’s mother no longer wanted. The cords are too short to reach outlets and the plastic bases topple easily, but still we place them year after year in our windows – one part tradition, one part pretty, one part a need for light.

Of the eight candles lighting roadside windows, it’s likely any combination will actually be lit. The options are some, none, or all – depending on which children are home and who remembers -or not- to light them.

It’s all sort of random.

Which is a little like how I’ve been feeling these days.

Clearly there’s too much for any one human being to accomplish.

So in the spirit of slow … orange and clove pomander balls seemed the perfect random project this morning. Originating in Europe during the Middle Ages, the tradition of pomander balls has a past. From the French word pomme d’ambre, apple of amber, a pomander is literally a ball of perfumes – in this case, whole cloves.

dsc_0333-1

I’ve been leaning toward  more natural decorating for awhile now. Simple. Satisfying. Homemade.

All you need are oranges, whole cloves, and a little bit of time.

Sweet and spicy.

Style as you’d like.

And oh the smell …

dsc_0338-2

Leftovers work well in a simmer pot, too.  Another totally random concoction I’ll post about soon.

Enjoy!

 

 

On Taking a Decorating Risk

dsc_0704-2

It’s almost always impossible for me to make a decision.

I can think on my feet when I need to, but almost everything else requires an endless amount of back and forth consideration.

I think I’m afraid of making a mistake. Also, I take myself way too seriously.

I’m not much of a risk taker.

dsc_0747-3
vintage wooden shoe forms

Which is why it’s a little surprising that I would both conceive of and execute an off-the-wall change in our family’s main living area. All. In. One. Week.

Especially a change involving – of all things – black paint.

I’ve loved the bookshelves and cabinetry flanking either side of our family room fireplace from day one when we spotted our for sale townhouse online.

I style and restyle them seasonally. It usually takes me a few days’ worth of fussing and fidgeting around with stuff to get these shelves looking the way I like. Simple. A little minimal, I think. And prettied.

But last Sunday, I noticed the white back wall of the shelves seemed to go on and on and on. Each individual shelf felt like a box leading into some sort of white neverland of eternity.

Yawn.

img_2801-2
before

I needed some drama.

What if?

What if I painted the back wall … black?

Fast forward six days and a trip to Lowes for a quart of HGTV Home/Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black.

Some decisions are best made quickly before I change my mind. Still, I checked Pinterest before making the final commitment and didn’t find a single pin like what I had in mind. Not one. But, I reasoned, I could always repaint.

img_2807-2
after

But I don’t think I will. Repaint, I mean.

Because I love it.

It looks exactly how I imagined it would look.

An easy and inexpensive change. Simple. Classic.  And dramatic.

Maybe I should take risks more often.

How to Arrange Your Garden Flowers

DSC_0393 (2)

It’s a good day when – “pick flowers from the garden” – is at the top of my to-do list.

Consider it done.

The flowers out there are beginning to fade. The cone flowers, so show offy last month are browning now, with only a last few pretty and pickable. Black-eyed Susans are on their way out too and my favorite daisies are all but gone.

Still, the butterfly bush is explosive and the zinnias – coming up fast on the daisies as my new favorite – keep coming and coming.

And I’ve wanted to mess around a bit with flower arranging all summer, so seasonally speaking, it was now or never.

I’m so glad I prioritized.

Here’s what I learned:

Consider color combinations.

  • DSC_0347 (3)

The vibrant orange of this coreopsis strikes fire against the cool cobalt blue pottery. This arrangement fuels a bright moment by the soft wisp of sheer curtains and sturdy, white cabinet.

Simplify.

DSC_0398 (2)

There’s something soothing about single stems. Simplicity feels good. Cut the clutter and let each bloom speak for itself.

Bunch big blooms.

DSC_0351 (3)

Let them spill. But keep the container plain like this burlap wrapped Mason jar. The flowers steal the show.

But don’t be afraid to layer.

DSC_0404 (2)

The same bunch looks cool and fresh reflected in this galvanized mirror.

DSC_0403 (2)

Mix temperatures.

 

DSC_0384 (2)

There’s heat here. A touch of warmth. And I’m keeping it cool so the pale blue of the vintage canning jar plays well with the cool wall. The pinks pop. So does the orange. The corals and yellows keep it all cozy and calm.

DSC_0379 (2)

Sun dappled and cheerful.

For the life of me … why haven’t I put garden flowers bedside before?

Alliteration.

Group like with like. Think location, location, location.

DSC_0393

These cone flowers and black-eyed Susans work well together because of their similar petal shape. You’ll see the deep yellow of the Susan repeated in the golden center of the cone flower.

Everything about this placement pleases me. The weave of the basket coupled with the rusty tile color on the table. The white cone flower partnered with the antique ironstone bowl and pitcher. And the pop of gold for contrast.

Still life with garden flowers.

It’s summer’s last hurrah and I want to make the most of it.

IMG_2345

Now.

What to do with the sunflowers?