Cattails and memories

It is interesting how the oddest and most mundane things can remind you of a place or person. How some cattails on the edge of a parking lot can make you think of a creek running through some farm land hundreds of miles away.

Cattails

Or how sunlight hitting a windowsill can make you think of your first college dorm room.

Tiny fresh strawberries that take you back to a wooden fence and open fields.

Or how you consider someplace home even though you haven’t lived there in over a decade. I suppose that is part of the reason why I love to explore wherever I am. I don’t know how long I’ll be there or when I’ll be back, but little things can transport us to a place hundreds of miles away or years ago.

Things and people change as days roll on. Subtle shifts occur and we don’t even notice them sometimes until looking back years later. Or until a swath of swaying cattails stops you in your tracks.

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2016 kick-off and Food Life Project launch

2015 flew by, but it was one helluva year!

joy jar A few years ago I started keeping a JOY JAR so I could always remember the wonderful things that happen, even when life gets hectic. 2015 was a banner year:

  • Several career opportunities that kept everyone excited about what they are doing.
  • The first momma & daughter day consisting of Olivia’s first live play, pizza, a bookstore stop and lots of shopping. Many more days like this to come 🙂
  • Our little girl upgraded to a big girl bed . . . where did the time go!
  • Olivia’s 3rd birthday party was amazing with a bouncy house, delicious cake, and lots of family and friends.
  • The inaugural Sister’s Weekend took place in Chicago and our minds started dreaming of all the possibilities for years to come.
  • We explored the US a little with a trip to South Dakota – saw the “rock men”, LOTS of buffalo, and enjoyed our first family camping trip. Of course, having a potty training toddler only made it that much more interesting.
  • Went Skydiving!!!! Another thing knocked off the bucket list and possibly added to the hobby list.

Of course, the biggest event of 2015 took place in the last week. Our new niece, Naomi, joined the family!

2015 is going to be a tough year to top, but I think we can do it. To kick it off I’ve set a 365 project for myself — The Food Life Project — write daily and take at least one photo. The MBA journey will be coming to an end and new doors will be opening so it is time to get focused and live with intention. Make every second count. Tackle the projects I’ve been putting off these last two years. Explore the world and live inspired.

 

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Pink angel food cake and family traditions

Those moments when you feel like things just aren’t going according to your carefully laid plans . . .

For my three year old, these moments usually end in pouty lips and tears with some occasional yelling. Oh, if only it was still that easy! However, I am pretty sure that my employer and the general public would not stand for a 30 something woman falling apart in the grocery store aisle.

So, I bite my tongue, hold back the tears, and find my “happy place”. For me, there are two things I turn to that do not rely on someone else– my running shoes and my oven. There is an innate appeal about the smell of something baking and the heat slowly filling the kitchen that makes me feel wrapped in a cocoon of security and positivity.

Growing up I heard stories of my great grandmother preparing angel food cake smeared in pink icing for birthdays. When I recently needed a little “me” time in the kitchen I figured what better positive memory to wrap myself in than a sugary pink, light and fluffy cake?

great gmas cake

My mother enjoying her birthday cake from grandma.

So with flour, sifter, sugar, and butter at hand I started my baker’s motivation.

Angel Food Cake (recipe from Taste of Home)

1 1/4 cups egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup cake flour

1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Place the oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift 1/2 cup sugar and the flour together twice; set aside.
  4. Add cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar 2 Tbsp at a time while beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
  5. Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove any air pockets.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and the top appears dry.
  7. Remove from the oven and invert pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

5 to 6 Tbsp milk

A few drops of red food coloring

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
  2. Beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and the milk to reach the right consistency.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to desired hue.

Angel food

I have to admit it tasted delicious, but I don’t know how great grandma did it. Frosting an angel food cake is hard! Would I do it again? Of course, it is a part of the past of my family and one I might introduce to Olivia.

Don’t forget to enjoy your own family traditions.

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Easter traditions and lemon poppyseed rolls

Happy Easter

Growing up Easter Sunday meant it was one of the few times we were forced to sit though church service dressed in our best. It also meant bright colored baskets, lots of candy, and a toy or two. We would bounce out of bed like it was Christmas in spring and start eating the Reese’s and Hershey kisses.

Little hands help with breakfast

Little hands help with family breakfast – Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Buns via Half Baked Harvest

Lemon poppy seed breakfast bunsAfter a special family breakfast and church it was off to grandma and grandpa’s to be with the extended family. Usually, the day entailed sidewalk chalk, an Easter egg hunt, and a game of tag or even Wiffle ball. I can still remember my dad and my uncles out there running the bases with my teenage cousins. Of course, there weren’t any sore knees and backs that another good meal couldn’t heal. Chow time

So the ham, potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread, and those weird Jell-o molded eggs cluttered the table until everyone got more than their fill. Easter for us now isn’t high profile enough to cross state lines for a large group gathering. It has become a chance to slow down and sign off from the rest of life.

Of course, the Easters of year’s past are another one of those things you never realize you are going to miss until it is gone. We’ve all grown-up and moved around. My aunts and uncles are grandparents themselves, my cousins have started families, and, like us, begun their own traditions. I hope they all look back with fondness at those spring days and maybe even work in a little sidewalk chalk and Wiffle ball themselves.

Apple spice cake

Apple spice cake with Two Gingers whiskey glaze; recipe coming soon 🙂

As for us, we are still trying to find the right Easter tradition, but chances are it won’t be until years after Olivia is grown that we look back and realize what that special thing was.

Note on lemon poppyseed rolls: We couldn’t find passionfruit and I didn’t want to make a blueberry syrup (I’m just lazy!) so we substituted a simple powder sugar glaze made with pomegranate juice. Still beautiful color yummy flavor!

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