Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can I Get a "Hell, Yea!"?

Chocolate Truffles of love
 I know, I know, baking and chocolate, you know I love it, I obsess over it, I lay in bed at night dreaming up chocolate fantasy concoctions. Yada, yada, yada. You've heard it all before and I know I've gone on and on about the baking ban. But, folks, I'm about to take it to a whole new level...

I received an innocent email from our local artisan chocolate and pastry chef in Missoula (Posh Chocolat, check 'em out) announcing that she will be conducting a six week class in the art of all things chocolate-making AND french pastry AND yeast breads AND...wait for it, tortes and cakes. I passed out. I came to. I passed out. I came to. I passed out. I woke to find the dog licking my face and I jumped up, hit reply and screamed (in written form of course...well, to be honest, I might have screamed it out loud as well), "SIGN ME UP!!!" (Please, the ban had no chance. None, whatsoever. Don't judge me.)

 And not knowing the level of crazy obsession that she's dealing with, she did. She signed me up. So starting April 6th not only will I be home (HALLELUJUAH!), I will be sashaying my way around and around a commercial kitchen with the loves of my life (sorry, Erik, but you should know this by now): butter, sugar, flour and, of course, chocolate. 

Oh, sweet god, please tell me I'm not dreaming!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beauty Shines Through

"The clouds collect above, drift by like marching armies on their way to war,
bringing storms and salvation.
Which, is yours to discover.

The tension builds, the winds begin their frantic dance,
increasing the pressure, the strength, the intensity until you want to escape.
But you're on an open plain, nowhere to run, no place to run to,
so the armies catch you,
open their ranks and swallow you in chaos, confusion, panic, 
despair and desperation until they spit you out the back.

They leave you standing on an open plain in a newly quiet world.
Just you, alone, breathing hard
as a light breeze dances around you."

I've thought alot about beauty this week. In our dry and desolate location, I came upon a blooming cherry tree. Its absolute incongruity in a desert landscape stopped me in my tracks. I actually gasped at the beauty of it. That this little tree could, first of all, survive but then have the flat-out audacity to bloom took my breath away. In a world of brown, of harshness, of rusted-out junkers and blowing trash, beauty in its simplicity shines through. And after a soul-shaking, what the hell just happened time when you are swallowed by the despair of ever seeing the sun again, that little glimmer through the darkness shines bright and brings with it...hope.

I've watched the news of Japan along with the rest of the world and in the absolute devastation, one thing I've noticed is the beauty shining through. The beauty of a gracious people pulling together, the beauty of a life spared, of a reunion of loved ones thought lost and I know, like this little desert cherry tree, beauty survived.

I hope that in these dark days, in the chaos and confusion, when the world chews us up and spits us out, a little glimpse of green in a brown world will stand as a reminder that we can survive the winter, that this too shall pass and if we look to the beauty instead of the tragedy, we will find hope again.

May beauty shine through, bright and unwavering, for the people of Japan. 

 Want to help? So simple: Socks for Japan

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3 Weeks and 2 Days Until Liberation

Sometimes you just want to go home. Now, don't get me wrong, I love this traveling lifestyle. I still enjoy the waking up in new places and that moment of, "Where the heck are we?" and soaking in the scents and smells and sights and, well, different-ness of a new location, the peculiarities that make it so NOT home. It's fun, exciting, always an adventure. But, so far, no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, after a few months, it always hits. That longing for familiar. The longing for those sights, sounds and smells that set your heart to singing. And then you's time to go home.

I haven't made it a secret that this assignment has been a challenge for me which makes the desire to get the hell out of Dodge (or Clovis, as the case may be) that much more intense. In one of my melancholy moods, I happened to pick up an old journal and I read something I wrote that really just sums it up.

 I remember the day so clearly. It was May of last year and we were on our assignment in Billings, MT. It was a Saturday and we had headed off into the mountains to soak up a gorgeous spring day. I was sitting in the sun on the bank of the Stillwater River while Erik chased fish and the dogs flopped on the grass beside me.

Erik and Riley flyfishing on the Stillwater River

May 8, 2010 - The leaves on the trees are bursting out, the birds are so active, the Swiftwater rushing by makes such a beautiful melody. What a gorgeous day! Mid-40's, sun is shining, snow on the ground around me but patches of spring grass warmed by the sun offers an inviting space for the dogs to stretch out on.

Oh, Montana, how I love you! Fickle though you may be, your beauty, your generosity makes the temper tantrums worthwhile. I am already feeling the loss of leaving you and moving on to our next stop even though I know adventure awaits. The gypsy life is a strange one. The thrill of waking up and wondering, "Where am I today?", the discovering of new places, new people never gets old.

Yet, I can't help looking back over my shoulder as I walk away at what I'm leaving behind. That sense of melancholy knowing you'll go on without me while I'm gone. Your snows will melt, your flowers will bloom and I'll be far away finding different flowers, different spaces but none to compare with those of my beautiful Montana.

Montana Wildflowers
 So, there you have it. And in 3 weeks and 2 days, we're heading back to Montana for the summer. Ahhhhhh......(soul-deep sigh).

Yep, I love traveling, love moving on. But, you know what I love even better?

Going home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When All Else Fails...Make Biscuits

Yesterday was one of those days. I know you know what I'm talking about. The kind of day that just struggles against your best efforts to smooth its ruffled edges. You try, you take deep breaths, you tell yourself this is just a lesson in patience. You go through your routine doing your best to jump the hurdles that come your way. When the dog you spent an hour brushing out so she would look presentable at her doctor's appointment walks over and lays right in the dusty, red dirt the moment you turn your back, what else can you do but mutter a curse word and sigh?

No problem, it's cool. You've got this. And when you climb into your little shower looking forward to washing away the red dirt and dog hair and the owner of the RV park decides to cut the water at the exact moment that you have whipped your hair into a frothy lather and are about to rinse...well, all I can say is those curse words do come in handy, don't they?

You get through it. You move forward. You get to the vet appointment early. And when the 15 minute vet appointment turns into an hour and a half allergy-inducing test of will for all involved, what else can you do but suck it up and smile? Moving on. You're now late and the dogs are on their last nerves. You're barely hanging on to the last thread of your sanity but you're doing it. You're not down yet. You fight the evening traffic to get across town in time to pick up the hubby.

And when you finally...finally... manage to get the hot, traumatized canines and the equally hot and traumatized hubby all home only to realize that somewhere in between the torture of the vet and the retrieval of the spousal unit, you were supposed to hit the market so you have something to cook for dinner...well, I suggest you do what I did. Just throw in the towel and make biscuits.

Buttermilk biscuits. Hot, fluffy goodness that solves all problems. Add a vege scramble and a glass of chilled white wine and all of a sudden those ruffled edges of a rough day are as smooth as one of Martha Stewart's tablecloths. I've been asked to start posting my recipes so here's my favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe (not sure where I picked it up but I've been using it for years). I hope it can ease some ruffled edges on a rough day for all of you too.

Heaven-sent Buttermilk Biscuits

4 c all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
2 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Using a pastry knife, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the buttermilk and stir until mixture just comes together. Don't overmix and don't worry that batter is sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and use floured hands to pat the dough to a 1-inch thickness. No need to roll it out. I use a 2-5/8 biscuit cutter but any 2-1/2" glass or round cookie cutter would work as well.

Place biscuits on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until they're lightly, golden brown. Cool on wire rack and...EAT UP. Delicious.


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