Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sweet Orange Scones, Baked with Love

Scones. Moist, tangy, sweet orange scones. We'll get there. Make a proper cup of tea and stick with me...

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It is the nature of people to be reactionary. And this post is a bit of that... Life going on amidst the rubble of devastating realities in our world, in our country, in our community. My heart is weighed down with so many things, including the very recent suicide of the son of a dear teacher. It's enough to suck the happiness right out of my soul and replace it with blackness. It isn’t the first time the shadows have reached for me and it won’t be the last, and this post is a reminder for myself as much as it is anything else.

I have decided that I am not going to be robbed of my joy, or my faith that humanity, even in the face of grim circumstances and frightening events, can be beautiful and brave. If I let my little light be snuffed in sadness, the world gets even darker, and I won't be able to spark joy in those who need it. Like so many people, there are times in my own life where I've felt the icy despair of depression. And I am grateful for that life experience because I am better equipped to embrace the pain and suffering around me. But with a heart rooted in the hope of Heaven, I will defend joy, I will find beauty in the darkness, and I will share it.

Mr. C, the ageless teacher who just lost his 20 year old son, is an amazing example of that. He taught me as a 7th grader (way back when), and continues to teach my kids' generation at our wonderful school. He stopped into the school just a couple days after the tragedy and left this note on his chalkboard for his students, a bright beacon of joy even from his own broken heart:

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Say what's in your heart. Hug tighter. Make peace. Make memories. Find beauty. Share joy. Be grateful. Give love.

Also on that list for me is bake. I bake when I grieve, I bake when I celebrate, I bake when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Food made by hand involves skill and knowledge and commitment. When given as a gift, even as a simple family dinner, it communicates nurturing love and gratitude for the company of those who partake in it. Food itself is not the solution to troubles of the heart, but it can be a language to express the otherwise inexpressible. And it fits handily into the directive:

Whatever you do, do everything for the Glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:31

And, sometimes, scone is just the word you're looking for. I made a batch of these and took a couple of them over when visiting a dear friend who feeds my soul. We laughed, we sewed, we made memories over scone crumbs.

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Sweet Orange Scones with Butter Icing
(original recipe from mybakingaddiction)

Scone Ingredients:

1/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp orange zest

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, cold or frozen

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large egg

Icing Ingredients:

3 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet. Mix sugar and zest in large mixing bowl. Add in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate cold butter into the flour mixture and combine. In separate bowl, blend egg and sour cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with a spoon, then use your hands to form it into a well-combined ball. Pat the dough into an 8" disk of fairly uniform thickness, then cut into 8 wedges and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle with demerara or granulated sugar and pat it into the surface. Bake at 350 until just beginning to brown on the bottom and at the points, about 15-17 minutes.

While the scones bake, mix all the icing ingredients until a thick but pourable consistency is reached, adding more sugar or orange juice as needed.

Allow scones to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then drizzle/spoon several layers of icing over the scones and allow it to firm up as it cools.

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Before you feed them to anyone, be sure to spellcheck:

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Please always remember that you are here for many reasons, one of which is simply to bring your own brand of joy to those around you. No matter who you are, the world is richer simply with you in it.

Red heart

Friday, November 13, 2015

Seasonal Musings, 2015 Edition

Despite the lack of blogging, I’ve been plugging along in my role as homemaker and generally getting done what needs to get done for all the people who live here, with the semi-frequent home improvement project thrown in for the sake of progress. But recently the speed of life seems to have accelerated and we’re now cruising into the Christmas season under full sail. Well, maybe that isn’t the most apt description… it isn’t that life is moving faster, it’s just that there are more details to handle in the same amount of time, which makes everything feel rushed and leaves me feeling perpetually behind schedule. Which is a funny place to be when the one setting most of my goals is me, and those goals are fairly arbitrary. I think there are a lot of opportunities to improve on this situation, and the simplest seems to be praying for the motivation to accomplish the tasks I can, and the grace to let go of the tasks that I can’t. I want to truly enjoy the season in a meaningful, substantive way… to be able to internalize the meaning of it all, to relish the delightful, and to accept whatever sudden changes of plan may come our way in terms of inclement weather or quarantine-level illness.

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Around this time every year I try to begin working out the Christmas Gift Situation (CGS). The biggest challenge with CGS is trying to elucidate gift ideas for the kids to provide those who ask while also keeping some viable and fun options for ourselves to give them. Nearly on par with that is brainstorming thoughtful gifts for people who don’t really need anything. How to show love without giving knickknacks or labor-saving devices? We fail a lot. This year I have managed to keep track of a few things that each kid really wants. Specific reading material, a memory foam pillow, some rubber ducks to add to an existing collection. Nothing profound, but something that will be enjoyed. I have ordered some things already. I have also decided to just try to be more accommodating and generous with my time on a day to day basis… they may not remember 10 years from now what I gave them for Christmas, but they might hold on to a feeling that I cared about what they were interested in and helped them to accomplish it.

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More important than the gifts, we are lucky to have so much family and so many friends, and so close, that we have a long and full Christmas season with many and varied seasonal events spanning mid-December through the New Year. And that is not a complaint…  We live a charmed life. But we also MUST plan ahead. Some events require nicer clothing for the fam, each might need us to bring some foods, and a couple need white elephant gifts to amuse and bewilder. I see why some people start planning these things in July. I believe everyone has a set of nice enough clothes that fit and I am going to forgo coordinating outfits of any kind. I’ve never been that organized, but this year I am not going to even feel guilty about it. And, Christmas tree aside, I am not decorating beyond whatever strikes my fancy… Letting go of the trivial 20% is so liberating.

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I am also looking forward for some massive Christmas cookie production in early December… enough to take to all the family/friend events, some to give as gifts, and a tin or box or plate for each of my husband’s big clients. This is a great opportunity to make a memorable personal impression, and for a sales guy, one not to be missed. But that will require some coordination (how many clients? how large of a tin for each?) and planning (personalized cards? when will they need to be ready to deliver?). I forget how  many plates I made last year but it was a lot. In order for this task to be fun and not grueling, I need to be on top of the baking schedule and stick to it. I am optimistic, as always :) I am approaching this as a delicious creative outlet rather than a chore, and I am sure it will prove satisfying.

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Further out than Christmas, even, is the school auction. It is early February this school year which means things have some real potential to clash with December plans or make January a train-wreck. I am in charge of managing 10 class projects, hopefully to be completed in the vicinity of Thanksgiving, as well as assembling the baskets for the silent auction once all the items are in in January. I am hoping those tasks don’t overlap much, but I am mentally acknowledging my own humanity and the fact that I cannot control anyone else, nor am I responsible for any one else’s actions or inactions. Stressing out over this does me no good, so I’m giving it up. Instead, I plan to sew myself a fabulous Alfred Shaheen-style sarong dress to wear to the auction… The theme is Tropical Paradise and I believe that a little sunny weather sewing project amidst the  inevitable snow and ice will be an ideal mood boost. Challenge accepted, Winter. ((The pattern I currently intend to use is Butterick 6019, Patterns by Gertie… I don’t have fabric yet but I am looking for a fabulously kitschy print!))

Well, that was fun… now I am going to go do something on my To Do list. Till next time…