Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Little Men

Little Boys, Little Boys....
What would life be like without them?!
Growing up, I waited what seemed to me a very long time
to be a big sister.
Then, finally, at the age of 9 1/2,
the most wonderful thing in the world happened.
My mother gave birth to a live baby doll for me.
A big bouncing happy baby girl.
My friends and I fought over who held her next and when she was old enough
I pushed her all over our neighborhood her first summertime
in her brand new stroller.
I didn't know it then but I was in training to be a mommy.
Then at the age of 19 I got married.
When I was 21 and again 23 God blessed me with my own
beautiful sweet baby girls.
When I became a Grammy for the first time at age 42 it was to a Girl.
My life has been filled with Girls and lots and lots of
Girlie things.
And then...
Along came these Little Men.
So different from little girls.
Inquisitive in more mechanical ways.
I watch them and marvel.
Archer, who won't be two until September, will grab a toy drill and plant
it smack into the plastic screw, hit the power button and drive that
screw home one handed while his other hand is busy doing
something else.
Busy; they are always busy.
The two of them together are a pure joy to watch.
Constant motion.

I love their little hands and how expressive they are with their entire being.

The constant scraped up knees capture my heart.
They speak of another day full of adventures.
Yet they can also be so focused on the tiniest thing.
It occurs to me as I watch them, immerse myself in them really,
that the secret still lies within them.
Being still so fresh from God,
in the purity of their young and tender souls,
they know how to live fully in each and every moment.
That is a thing of such beauty and wonder to me.
I love these moments of stillness in them
when they have no knowledge of being watched.
Something about them in their little shorts
fills my heart to overflowing.
It's just such a daily blessing to have the two of them,
one from each daughter,
so close together in age,
and thankfully proximity.
I see the future when I look at these
Little Men
and know that they will help to make the world a better place one day.
For this,
I am truly thankful.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Soft Summer Days

As Spring has become Summers bloom,
I feel its peaceful heat settle around me like a sweet dreamless nap
and I wrap myself in the warmth
of soft Summer Days.
For me the season is at it's best when it is fresh and new;
all of it's promise lying ahead.
The trees are full of leaves and the air is heavy with fragrant flowers.
Yet so much still lies ahead.
Adventures waiting to take us to places unknown.
Road trips with family,
visits with old  friends,
new friends to find,
walks in the dark with fire flies lighting our way,
picnics in the park,
the laughter of children playing outside,
and for me...
another year older.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I love Summer so much.
Who doesn't love a reason to celebrate?
My birthday is the last day of June.
I celebrated a little early with my friends Amy and Krista
because Krista will be gone on vacation when my birthday actually rolls around.
We never miss each others birthday.
These two special women have been like family to me for close to forty years now.
Amy, Danette, Krista
We spent a lovely afternoon together at Amy's house.
As you can see, she knows how to make a birthday girl feel special.
She even had my beloved cinnamon rolls.
There's a lot to be said for lifelong friendships!

June is full of birthdays for my family.
We celebrated my nephew Brendan's 21st birthday on the 21st... his Golden.
My sister made him a fruit pizza because he doesn't care much for cake.
Today is my father's 74th birthday and my mother in law's 90th birthday.
There will be a party for my dad at my parent's home this afternoon
with my in-laws in attendance as well.
Then tomorrow we are having a huge Open House for
the Big 90th Birthday Party.
My parents will be there too.
We celebrate all of our holidays and birthdays together.
For so many years now we have been one big family.
I am so thankful for that.

I missed my Thankfulness Tuesday post this week due to sickness.
I am battling a serious case of bronchitis and praying I am well enough for
my mother in law's special day.
I rented the hall and planned all the catering.
Now I am praying I make it to the party.
My dad's will have to take place without me today.

Through it all I've knit a few stitches here and there.
Using this beautiful yarn I purchased on a recent road trip
that I will tell you about soon.
This is the first mitt. I have the second one nearly finished too.
I will show them together soon and tell you about the yarn and
where to find this lovely pattern.

For now...
I hope you are enjoying your own
Soft Summer Days.
With Love,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pate Brisee' Cinnamon Rolls

 When I make pies or cinnamon rolls I always start with homemade pie crust.
The recipe I use is Martha Stewart's for Pate Brisee'.
Butter is the key ingredient to this lovely dough and plays an integral role
in creating it's tender, flaky, melt in your mouth taste and texture.
As in all baking recipes, measurements must be accurate.
Most importantly in this recipe you must get the correct proportion
of butter to flour and use very cold ingredients.
This dough also prefers a light hand.
One recipe makes enough for
two 9- or 10- inch single - pies
one 9- or 10- inch double-crust pie.
When wrapped tightly in plastic,
the dough can be frozen for up to one month;
thaw in refrigerator overnight before using.
Trust me on this, once you try this pie crust,
you will never be satisfied with any other!
The second part of the recipe with all of it's divine cinnamon and sugar goodness,
is my own concoction.
Feel free to tweak that to suit your own tastes.
So let's get started...

Pate Brisee'

2 3/4 Cups All - Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Coarse Salt
1 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) Cold Unsalted Butter,
cut into 3/4 inch pieces
7 Tablespoons Ice Water, plus more if needed.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and whisk together till well blended.
Cut in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips.

The mixture should have pieces ranging from coarse crumbs
to the size of small peas
when you are finished with this step.
Add water starting with 7 tablespoons.
Add up to 2 tablespoons more water only if necessary,
1 tablespoon at a time
Drizzle water over flour mixture and work it in with a fork at this point,
mixing only till dough just holds together.
The mixture should retain a crumbly texture and should not be sticky.
Shape and chill dough Turn dough out onto a clean work surface.
Knead once or twice to incorporate loose bits. Divide in half.
Pat each half into a thick disk place on a piece of plastic wrap
and gather wrap to flatten disk.

Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight).
When ready to roll out, let cool only 10 minutes and work on a cool surface.
Remember: no butter pieces, no flakes.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface or on a piece of parchment paper.

Cinnamon Mixture

1 Cup Sugar
1/8 Cup Cinnamon
1 Stick Butter - melted, plus 3 tablespoons set aside to melt later
1/2 Cup Pecans, chopped
Raw Sugar for sprinkling on top

The nuts are optional and I only use them in half of the cinnamon rolls.
Remember you have 2 disks of dough to work with.
Roll out the dough of first disk and with a pastry brush
spread half of the melted butter over the dough.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and pecans.
Roll the dough up lengthwise.
Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls approximately 1 inch thick.
Repeat process with second disk of dough minus the nuts.

Place on ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter and brush over rolls.
Sprinkle liberally with raw sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Enjoy the most heavenly smells while baking is occurring...
Eat at least one or two immediately upon removing from the oven
for a truly divine experience.

I have a confession...
Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite things in the whole world.
I just might trample over someone to get to their fresh baked goodness.
That's not very ladylike,
But there you have it.
Wishing you Joy and Sunshine in your Day ahead,

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Front Porch Knitting

This is my favorite time of year.
I wake up feeling like every day is a gift
and I don't want to miss a single moment.
Daily domestic chores still need to be done,
 But I'm in constant pursuit of the Promise Land...
My Front Porch.
As I work around the house I feel the anticipation build because I know
at some point I will brew a fresh pot of tea and collect my knitting,
along with my doggies,
to step over the threshold and do what I love best...
sit on the porch swing
to play with yarn and drink tea.
Then I will repeat the process for as long as possible.
Phoebe and Mack

This is actually a picture from last Summer.
It makes no difference.
You can find me in the same place every afternoon when the weather permits.
This is the reason when I threw out several options for a business name
my family all voted unanimously for
Front Porch Knits.
It truly is my favorite place to knit and crochet.
I swing while I work but very gently and in small circles.
The funny thing about that is,
I didn't realize I did it until a couple of Summer's ago.
One day Gabby joined me on the swing and said,
"Grammy, can we swing in circles like you always do?"
Just one of those things we do when we are lost in concentration.
Along with the movement of yarn, needles and hook it is soothing to me.
Add a touch of birdsong, a gentle breeze and a friendly neighbor
and my day is perfect.
My current project is Baby Cables.
Cabled Booties and Ear Flap Hats.
I'm knitting them up for my shop and for this Fall's Pumpkin Festival.
I love seeing the various colors stacked up together.
As I've mentioned before, I have a passion for cable knits.
Plus I can never get enough of all things pertaining to sweet babies.
My other recent project was a set of Spa Cloths.
One is made of lovely crocheted shells and the other is full of
the fabulous texture of knitted bobbles in organic cotton.
My partner for making these works strictly indoors.
Getting back to the day ahead,
there's still a bed that needs making
and the breakfast dishes are rinsed but not washed.
But the sun is shining in a beautiful blue sky
and it's not quite as hot as it was yesterday.
So I think it's time to do some tidying up inside and gather my things.
 If you're looking for the dogs and me...
We'll be on the Front Porch.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dance of a Swan

Feathers float over her ballerina bun.
Artistic makeup adorns her fresh, pure face.
Her young dancers body is transformed into a fairy swan
with all its white flounce and silver sparkle.
She sits to slip ballet shoes in place.
All that's left to do is wait...
Act 2
Dance 2
By A Lake, Ballet
 from Swan Lake
Music by Tchaikovsky
Peoria Ballet Company Academy Performance

We sit enraptured through the magical show.
Every dance and each graceful movement on the stage
sweeping us along.
Then, finally...
There She is...
Our Beautiful Swan.
So many emotions.
So few words to describe them.
We have been watching the dance of this swan since she was three.
She loves ballet like she was born knowing it somehow.
I think maybe God sprinkled some fairy dust in the blueprint of her soul.

"Passion is universal humanity.
Without it religion, history, romance and art
would be useless."
Honore' De Balzac