Monday, December 31, 2007

Adieu 2007

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.
Ivy Baker Priest

A friend and I decided to go out and say good-bye to 2007 by hiking/shooting pictures. Our intention was to go up to the snow plain on the Sierra Nevadas and shoot at a state park. We made it there, but we had an unexpected opportunity to also shoot in the fog on the way in. I used my tripod more here and it did make a difference. It was an incredible day, but I'm ready for 2007 to end. It has been a year of great ups and downs in my life. I'm thankful that most of the bad came with a silver lining, but there are still ripples being felt into 2008. We'll see what they are as things happen.

No New Years resolutions, just a commitment to live every moment that the coming year brings with openness to opportunities and growth. Happy New Year to all of you. May 2008 bring an end to the Iraq War and new blessings.

In tribute to a gentle man who wrote incredible music and left us all too soon a couple of weeks ago; Dan Fogelberg, "Same Old Lang Syne":


Friday, December 28, 2007

Quirks and a New Year

Turn over a new leaf
traditional idiom

Today was my last day at work until 2008 so the talk at lunch turned to resolutions or as one person put it "the turn over of a new leaf". It was the usual loose weight, eat better, get up earlier, spend more time with friends/family etc. But then someone had the bright idea of just learning to accept what is not viewed as the best about oneself in the coming year. Or as he said, it's the part of ourselves that is often considered quirky that we like to hide from others. For instance, eating Spaghettio's out of a can, or that you really do like reality TV programs better then the Discovery channel, or you really do plan on buying a Hummer in the coming next year...In other words, the quirks that don't make you a bad person, but might not necessarily put you in the best light.... BTW: the Spaghettio's in the can happens to belong to me.

What's the quirk that you'd like to learn to accept for for 2008?

Greg Allman, "I'm No Angel":


Monday, December 24, 2007

For Unto Us....

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Tonight is a crisp cold night. The full moon came up shining brightly. Stillness and quiet were its companions. It is a on night such as this that you can envision that age old story of the child born into a manager....

This blog entry is dedicated to all my friends of the Christian faith. May the light of your belief be a path of peace and love for you in the coming year. Thank you for all that you have given me in this year.

Handel's Messiah, "For Unto Us A Child Is Born":





Saturday, December 22, 2007

Celebrate

I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday -- the longer, the better -- from the great boarding school where we are forever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest.
Charles Dickens

The roads are full of shoppers and people beginning to travel home for the holidays. I wish I was headed to Arizona again, but as I'm covering all the clinics in the Valley next week, I'll be here. I'm getting together with friends on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for food and frolic. I hope that everyone is completing their shopping, putting the finishing touches on meal plans and just taking a few moments here and there to enjoy some Christmas relaxation and cheer.

Amaretto-Cranberry Kiss

Ingredients:
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup amaretto
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Ice cubes
Clementines, peeled, separated into segments

Preparation:
Mix cranberry juice, vodka, amaretto, and orange juice in pitcher. Cover and chill until ready to serve. DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.

To make 2 drinks, fill cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Pour in scant 1 cup vodka mixture. Cover and shake vigorously. Strain into 2 Martini glasses. Garnish each with clementine segment. Repeat 3 times with ice cubes, remaining vodka mixture, and clementine segments.

Merry Solstice to everyone also.

Kenny Loggins, "Celebrate Me Home":


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And More Gifts

Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.
Richard Bach

The gift of my Jeep arrived at my home today. I never thought I would become enamored of a car, but after years of driving economy compacts, it's a revelation of true love. So it's the beginning of having fun out there, not just driving something for necessity. However I am glad to be finished with the whole business and look forward to putting my energies back into other things. I use a life event stress scale with some of my clients when I'm counseling them and have decided that I'm putting having a car accident, settling out with your insurance company and then going through the process of obtaining a new car into the top ten of life event stressors that are identified in the scale.

This evening I gave myself a gift of a night off and got into a pair of warm snuggly pjs I had been gifted with, watched some holiday DVDs, noshed on cookies that I had made and had some tea. I hope you're all taking the gift of giving yourself some quiet time in all the activity that the holidays can bring.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Peppermint butter cream is sandwiched between homemade chocolate cookies; then the sandwiches are rolled in crushed candy canes. Makes about 18 sandwich cookies.

Cookies
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

Filling
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops (or more) red food coloring

1/2 cup crushed red-and-white-striped candy canes or hard peppermint candies (about 4 ounces)
For cookies:
Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients; beat until blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out dough by level tablespoonfuls, then roll into smooth balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using bottom of glass or hands, flatten each ball to 2-inch round (edges will crack). Bake until cookies no longer look wet and small indentation appears when tops of cookies are lightly touched with fingers, about 11 minutes (do not overbake or cookies will become too crisp). Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer chocolate cookies to racks and cool completely.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add peppermint extract and 2 drops food coloring. Beat until light pink and well blended, adding more food coloring by dropfuls if darker pink color is desired. Spread 2 generous teaspoons filling evenly over flat side of 1 cookie to edges; top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently to adhere. Repeat with remaining cookies and peppermint filling.

Place crushed candy canes on plate. Roll edges of cookie sandwiches in crushed candies (candies will adhere to filling). (Cookie sandwiches can be made ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.)

Brenda Lee, "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree":



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gifts

I certainly don't regret my experiences because without them, I couldn't imagine who or where I would be today. Life is an amazing gift to those who have overcome great obstacles, and attitude is everything!
Sasha Azevedo


It has been quite the week. I'm now waiting for final word that my car is going to totaled as it was more damaged then first appeared. So it looks like I'm getting a Christmas gift of a new vehicle. I hadn't planned for it and was upset at first because I was just about to pay off the car. But then I've had the Jeep Patriot I eventually want on my manifestation board for a year or so. Like a friend reminded me, sometimes what seems a curse or problem is really a blessing/gift and it always doesn't always come wrapped in a neat box. He's right and by looking at the positives of this experience it can become a gift. So if all works out in the next several days, I may be a Jeep girl soon.

It's my father's birthday today. He's 72. I called him in Michigan to wish him a Happy Birthday and to reminisce. So many of my friends have lost parents in the last few years. It's a gift to still have him here.

Last night I had the gift of friends while we made cookies and shared a meal. So many are my gifts and Christmas hasn't even arrived. Not all people in the world have these gifts for them I hope for the gift of better days to come.

Band Aid 20, "Do They Know It's Christmas Time?":


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

War and Peace

Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict -- alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.
Dorothy Thompson

In the last week the news has been full of violent, dramatic shootings around the US with the latest today in Las Vegas. All I could think of was in a season of in which we should reflecting/showing the best of what makes us human, this stands in contrast. I don't profess to have all the answers for alternatives to the violence that seems so inherent these days. But I have faith that eventually peace and wisdom will find a way. It lies in what we give and teach to our children now for they are the angels which will bring our ultimate flowering or our ultimate destruction. I'm standing and working with others for peace on the earth and good will towards all humankind.

Sarah McLachlan, "Happy Xmas (War is Over):


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blessings

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
Hamilton Wright Mabie

The tree went up, the last of vacation laundry and unpacking finally was taken care of, and I am settled again. I had gone to get a few things early this am and as I went into the grocery store, there was a young guy panhandling. Normally, I tend to not give direct money as we have so many persons here doing it and it becomes impossible to pick/choose individuals to give to. However, there was something about him that stayed with me while I was shopping and I decided to trust my feelings about helping him. So on my way out I gave him some money and it was as if a star had lit up in his eyes and I felt a sense of appreciation from him that was amazing. I think in the end I was the one who was blessed by having encountered him. I hope whatever his story is, life improves for him.

Peppermint Bark

12 oz. of high-quality white chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips
5 regular sized candy canes, crushed up
1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract

1. Break up peppermint candy into little pieces. Melt the chocolate according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once melted, add the peppermint extract and stir.
2. Pour the melted chocolate out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and spread out with a spatula or wooden spoon. Sprinkle the peppermint candy chunks on to the chocolate and gently press them in with yours hands.
3. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces and serve or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

George Winston, "Thanksgiving" from his December album:


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Santa Baby

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
George Carlin

Today is for all of us who need to let our spicy bad girls out once in awhile to enjoy themselves. Have fun and enjoy the bling, bling of life.

Open Faced Prosciutto, Ricotta and Red Onion Sandwiches

Ingredients
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced red onions
1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
4 1/2-inch-thick slices crusty bread (each 4x6 inches)
8 thin slices prosciutto
1 cup ricotta cheese
Fresh rosemary sprigs Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sugar. Cook until dark brown and tender, stirring frequently, about 16 minutes. Mix in vinegar and crushed pepper. Cook until mixture is thick, about 1 minute. Season marmalade generously to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange bread on baking sheet. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with salt. Bake until crusty, about 8 minutes.

Overlap 2 prosciutto slices on each toast. Top with 1/4 cup cheese, then marmalade. Garnish with rosemary.

Eartha Kitt, "Santa Baby":

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lucky

Luck is believing you're lucky.
Tennessee Williams

I had a car accident this morning when I swerved to avoid a vehicle heading into my path. Long and short, my car sustained damage when it hit a pole. I think I was lucky, it could have been worse. I'm okay and my car can be fixed. Tomorrow I'll have a rental, be back to work and I'll keep going with the holiday spirit.

I shot this picture in Arizona. It reminds me of a southwestern Picassoesque Rudolph. It's probably like a Rorschach test. Not everyone may see it. But it still is a great version of a Christmas cactus. I really enjoyed the time with my Mom while we went through the Botanical Gardens in Tempe where I found it.

It's raining, cold/damp and I'm cozy inside, wrapped in a warm blanket looking at cookie recipes. A hot cup of chai tea is sitting at my side. Bella is snoozing and Brian is watching some news programs. I'm getting ready to do a cookie bake this weekend with a friend. Of course we have to do a gingerbread cookie, so I found this one:

Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies

5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium until smooth. Add the molasses and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture 1 cup at a time, blending until smooth. The dough should gather into a semifirm mass. (If it's not firm, add another ¼ to ½ cup flour, but not enough to make it crumbly.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Preheat oven to 350° F. On a floured surface, roll each disk to 1/8 inch thick. Use gingerbread-man cutters to make shapes. Transfer them to a large, parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Decorate, if desired. Bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly before transferring to a rack

Yield: Makes 3 dozen medium gingerbread cookies.

Carney and Wendy Wilson, "Hey Santa":


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Foggy

....the fog is rising
Emily Dickinson

Winter in the Central Valley where I live means fog, lots and lots of tulle fog that chills you and clings. It usually arrives around the holiday time. It can make for great pictures, but it makes you pull out the warm sweaters, search out hot drinks and cozy fires.

Barcelona Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

2/3 cup boiling water
2 ounces good-quality dark or bittersweet (60 to 70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 2-inch piece orange rind strip
1/4 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Cocoa powder (optional)

Preparation
Combine 2/3 cup boiling water and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan, stirring until chocolate melts. Add milk and next 4 ingredients (through rind); cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk. Heat 5 minutes or until tiny bubbles form around edge of pan, stirring frequently (do not boil). Discard rind. Pour 1 cup mixture into each of 4 mugs. Spoon 1 tablespoon whipped topping over each serving. Dust with cocoa powder, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Natalie Cole, "The Christmas Song":

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In Night's Quiet

Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

One of the things I love is nighttime. I am more of a night owl then a morning lark. To me night time is a sacred and spiritual time. It is a time of revelation and discovery. A time when a spiritual being may have announced to a young girl, her role in bringing forth a light to help guide this world...

Sting, "Gabriel's Message":


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Holiday

At that instant he saw, in one blaze of light, an image of unutterable conviction, the reason why the artist works and lives and has his being--the reward he seeks--the only reward he really cares about, without which there is nothing. It is to snare the spirits of mankind in nets of magic, to make his life prevail through his creation, to wreak the vision of his life, the rude and painful substance of his own experience, into the congruence of blazing and enchanted images that are themselves the core of life, the essential pattern whence all other things proceed, the kernel of eternity.
Thomas Wolfe

December sees many cultures and religions embracing a celebration of some sorts, most often related to a theme of eternal being and renewal. I also embrace this month as a time of magic, of renewal and my connection to the eternal. I hope to share these things this year with colleagues, family, friends and the occasional persons who read my blog through what I see through the eye of my camera, music and recipes of this season.

Last Sunday I caught this tree in a ghost town. I hope to capture more moments in the coming nights and share them in the spirit of the quote above from Thomas Wolfe.

I made this from "Natural Health to satisfy a sweet tooth I'm having and to use seasonal fruit:

Fresh and Dried Cranberry, Orange, and Walnut Tart

Ingredients
Serves 10

Crust
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or white all-purpose flour (or a mixture of both)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or maple sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
7 tablespoons cold butter or butter substitute, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons cold water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tart Filling
1 cup dried cranberries
1 orange
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
juice of 1 orange
1 cup light brown sugar, maple sugar, or Sucanat
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon orange liquor or orange flower water
Recipe Note: The one problem with cranberries is they need lots of sugar to be palatable. This tart lessens that need by mixing fresh or frozen cranberries with sweeter dried cranberries and walnuts.
Directions
1. To make the crust, place the flour, sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, and orange zest in a food processor; pulse just to combine. Add the butter; pulse until the butter is broken up into pieces the size of baby peas. Drizzle in the water-vanilla mixture, and pulse until large, moist-looking crumbs have formed.

2. Pour the crumbs onto a clean surface and gather them in your hand. If there is any dry flour left, work it into the dough with a few more drops of water. Gently shape the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator; roll out into a 10-inch round, then drape into a 9-inch tart pan. Use your fingers to build up the sides so they're about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to the freezer. Preheat oven to 375*F.

4. To make the filling, cover the dried cranberries with warm water; set aside. Using a citrus zester, remove several strands of zest from the orange; set the zest aside. Peel the orange, section it into eighths, then thinly slice the sections crosswise. When you're ready to start cooking, drain the dried cranberries.

5. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the drained dried cranberries, fresh or frozen cranberries, orange slices, orange juice, and sugar or Sucanat. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the cranberries have popped and released their juices, about 12 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, cloves, and flour; cook for 1 more minute, then stir in the walnuts. Remove from heat.

6. Set the frozen tart shell, still in the tart pan, on a sheet pan. Spoon the tart filling into the shell, then smooth the top. Dot the butter over the filling, and decorate the top with strands of orange zest. Cover lightly with parchment or foil. Bake in the center of the oven until the crust is lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Remove, then spoon orange liquor or orange flower water over the top. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche, if desired.

Nutrition Facts Per serving: 357 calories, 40% fat (16.5 g; 6 g saturated), 55% carbohydrate (51 g), 5% protein (5 g), 4 g fiber, 48 mg calcium, 1.8 mg iron, 102 mg sodium.

Mediaeval Baebes, "I Am Eve":



Saturday, December 1, 2007

Back

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.
Arnold Bennett

Trying to get back into your life after being away from home can be interesting. This trip was about decision making and planning for change. Some of that took place and now it's like coming back and finding the clothes that have always fit you so well for so long, don't anymore.

For the first time in about 3 years I've taken a major break from photography. I took pictures in Arizona, but I felt more like a tourist then a photographer. I'm going through a period of self doubt of should I even be calling myself that...I'm staying with the question for the time being, I figure the answer will present itself when the time is right.

One thing is for sure, I had a ball on the road trip to and from and I'm looking forward to more of these, maybe I'll be a trucker in my next life....

Willie Nelson, "On the Road Again":



Beauty Is...

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