Sophisticated Sugar: Shortbread Cookies

ShortbreadCookies

Me: Hey, sweetie, I made Shortbread Cookies!

Husband: Seriously – I love Shortbread Cookies. I ate them all the time in Russia.

Tries one . . . then smiles half-heartedly.

Husband: Thanks, but these are not quite right.

 . . . Several weeks later . . .

Me: Taste this recipe. Are these Shortbread Cookies any better?

Husband: No, not really.

. . . Several more weeks – and many more attempts . . .

Me: Okay. Try this one.

He takes a bite, then a second, and . . .

Husband: These are perfect!

 

And so, I can finally present to you crisp, melt in your mouth – drum roll please – 

Shortbread Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
Zest of one Orange
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth. Add orange zest and beat. Add flour and beat until just combined. If the mixture is crumbly, do not worry, it will stick together when you shape the dough into balls with your hands.

Using a cookie scoop or spoons, scoop a small amount into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball. Place on a non-greased cookie sheet. Using the flat underside of a cup, press down on the cookies to flatten. If the cup begins to stick, dip in flour after every other cookie.

Bake for 13-15 minutes. Cookies will still be pale. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

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The Soft Feel of a Child’s Hand

Photo of child's hand holding mother's hand

Image Sourced from CookEd

The soft feel of a small hand inside my own is one of my favorite feelings of all. Those tiny fingers, held by mine, depend on me to guide. Depend on me to protect.

However, that’s not all. That small hand depends on me for love. The gentle way my child holds my hand is proof that my child needs nurturing. My little one needs to see me expressing love for them to understand what love is and how love feels.

In their own small way, my child loves me back. His or her love is not perfect right now. It is often a selfish love, for they love me because of what I do for them. However, it is the beginning of a better, more mature love. So it is a necessary step towards becoming their best self. Moreover, while it is a young, undeveloped love, it is none the less a sincere love.

Thus, I love my child and I become a better person. My child sees my love and tries their best to love me back, and grows into a mature adult. Both our loves, different in degrees and styles, are necessary.

Sophisticated Sugar: Zucchini Bread Muffins

ZucchiniBreadMuffins

At this time of year, when everyone’s garden is full of Zucchini this is a fantastic recipe to use! It’s also a fun way of sneaking vegetables into your kid’s diet. They’ll never know they’re eating zucchini, you can’t taste it at all. This muffin is soft, sweet and addicting . . . so watch out.

Zucchini Bread Muffins

3 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup White Sugar
1 cup Oil
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 cups Flour
2 cups peeled, seeded and shredded Zucchini

Beat the eggs and then add sugar and oil. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix. Starting and ending with flour, alternate between adding zucchini and flour to mixture. Beat on low for the softest muffins.

Grease muffin tins and pour batter in. Cook at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes. (Not at 350 degrees! I’ve made that mistake many times.) Allow to cool before removing from muffin tin. Makes 24 muffins.

You can make Zucchini Bread. Just grease and flour two bread tins and bake for one hour at 325 degrees.

***Note: You can always peel, seed, and shred your Zucchini in advance, place two cups worth into a zip-loc bag and freeze for up to a year. Any time you want muffins, just pull out a  bag, defrost, and bake away. The batter will be more runny when using frozen zucchini, but after baking, the muffins will be just the same as if you used fresh. This is a fantastic use for all that home garden zucchini that doesn’t stop coming!

My Black Hole

Image Sourced from Nasa

What can I say – I deal with depression.

Deal with. Struggle with. Suffer from. Any phrase works. Of course, they all fall short too. I deal with depression like one would deal with a black hole; or like one would struggle with a black hole; or suffer from a black hole.

Most of the science involving black holes is a bit above my head, but there is one aspect I get. Black holes suck up everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Nothing escapes, not even light. Hence the name – BLACK hole.

But, do you want to know a secret? Scientists were wrong. New findings show that some things do escape a black hole. Apparently some light and particles get flying so fast around the black hole, as they’re being sucked in, that they actually get flung out and away – free of the black hole’s grip. Shocking.

Some light gets out.

Some hope breaks free.

Thank the stars above. Because as I continue to deal with my own black hole those small shards of light are sometimes all that keeps me going. When life gets the darkest, I just focus on the knowledge that it won’t always be like this – the blackness won’t continue on forever. Light gets away. And tomorrow will be a better day.

The light comes back.

The darkness lifts.

 

September 11, 2001

Image Sourced from USA Today

My experience was not so different than yours, I would guess. I can remember my father calling from work, asking if we had turned on the TV today. His voice was steady, but worried. Very worried.

I can remember the words slipping across the bottom of the TV as news anchors talked rapidly. ‘US Under Attack’, it read. Is this for real? Could we actually be under attack? The thought of enemies coming here, onto our land, to kill us was strange and hard for me to wrap my thoughts around.

My father came home from work early that day. When the news reporters started filming people jumping out of the towers to avoid burning to death, my parents turned the TV off. It has too hard to watch, too sad.

Then came the flags. Up and down the streets they stood. Tall, brave and strong. We are America, they said to me, We have been through much, but we are still the United States.

I was sad again when they took the flags down, and I think back to those days often. I think back to fields and front yards burning a brilliant red, white, and blue. We are unique individuals, all of us, and as different as the colors red, white, and blue are themselves. But the beauty is that through our uniqueness we build each other up. We continued the legacy of our flag. We are different, but sewn together in an inspiring display of courage and strength. It is how we remain the United States. After all, the old adage still remains true.

United we Stand.

The Mountain’s Reflection

Displaced black bear cub finds new home

Image Sourced from Katu

Story Inspired by Actual Events

Swinging his head first right and then left, the small bear cub shifted his weight from one paw to the other.

This was not home.

He could not smell the light, airy fragrance of flowers or the sweet, call of the scent of berries. The smells here were harsh and stung his nose. Instead of dark brown dirt and supple grass beneath his paws this ground was a uniform grey and was hard. Try as he might, his claws could not make so much as a dent in the ground.

He did not even recognize the sights here. Instead of fields and forests, there were red, yellow and green lights which flashed above his head. Large machines thundered by him. Inside were those strange creatures his mama bear warned him about countless times – humans.

What would happen to him here? He was too young to be without his mama bear. He couldn’t hunt for his own food yet, and without her near him at night he’d freeze.

Taking a few steps backward, the bear cub bumped into something cold. Spinning around, he stared up at the tall edifice before him. It stretched to the sky like a mountain did, but this – whatever it was – went straight up. He placed a tentative paw against it. The cold seeped straight through his thick fur and chilled his skin. Stretching out his claws in the hopes of gaining some perch, the young bear scratched against the surface of the tall structure.

His claws against stone sounded low, while this caused a high pitched wail to fill the air. Howling against the noise, the bear cub pulled away.

This was wrong. Where was home? His stomach growled, and he felt a chill settle along his back. How had he gotten here in the first place? He could remember seeing the lights blinking from a distance and had tried to get closer. But he couldn’t remember exactly when the mountain had ended and the hard, non-living ground had begun. Worse, he couldn’t figure out how to get back.

A glint of sky blue and white capped mountain twinkled to his right. Turning, he could just barely see the top of his mountain home. His heart speed up as he broke into a full run. He ignored the lights and harsh noises as he barreled towards the mountain. He drew close, then the mountain fell out of view as it passed momentarily behind a particularly large machine which shook the ground as it passed.

The little cub ignored the hideous sight. He was almost home. Never again would he wander away from mama bear. This place was worse then she’d described. But, as the large machine rumbled away, bear slowed to a stop. His mountain was gone. Instead, only tall buildings stood before him.

How? Where? No, the mountain had been just here. It couldn’t just up and walk away. Frantic, the bear cub swung his head right and left. Then, there was the mountain. To his left, and not that far. Sprinting hard, he charged. In his hears he could hear screams from a group of humans as he passed, but he ignored them. Home was just right . . .

But as he drew close, the beautiful mountain shifted, then warped into a blue nothingness. Where he had been so sure his mountain was, now stood only a row of glass buildings. Stamping his paws in frustration, he blinked several times.

Then the fur along his neck and back stood up. His ears swiveled quickly around him. He’d been hearing the foot falls of humans all afternoon long, but these were different. They were purposeful, and they moved directly towards him.

The young bear cub whirled around to see three humans moving slowly towards him. Two looked alike in plain light brown cloth, short cropped hair and large red and white something’s on their feet. The third also wore the same light brown cloth around his body, but his hair was black and hung long and straight, reaching just past his shoulders. His skin was slightly darker than the other two and instead of the bulky red and white, his feet were covered with a soft dark brown cloth. Around his neck was a long, sky blue feather tied to a small bone. Bird bone, the bear cub guessed.

The first two walked quickly towards the bear cub. But, mama bear always said to run from humans. They aren’t safe. Oh, why did he ever come here to begin with?

The bear cub turned to run, but a voice flowed across a soft breeze. He could not understand the words, but a small amount of the fear inside him calmed. He turned back towards the humans. The third one had one hand out towards the bear cub. The other hand was wrapped around the feather and bone at his neck.

The first two remained still, watching the cub, as the third slowly walked forward. The soft dark brown cloth around his feet silenced his footsteps until the noise was like the gentle padding mama bear’s paws made against the forest floor.

Again the man spoke, his hand still out stretched. The bear cub was unsure why he should feel comfortable around this human, but before he knew it the man’s outstretched hand was resting against his forehead.

“Peace, little bear,” the man’s voice shifted on the wind and rang clear in the cub’s ears. “We are here to help. Is your mama bear around?”

The bear cub glanced nervously towards the first two humans. They stood, not far away, arms crossed.

The human before him didn’t look back as he spoke, “Don’t worry. They can’t hear what we say. Is your mama bear with you?”

“No,” the cub sputtered. “She said never to . . . but I did . . . the lights, it was all so different, so exciting . . .” he felt the tears form along the bottom of his eye lids. “And then the mountain was gone. I thought I saw it, and I tried to get to it, but I couldn’t. Is it gone forever?”

“Oh, no, little bear. What you were seeing was not the actual mountain, but the reflection of the mountain against the glass of the buildings. Think of it like the reflection of the trees behind you when you stare into the lake looking for fish.”

“Mama bear always says you must focus to see past the fake trees on the water. If you don’t , you’ll never see the fish.”

“Your mama bear is wise. The same is true in our human world. We must look hard around us always, or all we’ll see is the reflection of the world we hope to find, not the real thing.”

The small bear looked around him, “Is this world not real?”

“Oh it’s real. Just as the water and the fish are real. The problem is in what we see, not what is there. There is good to be had here, just as there is good to be hand in the water in your lakes. But if you don’t learn to see a reflection for what it is, one will go hungry always searching for what they need, never knowing it is within their reach.”

“You don’t have any fish with you, do you?” The young bear asked, his stomach growling once more.

The human laughed, and the sound was deep and calming in the cub’s ears. “No,” he said, “Unfortunately not. But come with me. We will take you back home to your lakes and your wise mama bear. I’m sure she’s worried about you.”

The man stood and the bear cub followed him towards one of the big human machines. It was not long before he was back up in the mountains where the land was familiar.

After climbing out of the human machine, the man placed his hand on the bear cub’s forehead once more. “Can you find your way from here?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” the bear felt an excitement rising in his chest, “I can smell my mama and I know the way to our cave.”

“Good,” the human smiled. “Remember, do not let the reflections trick you.”

“I’ll remember,” the cub looked up at the man, “Good is to be had anywhere. The trick is in being able to see your surroundings for what they truly are.”

 

 

My Life Today – My Life Tomorrow

Image Sourced From Digital Grin

Actions are powerful things. They clearly show to us who we are – what we see as important. Our actions stand as a confirmation of what we believe. For good or for bad, our actions tell the story of what we treasure and who we have become thus far.

Actions are powerful for a second reason as well. Because actions not only show us who we are, actions are how we change who we are. Whether it is work, being with family, spending time alone, or serving the community what we are repeatedly doing is shaping who we be tomorrow. There is nothing we do that does not affect who we are becoming.

By looking at what I do, I understand who I am. By consistently altering what I do, I can predictably alter who I will be.