Summertime Pav!

I walked barefoot out to the barn for the first time this year. The grass, dewy and cold, is shaggy. I like it this way. Too manicured and I feel it is all too tamed. We have five acres. I want them to breathe a little.

The dogs watched from the sidelines, held back by only a small sliver of chicken wire in the grand scheme of things. They whine for my return. They bark at my back as I turn away from their needy heads and their soft tongues and their lazy tails. And I walk alongside the fence line. Long grass brushes my shin. Three barn swallows circle. I close my eyes--the sun hits the truck a little too hard in the morning.

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

And when I look down, I see 13 tiny beaks opened up to greet me. To shriek at me. To stare curious and open-mouthed, waiting to see what I bring in my bucket. Twenty-six golden and black eyes are motionless and I meet their gaze as best I can. The hens follow me for 20, 30, 40 feet and then taper off back to the field, back to scratching the dirt, back to hiding in the shade and getting lost in the acreage. 

I put on shoes I keep down at the barn. I fill their water and wipe my hands on my pant leg. I create a cotton well in my shirt and hold the 9 eggs laid that day. I hear the chirps of the barn swallow chicks. I turn the light off. It's like I was never there.

Summer is growing on me. I see the way the world is most itself now. It can breathe freely, it can sigh in the shade, it can sway its lazy tail. And, humbly, it goes on existing while I work. Once I am back at the house, putting the eggs in the fridge and the cut herbs on the counter, it is like I was never there.

Summer Pavlova

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

  • Wedge of a lemon
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup lemon curd (I used Ina's Recipe here)
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 8-10 strawberries, sliced
  • Lemon balm for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 280*F and trace an 8 inch circle on parchment paper
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs on high until soft peaks form
  3. Gradually and slowly, add your sugar and vanilla. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy
  4. Gently fold in cornstarch and salt
  5. Spoon or pipe meringue onto your circle, first with a base, and then piping (or swooping with a spoon) an edge with a well in the middle
  6. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 200*F
  7. Bake an additional 30 minutes. Turn oven off and let cool completely (ideally, overnight)
  8. When cooled, spoon in lemon curd into center well, add whipped cream and strawberries. Serve chilled.
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

Bakewell Cookies: A Renaissance of Who I've Missed

Bakewell Cookies

The last couple weeks have been hard to pinpoint. The weather has been calm and I have not been myself. I have been dreaming; I am a dreamer by nature. I have been quiet. I have been reading. I have been baking and perfecting. I have been alone and I have been cuddled in Nolan's arms on an air mattress in Philadelphia. 

I have been discouraged. I had lost my sense of adventure when it comes to baking. I took a few months off and avoided the kitchen. I think I forgot about the fun it can be. I think I forgot how much it's become a part of me now. I think I forgot how the small motes of flour, when they hit the light, can be one of the most beautiful moments in my otherwise boring day.

I tell myself to relax and I don't take my own advice. I've told myself to wake up early and I ignore the alarm clock and the small dog paws that run on my back. I used to fill the tub up to my chin and then I'd let it drain a minute later. It gave me something to do. Any form of procrastination, if I didn't have to bake. 

But I realize the tender stupidity of that reaction. I've missed the stuck pages of a cookbook and the sink overflowing with whisks and egg shells. I've missed the dogs queuing for their taste. I've missed the purpose baking has given me.

And I thought about all this while I made these cookies. I forgot to take more pictures. I was eager to eat them outside, breaking one into thirds and parceling it into treats. And slowly, happily, I am realizing that that's the moment I missed these last five months: being able to share, to stop, to breathe, to create a moment in time I am most proud of.

Bakewell Cookies

Inspired by Mary Berry's bakewell tart, I've adapted it into a cookie form!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2. Add egg and vanilla and mix together
3. Sift together dry ingredients and gently stir into your butter mixture
4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and pat into a disc. Wrap and chill for 1 hour
5. Preheat oven to 400*F
6. Roll out and cut dough into desired shapes (about 3/4 inch thickness worked best for me)
7. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are just browned

To Decorate: Mix together 2 egg whites and 3 cups confectioner's sugar. Stir with a fork vigorously until you have a stiff glue of icing. Divide, 1/3 in a small bowl and the remaining 2/3 can stay in mixing bowl. Heat 1 teaspoon raspberry jam until just runny. Whisk into the smaller apportionment of icing until it forms ribbons when lifting your fork up. Add just a tad bit of water to the undyed white icing. 

Transfer both to piping bags. The white bag can have pretty much any larger tip, while the raspberry one should have a fine tip. Fill cookie with the white icing, filling in the gaps of icing with a toothpick and dragging royal icing out. Run 4 parallel lines over top of the flooded white and drag up and down to create feathers of pink. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Weekly Edit: Four

As you may have seen on Instagram this week, I am in a sort of Royal Wedding come-down. To be honest, since doing my family tree in a 3-month-free-trial frenzy on Ancestry last year, I have been into a lot of aspects of British life (I can trace my family back to the Norman Conquest). Having had finals during Kate and Will's wedding, this is the first one I felt invested in.  All it did was make me even more ready for my own wedding. We are officially at the 166 day mark.

And now it is Sunday and I am a little late getting to this week's edit. And while it hasn't had as much traction as some food posts, I don't mind. I'm enjoying letting you into another side of me.

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Bon Voyage. 
Without much notice, I have to go to Nashville this week for work. I've never been. Unfortunately, I will be sequestered to my hotel room or the office, with just business dinners to look forward to. I'm already missing the dogs, chickens, and Nolan, but I'm excited at the prospect of room service and perhaps an hour to myself in the pool (...and then even more room service). I'm even more excited to use my Delsey luggage, as it's deceptively roomy. Last time I packed two suits, a travel steamer, two pairs of dress shoes, and usual sleepwear.

But, if I am lucky enough to snag a lunch by myself, I'm hoping I find a vegetarian restaurant, as I've been meat-free for three solid months now.

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Aw. 
As mentioned above, this was the first Royal Wedding I've really gotten to watch and, to an extent, care about. I won't wax poetically about Meghan and Harry, but I love their love and I love how truly happy they both seem. I think after months and months of only reading about the horror of Trump, it's been a nice oasis to see some good in the news.

Snack. 
Since seeing some cute little heart-shaped spongecakes from Emma Thynn, Viscountess Weymouth, I've had it in mind to make my own. Here, I've made some tea cakes with jam and buttercream. The recipe is so easy, I've thought I'd share it here instead of in my blog today.

Ingredients
6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup buttercream
1/2 cup jam of your choice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and line a half-sized baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In your stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs on high for 6 minutes
  3. Add sugar, beat for 2 minutes until light and foamy
  4. Fold in flour and baking powder
  5. Pour onto your prepared sheet
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown
  7. Allow to cool and cut into desired shapes
  8. Pipe buttercream around perimeter of cakes
  9. Spoon middle with jam
  10. Press top cake over buttercream and jam
  11. Enjoy!
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Relieved. 
This is my baby, Murphy. He's the most gentle boy in the entire world, who loves with his whole heart, can find even the smallest corner of your arm to cuddle in, and loves to sit out int the sun for hours and hours and hours. Today, we found ourselves in the emergency vet clinic with Murphy. On a walk, Nolan found a bump on his tail. We remained calm for the dogs, but internally, I was sick to my stomach. 

It turns out that it's a benign tumor that will need removed, but is nothing to worry about. We'll schedule it for the next couple of weeks, and he'll get a teeth cleaning for good measure. I love him more than anything in the entire world, so I am especially relieved today. And, because he was such a good boy, he got some McDonald's on the way home.

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Inspired. 
Since buying our home, I've slowly but surely been leaning towards following more home interior Instagrams and blogs. I also follow a few children's toy companies, because they're always just so...precious. I found this baby room by Dina Bandman to be just so perfectly inviting with just the tiiiiiniest bit of whimsy that I adore (those sheep!). 

Between this and Alice Naylor-Leyland's touch on Stibbington House, I think we know what's inspiring me this year as we have a little more budgeted towards the house compared to last year.

 I'm finishing this post early so I can do my face mask, finish packing, and watch Westworld. If you haven't started it, I highly recommend. I love a series with good world-building. And if you're like me and can't get enough Thandie Newton (a goddess), then I recommend  her TED Talk  to tide you over.

I'm finishing this post early so I can do my face mask, finish packing, and watch Westworld. If you haven't started it, I highly recommend. I love a series with good world-building. And if you're like me and can't get enough Thandie Newton (a goddess), then I recommend her TED Talk to tide you over.

And last but not least...check to see if you vote this week (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas)!

It's Too Hot to Bake: Caramel Banana Tiramisu!

I am fair-weather in the literal sense. My loyalty to the seasons changes, dependent on my comfort and mine alone. Right now, it is muggy. The storm has not broken and I am miserable. My office desk is pushed up, adjacent to the window and the sun makes a glare on my computer screen. And yet, I still wear layers. And yet, I still drink hot tea. And yet, I do not pull the blinds down to avoid the glare. I do not adapt to the world easily. I ask only that it adapts to me.

I thought about my inability to accept the truth, the change, the innate malleability of time and people and seasons. I thought about it just this morning, in fact. And I came to the conclusion that I ignore its responsibility to my life, its stewardship to my own decision-making at all costs. Like pneumonia, like a hangnail, I learn to live with the idea that all efforts to understand and adapt to the seasonality of people fail me. I live with the pain and ignore its presence. Its roots, to my knowledge, to my incessant ignorance, are not that deep.

But I know this is not true. I know there are signs to change all around. My dogs are not puppies, but instead they have white tips to their chins now. I ignore it. I did not recognize myself in a photo earlier this week and the achingly stiff reflection of myself in an asana during yoga. I would ignore a continental drift it it meant a few more minutes with even the idea of a Pangea.

And I thought about Italy this morning. How naive I was. How I thought I would conquer the world, but in reality I was scared to take the bus by myself. I was a young 18. I didn't know much. I never learned the language. I ignored the signs of losing my friend while there. I ached for all the ways in which it was How It Used To Be. I did not understand the power of the mind, how a cavity can feel like headache and glass in your heel can just be the shoes you have on. I let the friendship atrophy and that overshadows all other memories of Italy now.

But there is a Renaissance within me. I want to look back on that time and think about other things, now. The first time I got hungover was on Limoncello. How I lost my contacts in Florence. The wine from the chalice, the wine from the bottle, the wine from the glass of a stranger that got switched at the bar. The time I cried when I saw the David. The time I cried when I missed my family. The sweating windowpane on the overcrowded train to Ostia Antica and the cat that greeted me in the ruins. And the small cafe next to the old Jewish Ghetto that served tiramisu with fruit in it.

And now I remember it well, the flavors of a city I never loved. And how I regret my distractions now more than ever. But I'm rebuilding those memories now in the dessert below.

Caramel Banana Tiramisu

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To be frank, this dessert is easy. It's that way on purpose. Partly because I didn't make it in the traditional route and partly because all the ingredients were either in my pantry or on sale. But that's the beauty of it - it's adaptable. It's your own, so use any dish you want, add a different liquor...hell, even dip it in tea and make the cream spiked with Earl Grey. I'm a blogger, not a cop!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TB vanilla extract, divided (see below)
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 24 ladyfingers
  • 1 cup strong coffee or espresso
  • 1 TB brandy (or even 1/4 teaspoon almond extract with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla from above)
  • Cocoa powder or chocolate sprinkles and a banana, sliced, for decoration

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer, whip heavy cream until peaks form, add 1/2 TB vanilla and sugar, continue beating
  2. Add caramel, mascarpone, and bananas. Beat until incorporated
  3. Chill in refrigerator while prepping ladyfingers
  4. In any dish you may want (I used a 12" pyrex pie dish), assemble your first layer of ladyfingers
  5. Mix brandy or extracts into coffee
  6. Slowly pour coffee over each individual finger (I prefer doing it this way than dipping directly into the coffee so they don't get too soggy, but to each his own)
  7. Take cream mixture out of fridge and cover ladyfinger layer with cream
  8. Repeat with remaining ladyfingers and cream mixture
  9. Top with decoration listed, return to fridge for at least 3 hours prior to serving
Caramel Banana Tiramisu
Caramel Banana Tiramisu
Caramel Banana Tiramisu

Weekly Edit: Three

I'm currently writing this newsletter with the door open, my third cup of coffee in hand, and the sound of the dogs panting on the deck. I just texted Nolan than I want to take a vacation (I text this just about weekly, though). It's officially been in the high 70's for the better part of the week, which means I am itching to (finally) start my garden project.

But I'm sequestered to my office for 8 hours for work, so I might as well stay busy with some (light) online shopping and some (not-so-light) daydreaming. 

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Adore. 
I am a huge Hugo Guinness fan and I stumbled upon his newest prints, an author-inspired series of block prints. It runs the gamut of classic writers, from Poe to Balzac to Twain. My personal favorite right now is the Baudelaire print (shown above), but that may be because I just finished the second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.

And while I haven't read Les Fleurs du Mal since freshman year, but maybe with a little help from Rosetta Stone* I can read it in its original text.

*I am currently on currently on Level 1, Unit 1, Lesson 3 and just learned the difference between the French pronounciation of "o" and "-eau", so maybe this is a goal pour l'année prochaine.

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Sip.
And while we're on the topic of home decorations, how absolutely lovely is this china pattern from a set my mother gave me this week? It's a full service set that she picked up in North Carolina. It's a brand called Lynn's and the pattern is Bennington. I love its bit of gold and its overall simplicity. Our good china is a little busy, filled with pheasants and larks and maroons and grapevines. So I'm hoping to make this more of an everyday sort of set, even if it's just for a picnic in our soon-to-be garden. But, for now, I've been enjoying a bit of Salada in these cups, because I think it's all about mixing high and low, right?

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Adopt. 
Nolan and I both follow all the local animal shelters in our area. While we're perfectly happy with our three (well, two out of the three we have, as Milo is having some behavioral problems right now!), we can't help but look at all the beautiful dogs still in need of a home. 

I'd like to introduce you to Sugar and Spice, two 6-year-old pug sisters who are currently up for adoption at the Washington Area Humane Society. I know any family would be blessed to have these two gorgeous bubs!

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Sweat. 
I'm 26, so I'm on the verge of losing my metabolism. And considering the amount of junk food I eat and how many naps I take, I'm probably never going to have it back once I lose it. Which is why I'm now a regular at the local YMCA. The horror.

Luckily, there are classes included in the membership, including yoga 4x a week (which means I can finally justify buying these, especially since they're on sale). 

And while the smell of the pool tempts me every time I walk into the gym, I don't think anyone wants to see me doggy-paddle for 20 minutes to avoid the treadmill. 

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Cleanse. 
I'm the first to admit that I do not have the best skin. "Combination" is what I think you'd call it. Difficult is what I call it. 

I regularly see a dermatologist, so I'm lucky in that regard. But occasionally I'll have a stubborn problem that won't go away. In desperation and on a whim, I picked this mask up at the local dollar store. I'm very impressed with it so far and have used it three times this week (okay, mostly just for a reason to have 15 minutes away from the dogs and to sit in the tub a bit longer). 

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Mom. 
When my parents dropped off the china this week, they also brought along a photo album. I'm so glad they did. It's full of unposed, unpretentious images of love between my mom and me. And while the decades may have changed us (including the big hair, big glasses, and high-waisted shorts), I don't believe any of that love has diminished over the last 25 years between us. If anything, it has transformed into my mother being my best friend, the person I call for everything, and the strongest person I know.

And last but not least...check to see if you vote this week!