long time, no see…

Yes, school has been keeping me busy. And it will continue to do so, at least until the semester ends in April. Hopefully I’ll have found a part-time job by then, to continue to keep me busy. But for the most part, I don’t have the IMG_20140305_112211brain-space left for writing anything thoughtful on here, because I’m juggling classwork, studying, and writing/researching papers. And since I’m taking two history courses and a British Lit course, this semester, a lot of my classwork involves reading, reading, reading.

Related to that thought, you’ll be thrilled to know that I got a smartphone. Why, yes, those two actually are related. I won’t go into the details that caused me to upgrade to a phone that allows me to keep track of phone calls AND Facebook messages, but it definitely happened. This allowed me to join the world of Instagram, because now I have a phone number to sign up with. I had tried before, in order to follow some of my friends’ accounts, but it would never let me without that phone number.IMG_20140302_213726 Sigh.

And with the sudden ability to upload randomly interesting photos to Instagram, I’ve found myself sharing pictures of the books I’m reading for school. It makes me look studious.  : )  But it also gives me practice at taking a different type of photo, those snapshots that you can only take with your phone. And plenty of opportunity to yell at my phone for not focusing when I “tell it to”.

While most of my reading for British Literature is fun and interesting, because we’re concentrating on sea monsters, mermaids, and sailors, it’s not all joy. Somehow, the water theme was related to Helen Oyeyemi’s Opposite HouseIMG_20140303_090135. For those of you who have never heard of it, it was written in the genre of magical realism, and if you heard me complain last semester, I abhor magical realism. Google it, I won’t take the time to explain. While the author writes beautifully in spots, it just mostly doesn’t make sense. Sure, you read into it and analyze, but whatever happened to just writing a good straight-up story? Thankfully, we finished with it today, and will be moving on to some more normal BritLit.

On the other hand, The Eternal Paddy was quite interesting reading for Irish History, though it was a heavier read and took much longer. The author did a thorough study of Britain’s views on Ireland, as viewed from the newspapers, in the period of 1798 (right IMG_20140304_142544before Union) and 1882 (right before the Home Rule bills began). Seeing how Ireland was depicted in cartoons, as well as what the journalists wrote… it was rather fascinating. But now, we’ll be on to reading The Burning of Bridget Cleary over spring break, and while it’s a true story, I have no idea whether it will be easy reading or not.

But the main thing on my plate right now is a history project for HIST 299 (History Methodology), and I spend my spare time reading more IMG_20140227_175206studies on immigration in the South and newspapers on my hometown. That will continue to occupy my spare time, when I’m not studying for something else, until partway into April.

For the moment, I’m counting down the hours until I hit the road to go north… to see cousins in MD and friends in PA. Time to meet newborns and month old babies! Yes, and see my cousins and my best friends and anyone else I can fit in, during 6-7 days. I’m just about ready for a road trip… and don’t worry, I’m bring my real camera with me, along with my new phone.  : )  As much fun as my smartphone is, I fully acknowledge how much more awesome my Nikon is. I even took a bunch of photos of flowers, outside in a near windstorm this afternoon. Maybe I’ll get around to posting them after I get to PA.

I hope you have a marvelous week, just as I intend to!

care for some snow?

Yes, we really did get snow… despite this being South Carolina. Real snow! Alright, not as deep as I’ve seen in Pennsylvania, or even when I was little, living in New York. But that’s the great thing about living in the South, everyone gets excited about the snow, whether it’s happy excitement or frustrated excitement (you know, if you work in a store, and have to deal with people that fight over bread).DSC_0076

DSC_0073With the advent of real snow, I got my Tuesday classes off… for the splendid reason that my professor’s child’s daycare closed. So, while Clemson University held out until the bitter end, my Frisbee class also cancelled, and I started my snow week early. Because when the university finally DID cancelled, it ended up shutting down for two more days. Of course, on Tuesday, the snow continued all day, but it wasn’t quite cold enough to stick much, so the roads were fine.DSC_0078

photo 1

Credit: Amit Bendigeri

But on Wednesday! By the time I woke up, the roads were covered in slush, and though driving wasn’t too difficult, you still had to be cautious. Other areas were not so lucky, since they had ice thrown into the mix. Before too long, I checked to see if any of my friends wanted to go sledding, and we hit Kite Hill during the late afternoon. The four of us had never seen Kite Hill when all the college students and local families were out in force, before. Every contraption known to man that could possibly be used for sliding, was on the hill. Boxes, cookie trays, laundry baskets, surfboards, kayaks, and then a variety of actual sleds. Even when it began to sleet, and it really stung our faces, we managed to have fun.DSC_0125

DSC_0129DSC_0134On Thursday, I realized that I needed to build a snowman before the snow melted completely, so I headed into the backyard to make use of a shady spot. The weather was already headed into the 50’s, so I built my snowfellow as quickly as possible. The snow was much icier, so I had to pack him together carefully, but I had my carrot nose ready, and I found some acorns for his eyes. It’s been many long years since I built a snowman, but I’ve never put a face like that onto one. I rounded out that sunny, snow-melting day by watching a movie with a good friend, which was great. : )DSC_0135

DSC_0137And then, school began once more, and we had to get back to reality. Just like I will tomorrow, opening upon a full week of school, needing to study for tests and quizzes, and figuring out what primary sources I need for an upcoming project. I hope you’ve stayed warm and safe, no matter what kind of winter weather has been thrown at you recently!DSC_0149DSC_0153

happy valentine’s day!

If you want to hear my thoughts/ranting/commentary on the subject of Valentine’s Day and dating, then I’m afraid that you’ll have to go look at some of my posts from previous years. It’s all been said before, so I won’t say it again. : )DSC_0006

DSC_0003This year, to the great delight of my mother and I, we received early Valentine’s Day flowers. She had a multi-colored bouquet of roses from my dad, delivered right to her office. I’m sure you can understand why they made such a hit.DSC_0084

DSC_0087The next day, I came upstairs to find another bouquet of flowers, this one addressed to me. The red roses and carnations had been sent my youngest brother, who’s overseas in the Air Force. He had decided that Mom shouldn’t get to have ALL the Valentine’s Day fun, so he sent some flowers to brighten up my week. It certainly worked.DSC_0041

DSC_0044I hope you have a lovely holiday with your loved ones, and if you’re getting stormed in, somewhere, please stay warm and safe!DSC_0097DSC_0106

snow day…

Yes, we did get snow during the last week, but to anyone who’s lived up north, I understand completely that it’s barely worth mentioning. : ) But despite being born in New York state and spending 5 years of my life in Pennsylvania, in my twenties, I still haven’t gotten over the excitement of seeing snow. Come to think of it, I don’t think my parents have, either… but at least they can take joy in knowing that while we live in the South, they never have to shovel it again.DSC_0001

Now that I’m attending Clemson University, I really can’t escape the excitement, or rather, lunacy that occurs when there’s even a prediction of the white stuff. When snow flakes actually began to fall, I was in the parking lot, and there were barely any visible. But I called my mom to alert her that the craziness was about to begin. By the time I got home, where I was safe from all the Southerners that don’t know how to drive in “winter” weather, I could tell that the insanity had already begun.DSC_0014

But what more proof do you need that it WILL begin, than the subject of conversation in your first two classes? Everyone had their phones (or Kindle, in my case) out, checking their weather apps, and debating over who had the most accurate weather report. And there was a universal sense of unfairness at the fact that not only was USC already experiencing snow, but school had been cancelled in advance of the snow day… basically on the prediction. DSC_0018

Not sure what USC’s policy is on that, but Clemson never closes on a prediction. All other schools can close, but they wait until either the governor orders it, or there’s actually snow/sleet/ice on the ground. I’ve lived here most of my life, I assure you, I know how it works. So, my friends in Iowa wail with frustration that we get out of school, my professors pray for the cancellation so they can get out of their afternoon lecture, and the accident reports begin on the news. DSC_0020

Because it doesn’t matter how LITTLE snow is out there, Southerners don’t know how to drive in it, and the number of accidents escalates. And that doesn’t even count the fender-benders that probably occur in the university parking lots. I am so thankful I escaped before that began. For when the school did close early, everyone hurried to get out of there, and you can imagine what probably followed. And then we got the following day off school, too, so it was a win all around! (Except for my German class getting behind)DSC_0012

And while I made no snowmen, nor went sledding (Who was there to go with? Playing in the snow by yourself is NOT fun.), I heard of plenty of others who did, and enjoyed their time in the cold stuff. If you haven’t heard it before, then make a note of it… Southerners have more fun in the snow, because we don’t have to shovel it, and it’s SO much more exciting. If you live up north, I hope you experience a Southern “snow”, someday, in order to see the proof.

baking baby bundts…

Oh, come on, I couldn’t resist the alliterative opportunity in that title. But since my mom made these not long after Christmas, it was about time I posted some of the pictures.DSC_0999

DSC_1002Some time ago, my mom saw a particular recipe in Southern Living, called Rum-Glazed Sweet Potato Cakes, and not only did they sound delicious, she loved the little bundt shapes they came in. So, somebody got her the bundt pans for Christmas. And since we always have sweet potato for Christmas dinner, she was able to put some aside for the cakes, for a later date.DSC_1009

DSC_1023That day came a day or two after Christmas, since my brothers were still in town and my aunt and uncle were coming to visit. I don’t have the recipe here for you, just the pictures. But I can tell you that pureed sweet potato was added to the mixture, and there were golden raisins soaked in rum, also. After the raisins were removed from the rum, the leftover rum was used to make the glaze.DSC_1029

DSC_1031Of course, if you’ve been keeping up with this blog, then you’ll know my family has made their own vanilla, some time back. We have several varieties, made from two different types of vanilla beans and three types of alcohol (bourbon, rum, vodka). So, our recipes are all even yummier than ever, with homemade vanilla to add to the mixtures. Obviously, since these were rum-glazed cakes, we used the Tahitian Rum Vanilla.DSC_1036

DSC_1037Since we’re familiar with making pumpkin bread or banana bread, most of our family were expecting these cakes to be heavier, but they were really quite light and moist. They were a big hit with the entire family. Deliciousness!DSC_1046

DSC_1048P.S. Remembering to check back, the recipe came out of the November 2012 issue of Southern Living.DSC_1050DSC_1058

pasta doings…

Pasta is in the works, once more. Two times in a week is exciting! Well, at least to us “kids” that don’t see pasta get made very often, and don’t remember it much from when we were little.DSC_1076

DSC_1083DSC_1079But we had leftover chicken cacciatore from earlier this week, so more homemade Italian bread and pasta was made to go with it, and we have some friends coming over to share it.DSC_1092

DSC_1093DSC_1095This time around, Jon and I both gave a hand in holding the dough and occasionally threading it through the machine, but mostly, Dad’s in charge of this process. But when you have a loooonnng piece of flat dough that you’ve just run through the machine, you don’t always have a free hand to switch to the pasta cutter machine. And no, I don’t know if there’s a snazzier name for the attachments.DSC_1089

DSC_1085DSC_1100When we were growing up, my parents cranked the noodles through by hand, with a different attachment, but Kitchen Aid makes a great set to attach right to the mixer. But the pasta drying tree is from the old set. We either need a taller one or another one, though, because we ran out of space to hang the pasta, this time around!DSC_1113

DSC_1115DSC_1125So, we cooked up all the fresh pasta, and it was awesome! In case you’re wondering, we make egg noodles, but I don’t really know much about the recipe used to make it. If anyone wants to know more about it, though, I can find out.DSC_1137DSC_1141DSC_1142

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This is the time of year for…DSC_0794

…cookies and other treats to share with friends and family.DSC_0785

DSC_0801…Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree, full of memories of years past.DSC_0808

DSC_0816…watching someone else decorate the Christmas tree, because you have too many papers to write to be able to help. : )DSC_0834

DSC_0947…cozy dinners of toasted open-face grilled cheese sandwiches on Christmas Eve.DSC_0865

…presents under the tree, and tired, not-morning-people that are still happy to be awake, even without little kids to squeal over boxes and wrapping paper. DSC_0872

DSC_0880…debates over cinnamon rolls and pancakes that are solved by having both for Christmas morning breakfast.DSC_0900

DSC_0907…Christmas presents that might just be bigger than you are.DSC_0917

…gifts of books to catch you up on all the books that you haven’t bought this year.DSC_0929

…delicious Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings!DSC_0987

…remembering Who came on that long ago night, was laid in a manger, and how the wise men found Him by the light of the star of Bethlehem.DSC_0845

seeing the only great light…

A friend of mine posted pictures on FB of her toddler, after his daddy carved the Halloween jack-o-lantern. He was fascinated by the candle they had lit and put inside of Jack Pumpkin. Understandably so, I think this must be where every child learns to think their parents are superpeople. And then, not long after that, he gets to see the magic of the Christmas tree, glowing with its beautiful lights! We can’t know what is actually running through their heads, but I’m sure part of it is “That’s so awesome!” and also, “My parents are awesome!”DSC_0643

I think of this whenever it’s late at night, and the only lights lit are the Christmas lights. Out of the darkness, the colored lights from our big tree, and the white lights from our little trees are shining in the darkness, and it’s a beautiful sight. I now know that my parents did not invent Christmas lights for my personal benefit, as I might have thought when I was little, but I am still fascinated by the magical quality of the lights.DSC_0649

DSC_0648Some people may think that Christmas trees are pagan or that they’re all about encouraging children to think of what they can GET out of Christmas. Maybe they are, and maybe some families don’t teach their children any better. But no matter how old I am, just as when I was a child, I am amazed and fascinated by the small beauties of Christmas, like the lights on the tree.DSC_0647

DSC_0646And you can be assured, that when I was old enough to understand, I learned about the truly amazing reason why we celebrate Christmas, and why our joy at Christmastime should be in giving to others. Because what more wonderful and amazing gift could have been given to this world, but God in the form of the man, Jesus Christ? As some people might put it, in this day and age, “Best. Christmas. Present. Ever!”DSC_0645

Or as the Bible puts it, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” –Matthew 4:16 (which was Matthew’s quote from Isaiah 9:2)DSC_0644

P.S. Assuming the video works, I hadn’t actually intended to say anything while filming, but then I forgot I had the video camera on, and commented on the tree being pretty to my aunt. I was afraid it would be SO loud on the video… now I can’t understand how that’s even my voice. I must’ve been whispering AND getting over my respiratory infection, still.  : )

cookies galore…

With Christmas vacation officially begun, I had a license to goof off. But there are other things still need going, like making Christmas baking, so my mom mixed up the dough, over the weekend, and got started. By the time she had made several types of dough, I had joined in the process, if only getting cookies in and out of the oven, for a time.DSC_0655

DSC_0673When the pecan tassies had finally come out of the oven (they take the longest to bake, it was time to make the press cookies. A week or so before this, I had attempted a batch, and for the first time since Australia, it was a failure. You see, press cookie dough has to be pretty stiff, but if it’s too dry, it won’t press into the shapes you want, or stick to the tray. I’m still not certain what happened, because my measurements were right. And for the record, I am a cookie pro, and this had only ever happened once before.DSC_0663

DSC_0667DSC_0678I finally decided that it might have been like when I was in Australia, it was too warm and humid at the time. Usually, when we make Christmas cookies, it’s rather cool out and the heat is on, just enough to keep things comfortable. That day, it was unseasonably warm, too warm to have the heat on, but not quite warm enough to have the windows open. And it was rather humid. So, with no way of proving it, I blame the weather.DSC_0701

DSC_0679DSC_0709This time, all the dough came out perfectly (it wouldn’t dare do anything else, when my mom’s in charge), and I took charge of most of the pressing, for as long as my hands held out. While not quite a science, you have to keep twisting the handle on the press, press out the dough, and then… well, sort of jerk the press to the side, in order to get the dough to “cut” off from the rest. A couple seconds too little, and you don’t have enough cookie to stick to the tray, a second too much, and you have a fat cookie with a print on it, but not an actual shape to the dough.DSC_0686DSC_0714

DSC_0690I whipped out several trays worth, and then my hands got tired. I blamed it on all the writing from my exams, but it occurs to me that I twist with my left hand (and have a bruise on my palm to prove it), so I guess that didn’t really make sense, after all. Mom and Matt each took a turn, and then I finished off. But people can say what they like about modern cookie presses, with buttons to push. I wouldn’t give up using our Mirro presses for anything, and I even have several I’ve picked up at yard sales and antique shops, waiting for when my brothers are ready to bake their own, in their own homes.  : )DSC_0718

DSC_0731We finished the peanut blossoms earlier in the day, so that the Hershey kisses would cool off enough to be put away. When you first put them on a smoking hot cookie, they melt, so if you try and store them immediately, you’ll get chocolate smeared all over everything.DSC_0733

DSC_0736The following day, for similar reasons, we began icing the cookies in the early afternoon. You want to give them several hours for the icing to dry, so you can store them without getting the icing everywhere. I remember some years when we waited until too late, and I did storage duty, somewhere around midnight, because the cookies hadn’t been dry earlier.DSC_0744

DSC_0747While we continued to debate whether the icing was too runny (me) or too thick (my dad), we managed to ice them all, with all four of us working away at them. The press cookies are dipped into a bowl of thinner icing, and then you put sprinkles on them, while you use thicker icing to spread on the cut-out cookies, using a knife.DSC_0752

DSC_0758Looking at that table, it looks like a lot of cookies, but I think this is a smaller batch than some years. But maybe not. They really look like a lot of cookies, once you put them away in the cans and boxes.DSC_0762

DSC_0764The snowballs (Russian tea cookies) and Scandinavian cookies were put away last. If you’re not familiar with the look of the nutty Scandinavian cookies, with the hole in the middle, when we fill up a tray with those, we load them with raspberry or blackberry jam. So yummy!DSC_0742

DSC_0771I hope you are enjoying the Christmas activities in your own home, with your family, whether it involves baking or not. I will probably say this again, but in case you forget to check back, I do with you and your family a most wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year!DSC_0776DSC_0778