Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

There's life in the old garden yet, even though we've torn down our annuals and cut back our perennials. Our bronze fennel and our yarrow, in particular, continues to put forth new growth.

One of my favorite plants for fall color is the oak leaf hydrangea. The leaves turn varying shades of red, from light pink to deep maroon. In the spring, too, the leaves are beautiful: light pink and pale green. This sprawling plant grows wonderfully in shade and is at the top of my list for our eventual home.

There's new life in the house, too. Chilly fall nights mean that little mice sneak in, looking for a warm place to make a nest. I've never heard or seen a mouse, or evidence thereof, but recently Bosewichte, who spends most of his time sleeping, was playing aggressively with a stuffed mouse. He was having such a high time that I stopped to take a closer look. The mouse was real. I didn't want the mouse to get hurt, or Bosewichte to get bit, so I quickly covered it with a glass.

He looked a little battered, but I couldn't see any obvious injuries. I went to get something to slide under the glass, and meanwhile, the sharks circled.

They've never had such a lively toy!

After some close inspections...

...and a few gentle taps...

...I was able to slide a piece of paper under the glass and take the little guy outside.

Another fun surprise this week...a stranger on my favorite knitting site, Ravelry, read about my desire for scrapbooking odds and ends and sent me a gigantic box full of goodies. Opening it, I had my own "double rainbow" moment (in case you missed it on youtube: Double Rainbow):

Each one of those big clear squares was chock-full of papers, ribbons, paper tags, brads, embellishments, stickers...for every occasion.

My pictures won't do them justice, since I hurriedly took shots of things stacked in piles as I was incorporating them into my craft room, but here are the stickers...piles and piles...letters, felt, cardboard...plastic...glittered...of all shapes and sizes, for all sorts of occasions.

A stack of craft paper at nearly 1 1/2 inches thick, and nice craft paper...embellished, scalloped, embossed...much nicer than I find at my local Jo Ann's.

I can never have enough craft paper.

Huge foam rubber stamps - the alphabet and numbers, plus giant flourishes for big projects...even a few rubber stamps!

And the ribbons! I love ribbons. Here are crepe paper ribbons, and felt...velvet...lace...fabric...piles and piles of ribbons in every color.

The next stack contains what my grandparents would've called geegaws: odds and ends for embellishing cards, like fabulous metal brads, pearls, rhinestones, little felt and cloth flowers, pre-cut paper tags, buttons, and many more ribbons.

Binders and cardboard books, just waiting to be decorated.

Blank storage packs, waiting for decoration...

I was totally overwhelmed by her generosity.

It made me remember one of my New Year's Resolutions from last plan a Random Act of Kindness for each month. I did a few but then got sidetracked. Now I'm inspired to begin again.

I recently made an apple cinnamon coffee cake recipe that I want to share. The bread was sweet and the apples were spicy, but while eating it, I felt like it needed a little something else. I would recommend my usual...taking some cream cheese, adding some fall spices and powdered sugar, and spreading it on top of the dough before adding the apples. A glaze wouldn't hurt, either. Or, if you're trying to cut back on the sugar, try it as-is!

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake Ring
Joy the Baker



2 1/4 teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water, about 105 to 155 degrees F.

big pinch of sugar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup warm whole milk, 105 to 115 degrees F


3 large apples, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

pinch of salt


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

pinch of cardamom

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

There are a few steps here, but it's worth it in the end. First, mix together your yeast, warm water, and pinch of sugar. Meanwhile, in your mixer, add the sugar, butter, cardamom, and salt. If you don't have cardamom, just use pumpkin pie spice! Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.

After it's well mixed, add your eggs and 1 cup of flour. Blend for another minute, and then add 2 more cups of flour, your yeast mixture, and your warm milk. Mix just until your flour is well incorporated. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups more flour, just until the mixture sticks lightly to the walls of your mixer, but isn't too sticky or tacky. Blend for 5 - 8 minutes.

Your dough will go in an oiled bowl. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

While you're waiting, mix up your apple filling! It's quick and easy...just mix together your diced apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, corn starch, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

Now it's time for the streusel! Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom (or pumpkin pie spice). Slice up your butter and, using a pastry cutter or a fork until the pieces of butter are pea-sized. Set aside.

Now you can turn your attention back to the dough. Once it's doubled in size, dump it out onto your floured work surface. Slice the dough in two, and then, using your rolling pin, roll each piece into a 10 x 14 rectangle.

If you want a sweeter dessert, go ahead and smooth your cream cheese mixture on now. If not,
just sprinkle half the streusel mixture on top, and then half the apple mixture. Starting from the longest side, roll your dough in a loose roll (1 1/2 - 2 inch folds). Make sure the seam is on the bottom.

Repeat for second ball of dough. (Yum!)

Make sure that your apples are evenly distributed in the roll and not concentrated in the middle, like mine were! Place your rolls on a greased cookie sheet or a pizza stone, pinching the ends together to form a continuous roll.

Take some kitchen shears and slice into the sides at regular intervals. Cover and let rest for 30 - 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Drizzle with glaze if desired.

Oh,'s that good.

I can't wait to make it with the cream cheese and glaze modifications!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Someone I know mentioned that they don't know why we have to pay special attention to Thanksgiving day itself, when we should be thankful all year long, that it's basically too commercial, etc.

It's true that our forefathers didn't celebrate Thanksgiving on November 24th. That date for the national holiday was set during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. There's been some controversy over the "Thanksgiving story" as well, with scholars saying that the peace that existed between the early American settlers and the Native Americans was quite temporary and that they were at each other's throats within a year or two.

But what I want to honor is the tradition and the spirit of Thanksgiving. The settlers, after escaping religious persecution and making a perilous sea voyage, settled in an incredibly inhospitable environment and suffered setback after setback: disease, starvation, and death from the elements. Half of the settlers died that first winter. The next year, though, they were blessed with good crops, and they set aside a special day--or rather, three special days--to honor God and their Native American neighbors for helping them through. Edward Winslow, colony member, said, "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent for men [bird hunting] so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as...served the company almost a week...Many of the Indians came amongst us...their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought...And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the GOODNESS OF GOD we are far from want."

By celebrating Thanksgiving on November 24nd, I join my family, friends, and nation in honoring the hard work and struggles of our forefathers, and I honor God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. In my life, every day, it is the goodness of God that keeps me from want. I am excited to honor that gift tomorrow, with a feast, surrounded by family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. I'm always months behind on the latest youtube trends...over a year behind in this case...but I have to say, I *love* this video and have watched it several times! :)