iscribblings

Charting life's circuitous path


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Happy Anniversary! You fool…

April isn’t my favorite month. Even though the flowers start to pop out of the cold ground and the sun begins to thaw frozen joints, April is fickle.  Temps fluctuate like hot flashes during menopause and the rain creeps up on you from behind a bright sun.  It’s not the worst month (February gets that honor), but it isn’t all that.

It starts off with fun and games – I pulled a prank on both my parents with a “look what we bought!” pic of a random car.  They both fell hard and my mother even tried zooming in the pic I had text to see the odd sticker on the bumper.  Little did I know that my “April fool’s!” was a bit too spot on.

I was really excited about our upcoming 10th anniversary.  We had a cabin rented, a hot tub awaiting us and a LOT of food packed for a four day break.  I couldn’t wait to sit cuddled on the couch in front of the large screen tv and watching the latest Sherlock episode.  We had been holding back from watching it for our trip.  The cabin promised secluded trails and we both liked the idea of being away from it all.

Except the gods of April had other plans. 😦

Those plans didn’t involve a warm log cabin with heaping plates of warm saag.  They didn’t include Cary Grant movies or long dips in the hot tub.   Instead, they involved a two day stay in a town we never heard of, a broken timing belt, and a damaged engine with a freak snow storm tossed in for fun.  Ha. Ha.

Happy Anniversary!

hotelWe tried to make the best of it as we waited for the bad news from the mechanic.  There was a thrift store within walking distance of our hotel where we picked up some cheap paperbacks.  The fried cheesecake was also helping.  Just a bit.  😉

dessertSo after a nail-biting hour trip back home in a car with only 3 cylinders and no trip and no hot tub, I do get the chance to say:  I got a new car for my anniversary!
Course,  that statement comes with a few caveats:  a new car means a dead, old car.  A new car means a new monthly bill and a new car means bye, bye house down-payment.

Well, they do say that April is a time of change and renewal.  I just didn’t think it took it so seriously.

priusMeet Luna!  Our new Prius C.  I wasn’t sure about the purchase at the time, but now I love her.  Enough to actually name her!  We picked Luna as a name due to her “moonglow” special coloring.  It’s actually just sparkly white, but we thought Luna fit her.  Our old car still needs fixing or trading, but at least we can tackle that when the whirlwind that was April settles down.

May, however, is looking up!  Starting it off with a huge plate of millionaire bars certainly doesn’t hurt.  These were all the rage the last time we went to visit England and I had wanted to try out the recipe, but was scared off by the ingredients.  While the 4 sticks of butter is still so scary I try not to think about it, the small 1 inch square pieces and sharing most of them with coworkers makes them a bit better.

Course, hearing that these were the best my hubby has ever eaten made them an instant winner!  🙂

millionaireThe recipe involved homemade caramel and shortbread.  Sounds daunting, right?  Actually, it was really easy.  This was one of the easiest bars I’ve ever made, even if it did involve three steps.  Just mix, pour and set.  They were so soft yet firm, sweet yet mild and so delicious that I put this on my “must repeat” list of desserts.

You can find multiple versions of the same recipe all over the web.  I used this one with great success:  Tracey’s Culinary Adventures.  The only changes I made was to use half semi-sweet chocolate and half dark chocolate in the top layer.  This gave the layer more weight without adding more sweetness.

In like a lamb and out like a lion?  They’re not kidding!  Still, with April showers we do get May flowers, so hopefully we’ll get some brilliant blooms.  It’s my favorite month, after all. 🙂

 

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10:30 am Rapid Ride

seattleThe tall, triumphant, disk rising to blue swathed heavens
competing with steel, glass and the footsteps of thousands.
Bundles of bright blooms, bags of earthy produce,
spontaneous showers of protest
rights, rights for all! rights for me and you and them!
subdued to a murmur of energy as water
ebbs and crests with the caws of black, ancient eyes.
A hazy peak slides in and out of life’s daily chores –
majestic, grand, eternally situated at the corner of the eye.
Sweet, peanut layered toast mornings
Filled with pre-run milky tea reflections.
To be there is to be caught in a daze
a high that reaches to gray snowy caps
with the sea tugging us down.
Stay, just a little longer.
Rise high with us just a little bit more.
Stand tall with the tips of the marching trees
along the highway that takes you into the emerald city.

 

Two weeks after our vacation to Seattle, I’m finally coming back down to my Midwestern reality.  Our weeks have been filled with post-break appointments and chores as daily life comes back in full force.  I want to end my Seattle series with a few last tips.  If you ever plan on taking a break to Seattle, here’s a few things we’ve learned:

  1. Rent a vacation home for a real city experience.  Our rental home was cheaper than any hotel and it was well stocked and felt like home every time we came back from a full day of sightseeing.  It’s definitely the way we’re going to plan our vacations from now on.  Just be sure to shop around a bit to find the best deal and the best location.
  2. In amongst the ins and outs, the goings on of every day sightseeing, take breaks.  LOTS of breaks.  With coffee and preferably a nice sweet bun on the side.  Those are the moments that you’ll really remember because life seeps into your skin and you absorb not only the moment, but the day-to-day life of the city.  Some of my favorite moments were when we stopped, sipped at a cup and watched life walk by.
  3. Be prepared to be surprised.  We knew that Seattle was known for being progressive and socially conscious, but we didn’t know just how nice the people would be.  Strangers would ask us if we needed directions on the street.  Overworked grocery store clerks were efficient and nice as they trusted us when we told them the price of our unscannable cheese.  Even bus operators chatted over the intercom about the weather and wished us a great weekend at the end of a Friday!  If a city that gets rain 9 months out of the year can still be happy, then why can’t the rest of us?  A smile and a friendly face makes life easier, nicer and welcoming.
  4. You will eat and you will eat a lot.  Be ready to put your diet on a brief hold (unless you have a will of iron) but make sure that you’re still taking every opportunity to exercise and eat only what you’ll not regret.  I experienced some of my best runs on vacation as I ran along wide sidewalks, past succulents and mountain skies.  I ate some of the best food and while I regret the extra pounds, I don’t regret the wonderful flavors that crossed my tongue.  Taste and smell are both critical aspects of memory.  When that museum fades into the misty shadows of memory, the joy of sinking teeth into a sweet, chewy bun will not.

seattle2


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Blueberry Crumble Pie and Seattle Indulgence

I love crumble.

I love pie crust, too, but between that and crumble, the crumble has the rumble to win it all the way!

bluepieBlueberries are on sale at my area grocery stores and I couldn’t resist buying a few pints.  We ate a lot of dessert on our vacation and while it was all delicious (Shari’s Creamy Pecan Pie was voted our table’s most yummy pie and it was all MINE!), I didn’t really go for many fruity desserts.

Sure, there was a wonderful strawberry frosted, vanilla cake with rhubarb compote cupcake from Cupcake Royale.  I was also told that the double chocolate vegan cupcake was very good and the salted caramel and chocolate cheesecake cupcakes went down a hit as well (and gobbled up just as quickly!). We definitely lucked out with having the shop a minute down the road from our rental home!

seattlecup

So many wonderful cupcakes with just the right amount of frosting and a deliciously dense cake – almost like a dense angelfood in texture. Even though there are a lot of chocolate cupcakes in this box, these were all that were on offer. Not your place to go if you want a wide selection of chocolate cupcakes.

There was also the surprisingly delicious white chocolate cheesecake with berry topping from Collin’s Pub in Pioneer Square whose thick crust won my heart and vote.

seattlecheese

A wonderfully understated cheesecake at a pub that didn’t have a dessert menu and only two desserts on offer. We’re glad we asked our server! Seattle doesn’t seem to really do dessert menus as much as the midwest, so definitely ask!

But what we overly indulged in were the cinnamon laden pastries.  Like the chocolate chip cream cheese topped cinnamon roll from the Pike Place Bakery.  The extra large, two palm sized buns were dolloped generously with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with chocolate chips and curls.  We also ate a Bavarian cream horn and an apple fritter from this bakery, but they paled next to the deliciousness of this bun.  (In fact, I’d suggest skipping their other desserts since they all tasted like ones you can get at other places like your local grocery – not bad, but nothing fancy.)  If we ever go back to the market and brave the crowds again, we’re hitting them up for more of these buns!

seattlebun

The moist bun wasn’t overwhelmed by the topping at all – perfection!

seattlebakery

A lot of great looking desserts, but they didn’t all live up to their looks. Be selective here and go for the buns.

Our sticky fingers were well licked by the end of the vacation and it was all worth it!  Every cinnamon bun, apple danish, coffee oreo ice cream cone bit of it!  🙂

But I was seriously craving my OWN, home baked dessert and one with fruit.  So, when these bright blueberries went on sale, I knew that I wanted to make a pie.  We had a wonderful piece of cream pecan pie at Shari’s Cafe and Pie, but while it was decadent and definitely worth indulging in, it wasn’t quite the same as a solid, crunchy, fruity crumble pie.

seattlepie

Shari’s Cream Pecan Pie – very delicious, although more cream and less pecan than I would have preferred. There are 4 layers in that pie – pecan pie filling, a dense vanilla cream, chocolate (I think) and the cream topping.  Whew!

I love me some double crusted pies, sure, but I have a big soft spot for crumble pies.  There’s something irresistible about that crunchy, oat topping on a fruit pie that brings out the flavor of the fruit without weighing it down like a crust can.  I also like really thick crumble, so I went for big crumbs with a LOT of spice – but not too much spice that it dominated the berries.

This is no ordinary blueberry crumble pie.  This is the BEST blueberry pie I have ever made.  The fresh berries maintain their plump shape, the crumb crumbles on your tongue and the flavors are deep and developed.  Go on, try it out!  Trust me, this is no runny pie. 😉

bluepie2

Blueberry Crumble Pie

Ingredients

1 pie crust either homemade or pre-made.  I used a Trader Joe’s pre-made crust with great success.

Crumble

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (or 2 tbsp brown sugar splenda – which I used and it worked beautifully)
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (use more if needed, but that’s all I needed to make my crumbs)

Filling

  • 5 cups blueberries (2 pints)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or Real Lemon crystals)
  • 1-2 tsp dried orange peel
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (or, again, 2 tbsp brown sugar splenda)
  • 3 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp potato or corn starch

Directions

  1. To make the crumble: Mix all dry ingredeints in a medium bowl.  Using a grater, grate butter into bowl and mix with fingers until big crumbs form. Set aside.
  2. To make the filling: Rinse berries, pick any stems and set aside.
  3. Mix dry filling ingredients in a plastic bag and reserve 1 tbsp for later.  Sprinkle rest of mixture over rinsed berries until coated.
  4. Press crust into 9 inch pie pan and sprinkle reserved mixture over crust.  Fill with coated berries (it might mound a bit, but that’s okay!).  Top with crumble and press down gently (don’t squish the berries but press to keep the crumble in place).  Place in preheated 375 F oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack and serve at room temperature.

Leftover pie won’t go all runny on you and will hold its shape and its crumb the next day, if need be. 🙂