Cinnamon Bread

My mission, note* I did not write my resolution, this new year–well one of several–was to figure out how to make great cinnamon bread.

I am still not sure where it came from…the desire to gain such knowledge…but here it is, almost 6 weeks later, and "mission accomplished".    It had its moments <smiling> of epic fail, then maybe I am getting this, to well, I am getting somewhere, to wth? I have gone backwards…lol…Dave, DC, my coworkers, the dogs, the birds…everyone got a piece of this lesson as it was learned!

For about a week now, the results (nightly) of my bread baking have been successful, and static.  Time to move on to the next thing– I knew that for sure when Nattie came to visit on Sunday for dinner, and grammy’s cookie bucket was empty!  So, I did make a batch of chocolate chip cookies with little heart sprinkles on them, and they came out of the oven just in time to cool enough to wrap them for her take home along.  I smile as I picture her with the plate of them tucked in against her little side while she headed for her boots and winter coat.

So…the reason for this blog is to share the recipe that has worked the best for me.

If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, it does simplify it…but it can be done without such.

First–for a stand mixer.  Put the dough hook in the mixer.  Place lock in mixer bowl to stand.  Measure 1 cup hot tap water and pour in bowl.  Add one tablespoon shortening, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 cups flour.  Turn mixer on low speed and stir to mix while you add 1/2 cup warm water to a 2 cup measure cup.  Add 2 tablespoons dry yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar to water in cup. Stir to dissolve. (I use the blade of a butter knife to stir–the yeast does not clump and stick to the knife blade like it does to a spoon.).  As soon as the yeast starts to foam a bit (it is a living organism), add to the mixer bowl, then immediately add 2 more cups of flour.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and let it stir and then it will knead the dough.  During the 15 minutes of stirring/kneading, check the dough for "stickiness"–if it sticks to your hand when you check it–add more flour, a little at a time.

After 15 minutes, shut off mixer and allow dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cinnamon in a small bowl.

After 10 minutes, divide dough in half.  Pat (one at a time) a half out onto a counter you have sprinkled with a little flour, into a rectangular shape…maybe 6X10 inches.  place about a 1/2 teaspoon of water on rectangle and spread all over dough.  Then using a spoon, sprinkle half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the rectangle.  Roll the short side (jelly-roll fashion) until it is in a roll.  Pinch the seam to seal.  Pinch the ends to seal and then tuck them under to the bottom seam–you might have to fuss a little bit to get all of the seams tucked and pinched to seal.

Place seam side down on a greased cookie sheet, or in a regular sized loaf pan.  Set to rise in a place– free from drafts but not too warm.  When dough has doubled in size on cookie sheet, or when it rises above the sides of the loaf pan, (about 45 minutes but can vary) place in 350F oven and bake until tops are browned and loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.

Place on a cloth lined counter (any lint free cloth will do) and cover with another lint free cloth, then with terry kitchen towels, double thickness to hold in moisture–but to not make the bread soggy.  Allow to cool before placing in bags to store.

If you do not have a stand mixer with a dough hook, use a large bowl, follow all steps to add ingredients , but stir by hand until well mixed and then place on a floured counter and knead for ten minutes by hand.   Allow to rest for 10 minutes, divide in half and then follow above recipe again.

It is a learned skill–to know how much flour to add–you might have to add more– I add a tablespoon at a time, until dough loses its stickiness.

It is also a learned skill to hear the "hollow" sound 🙂  Just do your best. If you over-bake, there is always cinnamon french toast, bread pudding, or feeding the birds.  Lol…I know these things… because… it was acquired knowledge while on my "mission". 😉

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Zigzee, you are my sunshine

How on earth did it get this late??  And work sure does come early in the morning.  It is the end of a 3 day weekend for me, and I accomplished much.  Gardening, painting, reading one of my manuscripts, bicycling the community trail… dang! Life is good…
Ziggy and Tim stopped today for a late lunch.  Their big day quickly approaches… and after they left, I spent some time outside conversing with the sky, the wind, the trees, the dogs 🙂 any old thing that had no chance of answering me.  I needed to muse on a few things…and I really was in need of a little solitude, to hear my own thoughts.
Ziggy is my first-born.  My awakening to a world that was much larger than me.  I was 20 years old when she was born, and she was this beautiful little bundle of blonde hair and blue eyes.  If I had not already loved her, I could not have helped but falling in love with her.  My tiny daughter, 6 lbs. 11 oz. that was completely dependent upon me for protection from the world.
I read a book, years back, "The Thornbirds" and in it, one of the characters describes her daughter as no mystery at all… it was a mystery to her that sons came out of her body, but there was nothing to wonder about giving birth to a daughter.  After becoming a mother of a daughter (and later 2 sons) I never found an ounce of understanding in what that character said.  My daughter was this wonderful mystery to me, like a present that I got to open over and over again… from the moment that she began smiling a toothless grin at me while I fed her, until today, when I looked at her, all grown up and facing her wedding day… just a note*  Ziggy’s real name came from "The Thornbirds" and when the Catholic priest was talking to me about her baptism, he actually asked me if I made up the name 🙂
So, life is coming full circle on another front, and I wonder what to tell her about life…  I don’t know what I really have to share with her. She was born nearly grown-up, always wise beyond her years… and I can say that I have learned much from her…
I would want her to know, that all of the dreams that she had while growing up must never be cast away.  Life gets busy, but keep those dreams– and let them lift you up on a day when the world is holding you down.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you have limitations.  You don’t.  You are my shooting star, and we know that only shooting stars break the mold 😉  So, aim for the stars… but keep your feet on earth.
You are wise and beautiful… beauty fades, but wisdom grows if we keep an open heart and an open mind.
Your pappy used to tell me, and if he were here, he would tell you too, "ask yourself– a hundred years form now will anybody know the difference?".
It is okay to cry, never let anyone stop you from crying when your soul needs to bleed… we are hopelessly human, and emotions are just part of life…
But, you get more mileage out of laughter than out of tears…
Maybe we can ask ourselves pappy’s question, and if the answer is no– then we should try  laughing instead?
Everybody has a story– and most of yours is yet unwritten… make it a best seller… romance, adventure, comedy…
Oh, I should have started this earlier in the evening, but alas, it is late now…
Ziggy, you are amazing… can we sing a verse or two of "You are my Sunshine"?  because, you are 🙂  I see a little girl, with Shirley Temple curls boucing as she runs down an old farm lane…and she is laughing.  It is a warm summer day, and she holds out her chubby little hands to reveal her fingers tightly wrapped around a stubby bouquet of daisies and little pink flowers.  You are so proud of your accomplishment, and so eager to give them to me… where did the years go??
I wish that for you, Zigzee… children that love you, and bring you stubby little bouquets.  Love, smiles, tenderness and joy.  A Life of sharing the trials and the wonders with Tim…  and that you know your dreams, look them in the eye now and again so that you never lose sight of them..
.Only shooting stars break the mold 🙂
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I could curse the rain, or I could enjoy the rhythm, the tickle… I could hide, inside…or step out the door and dance with unadulterated joy.. I could feel the silliness rising inside of me, as I remember landing in a puddle, dead center, feet side by side, and splashing a boss in the process, when I was, perhaps, all of 45 years old 😉
Rain has a purity to it, a cleansing of the mind and of the soul.  For a time the mind has such clarity to search for meaning, to understand, and our very souls  become stripped naked by the water that washes over us…  
So, have you recently allowed the rain to strip your soul bare?
When I got home from work today, I took a walk–even though the called-for rain had already begun.  It was a nice light rain that tickled my brow and dampened my shoulders as I made my rounds.  The columbines that I have waited for two years to see bloom, are delightful.  They flutter and sway like pink, purple, and lavender butterflies in the slightest of a breeze, or the touch of the most delicate raindrop. The pansies remain in the "spectacular" category.  That is not a surprise as it has been such a long, cold, and wet spring.
I walk to the flowerbed behind the house.  I have to smile at what a haphazard mess it is right now.  False solomen’s seal stands in the back, ready to bloom.  The flower buds hanging at the ends of the zigzag fronds tumble toward me– and the sun that would shine over my shoulder, on a different, cloudless day.  They lean against a riot of blueviolet irises that smell mildly of grape PEZ.  There are hostas crowded at the front, that were heeled in a few autumns ago 🙂 you know, just for the winter, yet here they remain, relishing the rich earth and the shade of an old butternut tree.
The flower bed is a mound of dirt, pushed up with a skid-steer when Dave put in a drainage ditch.  When he did it, it looked ugly as dirt <wink> well, it was just a big pile of dirt.  So he set a couple of big rocks in front of it to hide the dirt.
Four years later and countless hours of dry-stacking rocks, I have a rock wall in front of the big pile.  I know 🙂 two over one, one over two… but I did the best that I could with what  I had.  I have already heard the criticism… but I think that it looks awfully nice.  It is still a work in progress.
<sigh> like all of my art– unfinished…
The stone wall now has various sedums tucked here and there between rocks.  The whole bed is an excercise in varying growing conditions.  High and dry, part dense shade, and a foot or so of dappled shade, then intenese heat and sun at the front, down across the rock wall.  Very few things tolerate dense, dry shade, let alone thrive in it.  It is one of the more challenging growing conditions that a gardener can face.
Just on the edge of the pile of dirt, at original ground level, is a witch-hazel that is full of bird feeders.  Then the terrain gives way to steepness, and the engulfing canopy of trees as the land drops away down into the hollow.
I look out from where I stand, beside the witch hazel, and I view the larch trees.  Odd things that they are; I loathed them when I bought the property.  But I hate to cut down a tree, so they remained.  I often thank my lucky stars for the reluctance to call in Babe and Paul Bunyan.
The chartreuse feathers that they bore a month ago, on the tip of each and every tiny branch, has given way to the palest shade of mint green… dusted with a fine mist of rain right now.  And the tall softwoods beside them are changing from a pale green to a deeper shade of summer green.  The trunks have eyes where branches broke off, or died off as the tree grew.  Much like the famed white birch trees get eyes.
As the rain strikes each leaf, they twist, and shimmer… I smile to think about summer days, late afternoons, before approaching storms, how they turn their undersides to reveal silver, and then they sparkle like diamonds in the sunshine. I know the science of why they do it–flattened petiole tht causes them to shake from side to side… but when I look upon a huge stand of them, sparkling like gems in the wind, it is whimsy and fascination, that engulf me… it is dreams and fantasy that take over my mind… life is like that some days…
The world grows mightily silent when it rains…wonder why that is?  The birds have quieted, with the exception of that desperate brown thrasher who has yet to find a mate.  He sings his song of courtship.  Even I know why this one is still singing the first week of June.  The songs should be immitations of other bird’s songs, and they should be sung in couplets, tweet-tweet, pretty bird-pretty bird, drink your teeeeeeeea-drink your teeeeeeeea…but he has them all mixed up… drrrrrrink!  Prettybird, driiiink your teeeeeea, poor tom peabody peabody peabody peabody peabody…driiiink!  I kind of giggle thinking about the poor bird!  He sings to attract a female, and ornithologists think that the females judge him by his song.  If he has the couplets down pat, and a good repertoire of bird songs, he is accepted quickly.  If he knows few songs, and he sings them more or less than twice each time… well… I can tell you from observation that there aren’t many brown thrashers singing perfect couplets come June 🙂  Those ornithologists must be onto something 🙂
Time to go inside… the rain has accumulated enough that it is dripping big drops from the trees…
I enjoyed the walk through the mist, hearing the silence of still air, and the song of rain as it lightly fell.  I cannot choose to wait for sunny days… I find that dreaming comes more easily in the rain…
I changed into dry clothes, and am comfortably in bare feet… and I walk to the windows in the kitchen.  Four of them in a row, with a view of the valley.  There are no gutters on the lower side of the house yet, and I watch the rain drip and splash on the back deck… and I find that I am for a dreamy moment, so very, very much, one with AE Housman… I understand, I am fluent with the emotion that he had to have been filled with when he wrote "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now".
"Of my threescore years and ten, twenty will come not again
So to the woods I will go, to see the cherries hung with snow."
How the heck did I arrive here?  Here, where I am living the essence of his message?
Are you?
And "living" is the key word.
I came across a quote by Jonathan Swift from Gulliver’s Travels, that embodies my remaining time…
"I hope that you live all the days of your life."  
It just says it all
So let the rain fall… and I will embrace the world, and the life within it, as fully as I do on sunny days…
What do you think? Are you living all the days of your life? Or is it time to start?
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garden lesson: tame/wild


This evening is silver…no other way I would want to describe it.  It is illuminated by the half-light of dusk.  Beyond tender leaves backed in downy silver, a charcoal sky deepens in the distance.  It is spring in my part of the world…
Lady slippers have unfurled in the crinkled leaf litter, and trilliums sway in the temporate breeze.  I wonder at the steadfast return… a year of seasons coming full circle.
Just as assuredly as the spring returns, and the clock spins forward, so does my mind spin backward.  When I was a small child, I wandered field and woodland, searching for spring flowers. I was maker of bouquets.  I reckon that they were actually nosegays, such tiny bouquets– violets, hepaticas, wood anemones and forget-me-nots.
I guess that the forest contained my first flower garden 🙂  But my first "real" flower garden was a rock-lined rectangle that contained pansies.  It was next to the big old stone cellar steps on the southwest side of the house.  Heavy clay and far too much sun for a pansy’s liking, made it a failure by most standards.
But, failure or not, I loved it.  I spent hours next to it, daydreaming, and thinking.  Pansies are, after all, the flowers of thought.
I daydreamed, amongst other things, of other flower gardens that could be built, out beyond the spring, next to the hemlocks, in the unbounded wildness… bounded, contained, controlled, conformed… and they dazzled in my mind’s eye.
The years rolled onward and, somewhere along the way, I became absolutely enthralled with flower gardening.  It evolved and changed with age, just like me.
I ran the gamut of simple gardens, gardens of symmetry, statuary, wood chips, marble chips, sun gardens, shade gardens, landscape fabric, named varieties… <heavy sigh> and all the while I fought to control the bounds of the gardens…to keep my garden in and to keep the wildness out.
Today, I stood in the vegetable garden, small by any former garden standards. It has been eeked out of the corner of the property above the house where once wildness ruled.  This year, once again, the encroaching edge of nature had to be trimmed back to make room for the garden, the place where plants stay where they are planted, and behave…they are bounded, grown in a box,  conformed, constrained…oh so civilized.
The wind raged through the trees, singing around branches already dense with leaves.  They tossed and heaved in the way of the approaching storm…
It made my heart pound with an exhilaration that I cannot explain.
It really made me think, though, about the wildness that I have tried so hard to control.  Yet here it is, singing and swaying with a beauty so wild and so pure…
I thought about the last few years of gardening, and how soft I have become.  How my focus has been on blending the civilized plants into the wildness that dwells under the shade of all those tall hardwoods.  I have planted named varieties of ferns, hostas and heucheras…next to wild foamflower, false solomen’s seal, and native ferns that nature planted…
The gardens that I am creating are far from what I had pictured.  The neatness, the tidiness, the distinct lines between wild and tame have become blurred at best, nonexistent for the most part.
An evolution? A continuance of the unavoidable evolution?
In the distance, off to the west, the thunder rumbles; I feel it as much as I hear it.  The wildness within me responding, perhaps?
The gardens are trying to teach me a lesson, I reckon…a lesson as old as the time gardening began.  Only so much in life can be controlled– or more importantly, only so much in life should be controlled.
For years, I lived my life like I planted gardens, so conforming…so controlled, so civilized, as I denied the part  of me that struggled to exist, to even be heard– the girl who first gardened in a forest of wildflowers…
And as my life matures, I see so clearly how tame and wild co-exist. They compliment each other… the tame provides a place of predictability and comfort, while the wild beckons "Come, sway and sing– dance in the wind while the thunder beats out the rythm."
Life "ain’t" all about neat little rows  😉  Sometimes it comes down to feeling the rain,  the wild heart that beats in your breast, and embracing the wild and innocent soul that cries to exist, to even be heard… and to gather your flowers in the forest instead of in the formal garden…
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Thanksgiving… what do I give thanks for?  Oh my!  The list is endless… Most recently I have to say for that dear, sweet, little, babygirl who attended her first Thanksgiving today. 

She arrived in this world weighing 10 lbs even, after a 24 hour ordeal that ended with a c-section delivery. I sent out a few e-mails with this… that way back in the spring, when I went to work and told the girls in the Culture Lab that I was going to be a grandmother, one of the women who has grandchildren who are nearly adults now, said, "You know…everyone has a hole in them that they don’t even know is there until they have a grandchild to fill it."  I have to smile while I say, "Tis true, tis true…"

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Texas :-) part three

Oh, where were we? At a BBQ place out in the boonies.  We waited for our turn, and watched the stars, and talked.  I now felt as though I have know Rose and ND since forever.  The place was to close at 9:00 pm, but I think it was later than that by the time that we got a seat inside.  Here again, there were autographs on walls and doorways, a few messages about the Aggies and the Longhorns… and while we were eating, a frog came hopping across the sawdust on the floor!  Too cool, I tell you! They were out of ribs, so we had BBQ sandwiches that were HUGE, lol, (everything is big in Texas!) and they were delicious too!!
Back on the road and headed north, we did not get back to Rose’s until going on midnight.
Saturday morning, Rose had a few things to do, new tire for her motorcycle, water some container plants… and then we headed  south again.
We hooked up with ND and I went for a ride out to Cammanche Peak, nice place with a pretty view.  I live in the rolling hills of western PA and the horizon is close. This was something entirely new to me.  Get a little elevation and you can see forever!  The ride was a lot of fun… ND is a gentleman…
Rose and I headed north again, stopping tograb some wildflowers along the way.  This woman is a botany genius of Texas wildflowers.  She had identified flowers on Friday while we were driving past them at traveling speed. But just to doublecheck, we picked a few kinds, hauled them back to her house, got out the wildflower books, and yes indeed! Just like she had said! She was right on.  🙂
Saturday evening was a family evening and Rose foes have a sweet, fun and musical family.  It was a very nice dinner and good time!  🙂
Bedtime was a bit earlier Saturday night… my butt was starting to drag!  Rose is an excellent tour guide too!
Sunday morning…my last day in Texas ;-(    (and I LIKE it here)  🙂 breakfast at a place that Rose and ND know of, then to the Fort Worth Botanical gardens.  It was almost 95 degrees by midday, and I am not native to that part of the hot world… we walked through the Japanese garden; it was indescribable… weeping willows and understory trees beneath tall trees–that I have not seen a lot of this weekend.  The pools and bridges are gorgeous, ducks, turtles, koi… a stand of bamboo that was very cool. That does not grow in PA.  A beautifully laid-out garden with a nice porch on the side of the gift shop at the exit. Time for  a sit-down break.
Next we walked the perenial garden… just gorgeous, words fail me here…
And then the Rose garden…wow!  A long walkway with Roses cascading from the sides, and then there was a formally laid out garden with stairs rising up to a viewing pavillion at the top.
While we were there, we saw a oung lady in a bright yellow dress, it resembled a wedding gown, but was bright yellow. Rose told me that it was a "coming out" celebration. I cannot recall the exact word that she used , but the young lady was there getting her photos taken in the rose garden. Not uncommon to use the Rose garden for such… or even for weddings.  🙂
We left there and went on a bit of a driving tour… a building with bullet holes in it from gunfights on the streets of the old Fort Worth (wild west).   And the angel that is at least two stories tall, jutting out from the side of the building in concrete or marble?  They shared the story of Fort Worth and Dallas and how the cities came to be…and how the city of Fort Worth was saved–taken back from crime and ruffians by a family that was willing to invest in their hometown.
Then we searched for a parking place (tough to come by due to consrtuction) near the Fort Worht water gardens.  As we circled the block, I could see little, and wondered what the big attraction was???
Words will fall short of any description that I try to give. It is fascinating, beautiful, water and concrete.  All angles, cubes and shimmering films of water that give way to cascading torrents around cubes that you are standing on at the bottom of an inverted, three-sided pyramid?
I could not stop was so cool~ And there was another "garden" that was all mist, and another with cypress trees and big reflecting pool, and on the other side of the gardens, there were the "mountains" a lot of concrete blocks that kids (or adults) could climb.
One of the things that caught my attention (and this was not the first place that I noticed this) was that you could go anywhere. there were no "Keep-off" signs, no "do not enter" signs. I saw a few "at your own risk signs" while I was shown around…but Texas seems to rely on people using the common sense that most people have.  Rather than making the decision (like PA) that people cannot be trusted to their own safety.  Texas is a really unique place.
It is bedtime. I will finish this soon.
After almost three days in Texas, I am sure that I had no idea what it was like without going and seeing for myself, and I love Rose and ND; they have welcomed me like we have been friends all of our lives…!  🙂
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Red Bellied Hummingbird?

ON Saturday afternoon I filled both of my hummingbird feeders, the larger one of the two holds about a quart and the smaller one is in the photographs. On Monday morning as I was getting ready to run out the door to work, I happened to notice that the larger of the two was empty. Wow, that is a lot of nectar, think that I might have noticed that much hummingbird activity??

I never gave it another thought all day long until I was home, fixing dinner and happened to catch motion out of the corner of my eye. I could not believe what I was seeing!!

Forgive the photo’s darkness on a couple. I was shooting from inside my kitchen with the lights off so as not to spook the bird away.  It took  a couple of pics for me to decide to turn the camera to a low light setting, which improved the lighting immensely.

One of the dark pictures shows the bird’s tongue in action…

So there it is, what I suspect has frightened my hummingbirds away!  It is a female red-bellied woodpecker.  We have four or five pairs of them visiting for suet on any given day. (this is the first summer that we have backed away from feeding suet all summer long–we were losing entire suet cages to bears or raccoons)  Perhaps this was the bird’s response to not having suet to eat?? <laughing> They apparently have found something that they like just as well!

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