Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's a Beautiful Thing

In my family handcrafted gifts are the most valued. Monetary value is not as important as the fact that the gift of time was given to conceive and produce the offering. My mother still uses the covers I sewed for her kitchen appliances. Watercolor paintings created by my father grace our walls. And perfect strangers will comment on the beauty of the handknit sweaters my mother made for me.

So this Christmas was very special, when my sister came to visit. We talked a couple of years ago about her creating a quilt for us, and what would we like as a motif. Trees would be nice, we said. We collaborated on a general design, and Monica bought some fabrics. But that was the last I remembered. On Christmas Eve we exchanged gifts, and the finale was the presentation of the completed quilt. We were overcome.

The artist and quilt are shown in the featured photo. The gift of love – it’s a beautiful thing.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Winter Solstice

The sun now dips behind the Sierra Crest as we look out our window at about 4 pm. A few days previous to the changing of the season we had six inches of snow. It was a very cold storm, and the snow was light and nearly weightless. With such low moisture it compacts down to an inch. In these southern latitudes the sun warms the ground and the rooftops quickly. This light snow melted and formed long icicles on our eaves. Looking around the neighborhood, even longer icicles formed off of those roofs that were less insulated. And icicles form on natural features, such as The Boulder, a landmark here at the gateway to June Lake.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Food Art

I am one lucky girl. Every morning my husband gets up first and prepares breakfast. I get to take my time getting dressed and check my email while the pots and pans clink in the other room. Most mornings it is oatmeal, thick and hearty, sweetened with fresh bananas, pears, and studded with dried blueberries. Today it was pancakes. And what greeted me at the table today? The message you see above, reminding me of my special day.

Please be aware that this is the edited version – it said 36 years the first time. I had to inform John that he was a decade off. I wish that were true, but unfortunately it is not, and John had to go back to the carving board and fashion another banana slice into the number four.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

No Knead Needed

It was not my intent to post another blog about bread so soon, but this in this case it is justified. Over the last few weeks the food world, and especially in cyberspace amongst food bloggers, has been abuzz about an article, recipe and video published in the New York Times by Mark Bittman. In this article he explains a technique for making bread of a quality equivalent to those produced by fine professional bakers with very expensive, steam-injected ovens. And it requires no kneading. Too good to be true? Based on the testimonials by various bloggers and comments submitted by their followers, it sure does seem to be true. I had to give it a whirl.

Friday night I mixed the dough, and it sat for the next 18 hours fermenting on a high shelf where it was warm. Since the article has been out for a while, there was a follow-up article with more information, and I followed the directions accordingly. The recipe’s claim was that it was “no-fail”, although some bakers struggled with their first batches.

The recipe calls for a five to six quart covered baking dish, but I do not own anything that large. I used a lovely hand-thrown ceramic casserole dish, a wedding gift (thanks, Joe and Peggy) that has been sadly underutilized in the past few years – we would never get home early enough when we worked to bake a casserole for dinner. The capacity of this dish is only about three quarts, but it was ideal. When I opened the lid after it baked for the initial 30 minutes, the sight of the rounded loaf with a couple of fissure cracks across the top assured me it was near perfection.

John and I consumed half the loaf along with wine and bowls of ribollita. The crust crackled and shattered, just like it should, and yet the inside was chewy and tender and moist. And lucky us, there are leftovers for dinner tonight…mmmm.

Monday, December 4, 2006

First Turns

Last Wednesday morning it was 12 degrees when we woke up, the coldest morning we have experienced yet. The cold wave that eventually moved east and wrecked havoc in the Midwest states was giving us a chill. We had made plans to go over to Mammoth Mountain and ski, and we weren’t going to let temperatures in the teens stop us.

The day was brilliant sunshine. The Eastern Sierra has not received a substantial snowfall yet. The roads are clear and only a sugar coating of snow can be seen at the highest elevations. But Mammoth has the facilities to manufacture their own snowpack, and these cold, dry conditions are ideal for making snow. The ski area had only a few major runs open, but with surprisingly good coverage. They were open for Thanksgiving weekend, one of the potentially big cash-generating weekends. The lack of snow surely dampened the crowds. The merchants in town are nervous – could this be another drought year? – anxiously waiting for the big storm that will make it a white (and green) Christmas.

So we bundled up with multiple layers of clothing and found enough to ski for a couple of hours. It was cold, and by noon a slight breeze persuaded us to call it a day. The electronic sign at the parking lot said it was a mere 22 degrees at high noon.

The snow guns were working full time while we were there. The photo of the day shows the Cornice Bowl, just below the summit. It was nearly barren rock on the day we were there, but they were trying to get it covered for the weekend. The wind was not cooperating, however, and the snow was getting blown right up the slope and over the ridge. We did return over the weekend, and after only a couple of days they managed to get it to stick enough for us to be able to ski down a couple of runs. Impressive, but we are still doing our snow dance for the natural stuff!

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All original text and photos are copyrighted Doris Reilly © 2006-2018. No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
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