27 January 12 • MAV

Scotch Cat just over one year ago.

I didn’t mean for this to be my dispatch this week. I had an entirely different plan in mind. In fact, I can’t believe I am about to dedicate an entire piece to a cat! But when I went to download photographs from the week off my camera, finding several photographs of my cat, I knew I had to be true to what must be on my mind … our Scotch Cat.

Scotch finds the sun on Tuesday.

Scotch has been living with me for 5 years now (you can see a photograph of him just after he came to my house right here). I think at this point he’s about 6 years old. Growing up I was never a “cat person.” In fact I very much disliked cats; they scared me! I always felt that a dog was a much better pet and then, back in 2002, I got my first kitten named Charlie (who, as many of you know, is still with me and will be turning 10 this year).

Scotch looks for birds on Wednesday.

Scotch came to live with me in 2007 on accident. While volunteering at a cat shelter, I found him in one of the crates in the intake room. He just sort of seemed like an old friend right off the bat. He, and a bunch of other cats, had been rescued from one of those bad shelters that say they are a shelter, take money from the state, and then neglect the animals using the money for their own greedy lives. Jerks.

Scotch searches out a soft spot just so he can be near while we work on Thursday.

My sweetheart has a joke about Scotch. He thinks that at night, while we are fast asleep, Scotch puts on his glasses and works on a novel he has been working on for some time. He thinks this because I always joke that … well … I joke that Scotch is dim. And he is! He’s just not the sharpest tack in the box. But my sweetie thinks that he’s fooling us. He thinks that once we’re out of sight Scotch puts on his specs and turns into the smartest cat on the block. Personally, I can’t wait to read this novel! I hope I’m a character!

Scotch sleeps on our pillows today.

A few months ago Scotch hurt himself very badly. He was sick for several weeks and barely moved from one spot. It was so sad for everyone. It was hard not to have him under foot. You see, he follows me around every morning from the moment I get out of bed until he settles down for his first nap around 9:30 a.m. I talk out loud softly to him about my day. I imagine he talks back. Picture the dog, Arthur, and the guy, Oliver, from Beginners. By the way, if you have not seen this movie you should run, not walk, to rent it now. It’s one of the very best films I’ve ever seen! It’s a perfect film. Anyway, while Scotch was sick he was not there with his usual goofy pitter-patter following me from room to room and even into the shower! I missed him desperately. Now that he has recovered I don’t take his dear company for granted. I take the time to see how much he makes me smile.

I am so grateful that I found Scotch 5 years ago this month. He is indeed a very special member of our family. And I’ll keep you posted on that novel!

27 January 12 • SCB

MAV’s post last week on winter colors had me looking around at my own surroundings and my own palette. However, I found myself not being able to move past the soft grays.

Like the fog resting on the rooftops or the frost coating the leaves, it seems to settle over much of my life this time of year.

I dream in gray, I wrap myself in gray, gray tones weave their way into my work. It has a bleak reputation, but gray is synonymous with comfort to me. It is quiet, soft, gentle. Gray is not a show-off. I like that.

21 January 12 • MAV

This week I inadvertently found my Winter 2012 color palette. Walk with me around my flat for a little moment, will you?

First … navy (above). A staple color in my life. Navy makes me feel strong, confident and grounded. It’s a color that finds its way into every season in my life. I treated myself to this mug while in Stockholm late last year. And of course you know my favorite Primoeza sweater!

Next, the clean and calming tones of grey, granite and stone. These colors make me feel comforted. They help me feel as if there is nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing; as if there is no where to go. Life Near Windows, the book seen here, includes a lot of beautiful grey tones. I find it nourishing and very inspiring in this Winter season.

Then, of course, black and shades of brown. These colors appeal to the nature girl in me. I love that although they are colors, they are somewhat colorless. There is nothing complicated about these tones. They feel powerful. The little zip pouch is a gift from my dearest friend (made by the insurmountable Fog Linen); she couldn’t have picked more beautiful colors for me this Winter.

And although I think my sweetheart, my mom and perhaps a few friends would prefer it differently (they all implore me to wear more color), reds and oranges are the only true bright tones in my palette this Winter. These tones cheer me right up; they give me a jolt I sometimes need. Whether while eating citrus or wearing my favorite red wool scarf I am very drawn to involoving these tones in my every day. Looking at the other colors I have laid out here I’m sure you can see why.

And lastly, white and cream. Clean and simple. Always a favorite in my home and any time I need to just feel just plain striped down, simplified and light. When I wake up I head straight for my kettle (a gift from my mom from last Christmas, lucky me) and start my coffee-making routine. The white just wakes me up; makes me smile. It reminds me that the day can be anything I want it to be. I need that reminder in the Winter and always.

21 January 12 • SCB

Not quite a year ago, at a dinner in Savannah, Georgia with some of my favorite people, we were served a salad with dried oranges infused with cinnamon. They were tart and crisp with just an after note of spice, a welcome surprise on the salad. Sadly I can’t remember the name of the restaurant or even what else was in the salad. I do remember that I vowed then and there that I would be getting a food dehydrator, so that I could make those oranges.

A few months later, a friend gifted me a secondhand dehydrator, but, still, I did not make the oranges.

This week, however, they popped back into my head, and I had some super sweet cara cara oranges on hand. I sliced them thin (about an eighth of an inch), and sprinkled them lightly with cinnamon. I spread them out on the dehydrator trays and let them dry for about a day. The time needed depends on your dehydrator, but they should be completely brittle (mine could have used a few more hours, actually, but I was anxious). I snapped off the peel and bitter pith (you could also peel before drying) before tasting them—they didn’t quite meet my Savannah memory, but that tart-sweet crunch was there. I used the oranges in my own salad, adding them to avocado and arugula. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, I think fresh oranges would be good in the salad as well.

Arugula Salad with Dried Oranges, Avocado and Pine Nuts

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet until lightly browned. Plate the arugula (as many servings as needed). Top each serving with a few slices of avocado, a few pieces of dried orange, and a handful of pine nuts. Dress lightly with a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper.

13 January 12 • MAV

Let’s start the year off right, shall we?

One of my most favorite things in the world is a nice crispy, yet soft, waffle. Waffles sort of give me the same feeling as kittens or puppies. They are just so darn cute!! Aw, waffle. Look at you. With your ditches for syrup and adorable floppy architecture. Hi, waffle! Hi there.

A-hem. Sorry. Got off track with my waffle talk. Back to the serious nature of this serious post about waffles.

On my birthday a few weeks back I found the perfect waffle recipe. Or at least it’s the perfect one for me. I tweaked a few little things right off the bat and loved the results so much.

First, a few waffle tips …
~ Make sure you put enough batter on the waffle-maker. Better to have it spilling off the sides. There’s nothing worse than a skimpy little waffle. Poor soul.
~ Don’t take them off too early. Let those babies get crispy!
~ Dapple on cold butter and warm real maple syrup once the waffle is plated. This combo helps you enjoy the crispness of the waffle (cold butter doesn’t make the waffle go soggy) while savoring the warmth and goodness coming right off the iron.
~ Use cute plates. What is better than looking at a sweet little waffle on an adorable plate? Come on now.
~ My favorite “side” for a waffle is greek yogurt with a bit of good cinnamon sprinkled on top. Why not get a little protein alongside your little waffle? I also like the way the cold yogurt tastes next to the warm waffle.

How many times can I say waffle in this post??!?

Now, the recipe …

Blueberry Bran Waffles
adapted slightly from New Natural Foods Cookbook, Jean Hewitt, 1982

2/3 C unbleached flour
2/3 C whole wheat pastry flour (or spelt)
3/4 C unprocessed coarse wheat bran
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs, separated
2 T brown sugar
1-1/2 C milk
1/3 C canola oil
1/2 C blueberries

Whisk together dry ingredients, set aside. Beat egg yolks with brown sugar in a large bowl. Add milk and oil and mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just moist. Do not over-mix; you should see some clumps. Fold in egg whites very gently. Again, do not over-mix; you should see some egg white streaks. Stir in blueberries. Drop 2/3–3/4 C of batter (use however much will work for your waffle iron, actually) onto a preheated and well-oiled waffle iron. Bake until browned and serve as I have suggested above or however you like!

Happy 2012 to you out there! And to you too you cute little waffle you.

13 January 12 • SCB

I’ll admit, I have not been doing so well with my new year’s resolutions (including cleaning out my drawers). But it’s not too late to renew my commitments, so when I had a free hour this week, I headed straight for a drawer that I use daily and has been driving me nuts—the spice drawer.

Here is the embarrassing before photo. I buy most of my spices in small amounts in bulk (I re-use the little plastic baggies when possible). After a busy holiday season of cooking, the drawer was full of aromatic baggies (many spilling their contents) along with all the random kitchen tools (apple slicer, pastry cutter, citrus reamer) that didn’t have an obvious home elsewhere in the kitchen.

First thing I did was to remove all the excess stuff, the odds and ends that needed a new home. This little bottle of Tabasco (from room service on my travels last year) will go in our camping spice kit.

All the bulk spices found their way into a labeled jar. I use small canning jars with plastic lids. They are easy to see and their wide mouths allow me to grab a pinch easily or to dip in a measuring spoon with less mess.  A china marker is great for labels that can be rubbed off when I replace it with a new spice.

A quick vacuum and wipe out and much better! On to the next drawer.