December 31, 2009

Happy New Years with a box of tissues

Hi folks! Sorry I haven't been posting for a while, but Christmas got extremely busy, and what with all the seasonal germs getting together with the seasonal pie eating I've come down with a cold. So I'm holed up on my mother-in-law's couch drinking tea and postponing packing as long as possible. Tomorrow we start the grand road trip to Dallas to visit Allen's great-grandmother, and I'm really hoping that I'll feel a bit more human by tomorrow morning. With seven people in a seven passenger van for ten hours this is not the time to be hacking up your lungs onto someone else's neck. Anyway, we've had a lovely but busy Christmas and are once again looking forward to being back home.

Hope everyone enjoys their New Year's celebrations!

December 17, 2009

Counting down the miles

Pretty soon Allen and I will scrunched up in economy class trying to catch a couple hours of sleep as we count down the miles to Christmas at home. Finally, mercifully, it's all starting to come together. The box of gifts has been sent off -possibly too late for the family gathering on Saturday but in plenty of time for Christmas, but that's not a total disaster since I've got a few more goodies tucked into my suitcase. The living room is lived in clean, by which I mean there's a plate here and some strayed kitchen towels there. Again, nothing disastrous. Similar could be said for most of the apartment with the exception of the back bedroom which has been the staging area for numerous Christmas intrigues and looks the worse for it.

For Advent we have eaten steak and pumpkin pie and homemade soup and leftover turkey sandwiches with lovely wines to smooth out the edges. I've decorated my tree, strung lights, lit candles, and decorated gingerbread cookies. All this and it's still a week before Christmas. It's easy for me to think about the lovely things I'd love to do for Christmas -more handcrafting for instance - and lose sight of the things I have done. A year ago I couldn't have imagined that I would celebrate the holidays with such a relatively low amount of stress. Life, breathing, is coming easier to me. Some of that has unfolded in the Christmas decorations around me and the presents wrapped and under the tree waiting for Epiphany when Allen and I, returned again to this new land, will finish the Christmas season together with all the abundance that overflowed our boxes and suitcases. I've done pretty well for a girl who started the year with as much overwhelming guilt and unredeemed pain as I did. And now I'm sitting here counting down the hours until a friend from church picks us up and takes us to the airport so we can go home for Christmas. It's been an amazing journey.

To everyone else out there seeking beauty, grace, and rest -Merry Christmas.

December 14, 2009

Almost there.....

Well Advent is almost over, and Christmas is almost here. It's a sort of happy sad occasion for me because on one hand I'll be going home and on another hand I really like making Christmas in my own home. Ok, so in the past it's been challenging. It's a challenge I've been warming up to these past few years. Since we're flying home this year I've kept things fairly simple overall - there's a strand of lights and a red beaded garland draped over my bookcase, a nativity scene in the bedroom, and another in the living room, some candles, and my tree. Against all common sense I had to have my tree. It's about six feet tall and covered with nearly that many strands of lights. I've got all my ornaments from Granny and Mamaw and Allen's mom on it along with some I painted and some others I picked up here and there traveling. Every year it's about the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. One day I plan to be that mom who decorates the house from top to bottom with candles, lights, fruit, greenery, and colored balls. I'm going to build me an Advent nest and curl up inside with a mug of cocoa and a wedge of pecan pie. But for now I'm just one of the kids hopping on an airplane and flying home. I look forward to it. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to the day when home isn't a place you visit once or twice a year.

December 6, 2009


The past week has been simultaneously very busy, very good, and very disconcerting. As for the very busy and very good parts I've found that I've had a lot more energy lately. I'm getting up earlier and getting more stuff done. My bedroom is so neat it almost feels like a hotel room, and we put together our 15ft bookcase in the living room. On top of that I've put up the tree, cooked, gone Christmas shopping, and in general gotten more work done in one week than I used to get done in a single month during some of my bad spells. I'm doing really well, and there is a part of me that finds this very disconcerting. I'm finding myself scrambling for the guilt and angst that have been my environment for the past only God knows how many years. True rest eludes me as my mind casts itself back and forth seeking its old companions. I know that I'm doing vastly better than ever before -I'm feeling better, doing more, and in general more comfortable with myself as an autonomous individual. I know all this, but I'm heaving and gasping like a flatlander in the Alps. I've breathed the air of guilt and insufficiency for so long that don't know what to do now that I'm breathing purer air. That's really what it feels like. I know that everything is going well and that I should be resting and enjoying my labors, but I feel so restless. Allen says I'm learning new habits and won't feel so lost for long, but I never expected that getting better would feel like wandering over some unmarked border where suddenly everyone speaks a different language. It's rather disconcerting.

December 5, 2009

Pear, Mascarpone, and Almond Tart

I tried a new recipe out tonight and ended up surprising myself. I usually don't go in for anything too gourmet, but even though this made up quite easily it felt fancy and somewhat decadent. As usual I went hunting for recipes and then adapting one to suit my own ideas.

This recipe is adapted from one at

First, you'll need a baked nine inch pie crust in a tart pan (or I used a steep sided pie pan.

For your filling you'll need the following:

2 pears peeled, cored, and sliced
white wine for poaching (I used some Riesling I had on hand)
1/3c brown sugar/succanat
1t nutmeg
1t cinnamon
2/3c mascarpone
1/4c white sugar (I used zylitol)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
3T milk or cream
1 1/2T almond paste
slivered almonds

The original recipe called for canned pears, but I used fresh and poached them in a mixture of white wine, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar. I used just enough wine to almost cover the pears. Once the pears were tender I removed them from the liquid and reduced the liquid to about half a cup -by which time the liquid resembled a dark caramel. (Warning, the boiling wine smelled pretty foul to me until I added the cinnamon and reduced the liquid. Afterwards it tasted great so don't get scared if it smells weird.)
While the liquid is reducing mix together the remaining ingredients in a food processor.

Here is one place where you might want to play around. I ended up arranging the pears in the bottom on the pie pan, pouring the sugar mixture on top, and pouring the custard mixture over all. You could also put the pears on top. I don't think it really matters that much. Either way reserve a tablespoon or two of the liquid because if you pour it on top of the custard you can swirl it around with a fork or a toothpick, and it looks really pretty. Last of all sprinkle some slivered almonds over the top and bake in an oven at 325 for 30 minutes or until the custard is set. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

This is hands down the prettiest dessert I've ever made. The custard turns a lovely golden color and the sugars caramelize into interesting little swirls. I was worried about the almonds on the top burning, but they ended up adding a lovely punctuation mark to the whole presentation. I think it's also going to be a fun dessert to play around with. There's proportions to play with for one, but I could also change up the flavors (Lemon zest? Red wine? Pecans?) and presentation (different designs and layering methods). For being fairly rich (all that mascarpone) this tart doesn't feel at all heavy like a cheesecake or some pudding desserts. If you accept my usual caveat that I rarely measure and these amounts are generally estimates I think it's worth a shot.

December 1, 2009

internet resolutions

Resolved: to stop reading web articles that don't interest me. Far better to put on a timer and just stop and read my book for half an hour than to read things that A. are mere repetitions of things with which I already agree and aren't instructional or edifying or B. lots of words winding down from faulty premises to an unenlightening conclusion. If I want to scroll for information after supper that's fine. There's no reason for me to be wasting my day in this manner. Also, with counseling and such I have plenty of advice and matter for contemplation without worrying about what some person with at least partially ill-conceived ideas has to say about matters of marginal interest.

Now, back to some matters of real worth.