MUSIC to my EARS and EYES

Was I missed? Probably not since cyberspace is filled to overflowing with words, many of which strike me as inconsequential as anything I might have written during this lengthy hiatus from my blog site. Why the keyboard vacation?  I’m thinking technology glitches and company changes provided my best excuse. I have been inspired dozens of times, but the thoughts and observations that never felt the business end of a pen had not a faint chance of making it to a keyboard.

Herein lies an exception scribbled on a tablet : “I Heard a Forest Praying . . .”  Actually, I Saw a Forest Praying over and over and heard the music in my head–in three-part harmony, just like I remembered it written for a women’s choral piece. Visiting my older daughter over a week, I experienced this exhilarating sight on an extremely windy spring day. Sitting at her kitchen table close to the sliding glass door, how the strong winds did sweep across the backyard edged by woods!

DSC02069

The lower branches bowing simultaneously like giant green fans–kept me entertained for long moments at a time. I cannot know about the praying part, but I am very sure any queen would have felt honored from slipper to crown at the deference–the bowing–of those trees in concert. I was reminded of my own backyard view with lilac hedge as a backdrop. The show of lavender and white beauty arrived earlier in April than ever. short-lived, but generously fragrant. But alas, only a forest in passing brought music to my ears. Lilacs don’t bend at all.

Spring? My word! It’s here!

Yes, I start my welcome to spring mentality well ahead of the calendar date. Fall of 2012 saw me planting a whole lot of anticipation for the debut of the current season. It’s a wonder I haven’t looked the new bulb shoots right into the ground. Initially it appeared as if all I had to show for my backbreaking labor were HOLES. The ones I had dug in preparation for new tulips, crocuses, and dozen of other newbies from the Dutch collections. I could just picture the year-round resident rodents eating fresh green dollar bills. A BIG pile of them. To my delight, and despite the feasting–free to the squirrels–green shoots continue to poke up between the snows–a couple in the past three days.

It was not a harsh winter, but no matter, my patience had taken leave early. Imagine my shock and awe at seeing a cluster of purple blossoms–weeks ahead of March.  A new variety to me, blossoms daintier in size and resembling a bouquet.

SpringCrocus

Even with the snows melting–again–the giant crocus alongside my driveway have not yet surfaced. But as the inspiration for my first, ever, nationally published work for pre-school/kindergarten children, here I share my 6-line ACTION TIME featured poem which appeared in the March 1998 Turtle magazine as a 2-page spread whimsically illustrated in full color.

SPRING SECRETS

by

Mariam Davis Pineno

______________

Whoever would know

That buried in snow

Lie secrets to make a heart sing?

Yellow, purple, and white–

My, oh, my, what a sight

Are the pop-up flowers of spring.

I never get tired of unearthing that issue of Turtle and seeing how beautifully the poem and the artist’s illustration worked together. Over 300,000 subscribers read my work, I received ten “contributor copies” (at $1.25, each) and a $45 check which I copied to frame and hang beside my computer desk. When shortly afterward I happened onto a teapot with matching cup and saucer, you can see why I couldn’t resist that $60 permanent porcelain reminder of my arrival as a children’s author.

I’ll save my second Turtle poem for a blog in April, the month (same year) in which it was published. What’s not to love about ducklings and puddles–JUST for FUN?

Crocus20Teapot

A Tasty Cake Topper

If you were expecting an old-time cake recipe, stop reading now. What I want to show you is a bit of history and the end result of a few hours work back in the 40s when folks had no choice but to bake and take church-affair offerings made from scratch. My mother was expected–every time–to show up with this tantalizing beauty–as tasty as it looked.
So she did.

I found a cookbook photo so like her finished cake–missing only Mom’s signature “flower” on top for decoration. Edible, of course. The fresh orange segment photo’s mine, the fruit from CA available year ’round, unlike when I still lived at home and oranges were a luxury.

OrangeFilledCoconutCake

Here I’m including only the two recipes which made a plain two-layer cake a standout: The filling and the icing. I’m guessing a box mix of either white or yellow cake would be a fair substitute for the original which called for sifted cake flour.

CLEAR ORANGE FILLING

Mix together in saucepan . . .
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. grated orange rind
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter
Bring to a rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Chill before using as a filling between cooled cake layers.

DOUBLE BOILER FROSTING (7-minute)

Combine in top of double boiler . . .
2 egg whites (1/3 cup)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 cup of water
Place over boiling water and beat with rotary beater until mixture holds its shape.
Fold in . . .
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

When cool enough, spread over sides and top of cake which has orange filling between layers. Gently press flaked or regular coconut into icing all over. Arrange fresh orange slices on top for garnish/decoration.

OrangeSwirl

 

 

Oh, My! My INSPIRATION’s Crushed

My blog writing has splattered to a stop. My fingers have refused to pick up a pen I’d use for long-hand drafts. And herein I’m giving away behind the scene secrets of my writing style. Tablet and pen, first. Always.

Spontaneous is NOT me. I avoid the keyboard right to the end. Whatever might appear off-the-cuff will have rattled around loosely in my head for days, weeks, or months before I give my words permission to go to type–finally.

This short essay came to me quite by chance. Actually, by accident, for my small inspiration was a gift of a fellow flower lover (longtime friend) and resembled a goose egg in size and shape. My little garden enhancement, edge-etched to look like a turtle, featured what appeared to be etched in stone one simple word: I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N. And unwittingly, I crushed it. I wish it could be replaced but I’m not optimistic.

Alas, the fate of a Pennsylvania winter–the snow, ice, and freezing rains–I had ignored. All of the above had repeatedly covered a couple of abandoned summer flower patio pots whose latent seeds often reward me in spring or early summer even for having been so neglected. My “stone” had been carelessly and unceremoniously set atop the dead foliage. I didn’t see it so at the time for appearances can be deceptive.

Imagine my shock and horror the day my bare hand shot out to remove the ice crust and came up with one gushy gray glob. Too late for my ill-timed rescue!

All that remains (SEE PHOTO) are the letters I-R amidst a sad pile of plaster-of-Paris.

May Inspiration rest in peace. Reincarnation, welcome.

GardenStone GardenStone1

Here lies my I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N with nothing showing but the middle I-R.

Leafcrete

My original, hand-crafted Leaf-‘crete piece (real concrete) will never, ever, leave the safety of the inside of my house.

My Snowy Day Warm-up

What do you do when you’ve shoveled the walks front and back and you aren’t expecting anyone but the mail carrier? You won’t be driving anywhere today. You going to just sit there and read?

Not today. Write? Maybe. But first I’ll make an inordinate number of trips between the best window and door views–taking photos again–repeating myself in awe-filled tones on how light and easy the frozen raindrop pebbles were scraped and tossed. “Just like granulated sugar,” I’ll say. Again.

Then as predictably as snowfalls beautify our northeastern landscape in January, I’ll start to bake. Or cook. But no Chef–like The Ranting Amateur whose postings I admire — I may try something I fancied on a recent magazine cover. I’m thinking I’ll make Anadama bread in all its molasses glory another snowy day before spring. That Betty Crocker Cookbook (first edition–1950) recipe, brown finger smudges and all, isn’t going anywhere.

ChickenBroth

Yes. On the first snowfall of the weekend I’m thinking soup. I set oven temp at 425 degrees and start cutting into 1-inch cubes the butternut squash I brought home weeks ago with good intentions. Softer now, cutting 1/2 to 1-inch discs across the solid end is a snap for paring.   NOTE: Select butternut squash with smallest bulbous end for fewer seeds and fiber to discard.

SquashBroth

A half dozen nice-sized carrots (thinly scraped with a peeler) get cut to 1-inch pieces and tossed in a big bowl with a half dozen (if small) whole garlic cloves and a sliced medium onion. 2 tbsp of olive oil and a scant shake of salt and pepper (to taste) will coat the tossed vegetables. On a cookie sheet, turn all with spatula halfway through 30 minutes in oven.
I set timer for two 15-minute segments so I can’t forget.

VeggiesOven

In 3-4 batches (depending on food processor capacity, puree vegetables along with the 4 cups of chicken stock. Mine was pretty and more textured (just the way I like it) with bits and pieces of the two shades of orange. Rather than sweeten with the whole TBSP of brown sugar, as in the original recipe, I pared and microwaved 2 smallish Gala apples in 1 tsp water  4-5 minutes while vegetables were baking, pureeing together.
GalaApples

CookedApples

When bringing soup to simmer for serving, add 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 tsp nutmeg to the pot. (panini croutons optional)

I have two lovely Pfaltzgraff tureens–one gray, one blue. But my smaller ceramic pumpkin was the perfect size for about 9 one-cup servings. Perfect color to warm up my snowy day!

Tureen

Sled Days’ Memories (a personal poem)

December 24, 2000 saw this poem and a photo in the old newspaper style GRIT. I received a check for my submission, but it is still my poem–my property–so with our second 4-inch snowfall of the season in north-central PA–pretty much within the space of a week, here’s a glimpse of days when the whole winter was a kid’s wonderland. This sled has decorated the kitchen entry for  more years than the poem has existed, but I offer full disclosure here even tho it makes me sound a tad daffy. When my late husband, at my request, hauled the sled down from storage in the garage rafters, I actually asked him if it was the sled my sister Barb and I had shared as kids. “No, it’s my old sled,” is what he said. Ha!  I should have known when I saw how very precisely and neatly the rope had been wrapped for storing. So like my Frank. The Flyer style had fooled me into hoping it could have been something saved from my own youth. It did, however, inspire the poem:

SLED DAYS
by
Mariam Davis Pineno

I fear to ride or slide for spills,

but well remember when

we’d glide on Flyers down slick hills

and drag them up again.

I mostly sat, a scaredy-cat,

for fear I’d smash my face.

But others belly-flopped (kersplat!)

and won most every race.

In half an hour with dripping nose,

while sobbing I fought the pain

of frostbit fingers and tingly toes

that forced me home again.

Big sister walked me to the door.

Hers was a heart of gold.

I never understood, for sure,

how she withstood such cold.

Our old Heatrola’s coal and wood

fired off an awesome heat.

I pulled as close as ever I could

with my bunny-slippered feet.

Then, just as soon as clothes were dry

I’d beg to go again.

And Mom, ‘tho patient, wondered why?

Well, I felt fine by then.

Now if I rode that sled today,

no telling where I’d land.

But fair to say, I’d rue the day

but for a helping hand.

SledDaytime                  SledNightime

10X Snowfall and Christmas Crescent Cookies

Our first snowfall of the central PA season was earlier than usual–November 27 in 2012. To my eyes it was lovely to look at blanketing the whole property. That included the unsuspecting tables and chairs on the patio and the pouf of clematis vine still loaded with seeds and not yet dried enough to prune. The snow made no exception to my vehicle parked in the driveway.

FirstSnow

As luck would have it, I needed to escape the 2-inch accumulation for an early doctor’s appointment five miles over the river. And lo and behold with a half hour to take-off time, I was met at the exit by my daughter all bundled up in heavy coat, hood, scarf, mittens, and boots. In no time she had uncovered my Ford Escape with a long-handled brush, warmed up the motor and interior, and reminded me where on instrument panel to find defroster and heater controls. Lucky me for 4-wheel drive on steep inclines to my destination. Double lucky to have a thoughtful daughter who finished all the shovelling in my absence.

Having recorded Mother Nature’s introduction to winter here, I’ll segue to a children’s poem–heretofor unpublished–describing a subtle snowfall. One I didn’t have to conquer on wheels.

A 10x Snowfall

by Mariam Davis Pineno

If every house were gingerbread,

a dark molasses brown,

I’d say THE SIFTER overhead

has topped our tiny town.

So powd’ry–snow drifts down

to decorate each tree,

someone must soon sweep sugared walks.

I hope that someone’s me!

Now for the Christmas Crescent Cookies, formerly served as Conewago Crescents in my younger daughter’s coffee house. Sift a bowlful of 10x sugar, then roll cookies in it twice–once when warm from the oven and a final coat when cool. That makes them sweet enough, in case you’re thinking the amount of granulated sugar in the recipe sounds skimpy. Caution: baked, the cookies are fragile, but still need to be handled hot–carefully.

COOKIE RECIPE

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

CREAM 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter

Add 5 tbs granulated sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp water

Sift 2 cups unbleached flour with 1/2 tsp salt and stir into butter mixture

Add in 2 cups finely chopped walnuts or pecans and mix thoroughly. May need to use your nice clean hands to incorporate all

     Using portion about the size of a small walnut, form a ball, then roll in your palm till smooth, thinning out ends slightly to bend and form into crescent shape.         BAKE about 20 minutes–just to starting to brown.

     Roll in powdered (10x) sugar while warm. To protect countertops I spread paper towels first, then cover with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Roll in sugar again when cool. The crescent shape (if you keep size uniform) makes storing in round tins ideal. Can’t slide around when hugging each other, hm? I double the recipe and get about 9 1/2 dozen cookies. A Tupperware pie taker holds 7 1/2 dozen with circles of waxed paper between layers. The cookie freezes well. Who knows? You might find a small plastic bagful a year later. It has happened!