best laid plans right?

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

‘To a Mouse’
Robert Burns

The Cross!
There, and there only though the deist rave,
and the atheist, if Earth bears so base a slave;
There and there only,
is the power to save.

William Cowper


(Wood mouse image by Andrew Everhale)

The best laid plans of mice and men…..

Ok…. so first Lent seems to have come and almost gone…
Mainly because we had a baby come Feb 17th with what started as a panic but
eventually turned thankfully to joy…

Next it was nearly 3 weeks there, then they all came here.
Then back there…
There is still very little sleeping when it’s dark…

Lent…hummm…

We managed to get a sweet little Easter dress, a little monogrammed sweater, an Easter
basket that is good to go…

Then the first of this week there was a trip to the Urgent Care for mom–

I was there to watch the baby while my son and daughter-n-law dealt with what was
thought to be food poisoning.

I’ve been around long enough to know I usually know more than Urgent Care…
what older mom, and now grandmother, doesn’t trump Urgent Care?!
My diagnosis….not any ol run of the mill food poisoning.

So I’ve brought the baby back home with me while the young parents spent a day in the ER
as my daughter-n-law got morphine, and an IV and multiple tests run…
then it was home with prescriptions and time left to wait on labs…

So as this has been anything but a typical Lent for this family…
as Easter weekend, complete with a brand new first Easter dress and a first visit to
mom’s small family church is all very much up in the air…
and with this little world of ours being somewhat upside down…

Today is still Good Friday.

We are still entering the holiest week of the Christian Faith.

Saturday will still be Holy Saturday…

And Sunday will still be Easter…

So despite all that life and this world throws our way…those best-laid plans of both
mice and men, moms and grandmothers…
Jesus still vanquished Death!

Alleluia!!!

To a Mouse
BY ROBERT BURNS
On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Cooking with Cookie or Vanilla Extract Part II

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But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Robert Burns

Oh Robbie Burns, you smooth talking Scot you, you’re singing my song. Or better yet, this is the story of my life. I suppose you could say that my life is a single strand of small cliches strung together over the course of almost 54 years….with my time in the kitchen being no exception…hence the best laid plains of mice and men…or actually the best laid plans of Cookie….

I love to cook and I’ve written a previous post on the art of baking verses cooking— with my inclinations leaning more toward the cooking end the spectrum as this is the area that allows me to be most creative and not as dependent upon the chemical reactions of fats, sugars, yeasts, heat, etc… My pilopsophy is add a little of this and a little of that…and if that doesn’t do the trick… add something else—and when in doubt, perhaps, throw it out.

So I thought it may be nice to have a bit of a diversion today…nothing too heavy, historical or controversial…something more along the lines of taste and of tasting good. And mind you that doesn’t necessarily mean uber healthy rabbit food…..but homemade, perhaps homegrown and soul satisfying….

Do you remember the post Vanilla Extract or is Cookie a Lush…written back in May? Well, it was time to taste test the maturation of the alcohol and beans…ummmmmm

Here the bottles were back in May ready to head to the dark corners of a forgotten cabinet.DSCN0069

and here they are today…bronzed with time….
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I don’t know what I was expecting. Heady vanilla goodness? Sweet, luscious and decadent?
I pulled the bottles out of their dark hiding place, the tomb, aka cabinet, where they’ve been allowed to “do their thing” for these past several months. They have been pulled out from time to time in order to get a healthy little shake—always fighting the desire to pop the cork for a quick whiff of that heavenly amalgamation of vanilla and alcohol—in this case your choice of either vodka, bourbon, honey bourbon, spiced dark rum, Tahitian beans or Madagascar beans…this is hard core extract making.

I pulled out a little silver teaspoon–only the best for this virgin tasting. I placed all the bottles on the counter, and deiced which one I wanted to “test” first. Ooooo, a little shiver ran down my spine, my first decanting…too exciting! I give the bottle of choice one last shake, pop the cork, and I’m suddenly greeted by the unmistakable scent of vanilla which fills the air, but there is also a faint sterile whiff of alcohol….hummmmmm…..

I pour a little of the glistening brown liquid into the spoon, I raise it to my lips and let it fill my mouth. At first millisecond, there is a warm sensation, then suddenly…. AAAGGGHHHH, cough, cough, cough…..yewh…oh God, do I swallow, do I spit…AAGGGHHH…hot, hot, fire….oh dear lord, oh my gosh what was I thinking… a cordial, a cloyingly sweet liquor? AAAGGHHH… what’s in my mouth is on fiiiirrrreeee!!

Now granted I am not one to drink my liquor straight. I’ve just never been that kind of girl. I may be a southern girl who grew up at THE University of Georgia back in the day, who may have had my share of bourbon and coke–of which I no longer seem to desire as I think I had my bait of that oh those many (35ish) years ago…whoops,digressing I do go…. Now give me a little tonic and a lime, a splash of this or that… but straight, no thank you….

My dad has been a Scotch drinker his entire life. One Christmas I spent the most money I’d ever spent on a gift for my dad and that was simply a single barrel, 25 year aged bottle of Scotch from the Speyside area of Scotland. He drinks it neat, or over ice and it’s usually a double to a triple…geeze… I thought there really had to be something to this Scotch business. Sophisticated men (and I’ve only known one woman to do so) have always seemed to drink Scotch. There is an air of sophistication associated with it—tweeds, crystal glasses, driving caps and delightful accents. The whole mist of the moors mystique. I stupidly think that I too need to add this to my repertoire.

Big terrible mistake!!! One taste of Scotch was enough to last me a life time. Liquid burnt peat, that’s all it is. It’s a fiery taste of burnt rubbish. They say you have to acquire the taste for Scotch…if I have to practice to enjoy tasting it, forget it—I’m a love at first taste sort of gal. But don’t tell that to a Scotch drinker. No wee dram here—no sir. Give me my antispetic vodka, the tofu of alcohol –meaning it’ll take on the flavor of whatever you may pair it with—in this case, vanilla beans.

I taste the bourbon extact, the honey bourbon extract, the spiced rum extrat, and the vodka extract—all with similar flair and fire. Ugghh… I pull out a store bought bottle of extract from the cabinet and give it a go just to compare… am I on the right tract or I have created poison?!

Thankfully– the store bought has similar characteristics of my concoctions. Fiery alcohol with some sort of spicy note….just call me the sommeliers of extract.

Time for the true test…to bake a little something in order to see if these bottles are ripe, or still need a little more time to cure…….

Hummm…I need to do something quick as my son and his fiancee were coming over for supper. The need for something streamline nixed the bourbon and rum based extracts as I wasn’t thinking chocolate—I know, who doesn’t think chocolate, but it was a hot day, I needed something light.

Ahhh, meringues…brillant

The smaller meringues, the Boccone Dolce or sweet mouthful in Italian– or even the more showy and larger cousin the Pavolva—are the quintessential vehicle for visually stunning deserts…billowy crisp outer shells with a soft chewy marshmellowesque interior. These are sold, a bit larger than what I make, by bakeries all over Italy and France as a quick pick up go to desert show stopper. One may fill them with mounds of decadent whipped creams and luscious fruits…which is more along the traditional lines of a Pavlova or they may be filled with your either your choice of sorbet and fruit or ice-cream complete with shaved chocolate bits, drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce and sprinkled with a few roasted nuts or toasted coconut, it will appear as if you have labored for hours.

They are easy to make as long as you follow a few precautions—humidity being the first real kill joy. The other being any unsuspecting egg yolk that drips down into the bowl of whites as you’re separating the eggs. Here is a quick recipe for Boccone Dolce or simply put filled meringue shells:
you will need to”
— preheat your oven to 225ᵒ F
—Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I also spray the parchment with Baker’s Joy)
— 3 eggs separated, allowed to come to room temperature (I use 4 and I find that if I crack them first
separating the eggs then allowing for the whites to reach room temps, the shells are not as prone to
shatter sending small shards into the whites)
—a small bit of cream of tartar 1/4 teaspoon–remember I don’t measure, I just give a little
sprinkle)
–3/4 cup granulated sugar
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (here I am a bit more liberal–I use a splash, more like a teaspoon and
a bit more
–Using a hand held mixer I begin whipping the whites and cream of tarter fist just still the whites get a little foamy. Continuing mixing, I slowly add, a little at a time, allowing for it to be incorporated, the sugar. Still mixing I add the vanilla. I mix until the whites are think, shiny, and can hold up stiff peaks if I pull up on the mixer.
–I then gently scoop out 6 mounds onto the parchment lined baking pan. Using the back of a spoon I gently form a nest by hollowing out an indention in the center of each mound.
–Pop the the sheet into the oven and bake for about and hour and a half.
–Once time is up–turn the oven off, leaving the meringues in the oven for at least one more hour as this dries them out.
(now I have found that my meringues cook best in my regular oven verses the convection oven as they tend to cook too quickly-the meringues should not brown but remain a lovely pale off white. You want a nice crisp exterior and a soft mellowly interior.
–here is where you can be creative filling them with decadent goodness topped by more of the same.

These particular meringues cooked and cooled while I prepared supper. As I didn’t have ample time to pull out all the stops for these little puppies, I simply filled them with peach ice cream, topping them with freshly cut peaches. I have been known to sauté the peaches in a tad of butter, sugar, cinnamon, a squirt of lemon till a nice peachy syrup develops ladling this over the ice cream and shells….
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The vanilla was spot on, I could actually taste a very nice hint of warm vanilla laced throughout every heavenly bite of meringue–boccone dolce –truly

A rose among thorns

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“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose That’s newly sprung in June; O my luve’s like the melodie That’s sweetly play’d in tune. As fair art thou, my bonie lass, So deep in luve am I; And I will luve thee still, my Dear, Till a’the seas gang dry. Till a’the seas gang dry, my Dear, And the rocks melt wi’ the sun: O I will love thee still, my Dear, While the sands o’ life shall run.”
– Robert Burns

Granted this is not a red rose, and I’m not in Scotland (unless I took the low road and you took the high road 🙂 ) but it is June and I thought it fitting that my single little wild primrose should find itself fortunate to be honored by the likes of Robbie Burns.

I actually spied this little beauty on a jaunt last Sunday out in the middle of nowhere….my husband is an avid outdoorsman and recreational hunter….I know, I know, I hear you– but you must understand that he is a rare bird—responsible and always a good steward of the land—he hunts what we can eat and only if it is of certain standards. I can’t help it—I’m the city girl who moved to the rural part of our state and married a country outdoorsman.

All of that being said we were actually down on some property in middle Georgia last weekend, surveying some land. This is a big hunting area in our state and he was there to explore this particular piece of property. On the side of an old dirt road I noticed a beautiful wild primrose bush growing, covering the side of the road like a giant canopy, climbing up trees and snaking along the edge of this particular dirt road. I always wonder how something so sweet and demure as a primrose wends up in such a barren place, void of any human habitation as this is big timber land—land owned by some of the country’s largest timber companies—but primroses seem to do best in these sorts of locals….

There was a section covered in blooms, most of them spent and fading quickly. As we ventured past the majority of the bush, there, in the middle of leaves and brush, was this lone small pink bloom. Blooming for no one in particular–not cultivated or cared for–no one to prune or fertilize and yet– there it was in all of it’s splendor.

Of course I had the stop and take the picture–something about it said “here I am, you may come share in this special moment of mine…” This little rose reminded me of my mom—before my mom had died, she had planted a small primrose bush on the edge of their carport. When she became sick, there was no one who thought to tend to the little bush. I remember how distraught my dad was after mom’s death when he noticed that her little rose bush looked as if it too would not be with us much longer—but low-n-behold, after Dad watered it a bit, the bush actually began to thrive.

27 years later that little bush is still growing and each season blooming in full regalia. That bush is a tangible link for my dad to my mom. He always points it out to me when I come home to visit…”look at Mom’s little rose bush, remember how it almost died…..” as his words trail off from the story, we both admire the little bush in silence.

I suppose we are all like the little primrose bush—we tend to pop up in all sorts of places–some of us struggle more so than others, but with just a little bit of attention, we tend to thrive. I need to be more mindful of this when I see people who may appear to be not like me, especially those who are elderly.

I am blessed in my life with friends and family–I have a support network very close to me—not all of us are as fortunate. I think often of those who are sick or those in nursing homes, the “shut ins” of our communities—those who are often put aside as their “worth” appears to be no longer viable as our’s is a society that values worth—worth of finance, worth of ability and worth of effort—when all of that worth seems to have waned, then our society seems to wish to toss those now “worth-less” ones aside.

Be it at church, the grocery store, a department store… when I see an elderly person, always alone, struggling a bit, I am reminded of the primrose bush. Alone and untended, these folks tend to fade, but the minute I speak, ask a question, offer assistance, smile in their direction, they perk up and quickly “blossom”—

Let us all remember those we see who are older and alone—as long as anyone on this planet has breath, they are “worthy” of human care and attention. God never discards any of us. He never decides we are past our “worth” and therefore expendable. To Him, we are all precious, up to our dying breath—it would behoove us to be more mindful of the same.

Always remember that among the thorns, the brush, bramble and barren land, often lies the beautiful flower, blooming for no one in particular—but maybe you will be the lucky one to find it. Even the single lone bloom is precious.