Embossing cookie dough

Recently, I was offered the chance to try out an embossed rolling pin from embossedco.com.  Jessica, one of the founders of Embossed Company offered to send me one in exchange for blogging about it-something I generally do not do.  However, I have been looking at them on the internet for so long and have always hesitated ordering one because they were shipping from Eastern Europe and I just couldn’t do it.  Luckily for me, Embossed Company makes their pins here in the US and they ship from the west coast.
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Directions for using and caring for the pin are on the website under the FAQ page.  However, I decided to include my step by step experience.  When I roll out dough, I like to position it between wooden dowels to achieve an even thickness.  You can find dowels in any store that sells lumber and they come in all different sizes.  The first set I used are 1/4 inch dowels and on a floured surface, I rolled out my dough with a smooth pin.

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A quick switch to 3/16 inch dowels and to the embossing pin, I started at the surface closest to me and pressed down while rolling away from me.

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The pin leaves a nice impression of the design, this one is called Paisley.

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Your choice of dough really matters here.  If you are familiar with springerle or speculaa cookies, you might already have a favorite dough to work with.  For those of you new to this concept, stick with a cookie dough that doesn’t have a leavener such as a classic rolled sugar cookie.  This is my adaptation of a Spekulatius cookie, a traditional German version of gingerbread.  

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The design is abstract but organized in a manner that you can easily position cutters over sections of the dough to get a specific part of the design or just wing it and see what happens!

IMG_8848Rather than fuss over positioning the cutter, I just worked at placing them in an efficient pattern to eliminate wasted space.  Square cutters are perfect for this.
IMG_8852Round cutters are not, they generate lots of scraps that I saved for the next time I need a few freshly baked cookies.
IMG_8854The dowels may seem unnecessary but they really aren’t.  If you have ever rolled out cookies and had some on the tray burn before others were baked, it is because the thickness of the dough wasn’t consistent.  This is where the dowels come in; they stop you from rolling the dough out thinner than you intended to.
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Once baked, the design is a bit softer but still pretty obvious.  If you have ever baked springerle, you are familiar with the concept of letting the cookies sit and dry before baking-something I might try.  A lower baking temperature might also aid in retaining the design. 

IMG_8860Regardless, the cookies look great, the pin was easy to use and I am thrilled that I agreed to take Jessica up on her offer!  Embossed Company is a new business but they are off to a great start and they even pledge to donate 15% of their profits to non profits that are working towards providing meals to impoverished communities around the world.
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Almond Spekulatius Cookies

makes 4-6 dozen cookies depending on the size of your cutters

 

7 ounces unsalted butter, softened (14 tablespoons, 199g)

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed in the cup (210 g)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 whole egg, large size

2 tablespoons spekulatius spice blend, homemade or purchased*

1/2 cup almond flour (60g)*

1 cup white whole wheat flour (154g)*

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (140g)

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar, vanilla and salt until fluffy.  Scrape the bowl as you go to insure it is completely mixed.  Add the egg, mix it in completely.  By hand, fold in the remaining ingredients and form a thick disk with the dough.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for several hours and up to several days, you can also freeze it for a month.

When ready to make the cookies, allow the dough to come to room temperature, it should be pliable but not sticky.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Using the method described in the photos above, roll and cut out the cookies.  Place them on sheet pans lined with parchment or silpats and bake until golden around the edges, about 12-14 minutes.  Allow them to cool on the tray for a few minutes and then move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Store them in an air tight container.

Some notes on the ingredients:

Spekulatius spice is fairly common in Germany, we have friends there that sent us some over the holidays but you can easily make it or purchase some.

Almond flour gives a nice crunch to the dough, you can substitute with any finely ground nut that you prefer.  For those with nut allergies, substitute an additional 1/2 cup of all purpose flour.

White whole wheat flour is just another way of adding texture to the dough along with a little extra flour.  Feel free to experiment with other whole grain flours but start by measuring out a cup, they all have different weights!

 

Moroccan Semolina and Almond Cookies; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_8694It has been a while since I have had the time to join in with the TWD members.  There are so many reasons that I haven’t participated, from the fact that I am not happy with my tiny oven (so tiny that I can only bake 2 quarter sized sheet pans at a time and they do not bake evenly), to the complete lack of light in my house (natural light that flows in, not actual lights), so let’s just say that I haven’t really felt like joining in on the fun.  After fighting with it all for 2 years, I have figured a few things out and I finally found my spot in the house for photos; of course, this could all change if I make the changes here that I am hoping to make.

So how do they taste?  The flavor is slightly floral from the use of vanilla and orange blossom extract but while the lemon zest still stands out, it is a bit more subtle than I expected.  Semolina is the key to the sandy texture but not quite as obvious flavor wise, just be sure to use the right one! The almond flour is used raw rather than toasted and while it added a bit of texture and a slightly nutty flavor, it really wasn’t very obvious so I might try toasting it a bit first next time, and there will be a next time!  Overall, this would not be my first choice but I was surprised and I can see making these again.

IMG_8695But enough about me, let’s talk about these cookies!  What I love most about the book Dorie’s Cookies is the size of the recipes.  It may sound like an odd thing to say but large recipes are really inconvenient in my kitchen.  My oven is so small that I cannot put anything larger than 15 inches in it;  15 inches wide or 15 inches deep.  This means that most standard sized cookie sheets will not fit and that leaves me with few options.  What does fit is quarter sized sheet pans and then, only 2 at a time with about a dozen cookies on each pan.  If I make a large number of cookies, I can spend an hour or more just baking them.  This book eliminates that problem since most of the recipes are so small that I find I can usually get them baked in only two batches.

There is another advantage to small recipes, and not just the eating them all part; ingredients.  It is a relatively small investment in the ingredients if the recipe is small and the ingredients are expensive.  A huge plus in the “make these” column for me.  It can also leave room for experimentation, something I think this particular recipe would be perfect for.

First, let’s talk about semolina.  This flour is usually found in pasta and bread recipes and there are different types available.  The one I keep in my freezer is a finely ground semola, imported from Italy and perfect for making semolina bread.  It is not perfect for these cookies, it is so fine that it made the cookies a little denser than I would have liked.  Purchase the semolina found in the imported food section or in a Middle Eastern market; it is slightly coarser and perfect for this recipe because it is a large part of the sandy texture that the cookies have.

Next, use a scoop to portion the dough; it will save you a bunch of time.  The scoop I used was a #50 and it made 48 cookies which were slightly smaller than the recipe called for but I wanted them small.  A #40 scoop would probably be the perfect size to reach the yield listed in the recipe.

Lastly, this recipe is one I like to call a blank slate or a jumping point.  It is wonderful as is but easy to change.  Not a lemon fan, use orange zest.  Don’t have orange flower water, use vanilla or even rosewater.  Want a different flavor altogether, sub hazelnut meal for the almond meal.  The combinations go on and on.  The point here, do not be afraid to make these with the ingredients that the recipe calls for but if you need to substitute ingredients, it will work-with the exception of the semolina; that goes a long way towards the final texture of the cookie and should not be changed.

IMG_8699The bottom line, buy the book and make the cookies, seriously, you won’t regret it.  And if you are wondering, we never publish the recipes out of respect for the author, so you will need to buy or borrow the book to get it!

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a view of the garden in early fall

IMG_8407It has been a busy summer and even though fall has arrived, things are not slowing down!  We have picked a freezer full of vegetables and I have canned more tomatoes than I can count!  Here are some photos of the garden to give you an idea of what we have been up to.  Above is a lousy photo of one of our ginger lilies in bloom-they are so fragrant!

IMG_8410Back in May, I brought home 7 tire planters from the Urban Gardening Festival.  This one is full of shade loving plants and they have really filled in, now I need to figure out how to keep it alive over the winter-these plants are not cold hardy!

IMG_8413The other 6 tires look like this and I just replanted them with fall flowers-now they need to fill in.  The strawberries have spread like crazy and we are hoping for fruit by the bowl next year.  The strawberries have also helped the rhubarb crowns get established and we were able to harvest from each plant.

IMG_8414Gate greeters-love the little faces that greet me as I enter the garden.

IMG_8417The chair planters I made this spring have filled in.

IMG_8418How can you not love sedum?  These plants are so hardy and can survive the neglect they sometimes get in this busy garden.

IMG_8419Love the colors and textures they add too and bees love the blossoms.

IMG_8420All of this heat has been just what the peppers needed and they are coming in by the bowl.

IMG_8421Poblanos

IMG_8422Sweet banana

IMG_8424Roselle Hibiscus is one of my favorite plants in the garden.  This year I am experimenting with jam.  The first batch is in jars but I see room for improvement and will be making more.

IMG_8428Someone asked me why I planted flowers in the garden.  The short answer, I like them!  But more importantly, so do pollinators and butterflies.  This little skipper is drinking from a noodle bean flower.

IMG_8432New to us this year is Cardinal Basil.  Those flower heads can get as big as a softball and the leaves are huge as well.  The flavor is an intense, classic sweet basil flavor and it has made its way into a lot of tomato sauce this summer!

IMG_8440The change of seasons means a change of plants.  Extra Dwarf Pak Choy is actually ready to harvest and we have picked some already.

IMG_8442The last of the canning tomatoes-finally done with it for the year!

IMG_8446Where ever I go in the garden, they watch us work

IMG_8447Lady Bird, our only Americauna hen is a little shy in comparison to the others

IMG_8449The watermelon jungle.  First one we picked wasn’t ready and the chickens ended up with a nice treat.  This one looks ready to go.

IMG_8451Glass chicken.

IMG_8452The bottle tree.

IMG_8456The flower tower

IMG_8459Cherokee Trail of Tears beans are one of the best heirloom beans.  We let a bunch go to seed so we will have plants next year.  We can also dry out the seeds and cook them like other dried beans.

IMG_8463Finding an egg in the box is something that never gets old.

IMG_8470We harvested the sweet potatoes and pulled up about 40 pounds from the six plants in the bed.  So, there you have it, what we have been up to the last couple of months.  Come back and visit soon!

if the garden gives you rhubarb, bake a cake!

IMG_8379Rhubarb is not easy to grow in the south.  The high heat and humidity make it challenging for this Siberian transplant.  Some of the varieties can survive in our area, Nashville zone 7a, such as Victoria, Canada Red, Cherry Red or Valentine, but afternoon shade is the key.  Plant the crowns on a Northern slope or in an area that gets shade in the afternoon so that the soil temperatures stay cooler, be sure it gets plenty of water too.  In my garden, I have four Victoria crowns growing, the most commonly found variety here in Nashville, and I use large, plastic bread racks to provide shade for the plants during the hottest periods of summer.

IMG_8384This year, I was surprised at how quickly all of the crowns grew and I was able to harvest some stalks to both make this cake and to freeze for later.  One of my favorite cakes to bake is an upside-down cake.  Being able to turn a fully decorated cake out of a pan is so much better than having to frost and decorate layers.  As beautiful as it is, the stalks made me think of celery-luckily, it didn’t taste like celery!

IMG_8385This recipe is a work in progress and I am not posting it here but it is based on a Persian Love cake made with pistachios, lemon zest, cardamom and rosewater.  To decorate it a little after turning it out of the pan, I sprinkled chopped pistachios and rose petals around the edges.  Because this was a large cake, 9″x13″, I took it to a Master Gardener meeting and potluck dinner, I came home with a very small piece; I ate it for breakfast the next day.

Blackberry-Lime Julep Cake

IMG_8296Well, it goes without saying, I have neglected this blog lately.  As spring approached, things in the garden at home and in the Demonstration Garden got busy, very busy.  As we have worked to prepare the Demonstration Garden, a small team of volunteers worked on getting the word out.  The result, a chance to tape two segments for a local TV show, Talk of the Town.  The plan, tie the garden into the Royal wedding happening this Saturday.  The result, a Blackberry-Lime Julep Cake and opportunity to talk about flowers.

While the cake the royal couple chose sounds delicious, I had to give it a southern spin.  Spring in the south means horse races, lots of flowers and a bit of bourbon drinking in the form of  mint juleps.  For a cake, those things all work well.  Elderflowers are not easy to come by but blackberries are so I decided to make a cake that combined blackberries and lime with a rich bourbon buttercream.  And for those of you that are shaking your head and wondering about the mint, I chose to use it to decorate the cake.  In the photo above, you can see Mountain Mint, False Blue Indigo, Red roses, Blackberry blossoms, Cilantro blossoms, Chamomile blossoms, Tansy leaves and Thyme.  If you want to use fresh flowers or herbs to decorate a cake, be sure that they have not been treated with any chemicals.  These all came from the garden and were grown without any chemicals, and with the exception of the Tansy and the False Blue Indigo, they are all edible.

And because I love to swirl colors together, I marbleized the layers of the cake and I suggest you do this too!  The pale green color of the lime batter contrasted nicely with the purple blackberry batter.  Honestly, you could do this with blueberries as well, the recipe was adapted from one in my first book, Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.

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Blackberry Julep Cake

Makes 1 (8-inch) triple layer cake to serve about 16

 

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest

½ teaspoon salt

7 egg whites

3 cups cake flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/4 cups milk

Blackberry-Lime Preserves, recipe follows

Bourbon Buttercream, recipe follows

Fresh flowers, mint sprigs and blackberries for decoration

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 (8”) cake pans, line them with parchment paper and grease the paper. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, lime zest and salt until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites, 2-3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping to scrape the bowl.

2.  Combine the flour with the baking powder and whisk gently to blend. In 2-3 alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.

3.  Scoop out 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remainder equally among the 3 prepared pans, smoothing out the tops with a rubber spatula. Mix 2-1/2 tablespoons of the Blackberry-Lime Preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping teaspoons of this blackberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Using a skewer or paring knife, swirl the blackberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the batter but take care not to mix it in.

4.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the layers cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks, remove the parchment paper and allow them to cool completely.

5.  To assemble the cake, place a layer, flat side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half of the Blackberry-Lime Preserves over the top. Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally, place the third layer on top of the second and frost the sides and top of the cake with the Bourbon Buttercream Frosting. Arrange the flowers, mint and berries around the top of the cake and the serving plate.

Blackberry-Lime Preserves

Makes about 1 cup

3 cups frozen blackberries, fresh or frozen

¾ cups sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1.  If using frozen blackberries, allow them to thaw and the juices to accumulate. Place the berries and the juice into a blender. Puree the berries and pass them through a strainer to remove the seeds.

2.  In a heavy medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the blackberry puree with the sugar, lime juice, lime zest and the ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until the preserves have thickened and are reduced to 1 cup.

 

Bourbon Buttercream

Makes about 3-1/2 cups

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons Bourbon

2 eggs

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablesoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1.  In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and Bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil with out stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F, on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.

2.  In a large mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; be careful to avoid hitting the beaters or the syrup will splatter. When all of the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15 minutes or longer.

3.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2-3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lime juice, and the frosting is ready for use.

 

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Many thanks to Tuwanda Coleman and Talk of the Town for the opportunity to tape the segments and for promoting the Urban Gardening Festival.  To see the segments from Talk of the Town, follow these links:

Blackberry-Julep Cake

The Royal Bouquet

granola cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7316Back in September, I learned we were relocating again.  After a few bumps in the road, we have landed back in Nashville and are settling into our new home.  During the move, one of the things I missed the most was being able to bake in my own kitchen and now that I have a kitchen again, I am also baking again!

First up; granola cake.  Actually, this recipe comes from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and not only is it the first cake I have baked in a while, it is the first time I have been able to join the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers since we started packing up for the move.  Since we are back in Nashville, we are active with the Master Gardener program and this cake was a great choice for the potluck dinner we have each month.  Having cut the cake into thin slices, I placed the cake on the dessert table and didn’t have any trouble convincing folks to try it!

img_7318The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, shredded coconut and granola which all combine to make the flavor similar to an oatmeal cookie with coconut and chocolate chips.  The only thing you need to know, use a good quality granola because it is a large part of the flavor and texture of the cake.  With this in mind, I made a small batch of my own granola rather than buy it.

While I am not posting the recipe for the cake, we do not post the recipes from the book out of respect for the author, I am posting the recipe for the granola that I used in the cake.  This recipe is the one that I made for years when I was working at the Loveless Cafe and I suggest you mix up a batch-it’s that good!

img_7330Granola

This small recipe makes about 2 cups of granola and can easily be doubled or tripled, just store it airtight and use it within a month.  My preference is to use a combination of wildflower honey and sorghum but you can use just one for the total amount.  If you can’t find sorghum, molasses will work but will give it a little more color.

3/4 oz light brown sugar

1-3/4 oz pecan pieces

5 oz whole rolled oats

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon sorghum

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a heat proof bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats, nuts and cinnamon, set aside.  In a small pan, combine the butter, honey and sorghum and over low heat, stir until the butter melts and the mixture is heated but not boiling.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the oats and stir until it is combined.  Dump the mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.  Bake for about 10 minutes, stir it well and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so.  The time depends on how thin the layer is in the pan.  Keep a close eye on the granola and stir it frequently until it turns a nice deep amber color.  When the granola is the color you want, remove it from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Using your hands-it will still be hot and it needs to be pretty warm for this to work, break up the granola so that it will be free flowing when it cools off.  Gently rub the clumps between your fingers to separate the large lumps-they will be pretty hard once cooled so do not be tempted to leave them in tact.  Allow it to cool completely and store it airtight.

img_7326Want to bake along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book, visit the website and get to work!

oh so tempting…

Welcome to 2017, now get on the bandwagon and change it up.  My thoughts on that, not very original; I need to change my diet and make some progress removing the weight that menopause thought it would be fun to gain.  Actually, for several years now, I have had a doctor tell me that I need to get my cholesterol levels down below 200 and keep them there.  Not an easy task if your job is to bake and develop recipes.  Constant tasting + constant temptation = consistent failure to some extent.  The process of moving did nothing to help this quest at first, but a month after moving into the new place, I may have a new strategy.

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When we began the process of moving, we packed everything we wanted, unloaded what we didn’t and after the sale of the house, our belongings went into storage.  With no real kitchen to cook in, we ate out a lot and it quickly caught up with us.  Then when we moved into the new house, it was holiday baking season and it just slid down hill from there; cookies, cake, wine, candy… In the past, I would walk nearly every day and it was easy to go 4 or 5 miles on the trails near our home in Williamsburg.  In a pinch, I could walk laps in our neighborhood because even though there were no sidewalks, we lived in a development made of two dead end streets and I never had to worry about the traffic.  Walking the streets is not an option here at our Nashville home because not only is there a complete lack of sidewalks, meaning I must walk on the narrow shoulder, the traffic whizzes by at 30-40 miles per hour and if I need to jump out of the way, chances are I will be laying at the bottom of a drainage ditch.  Even so, I am hoping to find a route nearby on some of the less traveled streets until I can find a trail system close to the house.

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As to that new strategy, if I do not buy it, I cannot eat it.  We purged so heavily for the move that I am having to restock completely.  As I shop, I think twice about the things I buy and now that the holidays have come to a close, there is no need for some of the ingredients I have always kept on hand in the past.  Simply put; out of sight, out of mind.  If I keep the temptations off the shopping list, I think I can do this.  Now if I could just get winter to go away…

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Tempted

life in limbo

img_7190Things are moving along here.  Our appraisal came back and we are waiting on a closing dated.  Moving in day cannot come soon enough.  While it seems a bit like turmoil, it is actually a little liberating; no obligations, no chores, just waiting.  It has given me a chance to look through so many photos of our time in Williamsburg and I really will miss exploring there.

One of the perks of Darry’s position at the College of William and Mary was the free pass to Colonial Williamsburg.  Whenever we had a few hours free, we would head to the village and take a tour of one of the many buildings or visit the trades shops and learn a little about what life was like for the colonists.  These photos were taken in R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse which can be found on Duke of Gloucester Street just up from the Capitol Building.  As we sat in the front room, our guide (in period costume) spoke of the history of the coffeehouse and we were served hot chocolate or coffee.  In the corner sat a man in period costume as well and he began to speak out as well.  His role, Benjamin Franklin, and he told us of the matters that would have been discussed at the time the coffee house was in operation.

img_7192Everything in the reconstructed building was a reproduction but it still served to show just how things were.  Williamsburg was a fairly sophisticated place and even though I knew that about the Colonial era, it was still surprising to see just what they produced.  We tend to think of the colonists as living in little cabins with the bare essentials and while many did live like that, the folks living in the city of Williamsburg were able to live a little better.  img_7193

Vigor: a state of mind

via Daily Prompt: Vigor

If you have been reading my latest posts, you know we are knee deep in relocating from Williamsburg, VA back to Nashville, TN.  While this excites me on so many levels, it also has the ability to suck the joy out of things.  Honestly, I have had a hard time getting excited about the move, about all the things that come with a move and not just the packing and unpacking.  The “not knowing” when and where we will be calling this home-our home.  A lack of residency status, in a way; not really a resident of Tennessee, not really a resident of Virginia.

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the facilities; no oven to bake in

 

Right now, all I want to do is get on with it, get it over with; unpack and move on to the business of settling in.  My mind is racing with lists of things I want to do, things I need to do.  Visions of garden beds are floating before me and I am bursting at the seams to get my hands back into the dirt.  Our chickens made the trip and are living temporarily in a friends backyard and we look forward to bringing them home too.

The holidays are upon us and I want to bury myself in flour and roll out sheets of cookie dough.  My cutters are accessible and will be one of the first things I unpack!  It just isn’t Christmas without sugar cookies and gingerbread, cut into festive shapes and covered with icing and sprinkles.

So why call this post vigor?  As much as I am in a somewhat happy place-yes I am happy, despite what this post might suggest, I am still anxious for the unknown, for the fact that we are technically homeless and living in a motel room until the purchase of our new home goes through.  My creative part has given way to a writers block and I had to resort to using a random prompt; the word “vigor” from my reader on wordpress.com and as far as the daily prompts go, I am not alone, follow the link and read posts by other bloggers using the word vigor

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the rest of the joint

Beans, bounce, brio, dash, drive, dynamism, energy, espirit, gas, get-up-and-go, ginger, go, gusto, hardiwood, juice, life, moxie, oomph, pep, punch, sap, snap, starch, verve, vim, vinegar, vitality, zing and zip.  According to Merriam-Webster, these are all synonyms of vigor.  They are also a list of the feelings I have, the things that are pushing me along as I wait-the hurry up is done for now.