Friday Faves: More Baking Fun.

If you’re averse to gluten-laden goodies, click away now. For real.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching chefs cooking and baking all kinds of foods on YouTube. As I have mentioned here numerous times before, ours is a family that enjoys cooking.

Recently I ran across a video featuring a chef, Richard Bertinet. He’s a French pastry chef and cookbook author whose style intrigued me. He was making these cinnamon buns and despite my very low-carb diet, I couldn’t resist trying them.

This is a different take on a traditional cinnamon roll. They not only shape differently than the traditional pastry, but the dough is much more rich and buttery. Very French!

This is not the kind of baking I would suggest as regular fare. These buns are more appropriate for special occasions such as Christmas breakfast or Easter brunch. They are just that decadent.

As always, taking the pictures was all kinds of fun. Getting a a decent shot in friendly light requires a bit of strategy.

I’m interested in getting my hands on chef Bertinet’s cookbooks. I hope my library has them so I can review them without commitment.

Happy Friday from my kitchen to yours!

Word Nerd Wednesday

I’ve been catching up on the news of the day, and the utter absurdity of the world we’re living in made me think of the word scintilla.

Scintilla: A spark or trace.

For example: It seems there isn’t a scintilla of common sense or common decency left in this world.

That was harsh, and I know it isn’t true, but this is what occurred to me as I caught up on the headlines of the day.

Happy Wednesday?

Friday Faves: Food and Photography

Happy Friday all!

As we prepare to settle in for the long weekend, I thought I’d take a minute to share two things that are a big part of the leisure in our household. The first is food. The second is photography. A third is a combination of the two.

Our family is what I like to refer to as “the keeper of the memories”. We were snapping photographs of any and everything before smartphones with good cameras were as ubiquitous as automobiles. When an extended family member is looking for “a picture of Sally when she was about 6”, it’s a pretty decent bet that we have one in one of our many photo boxes.

Nevertheless, I am not the best photographer. I occasionally manage to get a decent shot, but my husband, and two of our daughters, have a much better eye and hands that are much more steady. What I occasionally achieve through luck, they regularly accomplish with skill.

One of the aforementioned happens to be my favorite food blogger, up and coming though she may be. Her latest recipe invention is the combination of everything I love in a dessert. It’s chocolate, it’s flourless, and it is very low in sugar. As a matter of fact, it’s easily modified by switching the coconut sugar for a substitute without losing much of its appeal. It tastes as good as it looks:

You should make this. Really!

It seems that lately our backyard has been transformed into Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I’m totally aging myself with that reference, but I really don’t care. I’m not sure why my first thought wasn’t Animal Planet, but who knows what makes a person’s mind draw on the reference of an obscure television show from her childhood that she never watched and barely remembers?

Anyway, our backyard has been a hotbed of animal adventure of late, and my husband has gotten some great shots. I wondered briefly if the animals in our backyard are more active, or if it is simply that all the time at home provided more opportunities for us to witness it. I suspect the latter.

First up, the snake that we caught having an amphibious lunch in a backyard palm tree:

Circle of life?

Next is a couple of shots of a magnificent hawk. He hung out on the edge of the house for a bit:

A little later, we noticed that he’d found a mole in the yard, and was preparing to have a tasty supper before he decided that our fence didn’t make for a good table, and took off:

Do you see the mole in his talons?

There has been quite a lot of excitement on the animal front of late. I even stumbled on a rattle snake several weeks ago when I was taking out some trash. We [meaning my husband] disposed of him promptly. No time for a photo worthy camera shot.

Lastly, although this isn’t a new photo, it is one of my favorites because my daughter made my cornmeal biscuits look delicious and food magazine worthy:

Like I said: food, photography, and food photography.

Have a great weekend!

Last Train to Paradise

last train

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean, By Les Standiford.  2002. 288 pages.

The story of this robber baron and railroad magnate is not new to me. Florida history has fascinated me for a very long time, and you can’t examine it without repeatedly running into the name Henry Flagler. Nevertheless, when I ran across Last Train to Paradise in a local used bookstore, I couldn’t resist picking it up and giving it a read. Les Standford takes an admirable turn at recounting a most exciting time, not only in Florida’s history but in America’s industrial history.

After partnering with John D. Rockefeller as a founder of the Standard Oil Company, Henry Flagler was a very wealthy man. His life, however, was not without its tragedies. As was common near the turn of the 20th century, a doctor prescribed sea and sun as a remedy for Flagler’s very ill first wife. It was during that time that he first came to the sunshine state. The first Mrs. Flagler eventually died from her illness, but Henry Flagler’s love for the state continued and when he remarried, he honeymooned in St. Augustine. Despite its natural beauty, he found vacation amenities in the state sorely lacking. Being a man of action, Flagler embarked upon the building of an elaborate high-end resort hotel in St. Augustine, The Ponce de Leon. Almost instantly, it was the place for the wealthiest most powerful people in the world to vacation during the winter months.

The hotel still stands today and looks very much as it did back then. Now the site of Flagler College,  it is a breathtaking exhibition of craftsmanship, extravagance, and ostentatiousness.  We visited for a tour the weekend before the pandemic panic officially began, and the spectacle of that building along with Memorial Presbyterian Church also built by Flagler, never gets old.

In addition to being an oilman, Flagler was also a railroad magnate. It was in the context of his Florida East Coast Railway Company that he became known as “the man who built Florida.” It was also during this time when he became obsessed with building what was popularly known as “Flagler’s folly”, a railroad that ran down the east coast of the state, extending off of the peninsula, with connections all the way to Key West.

Between the swampy, mosquito-infested marshland of the Florida peninsula, the difficult and unprecedented nature of the work, and the repeated setbacks brought on by hurricanes one season after the next, few believed Flagler would conquer the challenges required to fulfill his mission. Last Train to Paradise documents all of the challenges, setbacks, and triumphs that paved the way for Flagler’s ultimate success. Although old and frail at 82 years old, he fulfilled his dream of riding his railway from the peninsula to Key West:

On the afternoon of January 21, 1912, almost 7 years after work on the Key West extension had begun, the project’s equivalent to the driving of the “golden spike” took place.  At Knight’s Key, nearly fifty miles north and east of Key West, a bridge foreman threw a switch that closed off access to the trestle curving from the main line toward the temporary docks. For the first time, traffic was open across the Seven Mile Bridge- at the time, the world’s longest continuous bridge- and from there, all the way to Key West. The process of rail building that had begun in 1892 was complete. There were now 366 miles of FEC track linking Jacksonville with Miami, and 156 more connecting Miami to Key West. p.201

It was known at the time as the eighth wonder of the world and with good reason.

Key West Extension

The Key West extension operated from 1912-1935 until it was partially destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. With sustained winds of 185 mph, the bridge never stood a chance.

Standiford describes the last-ditch effort by FEC to send a rescue train to The Keys, but part of the train was washed away after having picked up a handful of its intended cargo. Somehow the engine compartment, along with the crewman in the engine’s cab survived the battering of a monster wave. The storm was the end of FEC’s Key West extension. However, the state of Florida used the remaining bridge spans as the route for a highway through the Keys. Thousands of tourists use the highway each year to visit the nation’s southernmost city. It’s totally worth the trek.

Despite making it onto the New York Times’ bestseller list, I would still categorize this book as written to a particular niche of readers. Even as a Florida history buff, I found several chapters too heavy with technical information concerning the nature of railroads and the construction of the bridge. I appreciate why the author found important the details of what was at the time, a marvel of modern engineering. It still made for much slower reading than the narratives describing the partnership of Rockefeller and Flagler, and their run-ins with trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt.

Calling Henry Flagler “the man who built Florida” is not hyperbole. That his singular vision transformed a muggy, swamp-filled, mosquito-infested landscape into a highly desirable destination is nothing short of extraordinary. He was a robber baron, an arrogant one at that, but at least he did more than the robber barons of today. He left something behind other than hollowed-out towns and empty factories.

Summertime is approaching, and it’s 90 degrees today in this former mosquito-infested marshland. Well, it’s still muggy and mosquito-infested, but now we have infrastructure and homes with central air conditioning.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: A few Favorite Children’s Books

Happy Friday, all!

The slowdown of new normal life continues. After nearly 8 weeks, there’s only so much to keep a girl busy around the house, so my reading pace has picked up again. That means more book reviews in the queue. I know how much you all miss those! Meanwhile, with school winding down and more children at home this spring and summer, I thought this would be a good time to discuss children’s books.

If I had to narrow down my list of favorites to even 10, I’d never be able to do it. However, I do have some guidelines for choosing children’s books as well as a few books that I genuinely love as much now as my children did when they read them. I have reviewed several of the books in this post, so if you’re interested click on the link for more insight. I’m a big fan of bullet points and categorization, so here we go.

Books for Young Children

sal blueberries

  • Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey, 1948 Caldecott Award Winner. Our youngest child turned 12 this week, and one of my fondest memories of her toddler years was when I read this book to her and her sister, now 13. They requested it over and over. It wasn’t long before we had bought little metal buckets, and spent countless days dropping blueberries in them making the “kuplink!” sound and eating the blueberries.
  • Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey, 1942 Caldecott Award Winner. The story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their large family of ducklings never failed to delight our kids when they were young. Like Blueberries for Sal, the Caldecott medal is an indication of the beautiful artwork in the book.
  • Olivia, by Ian Falconer, 2001 Caldecott Award Winner. This quirky, confident little pig stole my girls’ heart from the first read.
  • Frog and Toad, by Arnold Loebel, 1970, Caldecott Award winner. I’ve written at length about the beauty of the Frog and Toad stories. You can find that post here.
  • Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter, 1901. This classic tale has never gone out of style. Peter’s mischievous adventures are sure to keep kids entertained and delighted. It also makes for very good discussions about obedience and prudence.

Adventure for Older Children

captains courageous

  • Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling, 1896. The link is to my original review of this wonderful coming of age story. Kipling weaves the tale of an entitled boy growing into a man and it’s a great book.
  • The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, 1971. The link is to my review. This book qualifies as an adventure, but not in the sense that we’re accustomed to thinking of adventure. This story of a family defying Nazi orders and extending Christian love during WWII is a magnificent read.
  • The Lion’s Paw, by Robb White, 1946. Again, the link is to my review. This is another coming of age story, but it takes place on the high seas off the coast of Florida. If you’ve read here for any length of time, you know I read a lot of books set in and around this state I call home.
  • Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, 1904. The link is to my review. I’d never read this book until one of my children was assigned to read it, but once I started, I could not put it down. This book is worth reading no matter how old you are really. It’s a fast-paced, rip-roaring good time from start to finish. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graeme, 1908, link to review. Even now, when I think about Mr. Toad’s motorcar adventure, daring prison escape, and inability to keep his mouth shut when he most needed to, I chuckle a bit. If you haven’t read Wind in the Willows with your kids, you should.

These are just a fraction of a fraction of my favorite children’s books. I could literally go on all night, but I won’t. An excellent resource for a comprehensive book list is the book Honey for a Child’s Heart, by Gladys Hunt. It is by far the best, suggested reading list I’ve found in one place.

What are some of your favorite children’s books?

Friday Faves: Food and Fitness Edition

Happy Friday, all!

Did you guys hear about the entire town that has gone on a diet to stave off the possibility of residents gaining what has become known as the “quarantine fifteen”? It’s not a bad idea! While I have gotten a chuckle out of memes such as this one:

Quarantine Barbie

Not everybody thinks it’s funny. There have been a lot of articles admonishing women to stop talking about trying to stay fit when we’re all trying to stay alive. This is not only frivolous, they say, but fat phobic. The problem, of course, is that this disease is disproportionately not fat phobic. It’s a bad time to go all-in on the body positivity stuff.

Last week, I pulled a muscle in my back. At least, the doctor was pretty sure that’s what I did when we conducted our virtual doctor’s appointment. As a result, I went a whole week without weightlifting or my morning walks. I’d already put on 2 pounds in March, and although I pulled it together in April, I felt like it was time to go the extra mile to keep me on track for however long I’m spending less time out and about. Moving around at home is definitely possible, but so is stillness. I figured it drastic times call for drastic measures, and my resistance to an extremely low carb diet has melted away.

I’m not interested in keto as a way of life. Period. Florida peaches are in season right now. My daughter drove recently out to a farm and picked some up. Peaches off of a tree created by God in the season that they were created to be harvested. There is nothing bad about eating a peach, but I have completely cut out grains and most fruits if they are out of season. It’s been extremely helpful. Not only do I feel lighter, but I feel better.

I restarted my workout this week, and I’ve taken up keto baking as an alternative to traditional baked goods. Baking is in our blood around here, and I miss it when I can’t bake because I’m trying to get and stay fit. Two of my favorite blogs of late are Kirbie’s  Cravings and All Day I Dream About Food. Yesterday, I made these butter pecan cookies from All Day I Dream About Food:

These rolls from Kirbie’s Cravings are still one of my favorite low carb recipes:

The formal school year has ended here, so time at the kitchen table will be drastically reduced, which is also helpful. Besides math -which never takes a break- and reading good books, our school load is drastically reduced. For now, which means more opportunities to get outside.

At least until the Florida summer swelter kicks into high gear.

How are you staying healthy during this crazy season?

 

 

 

Knowledge of the Holy

knowledge of the holy

Knowledge of the Holy, Kindle edition, by A.W. Tozer. Originally published in 1961.

It has taken me a long time to review this book, despite having read it weeks ago because it turned out to be far more personal than I anticipated. I strongly considered not reviewing it all. However, because I believe it is worth sharing and encouraging others to read, I’m going to make an attempt at a proper review.

Books that call me out of my stoic, reserved, cards-close-to-the-vest nature tend to make me uncomfortable. The Practice of the Presence of God was such a book, and this one was similar in that regard. What was different about this book was that while Tozer demanded that “reason kneel in reverence outside” the place in the spirit where love and faith reign at home, Knowledge of the Holy was still full of intellectual stimulation. It just stimulates the reader to remember that true Christian faith can never be fully validated intellectually:

Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering. To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess

Indeed this is true, and the distinction between acknowledging a lack of knowledge and accepting the impossibility of full knowledge is an important one. We currently live in a world where we are being told that science reigns supreme and is certain despite many of its obvious contradictions and limitations.

As Reformed theology is growing as a reaction against watered down, emotion-driven postmodern Christianity, I appreciate being reminded that childlike faith and perfect love trump intellect and reason in God’s economy.

One of the reasons it took me so long to read -and review- this book is that I had to stop several times to do some introspective work. This book compelled personal examination about what I really believe. Challenges such as this were good for me:

The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.

The question Tozer posed here is one that occupied me for several days, and in many ways I am still considering it, distinguishing between intellectual assent born of a lifetime in the church, and the reality of what I truly believe. It is a question we should all consider from time to time:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

There is a lot more to said about this book, but I’d rather you read it for yourself. It is an excellent exposition on the modern man’s interpretation of God compared to how Scripture reveals God to us.

It will make you think, regardless of whether or not you ultimately agree with Tozer’s conclusions… if what he reaches can be called conclusions.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

A Time to Laugh…

There will be a book review tomorrow. I promise. In the meantime, here is a very funny song by Matthew West as he and his family make the best of this “Quarantine Life.” I hope you all like it as much as we did: