Scones, anyone? Blooms, too!

Spring has sprung! Or so goes the old saying. It’s certainly true here at Casa Aylworth in beautiful Nor-Cal where the temperatures could not be more pleasant, the skies more forget-me-not blue, or the blossoms more lovely. The quarantine we’ve all been experiencing has not daunted the flowers. It seems our whole world is suddenly in bloom.

During my permitted morning walks, I have enjoyed all these lovely reminders that after every winter comes a spring. This time of renewal gives me power to keep going. Here I’m sharing some of the loveliest blossoms of the new season, part from my own yard and part from my neighbors.

Most of the time, quarantine means staying in. That has led to some indulgence, and in some cases, over-indulgence. (You may know the meme that encourages social distancing from one’s refrigerator.)

In keeping with that norm, one of our indulgences during this stay-at-home time has been binge-watching TV cooking shows.  I’m showing off my interpretation of one Christmas fruit cake. Not bad! though I hope to improve with practice.

Since I don’t have most of the fancy ingredients the TV bakers use, and we’re all discouraged from going shopping just to buy those specialty items, I’ve been looking up recipes I can create from the items in my pantry. Today, I’m sharing two of those with you. These are scones (great for breakfast, dessert, or a treat) made from Bisquick or another baking mix. If you don’t have the mix, use a basic biscuit recipe and then doctor it. Here you go. Happy baking!

CINNAMON-RAISIN SCONES

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix together all ingredients well.
  3. Take large rounded tablespoons of mixture and drop onto a non-greased pan. (Alternative: roll into a round about ½” thick and cut into wedges, like a pie. Place on non-greased pan.)
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  5. If you wish, drizzle with simple icing (powdered sugar softened with a tsp. of water) while cookies are still hot.

CHOCOLATE BREAKFAST SCONES

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix together all ingredients well.
  3. Take large rounded tablespoons of mixture and drop onto a non-greased pan. (Alternative: roll into a round about ½” thick and cut into wedges, like a pie. Place on the non-greased cookie sheet or pan.)
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  5. If you wish, you can drizzle with chocolate frosting or melted white or dark chocolate.

As the quarantine lets up, I hope to enjoy, and perhaps share, some of the great recipes I’ve gathered from bingeing the cooking shows. I’ll let you know how that turns out. If you have some good ideas for using common pamtry items, you are welcome to share with us as well.

A rose is a rose . . .

Master Shakespeare wrote that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” He put those words into Juliet’s lovely mouth and, as usually happens, he caught a great truth–not just about roses–in the statement.

 

Whether they’re grandifloras or hybrid tea roses, Tropicana or Queen Elizabeth, roses are among my favorite flowers. We didn’t have them when I was growing up because of the allergies (they called it “hay fever”) experienced by both my parents. When I had a home of my own, I promised myself roses.

Now I’m blessed to have an entire rose garden right in my front yard. I put them in front so everyone around me can enjoy them, too. Occasionally, neighbors stop to tell me they walk past the our home on purpose, just to see and smell the roses.

The first bloom of the year is always the most magnificent. Each spring, I await it impatiently. A few roses began the process last week. This week, here at Casa Aylworth in beautiful Nor-Cal, it happened. All at once, everything burst into blossom. I’m thrilled with this year’s rose harvest, so I’m sharing it with you.

Please, enjoy! See if you can even smell them through the airwaves, or at least, in your imagination. And if you’re in one of the northern climes that is still under snow, please feel free to enjoy these flowers until you have some of your own. Happy spring!

A different kind of Easter

Once again, theEaster holiday has come and gone. I’ve seen many Easter weekends come and go–first as a little girl enjoying the new dress and the hunt for dyed eggs, then as a mom dyeing and hiding the eggs among  the outdoor foliage and flowers,  and later as a grandma having the family over to search them out. Roger and I always took the family to church, but we wanted the rest of the day to be memorable as well, helping the family remember the reason for the season. That usually found me dyeing and hiding eggs, preparing traditional foods, and largely ignoring the Easter Bunny.

This year will definitely be memorable, requiring no effort from any of us. For these grandparents, there were no dyed eggs, no family gatherings (no gatherings at all!), and few special dishes. We tried to prepare Easter dinner with what we had, keeping down the numbers of trips to the grocery store. We had eggs, cream, and strawberries, so pavlova seemed a good dessert. Hard to go wrong with that!

Though this Easter holiday is memorable for all the things that didn’t happen, we know there will be good memories from some of the things we did. Texts, calls, social media posts, and videos replaced in-person visits. A simple meal with a great dessert replaced some of our traditional favorites. We even replaced church by watching a series of Bible videos depicting the events of Holy Week all those years ago.

We enjoyed it all in the midst of an absolutely perfect spring day: calm with light breeze, ideal temperatures, and beautiful evidence of annual renewal all around us in the form of blossoms and buds. Roger and I will have reason to smile when we remember many of the events of this Easter weekend. I wish the same for you.

Missing my Fur Family

During the present COVID lockdown, we are all missing the old normal in our lives: going out for a meal or a movie, popping into specialty shops for those hard-to-find items, the joy of being in public places. I suspect most of us are having an even harder time being away from friends and family.

Lately, I’ve especially been missing my fur-family, the four-legged friends who used to keep me company even when illness or injury kept me from being around other people. During the years the kids were home, we had a variety of dogs and cats, as well as a few other kinds of pets, some we liked better than others. The more recent fur family we picked ourselves. One of my favorites was my friend, Pirate.

She came to us as a throw-away. Some ne’er-do-well had dumped her at a four-way stop in the countryside. One of my husband’s coworkers saw her there, jumping up on cars that stopped at that intersection, apparently looking for her family. A compassionate soul who loved animals, the coworker slept in a sleeping bag in the field, using dog biscuits to lure in the frightened, but starving, dog. Having rescued the poor creature, said coworker had to find a home for her, since she already had all the pets her landlord would allow.

We had recently lost Tazzie, a white dog with black spots. Roger thought his friend’s rescue dog might fill that place in our lives. We named her Pirate because of the black patch over one eye, which eventually faded as she grayed. The vet who spayed her for us when we took her in estimated her to be about two years old. She lived with us for another twelve years.

I was the one who rescued her from the vet’s office (which she clearly hated), so I became her rescuer. In fact, Roger often said that Pirate was not my dog; rather, I was Pirate’s person. I referred to her as my white shadow. If I walked across the room, she walked with me. If I sat in a chair, she lay at my feet. Any time I was at home, she was almost always within arm’s reach. When she suffered a fatal stroke, I was devastated.

But we still had furry company. For almost the entire time Pirate lived with us, and for a few years beyond, we had a brother-and-sister kitty tag team: Kola and Koi.

One day during the height of summer, when cat litters were everywhere and the local humane shelter was overwhelmed, we stopped in to look at kittens, thinking we might go home with one. A family had just surrendered a mother cat and her litter of six, all about seven weeks old.

When we took the handsome, butterscotch-tabby male from the cage, the little calico female jumped up and hung from the top of the cage, meowing like crazy. When we put him down and picked her up, she did the hang-and-meow trick. Then the shelter administrators offered two for the price of one, and we came home with a furry pair.

From the beginning, Kola preferred Roger while Koi claimed me. Our yellow-tabby male grew to be a twenty-pound fat cat while his sister weighed less than twelve pounds, yet she was unmistakably the boss. She even knew how to get her way with the humans. We had let cats sleep on the foot of the bed in the past, but had never allowed one in. Koi found her way inside the covers and often slept in the curve of my body or lying on my chest. During the day, she frequently slept with Pirate, curled up in the curve of her body.  Kola didn’t understand that; he thought Pirate was a dog.

When  13-year-old Koi began to fail, we all suffered. Pirate was gone by then, but Roger and I struggled with the sure knowledge that our pretty calico was not going to recover. When we knew the outcome was inevitable and it became clear she was suffering terribly, we had to let her go. That’s when Kola had his hard time, clearly mourning the lifelong friend who had been both his persecutor and best buddy.

Kola’s mourning didn’t last forever. Before long, he began to enjoy being the last pet standing. We had him for nearly three more years. When he too began to fail, we were at first hopeful. We and his vet had nursed him through a couple of rough times. Yet it soon became clear that he wasn’t going to get well, either, and we had to let him go, too.

Many of our pet-loving friends have asked why we haven’t adopted more furry friends. We are enjoying being true empty-nesters, able to pick up and go if we wish, not having to worry about who will feed and care for the stay-at-home pets.

Still, the empty nest is only part of the reason.  Both of us suffered enough from the loss of these three special friends that we haven’t yet had the heart to “replace” them. We may well do so one day, but we aren’t there yet. Pirate, Kola, and Koi are only memories now, but they are memories we still live with–and miss–every day.