Monday, December 29, 2014

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Well, the results are in and Rose Levy Beranbaum's - Scottish Shortbread cookies are this years best. Her ingredients are unsalted butter, powdered sugar, granulated sugar and bleached all-purpose flour. You can click on the link to see her make a batch as well as the recipe at the end of the video.

It is interesting that in this recipe, I used the "Scottish finger" mixing method just as she did and it really works!

The recipe says:
"In Scotland it is said that the best shortbread is mixed with the fingers and that each woman's fingers lend something distinctive and special to the finished cookie."

An added note in this recipe states that:
"In Canada, the sugar in the shortbread is sometimes replaced with an equal weight or 6 Tablespoons of firmly packed light brown sugar for a "richer" cookie." That's interesting because I'm thinking Mrs. MacDonald may have used the brown sugar in hers. I'm going to give it a go the next time I'm tempted to make cookies. These were very easy and light tasting.

These tins are perfect for storing the shortbread, and I have to say, that home-made was better than the original contents of either container.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Brilliant Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve everyone. Here is a brilliant version of the Nutcracker, with the Beatles interspersed. Since we are big on the Nutcracker this year, here is my gift to you. Enjoy the BeatleCracker!

All My Loving...From Me to You!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tasting a Memory

While visiting in Vancouver with Gord, Rach, {Forest and Simon} (cats), they all indulged me by visiting Rosie Daykin's bakery "Butter". It was such a fun excursion and the treats were exceptional.

When it comes to Christmas baking, the Prof. and I like shortbread cookies the best. I decided to try a food processor recipe this year with little success. Not to be thwarted, I suddenly remembered my "Butter" cookbook. I have to say that Rosie's version of 'Vanilla Shortbread' turned out extremely well. It called for 2 TABLESPOONS of vanilla! I hovered and hesitated and then decided, if it is really a cook-off I have to follow the recipe. It was great.

Other friends have been looking for dissolving sugar and lemon additives for their latest trials. Ina Garten has a recipe with ginger in hers. My next test will be Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible, Scottish Shortbread. It has now become an obsession to find the perfect recipe. How anything so simple with such simple ingredients can be so tricky is beyond me. After all, there is butter, sugar, and flour. Basically...that's it. The method for every recipe is different. I need to be able to reproduce Mrs. McDonald's recipe from my childhood. I'll let you know.

Happy Christmas Baking! If you have Mrs. MacDonald's recipe, please send it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New find

Only voices. NO instruments. Just happened on "Sing Off" last night for the finale. This acapella group is just wonderful.

My new Christmas song for this year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keeping connected

This could so be my granddaughter! I did a double take wondering if she'd gotten into commercial work in LaLa land! Looks just like her and she's totally capable of such hi-jinx.

Last week they were off to get a Christmas tree. Zoë had the phone and was giving me a report on the excursion via Facetime. Luca of course wanted in on the action. In the back seat, between the scrabbling hands and two car seats, I ended up under the front seat for most of the ride. While Luca kept up a scream due to the fumble, Zoë reassured me that I could get out of the dark when the car stopped and a grownup could reach the phone. It's not bad riding under the front seat.

The song featured in this ad is "Apple of My Eye" by Anya Marina. Available on iTunes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The important parts

There is definitely something strange about keeping elephants, or any animal for that matter in a zoo, but I have to say that I do love visiting the elephants. This pachyderm looked pretty happy and well cared for. The climate in LA is probably wonderful for these guys as well. I stood there long enough that I think he was curious and posed for an eyelash shot. At the very least, his elegant tusks have been protected from ivory poachers.

He waited and flipped his ear, so I whispered "Have a nice day Mr. Elephant. I love your eyelashes."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

The start of the season

The tradition continues. Yesterday, the girls were off to see 'The Nutcracker' ballet. This new tradition requires the party dress and new shoes for the social season. It's a ball of excitement. We got the pre-performance red carpet face time call. The girls called us just outside the theatre to show us the magnificent outfit Zoë had chosen all by herself. It wasn't Mummy's pick, she wanted this one AND the sparkly pink shoes with heart shaped clasp which went perfectly with any party dress....don't you think??? It was pointed out that nothing that Mummy had on was new. Only Zoë. We may have to remedy that by next year :) Just before the performance they were having celebratory drinks and I was hoping the hot cocoa would not be part of the ensemble even before entering the venue.

The tickets this year were front row balcony seats and I've yet to hear a full account of the performance. There was a little too much excitement in the air following the entire ballet to be able to report any findings. Another day.

Another off the press

Declared another perfect day at the ballet! Walking...or spinning...on air

Saturday, December 6, 2014

One cloudy day

We had one cloudy day while in SoCal. Doesn't happen very often, but is actually a relief to the eyes when it does. It was very peaceful wandering by the sea. I did however have to hum the theme song as we sauntered around the marina and Fisherman's village. "Living in Marina Del Rey" can hear it at the end.

Until Dubai, Marina Del Rey was the largest in the world.

Oddly enough, a Canadian Musical accompaniment. A blast from the past.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Good Will and Compassion

One day while visiting the little family in Southern California, I was honoured to read the story at Venice Gardens Pre-School. Zoë was very excited to have Mamère and Papi come to her school and meet her little friends and teachers. Once the initial introductions were made and the tour conducted we realized just what a very special place this is indeed.

When you enter the house/school you are greeted by fluttering Tibetan prayer flags. You just know this is going to be a zen experience.

"Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all."

I think this is what school should be all about. Everyone is welcome, and safe here...for sure.

Since the school is located in an older home, the vintage bathtub has been left in situ and has become a magical underwater treasure trove feature of glorious finds from the sea.

The turtles float along in the huge tank, silently just keeping an eye on everyone.

As I was taking photos of various spots in the house, Zoë said.."Mamère! You'd better take a picture of that spider on the wall....I made it!"

This is one of the calmest, most loving, caring and nurturing schools I have ever known. The teachers are amazing and a truly wonderful group of women and Parker the music man. It's one of those places that you just know, had you gone there as a child, you'd be a better person today. What a wonderful way to start an education.

The book I chose to read was "Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car". This was one of Zoë's mum's favourite books around the same age as Zoë is now. 4 and a HALF.

One day, driving along in the insane LA traffic, I was "discreetly" ranting at The Professor in French and inserted the word "empathy" in English into the otherwise French tirade. Zoë, who no doubt was trying her hardest to translate from her car seat in the back, pipes up that she knows what "empathy" is! I paused and asked her how she knew about "empathy" to which she replied.

"I learned that in my school. It means that you know what someone else is feeling. That's my "role"....I help out all the little darlings when they are feeling upset, because I know how that feels, and I'm a big helper, because I'm the oldest in the class."

Peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. Lessons we all need to revisit.

The end.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mama's taking us to the zoo

Halloween surprise at the LA Zoo. A new hippo was born. Now that's a big baby!!

Possibly peeking a little bit??

All things "relative".....not so big after all. Awwwwwww.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A little reflection

Now that we are back in the land after a three week whirlwind, the collars are up, the mitts are on, and the squirrels are very busy feathering their nests.

This is likely why no one would ever want to leave Southern California and return to bleak, cold, wintery Ontario. As much as I complain about it, I for one, do appreciate the change in seasons and the vagaries in light and temperature. If it's possible to say, there are times when sun and 70 degrees all the time becomes a little boring??? BOOOOOO you all say, as did I, when I walked out this morning and heated the seats of my vehicle.

In Playa Vista, you can pretty much do this every day of the year!

Luca is fearless as long as water wings are in place.

Zoë dives under Jane

.......and thankfully resurfaces!

Luca strives to reach the sides of the pool so that he can launch himself off once again

The latest accomplishment of the back float. Remember all those milestones???

It's absolutely wonderful that both kids are getting such a good start on swimming. It's delightful to be able to saunter over to an outdoor pool almost any day of the week and just splash around.

Here we have our shoulders hunched up to our ears, toques and mitts pulled on, eyes focused downward, dark cloudy skies...winter is setting in. Southern California is a nice place to be. What was I saying about changing seasons?????