M is for Maisie Dobbs!

A book series that has become a love for me in the last year is the Maisie Dobbs series. They take place in post WWI England and follow Maisie, who is a Private Investigator.

The newest book came out in March!
Happiness is.
Many of the stories involve people who are trying to process the impact of the Great War on their families and selves. The author deals with her characters' trauma and healing with great sensitivity. Maisie views each mystery as an opportunity to help people reconnect with themselves and those important to them, as well as an opportunity for her to learn about herself. I enjoy these books because rather than focusing only on the minute details of a murder or robbery, they focus on the human element and greater societal influences in the crimes.

One of the things Maisie does that really resonates with me is her 'final accounting' at the end of a case. This is her habit of going back to visit places and people who were important to a case, in order to contemplate them with new perspective in the light of a solved mystery.

The 'final accounting' is something I have done throughout my life. I have a habit of going back to visit places after I've left, to see with fresh eyes and give myself some closure to my experiences. I find that this is a good way to learn from things and to be able to exist in my new space in a more effective manner. At the end of the most recent Maisie Dobbs book, Elegy for Eddy, she describes the final accounting like this:
"...key to coming to the next new case renewed and ready for another challenge. It was not a means of forgetting, but of assigning completed work its place, as if it were freshly laundered linen - starched, ironed, folded, and put away in the airing cupboard." (p. 320)
This weekend I am actually in Miami doing this. Yesterday I visited my old workplace in Hialeah and today and tomorrow am hanging out with various friends. P is for Perspective, so I will write more about my experiences and reflections in a couple days. Until then, if you've got time, go check out a Maisie Dobbs book from your local public library :)


L is for Leaving on a Jet Plane

I know it's terribly cliche, but whenever I travel I get the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane" in my head.
Ironically, today is the letter L and I am traveling. And so, I am sharing the earworm so I'm not the only one humming it all day :)


K is for Kids..?

So, you know how they say that a holiday isn't complete without some kind of awkward family moment? This Easter was no exception for us.

My immediate family lives in three states and two countries, so we spend a lot of time on Skype on holidays. Last weekend it was just us, my two little brothers and my Mom. We were chatting, getting warmed up in the conversation when all of a sudden Mom asks, "So have you made any progress on having kids?"

Now, I don't know about you, but my brain basically interpreted that as, "are you having lots of sex?" Which is a conversation I don't want to have with my Mom. Ever. Especially not in front of my little brothers (who, by the way, were having a hard time picking their jaws off the floor).

Luckily Chris is quick on his feet and said, "Well, insofar as babies are something that will happen in the future, and we are currently progressing through time, yes we are making progress toward having babies." Everyone kind-of giggled and we moved on to safer topics.

This is not to say that kids aren't something we've talked about. We've certainly made progress in mentally preparing ourselves for that step. But we're definitely still figuring things out. We just moved to a new state, started new jobs and bought a house. Making another big life change seems.. Well on the one hand like the next logical thing, and on the other more like "holy CRAP can we just breathe for a minute?!"

So, I think for now we'll leave it at that. "Kids..?"

The winner of the Jar of Jam from yesterday's giveaway is Nabila! So congrats, Navi, I will be putting a jar of yum into the mail for you soon!
(for those interested, I did the drawing by assigning everyone who entered a number, and then went to random.org and asked for a random number)


J is a Jar (giveaway!)

I've always thought it was cool when blogs had giveaways and thought, "Man.. I wish I had something cool to give away!" And then I realized that I do have something quite good.

Every year around Thanksgiving/Christmas, I make a huge batch of homemade cranberry sauce and can it in jars so I can have this delicious treat all year round. It is infinitely better than the jellied stuff you get at the grocery store and allows me to enjoy it even during the summer months when fresh cranberries are not available.

AND, I also have a jar of my yummy strawberry jam left! I made it from strawberries that were picked fresh that very day and boy can you taste it! Like a bite of summer, it goes well with just about anything you'd want to put strawberries on. :)

So to celebrate the giving'ness of all the wonderful bloggers I've been interacting with for A-Z this month, I have decided to share some homemade love with one of my readers.

Comment below with your favorite way to eat cranberry sauce or strawberry jam, and I will draw randomly from among the commenters and send the winner a jar of goodness. Please make sure you leave enough information that I can contact you to get your address, and check back tomorrow to find out who the winner is!

Looking forward to seeing what y'all come up with :)


Incidental I's

Today, two completely unrelated favorite things that start with I.

First, Inigo Montoya. It seems all embedding of Princess Bride Youtube videos is disabled, so just click here or here for some Inigo goodness.

And then, the song Instant Pleasure. Yessss....

(Other significant I's include: introverts, ice cream, imagination and instincts)


H is for Helados! (also, how-to!)

Today, a multilingual icecream moment. Helados means ice cream in Spanish (which I learned working in Hialeah, hah!) and I've put together a how-to make mochi ice cream balls post for you. Mochi is a Japanese treat. It's a sweet rice paste made from either just sweet rice, or sweet rice flour and sugar. We love it with ice cream, though you could definitely eat it plain.

The recipe we used is this:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups sweet rice/glutenous rice/mochiko flour (can be found at your local Asian food market or Whole Foods)
1/2 cup corn starch

Boil the sugar and water, and then remove from heat to whisk in the rice flour. It will turn into a gloopy gross-looking hot mess. Do not taste at this point! It WILL burn your tongue. Return to low heat and stir constantly for 7-10 minutes. For this you will want to switch to a spoon because your arm will want to fall off if you try to whisk it all that time. You will want the mixture to have a shiny appearance when you take it off the heat.

Cover a smooth working surface with corn starch, and dump the mochi mixture out onto it. Let cool. And I mean cool - if you try to put ice cream on warm mochi you will get a big mess!

Smoosh out circles/oblong shapes of cooled mochi. You will want to get it as thin as you can without putting holes in it. This will require more corn starch because it is sticky.

Pics taken with the point-and-shoot
b/c my camera man was on hand
model duty :P
Then place a small ball of ice cream on the mochi and wrap it up. You can use any kind of ice cream. This time we used homemade green tea ice cream. Mmmm....

(A step to make this a bit easier, especially if you are a one-person show - pre-freeze little balls of ice cream on parchment paper. They are harder and don't melt quite as quickly as if you scoop them one by one.)

Immediately place mochi balls on a piece of parchment paper in the freezer to harden. Once they are hard, you can put them all in one container. They keep well for about a week, up to a month if you wrap individually in plastic.
(They don't usually look this melty - we did this on a day that it was over 70 degrees out, so we had the windows open.. Didn't really think about the icecream melting - oops!)