So, now that we are finally out of the house and part of the big wide world out there, what exactly have we been doing with our time? Mainly, it has involved spending as much time outside as possible. As anyone who has been around (or has hauled around) small children will tell you, this is a whole lot easier said than done.
One of the ways that we are taking advantage of the beautiful weather is by going to our local zoo. Since they offer a zoo membership for a pretty decent price per year we have tried to purchase one every year. That way, even when money is tight, we already have admission taken care of and can still get out and do something fun. We even go in the winter too - a lot of the animals are actually more active in chillier weather so it is great to go on clear Fall and Winter days.
Right now though here in our part of Utah it is not chilly. At all. Actually, I think the lowest daytime temperature forecasted for this week was a "balmy" 92 degrees F. So, in other words, freaking hot!
This means when we do go out we definitely want something refreshing. Aidan and I go on a lot of picnics. If nothing else, the past year has taught me - when I'm not all caught up in the day to day grind of life and really focus on what is important - to not always save the "special" things (like picnics at the zoo) for a time when everything is perfect or a special occassion.
What actually reminded me of that this week was the time of year. July is a crazy, huge busy month for us. Among all the usual stuff (and some other special occassions coming up) today is the 10th anniversary of the day I met my husband. We had a short courtship (if you could call it that) and this coming December will be our 10th wedding anniversary too. All of that occurred to me when we finally took our wedding quilt that we have been saving for the "perfect" bedroom out of storage to use it. I will have to take a picture soon and show you this incredible quilt made for us by my wonderful MIL.
Anyway, we took some time this week to have a light little picnic lunch (me, Aidan Baby Cole and my friend J.) at the zoo. Even though Aidan was too excited and wound-up (as he often is) to really settle down it was still a lot of fun. I knew that I wanted to make the Gruyere Cheese Stuffed Rolls again as picnic food because I have thought of making them again almost daily since the last time I made them.
I also wanted to do a sort of variation on the Strawberry Tart we did for TWD a while ago. I wanted to take advantage of all the fresh fruit I have in the house right now and make a light fruit salad I like to make that is really the simplest and most flexible thing in the world. While I usually use orange juice, this time I used lime since that is what I had on hand. Anyway, I decided to make chocolate sable-like cookies to go with the fruit salad as kind of lunch/dessert/treat. They ended up being perfect and absolutely fantastic.
I hope that whereever you are and what you are doing, even though our world is getting busier and busier as we all go crazy trying to keep up that you can remember to take the time toslow down, look around you and enjoy life around you - especially the small and simple things.
Chocolate Sable Shortbread Wedges
(Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon very cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
put all the dry ingredients into a food processor amd pulse together until well combined. Add the butter, scattered over the dry ingredients, and process until almost about the sized of oatmeal flakes. Stir the yolk to break it up and add a little at a time. Process the dough until it co,es together fairly well. Dump out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and pat into a 10-inch circle, approximately 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 12 thin wedges and arrange about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Score each wedge with a fork a few times. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake the wedges for about 15 minutes until slightly puffed and set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet before moving.
My Favorite Fruit Salad
2 pints mixed fruit and berries of your choice, bite size pieces - I used the following:
1 tart green apple
strawberries (approx. 8-10)
green grapes, handful
cantaloupe (about 1/3 cup)
juice of 1 lime, squeezed over the cut apple and banana pieces (if using)
2 Tablespoons honey, warmed to liquid
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1 teaspoon cold water
(I also like to add a little fresh mint when I have it.)
Stir the vanilla and honey together with the water. Pour over all the mixed fruit and stir gently to cover and combine. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
See, if you don't slow down and enjoy the little things, you miss moments like your almost 5 year old "daredevil" showing off his "mad skills" by letting go of the bar of the new carousel when he goes by - for about 2 seconds anyway. And yes, the "daredevil" and "mad skills" are his terms - not mine. Hilarious!