Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Cookie Tree

Christmas Cookie Tree-Holiday 2011
Hello everybody!


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter and joy.


I love Christmas, and the best part is the build up two to three weeks before Christmas Day.  All of a sudden, Starbucks cups turn red, cars are zipping down the road with a tree tied to their tops, and poinsettias appear in the flower shops. This all accumulates within a few days before Christmas, hustling to parties, preparing last minute entertaining details and, before you know it it, it's all over.  I hope it is not too late to share with you my holiday baking. This year I decided to bake a holiday tree to decorate my Christmas party. This is a fun and simple way to add a nice touch to your entertaining.  You can make it over and over again once you have the cookie cutter sets.

As 2011 winds down to a close, I am in a reflective mood. I guess this year has been a year of accomplishment for us.  We launched our new website which has been well received by our customers.  We have also partnered with key web developers to make your shopping experience an even better one.  We have earned the trust of distributors and gained distribution rights to large companies like Tovolo, Wilton and Meri Meri.  We will continue to bring you innovative and new baking products to add to your repertoire.  On a personal note, this year, I added two major piano pieces to my repertoire: Chopin's Nocturne Op 9,No 2, and Edward Elgar's Salut d'Amour. Next year, my piano goals will be to master and conquer Chopin's Fantasie Impromtu* and Listz's Un Sospiro.  

I wish all of you the best in your personal lives, career progression, and health goals.  

Thank you for all your support, and may your 2012 be filled with health, joy and peace.


Sincerely,
Julie

*I know this piece is very overplayed to the point of being cliche.  But, there is a story behind this. You see, somebody once told me i would never be able to play this song.  But I have been playing it bit by bit ever since :)  Also, I think it sounds beautiful, so next year I'll be working through this piece carefully until all the little pieces come together into a complete song. 

Christmas Cookie Tree
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Ingredients:
Sugar Cookie Dough- Shortbread dough
Makes a full Christmas Cookie Tree (Plus a few extras, in case of breakage)

*Make two batches of the recipe below for a full tree!
2 sticks of unsalted butter (At room temperature)
⅝ cup sugar
2 ½ cup all purpose flour

1. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until it has turned pale and creamy (About 2-3 mins).  

2. Add the flour and stir gently using the mixer or by hand.  Work in quick efficient strokes until the flour has completely incorporated.

3. Tip the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into into a disk and refrigerate for 1 hour.  

4. Preheat oven to 300 F.

5. Next, lightly flour the working surface and rolling pin.  Roll out dough to ½ inch and cut into shapes.  (I used a Westie Cookie cutter).

6. Carefully transfer the cut out shaped onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or with reusable Silpat.

7. Gather all the scraps and re-roll until they are all used up.  (Don’t worry about the texture, it will be fine).

8. Bake 20-25 mins until the cookies turn a little brown on the edges.  Let cool completely before icing.


*Some tips, the larger star pieces on the bottom of the tree will break easily. Do not handle when it is hot and try to roll them a little thicker. Move with spatula. If they still break, you will have enough cookie dough to make another cut out.


Icing Recipe:

(Outline Consistency)  
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon meringue powder
3 tablesppons + 1 teaspoon warm water
Beat 3-4 mins until incorporated.

Save about 3 tablespoon of the icing above.

(Flood Consistency) (For flooding the body of each star)
Take the remaining outline consistency icing and slowing add warm water until it is thinned out.  This usually takes about 2 tablespoon more of water.  To test for consistency, when you make a swirl with a stick in the icing, it should completely return to the bowl of icing in about 2-5 second.

Instructions for assembling the cookies:
1) Outline the cookie with the outline consistency white icing.  Make sure outline is close to the edge of the cookie but not too close.

2) Wait for it to dry about 10 mins.

3) Next flood the body of the star with flooding consistency white icing.

4) Wait for it to dry completely.  About 3-4 hours, preferably overnight since you will be stacking the cookies and if it is not completely dried, the layers can stick together.

*Note: This amount of icing was *just* enough to ice the tree.  If you need more, it is best to make another batch and save it for another batch of cookies.

Source: Recipe adapted from Sugarbaker’s Cookie Cutter Cookbook

Plated on a cake stand and surrounded by silver paper cups holding a yummy truffle.  This tree was the hit of the party!

Resources:
Cookie Cutter Sets (There are plenty of options here! But I chose the Crate and Barrel because it was a good price and a metal set.  Metal makes cleaner cuts.)




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Performance Review and Chinese Style Stir Fried Liver


Hello everybody,
It is that time of the year again when companies run their annual performance reviews. Which is my tongue in cheek way to introduce this liver dish. What do you do when feel like you are going to get chopped up like a block of liver during your reviews? 

Here is what I think. I have never been a big fan of a "formalized" performance review. Why?  Well, how do you answer the usual questions like "On a scale of 1 to 5, tell me how you think you have done X,Y and Z..." I find this method too arbitrary and too structured- it puts people on the defensive... which makes the process completely useless.  I much prefer more frequent 1:1 coaching and 360 degree dialogues. I believe a good leader has the ability to get the best work out of his/her people daily, for every single project. If given the correct stimulating environment and resources, it is much easier for a team to be creative and to achieve. I am building a business based on such a management style.

In the end, only you know if you have put your best foot forward given your circumstances.  You must trust that you have approached your tasks to the very best of your abilities. Only then can you objectively look at your performance review and find .. hmm.. peace.. so to say. Always look for ways to improve, but if you get a less than satisfying review and you know you have done your best (honestly done your best), don't be too upset about it.  After all, even if you have been chopped up like a piece of liver, remember that you can always throw it into the wok and stir fry it. It is not the end of the world.

On this side note, liver is very rich in vitamins and micronutrients. Liver is not something I usually eat, but on a recent trip to my usual Japanese grocer, I saw a perfectly fresh piece of liver that I just had to pick up. I called my mom for instructions and made it into a delicious dish.


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Chinese Style Stir Fried Chopped Liver with Ginger
Ingredients:
One piece of pork liver (Must be fresh and bright red)

(Marinade)
2 Tablespoons of Chinese Rice Wine (shaoxing wine)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
(Seasoning)
1 small piece (about the size of your thumb) ginger, sliced finely
1 stalk of green onion
1 tablespoon of peanut oil

Instructions:
1) Chop up the liver into small, thin slices and marinade with the Chinese rice wine and soy sauce.  Stir to mix completely.  Set aside for 30 minutes.
(Note: I find this part a little gross and the liver at this stage doesn't look appetitzing, but power through please.)
2) After 30 mins, remove the liver pieces using a tong and drain away any residue marinade.
3)  Next, in a heated pan (or wok) add the peanut oil.  After the oil has started to smoke, add the ginger.
Next add the liver pieces immediately followed by the seasonings.  As the liver is cooking, it will slowly turn a dark brown color.  Blood will also ooze out.  Look for this because when the blood stops oozing, the the liver is cooked. For food safety reasons, you will want to make sure the liver is completely cooked before eating.
4) When it is about to be done, add the green onions. 
5) Plate and serve.

Source: A Browncookie original (With guidance from Julie's mom)

Have a wonderful day everybody!

Sincerely,
Julie

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spicy Glass Noodle Salad

Ready to be served.  The plating is casual.
Hello everybody!

Our refrigerator broke recently, and between debating which model to replace it with and delivery delays by Best Buy, we were caught without a fridge for two weeks. This meant either eating canned foods, eating grains or eating out.  After two weeks of eating this way, I must admit I don't feel great. Eating out is great once in a while but it cannot be a long term solution in lieu of good meal planning. Anyhow, now that we have refrigeration again, I decided to make a spicy glass noodle salad.  It is a lighter dish and quite appetizing and much healthier than anything I have eaten in the last two weeks. This refreshing salad can be eaten alone, paired with rice or used as a side dish as part of a more elaborate meal. For those who do not like the smell or taste of fish sauce (which is a strong smelling, smokey and rich flavored Thai condiment), you can substitute with lite soya sauce. This is a delicious and waist line friendly dish that will surely be a welcome addition to your salad repertoire. Make it and eat it when you feel like you have over indulged in rich meals during the holiday season.

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Spicy Glass Noodle Salad (Yam Wun Sen)

Ingredients:
100g (1 cup) glass noodles (Soaked in water for 10 mins and then cut into 15 cm (6 inch) lengths.)
100 g (1/2 cup) minced pork. (Boiled in water. Use a fork to separate the minced pork during the boiling process. Strain after the pork is cooked).
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 shallots-sliced
10 small red chillies (thinly sliced) - Can be omitted if you do not like spicy foods
30 g of Chinese celery -chopped (Can substitute with regular celery if you can’t find Chinese celery.) Chinese celery has a more tapered look, so be sure to slice the regular celery into sticks if using.
45 ml (3 tablespoons) fish sauce (Ok to substitute with 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce)
30 ml (2 tablespoons) lime juice
1 tomato- cut in ½ lengthways and then thinly sliced
10 g (1/2 cup) coriander leaves
10 shrimps (shelled and cooked by boiling) -Optional

Method:
1) Put the softened glass noodles into a pot of boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Drain the noodles and transfer them into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. This will keep the noodles “al dente.”

2) After soaking the cooked glass noodles for 1 minute, strain them completely dry using a strainer.

3) In a large salad bowl, mix together the cooked pork, water, garlic, onion, chillies, Chinese celery, fish sauce, lime juice and tomato. Add the glass noodles, and toss to serve.

4) Garnish with shrimp (optional) and coriander leaves.

Recipe Adapted from: Chiang Mai Cooking School Cookbook

I hope you enjoy it!

Sincerely,
Julie

Monday, December 12, 2011

Westie Cookies

Hello everybody!

Christmas is almost here!  What are your holiday plans?  The perfect holiday for me is staying home and baking. I also don't believe in spending a lot of money on gifts just because it is Christmas. I think the best gifts are the ones you put effort into.  Some of my dream gifts are... A handmade quilt, a knitted scarf, or a recording of music that somebody worked very hard in order to play well or sing well. Such gifts are more meaningful, I think.  :) 

This year, for my holidays gifts to friends and family, I have decided to develop a "house cookie."  I wanted only one design.  The design had to be simple and easy to duplicate for years to come. So this is what I came up with:



Hopefully, when people see a Westie Cookie in the future, they will think of us. I hope you like it.  Here is the recipe:

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Sugar Cookie Dough- Shortbread dough
Makes 24 Westie Cookies

2 sticks of unsalted butter (At room temperature)
⅝ cup sugar
2 ½ cup all purpose flour

1. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until it has turned pale and creamy (About 2-3 minutes).

2. Add the flour and stir gently using the mixer or by hand. Work in quick, efficient strokes until the flour has completely incorporated.

3. Tip the dough onto plastic wrap and shape it into a disk and refrigerate for 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 300 F.

5. Next, lightly flour the working surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough to ½ inch and cut into shapes. (I used a Westie Cookie cutter).

6. Carefully transfer the cut out shape onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a reusable Silpat.

7. Gather all the scraps and re-roll until they are all used up. (Don’t worry about the texture of the cookie, it will be fine).

8. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cookies turn a little brown on the edges. Let them cool completely before icing.

Icing Recipe:

(Outline Consistency) (For the outline of the Westie and for the Black eyes)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon meringue powder
3 tablesppons + 1 teaspoon warm water
Beat 3-4 minutes until incorporated.

Save about 3 tablespoons of the icing above.

(Flood Consistency) (For flooding the body of the Westie and its Scarf)
Take the remaining outline consistency icing and slowing add warm water until it is thinned out. This usually takes an additional 2 tablespoons of water.

Instructions for assembling the cookies:

1) Outline the cookie with the outline consistency white icing. Make sure outline is close to the edge of the cookie but not too close. (Use Wilton Round Tip #1)

2) Wait for it to dry- about 10 minutes.

3) Next, flood the body of the dog with flooding consistency white icing. (Use a squeeze bottle).

A shape that has been outlined with white outline icing and flooded with flood icing

4) Wait for it to dry completely. About 3-4 hours.

5) Tint about 1 tablespoon of flood consistency icing with red food coloring until you reach the shade of red desired. (Use Wilton Rounded Tip #1).

6) Draw the scarf with the red icing. Let dry.

7) To complete, use black food marker or tint about 1 teaspoon of outline consistency icing in black and dot the eyes.   (Use Wilton Rounded Tip #1).

Recipe Adapted from: Sugarbaker's Cookie Cutter Cookbook
Some final Pointers:  The recipe is easy, but here are some tips. When the dough is chilled, it is important to let the dough come completely to room temperature before baking.  This is what happens if the dough is too cold.... the surface will appear cracked (On the left).  The butter also cannot fully be baked into the flour to give it a nice golden color.
Dog on the left was baked when the dough was still too cold.  Dog on the right is at the right temperature.

Enjoy your holidays!
Sincerely,
Julie

Resources:

Browncookie.com
1) Piping Bags
2) Siplat Silicone Half Sheet

Wilton.com
1) Round Tip Number 1
2) Squeeze Bottles

Westie Cookie Cutter

Monday, November 7, 2011

How to make Golden Syrup


Hello everybody,

Today, I am going to write about how to make your own golden syrup.  This ingredient shows up commonly in baked goods and a wide variety of desserts.  When you use it at home, it gives baked goods a hint of extra freshness. Golden syrup is also the starting ingredient to many baked goods and pastries, such as cakes (Mooncakes!!) and breads.  One of the most common brands of golden syrup is Tate and Lyles, and it is available at many specialty food stores and online.

So what exactly is golden syrup?  Commercially speaking, golden syrup is produced during the refining process when sugar cane juice is turned into sugar.  It can also be made by treating a sugar solution with acid.  The latter procedure is what I am going to show you today.  I think homemade is always better than store bought and lets you bypass all the unnecessary additives.  We use only natural acids like lemon juice and vinegar in this recipe, so everything is 100% natural.

Sometimes, molasses, corn syrup and honey are used as substitutes for golden syrup, but I have found in my own baking experience that the result is not the same for certain recipes that call specifically for golden syrup.  Now, there is no reason to take the risk by substitution because I am going to show you how to make golden syrup at home.

Here is the recipe.  The recipe is precise. I recommend using the metric measurements, but if you must use the cup equivalents, please measure carefully.  Anytime when we work with a solution, we have to turn a kitchen into a "lab" mentality.  Precision is important, and I also don't want to give you a recipe that doesn't work and waste your time and money.  :)  Here we go.

Recipe:
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800 g of white granulated sugar
290 g of water
2 lemons (to yield 6 tablespoons of lemon juice)
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 2 tablespoon of water (Set aside in a small dish)

Directions:
1. Wash the lemons and squeeze out all the juice into a bowl. Set the juice aside and measure out 6 tablespoons. Then, cut the lemons into quarter wedges and set aside.
2.  Next, in a small sauce pan, add sugar and water and boil on high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Stir to mix frequently.
3. Lower the heat to a simmer and add lemon juice, lemon wedges and vinegar (This is the acidic component of the syrup).  Stir occasionally.
4. Insert a candy thermometer and continue to boil on medium heat until the solution reaches 108 C. Now, you may think that since boiling point of water is 100C and since 8 degrees is only a small increment higher so this process should only take a few minutes.  But that would be wrong.  The solution at this stage is very saturated with sugar and acid.  In order for the solution to absorb enough energy or "heat" (Chemistry folks will remember q=mCΔT, sorry, I couldn't resist! For the rest of us, this is just a scientific equation that shows the relationship between heat and time needed to raise temperature in a solution.) To get the solution up to 108C is going to take about 30 minutes or more.  You have to trust the reading on the candy thermometer. Along the way to this temperature, the sugar solution will automatically turn into a golden color.
5. Once the thermometer indicates 108C, turn off the heat. Stir in the baking soda solution.
6. At this point you will notice bubbles coming up to the surface of the solution. Once the solution cools, it will disappear.  Let the solution cool in the sauce pan and strain into the storage jar (preferably glass).  Best used within a month.  Keep refrigerated.

Now you can make this at home!

Thank you for reading.
Julie

Monday, September 19, 2011

Maintaining Legato

Handwriting of my piano teacher in Shanghai, China- Ms Lee.  Faculty member of the beloved Shanghai Conservatory of Music.  Her practice notes for me - "Legato"  Or, like she likes to say it, "LEEE-ga-TOH" (1996).
Legato is a piano technique that a pianist must practice frequently. It is a music term that means that the notes in the music, as notated by a slurred line, should be played smoothly, without any breaks between them.  Imagine a calligrapher making a masterful brush stroke, the delicate contours and shapes of his characters taking shape before he lifts up the paintbrush. Some beginner pianists cheat by depressing the pedal, artificially slurring all the notes in a loud, jumbled mess. But, true legato, the kind that has crisp clarity and continuity, can only be achieved through hours of practice until it becomes second nature. 

I like to play pieces by Czerney to practice Legato. But ask any pianist about Czerney and you'll probably hear a chorus of curses.  Many of Czerney's pieces sound simple to the human ear but actually require intense concentration and practice to overcome the many technical challenges and repetitions to play the pieces well.  The pieces he wrote to train for legato have impossibly long phases, running cadences, large vertical spans, and rapid finger crossings- with few punctuations for the hands to rest between the notes and phases of music. 

So, preparation is needed. The greatest challenge is building up finger endurance as you play, your fingers burning with fatigue like a runner's during a marathon.  So why do we need to practice Czerney or Legato? I think it is because the most beautiful melodies I have ever played, the kind that really touch my heart,  are usually the ones with the longest slurs, requiring the most control of legato. Without the endurance to play legato, you lift your fingers up for a rest before the phase is complete, breaking it and ruining melody in the process, never allowing the music to reach it's full potential as the composer had intended.
Me, Age 5-6.  Practicing on a Young Chang Professional Upright my parents saved up to buy for my sister and I.  I had to practice before I could go swimming, that explains the swimsuit, and the pout.  :) 
Over the weekend, as I am coming up to the end of a phase after a long practice session, my fingers fatigued- they couldn't kick anymore. My hands were tired, but I still had a few more notes before reaching the end of the phase.  Do I give up now and break the melody, or do I push it and continue playing?  I compare this feeling to being in its very small way similar to:

A marathon runner running his last 1000 m in a 26.2 mile race, his knees burning from the lactic acid build up.  He is almost at the finish line.

A mountaineer on Mt. Everest vying for the submit upon reaching Mushroom Rock (A rock feature at 28,000 ft in the death zone), feeling like he could almost reach the peak while every single cell in his body is starving for oxygen.  After a few more hours, he will stand on the highest point on Earth.

A soprano singer, holding her contracted diaphragm for five more seconds to sustain the last note in an opera before she gasps for fresh air. She is a few more beats away from a flawless performance.

A pre-med student, 5th hour into taking the MCAT, on the final passage on the Biological Science section, her brain now a fuzzy blur, but knowing that she must concentrate to get the last few questions answered correctly.  Her dreams of becoming a doctor to help people may be within her reach.

And, at that moment, I chose to push myself.  I pushed my fingers to finish the phase.  And, because I did, the music transformed from a phase into a singing melody. 

What melodies await you this week? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Have a great week.
Julie

For more browncookie.com updates throughout the week, follow us on: Twitter

Resources:
Carl Czerney-School of the legato and staccato

Young Chang Pianos

Monday, September 12, 2011

Square Pancakes & New age mooncake molds

Hello everybody,
We've all seen and eaten round pancakes for most of our lives, but how many of us have eaten a square pancake?  When I think of square pancakes, I think of something that stands out from the crowd, something that dares to be different.  A salmon that swims downstream instead of up.  Here is a really good fluffy pancake recipe to mold these square pancakes. 

They were fluffy and delicious.  Slightly sweet.  The buttery flavor really comes out.
Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk (It is ok to substitute milk.)
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing
Vegetable oil, for greasing (both the pans and the mold)

Directions:
Spray the ring with a little cookie spray or grease the edges with a little butter (If you need to re-grease later, make sure the ring is not hot.)

Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.  Add the buttermilk, eggs and cooled melted butter to a second bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir with with a fork or use this Tovolo Better Batter Tool.  It really does work out the lumps faster and prevents the formation of gluten.  This means that your pancakes will be fluffier.  Over-mixing is the number one cause of dry and chewy pancakes.  The same principle also applies to making cakes.

Place the Square Pancake Ring, in the middle of the pan.  (There is no need to grease the pan).  Add a large tablespoon of batter to the middle of the ring until it is about 3/4 full.  Do not overfill because the pancake batter has rising agents and your batter will overflow out of the ring.

First attempt, almost overflowing.  But it didn't.  Phew.
When the top looks like it's solid, lift the pancake ring up using the handle (It will be hot, so be careful), release the pancake and flip it over for another 1 minute. 

This recipes makes about 14 square pancakes.

Recipe adapted from: Food Network: Neely's Strawberry pancakes

While we are on the topic of "square pancakes", check out the images below for an innovative, outside of the box thinking for mooncake molds. You see, mooncakes are eaten during Mid Autumn Festival when the moon is usually at his roundest.   The buttocks metaphor for "the moon" is not only unique in the Western context.  The moon is referred to in Chinese as "Ba Yue Shi Wu"(Literally translated as the 8th month, day 15), and this term can also be used to denote one's gluteus maximus.  In usage, you can say "Hey, I have been eating too many pancakes, my 'Ba Yue Shi Wu" is getting larger, time to hit the gym." (haha).  So this company in Hong Kong has taken this phase literally and made a mooncake mold out of it.  "Moon cake", get it?  It is pretty clever, isn't it?  Admittedly, is very cheeky, and I hope you don't find it a bit too much. It's all in good humor.
Photo credit: Photo generously provided by Goods of Desire (GOD), a lifestyle company based in Hong Kong.  Reused with permission.
Photo credit: Goods of Desire- G.O.D
Photocredit: Goods of Desire G.O.D.
Too bad the molds aren't for sale.  The mooncake makers that makes the mooncakes own the rights of the design.  However, if enough people like this mold, they might re-consider releasing the mold.  So please comment on on this post if you like the mooncake mold. They might change their minds about releasing the mold so that it is available for purchase by everyone. 


Thanks for reading everybody, and Happy Mooncake Festival!

Have a good week ahead!
Julie

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Embers and Opportunities

Neighboring "Needle" of Haystack Rock.  A protected wildlife sanctuary for seabirds.
Sorry about the break in posting.  We have been crazy busy at browncookie.com working on our upcoming website redesign.  I have also been working with new suppliers to find more exciting products.  I will get back to testing recipes (like a mooncake recipe that is easy to make at home) and posting soon!   In the meantime, in lieu of recipes,  I am going to blog about my recent trip to Oregon.

One of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest is the beautiful great outdoors that surrounds us.  Once a year, the rain stops for about 2 weeks (at least it seems that short!) and allows us to go out and really enjoy the place.  This weekend, we took a short drive to the Oregon Coast, to the famous photographer's favorite- Cannon Beach. 
The iconic Haystack Rock.  The third largest monolith in the world.

We rested on this large piece of driftwood.
Checking out the tidal pools of Haystack rock.  See the huge starfish in the background?
We found a spot during the day to just sit, dig our feet in the sand, listen to the crashing of the ocean waves and watch seabirds land on Haystack rock (a protected wildlife sanctuary, which happens to also be the 3rd largest monolith in the world).  The weather was perfect, with no rain (a rare event in the Pacific Northwest), even our highly strung terrier had a terrific time (it was his first vacation, and he is almost three years old).
This is the most relaxed I have ever seen our dog.  There is even a small twinkle of a smile.
I titled this composition "Americana".
The beach got colder as evening approached. We went for a quick bite and back to the hotel to grab some extra blankets before returning to the beach. Some well prepared beach goers were already lighting bonfires, which looked extra cozy and luxurious against the backdrop of the misty and chilly air and surf.


I didn't know bonfires were allowed, or I would have brought some supplies to light one.  I was resigned to spending a rather chilly evening on the beach when Eric spotted a pile of small embers, glowing with a little bit of heat left.  The spot where the fire was was near the most coveted spot on the crowded beach.  Right in front of Haystack Rock, between two large logs of driftwood.  What a find!

The pile of embers we found.
Eric spun into action, "Let's gather some firewood to try to rekindle the fire!"  He got into action and ran back towards the sand dunes to gather old drift wood.  When he found a large piece of driftwood, he used a rock with a thin sharp edge as a chisel.  Very caveman-esque. I also started looking for wood.  And once I started looking, it seems like the beach was filled with these wood chip nuggets.  We arranged the wood chips in a neat pile, strategically allowing maximum oxygen circulation with strategic "fire-catching" positions.  Before long, with the winds blowing in the right direction, the flames soared... and we had created a cozy bonfire.

Making a bigger fire
"Trained by Navy Seal", E proudly proclaimed.  Ha!

On a side note, this incident made me think of how often we complain and lament about what we don't have and envy what other people have...only to miss opportunities sitting right in front of us.  With a little luck and a willingness to work a little harder, may the wind also blow your way and start a little fire for you.  A gentle reminder to have faith.  A perfect conclusion to a short weekend trip.


Twilight.  A couple sitting on a log.
I better get back to working on recipes!
Meanwhile, enjoy these photos!

Julie
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