Returning the Favor: Lime Sugar Cookies

I've always liked the idea of returning borrowed kitchenware, not just washed, but bearing something homemade. Such a gesture really seems to acknowledge the generosity that brought the item into your possession in the first place. The lender was probably just hoping to see their worn out cake pan again, an event that would make them happy in and of itself, but to return the boring cake pan transformed into something that produces an exclamation of delight - now that's pure magic! I adore the thought!

I left Kasey's flat last week, after a scrumptious Easter Feast, carrying containers filled with delectable braised greens and spicy black pepper yam chips. I thought the soon-to-be-empty vessels seemed the perfect excuse to let her know how valued the bevy of vases filled with unique pastel flowers and the multi-course spring-themed banquet (all testaments to the lavish level of her hostessing efforts) had been.

Kasey finally got her Tupperware back yesterday with Lime Sugar Cookies tucked inside (chosen for the springy color palette as well as with the anticipation of warm weather in mind). These particular cookies are delicately light and vigorously citrusy, but still rich and creamy and sweet - a more than worthy opponent against hard-to-beat chocolate.

I found the cookie recipe at the Technicolor Kitchen, but I think what took my cookies to the next level of refreshing citrus lusciousness was my addition of a lime butter cream frosting. Sure... you can just do plain old lime sugar cookies... but aren't sugar cookies all about the frosting anyway?

Anne Spice's Lime Frosting

8 T. Butter (room temperature)
4 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
Juice of 1 Lime
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 T. semi-skimmed milk (more or less to produce desired consistency)
A few drops green food coloring!

Cream sugar and butter together. Add lime juice and vanilla. Mix till smooth. Then add milk to produce desired frosting thickness (I like mine a little thin for sugar cookies - makes it easier to spread).

Frost and garnish cookies with shreds of lime zest. Voila!

Scottish Easter Eggs

My Easter was spent in the frigid air of Scotland's Edinburgh. It was a last minute holiday spurred by the fact that I'd been in London for too many consecutive days and when faced witha significant Easter break, decided it was high-time I go and explore someplace entirely new.

Edinburgh was the chosen getaway as it is reachable by car (a mere seven hours away!), is notorious for being historic and fascinating, and is home to a friend we needed to visit. Pictures follow. Enjoy!

The dusting of snow we encountered during the drive.

The opening gate to the Ashdene House, our Scottish B&B.

The stone manor itself was lovely: high ceilings, a stately staircase, richly detailed carpeting throughout. However, the woman who ran it was a bit too stiff and strict to be considered either warm or welcoming - she reminded me of a no-nonsense school-marm. Yes, ma'm!

Fortunately, the school-marm's breakfast was delicious. To the left you see vegetarian haggis (who knew?!) made with grains and loads of spice. I can honestly say this in one of the few UK-breakfasts of this sort where I'd wished there'd been more.

One of Edinburgh's many tiny alley ways beckoning visitors away from the main drag - walk too swiftly or too intently and you'll miss them!

We spied the miniscule Halfway House down such an alley and noted it for later...

Playing bagpipes below zero while sporting a kilt - they weren't kidding about the Scots' hardiness.

Ha! The shop of kilt maker! (And a little dog who noticed my intrigue).

Even the bus seats get the Scottish plaid treatment.

Edinburgh Castle.

Me trying not to look like an ice cube in front of Edinburgh Castle (I am definitely not Scottish - or as hardy when it comes to the cold).

What's known as "The Royal Mile" stretching down away from the castle.

"The Witchery?" - few signs have caught my notice or fueled my imagination so readily.

One of the most green, well-manicured, sparsely populated graveyards I've ever seen.

A view from the cemetery we accidentally strolled into after climbing a long stairway up the hill called Jacob's Ladder. I love the look of the darkened grave markers against the mountain backdrop. It's so gripping, so haunting, so beautifully solitary.

A majestic stone structure of a different sort: one of the North Bridge's grand hotels.

These rock buildings are ubiquitous.

The Halfway House: a little pub on (eesh) Fleshmarket Close that "ends before it begins" when you walk inside.

Yay! Easter Eggs! Compliments of our pub's holiday display - after a little cajoling from our waitress - just in time!

The castle looming over the city on Easter Eve.

The Unreasonable Man

"In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally."

-Paul Graham from You Weren't Meant to Have a Boss

A Life I'd Like to Emulate

“She felt that somehow, wandering through uncharted territory, we might stumble upon something that will, in an instant, seem to represent who we are at the core.

That was very much her philosophy of life — to not be limited by fear or narrow definitions, to not build walls around ourselves and to do our best to find kinship and beauty in unexpected places.”

- Maya Soetoro-Ng on her mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro (also mother to Barack Obama)

I spotted this ethereal fairy-like weed growing up out of a littered sidewalk just hours before reading the above quote in a spotlight on Barack Obama's mother in The New York Times.

I was in a bit of a hurry, and the person I was with smirked slightly when I stopped to take a picture; but later that morning, as I read about the value this inspiring woman put on such incidental beauties - and how it fed into her overall philosophy on life - I thought: "I am in truly excellent company."

While I assure you this is a non-partisan blog, I encourage you all to glance at The New York Times article about Ms. Soetoro: a testament to fantastic lives lived that aren't often brought to light. The depiction of Ms. Soetoro made me want to cry: To have lived so fully and so spontaneously! To have inspired so many! To have been remembered and written about as such a breathtaking soul!

Ms. Soetoro's existence seems to have left behind an immense reverberation of its caring and overwhelming genuineness - such that I'm inspired to continue tending to my jot of a life-span in the way that I do.

St. Pat's Toll House Cookies

When I originally set out to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by way of confection, my plan was to roll out loads of sugar cookie dough, cut out dozens of floury four-leaf clovers, and coat them all with electric green frosting.

But when it came time to actually doing the baking, I really really longed for that subtly salty-sweet concoction punctuated with bittersweet chocolate chunks known as Toll House cookies over a sweet homage to butter and confectioners sugar.

So, in what I thought was a deft compromise to satisfy both my craving and the holiday's color scheme, I decided to dye the dough green. And without even realizing the appropriateness, I'd picked up one of Green and Black's ginger and dark chocolate bars to chop up and mix into the batter.

The result was something that looked suspiciously like mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Unfortunately, as you can see from the results, the final product only hinted at its inspiration and didn't really live up to "Green and Black" effect I'd been hoping for - but at least with one of these in hand, even if you aren't wearing green, you can make an argument against being pinched.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Coveting Crockery: Is it Genetic?

My mom is obsessed with dishes. If I went home for a visit and I didn't find a new set of stoneware stacked somewhere in the kitchen, I'd be disappointed.

Her additions always complement the season: octagon-shaped pastels for spring, summertime tinware in Americana-hues, substantial earthenware in rust, pumpkin, and rich sage green to accommodate Autumn's tawny soups, and ornate gold-leafed Victorian reproductions for special winter meals.

I didn't realize this level of affinity for tableware could potentially be hereditary, however, until I had a flat with my own empty cupboards to furnish.

I strolled the high-street likes of Marks & Spencer's and eyed plenty of run-of-the-mill plates in creamy colors: 3 for the price of 2! But as much as I knew purchasing such a set would be economically prudent, I couldn't bring myself to do it. The dishes were just so ordinary, so uninspired, so... mass-produced.

Then, at Columbia Flower Market a few weekends ago, I knew what I'd been waiting for. Never mind that the vintage "Midwinter" bowls you see above cost more than some imported Cambodian vessels I'd dismissed two shops up as too expensive - these were special. Their delicate shape and unique motif. The fact that they hailed from the 1940's (the white ones with the fruit) 50's (green) and 60's (blue); they were a veritable rainbow of historic decades from which I could daily partake.

I didn't have the requisite cash on-hand to buy them (the curse of being a hopeless credit card toting American). So I trooped a half-hour away to the nearest ATM, then a half-hour back, to retrieve these four pieces that the shopkeeper called a "bit of British history."

And now, probably just like my mom does, each time I open the cupboard - I see them - and smile happily.