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This is just a place holder post for a longer, newsy and mile by mile account of our Tour de Lakes and London Adventure. Suffice it to say, we did make it back safely, pretty much no worse for the wear and with hundreds of happy memories and twice as many pictures. I’m still combing through most of both and will write more soon. But until I do, here is one snapshot of a particularly happy memory:

Here we are, resting our feet after a semi-grueling (but not excruciatingly harrowing) day three ride over only two fells. Am I being a bit cryptic? Yes indeed—you’ll have to check back later for the detailed travel log, which will be coming very, very soon. And by soon I mean this weekend, after I’ve upgraded my system software, downloaded and compiled all photos from Mummy and my cameras, and written a clear and concise account of one of the very best adventures I’ve ever had.

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Huzzah!! Today my mom Lesa and I set off on our great cycling tour of the Lake District in England. We are thrilled and excited, anticipating a few big hills, hearty pub meals, cozy B&Bs, and bucolic views. Mom’s looking forward to trying an English breakfast, and I’m looking forward to buying Mom a Guinness!

We’ll be taking off soon from Logan airport for a quick hop across the pond to London, then it’s a three-or-so hour train ride up to Penrith where we’ll bus it over to Keswick. Our flight leaves here at 18:40 but we won’t arrive in Keswick until about 17:00 GMT (12:00 EST) tomorrow. We’re in for a long day but we’re chuffed. That’s “stoked” or “thrilled” to all you Yankees — I’ve been trying to teach Mummy some British words, like “cheers” for “thank you” and “quid” for “dollars”. She doesn’t much like when I say “bollocks” or “wanker” but I’m hoping by the end of our trip she’ll bust out with loud “buggar”.

Check back in with us as we cycle our way around the north west Lake District’s fells, dales and becks.

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But until then, Tally Ho! See you in the Lakes!!

xx

Today on our morning walk we came across a small broken robin egg. Looking closer we discovered it had a baby bird, not yet fully formed, still inside the half-opened shell. The poor thing had fallen or been snatched by a predator and dropped out of its nest. The little bird was maybe half done, big bulbous eyes and tiny body, little wings and feet neatly folded in the fetal position. Afraid it might get squished or eaten, I found a piece of plastic and a stick and scooped it up and carried it back to our house.

I wondered, at first, if it was still alive. I knew it wasn’t likely, that it probably hadn’t survived the fall let alone the time outside its egg. Who knows how long it had been there before we found it. Could we keep it warm? How does the bird even keep growing inside the egg—could I recreate that environment some how? How would I feed it? All these questions of course pointless as the little bird was, I am certain, no longer living.

So I found a spot under the rhododendron bush out front of the house and dug a little hole and laid the little bird with its half shell egg inside. I told the bird it was ok. He would be alright, and he’d come back to earth soon, perhaps as another bird, or something else. His tiny spirit would live on longer than his body did. I covered him up with the dirt and laid a wet leaf over the mound and the stick I’d used on top of it. I said another little prayer then went back inside.

I’ve thought all day about that little bird. How it wouldn’t get a chance to fly or be an early bird for a worm. Did his mama know he was gone? Was she looking for him? Or was this just the way nature works, unfair as it seemed. Nature is at once beautiful and powerful, and often incomprehensible.

This small little bird didn’t have his chance today, but maybe tomorrow. Or some day, years from now. Maybe he’ll be an eagle, or a white dove.

I haven’t written in ages! I’m terrible. I’m the worst ever. I say this every time, too. But really I think this must be the longest time without a post. Three months? Bennett! Bad! BAD!

Last time I wrote it was almost Christmas. Now it’s almost Easter… well, almost. We’ve seen a whole season come and go and not a post on anything. Not a one about being tired of snow (And lots of snow did we have – holy cow! Something like 39 inches?) or exploring new places (the Art & Architecture Tour at the Boston Public Library is a hidden gem). No news on our Year of Bread baking challenge (Did you know we haven’t bought bread in THREE MONTHS!? We’ve baked every bit of bread we’ve eaten this winter!) All this including the sad fact that we’ve had zero giveaways, and NO pictures of Gordon. Sad face.

And I wish I could write more today but I have to-dos and projects I’ve been putting off and MUST get to them. I know, I know. You may say, “Isn’t this a project you’ve been putting off?” and yes, it most certainly is and I feel terribly about it. Not just because I’ve been neglecting the blog and my readers, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been putting it (and my other to-dos and projects) off because I’ve been a lazy bear. Very lazy. Winter got me bad and I’ve just been a bum. Watched too much TV, and really, it’s all been filth. I am no better for it. Shame on me. Shame on me and the time I’ve wasted.

But don’t you worry. It’s spring! The sun is out longer and fills me with all kinds of happiness and spirit and inspiration. I’ll be back and better than ever very soon, with lots of newsy posts chock full of happy happiness, food making, artsy fartsy goodness, and all other things LPE.

So until then, I leave you with two things:

1. A picture of Gordon – because that’s why you drop by LPE, right? To see Gordon’s sweet cheeks, and NOT because every time I write a new post and hit PUBLISH a little link pops up on Facebook and Twitter and that urge to click on a link comes over you and you click without thinking.

NO, you come here of your own volition, I know it.

And 2:

A giveaway!!! I will send a snail mail grab bag—colorful pens, lovely papers, envelopes, blank note cards, stickers, etc.—to the fifth new person to subscribe to LPE. Just hit “L.P.E. to Y.O.U.” on the left hand side ← over there and enter your email address. When we post, which is hopefully, and fingers CROSSED, oftener than not, you’ll get a little PING! Note: You can unsubscribe at any time (but I hope you don’t!) by clicking “manage” under L.P.E. to Y.O.U. Believe me, knowing I have subscribers who are expecting things of me will keep me motivated, so this is a win-win in many ways.

Wahey! We’re (nearly) back!

Would that it was snowing right this moment, blanketing the world with the fluffy, white, winter-y stuff.  I would go outside with Gordon and Mark and make tracks and angels and snowballs.

It is not actually snowing here in Boston town, nor is it in the forecast (although I’m sure we’re in for a good Nor’Easter soon.  It is, after all, New England).  Yet it is snowing here on L.P.E.  A beautiful quiet whisper of snow coming down ever so softly. The snow on L.P.E. is not cold and doesn’t blow away.  It doesn’t sting your face and you can’t catch it on your tongue.  But my hope is that it conjures up good feelings and leaves you thinking fondly of winter white holidays and happy childhood memories.  And hopefully it makes you smile.

Snow snow snow snow SNOOOOOOW.

It won’t be long before we’ll all be there with snow

Snow…
I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow

Snow
I long to clear a path and lift a spade of snow…
Snow
Oh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow

Where it’s snowing
All winter through
That’s where I want to be

Snowball throwing
That’s what I’ll do

How I’m longing to ski
Through the snow-oh-oh-oh-oh

Those glist’ning houses that seem to be built of snow
Snow

Oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow

What is Christmas with no snow
No white Christmas with no snow
Snow

I’ll soon be there with snow

I’ll wash my hair with snow
And with a spade of snow
I’ll build a man that’s made of snow
I’d love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shuteye
Go to sleep

And dream … Of snow.

Hmmm… Me thinks it’s time for a giveaway!

Write your favorite snow memory in the comments, and I’ll send one lucky reader a sweet little surprise!

 

 

(The lyrics and song “Snow”, from the movie White Christmas, are © 1953, Erving Berlin)

 

I was on a granola kick this summer. I’ve tried many kinds and have had some good stuff and some, well, let’s just say it was wicked sugary and not-so-granola good for you.  One would think granola was supposed be to good for you, right?  Oats. Nuts. Seeds. Maybe a little dried fruit even? At its base, yes, methinks it’s full of good natural wholesome foodstuff.  But then you add all the nasty high-fructose corn syrup and other unmentionable (and un-pronounceable) ingredients that you find in the store-bought stuff and YUCK! I don’t even want to know what they’ve put in the box to make it taste so good.  Crack maybe? Who knows.

All I do know is that granola is good. Granola is great. I like granola A LOT.  I was buying soooo much granola and aside from it being “Très Expensif” (I know, not French, but it’s my Franglish for “I spent all my dollars”) it probably wasn’t that good for me.  So I sought a new alternative.  There are many many recipes out there to try, and so try I did.  And, come to find, it’s super duper easy to make, depending on the ingredients, a healthier alternative (at least you know what’s going in!!), and, again depending on the ingredients, a fairly low-cost treat.

So, here we go.

Let’s Make It: Granola

There are three main parts to the granola:

1. Oats — Duh! As I’ll describe later, you can add more to this part, however I think starting with oats is a pretty good bet.  They provide a good base for the add-ins and are soooo good for you (heart-healthy, a good source of vitamins and minerals, and gluten-free).
2. Fats — This can be any edible oily substance, and depending on the fat content and/or taste you prefer, is really up to you … Canola oil, peanut butter, a light olive oil I’m sure would work, melted butter, etc.
3. Sugars — Sugar works with the fat to create an almost caramely coating for the oats and helps them stick together with all the add-ins.  Again, depending on your preference for sweetness vs. health, the sugars can vary … I’d suggest a combination of brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, etc.

Take your oats, a fat, and a sugar or two, mix it up, bake it, and you have a very basic granola.

But that’s boring.

Frankly, you can add whatever you want to the general mixture and get a pretty good product so feel free to experiment and get creative, as long as you have one of each of the three bases.

You might try:

  • flax seed (whole or milled)
  • wheat germ
  • crispy rice
  • nuts of various kinds (walnuts, almonds, macadamias, pine nuts, etc.)
  • seeds of various kinds (sesame, poppey, sunflower, etc.)
  • dried fruits

Really the granola add-in world is yours to explore.

Here’s a recipe adapted from cdkitchen. I’ve changed things around a bit to our own taste and have experimented a bit with different add-ins.  Again–get creative!  It’s granola.  And aside from burning it, you really can’t mess up.  Or at least I haven’t messed up yet, and I am definitely accident prone.  Feel free to share your mixtures and experiences with experimenting in the comments.

First, set your oven to 300 degrees.

Then, collect your tools:

  • Rubber Spatula
  • Cookie Spatula
  • Parchment Paper or Silicon Baking Mat
  • Rimmed Baking Sheet
  • Giant Bowl
  • Whisk or Wooden Spoon
  • Liquid Measuring Cup
  • Small Saucepan

Then, collect your ingredients (these were ours):

  • 4 Cups of Old-Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Chopped Nuts (we like sliced almonds, but choose what you like or keep ’em out and add a cup more of oats)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup Canola Oil (or any other liquidy fat you choose)
  • 1/3 Cup of Honey (you could use molasses or real maple syrup or a mixture–I add enough maple syrup to the honey to make 1/2 Cup of liquid)
  • 1/4 Cup of Apple Sauce (we use all nature no sugar added)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
  • 1 Cup of Dried Fruit (I like dried blueberries!)

Mix the Dry Ingredients (Oats, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Salt, Nuts, Dried Fruit) in the Giant Bowl:

Use a wooden spoon or whisk to work together the dry mixture:

In a saucepan, mix together your liquid ingredients (Oil, Honey, Vanilla, Apple Sauce) on the lowest heat:

You just want to warm them up and get them mixed together.  DON’T LET IT BOIL!  Just warm it up a bit and get everything mixed up nicely.

Then add the warm liquid mixture to the dry mixture:

And give it all a good stir with a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and get everything evenly coated:

Get your baking sheet and cover the bottom with a sheet of parchment or a silicon baking mat.

Then pour the mixture on to the baking sheet:

Flatten out the mixture with your spatula so that it’s about 1/2 inch thick or so and goes all around the edges of the pan like so (Mark is doing a really good job!):

Now pop it into the oven for baking.

It bakes 40 minutes, stirred every 10 minutes to be sure it’s getting baked evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.

To stir, push the granola from the sides of the sheet into the middle and then press it out again:

If you have a helper or two, you can take turns stirring every 10 minutes.  Mark and Gordon are very good helpers.

During this process it will still be sticky but not crispy.  Don’t overbake!  The crisping happens during the cooling.  The baking helps to caramelize your sugar/oil concoction around the oaty mixture but won’t make it crisp.

Once the 40 minutes are up, pull it out of the oven and set the sheet on a rack for cooling.  Let it cool 30 minutes.  Then use your hands to break up the pieces.  Your granola may be more brittle or more chewy depending on the different items you put in.  If you have a food dehydrator you could put it in there to get it really nice and cracking.  The latest batch we made was more on the chewy side but still yummy yummy.  My sense is that it will get more crisp as it ages.

Store it in an airtight box for up to 2 weeks, if it will even last that long!

It’s great with yogurt or milk or soymilk with fresh fruit, or even just on its own as a snack.

However you choose to eat your granola, enjoy your home made treat and the satisfaction of knowing all the yummy goodness that’s in it and the joy that went in to making it and in discovering something new and tasty. Might I suggest sharing the recipe with friends, and not your granola. Or you might just find yours is all gone!

I’ve been bad.  Very very bad.  Not a very good blogger lately. And I have no excuses to give.  Well.  I do, but they’re not very good ones and I wouldn’t expect you to accept them.

So tonight I’m back on the blog wagon.  I hope to be diligent.  One blog, AT LEAST, per week.  But definitely one.  I want to share more recipes (one coming tonight on make-your-own-granola).  I want to share more how-tos.  I want to do less ranting and more chit-chatting.  More exploring.  More sharing.  AND I want to do some give-aways.  I just feel like giving stuff away.  Not random crap I have around the house, but good stuff.  Like homemade stuff.  Last week I gave away 5 “Mount Holyoke – Smart Women Know It” stickers via twitter (follow me at @annapbennett) to the first five tweeps who wanted them.  And it was AWESOME.  Five lovely Mount Holyoke women emailed and I sent them little notes with their winnings.  It was so fun and such a simple way to connect with my fellow MoHo women.  I got a little tweet back today from one of the lucky ladies, a current student, who said she received hers in her Blanchard Box today.  Made me smile real wide.  So yes.  More giveaways. Like.  Snap. Let’s do a giveaway RIGHT NOW!

I will send 5 lovely homemade up-cycled hand-folded envelopes like these:

to one lucky reader who answers this question – What’s your favorite color and why?   I hope there will be more than one commenter, so I’ll do a drawing for the prize and will announce the winner here on LPE tomorrow night.

More giveaways, just like that.

Ok.  Off to make Mark some dinner.  Warm soup and grilled cheese.  It’s chilly outside (I know, I biked home in a t-shirt and shorts–dumb!–and my knuckles and knees are just now thawing out).

Talk soon.

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