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Is this a mess, or just part of the creative process?

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Today is National Elephant Appreciation Day.  Is it REALLY?  Google it. Yes. It is (thanks Mom for the link! – if NPR says it’s such a day, then it must be true) and we’re celebrating here at L.P.E.

Apparently some guy was so especially enamored with the giant beasts that he began collecting all sorts of elephant things:  shirts, figurines, pens, hats, costumes, etc.  And then one particular day (September 22, I suppose) in 1996, he decided, “Well, hey.  I like elephants so much, I am going to declare it National Elephant Appreciation Day.” And so he did.  I’m not making this up. Perhaps paraphrasing the story a bit, but seriously.  The story is true!

And so, in honor our very own Le Petit Éléphant and to celebrate his very special day, we’ve dressed him up and given him some sass and are giving a print of him away to a lucky reader.

Doesn’t he look spiffy?

To win Mr. L.P.E. all dressed up in his green swirly suit, write us an Elephant Haiku in the comments.  We’ll choose a winner, who will receive the above print (on beautiful aquarelle 14olb watercolor paper, printed and marked in hues and tints of green watercolor marker).  Once we’ve chosen a winner, we’ll (well, I will) write your Haiku underneath here:

in similarly spiffy caligraphic fontiness, and send it straight to you.

Quite an easy way to win a prize, don’t you think?

Happy National Elephant Day, everyone!

This guy, right here:

Gordon. Gordon Benzickle, so called because Mark used to call me Anna Benzickle (I can’t remember why, he just liked — wait, still likes — giving me nicknames) and since Gordo was to be my dogson, I had to give him my last name and so Gordon Benzickle he was then, is now, and forever shall be.

I was prompted to write this post after Gordon was bitten on the face this weekend and I was confronted with his mortality. It wasn’t a terrible bite, just a bit of a gash he got in a mini confrontation with another dog on our walk.  I started thinking of Old Yeller and the rabies and the sad sad scene, and then we got a quarantine order from the Watertown animal people and had warnings and cautions and urgings and. Well, suffice it to say, Gordon is FINE and rabies-free.  But as I consoled him Saturday morning, cleaning the blood from his wounded mouth and as Mark held him still as the vet checked him out, I couldn’t help but think about a day when Gordon might not be with us.  Gordon will be 11 years old (or so, we’re not really sure) this January, and although his wise gray beard might show his age, he still runs and jumps around, chases a tennis ball, and hides his bone like a young pup might do.  We’ve had him six of his now ten years and they’ve been fun and silly and crazy and sometimes (when he used to run away to frolic in western Mass. horse pastures) scary.  But have I loved him enough?  Has he had a good life? Has he been happy here with us?

And why do such good and wonderful and loving creatures, who love us back no matter our shortcomings and imperfections and peccadilloes, and who bark and roll in the grass and smile and play, receive so few years of life when we receive so many more which we selfishly take for granted and spend doing far less fun things?  It’s not fair.  I said the same thing when we lost Gus and Sam last year.  It is not fair.

Gordon has taught me so much. Patience. Love. The life span of a stuffed toy is about 6 seconds. One can do anything with a little encouragement. And that it’s ok to nap…all day.  But perhaps above all these things, Gordon has taught me that life is too short to be doing less than fun things.  He lives life with such happiness and joy.  Look at that grin!  Come on.  Would that every moment of every day I had a grin like that on my face–what kind of life would I live?  How might my day be different if I got as excited about the little things as he gets over a small treat, a new smell, or a double layer dog bed?  Oftentimes I see walks as a duty, a chore, yet the moment we say the word “walk” or even motion towards his leash he goes jumping crazy.  Gordon will hear the sound of a spoon scraping out the last bits of ice cream from a bowl and come running from another part of the apartment to have just the slightest chance of licking the bowl. And yes, we always let him.  He stands beneath the fridge whining… looking at us… looking up at the snacks he knows are on top of the fridge… looking back at us… back at the fridge… back at us.  He knows that we know we can’t stand his cuteness.  And he knows when I’m sad, or sick, or down.  Because he’ll come jump up in bed and put his head on my thigh.  Sometimes he’ll stand a little bit closer a little bit longer so we can run our hands from head to tail and gain a bit of calm after a busy day.

Oh, sweet Gordon.  I love you.  I hope you know it.  I hope I show it.  I hope I can be more like you.

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.

Ok people,

I know we can do better than this.  Is there no one who wants to add to the story?  Or does it end with our friend Charlie walking down the hill to feed his dozen sheep? (thanks Mark!).  As glad as I am that Mark humored me by playing the game, I was hoping this would start a great thread.  If I can only get my husband to read the blog that we both (mostly) own, well then maybe I should just give it up.

But hmm… maybe this story DOES end with Charlie feeding his sheep.

Perhaps, then, we should begin anew. Yes?

Play? Play with me?

Anyone?

Again, the premise– I’ve started us off with a few sentences.  You read the story and add to it with a few words, sentences, paragraphs,  thoughts, whatever you have time/interest for (oooh–perhaps an illustration? You can email it to me and I will post it).  I will pull all comments up to the main blog body.

Let us begin:

The wind was hot, not at all refreshing.   She sat on the bench with her head towards the sky, watching two crows bounce on the cable line.  Moments passed, and then she was brought to sharp attention by a loud noise somewhere behind her.  The sound of the loud crash rang in her ears. She turned to see what it was, and to her surprise, saw a large man carrying an unreasonable number of cymbals in large bags.  One had fallen to the ground, and he was wrestling with his fat white cat on a leash while trying to collect his dropped cymbals.  Being a percussionist herself, she was immediately drawn to the varying sizes and weights of the cymbals.  She had always preferred the large, marching band staples which effortlessly created a sense of excitement.  She wondered whether she might filch a set while the large man was focused on his cat.  Then suddenly, in the distance, she began to hear the emergency alarms.  It was time.  The war had begun.

The sudden sounding of alarms frightened the fat cat, who managed to escape as his flustered owner dropped the rest of his cymbals to the ground, causing further emotional scarring to the cat who already suffered from anxiety.  The large man stared at the mess of his cymbals on the ground as he watched the cat run away, red leash trailing.  Should he collect his cymbals, or run after the cat?  He couldn’t run very quickly.  What if he couldn’t catch the cat? Who would feed it its Xanax?

Shrugging, he left the cymbals and went after the cat who dashed down the pathway into the thick of the park. “New cymbals will have to wait,” thought the girl as she reluctantly got up from the quiet of her bench to aid the man in his cat saving quest. The sounds of the sirens continued to swirl around the scene, the mix of heat and fumes rising up from cars and trucks stuck in a mass on the street as emergency squads forced their way through the traffic.  The man weaved his way way through the trees and bushes where he thought he had seen the cat go, the woman following quietly behind him.  He was unsteady on his feet, panting and out of shape. As he made his way up a hill, the sound of the sirens from the street continued to grow in number and volume.  “What the heck is going on over there?” the man wondered for a second, before stopping short at the top of the hill. He was absolutely stunned that he saw…

I’m bored. I’m waiting for images to upload into the yearbook.  Amongst other things, I make the yearbook for HLS.  Fun!  Silly.  High school all over again.  ANYHOW.  Whilst waiting, let’s play a game.  I’ll start us off with a character in a few sentences.  Everyone who wants to play should read the last comment made and add to the story line with a few sentences, paragraphs, words, thoughts, whatever you have time/interest for.  I will pull all comments up to the main blog body… maybe not explaining correctly but hopefully people will play along and you’ll get the idea.

Let us begin:

(APBR) Charlie Goode was a charming old soul who lived on the top of a hill.  He liked striped socks and crumpets and eating boxes of Snowcaps.  Every day he would walk down the hill to… (MWR)…feed his dozen sheep. As a boy, Charlie had always dreamed of owning a sheep farm. When he had the chance to buy the property at the top of the hill a few years earlier, he jumped at it, knowing the fields below and the meandering stream that encircled the land would be perfect for a flock. What Charlie wanted more than anything was to…

I love Starbucks.  Sorry.  I do.  Ok. Coffee houses generally.

But Starbucks particularly because it’s near and frankly, I haven’t found a coffee house in town (Belmont or Cambridge) that is 5 minutes away from my home or workplace AND isn’t full of jerk-face judgmental hipsters or super-yuppies (ok… I’m definitely being too judgmental myself and I know that any Starbucks at any point in time can also be full of, or run by, jerk-face hipsters and/or super-yuppies, but whatever. It’s my blog I can say what I want, believe what I believe, and like what I like. And come on. You know what I mean, right?)

ANYWAY.

This post is not about hate.  This post is about love.  The love of coffee.  The love of getting EXACTLY what you want and experiencing pure happiness for just five minutes of your day.

Really.  Can you think of any other place where you can, for $5 (more or less), get happiness in a cup?  A pick-me-up.  A sugar fix.  A cool treat.  A warm ……. hmmmm 🙂  And you can get ANYTHING you desire, come to find.  There’s nothing they can’t/won’t make, and they aim to please.  Step inside your local Starbucks (or awesome local non-hipsterfied coffee stop–try Tunnel City Coffee in Williamstown, MA or The Metro Coffee Company in Casper, Wyoming) and just listen to the requests, all served up quickly and with a smile (mostly):

“Tall non-fat caramel macchiato frappucino, EXTRA caramel.”

“Grande soy vanilla latte with two shots of espresso.”

“Three shots of espresso in a large cup with ice.”

“Medium iced coffee with two pumps of peppermint, leave room for cream.”

“Venti sweetened green tea.” (Yes, not coffee, but you can have tea too!)

The combinations are seemingly endless.  And it’s such a simple business plan:

Give the people what they want.

For me, in the absence of a Tunnel City or Metro Coffee, I’ll take a good friendly Starbucks any day.  Like today.  And believe me, I’m not against the local coffee spot and I fully understand the impact Starbucks has had on the world.  I DO.  I get it.  I love the community feel of local coffee places–how you can run into people you know, or how if you go enough your barrista/o will know your drink.  They might play music from area bands and serve local bread or desserts.  And I would go to one if I could find one I liked.  And Yes, I’ve tried Darwins in Cambridge and it just doesn’t do it for me (although they do have good sandwiches and Iggy’s Bread of the World there… MMM… the bagels are especially fine and they toast ’em up right and give you a nice schmear of your favorite cream cheese–but I digress, this is not about bagels, it’s about coffee etc.).

If you live/work in Belmont or Cambridge (Harvard Square area) and have suggestions for coffee places to try, let me know.  I’m open so  long as they give the people what they want.  Happiness in a cup. Their way.  With a smile.  (And maybe some free internet too!)

As our loyal readers know, the last couple of years we’ve had very hearty pot gardens.

Tomatoes, beans, strawberries, peas, and squash, grown–some from seeds and others from small purchased plants–and tenderly watered and cared for, harvested and enjoyed in summer and fall meals.

We moved our garden last year from Grove St. to Winslow Rd. and it was a mess.  We broke the tops off a bunch of our plants and I think a few went into shock from the move, and we only went about 6 blocks!  And because we’re a bit unsure about where we’ll be nesting next year (could be in town, could be who knows where!?!?), we didn’t plant a garden this spring and I’m beginning to feel a sort of loss.  Detachment perhaps?  Like I’m missing a part of my soul.  Okay.  Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.   But we spent so much time and effort and care and concern over our gardens in the past that it really does feel like we’re missing something real out of our springtime day to day.

The other day I happened upon this lovely post via Etsy’s How-To blog on how to create a small garden in small spaces, this one particularly about a spa garden–herbs useful for spa remedies, balms, and teas.  Sounds great, right? And reading further to this awesome blog on city gardening called City Dirt,  made me go–Ah HA!.  HERBS!  I can plant herbs in small pots transportable to wherever we may be in the coming months!  YES! Basil, rosemary, lemonbalm, mint, and chamomile! Wahey!  I can nurture, water, and care for them, and not be sad in having to leave them behind.  They’ll be useful in summer and fall meals, AND if they are especially bountiful, someday in our soaps!

Do any of you, dear readers, have gardens?  Can we live vicariously through you?  Send your updates. What are you growing?  What’s working well, what’s not?  Has the strange spring weather upset your planting plans?  In the meantime, I’m off to start some seeds and seedlings for herbs and assuage my gardening needs while dreaming of a large garden plot rich with planted abundance… some day!

Today begins the 76th Annual Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Course.  No doubt you’ve heard of Tiger’s first official tee time (1:42pm EST today) since his… hiatus… No Doubt, since it’s been the only news (over)played since he announced his return.  For me, I don’t care whether he plays or not but seems to me one might want to spend more time with one’s family after one is caught spending so much time not with one’s family… but whatever.  ANYHOW! This is NOT a post about Tiger.  THIS is a post about the Masters!

I spent many an April weekend watching Masters Tournaments with my dad, a fond memory of growing up.  I remember I had my first golf crush on Ben Crenshaw (I know… he’s old… Gross) when he won in ’95.  And then moved on to Justin Leonard, Ian Poulter, and Padraig Harrington.  I loved watching and then playing, pretending I was good.  I would pretend I was Sergio Garcia and jump around looking for where my ball landed.  Well, I was no Sergio, but I loved all of it. The suspense! The excitement! The glory! The outfits! Yes. Outfits.  Two Words: Jesper Parnevik.

Check it:

That is hot.

Anyway.

I am again excited to be tracking the progress of this year’s competitors, not only on Saturday and Sunday via CBS full HD coverage (you can actually see the ball now!) but via their live streaming video coverage from Amen Corner Thursday and Friday.  Excellent!  Not that I can actually watch whilst working, but I can listen.

AND to celebrate this occasion, I’ve created a special Golf Inspired Etsy Treasury.  Go check it out!  Here are a few of my faves to get you into the spirit:


Par Pillow


Water Hazard


Greens Cards

Anyone have any predictions on the tourney?  My bet is that Tiger either doesn’t make the cut or is in the final pairing with Phil Mickelson but Floppy Phil will take it.

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