Friday, December 30, 2016

Kugelhopf Recipe, Catching Up, and New Year's Goals

Hi all,

Been a very busy couple months. No apologies. But I do have a bunch of pics for you guys.

First off, I promised you a kugelhopf, so I will set up that recipe right now.

What is a Kugelhopf, you ask?

This is a Kugelhopf, or kouglof, or gugelhupf. Before dusting, still cooling.

If you think of a panettone and a brioche loaf and then imagine them having a baby (weird, I know, just go with it), it's like that. A light and sweet yeasty bread you have with coffee or tea. Morning or teatime or for dessert or frankly if you just have a hankering for something to cut the hunger. We had one when we went to Strasbourg. And this is my first time making it, ever. I had a recipe, but it wasn't very good (missing ingredients and no measurements) so, I made my own and am sharing it with you.

The right word, I think you're looking for, is DELICIOUS.

So without fail...

Mrs. K's White Chocolate, Cranberry, & Orange Zest Kugelhopf

Serves: 12-16
Prep time: 4 and 1/2 hours
Cook time: roughly 30 minutes

75g (scant 2/3 cups) Dried Cranberries
2 Tbsp Chambord liqueur or Raspberry juice
1 tsp Fast Action Dried Yeast
425g (3 and 1/2 cups) all purpose flour +50g (rounded 1/3 cup) more for levain
35ml (2 and 1/2 Tbsp) warm water, not hot
1 egg, room temperature
250ml (1 cup) warm milk, not hot
40g (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tsp salt
100g (7 Tbsp) butter, softened and cut into cubes
75g (1/2 cup) white chocolate, chopped
Zest from one orange (thin skinned is preferable)
a handful of sliced almonds
powdered sugar for dusting

1. In a small bowl, put dried cranberries and add Chambord over them and let soak overnight (or at minimum, two hours). Set aside.
2. Put 50g (1/3 cup) flour in a bowl of a stand mixer and add dried yeast. Add water and mix with a wooden spoon until incorporated and forms a firm ball. Cover with remaining flour. and leave to rise in a warm place (In an oven with only the light on is fine) for about 30 minutes. You should see the flour "crack," where the starter has risen and started to push the flour around.
3. When starter has "cracked", add the egg, milk, sugar, salt and butter to the bowl and mix with a dough hook until all is combined, about 7 minutes on low. The dough should look elastic and pliable. If not, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough has begun to pull away from the sides of the bowl and looks elastic and soft.
4. Drain the cranberries and add them to the dough. Add the white chocolate and zest. (I used white chocolate chips and chopped them up roughly since they were so huge). Knead them into the dough so they are well dispersed.
5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size in a warm spot, about 2 hours.
6. Generously grease a kugelhopf mold (or a bundt cake pan) and sprinkle sliced almonds into bottom and on sides.
7. Punch down dough and with lightly floured hands, remove from bowl and form a long log/snake/sausage shape. Wrap dough around hole in greased pan and pinch ends together. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until dough has filled the pan, about 2 hours.
8. Heat oven to 170C Fan (375 F no fan). Bake about 20-25 minutes (25-30 minutes), until a cake tested inserted into the bread comes out clean. It will rise above pan and have a rich golden brown color. If you're worried, place a cookie sheet beneath (I did) to catch anything that may fall. (Nothing did.)
9. Let cool 2 minutes in pan before flipping and allowing to cool completely on a cake rack, about an hour. Dust with powdered sugar before serving with tea or coffee.

And that's it!

The white chocolate chips melt away into the bread and the cranberries, orange zest, and almonds give it a wonderful scent and taste. Very festive. You can change up the ingredients to add: currants, golden raisins, dried cherries, etc and chocolate chips if you'd rather instead of white chocolate. Keep the orange zest though, really really good.

Mr. K and I had to test it, of course.
Verdict: Delicious with a cup of hot tea. Let me know if you try it!

Okay, recipe done, time to catch up.

Thanksgiving we traveled to California to spend time with Mr. K's family.
Great time and we got a bunch of us to go to Disneyland.

Then on our way around NM, we saw the coolest thing: a tumbleweed snowman.
You know you live in the Southwest when...

We had a snow and Mochi and I decided to goof off out of the sub freezing temps.

She did not want to go out in it. All four paws. Too cold for the princess.

And then there was a time of getting ready for Christmas and a series of sunsets.

Gorgeous. No filter, either.

Made this myself.

Our town even dressed up Oppenheimer and Grove for the holidays. Scarves make the outfit.

And so that now brings us to the end of this year.
It's been a long and rough one for a lot of us. I firmly believe there is still hope. Hope for kindness, hope for dreams, hope for, well, everything.

I don't make New Year's resolutions. (We don't keep them anyway...)
I make goals. Something I can strive for and hope-fully achieve (See what I did there? hehe).

So my goals for 2017 are these:

1. Stress less about the little things (always at the top)

2. Write a novel, or two.

3. Revise a novel, or three.

4. Read more.

5. Cherish what it is I have in my life (God, hubby, family, friends, job, etc.) because life is too short to worry about the what ifs and the maybes, the could've dones and should've dones.

As a friend once told me, focus on the "what is."

So, those are my goals.
Happy New Year, a few days early, readers.

My wish for you is that 2017 will bring you hope, no matter where you are.

Until next time,

Monday, November 07, 2016

Halloween Fun, A Bit Late

Hi everyone,

We've had a busy latter part of October. And I'm just now getting our Halloween pics up. I know, I know. But hey, it's before Thanksgiving, so that's a step in the right direction!

And...I'm not doing things out of order like the stores seem to be doing. I half expected Halloween candy to go on sale on Oct. 20th here since Thanksgiving and Christmas started creeping in to the stores.

Ridiculous. Each holiday has its own month. Leave it at that!

Okay, enough of a rant. *steps off soapbox*

This Halloween, we did the traditional pumpkin carving. I poked it out and Mr. K did the carving cause he's more patient with the little things than I am.

Mr. K was pretty happy with the design he found. "Here there be dragons."

Mochi would not move from the picture, so you get a blazé dog in there too. Sorry guys.

We then suited up in our costumes. We missed Trick-or-Treat on Main Street this year, but that's okay, because we went to the Pumpkin Glow.

Which is less crowded and has less candy (which I can't have)

Can you guess what we are?

Maybe this will help? 

Yup. Red Riding Hood, the Huntsman, and the terrified wolf (aka: Mochi)

What is the Pumpkin Glow?
Great question.

It's an event where anyone who wants can submit their carved pumpkin to be on display for the town to see and then they light them when it gets dark. We didn't go when it was very dark though. As with most town events, crowds happen and Mochi is still working on dealing with that large of numbers.

Parades are fine though. Go figure.

Anyway, it was a great night for it. Perfect weather, clear skies. And my phone was charged.
Small benefit of having a better camera on the new phone. :-)

Here are some of our favorites from the evening.

The cat-kins

Love the owl and the paw print (UCONN! Huskies!)

I believe that might be Serenity on one pumpkin, but I was amused by the painted one.

Not easy to do a tower of pumpkins, but Jack Skellington
at the top was awesome.

A couple single pumpkins stood out.

This one's for my mom. Dolphins!

For all you cat lovers out there, and for Mr. and Mrs. P
in CT, this one's for you!

Gotta have a bunny. Miss O, Miss A, and Mr O, this is Moose.

This one was really cool and had different lights on inside. I tried to get a pic of it in its full glowing glory, but alas, it was not meant to be. Believe me though, this one rocked the lights. Disco Graveyard.

This one is gorgeous. I remember the painting in my HS English class and have
 always had a special place in my heart for the sheer emotion it conveys.

And Halloween is not complete without a werewolf or Lycan.

We wandered through some more and then we came to the specially carved ones and that's where I was blown away by the town's talent.

This is apropos since my family comes from a long line of Navy guys. And especially with the latest win over Notre Dame. Go Navy! 

Lest we forget what season we truly are in... VOTE!

But this one is my fave. I love the nod to our state and our parks and the culture.

Another parks nod. Just beautiful. Love the Southwest!

They even had a light glow with strobe lights and music and a floating ghost.

 It was getting dark and due to the construction on our main street, there were no real streetlights. So, we decided it was time to head home.

Mr. K lit our jack o' lantern and we were pretty happy with how it turned out.

And our loyal hound decided to stand guard just for a minute outside and protect our home from the terrors of the neighborhood...rabbits.

So with that I leave you to enjoy your fall and get ready for Thanksgiving. I'm sure I'll have a nice post after the holiday.

Until next time,

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Updates and a Sunset

Hi all,

Back again. Today's a small post because 1) I don't feel so great and 2) The pictures will more than make up for any lack of content.

On to the updates!

Writing Front-

   I'm currently revising my fantasy romance and am about to tackle the hardest part for me-
Rewriting the ending.
   Or rather, increasing the stakes my two main characters must face (so, beefing up a little of the second part of the second half) and then plummeting the two of them to a place so dark that it looks like they will never survive the effects/results/embarrassment/and whatnot (what we call the All Is Lost Moment). Then I'll be picking up the pieces and they will have to make sacrifices to make it to the happy ending.
   Easy, right? No big deal.
   Riiiiiight....this is why I've been avoiding it for so long. But Mr. K says I need to get my butt in gear and write the dang thing already. Then I can go back and fix plot holes. (I'm looking at you, gloves. Why on earth did I think adding cut out gloves would help matters in the magic world? Cutting them out as soon as I can get at them again.)

   In other news, I've started a writer's critique group in Los Alamos. We meet every other week and discuss/dissect our chapters, polishing them to a pristine glow. Or so we hope. I love it.
I love critiques.
   No seriously! After France, I've been starved for such wonderfully brutally honest critiques as my group gave me there. This group is doing very well and the critiques are honest and genuinely important. Each person brings something awesome to the group. Soon enough we'll get to the point to be able to tell each other that we just don't like a part and that it should be scratched entirely.
   And I'm getting in on another critique group that's going to be by email via my Romance Writer's of America branch, Land of Enchantment Romance Authors. These guys know their onions and also what works in a romance novel, which is kind of the point. It's going to be fantastic.

Other other news, I've given myself until October 20th to revise and polish my fantasy romance before I send it out for beta reading with an author who will rip it to shreds completely. And I'm terrified and thrilled at the same time. Good for me. I need that date. Otherwise, I will never finish the revising.

Okay, moving on.

Health Front-
   Low-carb diets suck. I hate it. Abso-friggin'-lutely hate it.
   Somedays it's fine. Like, "no biggie, I don't care about fries or your brownies or pancakes. I'm totally good with my salted nuts and string cheese here."
   And then there are days when there aren't enough french fries in the world to appease the cravings. And the mere scent of walking down a candy aisle or entering the grocery store (because we're gearing up for Halloween now...) is torture. That sweet scent of wrapped terrible chocolate (you know what I'm talking about) smells like heaven.
   It's days like these that I want to remove my nose entirely. Give me bland smelling chocolates. Make them smell like rotten turnips.
Then again, don't.
   They say that what you smell you taste, too. And I have no desire to taste rotten turnips.
   So...if I just walk down the aisle enough, maybe I will get enough aroma to actually taste the chocolates. Halloween, you just saved yourself. I digress.
   Anyway, the main thing is I have to keep in mind end goals. And the doctor's orders. And if I deviate from what he said, pain will follow me. (Trust me on this one; it isn't fun to indulge in a medium fries no matter how much you want them. The guilt followed by rejection are not worth it.)

Benefit: Your meals get more creative. Your health stays right where the doctor wants it to be. And you do lose weight- not my goal, but it happens.
(I'm currently at my lowest weight since being a full time athlete in high school)

Downside: There's a detox period (dude, it's seriously like a drug). You get grumpy. You get tired. Your clothes will be baggy. You will be forced to buy new clothes. (I'm told some people like this part...I don't necessarily because we're trying to save money.) And you get more pointy- elbows, knees, butt...

So until the doc says I can (slowly) add them back in...just gotta suck it up. And keep reminding myself that.

Okay, what else?

Other Front-
   Our peach tree went crazy this year. I canned a lot, since I can't quite eat them right now. I had friends come and pick. And Mochi has absconded with more than her fair share of them (I've never seen a dog so in love with fruit). It is finally winding down, which means we only have a few dozen left on the tree. I'm leaving them for the birds. I'll just clean up when they're done.

   Subbing. It's amazing. I absolutely love it. My favorite is still Middle School. (Shout out to them!) Even on the rough days, it's still something I wouldn't think of giving up.
I get asked a lot: Don't you want to be a teacher?
My answer is usually, not really. I became a sub because I like that job and its flexibility. I don't mind stepping in to help out. But I know the work those teachers go through and I do not envy them. Hats off to all my teacher friends (and mom)!

And now for some amazing pictures:
Last writer's group was held in the Fire Watch Tower in Bandelier National Park.
The only fire we saw was the one from the sky. Amazing sunset views. Always good to know the watch-woman.

No filter. None needed. Glorious.

Even the brush looked lovely that night. 

I am reminded every day just how much I love where we live.

Until next time,

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Desk That Took Three Months To Finish

Hi again!

So Mr. K and I have been busy. We've been restoring a gorgeous solid oak desk that I picked up at a Veteran's Sale here in our town for $16. And it's taken us a while to do it too. But...well, you take a look. I think the end result was well worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

We started roughing up the top with 80 grit sandpaper only to find that what we thought was the top wasn't real. It was a terrible wood veneer.

This was when Mr. K discovered the joys of sanding.

You can see here what I'm talking about. The left side is the veneer. Sand that away and you're left with this gorgeous solid oak core just begging to be freed from it's prison.

We happily saved it. 

Ah. After a week straight of sanding, countless face masks, and Monsters and Men on repeat, we finally did it. All the veneer came off and we were left with the raw, untouched beauty of the desk's surface. Our muscles (and neighbors) thanked us for the break.

Enter these guys. We originally wanted to sand the entire desk and do it in a stain...but after the top, we decided to do a two-tone look instead. Mr. K chose the colors since it would be his desk, after all. English Walnut stain with a semi-gloss polycrylic coating for the top. (Note: not shellac or polyurethane- we wanted the wood's natural color to be present and those two tend to yellow with age)

And this was the choice for the bottom. A satin finish coffee color with primer already in it. Easy to wipe off and pretty forgiving. Gorgeous! 

We used a tack cloth to get all the bits off and then used the wood conditioner, following the instructions on the can. We live in a very dry state so any conditioning is wonderful. Besides, it helps with an evenness of the staining later.

Here we're mid stain process. Look at that grain!

VoilĂ ! Stained! So lovely. 
Let's get a second look at that, shall we?

Mr. K is cleaning up the insides of the drawer cavities here. We've applied five coats of the polycrylic coating to protect the desk's surface. We hand sanded with 220 between each coat. Don't recommend using the rotary sander for that job. It took off almost all the work we'd put in and there were tears and shouts of panic. Hand sanding, that's the way to go.

Here's a teaser after one coat of the paint on the lower part of the desk. Lovely colors, eh?

Mr. K showing off his special order handles. His choice. And I think they look smashing! 

He did have to use a bolt cutter to make the screws fit the drawers. The original screws that came with the handles were too long. The hardware store sold tons of screws but none of them were the right size. Apparently the screws for the handles are not standard size. Enter our friend, the bolt cutter.
Used bar soap to rub the insides of the drawer cavities to keep the painted drawers from sticking and put the drawers in. Oh and that center drawer has a lock and key. Here, we're almost done. One tiny little detail remained.

Ah, yes. My special project for the desk. I glued an old world map down onto the bottom of the drawer then coated it with high gloss polycrylic so Mr. K could essentially throw anything in the drawer and not have it ding up the map. Turned out great, even if it took two days to complete. I touched up the front a bit more after the pictures here. But we left the sides paint free. 

I'd say it looks pretty decent. And the colors match perfectly. 

The best is last. We had to move the monster of a desk to the back room of the house. It's solid oak, mind. And big. Two things that don't always go well together in a small house. But with the help of a few friends (thanks Mr and Mrs C!) we managed to get it there and finally settled in Mr. K's office. 

It's perfect and Mr. K couldn't be happier. But we've decided no more big projects for a while.

Until next time,