Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Recipe-a-Week in 2010

Week 4
Almond Cookies


Ingredients

2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 teaspoon almond extract
96 almonds

Directions

1. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together into a bowl. Cut in the Crisco and butter until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add eggs and almond extract. Mix well.
2. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Set them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Place an almond on top of each cookie and press down to flatten slightly
3. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) oven for 15-18 minutes. Cool on rack.

My Review

I was putting on a Chinese-themed event this week and these cookies were just the thing to accompany the fruit at the refreshments table. The recipe was simple, the mess minimal, and best of all - they were a success (except with my children, who don't care for almond flavored goods....but that's okay because they weren't for them anyways).

The Chinese New Year is just around the corner....the perfect excuse to get in the kitchen a whip yourself up a batch of these almond cookies. Enjoy!



***Recipe from AllRecipes.com

Friday, January 29, 2010

More History Revealed

My blogging friend, Michelle (who happens to be the author of one of my most favorite blogs), found a link that gives a brief biography of the man who made my violin, Johann Michael Willer. There is also a DVD for sale that talks about the different violin makers of Prague and they even play a violin made by J.H. Willer the same year as my violin, which means that the instruments were together in his violin shop all those years ago. Fascinating. I think I might have to buy the DVD....

Go take a peek at the website, and scroll down to the second violin maker listed:
http://www.famousviolin.com/four-seasons-of-the-prague-castle/violin-makers.php

Thanks Michelle!

My Violin, Part II: How it came to be mine.

Shortly before my 12th birthday I began studying violin with a prestigious teacher in San Diego, CA. She encouraged my parents to invest in a good instrument for me; a full size violin that would enhance the technique that I was learning.

We began visiting violin shops here and there, borrowing different instruments for week long periods so that I could try them out. I distinctly remember one that was very yellow in color; my mother and I nicknamed it The Bee.

Finally, we found one that seemed to be a good match for me. It was made in Europe in 1856 with a beautiful one-piece back (see below). I named him Grantonio (I name my instruments, did I mention that? And did I mention yesterday that the 1700's violin that I perform on is named Frederick? I don't think I did.). We anticipated that this instrument would be sufficient to last me many years, if not forever. It was of fine quality.


[Grantonio, purchased for me by my parents when I was 12. It hangs in my parlor and is in perfect condition; I just borrowed a few strings for Frederick.]

Less than a year later, a colleague of my teacher told her of an instrument that was for sale well below its appraised value. She immediately thought of me and brought it to a lesson so that I could give it a test run. My parents decided that it was too good a deal to pass up, so they purchased this second violin for me and I have been playing it ever since.

As my mother recalls, the previous owner had passed away and his son was the one selling it. Yesterday afternoon I took out a keepsake box where I tuck away my most prized mementos and found a letter that had been sent to my mom after the purchase of the violin. I love where he wrote, you start to own a beloved instrument.


And now I am curious. What might he know of its history? Does he know where his father got it or when?

I have decided to send a letter to the return address on the envelope. I will tell him that his father's beloved instrument has found a happy home with me for the past 16+ years. And I'll ask him to share any further information he might have.

I'll let you know what I find out....

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Violin



Last weekend I performed Brahms 2nd Symphony; me with my trusty violin. Do you want to know something about my trusty violin? My trusty violin is old, very old. It was made in Prague in the late 1700's. What a life it has lived! Think of all the musicians who have held it under their chin, think of all the places it has traveled, think of all the music it has created. And while it was my very first time performing Brahms 2nd Symphony, I would say with certainty that my violin must have played it before in the 133 years since the work was written.

It's fascinating to think about; once upon a time, a man named Johann Michael Willer took a chunk of wood and created a beautiful instrument. And that instrument has traveled through the decades and centuries. Who has owned it? Where has it been? Perhaps Mozart held this violin as he composed some of his final works, or maybe my violin was in the orchestra that premiered Beethoven's 9th Symphony in May of 1824. The possibilities are endless....

But what I do know is that for the past 16 years it has belonged to me. It has performed at weddings and funerals and church services. It has traveled back to Prague where it was once created. It has played in trios, quartets, and orchestras; it has performed solos. It has been my musical companion through many symphonies, concertos, and sonatas.

Yes, this violin is dear to me, as it has been there through every big milestone in my life. But I realize that my life...my history....is such a small piece of it's history. It's mysterious past has led it through the years to today, where it hangs beautifully in my parlor amongst my other prized instruments. And I feel honored; honored to be able to hold it and play it and create music with it; honored that somehow, through the twists and turns of history, it ended up with me. Lucky, lucky me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Milestone

The newest shoelace-tying
member of the family:
Lorelai Leigh

And now, a demonstration...


And that's how you do that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A day 10 years in the making.

Hello, it's me. Have I been gone long? I didn't think so, but according to the emails and phone messages I got due to yesterdays absence, you would have thought I'd fallen off the face of the Earth....lol. Anyhow, it's nice to be missed I suppose.

There is a lot of great stuff coming up this week here at The Far Side....milestones, music, and things of that nature. Also, in case you were ever wondering which posts I fancy as my favorite (is it okay to favor my own posts?), which I am sure you weren't wondering...but now you probably are...just scroll down to the bottom of my blog. All the way down. As in, scroll till you can scroll no more. And way down there you will find a hidden treasury of posts that I hold dear to my heart for one reason or another.

Now on to bigger and better things....

What a weekend it was! Holy moly. We went from one thing to the next. All big, exciting things. One of them being Alexandra's very first-ever basketball game. You see, this game was many years in the making. I remember the year that Donald and I were dating, back in 99-00. The Kennewick High girls basketball team rocked that year. In fact, I think they even won the state title. And I remember during all that excitement Donald told me that someday he wanted daughters and that they would play basketball.

Ladies and gentlemen, the day arrived. And what makes this even better...the icing on the cake if you will...is the fact that Donald is the coach.

Both he and Alexandra were grinning ear to ear the entire game. And of course, seeing them grinning ear to ear had me grinning ear to ear. The only one not grinning ear to ear was Lorelai, who was hungry and bored. But she perked up when she got to be the passer-outer of snacks after the game (along with Grandma).

Oh, and did I mention that Alexandra's team (the Tigers) crushed their opponents? Absolutely crushed them. They scored basket after basket. Amazing. Truly.





***One more thing...I'm out of oatmeal. I'd better get out to the grocery store, ASAP.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A New Recipe-a-Week in 2010

Week 3
Enchiladas


Ingredients

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pint sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1 (15 ounce) enchilada sauce
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook chicken until no longer pink and juices run clear. Drain excess fat. Shred the chicken and return it to the skillet. Add the onion, sour cream, Cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano and ground black pepper. Heat until cheese melts. Stir in salt, tomato sauce, chili powder, and garlic.

Roll even amounts of the mixture in the tortillas. Arrange in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover with enchilada sauce and 3/4 cup Cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.


My Review

For years I have been searching for the perfect enchilada recipe. This was not it. Not even close. Was it edible? Sure. Was it good enough for Donald to take for lunch the next day? Certainly.

It just wasn't perfect. And I know that the perfect enchilada recipe must exist somewhere out there....so I'll keep hunting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thoughts on Gift-Giving

Do you know how some people are easy to shop for and others are impossible? Well, my sister Jennifer falls into the category of easy to buy for. Every time I am out shopping I see something that would make the perfect gift. So I buy it to have on hand for the next gift-giving occasion (this happened again today). The only problem is that I seem to have an increasingly large pile of presents for her tucked away in my secret hiding place (secret so that when she comes to visit she doesn't happen upon it). Her birthday is next month; maybe I'll just give her everything I have been saving up and start fresh. I don't think she would be opposed, do you?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Photographic Journey, by Lorelai Leigh

With an electronics ban taking place in our home right now it has been interesting to see what the children have come up with to keep themselves busy. For example, yesterday (while Alexandra was at school and Elisabeth was asleep) Lorelai asked if she could take some pictures. With my permission, she embarked on a photographic journey, camera in hand. And here is what she returned with:



And a classic self-portrait.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Becoming a Trekkie



I was raised in a Star Wars family. With three older brothers, there were always light sabers and millennium falcons and Darth Vader figurines scattered throughout the house. I even recall that my younger sister and I had Ewok stuffed animals in our bedroom. Yes, we were loyal Star Wars fans.

Star Trek on the other hand...it was...not our thing. And secretly I have snickered at Trekkies over the years. Especially the ones who would come eagerly into my Hallmark store in search of Star Trek collectibles. I just didn't get it.

Fast forward to November, 2009.

I was out making my final Christmas purchases. Donald had listed several blu-ray movies that he wanted and so I figured I would just pick one and call it good. After glancing at his list I decided to go with 500 Days of Summer, mostly because I loved that movie and by buying it for him I would also be buying it for me. Is that terrible? Probably. Oh well.

Anyways, I searched and searched for that movie, but it was nowhere to be found. Time was ticking and I needed to get home and put Elisabeth down for a nap, so I quickly ended my quest and decided to go with the next movie on his list: Star Trek.

On Christmas morning Donald was thrilled to add Star Trek to his growing blu-ray collection. I was glad he was happy, but had no interest in actually watching it. I hoped that he would just save it to view on a night when I was gone to rehearsal or something.

Well, a few weeks ago Donald started hinting that he really wanted me to see it. So I agreed. After all, he had watched My Fair Lady with me a few months back, and so I kind of owed it to him.

He didn't expect me to like it....I didn't expect me to like it. I don't do sci-fi, I don't do action, I don't do adventure. There was just no way that I would make it to the end of the movie without falling asleep.

How wrong I was.

I loved Star Trek. I was fascinated by it.
And I wanted more. I wanted to see it all.

So Donald and I have gone to the beginning, the very beginning. We began with the very first episode of Star Trek from back in the mid-sixties and are working our way through in order. It is awesome. And the young William Shatner...what a treat to look at. And is it weird that I find Spock strangely attractive too?

But looking past all the good looks....I love the stories. I dissect them; I try to understand every character and every plot completely.

Alas, I am quickly becoming a Trekkie.



Live Long and Prosper

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Spa Day















Monday, January 18, 2010

Sock Puppets

Be it known to all...

...that the Sorenson children are under a temporary ban from electronics (including, but not limited to, the computer, TV, Wii, leapster and so on and so forth), the reason of which is to help retain the integrity of their childhood by encouraging creativity and imagination.

I say, let there be more sock puppets and less Playhouse Disney.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Today's his day.

Today would have been my grandfather's birthday. So in his honor why don't you click on the link over there in my sidebar and take a peek at some of his art. And if you really like what you see then you might just want to buy a print to hang on your wall. Just sayin'.....

Friday, January 15, 2010

A New Recipe-a-Week in 2010

Week 2
Potato Soup


Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk

Directions

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, chicken broth and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic salt and pepper.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.

My Review

I love potato soup. Potato soup for me ranks right up there with argyle socks from GAP, so I was excited to try this recipe. And let me say, I was not disappointed. It was absolutely delicious. And don't just take my word for it, ask Lorelai. You see, Lorelai was not so sure about this potato soup business. She sat at the table and just stared at it as she ate her dinner roll. As the rest of the family finished up she hadn't even taken a bite. Still a little hungry, she asked for a second roll. I told her that to earn a second roll she had to at least take 3 bites of soup. She sat, and sat. I cleared the table and was beginning to load the dishwasher when I looked over and saw Lorelai gobbling it up! Yes indeed, she had decided to take her three dreadful bites only to discover that she loved potato soup. And better yet, she requested it again for dinner the following night (although her request had to be denied due to other dinner preparations already in the works).

So please, try this soup! It will warm you up on a cold, gloomy winter day.

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