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With Gratitude

Fall Fruit Thanksgiving is but a day, but the practice of giving thanks should be lifelong. Life is fickle and can change instantaneously, so there is no time like the present to show gratitude to those whom you care about the most. Tell them what they mean to you. Tell them that they matter to you. Tell them how they make a difference in your life. Being grateful re-centers and puts life into perspective. That being said, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you who take the time to read What About This? You encourage me to become a better person as I work to improve my blogging skills, as I discover new items to share with you, and as I find more ways to spread joy. Thank you for all you have given to me.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Melody Beattie

Now go and spread joy!

Tall Shadows Long shadows stretch across the pavement. My legs appear to go on forever and I look model-like-tall. Thanks to the angle of the sun, my image is being granted temporary height. The illusion is fun to look at, but I know the real way to “stretch” myself is from the inside out.

#1 – Stretch of Imagination
Fairy Doors Do you believe in fairies? Well, if you ask folks in Ann Arbor, Michigan, some of them might just point out tiny front doors of fairy homes to prove they exist. While remodeling his home, author Jonathan B. Wright secretly installed fairy doors, much to the delight of his daughters. Years later, fairy doors popped up in public areas such as restaurants, shops, offices, and a library. Each tiny door tends to mimic the style of the host building or is an exact replica. Some doors even allow glimpses into interior spaces. What started out as a surprise for Mr. Wright’s daughters has become a public art installation. To see examples of these “urban-fairy” doors, click here.

#2 – Decorating a Thanksgiving Table
Decorating Your Thanksgiving Table When it comes to decorating your dining table for Thanksgiving, do you favor a minimalist or an ornate style? Either way, the article Gen X Vs. Millenials: Thanksgiving Table offers helpful tips on how to decorate your table for the holiday.

#3 – Stretching Your Dollar
Advent Calendar Don’t mind me if I jump from Thanksgiving to Christmas. With so many holiday projects to make, time is of the essence, especially if you are trying to stretch your money. Check out these creative ideas from Top 36 Simple and Affordable DIY Christmas Decorations.

#4 – Make It Count
Make It Count Make each day of your life count. This quote and 38 other powerful ones Will Change the Way You Live and Think.

#5 – Stretch Yourself
“What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.”
Wayne Dyer

Now go and spread joy!

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream How lucky can a gal get? My husband’s activities of late have me screaming for more, more, and more! During the last several months, he has been whipping up batch after batch of delectable ice cream and gelato. His most recent creation contains little bits of homemade salted caramel praline that become semi-gooey as they immerse themselves in a sea of buttery rich ice cream. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any fall dessert. What a sweet life I live!

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
David Lebovitz

INGREDIENTS

For the caramel praline (mix-in):
½ cup (100 gr) sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel

For the ice cream custard:
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup (100 gr) of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a 6 quart/liter pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.

2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.) Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.

3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don’t even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.

4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

5. Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.

6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.

7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).

8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch, or 1 cm). I use a mortar and pestle, although you can make your own kind of music using your hands or a rolling pin.

11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Yield: One generous quart (liter)

NOTES FROM MR. LEBOVITZ
1. ” . . . use good salt. I use fleur de sel, but if you don’t have it, a mild-tasting sea salt will do in a pinch, such as Maldon, fine gray salt, or kosher salt. Don’t use ordinary fine table salt; it’s far too harsh.”

2. “Variations: Add some strong liquid espresso (or instant espresso powder) to the custard to taste, prior to churning the ice cream to make Coffee-Caramel Ice Cream.”

3. “As the ice cream sits, the little bits of caramel may liquefy and get runny and gooey, which is what they’re intended to do.”

4. “Because of the caramel in this ice cream, once churned and frozen, it’ll remain nice & creamy. To make it firmer, crank up your freezer a bit or store it in a shallow pan.”

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. My husband found this recipe to be easier if it’s made over a 2-day period. He makes the candy and the ice cream base one day. The next day he puts the chilled base into the ice cream maker and freezes the ice cream. After the ice cream is frozen, he stirs in the candy bits.

2. Be very careful not to burn yourself as you are making the candy! The molten candy can stick to your skin and create burn blisters. Handle it with care.

3. My husband breaks the hardened caramel praline by placing it in a bag and crushing it with a rolling pin.

4. Because this ice cream is so delicious, but makes so little, he always triples the recipe.

Enjoy!

Dew Drops on Autumn Leaves Scan the sky and search the ground during autumn walks. Birds flying through crisp blue skies make their way south. Golden sunlight filters through trees, highlighting the angles of thinning branches. Falling leaves create gold, orange, and crimson-colored mosaics on streets and gardens. Rain drops cling to well-positioned surfaces and fresh air flows all around. Don’t miss one bit of this season’s show.

#1 – Gathering Words

While combing through a pile of books at a used book store, I came across a copy of Frederick by Leo Lionni. I already own a copy of this book, but because it’s a favorite of mine, I purchased it. My original copy of Frederick sits on a shelf with the books I will read to my grandchildren. The recently-purchased copy sits alongside my Greek worry beads and my “If I Only Had a Brain” music box. These three items form my writer’s block trinity. If you are looking for a gift for a child or any “word-gatherer,” I highly recommend this book.

It’s the story of a little field mouse named Frederick who gathers up supplies for winter in a different manner than the other mice. Rather than physically hauling scraps of food, Frederick gathers and stores words. For when cold winter days come and food runs out, Frederick uses his words to warm the little mice and renew their spirits. Bruno Bettelheim says in a review of this book, “The fable of Frederick, who is the dreamer among the little field mice, suggests the psychological truth that when we are in dire need, it is our dreams of happier times which alone can sustain us . . . A story about the glory of the human spirit.”

#2 – Describing Feelings
When children become frustrated and act out, adults will often say to them, “Use your words.” Whether you are a parent trying to help your child work out their frustrations, a writer describing a character’s emotions, or a person just trying to articulate what he feels, finding the exact words to use can be difficult. Take a look at This Vocabulary Wheel and chart and let them help you better define your feelings.Words to Describe Your FeelingsWords That Describe Emotions

#3 – Three-Ingredient Recipes
33 Three-Ingredient Recipes If making a Creamsicle Cake that requires only three ingredients sounds like a winning recipe to you, you might want to check out the other 3-ingredient recipes from 33 Genius Three Ingredients Recipes That Will Change Your Life.

#4 – Best of October

National Geographic: Best of October Photos

Photograph by Christian Spencer

The National Geographic Photo Contest ended in October. Photographers captured and submitted stunning images from around the world. Feast your eyes on some of the best submissions in Photo of the Day: Best of October.

#5 – Autumn Persuasion
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn—that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness—that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”
Jane Austen, Persuasion

Go now and spread joy!

Maple-Pecan Streusel Bars

Maple-Pecan Streusel Bars The aroma of maple, cinnamon, and toasted pecans fills my kitchen, while my breakfast bakes in the oven. What? Cookies for breakfast? You betcha! With a streusel topping, reminiscent of favorite coffee cakes, these buttery bars are the perfect bites of sweetness to accompany that first hot cup of coffee or tea in the morning. But, don’t stop there. Imagine biting into one of these crunchy and nutty treats while sipping that last calming hot drink of the day.

Maple-Pecan Streusel Bars
The Art of the Cookie by Shelly Kaldunski

INGREDIENTS
Bars:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1½ cups pecans, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for coating
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons maple extract

Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
4 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Bars:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the long sides.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt, and pecans.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the 1 cup butter, the brown sugar, and the confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beating on low speed, add the flour mixture and maple extract and continue to beat just until incorporated. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

4. Transfer 3 cups of the dough to the prepared pan. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, press the dough evenly into the pan, lifting the parchment occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick. The dough should be firmly packed, without holes or cracks. Remove top paper. Cover evenly with the remaining dough, sprinkling it over the top and squeezing some of the dough to form large clumps.

5. Bake until lightly golden, 16-18 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Run a metal spatula around the edges of the pan. Drizzle with the glaze and let set for at least 10 minutes. Using a chef’s knife, cut into 18 bars.

6. Store the bars in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 18 bars

Vanilla Glaze:
1. Sift the sugar into a bowl. Add the milk and vanilla and stir until completely smooth, about 1 minute.

2. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature or warm slightly before using.

Makes about 1/2 cup

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I baked it almost 6 minutes longer, to get that light golden brown color.

2. For ease of serving and a prettier presentation, I cut the bars into 1½-inch-by-1½-inch squares and served them in shallow cupcake papers. I got about 30 bars this way.

Enjoy!

Friday's Fresh Five! November 7, 2014 Edition Breaking free from the safety of their branches, the autumn leaves gently tumble to the ground. Their slow fall to earth resembles a graceful dance as they float and swirl effortlessly in the air. Falling where they may, they create their own destiny.

#1 – Being Happy
Watching autumn leaves fall is a calming and peaceful activity. It was an activity that I often shared with my dog Romeo. Under clear blue skies, he would sit and watch leaves fall in our backyard. His head would move slightly, as his eyes tracked the flight of individual leaves. Stopping whatever I was doing, I would sit down next to him and together we would watch the dance of the leaves. A year ago this month, Romeo left my family forever. I pay tribute to him and all other nature-loving-falling-leaf admirers with this Snoopy cartoon. Happiness exists in simple things.Snoopy and autumn leaves

#2 – Go Dog, GoPro
What happens when you strap a GoPro camera device to a happy Labrador dog named Walter? Watch the video and find out.

#3 – Words To Add To Your Vocabulary
Words to Add to Your Vocabulary At last! There’s a perfect word to describe one of my tendencies. The word “tsundoku” sounds so much better than book-hoarding. Check out more interesting words in There’s a Word for That: 25 Expressions You Should Have In Your Vocabulary.

#4 – Decorating With $10 Worth Of Sharpies
Charlie Ktatzer's Sharpie Wall Art Surrounded by basic cream-colored walls, attorney Charlie Kratzer wanted to do something special; he wanted to decorate his basement and surround himself with cartoon drawings of some of his favorite cultural icons. Read more about his project and see a 360-degree tour of his wall-art here.

#5 – Take the Power
“This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.”
Susan Polis Schutz

Now go and spread joy!

Slice of Fall Martini Shaken or stirred? Gin or vodka? What about vermouth? Truth be told, a traditional martini is made with gin. A vodka martini is obviously made with vodka. Generally, either type of martini includes some amount of dry vermouth. So, what’s a drink that’s made with vodka and fresh apple juice called? A perfect autumn cocktail!

Slice of Fall
Based on a recipe from Nugget Markets

INGREDIENTS
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces fresh apple juice*
Pinch of sage
Pinch of cinnamon
Apples, sliced thin, crosswise

DIRECTIONS
1. Chill martini glasses.

2. Combine ingredients (except for apple slices) in a shaker with ice.

3. Shake and pour into a chilled martini glass.

4. Float a thin apple slice as a garnish.

Yield: 1 cocktail

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. *I used fresh-pressed apple cider. I like this drink with more of an apple flavor, so I added a little bit more apple cider than called for. I used 1 part vodka to 2 parts apple juice.

2. I put a little cinnamon and sage in the shaker with the other ingredients. Plus, I sprinkled some additional on top of the apple slice for decoration.

Enjoy!

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