Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two Posts for the Price of One: Pan Dulce Recipe

(I can't remember the last time I posted twice in one day! But several of you asked for this recipe!)

Yesterday I made Mexican sweet breads called Pan Dulce (or Conchas).  Growing up my dad would buy these (along with Perquitos, and Empanadas) at a Mexican Bakery. We could count on these treats at least twice a year: at tamale time each winter and summer. The Bakery happened to be right next door to the butcher who supplied all the tamale ingredients.

I lived in Texas for 10 years and these little breads were easily found, but when we moved to NC there wasn't a bakery nearby, so I had to learn to make them on my own. I have used this recipe using both my hands and the "dough cycle" on my bread maker (when I wanted to save some time). Either way, they are worth the effort!

Pan Dulce (dome-shaped sweet rolls)

1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water
3 2/3 cups white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
5 large eggs, beaten

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 For Dough: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water.
 Let stand 6-8 minutes.
 In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups bread flour, salt, sugar and shortening and blend thoroughly.
Add yeast mixture and 2 eggs.
 Mix completely.
Add remaining eggs and mix.
Add remaining bread flour and mix until the dough forms a loose, soft, and elastic dough.
It should be a little sticky but firm enough to shape easily with buttered hands.
Butter the work surface, and press the dough into a 4x6-inch rectangle, 1 1/2 inches thick.
Cut into 16 medium or 24 small squares.
Cover lightly with plastic wrap for 1 to 1 1/2 hours and let dough rise.
Shape each dough square into a dome-shaped circle.
On a lightly greased cookie sheet, place rolls 2 inches apart.

For Topping: 

In a food processor using a metal blade (i also use my KitchenAide with the paddle attachment and mix until it forms a ball), add the butter, shortening, powdered sugar, 1 cup flour and vanilla.
Process/Mix until smooth,  shape into a log.
Chill until ready to use.
Cut off 2 tablespoons of topping from the log and flatten with palms into a circle.
Place topping circle on top of dough circle.
It should completely cover dough.
Use a sharp knife to cut a crisscross or shell design on top.
Let rolls rise again in a warm place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.

Mid-Week Musings

It's quiet this morning in the Little Yellow House on the Hill.

A big storm blew through last night and left everything all wet and green.

Here's what it looked like this morning from the back door:

~Since we're outside, shall we stroll through the garden?

~My tomatoes have been doing well in spite of my neglect. Honestly, I've been a terrible garden-keeper this year. I got started late, and then we had a cicada invasion of biblical proportions.  They were the 14 year cicadas and they are a menace to those like me who have a keen sense of hearing. I just couldn't spend a great deal of time outside while they serenaded for mates. 

~Sweet little Sweetpeas...delicious too.

~The kids haven't rolled out of bed yet. As of last night around 9pm The Boy was still running a fever. I'm hoping and praying he wakes up well.

~ A couple weekends ago my friend Becky and I had a craft sale....

Since I was crochet-crazy before the sale, I've taken a small break, but I need to get busy on some custom orders I received.

My favorite part of the craft sale was getting a chance to chat with all our shoppers. It was great to have a bit of time with friends. Tracey stopped by with her oldest K-child. 

We've been reading each others blog for  several years, but only met once! I was so grateful she came by... And what's more, our daughters immediately connected and enjoyed spending time together too!

The Girl also did well at the sale, earning $17.50 selling lemonade and pawning her wares.

She made these barrettes...

... and a bunch of others that were sold!

~ This afternoon is the last swim meet of the season and I can hardly believe that we are already looming on the start of July. This summer is going so quickly!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


In a cleaning frenzy I found an old spiral-bound notebook from a Spanish class in college.

Its filled with lots of verbs and spanish sentence structure and all the obvious things (as well as an unfinished love note to my then boyfriend (The Mister). But my favorite parts of looking back are the pages where I had obviously copied notes from the board. Notes that were in English.

Although I don't remember this class, nor taking these notes, its safe to assume my professor believed in the power of positive thinking.

The first is dated 1/13/94:

Recognition for Super Learning

I can do it. 
Now I am achieving my goals.
Learning is something I highly enjoy.
Learning and remembering are easy for me.
My mind moves efficiently, effectively.
I am supremely calm.

On January 20 it was test time...

Affirmations for the Test: 
I recognize the right answers at the right time.
I remember all I need to know.
I am supremely confidant.
My memory is alert my mind is powerful.

This just makes me giggle. Not because I don't believe in thinking positively. (I do!) Mostly because I know these weren't my thoughts... nor has my verbiage (then or now) been so harmonious and tranquil.

Today I am choosing to bake some highly enjoyable Mexican pastries... not just because The Boy is sick, making staying home to bake easy for me, but because I can do it, I am achieving my goals, and carbs make me supremely calm.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Change of Plans: for which I am grateful

This day was scheduled to be the start of another week on my own, but in a great turn of events I've got two kids sleeping in their own beds and a full week already planned!

I took the two-hour (one way) drive to get my Girl from camp on Saturday.

It was not an easy week for her, and although she said it wasn't entirely without its fun moments, she promptly declared she wouldn't go again.

Her favorite part of each day was Chapel - she has a notebook full of handwritten notes - she said the teacher was amazing, and she looked forward to going both morning and night. But she said her heart was very sad, because several of her cabin-mates are living very difficult lives- and their attitudes and actions (and often their words) reflect that reality.

She said she spent every day hoping that I had decided to come get her.

She came home with heaviness of heart - burdened in the way any compassionate person should feel, after-all, we live in a broken world. I just didn't expect it to come from a weekend of "fun" camp.

While she was away The Boy was doing drama camp and did amazingly well in his first dramatic play ever...and what's more, he had the best time and met some really fun kids. After hearing about The Girl's experience, he opted to stay home this week and hang out with his friends here in town... and sleep in his own bed. Chances are his experience would have been vastly different - we know his counselor would have been awesome (he's a friend of ours), and unlike The Girl he would have known a couple of the kids. But we also know that his friends here in town mean a lot to him, and often he only gets to see them in the summer. I know he will have just as good a time at home this week.

Secretly (although I am certain it isn't a secret) I'm grateful to have my kiddos home. Our family likes to be together. We always have, and I hope we always will.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sweet Sunday in Numbers

One... early morning walk with The Mister. in the house. excellent message on the third Person of the trinity: The Holy Spirit.

Four... burgers at the newly opened Five Guys.

Five...small things to pick up at Target : dog food, dog cookies, hand soap, cheese sticks, and Klondike bars.

Six...minutes it took before the little snoring sounds started this afternoon. (The Mister, not me.)

Seven...more days until next...sweet Sunday.

- Posted using BlogPress from my trutsy iPad

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Than Many Sparrows

Blogger won't let me post pictures this I am switching gears.

I had hoped to show you some fun stuff from the craft sale I had last weekend...but I guess I will save that for another day.

I've got birds and lilies on my mind this morning.


Not much time ever passes before I'm brought back to this: do not worry. God is in control.

Whew! Not the light and fluffy post I envisioned...but its where my heart is today...I'm not sad, actually quiet the opposite... its always the choosing to trust that's the hardest; the resting after the trusting is easy and light. You would think I would choose quickly and move about my day, knowing the outcome will always be what's best...but often I choose what I want, forsaking what I desire. Isn't that the problem of life!?

How about you? What comforts you when thoughts and worry threaten to consume your day?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10 Minute Post: GO!


I just brushed my teeth.

My schedule is wonky, and it makes me ambivalent.

I should have shipped all my kids off to everywhere before the craft show or after the 2011-2012 curriculum came in so I could use this time to focus on getting a project done.

Instead I have folded all the laundry, cleaned all the house. Had coffee with a friend. Read a book. Started 10 games of Words with Friends (LaVidaCoffeeGal - if you'd like to play)....and brushed my teeth.

Oh, and I finished off the box of chocolate covered almonds...thank goodness they're gone.

Of course, I have no idea what's for dinner.

But, it doesn't matter because now I am headed out the door, picking up The Boy and headed to the pool...Oh! I'm so excited to see people!

Times up! Gotta go!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Un-normal Routine

Today is not normal.

It used to be that I had nearly 7 hours each day to clean house, craft, lunch with the ladies, and blog before I picked up the kids from school and started my afternoon routine.

Homeschooling changed all that.

Since August 11, 2008 I haven't really ever been at home alone during the week.

I'd forgotten.

Forgotten the wonderful quiet...

Forgotten the kitchen that always stayed clean...

Forgotten the way I longed for those kids to come home.

Today I remember.

Yesterday we took The Girl to camp. We helped her set up her bunk, kissed her head, and left her for a week in the woods.

Secretly, I had hoped we would drive two-hours to the top of that hill, and find a dilapidated building with mean people in it so we could turn around and come home and tuck my baby to bed.

Of course, it wasn't.

It's beautiful, and the people were nice... and she's no longer a baby.


The Boy is gone (during the day) this week as well. I'm so glad he isn't sleeping away this week...but next week is a different story.

I'm determined to use my time wisely.

To enjoy the quiet.

I'm going to do my best to not fill these wide open hours with busy-ness and sounds.

I wrote this post: Don't Blink five years ago....who knew it wouldn't get any easier?

The good news is that I do have a few things planned - both time alone and time with friends - that I am really looking forward to. I purposefully scheduled this day to be wistful and contemplative...but then it's time to buck-up and be done!

Tomorrow I am hoping to get some progress in planning and preparing for a study I am going to do with The Girl starting in July based on the book "Eight Great Dates for Mom's and Daughters: How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion and....Modesty" by Dannah Greshen.

I'm also going to spend some time cleaning up my office and watching my new favorite show: Larkrise to Candleford. Its from the BBC and honestly, its wonderful. I'm in the end of season two and it gets better and better with each episode!

All right, six hours have passed in this first day alone, and I have one more hour to fold some laundry and go get The Boy!

Ahh! I little piece of normal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brown Eyed Girl

I stood at the finish line and watched her struggle.

Her tiny little frame. Her pink bathing suit. Her sweet lanky arms doing their back-stroking best.

In the middle of her lane she flipped to her belly. She still had a long way to go.

Her heat-mates, having finished, stood, teeth chattering at the shallow end of the pool. They were all waiting on her.

In the brevity of a second (but might've felt like an hour) her big brown eyes - water clumping her lashes - carried discouragement and fatigue.

She was in the ocean; the shore too far away.

So we cheered, and we clapped, and we yelled, "You're almost there!

And she flipped to her back and pressed on.

The smile on her face when she knew she had finished caused a sting in my eyes that remains there today.

So fatigued, as she was, she needed a boost from the water, but she walked as tall as a smallish swimmer could be...


We will drowned with out it. 

I stayed by the pool, my stop-watch in hand. My pencil, my score cards, my bottle of water. I recorded the times and cheered on for others, but I was traveling to places on my own stormy sea.

I was remembering days when someone encouraged my efforts, focused my faith, helped me to 'swim-on' when feeling fatigued. Those times were fresh air to my lungs, and cool water when thirsty. It framed the pictures of life I was too ambivalent to see.

I was remembering moments when (apart from my doing) I was privileged to watch encouragement help people I love... to get better, to have confidence, to learn to trust again.

Encouragement lends room for the hard-heart to soften, the broken-heart to find comfort, the hindered-heart to find hope. And last night, as a pool full of parents hollered and cheered, it helped a little brown-eyed girl make it to the finish line.

It helped this brown-eyed girl to remember.


God of all healing counsel! 
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, 
and before you know it, 
he brings us alongside someone else 
who is going through hard times 
so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

2 Cor. 1:4 
(The Message)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

La Vida Love

On July 12, 2011 I will celebrate six years of blogging bliss.

It all started with a day of Blueberry picking and big cup of coffee.

I spent many days contemplating the name of this blog, and I finally decided it would be named after my favorite coffee from my favorite store in Fort Worth, TX.

For many years I went to a Thursday morning bible study at Christ Chapel Bible Church and on my way home I would stop at the Central Market for a pound of La Vida Dulce coffee and three (or five) dozen still-hot-from-the-griddle tortillas.

Oh. I miss that place.

I will never forget the afternoon (and I've blogged about this before, but can't find it in the archives) when I went directly to the coffee section and couldn't find the big-bulk barrel of my java junkie joy.

In a panic I chased down the first Foodie I could find (one of their employees) and begged to know the reason for the beverage brush-off.

"Discontinued." she said. As if she hadn't a care in the world.

And she pointed me to another flavor that was good, but not what I wanted.

I hadn't had a cuppa that wonderful brew since.

Oh. I miss that coffee.

Yesterday, as I went to get the mail, I smelled the tell-tale signs that someone sweet had sent me another coffee package. (I have some of the BEST enablers friends in the world who send me coffee from time-to-time....for no reason at all...isn't that amazing?)

I had been warned that there might be a package coming this week, but I really had no idea that the surprise would be so...surprising!

Anyway, I opened the box and smelled the aroma and felt the package like a kid at Christmas and knew it was coffee. A lot of coffee. But I made myself wait until I had hiked up our hill before I ripped open the package.

I couldn't believe what it was....

Two pounds of dark- roasted deliciousness.
The package is BIGGER than our industrial-sized cheese!

I immediately called up my friend and she told me the story of how she managed to special order these beans...and it wasn't easy...and it took a long time.

Oh. I miss that girl.

But, here I am sipping away, and feeling lavishly loved.



"Thank you" isn't enough, but thank you.

I wish, wish, wish we could be sitting together (as we used to do each Tuesday morning)with warm mugs in our hand and good conversation on our lips. 

Oh that I could hug your neck...


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just Another Post About Bathing Suits and Chocolate

Will someone please tell me to back away from the chocolate covered almonds?

Seriously, who bought those things anyway?

I'm not talking a small-packet that makes one look dainty. Oh no! Its a big box, the kind you see at The Costco's (as they call it around here.)

It's that same two-pound box of candy I've spent years looking at telling myself we didn't "need" them.

I didn't "need" them, but I bought them anyway. Because I could.

Until yesterday the container sat virtually untouched. 

But SUDDENLY, the Chocolate Covered Almond Monster is awake in me and they're the only sustenance that will see me through. 

Anyway, I didn't call you here today to talk to you about my dietary habits, as wonderful as they are...I've called you here today for reasons that... illude me.  

Yes, I have settled in at this shiny screen and keyboard and my thoughts have dashed from the room.

I blame it on 14 years of trying to have a conversation in the presence of children. I don't believe I've had a conversation that included a complete sentence, much less an entire thought, since that first home-pregnancy test showed up positive. 

Speaking of positive (and since I've forgotten what I've come here for) let me tell you about my new bathing suit. 

Every year I fret and worry about the bathing suit dilemma. 

I know I have no earthly reason to worry. I know all the "right things" to think about myself when it comes to body contentment, but if I am honest (and you know that I do my best to be) I am THE MOST self-conscious person known to women when it comes wearing a bathing suit. (Or anything else that risks the exposure of bun's and thigh's.)

My answer to the dilemma this year was to find a suit that covered the areas that cause me the most grief (be it rational or not) and be D-O-N-E with it. 

So I did.  

Of course I delayed this task by putting off the bathing suit shopping spree for several weeks - and I mustn't fail to mention that when deciding to take on this monumental project, I found knee-jerk pluckiness and decided to take my kids with me. 

I'm telling you, bathing suits make me c-r-a-z-y, with a hefty portion of CRAZY.

While The Boy tried to keep a low profile and texted his friends of the unfairness of being trapped in the ladies department, his sister tried on every old-lady hat that sparkled and shined -and then knocked on my dressing room door every two minutes so I could "see". 

Which made for fun times. 

But with relative ease (in spite of the circumstances) I bought this top and this bottom both from Lands End on sale. 

Y'all its a lot of suit

And, in a GREAT turn of events, (are you sitting down?) I bought this bathing ensemble in the cool color of Pool Blue - stepping out of the black-on-black box I've lived in since I was 16, when the Sassy magazine (do you remember Sassy?)  told me that black will make you look skinny. A "guideline" that I hadn't quite realized had become law in my life.  

Yup. I bought that big'ole Pool Blue bathing suit and figured I'd just put it on and enjoy the pool (and the people in it!) and not worry one-bit about what I looked like. 

Can I tell you this is the best decision and purchase I've made all year? 

Not only did my already-so-vain-ego get a boost by all the sweet compliments I received, but it felt SO good to not be worried in the slightest about all that garbage that fills my head when I am running all over the pool in a suit that makes my thoughts run amuck and puts my focus on the wrong things. 

Instead of worrying about buns and thighs, I just chased kids and had fun.   

There is a first for everything. 

Now, where are those almonds?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hallowed Places

There was a time when the empty places of life were scary to me.

Now, in a time when busyness reigns and cluttered thoughts are abundant, I find comfort in a little peace and quiet. I find myself seeking out hallowed places.

It could be on a walk in the woods, or in my room in the dusky-blue hours of morning.

These quiet times are few and far between right now. So I am searching for them as I walk in the noisy hallways of life....

The shuffling of kids, the visiting of friends, the caring for others...I wouldn't trade all these things for all the coffee in Colombia.

As a matter of fact being busy has been a blessing of sorts because not all of life has been easy.

The Mister and I have made some big changes this month as we said goodbye to our church family and begin a journey to a new place of worship. It was a difficult and painful decision, but one we feel certain is right for our growing-older family.

On the heels of this big change, I'm about to experience the flip-side of what I have done to a handful of friends six-times over: my dear friend is moving. 

She's been a gift in this season - just when I needed her most - and I now get to experience what its like on the opposite side of the moving van.

To say that I'm sad is...not enough.

But instead of fretting, I've tried very hard to be grateful for the people and things I've been given...if only for a time.

Still, I'm selfish enough to want more...

This week I have two extra kiddos in the Little Yellow House on the Hill. A six-year old and a three-year old. They are precious, and a big reminder that the babies we love grow quicker than our hearts and minds can comprehend. This summer is the last one of my Elementary school-children years. The Boy reminded me that there were only 5 summers left until he graduates high-school.

Five summers...and this ones half done.

In the midst of all this full and busy time, I've had a knee injury that just won't heal. I've been irritated that (among other foot injuries) this has slowed me down. But its also made me set aside workouts for things of more importance... for making breakfast, and choosing conversation...for friendships and sharing life with those who want me in it.

Love, Family, Friends, Church, Children, Health,

Gifts.  Hallowed places.

May I always choose them first....

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Summer of the Reptile

I had to rob Peter to pay Paul so I could post today.

My wireless keyboard wouldn't type and I desperately needed two AAA batteries. So I robbed the TV remote to pay the keyboard.

But this is not what I've come to tell you today.

I've come to talk to you about reptiles (and maybe an amphibian or two)...

The summer is a plethora of slithery animals here in the piney woods of North Carolina, and I wouldn't mind them so much if they didn't seem so intent on invading my life. Of course, some would argue that it is I that have invaded upon the space of the fork-tongued reptilians, but I say tom-ay-to/to-mah-to...who pays the mortgage on this acre in the woods?

You may have guessed that I am not a fan of things that slither and crawl.

 I have managed to produce not one, but two, offspring that think lizards and snakes are amazing creatures that must be caught.

Case in point:
Meet the Blue-Tailed skinks.

Or the brown lizards.

There was much worry about one of these lizards due to the unfortunate loss of his back leg.
The Girl was particularly concerned and wanted to keep him in a lap of lizard luxury for the loss of his lower leg.

Uh, that would be a negative.

Stumpy's stump had already healed over. He didn't need our TLC. Plus, that bowl they were keeping their tiny treasures caged in is one I really wanted back.

After the lizards we had three visitors on the same afternoon:

A turtle, bigger than a dinner plate, wandered into the street in front of our house. We live two houses down from a pond. At this time of year the turtles come out from hibernation and forget which direction the pond is supposed to be. We took this guy back to the water, and he immediately swam to safety.

We also had frogs:

I don't really mind these critters as much. Don't get me wrong I'm not going to hold them or invite them over for tea, but the kids enjoy catching them and looking at them for awhile.

What I do mind is when a four foot snake is climbing a tree...
 Did you know snakes could climb tree's?

Yeah, me neither.

They can. And they do.

I know these guys are good for the garden. But seriously, I do not like snakes that climb on trees.

I do not like snakes that help in the garden.

I do not like snakes.

Oh, it's gonna be a long summer.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Adventures of CoffeeGal: A Lesson in Verbs

There is much happening in (and around) the Little Yellow House on the Hill...

Strawberry picking...

Bass fishing...

Scout bridging...

River swimming...

(about to be Sister Dunking)

And every once in awhile,

Couch Sitting...

 ....Stay tuned for tomorrow's lesson in:

 CoffeeGal Screaming (alternatively titled, Reptiles in My Neighborhood )