Musical Gifts

My sister is a wonderful gift-giver.  She always seems to give the perfect thing.

The tacky little lamp was our only music light over the piano and the bench cushion was not very attractive.

We have a piano between the dining room and the living room that can be seen from almost every room on the first floor.

Charlie received this piano bench cushion in 2016 for Christmas.

In 2016 my sister gave Charlie a tapestry cushion for his piano bench. It was a huge improvement and he really appreciated it.

19-inch piano map illuminates at least two music sheets.

This year she sent a beautiful piano lamp. (We had been using a lamp from WalMart that I had spray painted.)

Sometimes the lamp might want to be dimmed.

Her research had led her to a dimmable model.  When the lamp arrived it worked but wouldn’t dim.

The lamp worked but wouldn’t dim.

Since the dimmer was an extra little box with a dial that fit between the power cord and the lamp base, we were hoping that replacing it would fix the issue.

The new piano lamp is sleek, functional, and dimmable.

The Cocoweb company replaced the dimmer for free and now it works. Tra la.

Do you have dimming lights?

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Paperwork Weekend

At my job, January is a busy time for me.

This year I’m going to get rid of decades old tax returns.

I reconcile bank accounts, prepare payroll tax returns, and get together W-2s and 1099s for all employees.

I change the date and fill out a similar form every year.

At home I try to pull together all the information that we’ll need for our personal tax return. Since I have recently reconciled all personal bank accounts and received my own W-2, I plan to gather and classify the self-employment numbers and fill in my tax summary sheet.

Most of these papers by my side of the bed are bank statements.

And I’ll file away last year’s bank statements.  My paperwork clutter should improve considerably.

Do you try to file your tax return early or late?

Galette des Rois

After looking at a few here is the recipe I chose to make a Galette des Rois, Kings’ Cake.

Galette des Rois

Sug and I worked together to make 2 Kings’ Cakes.

Sug rolled out puff pastry that I bought frozen.

We used frozen puff pastry and had to roll it out just a little to make it large enough to cut a round using a large frying pan lid as a pattern.

Chopped orange peel.

In addition to almond flour, butter, eggs, and sugar the seasoning included almond extract, vanilla extract (instead of the recipe’s suggestion of rum) and orange zest.

The filling is fluffy and holds its shape.

Filling is put on the bottom round with a margin which is them brushed with water so the top and bottom pastries will stick together.

The top pastry is carefully fit over the filling.

We put the cakes together with the filling inside and refrigerated them overnight so we could serve them warm the next day at our party. I cut a design into the unbaked dough with a sharp knife.

Both Sug and I tried our hands at crimping the edges as described in the recipe.  Nothing leaked out.

Just before baking I glazed the pastry with egg yolk/milk carefully avoiding the edges so they would puff up.

The top is glazed with an egg yolk and mixture.

This recipe is subtly delicious.  I could eat it every day with coffee if I had to.  Delicious.  Like an almond croissant in Paris.

A seriously elegant recipe.

We made 2 galettes and  only have a few pieces remaining. I’ll make this again.

Do you have a favorite pastry? Do you buy it or make it?

Epiphany Mantel

I created a special mantel over the fireplace for our party celebrating the 3 wise men.

The caravan always comes from the east.

It had camels, magi, candles, and an oriental-style vase.

Tall grass has interesting seed heads.

The whole scene needed some height and movement so I asked a friend if I could harvest some of his tall grass.

Epiphany theme mantel.

Now it’s time to put all vestiges of Christmas away for a few seasons.

Some of the best things are just simple.

I’ll probably keep the grasses out for a while longer but the Christmas tree is going in storage.

What’s your next holiday?

Forcing Quince

Flowering quince shrub in spring.

Last week I brought in a few quince branches from our large bush in the yard.

Pink blooming quince.

When this bush blooms in spring the flowers are pink.

Branches from the same bush are blooming white this winter.

The flowers that bloomed inside this week were white.

White flowers are actually my favorite.

Flowering quince are a nice reminder of spring on frigid winter days.

What is your reminder of warmer weather?

Charlie’s Leg of Lamb

I received a 12-pound leg of lamb as a gift from work.

Charlie rubbed the lamb all over with olive oil.

Charlie has roasted this major piece of meat before and so I enlisted his expertise again.

Charlie topped off our pot of rosemary and chopped it in a small electric coffee grinder.

In addition to the lamb he needed garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The lamb covered with olive oil, salt, and pepper readily browned under the broiler.

First he rubbed the lamb all over with olive oil then put it under the broiler for 5 minutes on each side until it was brown.

The lamb is covered with rosemary and garlic in olive oil.

Then he rubbed the lamb with a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary and garlic in olive oil.

The leg of lamb is ready for the oven.

Once the broiled lamb was covered in garlic and rosemary it was put into the oven at 325 degrees under an aluminum foil tent.

The cooked lamb rested before being carved.

When the oven thermometer inserted into the lamb reached 145 degrees Charlie took the lamb out of the oven and let it rest for about half an hour under its foil tent.

Ultimately the lamb was carved from the center, not the end.

When Charlie made the first slice we all wanted a taste.

145 degrees internal temperature made the lamb perfectly done to our liking.

Charlie carved most of the leg and we used it for small sandwiches on fresh rolls.

Are your kitchen knives sharp?

Uh Oh, No Water

Earlier this week there was a water main break directly in front of our house so we had no water for a few hours. The county crews had it fixed before the end of the day.

Water pipes in the Cottage attic have frozen and broken in the past.

Then tonight Sug came over to say she had no water. We had water; she had none. She checked all the water lines in her attic and found no leaks so we brainstormed as to what could have happened.

Water comes into the Cottage from underground at the front corner.

Since the temperature has been in the single digits we figured something was frozen somewhere.

Sug let her hairdryer run on the part of the pipe where water settles and had apparently frozen.

Sug used her hairdryer to warm up the copper pipes where the water enters the Cottage.

The water flows

Sure enough water started to trickle, then it flowed freely. Yea! Water. YEA!!!!

What would you miss more: water, heat, electricity?