Y*mmy: Raspberry Almond Bars

I was tasked with bringing the dessert to a dinner party tonight – a request I don’t mind fulfilling in the least! (smile) The catch, however, is that it had to be something yummy without dairy or eggs. I’ve been thinking dreaming about these lovely fruity jam bars for a while now so I decided to see what I could do about tweaking the recipe for this evening. Now if you can’t use butter that pretty much leaves shortening or oil, depending on what you’re trying to bake. While researching the pros and cons of my options, I came across this recipe over at Crisco that was perfect! Same general idea, but altered for those special diets. And I must say, after the obligatory sampling, these do not disappoint!!

recipe raspberry jam bars no butter crisco

Raspberry Jam Bars

Crust

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 3/4 cup raspberry preserves (or preserves of your choice, just make sure they’re high quality)

Topping

  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper (foil will work too), making sure the paper extends over the edges of the pan. Coat the paper lightly with a non-stick cooking spray.

Combine flour, brown sugar, and salt until mixed. Add oil, water, and almond extract. Combine ingredients with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Spread the preserves evenly over warm crust (note that these are a bit more difficult to spread if cold, so bring to room temperature or heat slightly). Mix almonds, brown sugar, and oil until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the preserves. Bake for 20 minutes.

Allow the bars to cool completely. Using the parchment paper, lift out of pan. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

A Letter to January

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

The Snow Man ~ Wallace Stevens

Oh January, what a month you have been! Normally I adore you. I love the post-Christmas hush; the quiet, somewhat dreary days; the bare trees against the blue sky; and the opportunity to just breathe. You are the last great peace before the chaos of spring and the glory of summer. You hold a special place in my heart.

This year, however, you have been difficult to endure. I know it isn’t your fault; how can you help what happens while you turn the days one-by-one in your eternal way? But alas, I fear I look forward to that promise of spring.

You see, I saw your first moments from an exhausted state of mind, fresh off a plane and heartsick over family discontent. One short week later, before I could find my footing in this new year, my grandfather left us for the next great adventure, one where we could not follow. I’ve accepted this fact and have found, on a deeper level, contentment with the situation. But grief is a strange thing and, as I have found, can wreak havoc on emotional energy. Even now I feel as though I walk in that state of being when awoken from a lucid dreaming. I struggle to make sense of the mundane tasks we’ve deemed necessary for societal survival.

Beyond this grief for my grandfather, there is a reckoning I must confront – with myself. I seek solitude and peace, two of your most lovely characteristics, January. Yet I find that I cannot accomplish my dreams without help; so I must find a way to open for others. I must somehow acknowledge those things I prefer hidden, face the fallout of trust, and retain hope that I will survive it all intact. Life distilled is simple, but oh what a complicated simple that is.

I still have a few days to bask in your winter sunlight, and I intend to do just that. I won’t hold these feelings against you; to do so would be most unfair. But I’m afraid that you will carry a few scars for me going forward. I’ll try to remember that scars are a thing of beauty, a symbol of strength and accomplishment. And I ask you to forgive me for not paying proper homage this time around. I know so few people understand or appreciate your gifts. We are all so very different along with our definitions of beauty. Next time we meet, we shall celebrate. Properly. (smile)

Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s All In The Look

This week’s photo challenge is “express yourself.” Ah the joy of open prompts – so much fun to see other entries, so darn difficult to choose your own! (smile) It’s been a while since the kitties have made an appearance on here, so I’ve opted to go with the animal theme this week. These two photos pretty much sum up the interactions between these two perfectly…

Sadie black cat funny expression

Sadie Hey-ya!

Cat, Christmas, costume

:) Happy weekend everyone!!

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Roadscapes

For Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week the topic is roadscapes. I’ve always enjoyed taking photos of roads, trails, paths, etc. – no matter which way you’re going, they each lead you somewhere (smile).

forest roadway black and white

Through the trees

roadway black and white

New Mexico

highway black and white

UK

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~Bilbo Baggins

Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge

The Only Heathen in the Church

Or, at least that’s what it felt like. Exactly one week ago today, I stood in front of the multitude who showed up for my grandfather’s funeral to deliver the words written at my grandparents’ request. I was on the program with three (yes, 3) good Southern Baptist preachers and a younger guy destined for seminary school, none of which found it remotely amusing that I myself am – technically – an ordained minister. Really, no sense of humor…

To go back to the beginning, last Thursday night I dreamed of my mother. It’s something that I rarely do, but it inevitably leaves me feeling a bit off kilter the next day. On my way to work Friday morning, I received the news that my grandfather had passed away during the night. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but then again I’m not sure death can ever truly be anticipated either. It certainly set my calendar on a totally new trajectory. I booked my plane ticket and headed east on Saturday morning.

I had known for some time that I would likely be speaking at the funeral, but I hadn’t written anything down yet – partially from not knowing where to begin and partially from a superstition of writing a eulogy before it was absolutely necessary. Saturday night, it became pressingly necessary. After struggling to find words that rang true, I reread my post from last year on my grandparents’ love story. Upon reading that post, I decided that there could be no more fitting thing than sharing my own (slightly edited) story of their great love.

Public speaking is certainly not my favorite activity, but I can do it when the occasion calls for it. I was so nervous – and desperately trying not to cry – but I made it through. The other guys gave their mini-sermons and spoke about how happy my grandfather is now in Heaven, and what a religious man he was (both true for sure); I spoke of my memories and didn’t quote a single Bible verse. I’ve never been more proud (smile).

Afterwards, I had an unexpected number of people tell me how moved they were by my words and, much to my delight, do exactly as I had requested that afternoon – share their own stories about that great man. I found peace in those stories. I will miss my grandfather dearly, but I know that wherever the afterlife takes us, he is there waiting. And thanks to that dream-visit, I know he’s in the best possible company, with my mom. I’ve lost him physically yet gained another guardian angel. And I will always have those wonderful memories of our time together.

Of course, not to be outdone, one of the preachers did get in the parting shot – as he was wishing me good-bye, he assured me that he would be “praying for [me] a husband.” Touché. (smile)

I’ve decided to post the text of my speech on the next page of this post. I’m doing this for posterity, and to share my memories of him. It only seems right, seeing as how this blog helped me find my words to begin with.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Wood

I’ve been back in Alabama this week (more on why later), and although the circumstances aren’t ideal, I have been enjoying this January weather. Most people will think I’m crazy for saying so, but I adore January and the dreary weather. When you live in the land of perpetual sunshine, it’s nice to have a break!

Since I had a little downtime today, I was catching up on some blog reading when I came across Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – this week’s topic “wood.” I’ve actually taken some specific black and white photos this week (fits the mood I think), so thought it would be an opportune time to share some of those (smile). Hope everyone is having a great week!

black and white porch swing

The old wooden swing on the front porch

Black and white tree with horse

One of the original homestead trees


Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge

No, but thanks for asking!

So I can safely say this year is off to a rather…awkward start. I don’t talk about the relationship portion of my personal life on here very often – and even then it’s usually pretty vague. I generally do this to avoid any embarrassment later should anyone stumble across this blog. Of course if I’m honest, there’s not too much to tell either!

Frankly, I prefer to be single (at least for now). That means I end up turning down most invitations, which is usually so awkward (for me anyway). Needless to say, I try to avoid those situations wherever possible! However, over New Year’s a male friend who lives in my complex finally got up the courage to ask me out. I had been afraid the question was coming for a while now, but I had been purposefully sabotaging the situation to avoid the conversation. Color me cowardly. Anyway, I was determined to be honest when the time came, and I believe I was, but it was still so incredibly uncomfortable! These things…they just never end well. Whether we’re still friends or not, only time will tell, but the situation got me pondering the best methods for a gentle letdown. So of course I turned to Google and today I thought I would share my favorite best – and worst – advice on ways to turn a guy down. (I say “guy” here, but I’m guessing these pretty much apply no matter who’s on the other side!)

Love and flowers sand beach

Best:

  1. Be honest. If you’re not interested, just say so! Being blunt does not necessarily equal being mean. A lot of this method is actually in your tone of voice – try to keep the condescension, horror, etc. out of it and it should go pretty well.
  2. Just be friends. This one sort of goes along with being honest – if he’s someone you want to be friends with, let him know. This one is also a good line to use if he’s persistent or trying to guilt trip you into saying yes. Let him know if he doesn’t back off, you won’t be able to maintain a friendship with him.
  3. Apologize for your unavailability. Sometimes a simple “I’m sorry I’m dating someone …” is enough. If you’re saying no to a follow-up date, try saying you’ve decided to be exclusive with someone else. But really, #1 is your best bet no matter the situation.

Worst:

  1. Be rude. I suppose there’s a time and a place for this one – read really drunk guy at the bar – but in the general every day interactions, rudeness is meanness! You’re already turning him down, there’s no need to further snuff out his self-esteem!
  2. Avoid the situation or lead him on. If you aren’t interested in a guy, don’t string him along to avoid the situation (i.e., do as I say not as I do (smile)). Sure there is a chance he may lose interest, but there’s a bigger chance he’ll just keep asking. It’s better to have one awkward conversation than a series of them!
  3. Tell an obvious lie. According to my male friends, most guys know when a girl is lying to them – and apparently they consider it super annoying. Plus if he calls you on it things can get very uncomfortable!

What’s your go to way to say no??

Travel Tuesday: 2015 Ramblings

Let’s hear it for the first Travel Tuesday of 2015!! I feel like I’ve been so all over the board these last few weeks (along with just about everyone else) that it feels good to be finding a routine again (smile). In lieu of making vague resolutions for the new year, I’ve tried to focus more on specifics (so maybe that’s my overarching theme?), including where I want to go and what/who I want to see this year.

2014 wasn’t a bad travel year, but it also wasn’t terribly exciting. This year I want to build in time to check off a few items on my travel list and – hopefully – surprise myself a bit along the way. I’ve got several trips planned in so far as I know I’m going, but the details are still a bit fuzzy. Sometimes you just gotta roll with it…

Longaberger baskets headquarters ohio

Ohio Longaberger Basket

Domestic Trips

In addition to the usual trips to Alabama and California to see family and the ramblings around Arizona, I have a few other random states on my list this year, including…

Ohio: My brother lives here and I (insert shamed face here) haven’t been there to see him in almost 8 years now! He always comes to Arizona or we meet somewhere else. So I owe him this trip – and I’ve already got quite the list of weird and wonderful to occupy our time! Now I just have to wait until it warms up enough to actually enjoy that list…

Louisiana: No Mardi Gras this year, but a good friend of mine is heading down to NOLA for her big 3-0 in March! I’m really looking forward to going along and seeing that magical, mysterious city once again. Something tells me that going with this group will be like experiencing it all for the very first time! (smile)

South Dakota: Our latest project at work is based in Wyoming – tantalizingly close to the South Dakota border. Now why am I so excited about this? Because I have been oddly obsessed with seeing Mt. Rushmore for as long as I can remember! SO looking forward to checking this one off my bucket list!

Mexico, sunset, beach

Mexico Sunset

International

Sadly, I only managed to use my passport for Mexico last year (yes, I know #firstworldproblems), but I’m determined to collect a few stamps in 2015! And, in keeping with my motivational word, I’ve also decided that this is the year of the solo adventure! To date I’ve always traveled with someone or at least had someone expecting me at my destination; but it’s well past time now for me to venture forth and prove to myself that I can travel solo and survive. (smile)

I’ve tentatively picked the when – October – but not the where. I have a couple of places in mind, but the final decision hinges on a few other factors. No matter where I end up, I know this journey is going to be epic!

 Where are you going this year??


Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday