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March 2019 Desktop Wallpaper

It snowed another three inches in Colorado today, but I have been getting that gardening itch in my fingers. I am so ready for those first glimpses of green! This month’s wallpaper is inspired by/features antique garden plans from France. I’m hoping to plan out my own tiny garden soon. Happy March!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both. I make a couple different ones so that you can use what works best for your device.

iphone wallpapers:

April Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (7), Hattie (5), and Beatrice (2). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

I was worried about putting together this post from April because April had moments of being a bit of a homeschooling slump month. We took a week off for “spring break” (which was really so we could fully enjoy family being in town). I had trouble hitting my stride with planning and inspiration. But of course, as these things go, once I start to compile the images, all my worries about “did we do enough?” are put aside because I feel full. Filling our days with these littles by our sides and digging into learning together just feels right. So Onward we go…
Here are some of our April Adventures in Homeschooling…

Art & Art History:

Harriet has discovered a new little love for coloring. Currently she is working her way through the Secret Garden coloring book while listening to the Audio book of the Secret Garden. Just like me, the girls have an easier time sitting and engaging with a story if they have something to keep their hands busy.

I am pretty sure my entire knowledge of Art History as a kid came from this game – Masterpiece. I am not even sure if they still make it, but it’s pretty great – involves lots of math/money understanding as well as great exposure to famous paintings, and has quirky clue-like characters. Still a little old for my littles but Lucy (7) picked it up right away. 

Baby Animal Days:

Each spring, our city puts on an event called baby animal days. It takes place at Centennial Village (a beautiful restored historic town where tim and I got married). It’s just a wonderful excuse to play outside in a lovely setting and pet all the babies.

Some good old fashioned stilt and wooded horse play

And speaking of baby animals, we had an important, but very sad life lesson with a little kitten that was dumped on us in a grocery store parking lot. She was obviously a bit too young to be taken from her mama. We took her to the vet and they sent up home with Kitten milk replacer, but from the very first day she did not look healthy or spunky. By her third night she had passed away. I was a very hard first experience with death for the girls.

Spirituality:

Our wonderful friend and neighbor Tammi has this incredible set of felt bible stories. On Mondays we have been walking down to her house where she treats the girls to a retold biblical story.

We have also been enjoying the illustrations and retellings in “Stories from the Bible.”

Easter:

Easter this year was such a treat. My sisters, a nephew, and parents were able to join us, Tim only had to do one service at his church, and the weather was just gorgeous.

We even all got to go to an Easter service together – which rarely happens since Tim works for a church.

Since my sister was in town, we got to do all the Easter fun together! Our best win was choosing to do a little easter egg hunt put on by a local ReMax instead of going to the insane large city one. It was a blast, and just the perfect balance of fun activities (a bouncy house, photo booth, lots of snacks, egg hunts for each age group, and an Easter bunny) and not too many people.

These are some of the lovely new Easter books we enjoyed this month.

   All the kids on Easter morning – baskets this year had new water bottles, rain boots, Kinder chocolate eggs, and bubbles! (Plus a couple of new Max books for the little ones)

My mom brought up with her a Ukrainian egg dying kit for making Pysanky eggs that we used as kids. It is this really beautiful and satisfying process that involves layering beeswax over progressive different dyes (the colors are crazy intense). After the final layer, you carefully remove the beeswax to reveal a multifaceted design.

My mom also put together a stellar egg hunt/treasure hunt in our back yard where the kids each found a giant treasure filled egg with their name on it!

Engineering/Making

Lucy capacity for “making things” is off the charts. She always has some wonderfully elaborate creation brewing. We found a pretty cool graphic novel on Amazon called HowToons. The story is about two inventor kids and as they go through the story they make inventions to solve challenges. In the novel it shows them how to build them themselves. Here is Lucy making a marshmallow shooter.

 

And now time for a battle…

Netherlands:

Inspired by the beautiful tulips popping up near our driveway and also the Holland stories in one of the history books we just finished. We decided to have our country we “visited” this month be the Netherlands.

The girls created a beautiful new mural above our bed with lots and lots of dutch tulips, a windmill, and stars.

For one tea time we sample a Dutch delicacy – Hagelslag – which is basically buttered bread with an unreasonable amount of sprinkles on top. It was surprisingly awesome.

Letter Writing:

We have continued our weekly Monday letter writing practice. And you know what? When you write lots of letters, you receive lots of letters. Seems like a good metaphor for life…

Math:

This next month (May) I am excited to really play with math a lot thanks to an incredible garage sell set of stuff I got (Montessori anyone?) but, in the meantime, for April, we had a nice time playing with our Brain quest books.

And discovering that Math is way more fun worked on while listening to favorite tunes on headphones.

Reading:

Our classics read aloud for April was Wind in the Willows (we still have about 1 chapter left). I found this beautifully illustrated version on Abe Books. The pictures by Inga Moore are so lovely and the editing is better than some other versions I have seen.

The day we started it was one of those perfect moments of all the stars aligning. We brought a picnic to eat under our favorite willow tree at our favorite park while I read aloud. The story starts with two new friends, Mole and Rat, packing up a picnic and heading down the river to a favorite willow tree. In the story their picnic is cold fried chicken – the very thing I pack us.

Our fun read-aloud (and also audiobook version) book was Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes. Although maybe best for ages 8 and up, I couldn’t recommend this book more highly. Such a fun quirky adventure story. We all loved it.

Letter Play:

Harriet has been doing really great with her Letter and letter sounds. Thanks to Pinay Homeschooler’s free printables we have been enjoying playing some phonics matching games. She is getting really got at it!


On April Fools day, the girls were sadly disappointed that the pan of Brownies turned out to be a pan of Brown E’s

Another new favorite book for letter play is Oliver Jeffers “Once Upon an Alphabet” book. Quirky and delightful with lots of hidden connections you don’t catch until the 2nd or third time through. 

Sensory Play:

Sunny days call for “car washes (bikes)” and play with rainbow sensory foam (so so easy – just a 2 Tbs dish soap +1/4 C. water  whisked with the kitchen aid and then colored with a few drops of food coloring).

We also played this fun memory game that Lucy found in a magazine. One person lays out 20 items covered with a towel. And then you uncover it for 30 seconds to look at them. And then try to recall as many items as possible.

Plastic melted bead crafts

  Button play with Grandmama at the CO antique button show.

 

Spring Nature Study:

A bunch of fun Spring themed books from our local library.

These are my new favorite…

Nest studies

Flower dissecting and learning about the different parts. 

Outdoor Play:

Scaling poles

Climbing trees

Swinging in hammocks

Exploring treehouses

Jumping on trampolines

And eating outside as often as possible.

Thanks for following along. See you in May!

Much much love, Betony

April Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

 

April is here! Spring oh lovely springtime. Fresh air and sunshine. Here is a favorite spring recipe,  an April Showers playlist to dance in the rain to, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, go take a look at my newest Silkscreen Print and Tim’s gorgeous song that goes with it.

And here is some new artwork for your screens!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the iphone images. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen.

High Resolution Desktop Wallpaper:

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March Practice and Process: “Ground”

In creating our new project, Bellwether (an art series and album due winter 2016) we’ve decided to share what we’re doing each month before it’s released.
We’re calling these posts “practice and process“.

They will detail the spiritual/life practice we’re doing,
give a look at our in-process art that we’re creating in response,
and then include a whole host of resources and activities! (like the new desktop wallpaper, book/music/movie lists, recipes, explorations for kids, etc. This is so as an entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

MARCH Theme: GROUND

We are approaching this March theme in lots of ways: asking “what grounds you?”, actually digging in the dirt AND metaphorically digging in the dirt, finding foundations, and setting ground work.

Practice:

This month we are

  1. Reading then gardening! We’ll be setting aside a specific time for reading spiritual writings right before heading out to work in the garden. As a whole family we’ll be reading from the psalms, from poetry, children’s books, or any host of passages we find resonate with us. We’ll pair this with gardening in hopes to dig our hands into the Spring season.
  2. For our Table Alter this month we’ll be setting up little pots and planting seeds – we’ll water and watch the slow progression of growth, again hitting on the death and resurrection truths we find in the world around us.

Process:

Betony hopes to hit some finish lines on art projects she’s been working on so she can set the “ground” work for this new series. Tim has a tour in the Chicago area he’ll be recovering from in the beginning of March.

The other process is going to be exploring this big idea: there seems to be spiritual archetypes that happen all over our favorite stories. In movies, books, all sorts of art, you’ll find baptism scenes, out-to-the-desert scenarios, resurrection pictures… Betony and I are looking in to these universals to better inform our own belief.

Resources for “GROUND”:

MARCH Dates to Take Note of:

March 13th – Daylight Savings
March 14th – Pi Day – You can’t go wrong with this recipe.
March 17th – Saint Patrick’s Day – Irish mix to listen to, yummy pub food to make, and a touch of poetry
March 21st – World Poetry Day – Here’s one to get you started
March 25th – Good Friday
March 27th – Easter

Local: Greeley, CO events:

March 19th – Poudre River Friends of the Library Spring Used Book Sale
March 21st – Seed Swap and Garden Talk – Riverside Library – 6:00 pm
March 22nd – Perilous Plants – 12pm at the Farr Library – Botanist Dr. Kathy Keeler

Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

RESOURCES/EXPLORATIONS:

We are planning on getting Chickens next week!
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The girls and Betony have been hard at work building them an enclosure and a chicken coop.
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(A painting of Bet’s from a few years back that seems appropriate, obviously she has been dreaming about them for a while)
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We discovered a parcel of land adjacent to our yard that we thought belonged to the city actually belongs to us. We are going to turn it into a secret garden of sorts – after we dig up all the sumac and poison ivy and weeds – the labor of clearing this neglected land will be part of our spiritual practice for the month.

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Betony is finally ready to start the groundwork on my new series of paintings. She has been playing around with monochromatic under paintings (as explored through the Book of Job)

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MAKE:

Bet might just have to start making some of these hanging chairs for our back porch to lounge in.

Start the seeds we ordered from rareseeds.com (it is also time to plant peas out in the garden already!)
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READING LISTS:

The Little Gardener and Wild by Emily Hughes (LOVE her illustrations)
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The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (haven’t read it yet, but have had it recommended by several people we trust)
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The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
by Du Base Hayward (really loved this one as a kid)
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ART:

Play drawing with Opaque markers on brown eggs

Bet is also enjoying these rubber cement resist died eggs and rubber band wrapped ones. Definitely on her list to try this year.
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ADVENTURE:

Go on lots of bike rides and explorations along the Poudre river trail

We are not going to tell you quite yet what we have planned for this giant box of keys, but we’ll give you a hint that it is something in the category of this epic city-wide adventure we facilitated a few years ago…

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Find some greenhouses to visits

TECHNOLOGY:

A friend recommended this online reading ap, we thought it would make a fun Easter-month game, especially for Harriet (4) – Reading Eggs Game
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LISTEN:

On the first spring rain, listen to this mix.
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May Abacus: STRETCH

Giants and Pilgrims’ “Abacus” is a creative home curriculum centered on a monthly theme. This month’s theme is STRETCH! Think all things stretchy, the “final stretch”, and stretching your body.

Read all about how to use this list and our heart behind this project here.

Below is our comprehensive activities list. Choose a couple to do with your kids to enrich the month or try to accomplish the whole list! What would you add? I would love to hear your ideas and plans for the month.

Dates in May to take note of/celebrate:

May 1 = May Day
May 4 =Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you)
May 5 = Teachers Day
May 5 = Cinco de Mayo
May 9 = Lost Sock Memorial Day (poor poor socks…)
May 9 = National Train Day (if you are in greeley, how about a trip to the Train Museum!) – We have an epic adventure planned on this one….
May 10 = Mother’s Day
May 14 = Dance Like a Chicken Day
May 15 = National bike to work day
May 25 = Memorial Day (we love to go to the Bolder Boulder – even if just to observe)

May is also National Bike Month and National Barbecue Month – both of which we plan on taking full advantage. For all the Graduations, print out our free Graduation card. Also, I just discovered it is national physical fitness and sports month – perfect for our “Stretch” theme!

 

Our List of “Stretch” Activities:

P.E.:

The number one thing I want to do this month is follow this weekly family workout calendar I made. May just seems to me like a get up and move kind of month.

Monday: Family Run – for us, this looks like one person running with the stroller. We shall see if it works or not…

Tuesday: Fitness Blender (a workout video website)
We will either do this stretching one (although it does cost 6.99) or this one that is free 🙂

Wednesday: Morning walk

Thursday: Bike Ride – still working on this one too since Harriet can’t quite ride by herself. Ideas?

Friday: Outside Workout – I think we will do this one.

Saturday: Morning Kids Yoga – our girls LOVE these yoga videos from Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Here is a quick printable reminder card:
May weekly workout

Head to an outdoor running track and play – races, pretend track meet events, etc.

 

Practice the girls dances for their recital (and mine!)

WATCH:

Family inspirational Sports Movies that deal with the “Final Stretch”:

Cool Runnings
Sea Biscuit
Chariots of Fire
National Velvet
The Karate Kid
A League of Their Own
may movies

 

SCIENCE:

Make all the slimes! Bouncy balls, silly putty, slime, gak, and goopy stuff (learn about the properties of polymers)

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Get this make your own chewing gum kit
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IN THE KITCHEN:

Make Pizza dough
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Make homemade saltwater taffy

Make homemade mozzarella cheese

MUSIC:

Make different kids of rubber band instruments 

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Get some instruments into the kids hands to just get a feel for them – Trombone (Trombone Shorty, etc.), etc.

ART/CRAFT:

Visit the Denver Art museum (now free for kids) to see the Joan Miro exhibit with studio time (through June 28) – “stretching” your imagination
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Make balloon string balls

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Paint Stretch Wrap watercolor paintings

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READ:

Shel Silverstien – Twistable Turnable Man
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Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Maniac Mcgee by Jerry Spinelli
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (for me)

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PLAY:

Fly a kite

Play Twister (I like this outside garden version!)
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Play with Slinkys 

BUILD:

A rubber band nail board (pre drill holes for fun hammering practice)

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Make a Sling Shot
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Some of these might be a bit of a “stretch”, but we are pretty excited to jump in and start May.

Abacus “Grow” Round Up

April: Grow

I can’t believe it is April 28th already. Time does seem to fly by these days. But, we have been doing lots of “Grow”ing around here. The theme for this month’s Abacus project was “Grow” (ABACUS is our creative home curriculum centered on a theme). It was the perfect theme for a lovely sunshine and rain kind of April. To see the whole list of projects we came up with (and resources) check out our original post, here.

First of all, we had a lovely Easter celebration – both at home, and in Denver. (Tim is missing from this photo because he was in Denver running the Easter services there)
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Just look at these two silly bunnies (they INSISTED on wearing their bunny suits to the egg hunts).
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We ended the day with a spring dinner outside in our garden. It was lovely. (At which we made these very yummy biscuits)
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We visited Baby Animal Days at Centennial Village
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We have a whole set of CD case bean sprouts growing in our window right now. The roots are now visible. Harriet is our official water-er.

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The girls and I have been planting all kinds flowers out in our garden. On days like these, it’s pretty hard to be inside.
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We grew a baby pool full of water beads. We experimented with adding food coloring to make them colored – which worked great. The girls played with them for hours and then eventually smushed them into oblivion.
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Lucy and I are about half way through The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. She absolutely loves it. Harriet does not 🙂 But that is because she is 3. Lucy has all sorts of plans for making a secret garden of her own.
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Lucy started on a Garden quilt, but quickly lost interest. She maybe cut out 6 squares. But, we have the pieces tucked away for the next rainy day.IMG_3764

I started a homemade braided rug. I have been LOVING the process. Delightfully mindless but satisfying. I am about halfway through my fabric scraps. Its going to take longer than I thought to make it the size I was hoping, but I can’t wait.


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We have a large tree growing up our dining room wall. I posted the image I compiled to make the tree if you want to use it. I tiled it and then got cheap blueprint 24X24 copies made. The girls and I used pastels and watercolors to paint it.

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grow tree
We haven’t built the growth chart I wanted to make yet, but we have built frames for some paintings and a sweet little fairy house thanks to my dad’s wood working skills. We also bought all the lumber for our garden archway project, but haven’t made any progress on the actual build. My goal is to have it put together by the time my cucumber vines need somewhere to climb.

We grew our growing crystal tree and some funny grow fish my mom got for the girls.

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We listened to lots of spring music this month –
-Our April Showers playlist

-Our new Birdie Mix

-The Secret Garden Broadway Soundtrack (which Lucy has really enjoyed because it has bits of story element that she connects with the book we are reading)
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-And Elizabeth Mitchell’s Sunny Day CD – just the sweetest kids folk music ever made
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The girls emptied out their piggy banks, we spent some time talking about the different coins and what they are worth. Then, we went to the bank and cashed the change in (23 dollars!) – learning about how banks work. Finally, we went to Target where the girls each picked out and paid for a Lego set that was in their price range. Pretty great.
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Lucy did several pages of “homework” that involved lots of measuring practice.

We are not the kind of family that worries too much about our kids being “behind.” However when it comes to coordination and “sportsy” type activities, we are pretty lacking. Harriet still can’t figure out how to pedal a tricycle so we are working on it 🙂
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We picked wild asparagus  – although not very much.

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A couple of days ago I was hurrying to finish up a commissioned painting and Tim was signed up to be the helper at Harriet’s preschool. So, I set up an easel in the middle of our garden beds and told Lucy to paint what she saw. She dug in a created the most lovely garden masterpiece. Claude Monet would have been proud. It was a peaceful session of plein air painting for both of us.

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We still want to visit a Garden center, finish our garden arch and grow chart, and hopefully paint on some flower pots. But, my what a lovely April it has been.

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“Birdie” A Curated Playlist of Spring ‘Bird’ songs

We made a playlist of “bird” songs after watching all the little birdies outside our window.

1. Surfin Bird – The Trashmen

2. Rockin’ Robin

3. Happy Working Song – Amy Adams

4. Blackbird – Sarah McLachlan

5. Norwegian Wood – Heather Nova

6. Little Bird, Little Bird – Elizabeth Mitchell

7. Birdie Brain – the Fiery Furnaces

8. I’ll Be Yr Bird – M. Ward

9. Bird on a Wire – Johnny Cash

10. Carol of the Birds – Mormon Tabernacle

11. Free Bird – Lynard Skynyrd

My Two Very Favorite Biscuit Recipes

 


There are two kinds of biscuits – ones that you put toppings on and ones that you don’t. As much as my husband would like to argue there is a third kind that comes in a can, he is wrong. This first recipe acts as a perfect vehicle for toppings – sausage gravy, salted butter and strawberry jam, maple cream (if you are so lucky), homemade apple butter, etc. In this case, I want a thick simple biscuit, served right out of the oven, split in half and slathered with whichever toppings I have on hand. In this case, the biscuit I want is my mother’s (which is adapted from Better Homes & Gardens).

Preheat oven to 450°. In a bowl stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (you can do this in the food processor if you want). Make a well in the center; add milk all at once. Stir just till dough clings together. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently for 10-12 strokes. Roll or pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter (a drinking glass works great), dipping cutter into flour between cuts (my kiddos like shaped cookie cutters). Transfer biscuits to a baking sheet. Bake in a 450° oven for 9-11 minutes or until golden on the edges. Serve warm with butter and toppings. Makes 10.


This second biscuit recipe is the kind of thing I would want to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon. If you were coming over to my house for an afternoon chat, or in need of a little extra love, I would make you these. They are buttery, salty, and crispy on the outside, and sweet and tender on the inside. They need absolutely no adornments – just eat them the way they are. They are little pillows of magic. We made two pans of these for Easter dinner this year. There wasn’t a single one left. You must eat these while still warm out of the oven. Fortunately, the prepped pan of biscuits freezes great. You can make them ahead of time and then bake when ready.

Note: This recipe is Rosa’s almost exactly except that I cut down the sugar a bit.

Ingredients

SERVINGS: MAKES 24

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces; plus 6 Tbsp. (¾ stick), melted
  • ¾ cup chilled buttermilk

 Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1½ tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and toss to coat. Work butter into flour mixture with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal with several pea-size pieces of butter remaining.
  • Using a fork, gently mix in buttermilk, then gently knead just until dough comes together (do not overmix).
  • Pinch off pieces of dough and gently roll into 1” balls; place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart (you should have about 24). If butter softens too much while you are working, chill dough until firm before baking, 15–20 minutes.
  • Bake biscuits until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with more salt (I use flaky sea salt). Serve warm.

    Recipe adapted from Rosa Pacheco, Del Posto, NYC, Photograph by Dustin Aksland – published in Bon Appetit, 2014

Spring Playlist: April Showers

This month is a great time to gather and listen to songs about rain. Wonderful music has been dedicated to these themes of storm clouds and pouring skies. Here’s a collection  featured for April.

For an even more expansive list check out Betony Coons’ spotify. It’s 35 + songs that were found by crowd-sourcing (posing the question on Facebook, “What are great songs involving rain”?)

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head • Burt Bacharach & B.J. Thomas
No Rain • Blind Melon
Singing in the Rain • Gene Kelly
Thunder Rolls • Garth Brooks
Little April Showers • from Bambi
Umbrella • Rihanna
Somewhere Over the Rainbow • Judy Garland
Riders on the Storm • The Doors
It Never Rains in Southern California • Albert Hammond & M. Hazelwood
Shelter From the Storm • Bob Dylan
November Rain • Guns N’ Roses
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
Holy Sunlight • Steve Doupolous

POEM by Spoken Word Artist Dale Fredrickson

New Growth

Through winter nights,

I brave barren heart;

slowing down finding myself in shadows,

shedding all parts within me past spent,

sitting in silence mounded by sorrows.

 

Frozen dirt stubborn,

I yearn for spring’s mysterious garden;

It’s secrets breaking through frosty harden.

 

Snowdrifts melting —

the gardener within me begins again:

 

God lives on the edges of spring’s daylight.

warming frozen dirt, breathing new life,

cultivating daring dreams, fresh insight,

building trellises where community thrives.

Dirt softens spring pushes through —

I burst with renewed joy and delight,

flourishing gardens growing within heart,

fresh gripping roots of purpose for this life,

found in this hope, sowing seeds now my part