life, in con­cen­trated form

-- August 13th, 2014 --
ice bag

It’s the pic­ture that will make us laugh in deep­est Feb­ru­ary, the pic­ture that will sum up Sum­mer 2014, the one that spells our fam­ily in a nut­shell (and I mean that) and keeps us look­ing for­ward to every time we have the chance to be together.

You know those fam­ily sto­ries where you can’t really tell truth from fic­tion any­more?  This is one of them.  “The Tall Tale of the Ice Bag.”  Yes, it has our name in the han­dle (and also in the inside of the bag, but that’s not impor­tant).  It’s one of the LL Bean bags we bought years ago in Maine at the out­let store, a store full of bags with mis­taken mono­grams, mis­taken names, or just mono­grams and names of peo­ple who for­got to pick up their orders.  I think this one says “Dylan.”  Did John give it to Joel?  Did Joel expe­ri­ence an under­stand­able moment of bag envy and sim­ply walk off with it?  The mat­ter has been thrashed out in every pos­si­ble way, with both men cling­ing in a com­pletely incom­pre­hen­si­ble way to this piece of canvas.

Finally, with the wave of a Sharpie, Joel solved the mys­tery once and for all.

Molly, in the back­ground, smiled her approval.

This was our Sun­day, a per­fect scram­bled egg-bacon brunch with my sister’s fam­ily, Jill her­self com­ing armed with her own “Awe­some Blue­berry Muffins.”  They were.

blueberry muffins jill

Jill’s Awe­some Blue­berry Muffins

(makes 16 )

3 cups/378g plain flour

1 tbsp bak­ing powder

1/2 tsp bak­ing soda

pinch salt

1 cup/200g white sugar

4 oz/113g butter

zest of 2 lemons

2 tbsps veg­etable oil

2 eggs

1 cup/250ml sour cream or creme fraiche

1/2 cup/125ml milk

1 tsp lemon extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the first four ingre­di­ents with a fork.  In a large bowl, with an elec­tric mixer, cream the but­ter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the zest and oil and beat until mixed.  Add the eggs one at a time, beat­ing between each.  Stir in the sour cream. milk and extracts until well-mixed.

Pour half the dry mix­ture into the wet and fold just until mixed.  Add the sec­ond half of the dry mix­ture and stir gen­tly until just mixed.  Fold in the blue­ber­ries and spoon into muf­fin tins lined with muf­fin paper.

Bake at 375F/190C for about 30 min­utes, until browned.

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Can you tell by the muf­fin photo that we had Avery back for the week­end?  What a joy it was, after a day of com­pli­cated travel for her (yes, 42nd Street and “Grand Cen­tral” are the same stop on the sub­way; this is not an obvi­ous thing) and lots of remote advice from John, to pick her up in nearby Sey­mour, Con­necti­cut, a charm­ing lit­tle ham­let con­tain­ing a…