I’ll admit it. Math was never my best subject in school. What can I say? I’m very right-brained. Math homework would stress me out and sometimes make me cry or give me a stomach ache. So, I find it humorous that one of my favorite things to do as an adult is Sudoku puzzles.
I got hooked on Sudoku a few years ago when I spent a very rainy week at a cottage in Door County. Since I couldn’t get out and go hiking, I rummaged through the stack of games they had. And since it’s kind of hard to play Monopoly with the dog, I thought I’d just “try” this Sudoku wooden puzzle game. The booklet gives you different puzzles to solve by placing certain tiles in the grid and you figure out the rest. I think most people understand the concept of how to solve Sudoku, so I won’t bore you with those details.
I now own my own wooden Sudoku puzzle board and I have to say I’m addicted. I literally can sit and play for hours on a snowy weekend or on a weeknight before I go to bed. It’s challenging without being aggravating, and I love the feeling of victory I get for solving it without having to look up any “clues” on the solution page in the back of the booklet.
If you have a math phobia, like I did, go ahead and give Sudoku a try. You might be surprised at how much fun it is.
A dear friend of mine always gives me a thoughtful gift for Christmas each year. This year she gave me a gift card to Wild Birds Unlimited. She knows I’m a big birder and Wild Birds is one of my favorite shops. I decided to use it to buy “gourmet” bird seed. It is the freshest, fruitiest, nuttiest mix of goodness to attract all sorts of backyard birds.
Boy, does it ever work. In less than a half hour, I had birds flocking to the feeder. And within two hours I had five pairs of cardinals, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, juncos, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, sparrows AND my red bellied woodpecker that I haven’t seen since last winter. I’m still waiting for the evening grosbeaks to show up. That will completely make my year if they do. A tufted titmouse would also be a treat.
There is nothing I love more on a cold January Sunday than to sit at my window in my fuzzy pajamas and blanket and watch the birds at the feeder. My binoculars, bird book and cup of tea are always close at hand. Even though I still have Christmas decorations to take down, laundry to do and the kitchen floor to mop, I can’t help feeling that those things all can wait. Having a little quiet time with the birds is all I need to be doing at this moment.
I know lots of people have holiday cookie baking parties this time of year. It is tradition and a lot of fun. I’ve had a few myself but over the past few years I have changed it up and have been hosting a holiday pie baking party. It’s for my friends who want to try new recipe and have someone else taste test it.
This year I tried a pie that I’ve eaten before but have never made which is apple cranberry. It looked beautifu,l but it didn’t taste as good as I hoped. If I decide to make it again I will add about another 1/8-1/4 cup of sugar. It was just a little too tart for me. I’m sharing the recipe with you so you can try it this year and see what you think.
4 lb. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and
1 1/2 cups cranberries
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Sugar for sprinkling
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.
To make the filling, in a large bowl, stir together the apples, cranberries, crystallized ginger, sugar, salt, flour and lemon juice. Transfer to the pie shell.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough disk into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Using a lattice cutter according to the manufacturer's instructions, cut out a lattice top. Keep the dough on the lattice cutter and freeze for 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the freezer and carefully invert the lattice onto the filling. Tuck the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and press to seal. Sprinkle the top with sugar.
Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hour, covering the edges with aluminum foil if they begin to get too dark. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Serves 8.