Roses in Sunshine 4

Roses in sunshine with drama filter

This is the fourth and final edit of the roses. I didn’t notice what was happening with the sky until I was playing with some of the darker filters. I think it brings out some interesting features in the sky as well as the petals.

I joined the One Four Challenge, in which participants show four different edits of the same photo over four weeks. Alternatively, you can decide to take four versions of the image at the time of shooting.

Here is the third edit of my photo of the roses.

Roses in sunshine edit 3 vintage je t'aime

The second week’s is here.

Roses in monochrome

And this is the original.

Roses and bud in sunshine

Things That Are Rough: Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge


Here’s my entry for Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Things That Are Rough. Some textured bark on a pine tree.

Rough pile of old icy snow

What was once an inviting, fluffy mountain of snow is now a dirty pile of chopped ice. It melts a little each day but freezes again at night. Try to play on this and you’ll slip, the rough chunks of ice scratching your hand as you brace your fall.

Cactus and yellow flowers in New Jersey

I featured this photo of the catci in a recent post about a trip to a rose garden last summer. Thanks to my friend Maria F., I now know their name: Opuntia humifusa. Thanks, Maria!

Bee and pollen on thistle

Here’s a very happy bee on a pointy thistle.

Note scratched into the paint on an old door

This is rough on an emotional level. When I read the note that was scratched into the painted-over glass windows on a padlocked door to an abandoned house, I couldn’t help but wonder about the circumstances. More photos and speculation in this post from several months ago.

Roses in Sunshine 3

Roses in sunshine edit 3 vintage je t'aime

Here is the third edit of my photo of the roses. I joined the One Four Challenge, in which participants show four different edits of the same photo over four weeks. Alternatively, you can decide to take four versions of the image at the time of shooting.

Last week’s is here.

Roses in monochrome

And this is the original.

Roses and bud in sunshine

Things That Are Smooth: Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge

Rose petals

Here’s my entry for Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Things That Are Smooth. As a recent lucky recipient of some roses, I enjoyed their look, scent, and the soft smoothness of the petals.

Different colors of fiestaware

This image shows some of my everyday dishes, which are Fiestaware. Besides the beautiful range of available colors, I love the feel of these dishes–smooth and heavy, they are sturdy and don’t chip very easily. Plus, I love Fiestaware because it’s an American classic. It’s been around since the 1930s, it’s widely available today, and the manufacturer, Homer Laughlin China Company, started in 1871. I would love to visit them someday in Newell, West Virginia, for a factory tour and a look around the company museum and store.

With help from The Bread Kitchen's video, I did a 5-strand braid!

This was my first attempt at making my own challah. I love working with bread dough, and often find that “kneading until smooth” turns out to be quite a lot of work indeed.

golden delicious, pinata, granny smith, opal, pink lady, gala apples
From top left, Golden Delicious, Pinata, Granny Smith, Opal, Pink Lady, Gala apples

This collection of smooth apples was part of a tasting that we did at home, when it seemed that the grocery store had too many varieties to keep track of. They were all pretty yummy.

Photo Challenge: Seasons

icicles, bush, snow, sunshine
This week, the Daily Post asked to see our interpretation of the weather where we live. We could also represent the season, or phase, of life that we feel right now. My photo represents both because it lets me show that while the trees in my world are still firmly in winter’s grip, the sun is shining and it’s almost time for winter to melt away for good.

I’m feeling ready for spring, so maybe I’m showing my idealized version of my current weather. Truth is, we’re not quite that close to spring. There are still plenty of chilly, rainy grey days ahead. This year has been warmer than usual, so most of our snow has come to us in the form of very cold rain. That doesn’t have quite the charm as a pretty dusting of powder. This photo is actually from last year. I haven’t seen many icicles this winter. It sure has been a weird one.

We got our huge blizzard just under a month ago, which I took a walk through. The next day was bright and sunny, as well as a week later when I went outside to check the progress on the melting snow. Earlier this month there was a very dramatic and pretty snowstorm that provided some nice winter scenes. But otherwise, it’s been pretty drab and chilly.

All That Remains

Shadow of ranunculus flower

My springtime friend, lovely ranunculus. Even your shadow was enticing. But not just to my camera and me, to the aphids as well.

I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late. There was no hope of undoing what had so swiftly taken place. Your second bud would never know the warm sun on its open face.

I looked at you, but I did not see. I gave you water but not what you really needed. I brought you home, and I let you down.

Now all that remains is a shadow of a memory.

Roses in Sunshine 2

Roses in monochrome

This is a different edit of a photo that I posted last week. After seeing Cee’s intriguing shots, I was inspired to join the One Four Challenge, in which participants show four different edits of the same photo over four weeks. Alternatively, you can decide to take four versions of the image at the time of shooting.

Here is the original below, which I posted last week. Funny thing is that I had also made several other edits to this image last week, with the intention of posting the alternate versions when I got around to it. So this challenge is the perfect motivation.

Roses and bud in sunshine
original image

Maamoul Cookie Adventures

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Maamoul filled with dates and walnuts

Thanks to a post on Lana’s blog Once Upon A Spice, I was introduced to a shortbread-style Middle Eastern cookie called maamoul. This was a guest post by Lynn at Lynz Real Cooking, whose fascinating blog provides recipes and stories of her life in the Middle East raising 9 kids. The pictures were lovely and the recipe sounded delicious. Also, I was intrigued by the idea of using a wooden mold to form the cookies (after seeing someone use a similar tool on the Great British Bake Off).

I was so curious about these cookies and did a little research. There seem to be many spellings of the cookie as well as many variations of the basic recipe. (Lynn spells her recipe “mamul,” and in general I found the most common spelling to be “maamoul,” so that’s what I went with). I was sold–this was something I had to try to make.

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Course semolina, fine semolina, and date paste

I found a specialty grocery store and talked to elderly gentleman behind the counter about what I was looking for. Did he have any molds, can he show me where the semolina is, oh and also the rose and orange blossom waters? See, I had found this recipe online and wanted to give it a try. He gave me half a smile and suggested that I might be interested in one of the many brands of maamoul sold in boxes, already made and imported.

“No, thanks,” I replied, and he came out from behind the counter.

He stopped in front of the semolina and asked if I wanted course or fine, holding one in  each of his hands. I said I couldn’t remember and started to fumble with my phone.

“I know it’s part flour and part semolina, but I don’t know which one,” I trailed off as I looked for Lana’s post.

“No flour, you don’t use flour in maamoul,” he said, “usually, you use part course and part fine semolina.” I replied that I had remembered seeing a different recipe that called for that, so maybe I’d start with that one and then figure out the other. I took the two bags from him.

“What are you filling them with?” he asked. I said maybe some with dates and some with walnuts, recalling some of the other recipes I had researched.

“How are you going to do the dates?” he asked.

“Um, chop them up I guess?” I replied. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I started feeling a little self conscious. “Maybe the food processor?”

“No,” he said, handing me another package, “you need this: date paste. It’s ground up dates used for baking, they are ground very fine, and this is what we use in maamoul.” I thanked him for his advice, and appreciated what felt like insider information. I also picked up some rose water and orange blossom water. Unfortunately, they did not have molds, but I could figure something else out.

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Date paste balls and the walnut filling

We chatted some more and he said that he’s Lebanese. I realized that was why his recipe tips sounded familiar–because the recipe that had stuck out in my mind, one that I had bookmarked, was from a website called When I made my first version of maamoul, I used a combination of this recipe and the one in this video, posted by Laila’s kitchen.

Date paste filling for mamoul
Put the ball on the flattened dough

Watching the video was a great help because I could see what the texture of the dough should look like at each stage, and it was helpful to watch the cookies being filled. I did cut the rose and orange blossom water by more than half in the dough because the flavors were quite strong, and it’s not something that we’ve had before. I replaced it with orange juice when I mixed up the walnut filling.

My family liked the walnut-filled cookies, but the dates were a hard sell. I’m pretty much the only dates fan around here, but I shared with some friends, who really enjoyed them.

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Seal up the dough then press into the mold

Now, here’s an example of me falling into the trap of over-researching and over-thinking to the point where I start confusing myself. I had read lots of recipes, and I can’t say whether I read conflicting information on different sites, or whether I just got it confused in my own head, but I knew there was something about the shape of the cookie corresponding to the filling. As mamaslebanesekitchen explains:

Maamoul fillings can include dates, walnuts, pistachio, or a combination of both or other nuts. Traditionally, maamoul with dates (also called maamoul bi siwa) is made with a round shaped mold, and maamoul with nuts with an elongated shape mold.  Only nuts-filled maamoul gets sprinkled with powdered sugar. Dates-filled maamoul is baked slightly longer to get light brown cookies, whereas nuts-filled maamoul is removed from the oven at the slightest hint of browning.

So I followed the guidelines for the shapes, using a round plastic play-doh cap as my mold, and then shaping the other filling by hand. At some point while the first batch was in the oven, I decided to skim the recipe again and realized I had gotten the fillings and shapes switched. So for the subsequent batches, I followed the shape/filling combos above. This elegant system of the cookie shape indicating the filling inside was messed up from the start, haha. It was a bit of a gamble as to what kind of cookie you were biting into (luckily I liked both). But since I had read so many different variations on the recipe, I told myself that perhaps there is no hard and fast rule about the shape/filling relationship.

Maamoul cookies with powdered sugar
Executive decision to sugar them all

I knowingly decided, however, to break the rules and sprinkle powdered sugar on all of them.

Here are the results, one more time, of the recipe adapted from mamaslebanesekitchen and Laila’s kitchen.

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Maamoul filled with dates and also walnuts…but which is which?

And back to Lana’s post of Lynn’s recipe, which started it all. I was eager to make these cookies, too. They were delicious, and went over so well with the family. I ran out of walnuts for the filling so I chopped up some pecans as well (my favorite nut, yum!). Since I had leftover of both course and fine semolina, I used the course, which adds a little bit of texture to what is similar to a shortbread-style cookie. It’s an excellent combination. I did add a tiny bit of the rose and orange blossom water, but not too much. Just enough for a little hint of the flavor.

Lynn’s mamul recipe, filled with walnuts and pecans

Overall, this maamoul adventure was a lot of fun. Thank you to Lana and to Lynn for teaching me about something new! Without your posts, I would have never known of this new cookie to research and bake. And, of course, eat! I tend to bake my way through the bleak winter days, and this was a perfectly delicious distraction. So thank you again, ladies!!