It’s Puzzling

Before I get into today’s topic, I’ve got a couple of quick updates regarding my previous post. First off, I made the honey butter a couple of days ago and it is epic. Since mentioning it to a few people who asked for the recipe, I figured it would just be easier to share it with everyone. This recipe was given to me by my colleague/friend Roberta though she can’t recall where she got it from. Warning – just reading this recipe will make you gain 10lbs:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 lb (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, cream, and honey in a saucepan, then place over medium-high heat on your stovetop. Cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Place the softened butter in your blender or food processor. Pour the hot sugar and cream mixture over the butter, then blend or pulse until well-mixed. Add the vanilla extract, then blend again. Pour the finished honey butter spread into airtight containers. (The amount fills two pint-sized mason jars plus one half-pint jar almost exactly.) Keep refrigerated. The honey butter will stay fresh in the fridge for about 6 weeks, or a few months if stored in the freezer.

Spread on toast or a cut up apple and voilà, the most delicious treat ever. I think it would also be fab on grilled peaches. You can probably spread it on shoe leather and it would still taste delicious.

And speaking of toast, I finished my loaf of sourdough yesterday and since I’m not baking again til tomorrow, I had a slice of “regular” sourdough this morning. I’m not going to name names but this store-bought sourdough has always been my favorite and it’s made locally so all good, right? Well, it was beyond boring. And bland. And didn’t hold a candle to my homemade sourdough. I have to admit, I was surprised at the difference between the two. This just reconfirms that I will continue to bake my own bread from here on out. For the bread I’m doing this week, I’ll be using my ridiculous $13.95 flour. Will report back on how it turns out compared to the previous loaf.

I will now move on to today’s topic: puzzles! For those of you who have been reading snugandbee, you know that I love doing jigsaw puzzles. I finished another 1,000 piece puzzle on Sunday. I like to keep the completed puzzle out for a couple of days to enjoy before taking it apart and putting it back in the box. Here’s the evidence:

This particular puzzle of the man-made wonders of the world was really fun because I had visited so many of them… Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Coliseum in Rome, Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, Stonehenge and Big Ben in England, Torii gate in Japan, Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Opera House in Sydney, Taj Mahal in India and of course (almost) all the ones in the U.S. Some were unfamiliar to me (must research) and I still need to go to Egypt and Easter Island…. #travelgoals

My love of doing puzzles started in the 6th grade because of Miss Levitt, my teacher (not sure if I’m spelling her name correctly). Miss Levitt was one of the cool teachers – she was tall with long blond hair and everyone liked her. Her classroom walls were decorated with jigsaw puzzles that she had done. That was also the same year that E.T. came out in the theaters and our family got a big puzzle of the image of E.T. hiding in Gertie’s closet amongst all of her stuffed animals. I remember it took us several days or maybe a week to complete. Then we flipped it over, glued paper to the back to keep it together and then delivered it to Miss Levitt (I think one of the corners fell off in transit). She then hung our puzzle on the wall, alongside all the others. I always thought this was one of the coolest ideas – decorating a room with completed puzzles. Needless to say, I was hooked.

One of the reasons I love doing puzzles is that it keeps my brain engaged and active in a good way – and it’s definitely better than watching TV. I’ve set up a “puzzling station” here in Carmel with all the pieces on a card table and then the assembly takes place on a separate table:

And of course I’ve developed my own method for doing puzzles. Nothing earth-shattering, mind you, but it’s efficient and it works for me. First off, I don’t dump all the pieces out at once – I take out a maybe 75-100 pieces at a time. This makes it easier to sort through them, turn them right side up and search for edge pieces. By the time I finish this, I usually have at least 90% of the edge pieces put aside. Then I can put together the frame.

From this point, assembly depends on the image of the puzzle. Common colors or text or whatever it is that helps me sort through the pieces. While I’m sitting at the assembly table, I will rotate the card table every so often so I can see all the pieces better. There’s always a sense of satisfaction when I hone in on the piece I need for a particular section. And I like to give the piece an extra tap (double tap!!) when I fit it into the puzzle.

When I open a new puzzle that’s never been done, I get excited if I find that a couple of pieces have stuck together. It’s like a little bonus – not having to put those two pieces together. But inheriting a puzzle is different since more often that not, the puzzle has simply been folded up and put back in the box so there are huge chunks that are already assembled. This is NOT okay and I make a point to break up all the pieces. Seriously, what’s the point of doing a puzzle if it’s already been done? super lame.

Anyway, that’s my treatise on puzzles. I’m now off to Pilgrim’s Way bookstore here in town to pick up a new 1,000 piece puzzle that they had in the window. It’s called The Rocky Mountains by an American artist named Charley Harper. I’ll be looking forward to an afternoon of puzzling and making bread followed by a Zoom Cinco de Mayo get-together tonight complete with margaritas, chips and salsa – can’t complain.

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