“I feel infinite.”
And Sam and Patrick looked at me like I said the greatest thing they ever heard. Because the song was that great and because we all really paid attention to it. Five minutes of a lifetime were truly well spent, and we felt young in a good way.
-Stephen Chbosky (the perks of being a wallflower)

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I feel “infinite” right now, but I suppose you might say that I feel pretty good–as good as one might feel on the eve of yet another new year.

You see, New Year’s Eve has always made me a little sad; it’s supposed to be a big celebration, a remarkable, never-to-be-forgotten evening that, at least according to most marketing schemes, holds the magical key to changing your life. Throw a few resolutions into the mix and you’re supposed to be a New and Improved You–a small fraction of your ideal self–and all in a matter of minutes.

Rather than coming up with resolutions, I come up with a yearly slogan; I’ve been doing this for  most of my graduate school career and I find it’s just easier this way. These slogans are more a yearly mission statement of hope than a hard and fast rule to live by.  As I announced last year, 2008 was the Year of Being Bold. 2009 was the Year of Being Brilliant; 2010 was the Year of Keeping it (Whimsically) Real and last year was supposed to be the Year of Being Happily Satisfied–of being content with what was, rather than obsessing over what it should have been. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly fulfilled any of these slogans, but I have, in my own small way, tried to live with them in mind.

What does 2012 have in store for me, you might be wondering? If these past years have been about attitudes and ways of perception, this next year is going to be the Year of Purposeful Happenings. I want to act, rather than to think about and overthink things that are of little consequence. I want to write my dissertation instead of thinking about writing my dissertation. I want to wake up with purpose and do things–go to cafes that have long been on my list of places to go, visit famous places I’ve always intended to see, bake scones for breakfast because the morning stretches before me and I have nowhere to be. But most of all I want to close my computer screen for the evening and get away from the online world that, even if I derive pleasure from it sometimes, ultimately takes me away from doing many of the things that I used to find satisfying and now claim that I never have time to do because I’m always staring at this white screen…and often procrastinating my life away (blogging doesn’t count; this, I enjoy).

My time in Pennsylvania has been a good way of ushering my new slogan into the new year. The Greek and I have had a very full week, having leisurely breakfasts of custardy cornbread, baked oatmeal and scones with my grandparents and mother. We’ve gone out to eat with my father and his wife, as well as my oldest friend in the world. We drove to Morgantown to see WVU (the first two pictures of this post) and to walk around the campus and town; we also went to the lovely Fallingwater, the former home of the Kaufmann family that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in the 1930s when Mrs. Kaufmann said she wanted a small log cabin in the woods (and look at what she got! It’s the third picture of this post!).

And, of course, I’ve been happily baking away and reading my new books and cookbooks. While I’ve tried to limit my “computer time” by doing “real, non-worky” things, this break has included more work than a “break” deserves to include. I’ve done a translation for money (all for the good cause of buying my dream camera), I’ve been working on my conference paper for the upcoming MLA conference in Seattle and I’ve spent some time thinking about and jotting things down for my chapter.

Although I have yet to fully “bake” my chapter, I made some lovely scones yesterday–hearty, yet light and not particularly sweet. Their lightness stems from both the butter and the orange zest (smelling the flour mixture was heavenly;  although I don’t mean this at all in a morbid way, when I die, I want to die with the smell of oranges on my hands), while their heartiness is owed completely to the rolled oats I mixed into the dough. It’s the kind of breakfast I want to have on a weekly basis–especially when they just come out of the oven. And if my slogan comes anywhere near being fulfilled in the upcoming year, it’s only the beginning of my wished for breakfast baking bonanza.

Happy New Year to you all! May there be scones, slogans and much happiness!

Orange Oat Cream Scones with Toasted Walnuts

I first made a variant of this recipe back in 2009, right after I got my food processor. Back then I thought it was a good idea to use steel cut, rather than rolled, oats. I also used buttermilk instead of cream. While I enjoyed those scones (and so did my mom), they didn’t fly off of the plate nearly as quickly as these did.

Yields 10 large scones, which, considering you’ll immediately wish you had more, isn’t enough

Heavily adapted from Romney Steele’s My Nepenthe via Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cold butter, chopped into tiny cubes
2 cups rolled oats (I like Bob’s Extra Thick Rolled Oats)
1 orange, zested
1 1/2 cup heavy cream (for me, it took this much to moisten the dough; I would start with a cup and see what the consistency of your dough is like)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in a skillet

-Preheat the oven to 350 F.
-If using a baking sheet, line with parchment paper. If using a baking stone as I did, there’s no need to line it with anything.
-Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
-Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter; you want the consistency to be fine–the butter should look like small, floury peas. If the chunks of butter are larger than this, keep working your pastry cutter into the dough. (N.B. While I like to make everything harder on myself by using pastry cutters and doing things the old-fashioned way, you could also use a food processor for these 2 steps).
-Stir in the oats and zest.
-Now, stir in the toasted walnuts and cream until the dough is moist. If it’s overly dry and crumbly, keep adding cream in tiny increments.
-Bring the dough together with your hands, but gently–with scones, you don’t want to overwork or over-knead the dough.
-After you bring the dough together, pat it into a thick 8-inch round.
-Slice the dough, forming triangles, and lay them, with space in between (they will expand!), on a baking stone or prepared baking sheet.
-Lightly sprinkle sugar on top of the scones.
-Bake from 12-18 minutes or until the tops and bottoms are light and golden.
-Let cool slightly (they’re very crumbly after they just come out of the oven) and then savor their citrusy warmth with a hot cup of hopefully strong, flavorful coffee!

One thought on “The Comforts of Citrus and Cream and a New Year

  1. Yay! I am excited about the year of purposeful happenings! And I am also happy about the scones! I will have to add them to my repertoire:) We are all working away over here, and I am happy to say that I spent the last day of 2011 traipsing around in the sunshine, eating delicious food, and baking scones:)

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