Monday, February 2, 2015

Work, work, work,

     Greetings all! How I have missed you! (Really, I have. I'm not just being polite.) Today was the first day of week three of my new job as an activities aide at an assisted living facility some towns away from mine. My ladies and gentlemen keep me moving and shaking, let me tell you! I think I've done more exercise in the last three weeks than I have in the last three months, and that's not counting the running back and forth across the units. As an activities person, I have been tasked with coming up with activities both interesting and thought-provoking, as my residents ages span several decades, and not all are elderly. (Very few, actually.) Innovative and crafty I may be, but I'm having trouble finding just the right thing to draw people into my groups. I've noticed my 'Altered Book Journal' post seems pretty popular, so I think I'll be shopping for some books at my local Salvation Army so we can cut, glue, paint and paste as our artistic little hearts desire. Tomorrow I'm introducing my residents to Dream Catchers. Well, the crafting of, anyway. Most of them already know what they are. Any suggestions from my readers will be most welcome. I'd love to hear what all of you think. In the meantime...a bit about the history and legend of the Dream Catcher, and a link to make your own...followed by cookies. Because cookies.

The dream net has been made
For many generations
Where spirit dreams have played.
Hung above the cradle board,
Or in the lodge up high,
The dream net catches bad dreams,
While good dreams slip on by.
Bad dreams become entangled
Among the sinew thread.
Good dreams slip through the center hole,
While you dream upon your bed.
This is an ancient legend,
Since dreams will never cease,
Hang this dream net above your bed,
Dream on, and be at peace.

The Ojibwe people have an ancient legend about the origin of the dreamcatcher. Storytellers speak of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; she took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America and it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants. The dreamcatchers would filter out all bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter our mind. Once the sun rises, all bad dreams just disappear.

Long ago when the word was sound, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider picked up the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life, how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and on to adulthood. Finally we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.

But, Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, in each time of life there are many forces, some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they'll steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you. So these forces can help, or can interfere with the harmony of Nature. While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web.

When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, making good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the great spirit, the web will filter your good ideas and the bad ones will be trapped and will not pass.

For information on making your own, visit

And now.....COOKIES:

Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies

  1. 3/4 cup raw hazelnuts
  2. 3/4 cup sugar
  3. 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  4. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  6. Pinch of ground cloves
  7. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  8. 2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  9. 3 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
  10. 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and position a rack in the center. Spread 1/4 cup of the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 15 minutes, until the skins blister. Transfer the hazelnuts to a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Finely chop the hazelnuts.
  2. In a food processor, finely grind the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Add the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar and pulse to combine. Add 2 sticks of the butter and pulse until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Pat the dough into two 8-inch disks, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  3. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough to a 10-inch round, 1/4 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out rounds as closely together as possible. Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Gather the scraps from both batches and pat into a disk. Chill for about 15 minutes, then cut out a few more cookies. Don't use the dough scraps again.
  4. Bake the cookies 1 sheet at a time for about 20 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly colored but the tops are still pale. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack to let the cookies cool.
  5. In a medium saucepan, melt the milk and semisweet chocolate with the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over very low heat, whisking until smooth. Transfer the chocolate sauce to a medium bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn half of the cookies bottom side up. Spoon a small dollop of the chocolate in the center of each cookie. Dip the remaining cookies halfway into the chocolate and sandwich over the bottoms, pressing to seal. Sprinkle the chopped toasted hazelnuts on the chocolate and let the sandwich cookies stand for about 30 minutes, until the chocolate is set.