Posted tagged ‘baking’

“I am too young to be called wise and I am too old to be called young.”

January 16, 2017

Today is winter warm. The sun is shining and the sky is pale blue. In all respects it is a pretty day.

This morning I had a burst of energy. The laundry got put away, and the next load of laundry is leaning against the cellar door. I expect I’ll wash it later. I brought the vacuum up from the cellar. I washed a few cups and glasses. I even got dressed. It has already been quite a day.

Growing up, I never learned any household skills. My mother did everything. She even made our beds. When I was first on my own and the washing machine buzzed, I had no idea why. I took out the clothes, wrung them close to being dry and put them on the line. I had an apartment my junior and senior years in college. Almost everything I ate came from a can. Dinty Moore’s Beef Stew was a favorite. It had everything: meat, potatoes, and vegetables. I ate a lot of spaghetti with jarred sauce. I also ate several meals of hot dogs and hamburgers. They are still two of my favorites. When I graduated from college, I could wash clothes and understand the buzzer. I could sort of cook. I could also teach English.

If, when I was 11 or 12, I was asked what my life would be like when I was retired, I would have had trouble answering. Being old enough to retire was way beyond my ability to imagine. Even being in my 20’s seemed really far away., but I was sure of a few things. I’d travel the world. I’d write books about my travels. My life would be exotic. Auntie Mame and I would be kindred spirits.

Okay, how’d I do? I’ve traveled the world. Though there is still so much of it to see, I’ve done well. I’ve traveled on three continents. I have lived in Africa, an amazing adventure, an exotic adventure. I haven’t written a book, but I do write. That’s sort of a half-done. I never became an Auntie Mame. She was so flamboyant I could never pull off her style. I live for comfort. I suspect Auntie Mame would be horrified with my wardrobe.

Some things I’ve learned have amazed me. Cooking and baking are two of them. Doing needlepoint and crewel are two others. Never did I see any domesticity in my future. My 12- year-old self would laugh, heartily.

 

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“All writers have this vague hope that the elves will come in the night and finish any stories.”

December 3, 2016

Winter is poking its head in the door. Last night was downright cold. This morning is warmer but is still chilly. The sun is shining but seems to serve little purpose except as scenery. I’m hanging around today though I do have an errand or two on my new list. I’m thinking I might just get to that laundry still sitting in front of the cellar door.

I’m using sticky notes for my lists. There are three notes attached to my table which conveniently is metal. The notes are a bright pink. One is a list of things to do and places to go. It looks long. Another reminds me of fairs and an open house at my potter’s  tomorrow. The last list is just a couple of gift items for Christmas presents and where I can get them. Luckily my table is big so there is plenty of room for more bright pink lists.

I figure to start making a list (yup, another one) of the cookies and candy I want to make for Christmas and the ingredients I need. Some traditions still hold. I’ll make fudge for my sister, orange cookies for Clare and if I have time, toffee for Moe and Rod. I’ll also pick some other cookies yet to be decided. I like to try new cookies year by year.

I sometimes wish The Elves and the Shoemaker was real. It would be so neat to wake up and have everything done. I’d be happy to leave a list for the elves. I have plenty I’m willing to share. While they’re at it, they might just do my laundry.

“The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”

August 11, 2016

Here I am again, inside the house retreating from the heat. Today will be in the high 80’s on the cape and the 90’s in Boston and north of Boston. My friend Bill sent me the weather from Bolgatanga, Ghana where it will be cooler than here and rainy. What’s with that, cooler in Africa than here?

I could do a couple of errands today, but I won’t. I’m staying housebound by choice. I have food and drink, a semi-full larder, so I’ll be content and cool. I’m even considering baking something.

I hit a wall in watching the Olympics so last night I hunted for something else. It ended up being Cupcake Wars. I traded one boring program for a really boring program, but I’m guessing those cupcakes inspired me to think about baking today. This morning I’ve already watched women’s water polo. That wall is getting closer.

Yesterday I did two loads of laundry. They by themselves are not remarkable, but, for once, I didn’t leave any laundry in the dryer. I am known for leaving laundry in the dryer for up to a week. The clothes come out really wrinkled, but I don’t care.

Books are on the table in front of me as is the TV remote. They represent the day’s diversions, things to keep me busy, things to help the day pass.

When I was a kid, I’d be bored by the middle of August. I had done all the fun things several times, and they had begun to lose their luster. The afternoons were often too hot to do much. I remember being at the park and sitting in the shade. We played some checkers at the table and worked gimp. I remember painting a tray for my mother. We couldn’t play softball. Little kids couldn’t use the slide and seesaw because of the heat. The metal slide would have burned the backs of their legs. August is always hot and humid.

Every month I get a report from my electric company on my usage and how it compares to my neighbors’ usage. My sister in Colorado happened to mention her report to me as her husband, Rod, showed her they were the highest in the neighborhood. I said mine was too. We both decided we didn’t care. We want to live comfortably: cool in summer and warm in winter. I’m sending my next one to Rod so he’ll see they are not alone.

Tonight after midnight the Perseids meteor shower will begin, but the best viewing is after 1 AM or even later. There will be an unusually high number of meteors tonight anywhere from 160 to 200 meteors per hour. The suggestion is to lie on your back and look straight up. Drinking caffein to stay awake was another suggestion. I’m thinking iced coffee.

“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”

December 15, 2015

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the day is quite warm. I’m thinking winter has forgotten to come. Not that I’m complaining, but there is a certain expectation here in New England about Christmas and winter and maybe even snow.

My mother was always the architect of Christmas. She bought the gifts, did all the baking, trimmed the tree and decorated the house. My father did his best. He’d help my mother wrap, do the outside lights and put the tree in the stand. He used to do tree lights, but one year they were so tangled he refused to hang them. He just threw them on the floor and sat down. No one wanted to remind him he had put the lights away the year before. The lights then became my responsibility. I was quite fussy about where they were hung, and I tried to vary the colors of the bulbs so same colors wouldn’t be together. My father also helped by being the official taster of Christmas goodies. He did love his sweets. He knew he could count on having sugar cookies, her peanut butter balls, a pie or two, and some different cookies, whatever struck my mother’s fancy from a magazine or a cookbook. I remember her Auntie Mary’s, a chocolate cookie with a cream in the middle.

I began baking and bringing the goodies to my mother’s. I made fudge which was grainy and was my father’s favorite. I made my grandmother’s date nut bread and one year I made orange cookies. My mother liked them so much she hid several so they’d be some left just for her. My English toffee always disappeared quickly.

One year my sister and her family from Colorado came for Christmas. She bought goodies including whoopie pies, one of our all time favorites. What was amazing and extraordinary was she brought spritz cookies because my mother always made them when we kids. She’d add coloring to the dough and we’d have white, red and green cookies. I also made spritz cookies for the same reason. We were all going to be together for Christmas for the first time in many years and spritz cookies was a connector to our childhood Christmases. My mother remembered those years, and she too made spritz cookies. The three of us through those cookies celebrated the shared memories of Christmases past.

“A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.”

September 21, 2015

Last night was cold, not chilly but downright cold. This week will be cool every day and cold at night, hints of the season to come. My windows were all shut last night, and I was warm and cozy huddled under the blankets. Today I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt. I can’t remember the last time I wore one.

My lawn is cluttered with fallen leaves and bunches of pine needles. The flowers are just about gone, their colors fading away. I always miss color the most when winter comes. It is a drab season. Christmas is winter’s only salvation. It brings light and color back but only for a short while, never long enough. Last year the thought of winter’s darkness returning was too much so I decided to keep color alive. I left two strands of colored lights wrapped around the deck rail. They have been lit every night since Christmas, and every night I marvel at the colors and how brightly they shine. It is the one spot winter doesn’t dim.

I’m getting the urge to bake, something I haven’t done in a while. I snip recipes and save them in a bulging folder. The recipes are in no order so I go through them one at a time looking for the perfect recipe for my mood or for the occasion. My friend is coming over tomorrow afternoon for a few drinks and I’ll make a couple of appetizers. I have been through the file and have three possibilities. I’m leaning towards roasted figs and prosciutto as one of them then maybe a charcuterie as the second. I bought a honeycomb a bit back and I think it would be perfect with the meat and the cheese. I guess I’ve made my choices. Next I’ll make my list.

I enjoy making dishes I’ve never made before. I’ve been lucky: nobody has ever spit any out or been rushed to the hospital. Most times the food disappears, and many times I get asked for the recipes. I always give them. I consider that the highest of compliments.

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”

August 10, 2012

The morning is dark and humid with thunder and lightning storms possible tonight and tomorrow. Everything is still and quiet. Today is a favorite sort of morning. From the deck, I can even smell the ocean.

I clip recipes from newspapers, magazines and even grocery flyers. I keep them in a folder bursting at the seams. Periodically, while watching TV, I go through the folder looking for something new to try. I make piles of the possibles: appetizers, meats, sides and desserts. This summer I’ve tried different appetizers and just about every one of them was a keeper. It’s fun for me to read the ingredients and imagine how the food will taste and how well dishes will go together. I’m going to be working on movie night’s dinner today.

While growing up I was never interested in anything having to do with cooking or sewing or any sort of handwork like knitting or crocheting, and my ineptitude was of little concern or consequence. My mother did it for me; however, that changed when I got to college. I had to be inventive. I learned solutions for all sorts of problems. Lose a button? Use a stapler. A hem falling? Use tape. Need to make dinner? Open a can, and I was not alone in a total lack of housewifery skills. My friends shared the same ineptitudes as I did and none of us really cared.

The first time I ever did any real baking was at Christmas time in Ghana. I made cookies. They were delicious so I expected a parade celebrating my new skill, but, alas, there wasn’t one. I had to be content with eating and sharing the cookies. The next year I even made pies for Thanksgiving, paw paw pies. I made my own crust for the very first time and rolled it out using a beer bottle, a Star beer bottle, a make-do innovation. The pies were delicious. I was hooked on baking. It seemed I had a hidden talent now brought to light by circumstances like no super-market.

It’s been a long time since then, and I have honed my cooking and baking skills. I can make almost anything and make it well. I love trying new recipes and have enough confidence to make them for company. As for the other housewifery skills, I still need a stapler and tape for those unexpected sewing problems. They’re in my sewing basket, my very large sewing basket.

Marge, it’s 3 AM. Shouldn’t you be baking?”

July 16, 2012

The day is breezy and sunny. It’s also warm and will stay that way through tomorrow when the high is predicted to be 88˚. Last night we had rain. The drops started slowly around one. I know that because that’s when I went upstairs to bed and that’s when I found the dead mouse in my room. Earlier I had heard the ruckus and knew Maddie was the cause of the noise. It didn’t occur to me she was playing with a mouse. That’s the third one in a little over a week. There must be a small welcome mat outside the cellar walls. I wrapped the deceased in paper and took it outside. That’s when I felt the rain. I could also smell the air, the smell of the rain hitting the hot pavement. I stood for a moment enjoying the rain then came back inside and went back to bed in the cool house. I fell asleep right away.

When I was a kid, I never cooked anything. I wasn’t interested in the kitchen except to sit down to dinner. For lunch sometimes, I’d make a bologna sandwich, but I always cut the meat a bit lopsided, thin on one side and thick on the other. I’d add hot peppers to give the bologna a bit of a zing. It was always mustard on my bologna. Even in college, when I had an apartment, I didn’t do much cooking. I became quite adept at opening Dinty Moore’s beef stew. My roommate actually cooked meals for us with meat, potatoes and a vegetable. I was amazed.

I made sugar cookies for Christmas when I was in Ghana; they were traditional in my family, and I needed a connection to home my first Christmas away. I was hesitant as I had a total lack of baking skills, but I had nothing to lose so I gave those cookies a try. Despite my having to sift out the bugs and use a beer bottle as a rolling-pin, those cookies were perfect and they were delicious. They brought Christmas to me.

After that no recipe fazed me. When I got home, I was willing to try anything, even chicken Kiev. After all, I had made sugar cookies looking like bells and reindeer in a small oven in Ghana so I knew I could make anything.