Well That Didn’t Work . . . or Did It?

18 04 2018

I love to cook.  I am really good at it. That does not mean that every single thing I attempt to make turns out like I thought it would.  Anyone who’s done more than open a box or a can will, I’ll bet, know just what I’m talking about. 

One of the things that makes me a good cook is my ability to handle these “how’d that happen” moments and turn out some delicious, if not as advertised, dish. A pie filling that refuses to thicken gets spooned into glasses and, with a few flourishes, becomes parfait. Potatoes that were to be parboiled to fold into a cream sauce fall apart, so become an extraordinarily rich mash.  As long as the ingredients are good, with careful mixing and a little inspiration, the result will be tasty.

Tomorrow, I will cook dinner for my husband and our friend  – well, others might call him my ex-husband, as we were, in fact, married for a short while, some almost forty years. You see, when we first met, the two of us thought we’d make a fine married couple, but the mixture was not quite right. We could have thrown the whole thing away, but we had good ingredients – mutual respect, shared ethics, and love for each other – so we made the most wonderful friendship, instead.

Sometimes when things don’t work out the way we thought they would, they turn out just fine.

 

 

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Who Cares?

11 04 2018

How often have you heard someone who is blissfully happy described as having “not a care in the world?”

It does sound lovely, but I think it is a lie.

I guess you could say I am a worrier.

 I fret over whether or not my mother is eating enough good food (she is.)

 I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how my friend’s medical treatment is working (it is.) 

I wonder whether my colleague’s partner is treating her well (he is.)

Hell, I even listen HARD to my guinea pigs, if I even suspect I detect a wheeze (they’re fine.)

I worry.

Or to put it another way, I care. 

What a desolate existence it would be to have not a care in the world.  How empty would my heart be if it did not ache a little when a friend is hurting, if it did not beat a little faster when one shares good news, if it did not swell with happiness just because these people are in my life?

How wonderful it is to have all these worries  cares in my world. Yes, I care and that makes me blissfully happy.

Now, call me when you get home, so I know you are safe!

You look a little thin. Are you sure you’re getting enough to eat? Here, have some more!





Not-So-Fair-Weather Friends

4 04 2018

We grew up next-door.

We had, I thought, grown to simply take each other for granted.

I was wrong.

You watched me simply grow tall while you grew strong. 

Today, when Mother Nature raged with winds that threatened to rip me from my bed, you said, “Reach out to me.  I will help you hold your ground.”

Thank you for being my friend, in spite of my inattention to our relationship.  We – quite literally – share common ground. I will never forget.

Thank you to my dear friends for all the times you have reached out to help keep me grounded, to prevent me flying off out of control, to steady my footing.  What strength you have.  I am grateful.





Growing Pains

28 03 2018

“You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”

Nope.  If my bed is lumpy, the covers too short, or the pillows not fluffy, I will NOT just try to make the best of it.  I will just get up and fix it.

So many times, we are bombarded with the (wrong) idea that to change our minds about anything is to be wishy-washy, fickle, or even – oh, what a nasty word – hypocritical!

Small doses of flipping our opinion switch either actively or just setting it to “mute,” self-denial in the face of self-destruction, are understandable.  I’ll bet anyone who’d judge us for those must be one lucky bastard to have never been faced with trying to explain to Uncle Fred that you no longer eat animal protein, while sitting, for the fortieth year in a row, at the family Thanksgiving table! We all get a pass on a few of these small swallow-hard-and-smile moments.

Sometimes, though, there are bigger moments – ones  where we realize that some big thing we believed to be true or right or good or false or wrong or bad is just the opposite.  Whether it’s by life experience, the coming to light of important new information, or actually tasting a Brussels sprout, instead of insisting that our a priori knowledge warrants hatred, we discover that we don’t know everything we thought we did. 

When this happens, it scares us a little.  What else don’t we know?

That’s GREAT!

Curiosity and questioning lead to more knowing about stuff and the more we know about stuff, the better able we are to cope with stuff. Who doesn’t think we could all use a little more ability to cope? There is, after all, a lot of stuff going on right now.

So, if you’re not comfortable in your bed, flip that mattress and change the sheets! 

You can make it better. 

Make it better.

 

Oh, and speaking of (re)making beds, here are a few more on my list.

This year, I’ll remake this bed. Fence is gone, so there will be lots of reorganization, some editing, and a few newcomers. Making it better. Always.

This bed has been remade three times since this photo was shot. The dianthus in the right background has proven unreliable. The penstemon ‘Husker Red’ have been divided and transplanted to a new spot. The heuchera – both varieties – will get a new home this spring. Blue-eyed grass and peony ‘Sword Dancer’ will join this neighborhood. Making it better. Always.





A Tart Retort

21 03 2018

Yes, this makes two weeks in a row about my kitchen escapades, but to keep my promise to myself that my blog posts will not be whiny – and the below-average temps and a 100+-year record snowfall for this date in my area are sorely testing my ability to abide by that rule – I must resort to butter and sugar and a pre-heated oven.

 

This weekend, I will be co-chairing an annual meeting for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, an organization to which I’ve belonged for over fifteen years and to which I have donated at least twenty hours a week, as a volunteer, board member, and committee(s) chair  for the last year. This responsibility does create a bit of stress and one of the ways I cope is to cook, so on Saturday, I’ll be packing some tasty comestibles of the fattening-est variety.

Delicious desserts are not the answer to every problem, but they sure do make the rest of life sweeter.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When spring gives you a foot of snow, make lemon bars!

 

Paula’s Lemon Bars                                                                                         2 9×9 pans                          

CRUST

21T         unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm

¾ c          granulated sugar

¾ t          table salt

3 c + 3T  all-purpose flour  

Line 2 9×9  straight-sided inch metal baking pans with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. Lightly coat the sides of the foil (not the bottom) with nonstick cooking spray, oil, or melted butter to prevent the toppings from sticking.

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.

Bake at 325°F about 23 minutes, until crust is golden and firm. 

FILLING – mix, in order:

                 6             eggs                      

                3 c           sugar

                1/3 c      flour

                ¾ t          bkg pwdr

                ½ c          lemon juice

 Pour filling over hot crust and return to oven for another 25 minutes. 

FINISHING TOUCH:

Confectioner’s sugar

While hot, dust with powdered sugar. Cool and cut into bars. 

These will keep for a few weeks in the freezer  – as long as no one knows they are there.





March, You’re Irrational

14 03 2018

Oh, March, why do you insist on stumbling and crashing into yourself, always with too much bluster and too little charm? You really could use an attitude adjustment, darling.

With my sincere wishes for a general lifting of spirits (and clouds and temperatures!)  I offer you, my friends, my very own recipe to honor Pi Day and the bruise-colored skies that mark this most inelegant of all the months.

 

Black-and-Blue Berry Pie

Your favorite double crust pie recipe

2 c.   fresh blueberries

2 c.    fresh blackberries

1 c.   sugar

1/3 c. flour

1/8 t.  salt

½ c.  heavy cream

Cinnamon sugar

Heat oven to 425º.  Mix sugar, flour, and salt together and toss with berries.  Prepare your double crust recipe. Bottom crust into deep 9” pie plate. Pour berry mixture into unbaked crust. Seal with top crust, into which you have cut very large vents.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 45 minutes.  Slowly and carefully, pour cream into vents and bake another 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Yes, this will make your teeth purple.

Yes it is fattening.

Yes, you should eat it anyway . . . circumference is Pi’s specialty!





It’s a Gift

7 03 2018

How many of you are gift givers?

How many are “Hallmark says it’s time, so I will give,” gift givers?

How many are “What am I going to do to satisfy this societal/familial pressure to give?” gift givers?

How many are “Oh, crap, I need to find something fast!” gift givers?

How about you as a gift receiver?

How many are graceful giftees?

How many are total messes (like me)?

For those who don’t know it, I have a very smart sister, so it came as no surprise that she’d have a brilliant solution to this problem.  When my nephew, who was pondering what to give to a best friend for her birthday, Phyllis suggested a plan that sounds great for both the surprise-averse and those who are not wild about coloring inside the (calendar) lines:

Why don’t you settle on some traditional gifts to give every year for the usual events; for example: flowers for birthdays, candy for Valentine’s Day, dinner out for anniversary, and gloves (or some other equally easy-to-get-the-right-size accessory) for Christmas? That way, you won’t have to stress about what to give at those regular gifting occasions.

That will free us to give other kinds of gifts at random times of the year –

Times when we see something perfect right now for someone.

Times when we have a little extra cash and a desire to spoil a friend a little bit.

Times when we guess that an unexpected pick-me-up would be a good thing.

I think gifts are always better when they don’t come from a sense of obligation or custom, but from a place of spontaneity and from the heart, don’t you  .  .  .  although I guess that $1.4 Million Black Ferrari “push present” Kylie Jenner received would be pretty sweet regardless of the gift giver’s motivation!

Wall hanging I made for my smart sister to hang in her remodeled kitchen – just because. Looks better on her dove gray walls than on my cabinet, but you get the idea.

p.s. Thanks to my friend Amy Kelsey, a brilliantly blisteringly funny writer, for her Facebook rant about the Jenner-mobile and push presents (which I’d not heard of before) for prompting today’s composition. For the uninitiated, a push present is a gift to a new mother for having a baby – not a bad idea, but, oh, that name!