Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Do It Myself

You've seen the commercial about the man-cold? That kind of sums up what most men are like when they get sick. Pitiful, clingy, whiny... worse than children. But my hubby is special. Different. He's totally awesome.

When he was confined to bed, he was content to just talk and sleep. When he was allowed short walks, he reveled in them and was just grateful for my company. When he was allowed to go home, he was careful not to become a burden. When he was allowed to go back to work, he was patient with the women in the office who watched him as closely as I did.

But being 'allowed' to do things is tough for the guy who took care of everything and everyone. As the pain subsides and he gets stronger, his patience wears thin. This week he's been grumbling about 'women always telling him what he can't do'.

When I say his recovery is like me keeping up with a toddler, I don't mean the obnoxious demanding type, but rather the head-strong over-confident type. Ya know - the ones you have to watch 24/7 because they think they can do everything by themselves? Yep, that's my man.

Concussions suck. Though his physical strength has returned, his mental strength lags behind. So the body must wait for the mind to catch up. While the nausea and dizziness begin to subside, he chafes at his limitations. No horseplay with the kids. No driving. No physical exertion. No lifting anything over 5 lbs. He's so pitiful.

So we women watch. And caution him against doing too much too soon. We hover, and protect him from external stress. And after 3 weeks, we drive him crazy.


Monday, February 28, 2011

The Goodbye of Expectation

Some of us know our spouses may never come home at the end of the day. Whether they are miners, officers, truckers, soldiers - we know they may never walk through that door again. Every morning begins with the dreaded expectation of becoming a widow by nightfall. The kiss at the door, as they walk out. The half-spoken prayer for their safe return. Each goodbye is more than a casual see-ya-later. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is promised. So we wait. And then the call comes.

And because we've often dreamed of it, we go through the motions automatically: pack the bags, give the kids instructions, crank the car, and drive to the ER. We tick off the list the ER nurse gave you:
the rig jack-knifed, flipped, and slid for 90 ft (what the ... but he's awake, cracking jokes - he's okay... he's okay...)
he was pinned for an hour (how much damage to his arms? legs?)
he has NO broken bones - but some fractures in his neck (will he be paralyzed?)
he was unconscious for nearly an hour (how much damage is permanent?)
he was life-flighted to the nearest hospital (OMG... can't even think about that one)
he had several lacerations on one side of his face (he's gonna look awful - I'll need to smile when I walk in that hospital room no matter what)

It was the longest 4 hour drive of my life.

Turns out, I'm stronger than I ever knew.

I smiled.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

47 days of college left...

And then I will knit. Every night.
I will take pictures, at least 5 a day.
And I will bake dessert every weekend. Maybe in the middle of the week too.

I will crochet a bookmark. Just for me.
I will read a book, of my own choosing.
I will bake fresh bread once a week. French bread. Whole wheat bread. Dinner rolls. Oatmeal bread.
And then I will try my hand at the famous family recipe no knows how to make anymore.

I will write. Everyday, every thought.
I will curl up on the sofa with my hubby, and think of nothing else.
I will plant flowers. Pansies, daffodils, and roses, along a split-rail fence.
And then I will sit on the porch and watch the sun set.
And then, I will LIVE.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Low-Sugar Yogurt - Dream or Reality?

I have a confession... One too many pieces of cake is to blame for my silence. The cupcakes you know about. But then there was this birthday cake for hubby: a smashing success of Red Velvet. And well, me and that cake got along great; too great. So great, in fact, I've had to straighten up and behave myself just so my jeans will be nice to me again. Which is sooo hard when the snack machine calls my name while I'm at work, or the guys clamber for a Key Lime Pie. (But I did great with the pie. You'd be proud. The snack machine - well...I'm working on it.)

So in the spirit of being good, I'm joining the ranks of the New Year Resolutionists and declaring that I will, hence forth, exercise my Will Power in the presence of cake. And chocolate. And pie. Therefore, I've turned my attentions to yogurt.

But do you know how much sugar is in those little cups???!! Anywhere from 25 to 40 grams of the stuff! Crikeys man. I could just go and gorge myself on a whole package of Hostess cupcakes for that, and get my chocolate/carb fix to boot. But I'm supposed to be being good. So I began scheming. And browsing. And thinking. I made it home from the grocery store with this loot to experiment with: Dannon Plain Natural Yogurt (6g sugar), Polaner spreadable fruit (6g sugar), and some Grape Nuts (3g sugar).

Polaner Pol Strawberry Fruit Spread 10 10 OZ (Pack of 12)The next morning, I just put a Tbs dollop of jam in the bottom of my bowl, added 1/2c yogurt, poured about 1/4c Grape Nuts over the top, and viola! I have my own Fruit On The Bottom Yogurt for less than 15g of sugar. Sounds good, huh? I'd show you a picture of the concoction, except I ate it. And then the kids demolished the rest of the yogurt. So, we'll just have to make do with a picture of the jam.

What do ya think? Is that Low-Sugar Yogurt a tasty reality?


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Bites and the Amazing Cookie Sheets

Christmas day began with Pumpkin Spice Cake: a delicious, not-so-sweet, cake with cream cheese icing. Originally, hubby was begging for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I insisted. No cookies. Cake. 

Normally, this batter is just dumped in a 9x13 dish and cut up into squares, but the last time I did that I found out how important cake size is to my crew. See, I cut the last half of the cake into 9 pieces. Trying to divide 9 pieces of cake by 4 people, well - it was not a pretty picture. I took a lot of flak for doing that. 

So, anyway, I got smart. For Christmas, I would make little baby cupcakes out of the batter. It took longer, but I figured I'd be safe from the wrath of those that consume. No one could complain about how I cut up the cake this time. They could just fuss about having to unwrap the little suckers, but I was okay with that. My plan was fool proof and the day was looking promising...

I was thoroughly enjoying our holiday mini-vacation puttering about in a North Georgia cabin. The low clouds were promising a Christmas morning snow in the mountains, A Christmas Story played to the tune of raucous laughter in the living room, and the mixer was humming My Favorite Cake in the kitchen. A couple hours later, I had 80 perfect little cakes cooling on the counter.

I heard the wind whistle around the cabin and looked up to find snow blowing furiously outside the window. Giggles bubbled up from within and I ran to the deck, squealing with delight. All my life, it seems snow has eluded me. If I were staying with my mom in the south, it would snow up north at my dads. If I were up north, it would snow in the south. Go figure. Then my husband and I moved to Montana. The snow had no choice but to visit me there and I loved it. Alas, we came back south and the elusive snow game has continued. But, for this Christmas, I would have snow.

I left the kitchen to take a few pictures of the snow, then came back to find 75 little cakes and my husband just leaving the kitchen. I chased him down to give him a tongue lashing, but there he was, with one cake left in his hand, two in his mouth, and the goofiest grin on his face I'd ever seen. I let him get away with nothing more than a stern look. Besides, I didn't have time to squabble over a few missing cakes; it was time to make the icing.

I pulled out the frosting knife and began the process of icing the 75, no - wait, 68 little cakes. Hmmm... The kids came through a moment ago, but I didn't notice them nicking any. Now, how did they do that? Anyway, as I iced, I was really wishing for my cake decorating stuff so I could just pipe a dollop of icing on each cake and be done. Oh well. There was an easy remedy for that frustration: decrease the surplus population... gulp. That leaves 65 little cakes to ice. What? The guys weren't looking.

Speaking of the guys, they had been gone awhile... I walked outside to find the car gone, and tire tracks heading off up the drive. As I trekked up the driveway, I noticed that the flakes of snow had become fat and heavy, and there was a good 2" of snow under my, now wet, tennis shoes. This is what I found when I rounded the corner.

Hubby had gotten concerned about the amount of snow that was accumulating and wanted to move the car up to the main road before it got any deeper. But the car was stuck for the moment, and at the rate the snow was falling... A quick check of the weather confirmed the suspicion; the next day's high was only going to be 30 (our intended departure date), the day after that was only gonna get to 28, and the snow was still falling fast. By the time this was over with, we'd be encased a little ice cocoon. Apparently, we were not leaving any time soon.

There was the problem of the car, however. According to the men-folk, it couldn't stay wedged on the side of the hill. I wasn't entirely sure why not, as I figured we couldn't leaved till everything thawed out anyway and by that time, we could just drive right on out. Besides, what's so bad about being snowed in?? Well, besides the fact that we only brought enough food for 2 days instead of the 4 it would take to thaw out. Oh, and the fact that hubby had to be to work on Monday... Drat. Okay, maybe we should try to get the car back up the hill.

The guys started to clear the snow from in front of the tires with sticks, as there were no shovels around. I watched for a moment, and then, being the baker that I am, went and grabbed up a couple cookie sheets from the cabin. I carried them up the hill, all the while hoping my cousin would understand the demolition of her bake ware.

All bent over like hunchbacks, we cleared paths for the tires with the cookie sheets, while the kids went back and forth to the cabin for gravel. We then stood by as my husband tried to get the car back on the driveway. I couldn't watch, nor could I stand to go back to the cabin, so I hid behind the tree and listened. The sound of tires on gravel on ice on asphalt is atrocious. Positively atrocious... He managed to get the car back on the driveway and up the hill near the very top, where it gets the steepest, and then the car began to slide back down the drive way. The sudden dead silence was worse than the atrocious sound of gravel and ice. I peeked out from the tree and the car was gone. I half slid, half walked back down the drive. Though I hadn't heard any bushes or trees crashing, I had to inspect the steep side of the driveway. No car there. Whew.

Hubby was back at the cabin, all safe and sound. Nibbling on Pumpkin Cake. While my heart's about to fall out of my chest, the man is eating cake.

The next morning, he took the oldest boy hiking down the mountain into town. Plans were to get enough food to last the four days, but lo and behold, he found snow shovels. They brought back a shovel and some deicer along with the food. The boys spent the rest of the morning shoveling a quarter of a mile worth of hills out to the main road and loving every minute of it.

By afternoon, temps had risen above freezing, the asphalt part of the driveway was clear of ice, and the car was packed. We just had to make it around a couple of hairpin turns on the main road that was still covered with ice, but hey - we could get out the driveway! Needless to say, I didn't breathe or speak until we got to town where the roads were clear...

After we were safely on the way home, I called and explained to my cousin how we traded a snow shovel for her cookie sheets. She just laughed for a solid 5 minutes. Guess there was no reason to worry about that part.

Naturally, the guys thought it was the best Christmas ever. And on the way home, they even said those cakes were better than chocolate chip cookies. Find the recipe here.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Perfect Cookies

This is a Holiday of Memories for me. There are no presents, no decorations, no tree with all the trimmings. There are just memories. Some are real, and some I have to concoct on my own to sooth my ravaged soul.

Two men in my life meant the world to me as I was growing up. They were my rocks. My shelters. My heroes. Of course, the first was my daddy. The second was my granddaddy. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reliving my daddy’s funeral, and unbeknownst to me, memories of my granddaddy have begun filtering in. He passed away the day after Christmas, 2003. 

Granddaddy was THE Baker of the family, so it’s only natural to think of him now, as I pull out the ingredients to make my favorite chocolate chip cookies.  There are so many things I wish I had asked him while  he lived, but of course, I never did ask. Hence, my concocted memories. Remember the story of my first batch of cookies? I can just imagine granddaddy’s response to them…

“Well, the first thing you have to do is make sure your shortening is fresh. So they don't taste rancid.” Naturally, he would have given me a little more ribbing for those disgusting cookies. He would have told me that even though the recipe said to use butter, I should’ve  used shortening and butter – half and half. Of course, in my memory, I would have asked him why. He would’ve explained that butter will make your cookies flat and crispy, but the shortening won't melt as fast so the cookies will be chewier.

He would have had me to start with fats and sugars: shortening, butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.  Then mix them at high speed for at least two or three minutes, so the batter is really creamy instead of grainy, which I, of course, neglected to do.

Next, he would have told me to add all the eggs and vanilla and to beat the batter for about three to five minutes. “You could add the eggs one at a time, which will do wonders for a cake, but that much air isn’t necessary for cookies.” Then he would have told me that I could have substituted any flavoring for the vanilla that I wanted and even added a little extra and they’d still taste good.

Then he would have explained the differences in baking soda and baking powder as he measured out the baking soda for the recipe. He would have told me that while they both created carbon-dioxide bubbles in the batter, baking soda will not do so until it’s heated. Baking powder, on the other hand, will begin rising as soon as it gets wet. He’d go on to tell me that most recipes have you fold the flour in because now you have to be gentle with the batter. Once again, I’d ask him why.  “Because the flour will lose its stretchiness. Here, you try folding the batter.” I would’ve taken the bowl and spoon from him and started stirring. “No, don’t stir it! I said be gentle!” He would have taken the bowl away from me and said, “It’s like you’re folding a wash rag – one half at a time, see?” Nodding my head, I would have taken the bowl back and gently picked up one side of the batter and laid it on top of the other. “Now, go turn that oven on to 325°.” I would have questioned him because the recipe said 375°. “I know that. Just do what I told you. Those fools who wrote that recipe must like their cookies burnt. I don’t. Drop that temperature, especially in an electric oven, and you’ll have perfectly browned cookies that are still chewy in the middle.”

Then he would’ve had me add the chocolate chips and nuts while he pulled out a flat 13” round baking stone. He would have bragged about his stone, saying how it’s the best thing to bake your cookies on instead of a metal cookie sheet. And again, I would’ve had to ask why. “Because – the stone will absorb the fat from the cookies, giving them a nice crispy bottom, that’s why. Metal cookie sheets let the fat float around under the cookies, making them soggy. This is the best thing out there for all baked goods. Except for my cakes... Don’t want a crispy bottom on my cakes.”

Naturally, his cookies would’ve been perfect. I never did go and ask him to teach me how to bake. And now that the baking torch has passed to me, I really wish I had, because concocted memories only tell you what you already know. I used to think there were mysterious things you had to do in order to bake up something really delicious. But over the last eighteen years, I’ve learned that it’s not so mysterious. It’s about knowing your batter. It’s seeing its consistency and feeling its texture. It’s about listening to it; hearing it tell you what it needs. This is what my granddaddy knew, and, if I had taken the time, what I could‘ve known from the beginning.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Corn Syrup-Free Raisin Bread

In my absence from the kitchen, the guys are having to make do. The kids rummage through the cabinets and concoct the strangest things, all in the name of dessert. Some of the 'concoctions' make me shudder, but hey - if they like it...

Sun-Maid Bread Raisin Cinnamon Swirl 16-ozInstead of concoctions, my husband went the safe route and decided to assuage his sweet tooth with store bought raisin bread. But the first loaf he bought had corn syrup in it. How he missed it in the ingredient list is anybody's guess, but miss it he did. And then had to sit back and watch the rest of us gobble it up. He was a bit more careful on the next trip to the grocery store and picked up some Sun-Maid Raisin Cinnamon Swirl bread; no corn syrup.

You'd think he would've hoarded the whole loaf all to himself, after watching us eat the other one, but no. He was a perfect gentleman and shared. : )