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Thursday, October 14, 2010

War Cake



I love to cook. I mean really love to cook. I’ve always considered it not only a creative endeavor but a bit of a spiritual one as well. I can easily spend a day on one creation. From the selection of the perfect seasonal recipe to sourcing the freshest ingredients to preparation, hours pass. International cuisine will fill the house with exotic scents and proper musical accompaniment transforms the everyday into a night in Morocco, France or the Orient. There has always been a connectedness for me from the earth to culture to interpretation to palate.



When I inherited a cookbook from my grandmother, a farmer’s wife and wonderful cook I was excited to say the least. This was not just any book; it was a bit of family history. The first page yielded the unexpected, War Cake.



I’d not, until now, considered political climate in relation to cuisine. My grandmother had grown into an adult during WWII. She’d never spoken of it, at least to me, yet here it was, a bit of the story. War Cake is so named for its lack of eggs, butter and milk, ingredients that were hard to come by during the war. I could comment on how little life has changed in that there are still wars, yet how much has changed in how little it affects the average citizens everyday lives, but I won’t, there are political bloggers for that. I choose instead to share the recipe and let you interpret it how you will.



2 cups water


2 cups brown sugar


4 Tbsp shortening


1 tsp salt


1 tsp cinnamon


½ tsp cloves


1 tsp allspice


1 lb raisins



Boil ingredients for 5 minutes then cool.



Add



2 tsp baking soda


½ tsp vanilla


2 ½ cups all purpose flour



Mix well together and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Grass Is Greener


I’ll let you in on a little secret that won’t be much of a secret to anyone who has ever used one, reel mowers are a reel litmus test of how laid back a person you really are.


I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going chick. I tend to roll with most things. Unfortunately my new; old school mower doesn’t feel the same way. First time out went something like this..


Toothpick in the grass?


"Ohhh, I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to pick that up, I’m strictly grass” my mower would respond while quickly locking, ramming my stomach into the steel handle just to prove he was serious.


Grass a little long?



“Ohhh, did I say I mowed grass? My mistake, what I should have said was, already short grass sans weeds that really doesn’t need mowing. I’m going to have to ask you to go over that spot 5 or 6 more times” he'd whir.


Sure, ok. I’ve got time. What’s 3 hours a week for the whole summer?


Biting insects that I easily out ran on the gas mower were hovering around high five-ing each other at their good fortune.


Back and forth, back and forth. Two and a half hours in and this guy was really starting to get on my nerves, but I’d not come this far to give up now, that’s just what he wanted. Besides, only a fraction of my neighbors had born witness to my, well, I’m just going to say it, Herculean grass mowing effort. By my estimation I was due at least two more passersby, one if they were gossipy and likely to spread the word on this mother of environmental deeds. Ten minutes later and it started to rain. Clearly God was trying to tell me something, far be it from me to question the Almighty. Back in the garage, you.


I’ll admit my hopes may have been a little high. Not unlike the groups of bearded twenty somethings I’d seen happily pushing around this piece of crap on their postage stamp sized rental yards a week earlier. That’s the last time I take lawn care tips from you.




Monday, November 9, 2009

Sweet Caroline's


I have a list of important things I keep safely stored in the back of my mind for use at some later date. Names for pets I don’t yet own, excuses for missing engagements, airport codes and things to do that sound adult but are a bit cool, are just a few of the subtitles under the greater heading “Things I Remember in Place of Math Equations and Geography”.

So, when feeling a bit antsy after several days under grey skies this past Friday evening, I called upon this master list for an answer to the not uncommon question: what should I do tonight? The answer came quickly: e=mc². Wait, wait… I distinctly remember replacing you with something else, what was it? Ahhhhh yes, there it is - Jazz Club. My, my, now that does sound adult.


A quick Google search later (thank you Sergey Brin and Larry Page) I was on my way to the local hole in the wall for an evening of jazz, Latin jazz no less.


Arriving 40 minutes early like the super cool jazz loving adult that I am, I walked into Caroline’s to my pick of the somewhat limited, pleasantly intimate seating. I quickly settled in to watch the band set up. I waited with ever increasing interest as 2 drum sets, a tuba, sax, bass, guitar, keyboard and various other hand instruments found their way onto a now crowded stage. At the same time, fellow patrons were filing in to greet each other and find places of their own.


Then it began, several instruments playing together in unison-and not. Uncommon rhythms and interesting transitions flowed in what felt very free, almost improvised. It gave one the feeling of being witness to art as it was being created. I was officially in love.


I stayed late and spent the next day looking for tracks to download from itunes. Apparently my new favorite band had not quite risen to itunes status (although no stranger to YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXlmLp6H0B0) it turned out so I was forced to search for a reasonable facsimile. http://www.latinjazznet.com/ pointed me in the right direction and I had little trouble finding several bands worthy of my newest playlist.


There are few things as energizing as finding new music to love, unless of course you’ve just memorized another airport code, San Jose, SJC., found the perfect pug name – “Roxy” for example or figured a way out of the upcoming office party – would you believe I have another office party for my second job at the same time? I know, crazy!


Monday, February 23, 2009

I Should Have Taken a Left at Albuquerque

I think I’m finally ready to admit it, my specific sense of direction leaves a bit to be desired. Ok, ok, I know what your thinking; huh? Yes, I said ‘specific’ sense of direction. You see, I always believed myself to have a fairly good sense of direction, no matter how many times I walked left instead of right searching for my car (oh yes that’s right, when you’re coming back out, it’s reversed!), got off an exit too soon/too late, or ignored the GPS instructions to turn because I was sure it must have meant the next left.

Through all of my U-turns, I’m sure it’s this way’s and that house looks familiar’s, I always managed to make it there, eventually. Often (and without a map I’ll have you know) I have directed other drivers in the general direction of any given location, 'head towards the lake', I’d say, all roads lead to the lake…

Today however, it hit me. Left to my own navigational prowess in a neighborhood I had frequented on many an occasion, I was entreated with a simple task, walk to the grocery. What should have involved walking 8 or so blocks in one direction (not quite sure which) taking a right, and walking 2 or 3 in the next, somehow did not. At the first cross street, I began to feel the need to make a turn, by the second block I was certain a turn was needed so off I went. A block or so later I was on a major road not far from the highway..hmmm..interesting….Luckily my powers of deduction were out in full force and fellow pedestrians spilling from a cross street carrying grocery bags did not go unnoticed. I guess you could say I took the scenic route, if it had been scenic. It was however, not in the complete opposite direction I had intended to travel. In fact, I really only added a block or two (three at the most) to my trip. For this reason, I think I can safely say my general sense of direction is good to go. Need to know the general vicinity of that Starbucks? I’m your gal. Want to get there in the next 10 minutes? MapQuest.

*

Friday, January 16, 2009

Brrrrrr..... Update


Looks like I complained a bit too soon. No, that's not me driving backwards at 30mph, that's -30 degrees Fahrenheit people. Today's office temp. 50.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brrrrrr....

It’s cold. Bitterly cold. Bone chilling, leave your taps dripping for fear they freeze, thinking about buying a Snuggie (the most blatant attack on good taste I’ve seen in awhile) cold. Negative eighteen. Negative thirty-five with wind chill to be exact.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good natural disaster (and yes, I consider this a bit of a disaster) but wow, this has all the disaster with none of the benefit. Sure the kids are off school because of the weather (apparently there is fear they might freeze solid waiting for the bus) but where does that leave me, someone who typically bases their ‘it’s too treacherous to go in’ days on whether the schools are open? A dilemma to be sure. Unfortunately I don’t have to wait for a bus (never thought I'd hear myself say that). My only hope (as I see it) lies in the ability of my car to start, or not (less than a quarter tank of gas I’m told, will freeze in this weather).

Damn German engineering. My car starts, albeit sluggishly and with protest. Sluggishly and with protest, I make my way to the office. It’s a wild ride beginning to end. Roads that mere months earlier afforded me a relatively smooth ride give way to contorted masses of asphalt heaving this way and that caught in frozen waves. I bump along in what sounds like an egg carton. Easily detected, every shift in weight causes my car to creak eerily. It’s an odd sound that breaks the otherwise silence of the day and I realize, I’m the egg.

I make it to the office later than usual having been extra careful over bridges and over-passes. I bundle up, hood and all and walk two blocks to the office where I’m greeted by a balmy fifty-five degree workspace. History tells me I’ll be lucky to reach sixty degrees in office, no matter how many illegal electric heaters I plug in.

I have never wanted to be warm more. I long for green grass, hot sand and blinding sun. Keep the faith….only 4 more months…if I’m lucky…


*

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Buzz This

If I hear leverage, synergy, verbiage or 'think outside the box' one more time...


video