Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Randomly or Snow it Goes

Do you ever just have a day where you just can't seem to get to where you want to be going...
...let alone figure out where you even want to go? Maybe you just get stuck...
...like we did when our cross-country skis must have needed some wax. 
Do you want to build a snowman? No, not on the bottom of our skis, while we were skiing on them! Here's a suggestion put forth by the grocery store...
...and yes, I am sorry that there weren't flocks of people trying it for me to show you. I might be in too deep now...
...with this seasonal track! (There are snowshoes in there somewhere!) No need to get frosty about it...
...Seriously though, how cool is nature's artwork on this frozen puddle?!? Would you like to see some more from that outing, because I could...
not...
...stop...
...taking...
...photos! Okay, let's see what other pictures I have. Oh here's some...
..."Pazazz"! Not that I am trying to tell you how to live your life, but these apple are. I am sorry to say that I found them less than "captivating". Speaking of captivating though, it has been a really long time since I have seen a creepy monkey. This sloth was trying very hard to fill the void.
(Sadly his/her price tag exceeded my gag gift budget. Maybe, just maybe, they will not sell out, and there will be some hanging around next week for 75% off.) Perhaps some regular old, not necessarily creepy, monkeys will do the trick? Luckily that was one of the open areas of the zoo last week when the husband and I took advantage of the forty degree heatwave!




They will have to suffice for now! (To be honest, that second to last one is a tad creepy I suppose.)

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Memory Served Me...again

 The other day while I was out walking, being all vertical and such, I realized I was on the brink of slipping into another blogging hiatus. Danger, danger! I wasn't feeling terribly inspired by anything here and nowish, so I flipped through my mental catalog of other possibilities. I landed on something that put a little spring in my step for at least two hundred yards until I had that funny feeling once again that I had not only been there and done that, but also had been there and written that. That groovy little magnifying glass confirmed my suspicions as I found the post, published on Thursday, January 28, 2016...which obviously I took as a sign to post it again today, five years later on Thursday, January 28. The original title was "Lyrical Poet and Oh Did I Know It"...

It was February of 1990. Wait, I am going to need a minute for that to sink in now that I see it in type. Twenty-six years? Okay, regrouping...I was a junior in college, (so even more intelligent and ready to conquer the world than I was in my city girl post) very busy being a psychology major and owning way too many cardigan sweaters. I was also deep in the throes of working on my poetry anthology. My twenty-year-old self would be shocked to know that the only place those works ever got published was on this blog. And even more stunned that it was done with a certain degree of snark here and here

There I was, feeling the feels, crying the tears and writing the words. I was hanging around with a drummer at that time, fascinated by the notion of making music. I was pretty sure I could work my way up to singer, maybe starting out with a tambourine or triangle? There was a bit of a setback when said drummer asked me if I was tone deaf one day as I was belting out some of my finest notes along with the Indigo Girls. I remember being concerned that he might have a hearing problem because no way could my angelic voice be the issue. Despite my doubts, I considered a Plan B...what if I wrote the lyrics? 

Deciding that my previous doomed relationship material was too raw for radio, I allowed myself a daydream - just a harmless, and by harmless I mean full of angst and sighing, daydream - and thus, I Go On was written. The drummer boy did not match my enthusiasm when I handed him the piece of paper as he headed to practice with his band. A little while later though he called me to come down to give a listen. They had put my words to music! Over twenty years later, I realize this might have just been a bone to throw at your friend who you accused of being tone deaf, or at the very least a peace offering for whatever hormonal mood swing she was in the midst of. Whatever! I can still hear it!

The band, Rat Salad, got a gig at this horribly horrible venue called the Lost Horizon (come on Syracuse peeps) and my song was on the playlist. Of course I gathered my roommates to go hear my song support the band. I even went out and bought a pair of brand new sexy black underwear to throw on stage. Mind you, I kept them in my pocket before flinging them. I was wearing jeans! Had to be practical...and classy. They played my song, and I sang along - tone deaf and solo - because I knew those words! Sadly the Horizon was apparently no place for talent scouts, as there was plenty of talent there. Get your lighters out folks, here it is...I Go On...

I look at you
Casually glance away
It's not even like
I've got something to say.
Yet I take my watch
Eyes dry from the stare
Maybe we could run away
But I don't know where.
I could make you promises
Though I don't know what for
Maybe I could love you
Like you've never been loved before.

But you don't even know my name
Daydream love of mine
Like hands of time
You gently pass and fade away

I feel the warmth left by your footsteps
As I lightly step behind
I start to blush because of
The thoughts I have in mind
You spin around and I shutter
From that one half-second glance
I've been caught without a plan
By such an unexpected chance
In my thought I have a vision
And it's my own fantasy
Yet I can't help but wonder
If you'll ever notice me

But you don't even know my name
Daydream love of mine
Like hands of time
You gently pass and fade away...
...without you I GO ON the same.

Oh. My. Gosh. Somehow typing the words that were penned in my little flannel covered book all those years ago makes them even more cringe-worthy and hilarious to me. The rhymes? Oh my soul. I can't even! I was thinking this was my only foray into the land of lyrics, but I see right beneath this masterpiece is something titled Love Song. Let's save that for another time, shall we?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Awhile back we talked about distractions, well you mostly sat and nodded while I prattled on about choosing something to divert my attention. I also promised to tell you other riveting tales from the fall. This time, grab your snacks, I have a little something about the distraction that chose me...kind of...for the most part. Let's go with it!

Life in the fall had little specks of normal sprinkled here and there. The girl went back to college, fall foliage was a thing, my birthday was approaching to show that time was not actually standing still, and one of our favorite autumn activities was allowed to happen - apple picking for the win. It was a good day at one of my happy places.

We came home loaded up on crisp juicy apples, donuts and fritters. What a lovely distraction! Suddenly I was distracted from the peacefulness this distraction had brought by my husband's exclamation. Oh boy, he was gazing out toward his bird feeders. I wondered just how big the cardinal/goldfinch/chickadee/squirrel could be as I slowly approached him, while trying to sort my face into some kind of arrangement that would hopefully read "interested". What the...
...mother clucker was this?! We do not live in an area where chickens casually wander by, so there was no real sense that she was going to be wandering back home either. I figured I could file this under "not my problem" and walked away. When I did check back in a very little while later, the trespasser was still there. I headed next door to the neighbors who usually know things to see what I could find out about our feathered friend. They had seen her wander over earlier while we were off galavanting in the orchard. All this did was confirm that she had not taken an Uber. She was welcome to enjoy the sunshine and whatever seed the squirrels had knocked to the ground. For some reason, she did cross the road at some point, but then for some other unknown reason, she crossed back! (You didn't honestly think we were getting out of this without a joke like that, did you?)
At some point the neighbors let the chicken seek refuge in their garage from a hawk that was looking for a snack. Was it a chicken hawk? I like to think so, and also that it talked in the same way that Foghorn Leghorn's nemesis did. It was late in the afternoon when we all met up again. My aunt had come over for dinner and, knowing what a fan she was of Drinking With Chickens on Instagram (check it out for fabulous photos and libations), she was going to need a photo op. Back into our yard came Parm (that name won out over Nugget and Divan)...
...and this was as intimate and fancy as we were willing to get.

Somehow I nearly forgot, but I suppose I should mention how much I started flipping out about this chicken's well-being as the temperature was cooling off and darkness was approaching. I made a return to facebook in order to make a "lost chicken" post. I texted friends who I thought would have easy solutions or invite Parm to join their flocks. I called animal control, saying brilliant things like "she seems very tame and must belong to someone", and was basically told that nobody was going to care about our low cost to replace friend. There was a woman who would take Parm if I didn't find another home. IF I DIDN'T FIND ANOTHER HOME?!?! Like I had droves of folks lined up outside?! The stipulation was that I needed to provide transportation. AS IN WRANGLE THE CHICKEN INTO MY VEHICLE?!?! No deal! The woman next door had made a post on some neighborhood site, so hopefully someone would reach out. Nobody else in the house had ruffled feathers, but I was convinced that this mother clucker's well-being was my responsibility. I didn't have issue with a circle of life type of scenario, but preferred that it not take place, or worse yet, leave remnants of taking place in my front yard. I tried a "hide in the house and hope it goes away" strategy for a little while, but asked anyone who walked near the front of the house for an update. My daughter's response at one point was to show me this video she took.
Glad my husband closed the grill! (Don't worry, we heard plenty of dinner jokes.) Certainly that mishap would send her on her way? The next update I got though was that she was next to my husband. I tried to correct my daughter by suggesting Parm was just somewhere near him?
Nope. She was a personal space invader! It was getting dark and I had people to feed, and this distraction was not helping me at all. What was I going to do?
Parm had no worries, and may have disagreed with our opinion that the office chair that was defective, not terribly comfortable and needed to be discarded.
See how it's getting dark outside there, and how Parm was not aware of social graces and overstaying one's welcome? Am sure you can guess what happened next. The garage door got closed, light on, with tins of water and food put out...and I continued to panic. She was checked on numerous times, and was unphased by any of it.

The following morning, having no idea what scene to expect but figuring Parm would be eager to get on her way, I waited for everyone to be up to say their goodbyes before opening the garage door. She had a lot to say and really made her feelings known.
Another sunny day, a fresh start, certainly Parm had places to go and new folks to meet. That is what I said, and believed for two seconds until my daughter uttered "You gave her food, water and a place to stay. Where's she going? This is her home now." Oh. No. 

But wait! My neighbor had a response from someone missing their small black and white chicken! Surely they would be arriving any moment...or not. Everyone carried on with her/his day, aside from the one of us who was on high alert waiting for the not so chicken hearted owners to arrive. What if she wandered off again before they got here? She did go for a stroll at one point, so the garage door was closed and maybe I managed to eat lunch or something equally productive. Aaaand then she came back, and she was thirsty.
She literally came running for the water when I put it down. I was pretty sure she would get a move on once she was rehydrated, so I went back inside.
Did I need a chicken? Was I losing my mind? She was at the front door you guys! A little while later I looked outside to see Parm hauling tail feather up the yard toward our house as she must have been spooked by the dog that was out for a walk. She was hiding in the landscaping right up against our house. My daughter was packing up the car to head back to school after apple picking weekend, and there I was, hopelessly distracted and moderately enchanted, clinging to whatever I could, be it a chicken or the last shred of my sanity.

After the car pulled away, I was left standing in the driveway trying to formulate a plan because darkness and cold were eventually going to come again that day too and I was not interested in any garage squatters. I decided to take a short drive to see if I could spot any yards in the surrounding area with chicken coops in them. Looking back, this does not seem like a sound plan, but I truly thought I had seen chickens wandering around about a mile away and had no sense of how far chickens typically walk in a day. I asked one woman who was out walking her dog if she knew of anyone who had chickens and she responded with a level of fear in her voice suggesting I was trying to give her a chicken. No luck. No surprise. Upon my return home, I struck up a conversation with another neighbor and was bemoaning how the owners who had been in contact through our other neighbor's post hadn't shown up. She figured out that she could pinpoint the location of their home on the neighbors website. How far gone was I? Would the sound of jingling car keys give you a hint?

Off I went to look for Parm's surely distraught owners. I got to the house, saw no chickens and did not like the scenario that played out in my head in which I rang the doorbell. I turned the car around to head home. On the way, I saw someone outside and asked them if they knew anyone nearby with chickens. I got something like a definite maybe. I realized I had limited choices to fix the situation waiting at home for me, so I turned the car around again. As I was approaching the house, an oncoming truck was waiting to turn into the driveway. What luck! So there I was trying to let him turn into his driveway while also trying to yell out the window that I had his chicken. Totally normal. He wanted me to pass first which luckily gave me the opportunity to stop gesticulating wildly and just use my words to tell him I thought I had his chicken. He pulled into his driveway and I turned my car around again, pulling to the side of the road to wait while he herded all of the chickens that came out to greet him to his backyard away from the road. He said they were missing a small black and white chicken. I told him the one at my house was chicken-sized. I think he was as impressed with my description as you are imagining. I showed him a photo on my phone, and was crestfallen to hear that Parm was too big to be his. I said "but do you want this chicken to be your chicken?" He said he could take it and hold it for a couple of days and give it back to the owners if they showed up. AGAIN WITH THE OWNERS SHOWING UP?! 

We then proceeded with the perfectly logical plan of this stranger following me to my house to get a chicken that wasn't his chicken. Luckily many neighbors were out when our abbreviated caravan pulled up. Parm was still hiding in the tall plants. My new friend tried to just walk over to get Parm, but she hadn't had time to get to know him so she was chicken and hid deeper in the landscaping. I got the old dog crate for the man to position wherever he saw fit. There were five of us sort of closing a circle around Parm and into the crate she went. He reached in and confidently grabbed her in some sort of football hold that I am sure is appropriate for chicken wrangling. He seemed impressed by her, but I had no false sense of pride to take. He mentioned again that he would return the chicken to its owners if they showed up within a couple of days, and I just kept making sure to reiterate that she was his chicken now either way. With a wave, they left. 

I missed something about her presence immediately once she was gone. She sent me this pillow cover soon after as a thank you gift for our hospitality.
Then she sent me this for my birthday.
 
Cheers everyone! Thanks for reading, and remember, we don't always get to choose the bright shiny thing that distracts us...and don't ask why the chicken crossed the road unless you want to be the answer.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Shine son

I was out for my walk this morning, you know to help with that lofty goal to be out of bed and vertical for some portion of each day, and during the third mile I happened upon this view...
...something was happening in the sky that had the potential to turn the black and white photo I felt like I was meandering in a little more vibrant. I snapped the picture because it seemed like just the sort of fantastical thing I typically post on instagram.  (I can wait while you get right over there to follow me.) I was pondering what hashtags would be smart and sassy enough to elevate my power line and generally cluttered shot. Something about the sunshine, shine sun shine...son shine, shine son, sunny son. It was a fast leap, and I could not escape the parallels of how hard both were trying to shine as I looked on.

My son was one of the 2020 college graduates. It became clear rather quickly last spring that graduation was not going to be the much anticipated conventional affair, and the event was cancelled altogether before much time had to be spent trying to figure out what modifications would take place. We were well versed in what was not going to be happening, but not exactly sure what, if anything, we should try to conjure instead. There was talk about the school putting something together for fall, but I had a hard time mustering up any optimism, let alone enthusiasm, for that. I felt compelled to mark the day that was supposed to be, ON the day it was supposed to be. We asked my son to plan to be in our driveway at 6:30 that Friday evening, and gave little to no details beyond that. 

The rest of us got to work on what seemed like the important elements of a graduation. We were looking forward to the change of season, as my daughter and I planned what dresses we were going to wear for the occasion. People had started doing the drive-by birthdays, so why not a graduation? We spread the word to local folks inviting them to drive by that evening to shout/honk/whatever. I had been wrist deep in my mask making efforts right around then and decided that masks in school colors and tiger mascot prints would make good party favors. Cookies, there had to be cookies as well to give to car passengers. I don't know why I can never seem to give up on the notion of events having favors and cookies. Things were starting to take shape,  but also seemed to need more. I refused to celebrate his achievement for anything less than the big deal it was. I wanted something that resembled a ceremony, or at least what I thought were the important parts. My cousin graduated from RIT as well, so who better to be the speaker at our event? He put on his finery and taped a fabulous speech that we added to the video after some Pomp and Circumstance. I threw havoc to the wind and tracked down a favorite professor through the school's website (luckily there was only one with the first name I was looking for in the engineering department) and sent her an email asking if she could "present" my son with his diploma by doing a short video clip. I might have had a moment or two that I spent worrying that she would think I was off my rocker, but she could not have been more gracious. She went to the trouble of going to the school to get the full ensemble that she would have worn at graduation as well as a diploma cover for "handing" over in her video. That went on the video as well. 

The day came, and to say it was chilly would be a ridiculous understatement. The show was going to go on! We had a shindig planned for 6:30, and there was not an alternative to consider. We dragged a television outside for our videotaped ceremony, did a little decorating, set up a few chairs very far apart, and scrapped whatever nice dresses we were planning to wear and grabbed whatever finery we had in school colors. 

My mother and step-father were supposed to be on an overseas cruise, that was obviously cancelled, so this was clearly the next best thing.
He had made a commitment to not shave until quarantining ended...
...he did cave in July.
There was joy, there was cheer, there was champagne!
Luckily we started planning early enough to gather about forty video clips from nearly all of our family, his college friends and fraternity brothers, plus a few college staff members. (And luckily we watched that in a quiet moment earlier in the day and had stopped crying in time to see people.) Our boy had graduated. Not the way we imagined he would, but it still felt like something special happened that day...despite even that not being what I had anticipated as the weather prevented any foot traffic or neighbors wandering out (which meant we had A LOT of cookies and masks leftover) and we were all relatively uncomfortable in the cold. 

The next day? I was awash in disappointment, longing for the weekend we were "supposed" to have together with people we had spent five years cultivating meaningful relationships with, and did not want to do anything other than hide out curled up in the fetal position in my closet eating candy. (Obviously this was before I had my rad walking program in place.) My son though, he championed on. He was applying for jobs left and right with some degree of optimism. He looked good on paper, and not just with momvision. Resumes were being hand delivered by employees of some companies for jobs that actually existed, and then were not even acknowledged. Rejections came and more silence. 

The summer felt kind of like summer, but as fall approached, he was losing his spark. I felt helpless in the face of him feeling hopeless. I tried not hover or smother, but made every attempt to be available and keep communication open. There were awkward conversations with words like "depression" and that a time could come when help was needed, suggestions to put one foot in front of the other were made. (At least I practice what I preach sometimes.)  There was an eight week, seven interview waiting game with one company that consumed much of September and October, and then ended with no room in the company's budget for the position. Then there was a three month old job posting that suddenly needed somebody pronto and when he was told he would hear back the following week, he made some tactical error in believing her and now over three weeks later is still wondering. He did get a contract gig, but the catch is that it's over an hour away and who wants to sign a lease not knowing how long employment will last? He and his sister have basically been taking turns staying at her house near school since his job is five minutes from there. Somewhere in there he weathered the passing of my grandmother, hiding out from his sister and I having covid and the general malaise and exhaustion we all feel. The holidays recharged us a little, if only from the sheer amount of sugar consumed. He was then quarantined here for ten days after possible exposure right before New Year's. We all regrouped again, feeding our faces, watching football and playing a lot of Scrabble. 

He is still in a sort of limbo waiting to see what opportunities present themselves. I see him like the sun this morning...waiting, trying to shine. I know how bright it will be. I know he is under these clouds, and I think more importantly he knows his brightness will eventually burn through. It is going to be amazing to bask in the glow of my sunny son.
 
Lean on Me (weird but fitting)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

In Order to Move

Let's pretend this is my first post of 2021. I am not sure if it will set things in any better motion than my last post, but I was super disappointed in myself when I realized that was how the blog entered a new year. 

I could have been lulled into a sense of security, but I had my usual level of skepticism when waltzing through the store the other day. Still, it was difficult to resist the belief that this pandemic might be about to start its final descent when I saw this...

... a clearance on toilet paper?!?!?! What kind of madness was this? 3-ply no less?! Nice try, but I refrained from buying party supplies to celebrate. I also could not have possibly bought enough double rolls for the absolute poop storm that was to come. There is no need to rehash that here, as it is not likely to help us move forward. The only way I know how to cope when life feels sideways is to try to restore order to something.

I was going to need to expand upon my current mental well-being plan. Oh wait! I haven't shared the details of that program yet. I don't have a patent on this beauty yet, so feel free to claim and use it as your own. Once covid left the building, and took my excuse to hide out holed up in my bed all day with it, I knew I was going to need a plan. First, there had to be a reason to throw off the covers and get out of bed to begin with. I had to think fast because each passing second that Saturday morning allowed my body to sink a millimeter further into my mattress. Keep it simple, just go for a walk, one foot in front of the other. You know what clothes to put on - spandex is clearly more for function than for your form, but your thigh rub will thank you. Just go with the two mile route you know. By day three, I enhanced my plan slightly by opting out of wearing a bra under the spandex to dissuade me from lounging about in my walking wear for the rest of the day. I lack the body confidence to inhabit our family room in my sausage casing finery to begin with, so lacking any other necessary support just sealed the deal for success with my plan. Things were going well with me up, fresh-aired and then dressed by 9:30 each morning. Okay, the timing might have been a slight flaw, but I was a creature with a habit. We don't need to address the panic that ensues whenever I run out of my frosted mini-wheats that I typically eat for breakfast. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So that is how I was coping with my own self, but what about days when we all feel the additional weight of a rather scratchy and uncomfortable blanket threatening to suffocate us? Feel free to share any strategies you have. I am always partial to those involving chocolate, but I have other rules about what time of day that can start (unless we are talking chocolate chips in the pancakes), so I started by tacking on an extra mile to my morning commute. If nothing else, that gave me fifteen more minutes outside to come up with a better plan. 

It may have taken that village set up to bring some joy to December, but I feared it was going to take that same village leaving to provide peace in January. I toyed with the idea of just taking down the actual Christmas tree and letting the scenic winter remain. The notion of what a tribute the set up was to my grandmother was pleading its case for staying power, but my need to restore order and move forward proved stronger. There was so much of my grandmother here for the holidays, from the cookies to the ornaments on the tree to the little santa cups filled with Junior Mints. It may have been time to put all of those things away, made easier by realizing how much of her is with me all of the time...always.

The way these porcelain pieces fit so snugly into their styrofoam homes is comforting to me. 
Is there anywhere you feel as protected as these folks appear? I guess this is why Packaging Science is an actual college major.
We gave this Cocoa Works to my grandmother for her eightieth birthday as a tongue in cheek acknowledgement of her alleged allergy to chocolate. She said eating the confection made her scalp itch, but that was apparently not a high enough price to pay to give it up. 

The endeavor to pack up the village also gives me a slight thrill...
...as I do not have many other opportunities to exercise my tetris game style puzzle skills.

In a moment of what can only be described as weakness, I let my son bring his Christmas legos upstairs for the season as well. Maybe I was considering that this could be his last year living at home, granted those legos will probably be living here with us for a bit even after he moves out. Maybe it was his way to honor my mother-in-law who gives him the holiday set each year (top right elves' clubhouse was 2020). I knew she would like to see a photo of the setup! Who was I to squash a village of any sort? Who was I to decide what could bring joy this year?
That was far less enjoyable to put away, and not just because he looked at me like I was the Grinch when I told him I was moving it back to the basement. None of the four shelves it sprawls out on down there were empty, as he had left some odds and ends behind in his enthusiasm to get things upstairs before I changed my mind. I was venturing into territory that I am not typically allowed to mess with, but we both knew there was never going to be a time either of us actually wanted to take on the project. I just needed an empty surface back so I could collect things hiding around the house that used to belong there.

The place feels a little bit lighter, making it easier to breathe and hopefully a bit easier to move. I hope you are finding your way, heading toward the light...wait, not THE light, just something brighter than darkness. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Draft Day #2 - Snow it goes

When I clicked on this draft (click here for Draft Day #1 post) that was sitting on the list, I was sort of surprised to see that it appeared rather lengthy. I wonder what else it could have possibly needed? Let's see what I was pontificating about back on December 6, 2013...

We live in Central New York-where winter comes. It always comes. There may be a variety of temperatures, snowfall amounts and arrival dates, but make no mistake that something resembling winter is going to take hold of this geographical region at some point. For some reason the fickleness and unpredictability of the changeover from fall makes our family feel challenged to a big game of chicken.

When the kids were younger, there was many a year we were caught with our snowpants down by the first snowfall. Two known facts collided with mixed results: no way were any of the boots from the previous year going to fit the ever-growing feet of children under ten and no way was I going to be able to keep those children inside after that first snowfall. Whether the snow started overnight or accumulated during the day while everyone was at school did not matter. I never saw it coming and ran out for proper attire that properly fit. It almost became more of a tradition for them to spend that first frolic in the fluffy white with their feet crammed into boots that barely fit, hand me downs, and possibly mismatched mittens. It never mattered. Maybe they would come inside quicker because there feet hurt, or maybe they stayed out longer because their feet were numb.

The years that teaser snow came in October, we paid it no mind. You couldn't even really make a decent snowball out of that mere dusting that left all of the blades of grass sticking through. That was not a snowfall and therefore did not require much beyond staying inside, or just quickly grabbing dribs and drabs of cold weather gear.

This year, we actually had autumn weather and I know there must be others like myself who just sort of stopped looking at the calendar and took each day for what it was. Thanksgiving is falling so late that it has just been like a really long October, despite the fact that Halloween should have actually served to clearly mark the end of that month. Maybe it is just a really long November, and without Thanksgiving poking its stuffing out, we just think the days are passing very slowly, as if it is still the first week or so. You would also think the Christmas lunacy at every store and mall might be a sign, but since those decorations appeared almost comically early, they were easy to ignore.

I have a few bins of apples on our front porch, as well as the drilled Halloween pumpkins, all of which are now covered with snow. The garage has been readied for two vans to fit inside, but the basketball hoop is still standing dead center in front of the garage door. I typically try not to complain about someone else’s strategy for getting the garage cleanout under way, but I am pretty sure if my van is sitting in the driveway with inches of snow on it, the method failed.

Um, okay. It appears I was having some trouble beyond just monitoring the passage of time and basic calendar reading skills. Where was I headed with this? If I could decipher that, perhaps I could give this poor post the closure it deserves. I will say that this year was not the first since little feet stopped growing and fashion entered the equation that used to be more rooted in warmth. We had a family fun evening where I dumped all of the hats, mittens and scarves on the floor and insisted we keep only that which we intended to use. We shared yarns about the yarns that had been hand knit or crocheted by my aunt, mother and step-mother. It's amazing what passes for entertainment during these times.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Time to Bake the Cookies

Cookies. An event wasn't truly celebrated without them. The presentation changed slightly with a different platter or frosting colored to coordinate with the event - weddings, graduations, christenings, and of course Christmas, the high holiday of baking - but the stars of the show remained the same. My grandmother's cookies.

I was a casual observer of my grandmother's baking process. Her kitchen had a small counter top peninsula where the magic happened amidst a stand mixer and cookie sheets. She had banged up pink metal measuring cups, and some odd assortment of measuring spoons that she cast aside preferring to use silverware. The only involvement I really had as a kid with her baking, aside from wandering past the cooling cookies more times than necessary, was getting to use the typewriter or my fancy cursive writing skills to update her recipe cards. There was no "helping" my grandmother bake. My suspicion is that she anticipated the potential mess that likely would have occurred, and did not even entertain extending the invitation.

As an adult, the first cookie recipe of hers that I borrowed was for a simple delight called Italian Cookies. These were the favorite of many and most often requested. I was apprehensive about trying to make the cookies on my own because her reports often detailed the dough giving her trouble by being either too sticky or too dry. The only problem I had was the sizing as I had not accounted for any rising, and I am not sure if cookies being too large even really counts as a cause for alarm.
This year I made them almost too small
One of my grandmother's last Christmases living in her home, I was trying to go through some motions of holidays gone by, so figured we would make some Italian Cookies. I was hoping to get a few pointers as I expected something to click once all of the ingredients were out, or at least once the dough mad been mixed; a sort of muscle memory type of thing. I was mistaken. We got through the task together in a bittersweet fashion. 

It seems like each card I pull out of her recipe box looks simple enough, but I get jammed up every time I try one. My grandmother never struck me as an infinitely patient person, but she must have found some sense of satisfaction and peace in what strike me as the most tedious of tasks. I remember watching her finely chop any number of ingredients. My first swipe at the date bars? I almost bailed at the first step trying to work my knife through the sticky mess I was making. I tried to remember what her process looked like and could only come up with a vision of a much larger knife than I typically allow myself to handle. 

My grandmother's passing left me even more drenched in nostalgia for the holiday season than my fairly saturated base level of the past few years. Cookies, there had to be cookies...more cookies than usual, more of her recipes being made, more people being reached, individual favorites accounted for. 

Walnuts? Did everything she made call for walnuts? Mincemeat? Let's not get crazy! (That being said, I have eyed that big old Nonesuch jar my past two trips to Wegmans. I also nearly put the $16.99 tin of Charles Chips in my cart. The comfort of memories is a dangerous game.)

I was ready for the dates. Big knife, take your time...
...just keep chopping! Maybe a bigger cutting board next time. On to the chocolate crumb bars! Checking things off the list, pretending these were done once out of the oven...
...pay no attention to the corner missing on each as I procrastinated actually cutting the bars!
Oh how did she decide how big to cut the cookies, and what knife did she wield so it wasn't a glorious mess?! No point dwelling as there were thumbprints to make!
That's not what hers looked like, and why was the thumb part so difficult? Why on earth did she not want help? (Obviously because she probably had a better system and I only would have been holding her back.) My mom made the nut tarts (more walnuts) and the Mexican wedding cakes snowballs Russian Tea balls (or whatever your family calls those powdered sugar coated walnut balls, yes, MORE walnuts). My daughter then had to weigh in with what have become her own holiday baking traditions of peanut butter blossoms and spritz cookies, and then we do like those chocolate crinkles, and how about some molasses because nobody else here likes gingerbread so I settled. (She also makes herself chocolate chip snowballs, but does not allow those to be given away.) How about some caramel corn to fill in any blanks! We still have cut outs to get through for the one person on our list who would probably turn down a cookie platter without them.

Then what? Well then comes the part where I don't even know how to give away the cookies. I don't know how many to set aside for the four of us to have here because any other year we would just nibble for days on what was left after company departed. This year I am trying to ration and worry I am failing at being generous about it. What if I give away too many cookies? I couldn't possibly just make more in January of whatever I wanted. 

I long to see my grandmother's freezer stacked high with tins filled with cookies waiting to be delivered or picked up. Having a better understanding of what went into that end result is fascinating to me, as once again, this was not a woman who had infinite patience or an affinity for messes. Maybe the key is that for that time she was baking, she put everything else aside. I know her house wasn't a mess to begin with, so that wasn't hanging over her head either. She probably didn't have a daily meltdown over what to make for dinner. I think she took her time. What was that like to feel like you weren't rushing? I need to try harder to remember her lesson to slow down once in awhile, or at least keep my house in better order on a regular basis (literally and figuratively).
 
Before I end this ramble, I want to update you on the villages from this post! Our cousin posted a photo of her village, that my grandmother contributed to, on the blog's facebook post...
...my cousin posted a picture of hers there as well...
...and then my aunt set up hers!
This filled me with such joy!