But I digress....
Today I was reminded of how two people can look at the exact same thing or place and see it in a vastly different way.
Before taking Wills to his Pediatrician we dropped in at my office (calling it "my office" isn't quite right...my domain is limited to a little cubicle within said office). I take him in periodically because I like to show him off, but also because he enjoys exploring. My hard working peers enjoy it too (I hope) as they can take a few minutes away from the daily grind to enjoy a smiling toddler.
And smile he did! We rode in an elevator with glass walls that overlooked a busy hall. He squealed in delight as the floor sunk below us. I stopped him just short of hitting the emergency button, but otherwise the elevator ride was good. Once on my floor, we went from desk to desk saying hello. My son loves technology and the office is filled to overflowing with monitors, keyboards, printers and fax machines. It's techie-Will heaven! And some of the folks I work with let him sit on their laps and tap on the keys for a bit. He, of course, LOVES this. When he wasn't pretending to "work" he was snacking on some sweet treats that were offered (and happily accepted).
When it was time to go, I had a heart broken little boy. As we walked to the car, he wailed and pointed at the building, clearly wanting to go back in. I had to chuckle a bit, thinking how I was more likely to cry on the way IN.
That's when it hit me. When I think of my workplace, I think of meetings and deadlines and project plans. I think of getting up early, braving the weather, and wishing for Fridays. Don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy my job, but it is just a job after all.
Willie, on the other hand, thinks of my office as a place where joy lurks around the corner of every cubicle, where there are computers enough for everyone, people are always smiling and sharing treats. It's a place with a fun elevator and desk chairs that spin in circles. It's a playground full of wonderful surprises for a curious and friendly little boy.
So on Monday I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to walk into that office and approach my work day with an open mind. I will try not to forget how magical the typically mundane can be - IF looked at just the right way.
I just love this photo of my little William playing Cowboy. I found the poem on-line and, though simple...it rang true. :)
Rugs and pillows
out of place,
Cars and tractors
here and there,
Blocks and boats
Gold and silver
have I none,
But worth a million
is my Son.
But no. The paint did dry, but that paint chip had clearly lied. No buttercup this bold ever existed in nature.
This yellow was Yellow with a capital Y, followed by an exclamation point! We quickly renamed it “Spongebob Squarepants Yellow” for that seemed far more appropriate than the soft and girly "buttercup".
The first time Dan saw the new wall color, he raised his eyebrows questioningly, but said nothing (probably noting the tears welling in my eyes). This was not at all what I’d envisioned or told my husband to expect. I think that he would have agreed to new paint on the spot, had I asked, but I’m a cheapskate and couldn’t bare to waste that much paint just because of the color. Besides, when I looked on the bright side (of the situation, not the walls) I noted that it did match my 1950’s diner style kitchen table. Also the stark white curtains I’d hung really popped against the French's Mustard colored background.
So I gritted my teeth, and decided that I’d make do. And I have.
Over two years have passed since the paint brushes were put away, and the walls are still yellow.
And you know what? Somewhere along the way, I began to really enjoy our freakishly golden kitchen. I found myself apologizing less and less, even as our visitors' eyes grew larger. I love sitting at my kitchen table, paging through stacks of cookbooks or writing letters to my Grandma. If I'm struggling to get motivated in the morning, a cup of coffee in my little kitchen really perks me up. Well, the caffeine doesn't hurt of course, but the color is a happy one. It's vibrant and it's bold and it's unique.
I'm sure a professional decorator would be able to come up with a hundred reasons to re-paint.
I don't care.
I like that it's different, because truth be told - so am I.
World War II brought many types of food rationing to the American family. For a quick history lesson on how rationing worked, go here. It's hard to imagine (for me anyway) being forced to make do without something so basic as SUGAR, but this recipe is evidence that folks of that time were willing to be creative so that they could still have some sweet treats in a world with little sugar.
From a 1943 newspaper clipping:
To make 48 cookies, you'll use:
Sift flour, measure and add the baking powder and salt and sift together twice. Cream shortening until soft, then blend in brown sugar. Add syrup gradually, stirring well after each addition.
Stir in the well beaten eggs and vanilla. Add the sifted dry ingredients in several portions, beating well after each. Stir in the nuts. xx
I enjoyed following this recipe. Maybe it's just me, but I always have loved any old excuse to dust off my sifter. Hardly any recipes call for it anymore, but I do enjoy it.
Some notes from my experience:
- This recipe was pretty fun to make...using the syrup instead of sugar was intriguing
- The dough was promising - and tasty (yes, I admit I sneak the occasional nibble of cookie dough)
- I used chopped walnuts, because I like them - you might like others
- The dough really expands in the oven. Keep the cookies small.
- Eat them while they are warm. These are not such great cookies on day two
- Bottom line though....I'm glad I tried these because they were fun, but there are better (much better) cookie recipes out there. Use one of those unless you don't have any sugar.
That's 17 year old Christy on the right...
Current (definitely less hip) Christy is embarrassed by some of the silly things that once seemed so vitally important to her. She no longer cares, for example, what the "Cool Kids" think (and yes folks, sadly there ARE "Cool Kids" in the adult world - those who must wear the right shoes and drive the right cars etc). Current Christy enjoys spending time at home with her husband and her baby boy. She adores hanging out with her parents too (this was not always the case). She sews and bakes and she sings in the car.
The car-singing is fairly new.
My blissful maternity leave ended in late 2008, thrusting me (kicking and screaming I assure you) back into the daily grind of my professional life. Hubby and I split the daycare duties: I dropped Baby Wills off at his babysitter each morning on my way to the office & Dan would pick him up at the end of his work day.
If you've ever had drop-off duty, you know that dear Dan got the far more enjoyable end of this particular bargain. It was so very hard that first day! When I handed my tiny guy off to his new sitter, the pain was incredible - my heart broke.
You can see here why I didn't ever want to leave him... what a darling little bit of wonderful he was, all snuggled and cozy in his car seat!
I was crying harder than the baby was, and it was all I could do to not call my boss, and quit right then and there! How could I leave my sweet little peanut with a stranger? Would she cuddle him like I did? Would she know when he was hungry? Would she keep him warm and safe? My mind raced back and forth. One minute I was fretting, the next I was reminding myself that we picked this (very competent & experienced) woman to watch our child for a reason, and that unless we wanted to move into my parents' garage (we need two incomes at the moment) I was going back to work.... like it or not.
Over the next few days I began singing during the ten minute drive from our house to daycare. I found that it calmed me, and a calmer Mommy meant a calmer baby... or at least that was my working theory.
So I sang.
I sang with all of my heart. I used my diaphragm the way we learned to do in Jr. High Choir. I did not care who saw me. All that mattered to me was the little guy in the backseat. My fervent hope was that this early morning Mommy-concert would serve as a happy memory that might help get both of us through the day ahead.
I sang all of the songs that I knew the words to (and quickly learned that there weren't very many - good thing it's a short drive).
Here are the songs I started singing to Willie those first days:
Jesus Loves Me
Jesus Loves the Little Children
Mary had a Little Lamb
Love Lifted Me (my favorite church hymn)
Take Me Out to the Ballgame (the Boston Red Sox version, of course)
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (and yes, I do know it's a Christmas song)
Months have passed, and daycare isn't the unknown place it once was. We love Judy (our sweetheart of a babysitter) and when we get to her house, I'm lucky to get a kiss and a wave from Willie before I've been replaced with his little friends and Cheerios.
Though we both would be fine if I stopped, I'm still singing those same songs to him during every morning commute. It has become a part of our daily routine. Someday Willie will be far too "cool" to ride around with his singing Mommy, but for now he's my little buddy and singing is something he likes for me to do. I know this because lately, after we first get settled in the car for our morning drive, I've been asking him, "Should we sing?" He grins, and says "JES!" (his version of "Yes"). Then he proceeds to chatter along with me, trying his best to sing along.
You know what? Now that I really think about it, maybe Younger Christy wouldn't be so offended with Current Christy's uncool car singing after all - especially not if she looked close and saw just how much that cute little boy enjoys such a simple, but utterly wonderful time with his Mommy.
As you may have guessed, I'm trying (for the eleventy-millionth time in my life) to "eat right" and get in shape. The exercise part is no problem. We have a Wii Fit and it does wonders to keep me motivated, and I can tell a difference. The problem is I know the difference would be a whole lot bigger if it weren't for my sweet tooth, and my salty tooth, and my Red Robin Bleu Ribbon burger tooth.... You get the idea. I just plain enjoy eating... and for someone who loves to eat yummy fattening food (me!!) it's especially hard.
So forgive me if I'm a little tiny bit grouchy lately. I want to eat lemon meringue pie, and red velvet cake, and double chocolate chip cookies and those little cherry sour candies from the grocery store. I want brownies right out of the oven and Chubby Hubby Ben & Jerry's....
As you may have deduced, the end for this diet may be near. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I'm really not bitter, just hungry. And yesterday I noticed Girl Scout Cookie time is upon us. How on Earth can I say no to a sweet little Girl Scout who might ask me to buy Thin Mints or Samoas (or whatever they call them now...they'll always be Samoas to me)?xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I remember being a "Brownie" and selling those cookies. I hated the selling part and my long standing rule is that I'll buy from any little girl selling them, (as long as she asks me in person). But should I break my rule this year for the sake of my questionable waist-line? Should I deprive HER of the glory associated with filling out her multi-colored cookie order form? and maybe winning a prize? or getting a certificate of merit? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Well, of course not. That would be rude, and I try never to be rude. So bring on those order forms! Everything in moderation right? I'll just ration out those cookies and make them last for a long time.
Or at least I'll try to. We'll see. Wait a second! Do you smell Cinnamon Rolls? I'd better check it out. Don't wait around. This might take a bit.
photo: Google images
From "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook"
You think you've had good cornbread? I bet this one is better... it's sweet and hearty and tastes so good it might make you cry. It comes out tall and cakey, thanks to the eggs. And don't worry about reducing this one. It reheats wonderfully. You won't be sorry!!
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, sift or stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a second large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the milk, oil and eggs. Add the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined. (Batter will be wet and a little lumpy.)
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the corn bread is pulling away at the edges.Cool in the pan, then cut into 15 squares.
Makes 15 AMAZING servings.
Note that this is just ONE of the amazing recipes in Sylvia's cookbook. If you love home-style comfort food like Grandma used to make, I highly recommend that you buy a copy.
Photo: Google Images
This past weekend, I was on the hunt for a fun new recipe to try. This urge comes and goes, but almost always sends me sinking into my favorite overstuffed chair - cup of tea in hand - surrounded by stacks of books, both old and new. I get lost in the pages of pictures and interesting recipes. It's a task that can sometimes take hours...when I have them to spare, of course.
I've looked through this particular little book time and again over the years, but was struck anew by a segment at the beginning of the slim volume: "It's a Wise Woman Who Knows Her Baking Rules". It's a nice little article that just gushes mid-century Americana. I can easily envision an apron-clad housewife carefully reading the following list.... and checking each item off as she goes along: Be orderly, Use good tools, Choose good ingredients, Measure accurately, Mix carefully, Know your pans and oven, and how to cool your cakes.
I can't help but also think how these items that "A Wise Woman" should know about the kitchen, could also be things she might be well served to know about LIFE...
1. Be orderly.
Who can argue with this? I can say with certainty that my own life would be easier if I could be a bit more organized. Who knows how productive I'd be if I would buckle down and straighten the linen closet or sort my art supplies...
2. Use good tools.
The "tools" that help me the most in life are those that help me manage my time: the Blues Clues calendar hanging on our kitchen wall, the daily organizer in my purse, and this computer which helps me manage my thoughts in blog form...
3. Choose good ingredients.
The "Good Ingredients" in my life are the people I hold dear. Without them, I would be an utter failure. I long to spend more time with my family. I feel that we should carefully choose our friends...pick those who are kind and loyal and thoughtful. These are the ones who will stand by us when we need them the most.
4. Measure accurately.
Everything in moderation. Nothing in excess. Have you ever put too much baking powder in a cake? Too much flour in your gravy? We all know what happens when the measurements are off. Nothing works as planned.
5. Mix carefully.
Life needs balance. We should consider what we are willing to spend our precious time doing, and who we should be doing it with. What's truly important to me? God, Dan, Willie, my Family, Friends, "Me" time...
6. Know your pans and oven, and how to cool your cakes.
or "Know my own limits, and how to calm myself if I get overheated!" Knowing how to "cool ones cakes" when they get too hot... now that is truly something every wise woman (and man and child) should learn to do! I know I sometimes struggle with keeping my cool (when Will used a red crayon on the marble mantle this weekend, for example...)
So if you ever get a chance, check out "All About Home Baking". It's a fun read filled with simple articles and recipes.... though not exactly the one I'm looking for at the moment. Hmmm what will it be?
I'm thinking PIE...
It's a good little book to pick up for several reasons. First of all, it is simply lovely (as are all of the books in the "Little House" series). It gives us an eye-opening glimpse into what Pioneer life was like, and most importantly, it helps us to understand just how good we have it these days in a world full of modern convenience!
Humor me while I compare....
From Our Current Winter...
It is early in the morning. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and blueberry muffins swell through the little kitchen. Christy reaches for her small weather radio and turns the silver knob to hear the robotic weather report for the day. "High today of 0 degrees," says the robot. "A wind chill advisory warning is in effect until 9pm." Christy frowns as she realizes there will be no errand running today. Going out alone in the freezing cold is one thing, but there's no way she'll risk taking the baby out unless its absolutely necessary. "Oh well," she grumbles. "Maybe I can get out of this house tomorrow." And with that, she returns to her hubby, who is reading the morning paper, and her giggling boy. They finish breakfast and start the day warm and snug (even if a little stir-crazy).
From The Long Winter:
"Her mittened hand was so numb that it hardly felt Carrie's hand. She was shaking all over and deep inside her there was a shaking that she could not stop. Only in her very middle there was a solid knot that ached, and her shaking pulled this knot tighter so that the ache grew worse."xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
"Laura tried to think of the good brown smell and taste of the beef for dinner tomorrow, but she could not forget that now the houses and the town would be all alone till spring. There was half a bushel of wheat that they could grind to make flour, and there were the few potatoes, but nothing more to eat until the train came. The wheat and the potatoes were not enough."
From The Long Winter:
"In the morning Laura got out of bed into the cold. She dressed downstairs by the fire that Pa had kindled before he went to the stable. They ate their course brown bread. Then all day long she and Ma and Mary ground wheat and twisted hay as fast as they could. The fire must not go out; it was very cold. They ate some course brown bread. Then Laura crawled into the cold bed and shivered until she grew warm enough to sleep."
And so it goes... there is nothing I could even think to complain about that would come close to what those brave pioneers went through that terrible winter when SEVEN months worth of blizzards pounded the prairie. I am reminded how very thankful that I am for heat and insulation and warm clothes and modern medicine and plentiful food.
I finished re-reading The Long Winter just last night, and I think I'm going to make it an annual requirement for myself. It never hurts to be reminded of one's blessings, and this book certainly does that well!
When my baby Wills looks at me with those big beautiful eyes, smiles his cutie-pie smile and says "Mama", there is just nothing I won't do for him.
I've been a Mom for almost a year and a half, but sometimes I take one look at him and it's like it is all brand new again.
Who knew a heart could feel so full? All the other Moms in the world, I imagine.
Tonight Dan and went to a hockey game with an old college buddy. While he was away, Willie and I had the house to ourselves. We colored. We danced. We built towers out of blocks. I gave him maybe a million kisses, and he humored me by tolerating them.
At bedtime, he drifted off to sleep easily, like the little angel he is. I watch him snoring softly in his cozy crib, and I have to fight the urge to wake him up so we can play some more.
What a perfect evening... just a boy and his Mama!
I can hardly wait for tomorrow when we can start it all over again.
My love of recipes started when I was moving into my first apartment, and my Mom gave me a recipe box (my first). It's shiny metal surface was adorned with little painted strawberries. A humble little box to be sure, but oh what wonder it held inside. It was stuffed with dog-eared copies of old family favorites, neatly folded magazine clippings, and pre-printed state fair recipe handouts. My favorites were those that were hand-written by any of the ladies in my family. My Grandmother H's cards were a bit brittle with age, but her careful printed recipes are still easy enough to read .... Other cards sported the old-fashioned cursive of my Great Aunt Mary, my Grandma B or Great Aunt Ree. My Mom's contributions were newer (and more familiar - she'd included all of my childhood favorites). They were each written on bright neon cards. Those recipes on neon became some of the first I attempted as I dealt with a bit of homesickness, and a youthful hunger for anything home-made.