Posts Tagged With: homemade

Attempting to Let Go of the Scrappy Turkey

I’d like to introduce you to our turkey, born almost twenty years ago in Oklahoma. He’s looking worn around the edges and the middle. As you can see, he’s experienced better days.

Scrappy Turkey's seen better days.

Scrappy Turkey’s seen better days.

Born into an impoverished life, this turkey brightened one or two Thanksgivings in spite of his motley appearance and bedraggled state.

This multi-kid-crafted guy sat on the kitchen table for the month of November, or part of the month if I remembered too late. Scraps of paper and a pencil or pen sat nearby for scribbling down a daily something each of us in the family felt grateful for. Inconsistent at best, we all threw in a few thoughts during the month. Running up to the actual day of thanks we might’ve thrown in a few extra to make up for what we didn’t contribute during the busy month preceding.

Then sometime during the day, that fourth Thursday in November, we’d reach in to the turkey’s cavernous gallon sized innards and pull out those scraps of paper. And someone would read what our family felt counted as blessings, gratitudes, good things. We’d have a few brief moments of thoughtful gratitude or laughter and then get on to the pie or leftovers.

Some of the actual scraps of paper with blessings written down.

Some of the actual scraps of paper with blessings written down.

Some of those scraps I’ve saved all these years in the cardboard box labeled Thanksgiving decor. Every year when I pull out that box and set out my little scarecrows, faux fall leaves, and wicker pumpkins, I think about finally setting this poor old turkey free. But I can’t make myself do it. Sure, he’s too scraggly and chintzy to set out as a decoration, so he stays in the box. He long ago exceeded his usefulness and cuteness. But memories hover in and on and around the fowl little guy. How do I let him go?

Maybe this can count as a memorial of that brief span that our homemade turkey spent time on the table reminding us of the blessed life we lived. Especially since that life, at times, seemed held together by paper bits and cardboard tubes and empty milk cartons. Sometimes life still feels that way, taped and glued together, barely holding on, scrunched and crumpled and not so magnificent as in other, better days.

How do you let go of symbols? At what point can you say goodbye and let that be good enough?You’d think it’d be easy to toss this barely recognizable turkey. But nope. Can’t quite do it.

Maybe it just isn’t time to say adieu. Not yet. Not this year. Maybe next November.

I’ll try to remember to set him out on the kitchen table next year, albeit rougher and scrunchier. And then, I’ll set some scraps of paper nearby and a pencil. I’ll toss in my gratitude, and ask MSH to do the same, and visitors, too. And then, after reading all those scraps on Thanksgiving day, maybe then, I can let him go.

We’ll see.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Panivorous? Then This Holiday’s Made Just For You

Today is Homemade Bread Day!

Luscious!

Luscious!

There’s nothing more comforting than the aroma of bread baking, unless it’s actually putting your lips around a warm slice slathered in butter. It’s one of the topics I write about frequently; all too often, I’m afraid. Like this one where I sing the praises of bread. And then I posted these recipes that I adore. And there’s more, which is silly, but not, since bread serves as both metaphor and sustenance in so many different forms.

Doesn't look that great to start, but just wait.

Doesn’t look that great to start, but just wait.

I plan on baking twice as many loaves as normal today as a way of celebrating this delightful little known holiday.

I love sharing my bread. I love the way someone’s eyes light up when I hand them a warm loaf. They all but hug it to their chest. They always lift it toward their face to catch the intoxicating scent. Their eyes almost glaze with a sort of nostalgia, even if they never had homemade bread while growing up.

I’d like to bake a fresh loaf every single morning, but that’s not realistic with only two of us in the house.

Maybe I ought to take up baking for a living, or at least as a little side job. It’s nice to imagine that a plethora of people want to experience the wonder of an imperfectly shaped but exquisitely flavored loaf on a regular basis. And I’d get the side benefit of a house that always smells like freshly baked bread. Mmmm.

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Kneading sometimes provides therapy.

I could bake up six loaves every morning five days a week. That’s thirty extremely happy households regularly. Imagine the transformation in a neighborhood if more lips met more fresh-baked dough. Smiles would surely appear unbidden. Forgiveness would  spring forth almost instantaneously. Love would definitely find expression more frequently. Random acts of kindness might even become the norm and not even make the nightly news as something amazing and different. And, who knows, maybe even peace on earth might break out for an hour or two on occasion.

You laugh. But the power of bread exceeds the power of all other food groups combined. Even (gasp) chocolate! I kid you not.

Seriously, if you’re offered a hot loaf of homemade bread or some kind of chocolate, which would you choose? Be honest!

If you’re male you most likely picked the bread. Female, you probably chose chocolate covered bread. Am I right?

Wait some more.

Wait some more.

If it’s been a long while since you had a truly home-baked loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, still emanating warmth and goodwill when you laid hands on it, then you’ll have forgotten the joy and true power of bread. You’re overdue for a slice or two.

Man may not live by bread alone, but it’s certainly a staple of nearly every culture.

Even people with gluten intolerance or celiac’s disease search out replacements for that perfect mix of crusty crunchiness and inner softness. There’s little that can reproduce the oh-so-marvelous sensation of home-baked bread.

My favorite one-year old refuses almost all other sustenance aside from bread. Her mother makes a wondrous variety of breads and the child has decided she’s found manna and the promised land all in one food group. Oh sure, she’ll eat the random banana, or a green smoothie sometimes,  and she’s okay with pasta drenched in red sauce. But otherwise, it’s bread, or nothing. Smart kid.

Her mother learned that there’s a word for such people: panivorous. It means “subsisting on bread.”

Done rising and ready to bake!

Done rising and ready to bake!

I think I share the same trait. Muffins for breakfast. Bread with butter and cheese for lunch. A fresh loaf, just sliced and buttered, with a few spoonfuls of soup on the side for dinner. I guess I’m not quite a purist. But I could be. Just call me Super Panivore! Surely there’s a cape and tights to go with that, snug fitting but stretchy enough for the bit of tummy bulge sure to accompany such a super hero.

You could probably talk me into a loaf if you live locally. Or I might trade you something for it. For instance, I’m getting my lawn mowed for a loaf this week. Really! Hard to say who’s getting the better deal out of it. Someone brought me a Diet Coke yesterday when a headache threatened to take me down, so they’re probably getting some bread this week, too. Kind acts deserve kindness in return, don’t you think?

Bread’s not a difficult thing to learn to bake. Usually there’s five ingredients. Water, yeast, sugar, salt, flour. Occasionally a bit of oil or butter, or you leave out the sugar, or milk instead of water. Easy peasey. Really.

Can't wait to dive in!

Can’t wait to dive in!

I’ve promised a bread making lesson to a couple of friends a while ago. I need to follow through with that soon.

If you’re curious or feeling adventurous I found two YouTube videos that walk you through the basics of bread baking. I’ve included those links below. Be brave. Be daring. Treat yourself to some love and bake yourself a loaf or two. You’ll thank me or rather, you’ll thank yourself.

If all else fails, at least go buy a fresh loaf from a bakery. It won’t fill your house with loveliness, but your mouth will thank you, and so will anyone you share with.

Happy Homemade Bread Day!

***

Three minutes on the basics of homemade bread.

Fifteen minutes of bread making instruction, if you need a little hand holding.

~~~*~~~

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” ~M.F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

 

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Friday Letter to My Kids: Self-Made, Home Made, Lemonade

Dear J, J, L and L,

Picture an eleven/twelve-year-old girl, dressed for winter weather, a makeshift backpack on her back, trudging down a snow packed street toward an open expanse of hilly snow and frosted over trees. A gray ceiling of clouds make the skies seem ominous, but the air is dry and so cold the nose hairs freeze, eyeballs sting.

The girl knows this kind of weather. She’s lived it every winter of her life.

That girl is me.

I’d decided one day to hike down to the park, three houses away and build myself an igloo and then spend the day inside its peaceful and quiet interior. I’d brought a blanket, a couple of books, some snacks and a small school sized thermos of hot chocolate. I even had a bucket to press the snow into “blocks” to stack on each other.

Turns out the temperatures were colder than anticipated and the dryness of the air also meant a dry crusty snow. That snow wouldn’t stick together. Not even a decent snowball could form from its crystalline structure. It wasn’t the fluffy wet stuff we usually had piling up all winter. I could barely break through the crust of the snow with my bucket to fill it up.

Fifteen minutes into my adventure I was done.

I sat down in the snow, contemplated drinking the hot chocolate and reading for a few minutes out in the open, but it just wasn’t what I’d planned. I trudged back home to the noise of younger siblings, mom teaching piano lessons, chores, warm house and everyday boring life.

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I’ll let you guess which one is me.

I loved adventure as a kid. I especially loved invention and making do with the materials at hand.

  • Tree huts and forts made from found materials.
  • A drawstring bag sewn from leftover fabric and a shoelace.
  • A made up game, a cross between four square and tennis.
  • Pottery made from clayish mud, even if it fell apart when it dried.
  • Climbing out my second story bedroom window early on a Saturday before chores got assigned, so I could have some quiet time to myself.
  • Getting something from the almost nothing of a seed planted.
  • Hiking. The steeper and more challenging, made it all the better.
  • Riding my bike to get where I needed to go, instead of relying on someone else.
Yup.

Yup.

I never dreamed I’d use such “skills” and desires as a mother. And yet, the adventure of raising children utilized those things in ways I wasn’t even really aware of until recently.

  • I’ve lost track of how many times we “remade” home as we moved, and moved, and moved again.
  • Sewing came in handy using scraps to make clothes from a very versatile pattern for J and J when you were little.
  • Finding new ways to entertain and teach and cajole good behavior required invention and creativity.
  • As often as money got tight or nearly nonexistent we made do with what we had in surprising, although not necessarily successful, ways.
  • Rock climbing with you when you were younger turned my daredevil climbing skills into a pastime we loved and shared. Which led to lots of hiking and camping, adventures in their own right.
  • And a few years ago, my bike became my main means of transportation when we got down to only one car and four drivers.
photo by imoni

photo by imoni

I’d still like to live where I don’t need to rely on a car.

And I’d love living a completely self reliant life. Build a small rustic cabin, use solar, have a generator, get our water from a well, plant a massive garden and fruit trees, get around on a motorbike and a jeep or better yet, a mountain bike. Wouldn’t it be something to wake every morning to mountain views and the smell of pine or snow or crunchy leaves? One trip into town once a month for supplies.

I suppose you could say I’ve lived parts of my dream in some convoluted ways. We’ve relied on each other, which made us closer, crazier, and cozier. We own some wonderful memories don’t we? All crafted out of making do, making it up, making our own fun, making the best of things. It’s that whole making lemonade out of life’s lemons thing you’ve heard about.

'nuff said

’nuff said

I often picture the past thirty odd years as a roller coaster ride with all of us in the cars, hands in the air, screaming, eyes popping, certain that the next ninety degree turn or steep drop will do us in. And yet we survived, and had some fun, and learned a ton of stuff. Feels like now that you’re all married that particular roller coaster ride came to a stop. (Did you keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times? I think not! hehehehe)

Now, you’re all off on your own adventures.

My life of adventure so far has surprised me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I’m thinking there’s more adventure ahead, too. I’m just hoping the snow isn’t iced over and that I’m dressed warm enough for whatever happens next.

Here’s praying that your adventures turn out better than you can imagine.

Mine have, so far.

 

All my love,

Mom

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      “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ~G. K. Chesterton

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Food! Glorious Food!

It’s Gratituesday! Today I am thankful for the ability, resources and desire for cooking. There’s something so satisfying about taking a few ingredients, measuring, mixing, tasting and baking. I especially love working with fresh ingredients, having scents and sensations mingling into something tantalizing and new.

When I chop up tomatoes and onions, cilantro and peppers, then add a few spices, to make a lovely concoction called salsa, my favorite part is slicing a lime in half and squeezing it over the bowl. That’s the finishing touch, the little something that puts the perfect tortilla chip companion over the edge into something not simply good, but crave-worthy.

Bread

Bread, the food of love!! (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Mixing the most basic ingredients known to man, flour, water, salt and yeast is the magic formula for putting love into the air. Seriously, can you think of anything else on the planet that says comfort, love, security, safety and welcome as well as the smell of bread baking? I can’t. A fresh loaf of bread can make the most mundane meal into a feast.  Add some strawberry or raspberry freezer jam, handmade by me when berries are on sale, and it’s a perfect pairing. Satisfaction seeps into every pore.

Not enough time for a loaf of bread, some rolls, biscuits, muffins, banana bread, scones, bread sticks or even toast will do. Done with love as the main ingredient, you can’t go wrong with breads.

Don’t even get me started on deserts.

Cooking is my love language. If you show up at my house feeling blue, I’ll try to put a plate or bowl of something in front of you.

Everyone needs a few good comfort foods. I was lucky to grow up with bread baking, homemade cookies, home canned peaches, a backyard garden and a mom who taught me the basics of cooking. Joy is found almost every day as I frolic in my kitchen or sit at the table with family and friends.

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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