Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Here's one I wrote that I hope gives some comfort to the world weary, the battered of spirit, the hopeful. So often, we subject ourselves to the tortures of the damned and forget the miracle of this moment.
Monday, February 1, 2010
This month's Creative Everyday theme is home. (http://www.creativeeveryday.com) It's also my birthday month which got me thinking about my first real home, the one that's almost uncomfortable for me to contemplate, the place where I began--that oceanic womb of creation. In a very deep sense, "Mom" is the ultimate embodiment of home for me.
For months, this memory of my mother in her little beach chair kept bubbling up until I put it into words. The resulting lines seemed to capture both the frothiness and poignancy that can co-exist in a memory.
Snapshot of a Summer Day
Shiny, orange toes digging in the sand,
A floppy hat skitters toward the ocean’s edge,
Tiny legs scramble just in time,
A helium-filled Mom laughs more than usual,
Lighter in spirit and darker with freckles,
Engulfed in a collage of beach towels, pails, and sandals,
She inches closer to the cool water and action,
Ready to cheer on dribble castles and back floats.
After lunch, a well-worn path to candy Nirvana,
Sweaty quarters threaten to slip,
Skin tight from a sunburn facelift,
Razzles or a fudgsicle?
An impossible choice.
Impressions of a summer day,
Dad’s shoes crunch, crunch on the pebble drive,
Mrs. Dinatale teeters on cork wedges, cackling with a cocktail,
Mom flips through her magazine and scans the beach,
Silently counting her hatchlings,
A wave hooks our surfboards,
The sudden burst of speed thrills and churns,
Salty eyes sting as the Styrofoam warriors stagger to their feet,
That was a good one,
For sure, hey, get ready.
The hot breeze carries clucks of encouragement from the little chair,
The words drip off us, barely noticed,
Yet they coat us like the salt,
Unacknowledged and healing,
She is there, always there,
Constant as the tide,
Shiny, orange toes digging in the sand.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Zen of Baking
Serenity is in short order around the holidays, what with all of the complicated re-gifting strategies, forced cheer, and probing questions about Santa’s time management.
On days when your head is about to pop off your dead-tired body, I’ve got your ticket to thirty minutes of bliss. Sounds potentially kinky but alas, it’s G-rated.
It’s baking. Baking is the new yoga. Maybe not the kind that Madonna does, but hear me out. There’s no sweaty mat, no hot twenty-year-old to shame your tin-man flexibility, and no fear of ripping an Achilles tendon. And yet, it can get you to that happy place. It’s just you and the bowl—and you are one.
Packing down brown sugar, creaming butter, and adding that final splash of vanilla seem to induce a kind of in-the-moment trance. Maybe it’s the simple instructions “Add two eggs, stir, breathe.”
These baking endorphins cause time to stand still for the briefest moment and the noise of the day to recede (despite a blaring Word Girl episode streaming in from the family room).
And then of course, there’s the bliss.
The bliss part comes when you pull out that tray of caramel orbs, glistening with chocolate, filling the house with smells that purr of love and comfort.
Now I see that my mother was dabbling in the baking Zen during the 70’s.
As a little girl, I would skip home from school (or lope, or drag, depending on the day), and be engulfed at the door by waves of aromatic love. Before you choke on the Norman Rockwell image, you need to know that my Mom was not Mother Theresa in an apron. She had five kids in seven years and had little patience for tomfoolery or hugs. While her Irish sarcasm kept her sane, it kept us distant. She hugged with cookies, brownies and whoopie pies.
So, like Pavlov, when in the afternoon rolls around, I’m looking for a little Zen, a chocolate hug, jonesing for the warm stuff. I find myself drifting into the kitchen, half-conscious, clattering bowls. At the tell-tale jingle of the measuring spoons, I’ll hear a hopeful and slightly disapproving voice from the next room, “Mommy, are you making cookies, AGAIN?”
I do bake with my daughter sometimes but that squashes the Zen. It’s like doing yoga with a ferret on your head. I get now why my Mom would banish us from the kitchen. There is a purity of moment--measuring, pouring, stirring—a creative in-the-moment-ness that baking demands.
For those health-nuts and chronic body-haters among us, I assure you that a warm cookie does the spirit good. In an age of Frankenstein tomatoes, unpronounceable food additives, and skeletal models, it is downright revolutionary to eat a cookie or brownie made by your own hand.
And if you’ve never baked, give it a shot. My sister’s kids admitted that they don’t much like my cookies, they like the “awesome” ones their mom makes, the kind in the yellow roll. I admit that I’ve hit the Pillsbury dough (usually eaten raw in pajamas) but it’s a lot like forgoing a glass of crisp Chardonnay for a swig of Boons Farm ripple—it may get you to the same place but the ride just isn’t the same.
Here is a recipe for Katharine Hepburn’s famous brownies that even the most novice baker can handle. These morsels are sure to induce Zen in the baker and trigger ecstasy in the brownie eater. You will be a hero.
I adore food that comes with a story. Here are Katharine Hepburn’s three rules for life:
- Never Quit
- Be yourself
- Don’t put too much flour in your brownies.
And who doesn’t need a little of what Kate had? I live my life in sweats and a baseball cap—I know I could use a shot of panache.
So park your kids in front of the TV—fear not, I was raised by a television set and I came out okay, despite my uncanny knack for relating any life experience to a Brady Bunch episode. This is your moment of Zen.
Be the brownie.
Katharine Hepburn’s Famous Brownies
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a heavy saucepan over very low heat, melt 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate and 8 Tbsp. butter (1 stick)
3. Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 cup sugar.
4. Beat in 2 eggs and ½ tsp vanilla
5. Quickly stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts (not if you want kids to eat them), ¼ cup all-purpose flour (not a typo—only ¼ cup flour), and ¼ tsp. salt
6. Spread batter in a well-greased 8” by 8” baking pan. Bake 40-45 minutes. Remove pan to a rack to cool.
--Recipe excerpted from Dishing (Simon & Schuster) by Liz Smith