Stiff Peaks

By now you’ve finished all your after Christmas shopping and broken all your New Year’s resolutions.  Now what?  It’s February and there’s not a lot going on.  Except for of course Valentine’s Day.  Remember when Valentine’s Day was a big deal?  What would he get me?  Jewelry, candy, flowers?  It was so exciting.  Me, I’d take candy over jewelry any day.  It was a given you’d go out for a romantic dinner. Since it was on my mind I thought I’d ask Tom if he’d thought about it.

Me ( with hope in my voice)  “What have you thought about doing for Valentine’s Day?”

Tom:  “Oh yeah,   Valentine’s Day.  Why don’t you make those lamb chops we like and for sure the Coeur a la Creme, I love that and you only make it on Valentine’s Day.”   Another hope dashed… However, Tom has made this dessert once before and the instruction to whip that cream to stiff peaks had him very confused.  But not as confused as the time he made another dessert as a surprise for me.  That instruction read:  whip egg whites until stiff but not dry.  He still talks about  “That crazy instruction!  What the heck does not dry mean, do egg whites get dry and what does that look like?”  You get the picture.

There are other things to do in February like get a head start on Spring cleaning; invite those friends of yours who didn’t escape to a sunnier place over for dinner.  I am going to turn on the fireplace and curl up on the couch with the golf balls I got for Christmas and dream of a lower handicap.  Speaking of golf balls, have you seen those new matte colored balls?  They are really cool, so that’s what I asked for.  I had only seen the deep red and orange ones, so didn’t even know there were other colors.  Sure enough, there are.  I got a box of the Volvik pastels.  Do you think I will be noticed on the golf course with these colors?  I think so!

If you are spending Valentine’s Day at home and making your own romantic dinner, here is the Coeur a la Creme recipe which is now a family heirloom and will be making it into that cookbook I hope to finish in the next 5 years.  By the way, what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Uh Oh, Now I’ve done it

The Holiday Season is such a fun heartwarming time of year.  A time of good cheer, not a time of danger to your marriage.  Picking out gifts for family members and friends is creative and fun.  It’s a challenge to find just the right thing and then all of a sudden you have a whole pile of “just the right thing.”  And that pile just gets bigger, but how did that happen?  May the following story be a warning to those of you who are happily married.

Last year we were spending Christmas in California.   First we’d spend Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day with our daughter and the twins.  Then after gifts were opened, we’d head to our son’s house, four hours away and spend it with our two grandsons.  We were going to drive as I had all the gifts for everyone gathered in the guest room.  I’d had a good time shopping and found all sorts of just perfect gifts which soon became a big pile taking up more space than they should have in the guest room. The night before we left, Tom wanted to pack the car so we could get an early start in the morning.

 

“What is all of this!” he shouted in dismay,           “All of these wouldn’t even fit into Santa’s sleigh!”

Those dreamy blue eyes were full of fury,                I left that room in a great big hurry.

Yes I went overboard a wee tiny bit                             But he didn’t need to throw such a big hissy fit

“We’ll need two cars!” he sputtered and fumed.    But he started carrying gifts from the room.

He got it packed, everything fit,                                    Although we barely had room to sit.

Next year he said, each kid gets just two,                 I’m making a spreadsheet to send to you.

So I said those words he was desperate to hear,   Those two little words, “Yes dear.”

Oh the stress!  Does any of this sound familiar?  It’s really hard to buy just two gifts each for our adorable, deserving grandchildren,  You find the perfect two gifts and buy them and then something even more perfect comes along. Then what do you do? Take a chance on the fury again or just stop.  I stopped at three, which I thought was a perfect compromise.

Has this ever happened to you or am I the only one to bust budgets?  By the way, what budget?  Do you actually have one?  How does that work!

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nothing is more perfect than a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie. Especially one that is a family tradition.  This recipe will go into the family cookbook that I haven’t worked on since I told you all about it.  I make these cookies in October and all of a sudden it’s November and I forgot all about them since October got completely away from me.  Of course it’s not too late as they are also perfect for November.  I got Bobbie Mae’s recipe out of the Chicago Tribune in the 1970’s, for which she won $10.  I have been making them since.   In making them the other day, I decided for once to follow Bobbie Mae’s recipe exactly.  Wait.  Did I put in four cups or five cups of flour?  I’m sure it was the five I needed but was it? She instructed readers to lightly spoon the flour into a one cup measure and then level off with a spatula.  That is how I lost control of the flour as I doubled the recipe.  How could you lose count of just 5 cups of flour?  Easy.

I decided to experiment.  Usually I bake them as soon as I make the dough.  It’s hard to wait.  This time I decided to bake a few right away, refrigerate some of the dough, and freeze some in my mini muffin pan.  That way I could tell you which way was best.  Let me tell you right now that it didn’t make a darn bit of difference.  The dough was easier to scoop after being refrigerated, but that was about it.  The dough also did not freeze so it was like being refrigerated. I knew almost right away that I had put in 4 and not 5 cups of flour.  Too late for most of the batch.   Gooey dough made really gooey cookies that are impossible to pick up and eat unless you freeze them.  The frozen cookies are all stuck together. When you try to get one, you get at least three. Maybe that’s not all bad.

 

I added a bit of flour to the dough I hadn’t formed yet.  Even if you add the correct amount of flour, I recommend that you don’t put them in a cookie jar because at room temperature, they will still stick together.  Ours are always in the freezer and let me tell you, when you take one out and warm it for a few seconds in the microwave, you are in pumpkin heaven.

The bottom line is:  pay very close attention to your cups!

I wonder if I will need a better photographer than me to take pictures for the cookbook.  What do you think?

FREEGATARIAN

Paleo, low carb, gluten free, vegan and vegetarian.  There is no end to the diets available, but have you heard of freegatarian?  I hadn’t either until having dinner with a friend who works downtown Portland.  She mentioned that a  young woman had started working in her office and had the desk next to hers.  Susan, wanting to get to know this young woman, asked her questions and then got onto the topic of food.  Susan is an avid cook and hoped they might have that in common.  So she asked the young woman if she was on any particular diet, was she a vegetarian for instance?

“No, I’m a freegatarian” she said.  Susan thought she had misunderstood.  “A what?”  Susan asked.  “A freegatarian, I don’t eat meat unless someone else buys it, I get it off of a buffet or find it somewhere.”  Susan was stunned into silence but all she could think of was dumpster diving.

Later Susan looked it up in the Urban Dictionary and sure enough there were two definitions, neither quite what this young woman had described but darn close. Look it up. I sure hope no one in my family is a freegatarian as I am embarking on a family cookbook/memoir project.    Why did I decide to do this?  Do your children know anything about you?  It’s been simmering in my brain for several years and I am currently in a memoir writing group which is motivating me.  The story below is really why I have decided to do a memoir.

 

Detour:  Yosemite.  Forced onto a 3 hour detour around a raging fire on our way to Yosemite, we tried to call Max who was home, and who we’d given strict instruction to not have a party or a bunch of his friends over while we were gone.  The detour took us along a canyon road so far away from anything that we had no cell phone service.  This meant we couldn’t call Tom’s business partner, Sharon, who had rented the two rooms for us for the weekend, to tell her we would arrive very late.  At check-in the clerks were confused by Tom’s request to change the billing to his name that we gave up and went to our rooms.  We awakened very early and took off to see the Valley.  We hiked several trails, stopped and had dinner and didn’t return to our rooms until 9:00 PM.   Sure enough, Sharon had tried to get hold of us when we were over two hours late arriving and all day Saturday.  Failing to reach us, she called Max to find out if he’d heard from us.  When he said he hadn’t, she told him to call the California Highway Patrol and report it.  Which he did.

Max:              “My parents are missing.”

Dispatcher:  I need some more information.  What time did they leave and where were they                                     going?”

Max:            “Uh, maybe around noon yesterday and they were going to Yosemite.”

Dispatcher:  “Have you tried to call your parents?”

Max:             “I would if I knew their number.  Their friend called me and said they were really late                           and she hadn’t heard from them.”

Dispatcher:  “How old are your parents?”

Max:            “Uh, pretty old.”

Dispatcher:  “How old is pretty old?”

Max:            “ Maybe 50 or 60?”  (We were in our early 50’s at that point.)

Dispatcher:  “What do they look like?  What kind of hair color, build, thin, medium, overweight?

Max:           “My mom has blonde hair and my dad has brown hair.  Probably medium except that                         my dad drinks a lot of beer, so maybe more than medium.

Dispatcher:  “What kind of car were they driving, license plate, year and color?”

Max:       “Can you hang on while I go see what car is in the driveway?  OK, they took the black                          Mercedes which is an old car, I don’t know how old and I don’t know the license.”

Dispatcher:  “ OK, this is what I have:  An older, nondescript, slightly overweight, beer drinking                                  couple on their way to Yosemite in an older black Mercedes. Does this about                                         describe it?

Max:        That about describes it.

Now you see why I need to write a memoir!  The cookbook?  Why not incorporate family recipes and the stories that go with them.

Have you written a memoir?  Or a cookbook?  How did it go?

I Should Have Said No

 

I had the amazing idea of creating a summer bucket list.  At the top of the list was lowering my golf handicap.  Also on that list was going to Mt. St. Helens.  We accomplished Mt. St. Helens, but the golf handicap isn’t going as smoothly.

Blowup holes and aim.  My noble goal of lowering my golf handicap this summer didn’t actually happen.  In fact, it went up which I didn’t think was possible.  Tom and I played Twilight golf on Tuesdays, which was a regular event at the course we played on.

Paired with a couple we didn’t know, we approached hole #1.  I was in front of the green in 2 and preparing to pitch onto the green for maybe a par and at worst a 5.  Feeling cocky, I swung and hit my pitch shot straight left into the green side bunker.  Our playing partners shifted uncomfortably and looked down at their feet.

Most husbands in this situation would be supportive. Tom looked at me in disbelief.  “That was a pathetic shot” he said.  “How did you even hit that?”  “Do you think I TRIED to hit that shot?” I said.

Two shots out of the bunker and two putts later, I had my first blowup hole.  My humiliation wasn’t complete as the second hole only got worse. So two holes played and I already had my blowup holes. After nine holes I had 3 blowup holes under my belt and a pretty high score.  How does this happen?  I should be good at golf. (By now, all you non-golfers out there are bored to tears and I get it).  But at dinner they announced the results and I came in second on the back nine winning $7.  The couple we played with started laughing and Tom rolled his eyes.  Yes, that is the result of a very high handicap.  So hey, it turns out a high handicap isn’t all bad!

Which brings me to Chet and his used golf clubs.  It’s tournament time in the Senior Men’s Group at the par 3 Sah-Hah-Lee Golf Club.  I joined the men’s group last year as they didn’t care and now we’re up to 6 women and about 50 men.  Usually about 4 of us women show up and they pair us together every week which is a lot of fun.  We only play 9 holes but the tournament is two days and it’s 18 holes each day.  I signed right up for the tournament but it turns out none of the other women did so it was me and all the men.

Day one and I was on the tee playing with Chet, Fred and Jim.  Jim had the whitest legs I’ve ever seen and white socks to match.  Chet could barely move (Tom yells at him as he walks the course “Don’t stop Chet.  The vultures are circling”).  Chet has bad knees but is really friendly, as guess why, he sells used golf clubs and had honed in on me as a hot prospect.  Chet with his used clubs in the picture.  It was 97 degrees the day we played.

I played really well on the front nine, better than I’ve ever played before.  When we hit the back nine Chet moved in.  On the back nine there are some holes I need to hit a driver.  Chet just happened to have a ladies driver in his bag and guess what?  It was for sale.  I had my own driver but I got talked into trying this fantastic driver which was priced at only $39.  I might not have even tried this if I hadn’t been told by someone who fits golf clubs that the club I need to upgrade is my driver.  New drivers are $400+, so $39 sounded really good.

I hit Chet’s driver really well, straight left into and under a bush.  Chet smiled and said “I have that same trouble with that driver.  The face is closed and you need to open it to hit it straight. And who really cares about the golf score anyway.”   I do, I’m in a tournament!  The next driving hole Chet pointed out has a wide open fairway and I really should try that driver again.  Same result.  Straight left into a big bush. It happened that the big bush was in a completely different fairway from the one we were playing on.  Chet is unfazed.

“Hey, I have a couple of other brands of ladies drivers in my garage which will be much better for you and I’ll bring them on Thursday.”  Thursday was the second day of the tournament, a day that did not go well for me even though I didn’t use the two old ladies drivers Chet brought for me to try.  I felt like Thursday was an 18 blowup hole day.  I’m sure I need a whole new set of golf clubs to solve my problem.

Any secrets out there to prevent blowup holes?

 

 

 

 

Two Perfect Days

It’s said you can never go back.  But sometimes you can.  It’s just different.  And maybe better.  Where were the two perfect days of the title?   Why in Minnesota of course, home to perfect places.  All of which are on lakes in Northern MN.

On our way to a wedding in Michigan, we met our daughter, her husband and the 5 year old twins for two days at Maddens Lake Resort in Brainerd, home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Oh how Maddens has changed from the summer I worked there between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college.  It’s much bigger for one thing, and so much to do. They even have pickleball.  But instead of waiting on tables and cleaning cabins, I was now a guest.  Dining, swimming, pontoon boats, flying off rafts, perfect weather and best of all, no mosquitoes! The only thing we didn’t do was golf at one of their several courses.  We would have needed at least 4 days for that.

The old lodge is still there and that is the one in the picture, but there is a bigger and more beautiful one now which is the main lodge.  The first night there we ate at the old lodge which hasn’t changed at all except for paint and the memories flooded back…

There were about 12 of us hired to be waitresses for the summer from all over Minnesota and all attending different colleges. We shared a very rustic cabin dorm, two to a room and one bathroom.  Meals were provided down in the main Lodge where we had our own dining room and the best cook ever.  We called her Aunt Nora and she took care of us like we were her own children.  I still have Aunt Nora’s cookbook, the pages yellowed and stained, with recipes such as:  Pine Edge Famous Orange Rolls, Aunt Nora’s Famous Sour Milk Pancakes, Molded Blueberry Salad, and Lovelle Arnold’s Tangy French Dressing.  We cleaned cabins in the morning and waited tables at lunchtime.

I will never forget the intimidating, scary Mr. Madden.  He was a giant and presided over the restaurant at lunchtime. The dining room was a semi-circle.  It had a main floor and a step down to where all the tables were, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake.  There were only a few tables on the main floor for overflow.  But that’s where Mr. Madden’s table was.  At the head of the room where he ate lunch every day, watching us.  Each of us had our one week turn of waiting on him which was the scariest week of the summer.  He was about 6’5″ with a shock of wavy grey hair and blue penetrating eyes.  You had better get his order correct.

Across the lake, which was narrow where we were, was a large house and there were lots of boys there.  They came from surrounding houses and gathered on the point every night.  They would start a bonfire and we would shout across the lake at each other.  We were invited over and of course we went.

He stood out from the start.  Blonde hair, blue eyes, cute and very shy.  I was probably cute and definitely shy. There was an attraction, but what to do about it? Neither of us knew. Noticed by my friends and encouraged to talk, we finally did.  His name was John.  One night they all came to our side of the lake and at the end of the evening, John asked to walk me back to our dorm.  I was thrilled but nervous.  My friends had just gone and when we got to the door I could hear them all inside giggling and talking on the other side of the door. John and I made small talk.

Then he leaned in. And then he kissed me. My first kiss.  I think he kissed me, but it was over so fast I wasn’t sure.  Was it supposed to be that fast?  Was that it?  The romance novels made it seem much more exciting.  Then he turned without saying anything and ran down the hill like he had a pack of girls chasing him.  Maybe it was his first kiss too.  I opened the door to 11 girls on the other side shouting “Did he kiss you?”

All too soon the summer was over.  John and his family left the lake and so did all the other girls.  I was the only one left.  Apparently I was the only one who had signed a contract to stay until the resort closed for the summer.  School was starting and I needed to get back.  I went in to see Mr. Madden.  After I explained why I needed to leave, he just looked at me and said

“You signed a contract, when you sign a contract, you don’t walk out on it.”  I ran out to the dock and, while crying, called my dad begging him to come and get me.  He listened to me and then he said:  “You signed a contract.” Mr. Madden and my dad had a lot in common.  At least I had Aunt Nora’s shoulder to cry on and I learned a big lesson.

Now lots of years later, I’m on the other side and although the sides are different, my feeling for the resort is not.  I loved it then and I love it now.  My California granddaughters think Minnesota is the best place in the world and I couldn’t agree more.