Throwback Thursday: What The Heck IS This Thing?

Do you know what this is?

Hint: It used to be my job when my mom baked.**

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walnut-pieces**P.S. It’s a nut grinder! Did you guess correctly?

The Boy Who Is My Heart. So Much Depends On A Yellow Steamroller

An homage to William Carlos Williams

The Yellow Steamroller

So much depends
upon

a yellow
steamroller

buried
in the dirt
 
behind the shed
On a bitterly cold afternoon, my tugboat man and I embarked on our annual yard cleanup project. I raked all the pine needles shaken loose during the fury of Alaska-borne winds that roared down the coast to Southern California while he trimmed the eucalyptus and mulberry trees.
Metal rake clanged against metal.
I saw bright yellow igniting the dirt and pine needles suffused it with a gleaming radiance through the brown. steamroller1
I threw down the rake, crouched on all fours, and with bare fingers dug through the wet fecund soil to uncover an abandoned yellow Matchbox toy from the spot where there once was a sandbox that my son’s dad  built for him when we first moved to this house in 1985.
I discover in situ a three-inch wide artifact imbued with all the wonder of my perfect child. 
I gently brushed away twenty-five years of encrusted soil and sand.steamroller2
sandboxI was engulfed in a wave of memory. I was there. I saw him–my four-year-old son in this beautiful huge sandbox filled with fresh, clean sand.  I saw him as I often watched him from the bay window in the kitchen overlooking the backyard where I would wash dishes and keep an eye on him, keeping him safe–always keeping him safe–as he played in the sand with his dump trucks and cherry pickers and this steam roller and his buckets and plastic cups and forks and sticks with his cats and dog always near, and the loveliness of the memory set me on my heels and I cried.
Happy tears for the exquisite soft rosy glow of healthy well-fed cheeks, the deep Imperial jade green eyes, the curls that were my curls, my boy, my angel love.
The boy whose every breath contains a whisper of the intangible all encompassing LOVE I possess for this being who was a part of me before he was a part of the earth and sun and sky and sand.
The boy who is my heart.
I shut my eyes tight to keep the pictures from disappearing, but the ephemeral/evanescent impressions floated away with the tears that spilled out for the remembering of the beauty of a luminous child playing in a sandbox, singing to himself and constructing sand sculptures of the future, or, in his case, building words and spinning thoughts and erratica.
Those grains of sand that between his fingers mashed and smashed into forts and tunnels were the detritus of the granite from whence his brain reformed them grain by grain into skyscrapers of words and sentences that flow like a path from the back door to the sandbox.looking down from the hill
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams
so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

A Grateful Monday

As part of my 2013 resolution to release my inner beeyotch, Helen Reddy‘s inspiredI am Woman helps me stay on track!

I would like to thank three awesome women for their creativity and imagination, especially since it’s all about ME!

1. Rarasaur’s delightful interpretation of ME! Check out her incredible blog and just try to figure out how her mind works! She’s another SoCal girl and she loves cats! And she’s only 60 inches tall just like me! I love her a lot and you will too. Rarasaur doodle enchanted seashells

2. IB DesignsUSA banner in nautical flags, because sometimes the best answer is “Meow”.  Kathy loves all things nautical and is a lovely lady with a great business. International maritime navy signal flags are a colorful way to spell names, messages, or to decorate your home. Give a personalized signal flag banner or wall hanging as a nautical wedding decoration, an unusual boating Christmas gift, or just for the plain fun of it!

Meow banner

3. In response to a tweet of mine bemoaning my lack of mail–no packages, no invitations to a ball, no requests to attend a movie premiere with Tina Fey–wonderful, awesome Red Dirt Kelly sent me a t-shirt!! I was so excited to return home (from my all day torture of my tugboat man as I dragged him from store to store at South Coast Plaza in the OC until he was so exhausted that he was at my mercy and he begged me to buy something, anything from Chanel so he could go home) and find a package to open and it was this t-shirt! Everyone needs to read the Red Dirt Chronicles!

reddirtkelly

Don’t miss Tuesday’s exciting blog! I’ll share an in-depth reportage of our day at South Coast Plaza, a day of torture and retaliation, culminating in a new Chanel acquisition!
Beeyotches RULE!

UK SPK™- Part Two

Since my son met and married a girl from London, his language has become peppered with UK SPK™, which I define as words and phrases he’s appropriated from his wife, her family, and friends. Because I like to be as trendy and hip as he is, if only to annoy him, I have incorporated quite a few into my daily life.

When everyone was here for Thanksgiving, my DIL (daughter-in-law) and her sister left behind quite a few gems to share.

I really love this one. You need to use rinse if you listen to a song over and over again. “I love Christina Perri‘s song, ‘Jar of Hearts‘ and I’ve been rinsing it.” Or…to use something a lot; “I’ve given my credit card a rinse this holiday season.” …or to play Candyland with your kids until it wears out, or to read the same bedtime book over and over.

Spunk is a very interesting word. For us who speak American English, it means courage or spirit or full of energy, as in  “She’s full of spunk” or “She’s a spunky girl. However,  for Brits–spunk takes on a WHOLE different meaning!  it’s a slang term for semen. Imagine the shock on DIL’s face when a man at a business meeting told her she had a lot of spunk and she thought he was sexually harassing her!

Cheers–not as a prelude to lifting a glass or a toast, but as a way to say thank you. It’s spoken in monotone with no inflection. Let’s say someone passed you a bowl of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. You would say “cheers”. It’s low-key.

To DIL and her sister, swish means cool–to us, swish is a disparaging term for a gay man and denotes an effeminate personality.

Reem = sexy, great, fantastic. Be reem, see reem, look reem. “Johnny Depp is so reem!”

Error or to drop an error, which means to make a mistake. “I dropped an error and left something in the car”.  The family is sitting around the dinner table and somebody makes a mistake in etiquette and one would say, “Error” and then everyone laughs.

To cotch is to relax, chill, take a rest. Describing something as a cotch means it was relaxed and chilled out. A really great cotch is cotchtastic.

Amazeballs is the same on both sides of the pond. Amazing, obvs.

The last and best one comes with its own hand gesture.

cringe

This is an example. This is how you do it!

The word is cringe–but it’s not pronounced the same way –/krinj/–as if we meant to bend one’s head and body in a servile manner.

This is how to pronounce it the  UK SPK™  way.

/kr-AWW-nJ/ drawing out the w and j sound. This is the perfect word to use when someone says something really unfunny and then everything goes silent, or when someone goes on and on about something which is really boring, or when someone makes an unwanted comment.

“OMG, gurrrl, I can’t believe that Phoebe got wasted and fell down the stairs naked in front of her brother-in-law. That was cringe. Totally cringe.”

What makes cringe totes amazeballs is that, to be accurate, it needs to be accompanied by a hand gesture that is very similar to the Wendy Williams‘s “how you doin”, but with one hand.

So to review, when you find yourself in a perfect situation to use cringe, you’d lift your right hand, (or the hand that’s not holding a vodka marty), and make that WW or “claw” gesture. Got it? Practice makes perfect!

(Check out UK SPK™ Part One)

When DIL/sister were here, we all rinsed “Jar of Hearts”.

A lost opportunity, a huge regret, a haunting feeling

During one of my healing retail therapy sessions in the shoe aisle at Nordstrom, an older (and by older, I mean WAY older than me, like late sixties) well groomed beautifully dressed lady was sitting nearby trying on a pair of boots. She had a scarf around her neck that you could tell simply by looking that it was woven of the highest quality cashmere. She had a lovely air of grace and elegance. I think it was that regal essence that reminded me of my mom. She owned that quality too, always dressed head to toe with class.  The woman looked so together that I couldn’t keep from sneaking glances at her while I too tried on boots. I’d been looking for a pair of flat riding boots that fit snugly but weren’t too high, which is a tall order. (ha ha). I’ve never been accused of dressing elegantly. Sexy, flamboyant, stylish, wild even–but never Lilly Van der Woodsen Upper East Side elegant. Lilly van der woodsenHere’s an example of me getting dressed… If one pearl necklace is good, a dozen is better! A ring for every finger, well, why not? We have ten of them, isn’t that what they’re for? And aren’t our arms just begging to be filled with every bangle and charm bracelet in the jewelry box?

My mom would shake her head and say, “Princess Rosebud, haven’t you heard the old saying, less is more?” My response to her was, “Haven’t YOU heard of my saying, more is better?”

So I’m sitting there and this lovely woman is sitting there and she turns to me and says softly, matter-of-factly,

“My husband died last week.”

What do you do when a stranger opens up that way? What do you do? I said,

“I am so very sorry for your loss.”

She continued,

“We had been married for fifty years. I don’t know what to do with myself so I shop all day. I can’t bear to be home alone without him.”

If anyone could empathize with that philosophy, it would be me. Not that I’ve lost my life partner, but when my darling thirteen-year-old kitty died, I felt the same way. I left the house early in the morning and stayed away ’til dark, wandering around the shopping centers like a lost soul. I couldn’t bear to open the front door and know that I’d never again see her face at the top of the stairs greeting me. I couldn’t bear to sleep in our bed and never again feel her jump up and scratch at the covers to join me, nestled against my body, so I slept on the sofa until the captain came back. What made it even more difficult to bear was that it happened while he was out to sea, and I was the one who was unanchored, aimlessly drifting. I totes understood the poor lady’s pain.

“He made every day worth living.”

I asked her if she had family in the area to help her with her sadness, and she shook her head. It was on the tip of my tongue to invite her to join me for a cup of coffee when when my cell rang. It was my son. He needed me to run to the post office before it closed and send him a book he had accidentally left behind the previous week.

As I walked away, I touched her gently on the shoulder and told her once again how sorry I was for her loss and I hoped she’d be all right.

I really, really regret not getting her name and telephone number so that we could meet at a coffee shop or simply make sure she’s OK. I have a feeling she might not be. I do have that feeling. I’ve never seen her again.

For the most part, women are a truly and deeply caring and nurturing community. I dropped the ball that day and it haunts me.  It haunts me.

A Kugel-icous Recipe for Passover, too!

I posted this for Hannukah but we make it for Passover, too. I hope you try it and enjoy! Since my stupid oven broke for the 4th time yesterday as I was making my son’s birthday cake, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make Kugel since we couldn’t get a repair appointment until Thursday and the stupid part will take a week to arrive, so we are out of luck! Stupid Sears! Stupid Kenmore! Stupid planned obsolescence!
A pic of kugel (not mine) from http://www.jpost.com/ArtsAndCulture/FoodAndWine/Article.aspx?id=290152

 

What is Kugel?                                                                                                                            Kugel is a savory or sweet pudding of potatoes or noodles usually served as a side dish. It’s of German/Jewish origin. Our family’s traditional Kugel is the sweet noodle kind and my mom’s version is to die for. Really. It’s spectacular hot or cold. I’ll make it tomorrow and take pics. It’s one of those recipes you can make a day in advance and it gets better and better. If you have any leftovers–which we never do- it freezes pretty good. I limit myself to making it only a couple times a year and I eat as much as I want and just work out a bit harder and a bit longer to burn off the calories.

Angel Boy’s Grandma’s Kugel

Ingredients

One large package wide egg noodles
One large can fruit cocktail in juice
One small can pineapple pieces in juice
One large can canned peaches and pears in heavy syrup, yes, you read that right.
At least 3 Granny Smith apples, sliced with about 1/3 cup sugar and 1-2 TBS cinnamon.
3 Eggs
2 tsp vanilla
One lemon,  juiced and zested.

This is a good dish to make in advance especially if you’re also planning to make apple pie (which I am) ‘cos you can just prepare all the apples for both dishes. The secret to this dish is a LOT of cinnamon. If you think you have enough, add a little bit more! Cook a whole package of wide egg noodles and drain. Add 3 beaten eggs with vanilla; it will be super slippery. Add the lemon juice and zest to the apple slices. Drain all the canned fruit but keep the juices; you will need them. Mix together all the canned fruits. Butter one large and one medium deep baking dish. Add a layer of noodles, then a layer of canned fruit, a layer of apples, then another layer of noodles, a layer of the canned fruit, sliced apples, more noodles, more canned fruit and apples, ending with a final layer of noodles. Pour over any remaining egg mixture, and a cup or so of the fruit juices. Be very liberal with the juice. It will all get soaked up as the kugel bakes. Jason’s grandma would dot the whole thing with a bunch of Crisco, like ¼ cup, which sounds gross, but I still follow her recipe. Some people use butter, but we don’t. Other recipes add cottage cheese and raisins, but I’ve only made it my mom’s way, although I’m sure it would be delicious. Bake covered at 300 degrees for about an hour or so depending on the pan size. Take cover off for final 15 minutes. Excellent reheated and/or cold.

KRISTALLNACHT

Jews arrested during Kristallnacht line up for...

Jews arrested during Kristallnacht line up for roll call at Buchenwald, 1938 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: On November 9–10, 1938, the Nazis staged vicious pogroms—state sanctioned, anti-Jewish riots—against the Jewish community of Germany. These came to be known as Kristallnacht (now commonly translated as “Night of Broken Glass”), a reference to the untold numbers of broken windows of synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes plundered and destroyed during the pogroms. Encouraged by the Nazi regime, the rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized or looted 7,500 Jewish businesses, and killed at least 91 Jewish people. They also damaged many Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes as police and fire brigades stood aside. Kristallnacht was a turning point in history. The pogroms marked an intensification of Nazi anti-Jewish policy that would culminate in the Holocaust—the systematic, state-sponsored murder of Jews.

My brother sent me an email today and I got his permission to reprint it as a post. It’s brief but powerful and reminded me that we must always be vigilant against hatred.

This week my wife and I went to the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. We had an intense and unsettling experience.  The memorial is in a hilly wooded park near downtown. We started off in a European town square setting, a cozy stone bench. Everything was covered in leaves from the trees around it. We noticed a doll (sculpture) had been left behind on the bench. As we walked down the cobblestone path other items had been left. The cobblestones gradually turned into railroad ties. The path ends at a large curved stone structure with the story of the Holocaust. It has powerful quotes from some of Oregon‘s Holocaust survivors. The structure rests on a huge boulder that covers dirt from each of the death camps. On the back of the structure are names of some Jews who died in the Holocaust and their Oregon relatives. The names are engraved on shiny black stone. As I walked along reading the names I could see my own image reflected in the stone. We’ve been wanting to visit this memorial for years, but kept putting it off. For me, part of being a Jew is finding the courage to walk around while carrying a heavy load of vulnerability and grief inside.  State sponsored anti-Semitism “could” happen here. It probably won’t. But if it does, I won’t go passively to the camps. We all have developed ways of coping that work for us.

Laughing and crying
You know it’s the same release
Joni Mitchell

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas

Black Bean Brownies and Lentil Cookies

These recipes were requested by TheFurFiles. I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as mine does! I’m taking a break from baking until Thanksgiving when my son, DIL, and sister wife are in town.

News Flash…I’m losing my best buddy. The captain’s leaving tomorrow for about 7 weeks. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the way it is. One day he’s here, and one day he’s not. Right now I’m in shock. We knew it would happen eventually–the call would come–but neither of us was expecting it so soon. He hasn’t even been home a full month. Oh well, I’m a glass half full kind of gal so I won’t be too upset. It’s watching him pack that’s making me sad right now!

Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 can or 3/4 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, or olive oil (I always use a bit less)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar ( I’ve tried brown sugar and I’ve tried agave, not sure what’s better, kind of a personal taste thing)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 9-inch square baking pan. In a blender, puree the beans with the oil. Add the eggs, cocoa, sugar, coffee, and vanilla. Melt half the chocolate chips and add to the blender. Blend on medium-high until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the blender and pulse until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining chocolate. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until the surface looks somewhat matte around the edges and still a bit shiny in the middle, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan. My family thinks they taste better the longer you let them sit, so the beany texture dissipates.

Lentil Cookies (Alton Brown‘s version)

  • 9 1/2 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour, approximately 2 cups*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 8 ounces sugar, approximately 1 cup (1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature, approximately 1/2 cup***Sometimes I use half oil, half butter, or all oil. Depends on my mood and my pantry.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups lentil puree, recipe follows
  • 3 1/2 ounces rolled oats, approximately 1 cup
  • 4 ounces dried fruit, approximately 1 cup
  • 2 1/4 ounces unsweetened dried shredded coconut, approximately 1 cup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. In the bowl of a stand-mixer with a whisk attachment, cream together the sugar and butter on medium speed. Add the egg and mix until just incorporated. Add the vanilla and lentil puree and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and blend on low speed until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the oats, dried fruit and coconut. Form the dough into balls about 2 teaspoons in size and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving about 1-inch of room in between. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

Lentil Puree:

  • 4 ounces lentils, approximately 2/3 cup, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 cups water

In a small pot over medium heat, combine the lentils and the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Remove from the heat and puree. If using immediately, let cool. The puree may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Yield: 1 1/2 cups lentil puree.

Wholesome whole wheat bread

I baked a loaf of whole wheat bread to go along with the Veggie Lentil Soup. This is a  consistently good recipe.  I’ve had a lot of success with it. Sometimes I don’t have nonfat dried milk and it comes out great anyway. I’ve tried it with honey, agave, maple syrup, and brown sugar.  Still good. They’re right about adding orange juice; it really does soften the whole wheat-y flavor. My son loves raisin bread so I’ll add a cup or so when he’s around and he can eat a whole loaf right in front of my eyes. “Course he’s over six feet tall with a freaky uber-metabolism; he’s the only one I know around here that can do that.  Plus with the whole portion control thing, no one else is allowed to have unlimited amounts of anything.

Just out of the oven I spread about a half teaspoon of butter on top to get a shiny crust.

King Arthur was founded in 1790 and is located in Vermont.

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread

  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup
  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Premium 100% Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of the water in the recipe
  • 1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dried milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • *Use the greater amount in winter or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer or a humid climate.

tips from our bakers

  • Why the range of water in the dough? A lot depends on the weather, the season, and how you measure flour. You’ll need the lesser amount of water in the summer; or when it’s humid/stormy; if you measure flour by weight; or if you sprinkle your flour into the measuring cup, then level it off. You’ll need the greater amount of water in winter; when it’s dry out, and the humidity is low; or if you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then leveling it off.
  • The liquid sweetener you choose makes a difference. Molasses produces the darkest loaf, one with old-fashioned flavor. Honey yields a lighter, milder loaf. Maple syrup makes a less-sweet loaf — unless you use real maple syrup, in which case it’ll be similar to a loaf made with honey, albeit with a faint hint of maple.
  • If you’re someone who tends to taste whole wheat as somewhat bitter, try substituting 1/4 cup of orange juice for 1/4 cup of the water in this recipe. A bit of orange juice tones down whole wheat’s somewhat tannic taste.

1) In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for “dough” or “manual.”) Note: This dough should be soft, yet still firm enough to knead. Adjust its consistency with additional water or flour, if necessary.

2) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

3) Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8″ log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 to 2 hours, or till the center has crowned about 1″ above the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

4) Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The finished loaf will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

5) Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. If desired, rub the crust with a stick of butter; this will yield a soft, flavorful crust. Cool completely before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

Yield: 1 loaf.