It's my birthday! So far so good. Start as you mean to go forward, so I took a long shower. Washed all the worries I am not carrying forward away. Now I am all shiny and new and ready for adventure.
Just before it struck midnight (and became MY BIRTHDAY!!!) I was making three batches of Granny Kelly's cookie dough. My mother's mother-Granny Kelly- must have learned the recipe from her mama. All my life, every Christmas my family gathers and we make Granny's cookies. We roll them out. Pick out our favorite cookie cutters (I am partial to the scotty dog and the bunny). Cut them out. Bake them. Sneak a few while they are warm. And when they have cooled, we whip up some butter cream frosting (never royal icing) and tint it whatever colors we want. Cover the table with waxed paper. Put out every sort of sprinkle, colored icing sugar, silver dragees, cinnamon red hots, bowls of frosting and get down to business. It can take hours. The youngest decorators sometime lose interest and wander off only to be drawn back to the table because it is covered in delicious sweet stuff.
Tomorrow after school my nieces will come and we will start the process. Then their parents, my little brother and sister-in-law, will show up, followed by my daughter and her sweetheart. My son will be working but he will be home in time to eat many a cookie. And a birthday party of my favorite sort will ensue.
Down in Reno my littlest brother and his family will be making Granny's cookies this weekend too. I suspect my mother, who is spending the winter warming up in her desert home, will make a batch to give to holiday visitors.
We will all be together in spirit,gathered around the kitchen table, feeling lucky, remembering our Granny and Poppa and all the love that flows through us generation after generation.
from the kitchen of Florence Kelly to the kitchen of her daughter and grandchildren, and now her great grandchildren
1 Cup Shortening
4 Cups Flour
1/2 t Salt
2 Eggs beaten
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Milk
1 t Vanilla
1 t Baking Soda
Sift flour and salt together. Cut in shortening (I use my cuisinart sometimes, sometimes a fork or pastry cutter). In a separate bowl combine the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, and baking soda. Add in flour/shortening mixture until just combined. Don't beat up the dough. Cover and chill overnight in the fridge. When it is time to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutters befitting the holiday (I make them sometimes for Valentine's Day and Keenan's Day too!). Bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
When cookies are cooled (after you've had pizza and salad and sung a round of happy birthday to me) frost and decorate. We make the frosting with varying amounts of butter, powdered sugar, milk or cream, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Use a recipe you love and don't make it too thin because that is just mean.
As I will be making these later today (after I sleep) I don't have a picture to show you. Wait! I think I have an example from my son's birthday party 2 years ago. He decided he would rather have Granny's cookies than a birthday cake. Let me look.........
There they are. His auntie made a portrait of him being grumpy. His cousins have always called him "deeda". He isn't always grumpy. You can see we are very fond of sprinkles.
I adore Roseanne. She is unapologetic. This is too rare in female form. Her show was a blast. I remember laughing to wonderful dialogue like this:
DAN: Ah man, we're screwed.
ROSEANNE: No Dan. We are so far beyond screwed that the light from screwed will take 1 billion years to reach the earth.
Roseanne isn't hung up on perfection. Life is what it is and what you make it in her universe. As a recovering perfectionist, I find this so inspiring. If you have breath and love, you are rich. You have it all. I ran across a recent quote that made me smile. I was comforted to know she is still trailbreaking with the best of them.
"I am old now: gray, wrinkled, tired, and bloated, and my joints ache, too. But I am ready to come into my full destiny—as my childhood dreams predicted—as a Neo-Amazonian Pirate Queen of my own vessel: firing cannonballs at the worldwide culture of patriarchy in the name of all that does not suck. I no longer fear moving on to a better existence than this one, which is, of course, no existence at all. Oblivion will be fucking sweet after a lifetime at the mercy of my hormones and my biological clock and the twisted logic that produced the craving for a dominant male sex partner. I’m quite thrilled to say that at this late hour, in my autumn years, I have at last found a man who is more savant than idiot, and with whom the sparse occasions of physical enjoining of souls is quite sublime."
- Roseanne Barr on life post-menopause
We need more unapologetic, fierce, and female voices in this world. Bless your brave soul Ms. Barr. You are a treasure.
As I approach my last birthday in my 40's, I suppose I am seeking out role models for the uncharted (by me) territory ahead. I have, of course and hallelujah, my glorious mother as torch-bearer. She gleefully reminds me that at 50 I can become a member of AARP. And then she laughs. I have another year and not quite a month until that milestone. When, the universe willing and all systems go, it comes I will be grateful. To be here is the gift.
I am so grateful to be spending Thanksgiving with both of my children. My kids are so cool. Funny, wise, loving. They are my favorite people. I love them so. The rest of our family is spread out over the west this week and we alone are home in Portland. A quiet day, a feast, laughter. How lucky we are.
Also, to my dear reader Red Tara a million thanks for coming to my rescue armed with pledge, windex,paper towels,elbow grease, and a vacuum to get me over my fear of tackling big things. Before you arrived I saw landmines everywhere and could not find a place to begin. I was overwhelmed. I can not believe we did it. In one day everything shifted and I feel at home again. Thank you so very much.
Beatrice Woods lived an extraordinary life- one she claimed was fueled by young men and chocolate. This quote has always encouraged me when I fret over decisions and failure, "My life is full of mistakes. They're like pebbles that make a good road." She loved her home and studio in Ojai living there for the last 50 of her extraordinarily rich 105 years. By example, she taught me to romance my own creative life into being. I feel like anything is possible. Wow. I just wrote that. I believe it too.
Today is Madeline Alice Spohr's 4th Birthday. Every day Heather and Mike have to navigate the treacherous waters of grief because their glorious girl with the golden curls is not with them. A birthday must be so very hard.
I have written a bit about Maddie and something of what I have learned from her brief and shining life. I love her parents. They are courageous, funny, honest, loving people. Together they created Friends of Maddie to honor the life of their firstborn. You can visit Maddie's site to learn about how you can team up with Maddie's people to make the world better for premature babies and their parents.
This year in honor of Maddie's birthday Mike recorded a song, "You are the One". Heather sings backup and Madeline's little sister Annabel was in attendance in the recording studio to cheer her parents on. Buy a copy! It's a wonderful song written by Mike. 100% of the profits from sale of "You Are the One"on iTunes/Amazon will go to Friends of Maddie to continue Madeline's legacy as a brilliant light in the lives of so many. For the links and more information please visit The Spohr's Are Multiplying.
Mike wrote to Maddie (on the occasion of her 4th Birthday), "So tomorrow I will try not to be sad. Instead I will focus on celebrating the day you brought color into my life. And while 11/11/11 won’t be as joyous as I had imagined when you were alive, there will be joy. Because it will be a day about you."
For everyone celebrating Maddie it is a day about a delightful little girl, a lovely family, unimaginable loss, and the exquisite joy of the day her parents met their beloved child. I will never forget her. Not ever.
I'm live streaming the OWS protesters and NYC cops in Times Square. Guess the broadcast networks can't be bothered to interrupt the football games. I learned that there were 60 to 70 thousand who joined them in spirit in Madrid today. Here in the Rose City we have our own OWS camp in the Park Blocks near Portland State. What to say? I feel so old and jaded.
When I was a child my mother took me to picket the City Club of Portland whose membership was not then open to women. And as a girl I saw that the efforts made by my mother and her friends were not wasted. The City Club began admitting women in the early 70's. Protest and assembly was a regular feature of my childhood as the daughter of two politically active, passionate people.
Sadly, in an age where corporations are people endowed with greater rights and freedoms than the people who granted them existence, protest seems so much more dangerous. I admire people taking action. I hope we can enter into a new era where the interests of the human person are considered of value, precious just as those our government so desperately courts and fawns over for the corporate "persons" currently calling the shots.
"But they paid back TARP!" Great, where's everyone else's interest-free, second chance loan? Where's everyone else's debt forgiveness?
Good question. And what further indignity will it take to make the majority wake up and ask the same question? What moves Americans these days? I shudder.
Also, I run into this picture all the time:
I think I've mentioned my personal political heartbreak. This picture, every time I see this picture, I remember why I voted for Hillary. I am no longer naive enough to imagine that this photograph proves she is a more compassionate person than our president, nor do I suffer from any illusion that her scruples would have prevented her from executing Bin Laden as he has done. But I do believe she has maturity and the strength of character to value substance over style. I can't help but question the sitting president on this. She was so much less invested in branding, pop art portraits, and taglines. The change we all wanted to believe in sounded so good. It was like believing in the tooth fairy and Santa. And sweet children that we are, we tried to keep up a good front after someone spilled the beans. Ain't no tooth fairy. Santa is yo mama.
I just float around in dread of the 2012 election cycle. Devastated that Supercilious Slutlicious Sarah chose not to run. If anyone could unify my people, it is the Thrilla from Wasilla. We'd all be heading for borders north and south and the truth that our culture is bleeding out would be a global statement of fact.
Despite a lifetime of interest, I try desperately to let go of any illusion of a participatory democracy and find a new outlet for my poor, weak mind when it turns it's focus to humanity.
So, this week is all about change. Change and English Toffee. I find that toffee assists in the many small discomforts that accompany change.
I've never been a skilled candy maker despite my excellence as a candy consumer. My friend Jessie spent a good amount of time trying to teach me the delicate art of toffee making. This elaborate ritual involved candy thermometers and a marble slab. I never seemed to be able to achieve success. My best effort resulted in something very like a soft praline, but never the crisp, rich snap of toffee.
Intrigued by the idea that an infamous family was sharing such a recipe, I clicked through and discovered that I was a master confectioner.
The recipe is fool-proof. I have added some twists on occasion (malden salt, mixed nuts, chili powder) and each and every batch has turned out beautifully.
I note this here solely because in my rash decision to reduce my consumption of sweet things I had neglected the recipe for months. When I tried to recall it from memory it had vanished. This worries me as it takes just 5 simple ingredients to make a perfect batch. Here's the list:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp water
almonds about a cup
Melt butter, sugar, and water in a heavy pan over medium high heat.
When mixture begins to boil stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes or until bubbling gooeyness is a caramel color..
Pour over nuts placed on a parchment lined baking tray.
Cover with chocolate (I use chocolate chips most of the time-about 12 ounces).
As chocolate melts spread evenly over toffee.
Cool in fridge.
Snap into pieces and eat-or like the infamous Benson's give as holiday gifts or party favors
I was married to a man who told me that I said "I love you" too much. That to say it cheapened the emotion (quick aside dear reader-major red flag-just trust me on this one). This man was not my first husband.
My first husband was a sweet, loving young man who took delight in me, cared for me, a kind man who did willingly abide me and my hysterical youth, my confusion of drama for passion. He was a patient person who had a deep faith in life's goodness. Naturally, I had to get away from him. I was so young. I love you Scott.
No, the husband who insisted that one could over do "I love you" simply by stating it more than once was my second, my last husband. The one who was invited in to shatter my heart. The one who helped me grow up by being so much a child. He probably still believes that I love you's should be carefully doled out like penicillin or anti-retroviral therapy. Maybe once per relationship. Never between parent and child. That I endured with him is testament to my foolishness and my vanity as he was oh so beautiful to me. What woman in her right mind would tolerate such ridiculousness? I love you Vivek.
Recently, I started reading Cherry Menlove's blog which is very sweet and right now a bit sad as her beloved struggles with cancer. She signs off every post with "I love you." Sometimes she adds something else too like, "thank you for visiting" or "I want to wish you joy in the small things." At first, I was a bit struck by the sentiment. I wondered how she could be so sure she loved me.
Now I know that Cherry is on to something and that I had just a few little kinks left over from a failed marriage to work out.
As my son can attest, I have always been lavish with "I love you's" despite the dire warnings and asshat censorship. I am fond of kissing and clinches. But I openly loved just a small circle of people. As my heart reassembled into a new and better organ, I began to feel certain that it's well-being, it's joyful thrum was enhanced by my ability to love in a bigger, better, faster pussycat, more, more way. It is also entirely plausible that one can love the unknown and accept that the truth of love is in the pitching, not the catching.
I am grateful to Cherry for the love. And I love you.
My obnoxious father is dying. He has the bluest eyes. I may never see them again. He prefers distance. He was born in Texas. He was an Eagle Scout. He married a beauty queen. He took his California born children to Alaska where he built highways and in collaboration with our glorious mother gave us a beloved little brother. He brought me to Oregon, my home. And left me here. I love him.
Today I am honoring the big, bright, too brief life of the lovely Madeline Alice Spohr? I am thinking of her Mama and Daddy. Two years. They should not have to be without their darling girl. No one should suffer so. And yet, every day, everywhere we do suffer such unimaginable loss.
I look at life differently. I look closely. I wish things were different for all of Madeline's loved ones. I know it never gets better. I rememeber Maddie every day. She is indeed with the stars.
Today kicks off the Cesar Chavez Week of Service. Cesar Chavez worked tirelessly his whole life. Never earning more than $5,000 dollars in a single year. He believed justice was our natural state, that human beings sought it and that it was the expression of our highest, best self.
I can not bear the news of persecutions, union witch hunts, repuliwhore rapes of our labor movement, our unions. Sadly, the agrofratards amongst us cheer the right wing on, forgetting that their $12.00 an hour job was built on the backs of people who accept the toughest, least paid work and still found energy to work for justice, workers rights and safety, and a fair wage.
You may resent that your tax dollars pay a state employee 3 dollars an hour more than you can swing at your place of employment. Seeing teachers loll around free as birds on their summer "vacations" (FOR WHICH THEY ARE NOT PAYED BITCHES!!!) may really yank your chain. Guess what! When our unions and labor movement fall, the prospects for all workers dim. And you my friend are not an agent, you are a cog, a worker, hand in hand with Cesar and every field worker. The grapes you're picking may not be poisoning you right now, but they surely will when no one stands between you and the overseer.
Honor Cesar's life and work. Tell your government you do not accept the republihate agenda of demolishing the rights of workers. Ask president Obama to demonstrate that he is not a ringer and explain why it is OK to wage so much war and destroy our culture in the process. Lobby to raise the minimum wage. Remember to buy organic grapes. Instead of snarling when you pass the guys waiting for day labor on the corner, thank them for coming to a place of such cruel judgements and for their willingness to risk our irrational wrath just to complete jobs we can not soil our fingers by touching. Tell a teacher, a flagger, the dude who is working on the sewer improvement in front of your house THANK YOU. Visit the UFW, sign the petition to have March 31st made the National Cesar Chavez holiday (it is currently a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas) and buy a t-shirt, read a little, write a letter, remember you are not alone.
Despite appearances to the contrary ( the entire planet's sick obsession with an aging, washed up, drug-addled fool who has a lengthy history of abusing the women around him-ask Kelly Preston who he "accidentally" shot), today is International Women's Day.
Ladies I love you.
To me the fact that it is only the 100th anniversary of the event is ridiculous. Who better to celebrate than those who bring life to fruition, those who are the center that holds, those who make the magic.
Dear reader I wait with bated breath. 'With bated breath, and whispring humblenesse.' Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice i. iii. 125
This week I notice that the sky holds light longer. Just fully dark now after 6. We have had sunny days and less rain than one could expect. I crave bright sun, a warm, soft wind, and the smell of lilacs in my garden.The problem with January is that it's hard to hope that spring will come. So much grey. Then comes the month of sunshine that is an Oregon February. Really! Still cold, sometimes snow, sometimes rain. But sunshine. And the blossoms peeking out to inquire "is it time?"
My best beloved, my beautiful child born 23 years ago this month came home with me on a late February day of bright sun and warmth. February always gives me the best gifts. The gifts I dare to hope for in winter.
"For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.
Looks like that target she painted on Gabrielle Giffords work a charm.
Someone should prosecute the wicked witch from Wasilla for murder.
News media note that the bitch removed her SarahPac graphic calling for the slaughter of people that don't agree with her crazazy-assed, morally bankrupt political positioning. Yeah republitard, let's split hairs. You will whine, "She only targeted their political campaigns."
We will watch and see you for what you are as you desperately try to distance yourself from the obviously insane person who committed these acts. Crazy is as crazy does and The Tea Bagstress and her strap-on legion of un-patriotic, un-American sycophants should be put away some place where they will be unable to hurt others. A little too late for the young girl, the federal judge and the 16 others reported killed or injured.
Fuck all y'all who scream about the right to bear arms. GUN CONTROL NOW!
I wanted to blog about making and cooking and the sweetness of life, because there is oh so much sweetness. I suppose my grief over the state of my "homeland" (in parenthesis because it sounds so 3rd Reich-esque) is what calls me to write about the great shame that is amreeka these days. So incredibly sad that in a nation filled with gentle, loving, engaged people working for the improvement of humanity our crazy feckers outshine us all.