Oddments

In search of story


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September 1.21: Coping

The humble crumble

butter and flour,

sugar, of course,

for superpower.

Bumply roof

for muffin, cake

takes the edge off

pain and ache.

A sure Rx

for life’s annoyance,

transformative

to smile and buoyance.

There’s crunch

no matter where it’s put,

betwixt the teeth

or underfoot.

The perfect jewel

on nose or chin,

timeless fashion,

lap or skin.

Childhood’s lesson,

ever sweet:

it’s no fun

to be too neat.

Many thanks to Judy for her wonderful vegetable recipe!

May it be a blessing on your September, dear reader!


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November 3.20: Coping

Beset by inane logorrhea,

I turn to time-honored idea:

when the world goes askew,

make you some goo,

the original holistic panacea.

 

Here we are, dear reader, in this country, in desperate need of goo. “From sea to shining sea” used to refer to the beauty of the land; now it refers to angst, despair, fear, rage, frustration, isolation, loneliness, and profound exhaustion. And it is likely true that wherever you live it is the same. You might not have an election to deal with, but you likely have illness and death and uncertainty and loneliness stalking you. I offer you this goo by way of saying I wish I could make things better for all of us.

 

 


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May 14.20: Coping

Thus far, dear reader, I have coped by writing and by baking, two time-tested strategies for me. They aren’t working any more. A few days ago, we were bloodied once again through the reports of a terror attack on new babies and new mothers. That was one too many for me, awash as we are in grief and fear.

I’ve been sick, as some of you know. Nothing serious, just enough to keep me from being complacent. I don’t know that I had COVID; we still don’t know if my “presumed positive” son had it. We still don’t know much about COVID. “Don’t know” is the only wisdom we have.

Having seen my family only from a distance, unable to touch them, for two months, I think I have a sliver of understanding of what it might mean to die among strangers in Intensive Care.

I am disgusted and exhausted by the flim-flam.

I’m going to step away from the blog for a few days. Each of us has to find ways to stay human in this very dehumanizing time. I am looking for my ways.

Thanks for being with me in my blog. I worry about all of you and hope you endure.

 


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March 20.20

Happiness eludes

like so much airy dust,

but I can capture mine

contemplating proper crust.

With crackly definition

it tells you what’s inside;

before your tooth can crunch

your eye is satisfied.

Kudos to the bakers

who know how to finesse

the yeasty bubbling goo

into happiness.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

for this tribute to happy things

and to la Madeleine, for baking them.

And thanks to blogger Susan Rushton

for yesterday’s heads-up about Happiness Day today.

This is not to make light of our worries,

dear reader,

but sometimes we need to add a little sugar

when the yeast won’t froth.

 


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April 28.19

The news makes me rabid. The endless rain makes me squishy in the head. Aging plagues me. And to make the world an even drearier place, our excellent local art supply store has been bought out and now closed by Michael’s. Another valued small business pulverized.

I dwell in the doldrums. My only hope is cookies. There is no other way to find good in the world.

In my childhood I learned about the good in cookies. Mom and Grandma O’Hern were cookie-bakers. Not that they didn’t bake other things, but they were believers in cookies, and thank goodness. A cookie fits in your hand so much more easily than a piece of pie or cake (though it’s quite possible to eat either from the hand if you aren’t too fussy).

Besides, there was “Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land,” one of my all-time favorite stories. Cookies that walked and talked and lived in a cookie house? You’d think such things would keep me from ever eating another cookie, but it didn’t work like that. It just added to the magic of cookies.

Maybe you also, dear reader, are driven to the doldrums by the news and by trying to deal with losses and worries in your own life. So I offer you my most favorite of favorite cookie recipes, my drug of choice, my portal to Nirvana. It is based on the old (not the current!) recipe for “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies” on the Quaker Oats lid.

 

Better-Than-Phoebe’s Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. butter (no substitutes)

1 C. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 C. granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 t. plus a tiny dribble Penzeys vanilla

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. plus a pinch of Penzeys Korintje cinnamon

a few grinds of fresh nutmeg

3 C. Old-Fashioned Quaker Oatmeal (don’t be generous)

1 C. dark (not golden) Sun-Maid raisins

1/2-1 C. chopped dates (the best are the ones you chop yourself)

1/2 C. Heath toffee bits without chocolate (my grandchildren’s brilliant idea)

Whisk dry ingredients together. Beat butter and sugars, then add eggs and beat some more. Mix in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well, then the oatmeal, raisins, dates and toffee bits. Dough will weigh a ton.

If possible, refrigerate dough at least overnight. Bake at 350 for about five minutes, then turn cookie sheet and bake another four minutes or so, depending on your oven. Cool on wire racks. Makes lots but never enough.

 

These are called “Better-Than-Phoebe’s” because of the episode of “Friends” wherein Phoebe says her oatmeal cookies are the best so she doesn’t bake them very often because it’s not fair to the other cookies.

I mention brand names so you will know exactly what I use.

If you want really chewy cookies, add coconut. Dark chocolate chips are another acceptable addition. However, such additions risk changing the nature of the oatmeal cookie, and that is unseemly to purists.

Wishing you homemade cookies, dear reader,

Maureen


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Disconnections: December 23.18

 

Life has its moments

of bliss unalloyed,

of humor splenic

roundly devoid.

When eye and nose

and memory combine

to flour and fat and filling

enshrine.

In pie, in pie

the toothsome all:

in fragrance, form,

the anti-banal.

If ever our being

you seek to justify,

look but to crusted

invention of pie.

 

 

With many salivating thanks to photographer S. W. Berg.

And kudos to pastry artist Jennifer Berg.

Full disclosure: I couldn’t bake a pie even if you threatened me with Brussels sprouts.

But I can eat it.

 

 


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Connections: May 8.18

I don’t know how to play it

wouldn’t know where to begin

and yet it beams out a gravity

much like a rolling pin

or terracotta flowerpot

pruners, or a hoe

piano or organ keyboard,

a scraper for bread dough,

a pad of lined blank paper

a pen, an artist brush

they make my fingers eager

they give me a head rush

with primal primitive instinct

my fingers stretch, reach out

but it’s really my very self

the pull is all about.

Certain things there are

that, silent, speak to me

make my fingers restless

to do, to make, to be.

 

More thanks to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives.

Connections

 

 


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Connections: December 12.17

My last two kitchens had islands

the ultimate luxury

the kitchen I live with now

is bestowed more modestly.

So I follow the ways of my grandmas

and my mother, apt and able,

enlisting our four-legged friend,

the enduring kitchen table.

But I have a homey bauble

with which they weren’t stuck

a low-hanging ceiling lamp

which I cannot remember to duck.

Hovering over the table

at just the exact right spot

it clunks against my head

and elicits descriptive bon mot.

Some day I’ll explain to my neighbors

the reverberant mystery

the gong heard ’round the ‘hood

it isn’t Big Ben — it’s me.

 

Yes, I know, dear reader. I took liberties with my French. It was too awful not to use.

 

Connections