Posts from the ‘from the beak’ Category
18 November 2015
six or so weeks ago, we moved. oh, not that far. seventy miles, just about directly north. i’d felt for quite a while that it was time to go. but it never quite seemed to work out. the market tanked. job offers came (and went). finally, things fell into place. we sold our home to a nice couple, who appreciated the TLC we’d tried to give it. as the moving trucks pulled away, i went to close the front door, taking one last look inside of the home we shared with mom.
i pictured her snuggled in the prairie chair with a good book, reading glasses not exactly on the bridge of her nose. a cup a coffee nearby, the fireplace burning. i saw her in the family room, watching the national news and commenting on the state of the union or firmly stating her political POV. i remembered her at the dining table, enthusiastically engaging in a strategic game of Monopoly. i thought about the times she scolded Winnie for planting herself in front of the pantry, demanding a biscuit for immediate delivery. i recalled the times that were infinitely harder: when she could no longer concentrate on her beloved books. or became frustrated when she’d forgotten where she left something, and we’d all spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find it.
i miss all of those things.
we found a smaller place (with huge picture windows, ma, just like the ones on Harwood Road) where we could feel cozy, and Elroy could live out his doggie days absorbing what are, apparently, very interesting smells and going for mature dog strolls. every now and again, a great blue heron lands in our new backyard. or flies overhead. and i know mom is with us, wherever we are.
this day and always, giving thanks for you, little bird. with gratitude and love.
where apples fall
15 October 2013
yesterday, i went shopping. it’s something i do now only out of necessity. when mom (a.k.a. little bird) was alive, we went frequently. persistently. at times, ad nauseum. i had to force myself to remember that, to mom (who spent more than 25 years in upscale sales), retail felt like going home.
no matter where we shopped, she proactively sought out sales people in every store—as if they were family. most newbie retail associates tried to avoid her enthusiastic advances (and eye contact). but seasoned comrades, much to mom’s delight, engaged respectfully in conversations. and she took their parting words to come back again soon like invitations from dear friends.
my solo retail outing (mission: to replace ratty old sweaters with new, unratty counterparts) took a surprising turn. i found myself drawn—clearly by some mysterious, magnetic force—to a retail outlet and to a sweater nearly identical to one little bird used to wear religiously. yeah, ok, hers didn’t have a hoodie. and she didn’t wear mens’ sweaters, except for dad’s when she felt a little blue. and i have no intention of wearing a brooch on my sweater. but other than that, we could have been twins. i grabbed the sweater, hugged it tightly to my chest and grinned a big toothy one. even the newbie sales guy at the register seemed to feel the excitement of my discovery and pride in being part of a shiny, new-store family. i think mom would have liked him.
as the years go by, i catch myself sounding—and looking—just a little bit more like mom. a lilt in my voice (with only a hint of New England accent). a facial expression. a wicked-lame joke. an affinity for a handsome, black and white sweater. and i think (with some modicum of panic), i am becoming my mother. well, dear, the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
if you’re in the mood, crank up Glenn Miller’s rendition of People Like You and Me, get out the flour, and whip up a nicely moist apple cake (recipe just below).
mom would have liked it with a double-dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream. or maybe some vanilla ice cream. or both. from our gene pool: when it comes to dessert, always shoot the moon.
endnote: sincere thanks to those who’ve continued to stop by during this quiet time. losing our beloved Winnie on 17 February left my creative spirit squashed. appreciate your patience as i get my juju back.
Family Tree Apple Cake
based on a recipe from pinch of yum
for the cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (i use sunflower)
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped apples (i used a mix of Queen Cox and Bramley; if you don’t have access to these, try a nice, tart Granny Smith)
for the topping
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter
- preheat oven to 325°F.
- butter a 10-inch square pan. (if you don’t have this more unusual size [mine is a Emile Henry Urban Colors square baking dish], you could use a 9 x13-inch pan, but the cake wouldn’t be as lofty.)
- to make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, flour, cinnamon and cloves.
- using a pastry blender, cut in the butter (leaving some larger lumps) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
- to make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
- in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat brown sugar and oil until combined.
- add egg, buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until throughly incorporated.
- add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- fold in the apples.
- scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading out evenly.
- sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
- bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 45 minutes.
- let cake cool in pan on rack, but it’s great served warm.
little bird: belle of the ball
18 November 2012
this morning, i grabbed your favorite mug, made a cup of tea and settled in to look through our family photo boxes. two years ago, you would have been sitting here next to me. and i would have been saying something like, oh, remember that snow storm?? you would have been saying something more like, oh, i loved that outfit! i’ve always thought we each had our own unique spin on the world. but with the passing of time, i realized we were much more alike than i ever imagined.
sure, you had impeccable taste. and style (like in the above photo. seriously, who looks that put together at the bowling alley??); i, while clean and tidy, am at home only in flannel and Levi’s. you enjoyed travel on the high seas; i’m completely content paddling along the shoreline. you were the belle of every ball; i prefer to watch the ball in some 40’s film. yes, on some levels we were seemingly incompatible. on what matters most, we were of one mind.
over the last 24 months, i’ve missed sharing our common ground. lively conversation and well-articulated wisdom (on your part, of course). family and food (today, consumed lobstah tails in your honor). long, brisk walks (we slowed the pace over the years, but our spirits sprinted). marathon shopping excursions (your stamina far exceeded mine). curling up on the couch with good books or to watch classic movies (i bowed to your seniority and bragging rights because you’d seen them in the theater).
i now grasp why you might have worn your fleece vest in the house, when the thermostat was set on 73 degrees. or you left that 1/8″ of half and half in a pint container. or closed the blinds at 3:30 in the afternoon, on dreary November days. i embrace my inner Fran, when i do the same. and silently (well, sometimes i just shout it out, and the dogs roll their eyes indulgently) express my gratitude for your lifelong guidance and unconditional love.
can’t wait see you on the flip side, little bird. until then, bowl a 300 game. cut it up with dad on the dance floor. and keep sending the big blue heron my way. with infinite love and smooches.
31 August 2012
i’m an early riser. seven days a week, i spring out of bed (ok, sometimes i groan and roll) at the crack of dawn to begin each shiny, new day. in the state of Washington, it’s mostly each dreary, new day, but you get the drift. during the week, i sometimes schedule 6:00 a.m. conference calls with an east-coast design colleague. and i usually begin the calls with my i-haven’t-talked-with-humans-yet disclaimer. (Michael, the designer and stalwart friend, is always patient with my initial incoherency.) but there’s something sacred about the morning stillness that beckons me to haul myself up to be a part of it.
for the past few early Saturday mornings, Tootie and i have driven an hour north to Bellingham, where we like to stroll through the farmers’ market packed with just-picked organic produce. before we head to the market, we stop for tea, then take brisk walks along the bay near Boulevard Park. last week, we jumped off the interstate and headed toward the boardwalk. just before our turn, my eye caught a brown state park sign: Larabee State Park, 7 miles. as many times as i’d driven on that road, i’d never noticed that sign. hmmm. me: want to go on a little adventure before the market opens?? Tootie: sure!
i maneuvered quickly into the left turn lane, heading south on Chuckanut Drive. each twist and turn in the road brought a new delight: a large property overflowing with brightly colored perennials. two does and three spotted fawns bouncing lightly along the tree line. ancient, moss-covered trunks embracing the roadway, their branches forming a welcoming arch as we traveled toward the park. soon we spotted a sign for the park’s boat launch. ever-inquisitive paddlers, we turned west toward the bay. in minutes, we pulled into the lot at Wildcat Cove.
the early-morning fog hadn’t completely lifted. a brisk wind slapped the choppy water against the shoreline. the small, rocky beach spilled over with the empty orange shells of Dungeness crabs. i looked up toward the cove’s southern-most point and then i saw her standing in the shallow water: a great blue heron. seriously? compelled by the bird to take an unplanned jaunt to the park that morning and specifically to the cove? well, i like to think she was the beak-in. certainly made me feel like mom is never too far away. i didn’t have my camera with me, but Tootie managed to take a blurry shot with her phone’s camera. mom would never have passed up a photo op.
we went back to the cove the next week. the sun shone; the water, calm and glassy, lazily lapped the rocks. ho-hum. ma? she wasn’t around. but this big boy sat atop the tallest pine in sight. majestic, to be sure. but not as cool as the great blue heron. we hiked through the park, then went up to the farmers’ market. we stuffed our bags with Ailsa Craig heritage onions, heirloom tomatoes and Krimson Lee peppers. with our booty, we made enough zingy tomato sauce to top future pizzas and pasta and to deck out some eggplant parmesan and lasagna. while spicy sauce has always reminded me of my dad, i imagine when i eat this Italian fare, i’ll be thinking lovingly of little bird.
lilacs and little bird
4 February 2012
yesterday, i received a catalog in the mail, its cover splashed with a single photo of dark purple lilacs. i thought the arrival of that catalog could not have been more perfect. closing my eyes, i could almost smell the unmistakable fragrance, as real as it was in my childhood backyard.
my mom adored her lilacs. she maintained three huge, stately bushes in our suburban heaven. every spring, when the lilacs bloomed, i found her near them. hovering and, what i perceived as, hugging them (well, i said, that’s what it looked like to me). let’s just say we were both elated to stand in the bushes’ presence.
mom would strategically clip lilacs from each cherished bush, and we’d inhale their sweetness as we carried them into the house. choosing just the right vase, she’d skillfully arrange them. then, stand back with a tilted head to assess her handiwork. finally, she’d look back at me and say, what do you think? i’d enthusiastically nod my head in approval. yay!
today marks what would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. even as a writer, i’m at a loss to articulate how much i miss her. what i can say is that my memories of her and of our adventures together are even more vivid, more deeply etched as the days go by. yeah, that could just be my advancing age, but that’s another story entirely.
so, here’s to you, little bird. may today—and every day—be carefree. i expect you and daddy will be gliding across that dance floor tonight. love you forever.
little bird baking company takes flight
29 July 2011
some things never change. like my commitment to following my own true north. consistently choosing that road not taken has likely taken me considerably longer than most would care to tread. but i’ve strived to savor the journey. guided by that true north—inspired by and celebrating my mom—i plan to spend more time blazing trails in my kitchen, bringing little bird baking company to life.
my mom was witty. hip. smart. generous. warm. funny. with a wicked sweet tooth and an equally wicked New England stubborn streak. with an open heart, she embraced and enchanted nearly everyone she met. from the beginning until the very end, my mom was my champion and confidante. it is in her honor—and with gratitude and love—that i dedicate little bird baking company.
for a while, i’ll be practicing tried-and-true recipes and perfecting new ones. with friends and family as judges, i know i’ll receive honest feedback to help refine and uplift my results. as always, i’ll share my experiences with you through recipes and stories. and i’ll keep you informed as this new baking adventure unfolds.
breathing life into little bird wouldn’t have been possible without the talent and generous spirit of my friend Todd Connor of yellow plum design. Todd gently kept me from sliding down many a slippery slope in these past 10 months; i’m blessed by his presence.
if you spot a cairn of chewy chai-spice sugar cookies along some byway, know that i’ve left it for you. i look forward to hearing about your adventures.