Now that we’re well into October, I’m happy to say that we’ve officially arrived at what I believe is the most fantastic time of the year: High Baking Season. During absolutely any day in the months of October, November, and December one can legitimately bake for no other reason than it’s simply the right thing to do. And what a beautiful thing that is! It makes me glow from the inside, really. And now you know all my secrets.
There are cakes to impress, and then there are cakes to act as a balm. I’m a fan of both, of course, but give me a cake that can comfort like none other and I’m sold. No fussy frostings, no putting on cakely airs, just bake, cut, and serve straight outta the pan. Preferably on a paper plate. Even better is when said comfort cake is actually beautiful enough to impress, dead simple and keeps on the counter for several days of “just a sliver” eating. If I’m being real, though, for me that means a sliver after breakfast, a sliver after lunch, a sliver around 3:30 p.m. when my exhausted self is dying for coffee and a little bit of sugar. And then of course a “real-sized” piece for dessert, after dinner. All of that adds up to a criminal amount of cake in a day, really. But when a cake is just that good, you’re willing to be arrested for your eating habits.
Like so many of you (holla if you hear me!), nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite like an old school recipe with a kitschy name and just a hint of crazy. While visiting family back home in the midwest over Labor Day weekend, I got to digging through some old recipe files of my gramma’s. Talk about warmed heart cockles–it was beyond fantastic to get a snapshot of the kinds of things that struck her fancy at any given moment in time. Some of the recipes were handwritten cards from friends and family, and that’s obviously great (Aunt Marge’s Yellow Cake!!), but I also loved finding her old clippings from newspapers and magazines, and thinking of her saying “Oh! Well, THAT sounds good!” before pulling out the scissors and then tucking the paper away in her accordion folder.
When you’ve decided to move out of the house that you’ve lived in for six-plus years and are surrounded by boxes and crunchy packing paper and millions of pounds of tiny plastic toys and two kids’ worth of baby clothes and ugly maternity clothes and unread magazines (and God only knows what’s lurking under that forgotten area under the basement steps), what’s the most obvious thing to do? Spend three days trying to make a freaking scone recipe work, of course! HAHAHA OH GOD PLEASE SEND XANAX UNTIL MID-OCTOBER.
Needless to say, I’ve been tired these past couple weeks. Tired and anxious and overwhelmed, and trying not to lose my mind. What I’ve learned is that even people who think they don’t save anything (like me) can still hoard unused and/or unusable junk in every imaginable corner. (Apparently my approach to maintaining order in my house while starting to write my third book when the baby was just three months old was to just keep shoving everything in the garage to avoid making decisions–brilliant!) I’ve also learned that once you have more than one kid, quarterly purges are necessary. I’ve decided this is my new life plan. At least until my kids get their own houses to fill up with their own useless junk. In the meantime, I’m the one that has to do the household purging, and so I used the testing of a scone recipe as the distraction to keep from throwing myself off the overstuffed roof.
With summer slipping through our fingers, and the crazy days of school schedules lurking right around the corner, I’m simultaneously trying to ignore reality and brainstorm ways to keep from feeling completely overwhelmed by getting back to the Monday-Friday crush. Of course for me, the balm for the latter usually involves baked goods (you might have guessed as much).
At the risk of sounding like I’m a Dalai Lama impersonator or something, can we all agree that a balanced life is the best life? I’m always happiest when I’m living in a state of mind and stomach where there’s room for everything. Tall, icy glasses of fresh water living happily alongside venti Pinot Grigios. A lunch that involves a green salad the size of my head, and a dessert of frosted cake (preferably with a side of latte and gossip, if we’re being specific). That sort of living.
The thing is, I don’t want to trap myself into a dark corner where things are off-limits. That attitude was for my 20s, you hear? I am trying my best to live free and easy and balanced these (read: most) days. For much of the week, I aim for meals that are full of fresh, health-giving foods, so that when the time comes for a big honking brownie (or, uh, two), I’m not having to break emergency glass to get at it. And Lord knows there are certain times of a lady’s life when you will most definitely break glass to get at a big honking brownie. It’s SCIENCE.
The way I see it, there are few “bleh” situations in life that can’t be remedied, or at least vastly improved, with a solid supply of snacks. Long wait at the doctor’s office? Snack. Jury duty? Snack. The kind of horrifying, red-faced toddler tantrum that has said child doing some sort of exotic backbend in the shopping cart that would impress even the most accomplished cast member of Cirque de Soleil? Snack, preferably in cookie form. Especially in cases like that, snacks are the currency of my life. (Holler if you hear me.)
And let’s not forget the most snack-necessary situation of all: the summer road trip. Yes, even the most desolate stretch of highway (or long-haul flight) can seem a little less daunting when there’s some good munchies in your chariot. I’m not even that big fan of road trips, but my enthusiasm can be bought with a box of Cheez-Its, some Twizzlers, and a diet Coke. After a few hours of that menu, though, I’m bound to want something a little more virtuous. And is it just me, or do the crazy-making effects of junk food on an airplane seem to multiply even faster?
At any rate, lately I’ve been trying to plan ahead a little better and have some healthier options in my bag for traveling, to balance out some of the inevitable treat foods (when hour three of a cross-country flight hits, you will pry these Pringles from my cold, dead hands). This could be as simple as a protein bar, some nuts or string cheese and a piece of fruit, or it could be as crafty and Pinterest Mom as making my own travel snacks. I swear, this actually does happen! In fact, it happened just the other day. I’m SERIOUS.
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