As much as I adore Christmas (fa-la-la-la-la!!!), it’s Thanksgiving that I love even more. The all-day cooking, the donning of stretchy pants, the gathering around the table without all the stress of shopping and buying and buying more and exchanging gifts. Thanksgiving is about comfort and reflection, family and home, and filling up our souls by eating like horses. And really, what’s better than that? Actually, this reminds me of a time when I was about 10 years old, returning to my mom’s house after spending a week with my dad during summer vacation. My mom asked what I’d like for dinner when I got home and I asked for Thanksgiving. And by God, my mother delivered Thanksgiving in July. This is evidence not only of how awesome my mom is and how wacky of a child I was, but that Thanksgiving has always, always felt like home to me.
OH HELLOOOOO. It’s been a bit since I’ve visited this space, but I’ve got solid reasons, I swear. Namely a huge move that’s landed us in a new house and all the stress and insanity that comes with it. And when you throw two little kids into the moving mix (one of whom personifies The Terrible Twos), even the simplest to-do list takes about five times longer than it should. There’s been a lot of running around like a crazy person, eating too much take-out, not knowing exactly what day it is, and many learning curves when it comes to sprucing up a 100-year-old house. (And no, I’m not exaggerating on that number–she was built in 1917. Which is how I’ve been feeling most mornings lately. Creak, ow, crackle.) It enough to make anyone a little nuts. I’ve downloaded two Justin Bieber songs this week. I don’t know who I am anymore, is what I’m saying.
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).
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