Monday, May 17, 2021

"Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night...."


Miracles happen. 

Proof? I finished this quilt, for this beautiful boy,

and this doll quilt for his big (4 yr. old) sister

 in record time. 

Started in March, finished last week. My usual modus operandi, on hearing of an imminent addition to the family tree, is somewhat more drawn out. There are many steps involved. There's the thinking, the planning, the fabric selection, the head scratching, the chin stroking, the self doubt and, always, mid-plot plan changes. And, of course, procrastination. 

All of this takes time, often running into years. The child will usually have advanced to the crawling stage, if not the wobbly walking stage, if not the enrollment in kindergarten stage (but so far not to the college application stage) before they receive their quilt. I love every stitch of it, not least for the serenity the making of it induces. But, in my hands at least, it is not a speedy process.

What prompted the speed, you might wonder, the departure from the usual MO, this time around?

It may be the deafening "Tick-Tock, Tick Tock" that gets louder each year in spite of frequent offers in the mail to "come on down" for the best hearing aid deals in town. And the pandemic, of course, has made us all painfully aware, if we were ignoring the fact previously, that - newsflash - we're all gonna die! And what will happen to all this fabric if my number's up too soon? My shade will wander, disconsolate, in the underworld, finding no rest, 'cause I didn't sew faster when I could have.

Yes. I finished the quilt. And have been in danger ever since of hurting myself, so heartily have I been slapping myself on the back. I took it to the post office a few days ago.

But aye, there's the rub. Will it ever get to London?


In early March I flew to Oregon. The OC dropped me off at the airport. I checked in and made my way to the gate. An uneasy feeling came over me as I waited to board. I couldn't pinpoint what was causing it until, like a missile landing in my brain, it hit me - I'd forgotten my charger. Not only that. A frantic search of my backpack confirmed I'd also forgotten my phone. Both of them safely plugged in at home so they'd be fully charged.... in time for me to swan off to the airport without them. 

Not so long ago (well, at least in my lifetime) phones were implements attached by cords to walls in our homes for the purpose of communicating with other humans. I have travelled, phoneless, many times in my life. The world would not end because of this. It would just be inconvenient.

The OC express mailed phone and charger to Oregon the next day, Saturday, with assurances from P.O. personnel that, no worries, it would reach me by Monday.

Monday came, no phone.

Tuesday came, no phone.

A week passed, no phone

Two weeks passed, no phone.

The OC was irritated. He spoke to the Post Office. They were as bewildered as we were. Assured the OC it should be there. It must be there. Except that it wasn't. And continued not to be, not to show up on any tracking for three weeks.

I was learning to live without it. After all, I had in the past. But the OC kept saying I should go buy a new one. My old phone had been just fine. I had reached a level of comfort in using it that I was sure I would not have with a new fangled device. Who knew? It might still show up, though that  possibility was fading with each passing week.

I bought a phone. At ridiculous expense, and the very next day my wandering phone showed up -

in GUAM.

 Get your head around that.

A few days later it had progressed to Hawaii. I wouldn't have minded if I'd been along for the trip. Who'd object to finding themselves suddenly in Hawaii?

 Not me. But my phone had gone on a Hawaiian vacation without me. Very inconsiderate.

Eventually, none the worse for wear, it arrived at my son's home, where it had been sent in the first place.


So yes, my faith in the P. O. is at a low ebb. 

Checked tracking today. It arrived in Miami. That's a good start, in the right direction. At least it won't go to Guam. But, any bets on Istanbul? 

Only time will tell.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Death by Soda Bread

 What made so many of us turn to baking when the earth wobbled on its axis last year? Were we afraid that the only way we'd be 'given our daily bread' was if we learned to make it ourselves? Whatever the reason, it's kind of cliched by now. If you can bear it, herewith - one more tale of baking struggles.

When I was growing up, Francis the Breadman arrived o n our street, every evening, in the bakery van. My mother would send me out with money and instructions for which kind of loaf she wanted. I can still see friendly Francis in his green bakery coat, his curly head disappearing into the back of the van and reappearing as he pulled out a tray of fresh loaves. Most of all, I can still smell the heady aroma of those loaves. My favorite was the cottage loaf. I'm salivating just remembering it.

But, we didn't get bread from Francis every evening. My mother would often bake her own but never with yeast. She'd grown up on my grandmother's soda bread out on the farm, so that was her go-to recipe. Breakfast for us, on school days, was often a big bowl of porridge followed by thick slices of soda bread slathered with butter, washed down with mugs of hot, sweet, milky tea. After that, no matter what challenges the day ahead brought, we were prepared to do battle as we pedaled off to school. Sounds like a recipe for fattening children but we were lean as greyhounds.

I have had, like the rest of the world, my sourdough adventures in recent months, a steep learning curve with some good results, some not so good; a lot of good flour under the bridge to keep it fed. Still working on it. 

But, this past week I was craving soda bread. No starter, no yeast required. I have a few favorite recipes, but any recipe with the main ingredients will usually turn out fine. I found one on Google (I sometimes wonder why I keep all my cookbooks, and folders of clipped recipes, as I so often turn to Google instead!)

Flour? check. Salt? check. Sugar? check. Baking powder. check. Buttermilk? Hmm. Fingers crossed as I go to the fridge. check! There it is, lurking in the back. The sell by date is a few weeks past but the eyes and the nose detect nothing funky. Onward. Toss in a cup of juicy raisins, stir it all together, pop it in the oven, set the timer....

And wait, in confident anticipation.


It was a disaster!

 Instead of rising, and doubling in size, it looked the same size as when I'd popped it in. 

"Here's a job for you, Sherlock," I thought (after I'd finished groaning.)

Sherlock ascertained that we were still well within the 'best if used by' date on the baking powder. Though it was the very dregs, as the can was almost empty. 

I let it cool. Who knew? Magic could still happen.  Wishful thinking -  another of my talents.

Sad to report, no magic happened.

What a surprise.

By and by the OC arrived home. Even though it smelled of baking, I warned him not to get his hopes up. That, even though it might seem I had made soda bread, what I had, in fact, made was a block of cement. 

"Not to worry," I said, "it won't be a total waste. I'll feed it to the birds."

But I wasn't quick enough. The birds never got it. 

Maybe the OC is an optimist. Or a
masochist? Either way, he has been chipping away at that block of cement, grimacing all the while, in spite of me protesting 

 "You don't have to eat that! It's gonna to kill you!" 

"It reminds me of hardtack in the military," he said, with a faraway look in his eyes (and a grimace.) 

Those must be good memories, though, somehow, I doubt it.

Possibly it's a test. If it doesn't kill him, will it make him stronger? 

There are only two slices left. (Maybe I'll sneak them out to the birds... but, will the bird mamas then swoop down and peck me to death for trying to kill their babies?)

 His mother, who learned the hard way in the last world war to never waste a crumb, must be looking down smiling.

  But not at me. 

This would be proof that she was right. That the chances were good that her boy would die, with me in his kitchen. Which makes me love the friends who think I can actually cook and bake, bless their innocence.  Never mind that they only see or taste my successes. The OC suffers through all my disasters. Apparently willingly, or perhaps as penance for his sins.

After fifty years though, he's still alive and kicking.

  One way or the other, I had to redeem myself so I made soda bread again today - with fresh ingredients.

(That's it at the top - I had to start with something tempting. If I'd put those cement slices first you'd never have lasted to here.) 

And this time it is delicious. 

My tiara is on straight again.