Annivorsary

It’s my first annivorsary today.

Anniversary of divorce = annivorsary.

I knew it was coming up this month but had to look up the date. And I’m quite pleased about that. Clearly, I don’t have the exact date branded on my brain.

The way the wedding date is. The way the date of my brother’s death is.

It’s the strangest thing to see those dates on a calendar, a poster, an invitation, or a carton of milk. It’s like they don’t belong anywhere except in my emotion.

IMG_20141117_105822For the first annivorsary, I’ve baked another decadent chocolate cake with chocolate orange buttercream icing to mark the occasion because marking  occasions is part of how I deal with them. Plus I like cake. I have no tears, just cake.

Next year, I hope I will only have a vague notion that the date is sometime in November.

And I won’t look it up.

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Single

The man behind me at the checkout didn’t mean to sting me with his words.

He saw the flour, icing sugar, chocolate, eggs and milk I was unloading from my basket and said, “Doing some baking this afternoon, eh?”

IMG_20141117_105822“Yes,” I replied. “Chocolate cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting.”

I left out the part about it being a cake to mark my divorce becoming final.

“Oh, you’ve got a lucky family,” he said.

Ouch.

To have a family of my own was the whole point of getting married. All my life, I believed I was supposed to be a mother. But this mess has taken up five precious years, bringing me to the point where the odds are stacked, towering against me having a child naturally.

So as I mark this day, it’s not the relationship that I’m mourning. I don’t really care that I’m officially single again. What hurts is the emptiness of not having a family, the thought of what my life will look like 20 and 30 and 40 years from now with no kids or grandkids, and the fear of becoming hardened and unable to be happy for others who have the one thing I’ve always wanted.

I know I’m not the only person in the world who unwillingly faces childlessness. I know there are other options, but my gut hasn’t yet produced a knowing feeling on the direction I should take. I know I shouldn’t make any big decisions until the dust settles and I’ve regained my confidence. Right now, all I can do is try to swim through the bog of hurt.

Ok. I’ve said my piece. I’ve had a good cry. Who wants cake?

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Sunny, lemony birthday

yvette birthday basketThis is my friend, Yvette. She’s been one of my best friends since we met at age 13 in junior high. She was cute as a button then, and she still is. Just look at that smile.

Today is her birthday. She’s posing here with her birthday present from her significant other. He not only got her exactly what she wanted – a lovely new bike basket – but he also filled it with flowers. He’s a keeper.

It’s a gorgeous sunny day, after a long winter and a less than springy spring. Birds are chirping. Lawn mowers are buzzing. A perfect day for a birthday.

We’re heading out to brunch soon with the gang – well, at least as much of the gang as we can muster. Some are following professional pursuits to other provinces. Some are busy with kids. Some are taking advantage of perfect weather to get the kayaks on the water, including Yvette’s fella. He’d already taken her out for a birthday dinner last night, so she gave him her blessing to go paddling – which proves she’s a keeper, too.

lemon curdI thought I’d add an extra bit of sunshine to Yvette’s day. She’s been in love with my lemon curd since her first taste about 10 years ago. So I squeezed the sun out of four lemons and cooked it up into into a bottle of this delicious thick sauce.

I also added several outbursts of laughter because I was listening to Stuart McLean’s “Car Wash” story on the Vinyl Cafe podcast. I often listen to these podcasts while cooking. So there’s lots of good nutritious laughter cooked and baked into my food.

I like this lemon curd best on a vanilla cheesecake strewn with berries. But Yvette just might savour a spoonful or two right from the jar.

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Feeling good

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good…

I can’t put my finger on why, but I feel good today.

In fact, it started last night. It’s like something clicked and I’m back to my regular old self. I got out of the office on time, pulled off a solid weight workout, and got to the bus stop in time to catch an express bus home.

Then in 10 minutes flat, I had Jamie Oliver’s “hit and run” chicken in the oven and started buzzing around preparing for the next day…fresh gym clothes in the bag, clothes for work laid out, lunch and snacks assembled in the fridge. I was on such a roll, I also had a batch of breakfast cookies ready to throw in the oven as soon as the chicken came out.

I devoured my chicken with a couple episodes of The Good Wife, then curled up in bed with a collection of short stories including a delightfully disturbing one written by a respected and talented colleague, and drifted off to sleep, thankfully not dreaming about said short story.

My lunch and snacks for tomorrow, assembled in one spot in the fridge for easy grabbing in the morning.
My lunch and snacks for tomorrow, assembled in one spot in the fridge for easy grabbing in the morning.

This morning when I woke, for the first time in a very long time, I felt like I’d really slept. All my domestic efficiency lately means it was a cinch to grab breakfast, lunch, snacks and coffee and get to the bus stop in plenty of time. And it struck me as I rode the elevator up to the office: I feel good.

Another workout trotting on the treadmill, another express bus home, another feed of that tasty chicken with The Good Wife, and prep is done for another work day.

This is the old Adèle returning. Out of the poor habits that had formed through the turmoil of the past few years. Back on my game, or at least getting there.

I’d say that’s a step towards the alignment I resolved to seek this year. Awesome.

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Bring back the merry

IMG_00000092

Finally, a night with nothing to do.

It’s been a hell of a year. And not in a good way. My annus horribilis. The year is closing with a frantically busy, stressful fall barrelling full steam into the holiday season. I won’t be sorry to see 2013 end. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I have no merry, no comfort and cheer, no tidings of great joy.

This is very unlike me. I love Christmas. I have a ridiculously large collection of Christmas albums. I always pick the biggest, bushiest tree I can find. I bake like a mad woman and then give it all away to co-workers and my peeps at the YMCA.

The first few years I had my own Christmas tree, I also crafted like a mad woman. Almost everything on my tree was homemade. My friend Nat and I would go to Christmas at the Forum every year to scout out ideas for homemade ornaments…and to buy a pound of fudge to split between us.

IMG_00000099Inspired by the crafts and fuelled by the sugar, we set about making a veritable army of snowmen one year. The assembly line in her living room moved efficiently to a soundtrack of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Charlie Brown Christmas and other favourites. Did we make those stocking ornaments together, too, Nat? I think we did. And also little bells made of upside down mini terra cot pots and a whole slew of tiny grapevine wreaths simply adorned with a couple of red berries and raffia bow.

IMG_00000101In my own living room rose a regiment of toy soldiers made of old fashioned clothespins and a platoon of paintbrush Santas. I IMG_00000113could wield a glue gun like nobody’s business. One year, I drilled holes through walnuts and chestnuts with the aim to make garland of them. After quickly ruining a drill bit, I settled for a dozen nut ornaments instead.

IMG_00000100The smells of Christmas are just as wonderful to me as the sights. Row upon row of clovey gingerbread men marched out of my kitchen and onto the tree. Sadly, many met their demise when Moe and Joe came on the scene. Who’d have thought cats would like baked goods? I’d walk by the tree each morning to find yet another head dangling without a body, and a pile of crumbs on the floor.

Over the years, I’ve also collected an assortment of non-homemade ornaments. There are some like my Grinch and shiny Lee Valley tin stars that I purchased, and many given to me by kind friends and co-workers. Together, they make a collection that perfectly reflects me and my usual Christmas spirit.

I‘ve hung them all on a smaller tree than usual this year. Not small on purpose, although it’s true that I am largely just going through the motions in my less than festive IMG_00000112state. No, it’s because it was so cold when I went tree shopping that the poor firs were frozen stiff, making it hard to tell the size and shape.

So the ornaments are hung, the less voluminous baking is done and distributed, the cards with brief greetings are mailed, the uninspired gift shopping is almost finished. And I finally have a night with nothing to do.

Cup of tea, a bit of leftover biscotti, some Downton Abbey…and a little blog post where I have to say to Nat and to all those who’ve gathered around my Christmas tree over the years, thank you for the merry memories. They are helping keep me afloat right now while my heart is heavy. And I know we will create new ones in the future.

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Easter treats

Deeeelicious.
Deeeelicious.

My idea of a delicious Easter treat does not come from the bunny. It comes from the pig.

I love a nice big ham, studded with cloves, bathed in apple juice, and glazed with mustard and brown sugar. The wonderful clove smell throughout the house is half the joy of it.

And then we get to devour it. Well, not all in one sitting…there are only three of us.

Since it’s been a nice springy weekend, I had a craving to finish the meal with something fresh and lemony. I decided on a layer cake.

Loverly lemon.
Loverly lemon.

This recipe produced a fantastic cake with a nice moist crumb. In fact, I’d have been satisfied with just the plain cake. The frosting was far too sweet for my tastes, but H loved it.

Also, I wasn’t paying attention and poured heavy cream into the filling without whipping it first. Needless to say it wouldn’t thicken properly, no matter how long I left it whizzing around in the KitchenAid.

Oops.

The top layer would have been sliding all over the place if I’d tried to use the filling as intended. But it tasted fabulous, kind of like a lemon-scented creme anglaise. So I used it as a sauce instead. No harm, no foul.

Looking forward to tasty leftovers this week: grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and cake with the icing scraped off.

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Biscuits

My little brother once thought it would be fun to calculate how many biscuits our mom has made in her lifetime. I don’t remember the tally he came up with. So as I was making biscuits myself a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d try the math, too.

Biscuits and jam.
Biscuits and jam.

Let’s make a conservative estimate that mom made a pan of biscuits a week. And let’s scale it back from a full lifetime to her married life – that’s 47 years and counting. There’s roughly two dozen biscuits to a pan with her recipe. So 24 biscuits per pan x 52 weeks per year x 47 years of marital bliss = 58,656.

That’s a lot of biscuits.

We always had biscuits in the house. Sometimes mom would say the wind was blowing when she made them, because they’d all be leaning one way on the pan. But they were still perfect. They rounded out meals and served as snacks. We made little ham and cheese sandwiches with them. We had them with molasses as the traditional dessert after a dinner of herring and potatoes.

My favourite way to eat them is piping hot from the oven with butter melting on contact. My next favourite preparation is to split them open, spread on a bit of butter, and pop them under the broiler just until they get a bit crispy on top. Then I spoon on some jam and sink into heaven. Sometimes I sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the butter and broil them, just like mom did on Sunday mornings.

These days, I often make a ham and cheese variation that goes over well with H and D. They’re great to tote along to have with my morning tea at work. And I still do them under the broiler on weekends.

Ham and cheese biscuits.
Ham and cheese biscuits.

Mine aren’t as good as mom’s but they’re still good. And I don’t have recipe memorized like she does. But I keep making ‘em. Hope you will, too.

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Biscuits

Ingredients
4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c. butter
2 beaten eggs
enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid

Preparation
Sift dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until it’s about the size of peas. Beat eggs in a measuring cup and add milk until you have 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Make a well in the middle of the mixing bowl and pour in egg and milk mixture. Mix with a fork and then form dough with your hands. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times to form a nice ball. Roll out dough to about 1/4″ thickness and cut out biscuits. Re-roll as necessary until all the dough is used. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until tops are browned.