Posts tagged ‘together’

An ancient book of prayers, a not so old mandolin, and a hot cup of fresh coffee. It was among these things that I greeted this Tuesday morning. I could play the strings, but to do so would interrupt the morning chorus from the resident birds.

Perhaps another day I would attempt to play along, but not today. Today is the 93rd anniversary of my father’s birth, and I’m almost certain, if he was still here, he would set the mandolin down as well and opt for the back porch seat to the natural morning music

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If I could share one scene from my day today with you all, it would be from the morning drive. Just off Snow Camp Road is a field full of green young leaves.

Maybe soybeans, maybe sorghum, beautiful and lush regardless. It’s not my usual route anymore, so I try to go a bit slower and take in the scenery a bit more.

It was movement that caught my attention today. A lovely doe and her fawn were making their way across the field, basically playing as they bounced through the plants. There were no cars around so I stopped to watch a few seconds.

They weren’t rushing. They paid me no mind. They seemed to be simply enjoying the fresh, relatively cool morning air together.

Note to self: Play more in the summer morning air. Well done, Monday. Well done.

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It’s been a while since I actually broke out my cake decorating kit. Sure, we’ve had a series of birthdays, parties, mother’s days, and all kinds of reasons to bake, but I kept putting it off until now. Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. This milestone year seemed like the perfect time to play around in the kitchen.

There is no shortage of traditional recipes in this house handed down through the generations, but I decided to try something new and found this delicious Walnut Cake recipe by lovefoodies.com.

Y’all, this cake was so simple. I actually had concerns, thinking something must have been missing. A few simple ingredients into the mixing bowl and away we go! Simple and smooth!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cake batter so fluffy as this! The photos don’t do it justice, this batter was like air. The recipe specifies the times to whip the ingredients, hand mix the walnuts in at the end and don’t rush it. Good things take time.

Personally I like buttercream icing, and I especially like buttercream icing made with Kerry Gold Irish Butter. Really, this is not a commercial – it just tastes better to me. My husband is of Irish descent, so he really likes Kerry Gold as well, and since it’s technically his anniversary cake too, I used the good butter.

The kitchen smelled so good! Somehow the scent of cake and icing just seems to belong in this house. This is the same house where 25 years ago my mother and aunt made and decorated our wedding cake. I’m not even going to pretend I’m as good as they were, but I like to think they would be pleased with my attempts, or at least get a little giggle out of the effort.

At some point in icing the cake I decided I wanted as much of an Irish them as I could get into a 25th anniversary cake with what I had on hand. It would be blue instead of silver, with ivory, and a deep green. Sure, it could represent any number of places in the world, even this little patch of ground on some days. But for this occasion, it’s all about the colors of Ireland. Ok, the colors of Ireland and LOVE! (Happy Anniversary to my husband).

The blue became a marble-like streak for some roses, and a blend of Kelly Green and cocoa for the leaves. The white cake stand below belonged to my grandmother. Generations of wonderful and talented women have all had a hand in my choices today.

The end result is what I call Connemara Marbled Roses on Black Walnut Cake. Clever, eh?

Here’s to 25 years of marriage, and far beyond. To the moments that lifted us high enough in love and faith and joy to hold on when other moments knocked us breathless and spinning. To the laughter, tears, silences and more laughter. To me knowing he likes black walnuts and Irish butter, and him knowing I like evening cappuccino in a fine china cup. Now, let us eat cake.

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The saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words” sometimes though, we hold memories that no picture could ever contain.

It had been just over a month since we met Nichole, a young pregnant girl, wanting to find a married couple to adopt her child.  My husband and I were lucky enough to be friends with her pre-natal care nurse who thought of us when this young girl, in many ways still a child herself, mentioned adoption was what she wanted for her unborn baby.

I remember noticing when we arrived to that conference how young she actually looked. The nurse had told us she was young. I had tried to prepare myself to see a young teenager, but I was not prepared for how similar this child looked to one of my own nieces at that age. Aware that my staring was probably making her very uncomfortable I confessed to her that her mother reminded me of one of my sisters, and that she herself reminded me of my favorite niece. She smiled at that statement, and started talking to us.

“My nurse told me a lot about you, I thought you would want this ” she said offering me an ultrasound print. I took it from her and stared at it. It wasn’t a blurry image full of static like other ultrasound pictures where you have to have someone point out the baby in the image for you. No, this was a clear image of a baby with a strong jawline and angled nose; distinctive features which mirrored those in the face of the young girl sitting across from me. “This is a really clear image”, I said to her. She glanced at it for a second then clarified “He’s a boy”.

The next few hours seemed to fly by. She told us about her pregnancy, how she had tried to keep it hidden from her mother; how the boy involved had denied being the father; and how some of her friends had tried to persuade her to have an abortion. We each got a crash-course in the other’s family history. Details that would normally take years to know even in a close friendship were compressed into an afternoon. Everything from hereditary traits and possible genetic health concerns of the baby to where we would most likely take him for family vacations was discussed.

The entire time, I held that ultrasound image. I looked from the picture to the girl sitting across from me and wondered what her expectations of us were and if we were measuring up anywhere close to them.

All of the adoption paperwork had been prepared that day, and completed as much as possible. All those forms were just waiting in a file, waiting for the birth of the baby, and for the final signatures allowing the petition to be filed. As we were leaving I held out the ultrasound image for her. “No”, she said, “That’s yours”. At that point, I had hope and I held it in my hands.

That was not the first time we had begun the process, met with a birth mother who was absolutely certain they could not keep their child and would like to have it adopted, only to receive a call the day the baby was born letting us know the mother has changed her mind and decided to keep her child. That very real and very heartbreaking scenario weighed heavily on my mind following this interview. The harsh reality is the only way I get a baby is if someone decides to give me one, and as wonderful as the thought of being a mother is, the thought of denying someone else that experience is hard to deal with. Maybe this time would be different, better.

We had very little contact with Nichole throughout the remainder of February and the first part of March. Looking at the little ultrasound picture she gave me, I decided I wouldn’t be strong enough to keep any hope of parenthood if this adoption failed and I had to return or give away more baby things like before. I did not buy a bassinet, sheets, diapers, or baby clothes this time. I tried my best to carry on as normal over the next few weeks, waiting for any news about the baby.

The call came around 4:30 a.m. on March 23, 1999. It was Nichole’s mother with a short, quick message:”We’re on the way to the hospital, meet us there”. It was time. We both dressed and were out the door in record time, almost holding our breath as we drove though the still black cold morning in silence. When we reached the maternity ward we were quickly escorted to Nichole’s recovery room. The baby had been born just a few minutes before we arrived. We stood by the bed talking with Nichole and her mother; it had been a quick and easy delivery for her and the baby was healthy.

The nurse finished cleaning him, wrapped him in a small white blanket, capped his little head with a blue toboggan and brought him to the bedside. Even all snuggled up he was immediately recognizable. He looked remarkably like the ultrasound image, and like the girl recovering in the bed. The nurse then asked Nichole if she wanted to hold her son. She looked at him for a moment. I braced myself. She was looking at this beautiful, perfect baby, and I wouldn’t blame her if she changed her mind. Very quietly she told the nurse, “No, that’s her baby”.

The nurse laid him in my arms and asked what his name would be. I knew Nichole was looking at me but I couldn’t look away from his tiny face. “Nicholas” I said, “His name is Nicholas”.

 

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We Made It!   2017 has arrived! What should we do first?  Accept new challenges?  Learn new skills and talents?  Resolve to make great and lasting changes and generally shake up the status quo?    Perhaps, soon, but not today.

For me, the first day of January is set aside for tradition.  For the better part of 25 years that tradition has included attending Mass at the nearest Catholic church.  That’s the new part.  The old part, the really, really old part, is having lunch at home on New Year’s Day.  It’s one of my favorite meals of the entire year with a set menu of black-eyed peas, collard greens, roasted pork of some sort, corn bread with butter, and sweet tea, every year.  Every single year for as long as I can recall, this meal has been prepared by my grandmother, aunts, mother with intentions and prayers for all who join in the meal to enjoy health, love, happiness and prosperity in the coming year.   Another tradition for me is that this simple, hearty meal to begin the new year is ALWAYS served on fine china, and the sweet iced tea in tall crystal.

This year I noticed my 17-year-old son take a snapshot of the table and his plate to send to his girlfriend.  Sure, it could be just an idle text on what’s going on at that moment, but it could also be an intentional sharing of his traditions as well.  My heart hopes that’s the case.

….for this one meal, on this one day, the love spans centuries….

It’s just lunch with the family.  It doesn’t change the responsibilities awaiting when school and businesses reopen; obligations and opportunities await in the coming days; but for the first lunch of the new year we will celebrate in a more special way one of countless beautiful, familiar moments that happen in and amongst our daily lives; for this one meal, on this one day, the love spans centuries.

Perhaps later this week I’ll consider resolutions, but for now I simply want to wish you all a safe and happy new year!  May it be filled with great friendships, deep love, and wonderful adventures and timeless traditions.  Welcome to 2017, my friends.

 

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“You haven’t made your cheesecake in a while”  my husband said as I was searching recipes online.  He was right – I hadn’t made it in a couple of years.  Right then, my 17-year-old son joined in “I don’t really remember your cheesecake”.    Well.  That was that.  Some weekends just require cheesecake.

I come from a long line of bakers, and from a young age I remember my mother’s, aunts, and grandmother’s kitchens as places of love and tradition served up with whatever happened to be cooking on the stove or in the oven, but really – the food has always been secondary to being together in the kitchen.

Did you know, you can tell when a cake is nearly done by the aroma drifting through the kitchen?  I absolutely love the way my house smells when a cake is baking.  Everything seems sweeter and warmer – not just the kitchen.  Take advantage of it, put on a little music and softly waltz around the house.

You know, cheesecakes don’t need ganache.  They’re perfectly fine and delicious without that creamy, silky, buttery soft chocolate…..   I’m just kidding – Of Course Cheesecakes need ganache!     ~ Just do it ~

As I poured the chocolate over the cake my son said “Oh! NOW I remember this cake!”  His first bite prompted “this is so good I can’t even talk anymore”  which is a huge compliment from my very verbal son.    I call it a success.

So the evening ended, this last Saturday of Summer 2016, with a folder of recipes and old cookbooks with vanilla and coffee stained pages opened on the counter.  Treasured notes from bygone eras and people who no longer walk this earth, but took the time to teach me simple recipes, though not always fast, is usually really, really good.

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Cheesecake & Coffee on the porch

And so we took our cheesecake to the back porch and had dessert with coffee surrounded by the oaks and so many memories, and it was so good.  Yep, I remember this cake…

 

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