FIVE-Minute Wonder

timer, time, five minutesI only have five minutes to bake.

Now, who can make scrumptious, tasty chocolate chip butterscotch oatmeal bars in five minutes? Not I, but that fact has never stopped me. Because I always try to fit in too many things in too little time. And then I whine, “Why can’t I get everything done?”

Nice, the way I psychoanalyze myself, I decide, as I soften the butter and pour in 1½ cups of white sugar, mix, then add ½ cup of brown sugar. The purple mixer, a sweet Christmas gift from my son and his wife, whirrs along like the hummingbirds outside our window. hummingbird, time, baking

Until we moved back here to the temperate climate of the bay area, I’d never heard the soft buzz of the hummingbirds’ wings as they compete for the sugar water in our feeder. Hard to replicate in words or even human sounds. How to describe? Like a hundred bees racing by my ear, only without the buzz. No, that doesn’t do it. It’s a hum as indescribable as the sound of a mixer’s beaters swooshing in the creamy butter/sugar blend.

I watch another hummer whiz past as I crack in one egg, then the other. Of course, I cogitate; my son had ulterior motives for giving me a new beater for Christmas. He loves my cookies. And he’s smart, I’ll hand it to him. He moans with delight and appreciation every time I bring him a new batch of chocolate cookies or, his favorite, my ‘forgotten cookies.’

Shoot! Speaking of forgotten, I am now 2 minutes late for my yoga class. I add another egg and a teaspoon of vanilla. The smell of the extract gives me a sense of serenity usually experienced after an hour of yogic gyrations. Total nirvana. Funny, how one of the synonyms for vanilla is ‘bland” or ‘plain.” Vanilla is one of the finest aromas in the world – up there with honeysuckle or the ocean. ocean, time, yoga

Ocean! Oh no, I promised my brother I’d send him the pictures from our summer seashore vacation. Has it really been a month since then? Where’d the time go? I almost sent those photos two weeks ago, but I got immersed in writing some new chapters of my book, and visiting our Berkeley grandkids, and my ‘day job,’ and our four out-of-town visitors in the past month.

I measure 2 ¼ cups of flour and slowly add it into the bowl, attempting to not sneeze as the white powder tries to escape the impending merger.

Speaking of merging, my daughter calls, interrupting the cookie making, and talks about the latest ultrasound. She and her husband merged again, and a third child is on the way. How the hell did I become a grandmother of five, soon six? Last time I looked, I was tucking our children to bed after reading them the fourth chapter of The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe.

Oh damn. I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning again. My wardrobe is suffering for it – will I need to wear the same blouse from three days ago? Horrors.

The mixer moans and I remember that I’m beating the hell out of my concoction. Quickly, I add the oatmeal and the chips. I’ve missed yoga, I’ll have to add a load of clothes to the washing machine now, and the potatoes are bubbling for the casserole tonight. Where was I?

Ah yes, five minutes to get everything done. I glance up at the clock. Well, I only have five minutes now before I need to….The dog hits his head against my arm. “Feed me,” he says, “Now.”

“Henry, it’s too early!” I tell him with a twinge of sympathy. But I glance up at the clock. Twenty minutes past his dinner time. Where oh where did those five minutes go?

cookies, chocolate chip bars, time, baking

WHAT DO YOU GET ACCOMPLISHED IN FIVE MINUTES?

Walking the Human

I’m happy to greet you all as a guest blogger of Roughwighting. My best friend (BF as I affectionately call her) is too frazzled with preparations for the holiday to write a post this week. So I get to put in my two cents here, or in my case, two kibbles.

During this season, I try to calm my BF down, explain the true meaning of the holiday, blah blah blah, but she still frantically bakes cookies, shops, wraps gifts, and attends too many parties.

I must admit I also enjoy the excitement and extra vibe in the air, and love the anticipation of the big day when Santa arrives. After all, I have my own stocking (didn’t you know that Santa loves dogs?). I was given a green felt collar with tinkling bells, but fortunately my BF doesn’t make me wear it.

The good news is that with all the baking, my BF feels she needs to walk extra miles to burn off the calories, and that’s just fine by me. I take her for a walk as often as humanly possible (it’s always possible for a dog to walk). My other dog friends and I laugh when we hear our best friends say that they’re going to ‘take the dog for a walk.’ None of us have allowed our BFs to walk us since we were puppies – we take them for a walk, and train them as well as we can.

For instance, my BF reads poetry and recites quotes about ‘stopping to smell the roses,’ but while walking, she only wants to ‘keep up the pace’ and check her pedometer. I, on the other paw, understand the meditative pleasure of stopping to sniff the bushes. It’s been a tough lesson to teach, but I’m patient with her and hope that one of these days, she’ll get it.

In the meantime, I hear the mixer mashing up some butter and sugar in the next room, so I’ll send my goodbyes quickly. I’m a good companion in the kitchen and sit by my BF’s feet whenever cooking commences. She says I’m too close and she’ll trip over me, but I know that, really, she loves my company. As a reward for my loyalty, my BF makes sure I get a lick of batter at the end.

And that’s my wish for you this holiday season. May you always get to lick the batter, sniff the bushes, and enjoy the company of your BF.

Happy Holidays from Henry

Weekend Zen

Weekend S.F. Bay sunset

As the sky darkens on a Saturday night, walk me into the house, put a little music on the CD player– Rosemary Clooney, Enya, Vivaldi, the Beatles Rubber Soul– and let the fresh S.F. summer fog meander through the open window. Yes, I’m beginning to get there.

Make the telephone stop ringing, at least turn the volume of the voice mail way down, turn the oven on 350 degrees preheat, open up my closet door so I can change to my well-worn black leggings and soft cotton lavender top. Help me find my rumpled gray socks, and lead me toward the kitchen. Yes, I’m getting there.

Give me an excuse to make my homemade brownies – my son and his family are coming tomorrow for dinner, a friend’s birthday in a day, a neighbor’s dog is sick — and I’ll start to crack the eggs and melt the semisweet chocolate squares, stir in the sugar, drop in a teaspoon of vanilla. As the sweet smells of baking brownies waft through the house, I feel myself getting there.

Husband bangs into the house, racing against the fading light, washes his white-speckled hands under running water, and smiles. He’s had his Zen day out in the yard, pruning, painting, puttering. He kisses me like he means it, then asks in almost the same breath ‘what’s for dinner?’ I point to the eggplant he’s just brought in from our garden, and pick up four round, red, luscious just-plucked tomatoes. ‘Eggplant parmesan?’ I suggest. He hops once with excitement and runs upstairs for a shower. I’m so close I can feel the aura of contentment surround me like a warm coat on a freezing day.

I peel the purple fruit as I listen to Rosemary sing soulfully about love. I dance around the kitchen with a tomato, stopping short as I see the look of concern in my dog’s searching brown eyes. I slice the tomato, feed him the ends, and know he will now love me forever. Then I dip the eggplant slices in egg and breadcrumbs. The telephone rings, and with a sigh, I answer. I smile, though, as soon as I hear my daughter’s voice, just checking in, ending with ‘love you mom.’ Seconds later, my clean-faced husband checks out my dinner preparations, opens a bottle, and hands me a glass of garnet-red wine. ..we toast – “love you” – clink glasses, and I see the colors change around me – the clear lucid light of reality becomes fuzzy with soft rose and warm ivory tones. I’m there. I’ve reached my weekend Zen, and I take a deep breath and soak it in before answering the call of the oven timer.