Sunday, August 31, 2008

While you were sleeping. . .

I have a friend who comes over to my house once or twice a week, for cocktails, laughter, television, or whatever. We love having her here, she is great, we always manage to have a good time even when we are just sitting around doing nothing. The problem is that this friend, who shall remain nameless (ahem-Gabrielle), always falls asleep. Without fail she will inevitably fall into a deep coma and slump over in her chair mid-evening, be it mid-Project Runway or mid-sentence. And no matter how much she may try to deny it, or how many jokes we might make about it, when she walks in the door, we all know that at some point in the night she will most assuredly be napping. Right now, for example, she is sleeping in the other room, curled up on the sofa with a comfy blanket and a tiny little chihuahua. She has been there for more than three hours now. But I can't really begrudge her that, after all, we are all sleep deprived, and sometimes, let's face it, you have to sleep it off before you can safely drive home.

The good news about Gabrielle's I.N.C. (Inconsiderate Narcoleptic Comas) is that usually, had she gotten up and said "well I'm tired, I'm going home," I would have wished her a safe trip, and proceeded to laze about watching bad TV until sleep finally came MY way. But instead, since she is here, I become strangely enlivened and motivated to get stuff done. Like her unused potential energy is somehow magically transmuted into my kinetic energy through her sleep.

Instead of sitting around on my ass doing nothing, for example, in the last three hours of her blissful sleeping, I have watched a movie that needs to be returned tomorrow (Prom Night. . .dumb I know, but I find most horror movies to be pretty watchable, there I have said it. Stop judging me!), unloaded and loaded the dish washer, washed and dried a load of laundry, wiped down the counters, written three emails, read all my favorite blogs, made a grocery list, pulled out dinner for tomorrow night from the freezer, flipped through this month's W and Harper's Bazaar, and written this blog entry.

So basically what it all boils down to is this: if all of you could just come to my house and nap in shifts, there is no telling what other wonderful things I might be able to accomplish. After a week I would no doubt have single handedly solved our nation's health care crisis, our dependence on foreign oil, and safely pulled our troops out of Iraq, all while intermittently baking untold numbers of award winning treats. Nap your way to world peace. It's win win.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I have just learned that in addition to winning the 1st Place Blue ribbon, my Cranberry-Orange Scones were also awarded Best of Class.

Meaning that of all of the 18 lots in the quick breads category (scones, biscuits, all of the muffins, banana, zucchini, and pumpkin breads, coffee cakes, corn breads, ginger breads, doughnuts, etc.) that received blue ribbons, mine was the BEST OF THEM ALL!!!!!

(pats self on back)

Friday, August 22, 2008

May I have a drum roll please. . .

And the winner is. . .


The state fair results are in, and while I didn't place in everything I turned in (most notably and unjustly not for Grandma Browning's rolls, I mean come on? Really?) I did place in a couple of them. The results are as follows (keeping in mind that this is my first time at the fair, and I only turned in ten items):

Cranberry-Orange Scones - 1st place
(that's right bitches, THE BEST in Oregon)

Cranberry-Almond Biscotti - 1st Place

Pecan Bars - 1st Place

Buttermilk Biscuits - 2nd Place

Triple Chocolate Brownies - 3rd Place

Apricot Jam - 3rd Place

So as it turns out, the boy CAN cook. Who knew?

First the Oregon State Fair, next THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Too tired to try

I just kind of threw these platters together, without my usual attention to detail, and eye for presentation. But my sister, who is bringing these into her office for a meeting tomorrow, doesn't care quite as much about presentation as I do. And since I am so tired tonight, instead of stunning, I figured I could get away with slapdash. If I had more energy I would have liked to have more artfully arranged the items, thrown in some grapes, or strawberries for color, and offset the platters with lemon or hydrangea leaves (lovingly stolen from the yards of friends). But, you know, coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For your consideration...

So it is official. I have turned in all of my entries for the Oregon State fair.

My entry included 1 jar each of Apricot and Blueberry jam and six of each of the following:
Grandma Browning's Rolls, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cranberry-Orange Scones, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cranberry-Almond Biscotti, Triple Chocolate Brownies, and Pecan Bars.

It is now out of my hands. It's all in good fun. If I don't place in any category, I will, of course, be humiliated, and be forced to question my entire self worth as a human being, but you know, whatever.

Breaking Bread

Grandma Browning's Rolls

I know surprisingly little about my great great grandmother, Sophronia Louise Browning. Family folk lore paints the picture of her being a strong minded, strong willed woman, being at times inflexible, uncompromising, manipulative, and even vicious. But what I do know, what I have always known, is that these are Grandma Browning's rolls. Ever since I was a small child, that is what they have been called. Never dinner or yeast rolls, never simply bread, her name was always attached to this dough, like the recipe itself was consubstantial with her very being. For all I know she too learned this recipe from her grandmother, there is no telling how far it goes back. Maybe the Snow family brought it here with them from Europe on the Mayflower itself. There is no way of knowing. But what there is to know, is that there has never been a holiday dinner or important family gathering in the last one hundred fifty years which did not include these light, feathery rolls.

My grandmother Iris (or Grandma I, as we have always called her) would use this dough for everything. It was her all purpose dough. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, pizza crust, dough nuts, loaves of bread, bagels, anything was possible, nothing was out of the reach of its magic. About eight or ten years ago, when her health began to fail and she was no longer able to make the rolls for our gatherings, she passed the torch on to me, as it had been passed to her, and I have been making them for our family ever since. I, of course, have put my own modern spin on the recipe, as she no doubt did hers. In this way, it is a collection of all of us. All of our secrets, our tricks, our special touches, our memories, our happiness, our holidays.

My Kitchen Aid mixer now makes easy work of the kneading process. But as a child, standing on a stool, my hands on her cutting board, squishing the dough between my tiny fingers, I remember Grandma I smiling down at me, telling me that this was special bread, that this bread had to be kneaded for twenty-five minutes. No more. No less. And to this day, whether in the mixer, or by hand, I ensure that it kneads for exactly that long.

We don't have inheritances in my family. We don't have trust funds, war bonds, stock market portfolios, or priceless antique furniture to leave behind. But we do have this dough: our own little yeasty legacy. This dough that has spanned at least five generations. This dough that has been with us all along. Delicious.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Painfully Chocolate Brownies

These brownies are my triple chocolate death threat. Rivers of melted chocolate, butter, eggs, chocolate chunks, and coffee, are held together with the smallest amount of flour allowable by law. These chocolaty treats fall somewhere between fudge and "f*ck you these are good."


The amazing, the delicious, the irresistible Pecan Bars of happiness.

While I was granted the ability to produce these magical confections, unfortunately, (through some horribly evil, cosmic, voodoo curse) I am allergic to pecans. I cannot, I must not give in to their siren song, no matter how delicious they may look, no matter how good they might smell.

Oh Satan, why are your evil nuts so temptingly delicious?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Deja View

Ever since I was a child I have remembered my dreams in surprisingly vivid detail, months, even years after having them. Stranger still, is that a very tiny fraction of these dreams eventually play themselves out in real time at some later date. Never anything of even the slightest significance like earth quakes, or car wrecks, plane crashes, assassination plots, amazing hot sex with random celebrities, or family deaths. No, no, no, the universe decided that those would have proven to be far too useful. Instead, I foreshadow innocuous, mundane, everyday moments, thirty seconds at a time, usually well in advance of them actually happening. Often these moments are without dialogue. I will sometimes wake from the dream confused, not really sure where I had been, or who I had been with. Then six months later, it will actually happen, and I will understand that I had been confused because I am at a place I had never been to, around people whom I had never previously met. (Now I realize that this may be, in fact, less of a charming character quirk and more of an alarming symptom of severe mental illness, but nonetheless, bare with me on this.)

I have always used these moments of deja vu as a kind of cosmic navigational system in my life. The more frequently they occur the more I am sure I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I was devastated, for example, about not being accepted into UC Santa Cruz (my first choice) directly out of high school, and was sure that my life was over as I began my first semester at my local community college. But, as each day passed the more I experienced these "already seen" moments, and at the end of that very same year I was accepted at UC Berkeley instead. I like to believe that the universe had bigger dreams for me than I did for myself. That it tossed me little clues along the way that I was exactly where I needed to be, in order to quell my fears, and put to rest all of my own self doubt. My mother has always believed that your dreams are a way of whispering in your own ear, and perhaps in this way she wasn't that far off base.

On the flip side, when there are long periods between these episodes, I feel like I have misstepped, fallen off course, and lost my way somehow. It is during these times, where I find myself searching for major life changes. This last year had been entirely without them. So long, in fact, had it been between them that I had almost forgotten about them all together. But earlier this week I had two of them. And somehow, even though I am not at all a believer in fate, or destiny, or predetermination, that I am in fact possibly the least spiritual person that you will ever meet, I was infinitely relieved. In that one instant a huge cloud of emotional burden lifted, and I knew, in some small way, that I was back on track.

And while I am certainly not Sylvia Brown, Jean Dixon, or Latoya Jackson, I am perfectly happy to have been blessed with my own little, golden, rhinestone encrusted compass.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Eat your 'art out

Coconut Key Lime Bars

Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates