Category Archives: Cooking

All the Things…

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My friend, Paul, came into the Community Center last week. His greeting, on seeing me, was something like, “Oh, there’s the lady that writes when she feels like it…” That was his way of letting me know that he noticed when I didn’t post a blog last week. From Paul, I’ll accept the scolding. He may be my most loyal reader! He frequently offers an opinion or a comment about something I’ve written. He has often told me how much he enjoys my essays, and he misses them when I don’t write.

Still, I gave him a rundown of what had been occupying my time, then told him my next post would be about all the things that I’m doing when I am not writing. “Good idea,” he said. Spring is a busy time of year out here on the Fox Lake Road. There is plenty to do, and I’ve been working hard.

I finally got the box spring moved out of the spare room upstairs. After months of worry and procrastination, when everything else I plan to do in that room (paint the floor, move a small stand and a large bookcase to the other side of the room so that the two dressers can inhabit the same wall, put down a rug, set up my Pilates chair) hinged on getting the box spring out. Finally, I tackled the job, wrestled it through the door and around the corner on the small landing, and down the stairs. It is now resting comfortably in the tall grass of my back yard, until I can figure out where to go with it next.

After tripping over the stuff for a week, I – at long last – got all of the papermaking supplies cleaned, sorted, and put away. I enjoy teaching papermaking, but it involves a ton of prep-work, and even more clean-up when it’s done.

Last Sunday was a warm and beautiful day, so I abandoned my long list of things to get done in the house, and headed outside. I picked up windfall from under the old maple trees. I pruned the vines of climbing rose that had nearly taken over my front door. I cut back the wisteria, then started on the grape vines. They had nearly buried a forsythia bush, and it needed to be pruned, too, when I uncovered it, I cleared some weeds out of the daylily bed, raked around the rhododendron, and pulled some blackberry brambles out of the poppy bed.

My friend Judi stopped by, and I sent her off with a clump of rhubarb and a few Oriental poppy plants. I spent seven hours working in the yard that day. I hauled away twelve wheel-barrow loads of debris. Then I took the dogs for a walk. And then ibuprofen, a hot shower, and a small dinner before I collapsed into bed.

Tuesday was my only other day off last week, and I spent it outside, too. I finished pulling up the blackberry brambles, and worked on weeding and removing leaves from the flower beds. Before and after work, I’ve been trying to put the house in order – or at least in a state of less disorder – and other tasks that are specific to this time of year. I stored winter sweaters, and pulled a few warm-weather clothes clothes out. I turned off the furnace, and opened windows to the screens. On one nice day, I tossed all the dog beds, rugs and cushions outside where I swept and pounded and shook them clean, and left them out in the fresh air while I gave the floors a good cleaning.

Today, I walked the dogs early. Then I baked a cake. I went to town to meet the boat. One cousin, two sisters, a nephew and his daughter, my grand-niece, arrived on the ferry. Happy day! They’ll be here only until Friday, so I plan to spend as much time with them as I possibly can. So, if I don’t post another blog in the coming days, it’s because I’m busy enjoying time with my family!

Kitchens

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I’ve lived in a lot of places in my adult life, so I’ve had an assortment of kitchens.
  • My first was an in an upstairs apartment where all the floors ran at a slant. The kitchen and bathroom had been carved out of a space that had, before renovations, been one small bedroom, or a large bathroom. The two rooms shared a sink.
  • Then there was a large country kitchen in a downstairs apartment in the same building. That’s the apartment that I brought my first daughter home to, so I have lots of good memories associated with it. My father-in-law would stop in sometimes, for pie and coffee, and to visit with the baby.
  • Next was a tiny kitchen in a small cottage on a lake. When we first moved in, we thought we’d stay there forever. I bought three potted African violets, one for each little window over the kitchen sink.
  • Tired of remodeling and expecting another baby, we sold the lake house for barely enough profit to get settled in a brand new townhouse rental. The kitchen was small, but perfectly laid out. I loved it.
  • From there, we moved to Beaver Island, and into the family farm until winter. There, I channeled all the good cooks before me, and turned out fresh-baked breads and kettles of soup.
  • Come winter, we moved in to the “Stone House,” where the kitchen had, for looks, an old wood-fired cook stove next to the usable electric model. Pegboard lined one wall, and held an assortment of sturdy pans and utensils. A large collection of old cookbooks spurred my interest in collecting recipes.
  • Spring, it was back to the farmhouse. Summer visitors gave me opportunity to make big Sunday suppers for a crowd. The table expanded to accommodate every guest.
  • That Fall, we moved off the island and back to Lapeer County. Our next home was the rear apartment in a duplex that had once been the Deerfield Township Hall. I loved that kitchen! The back wall held a long bank of cabinets. The room was large enough for our table and chairs, and even, in season, for our Christmas tree! We lived there six months before I had a stove. I learned how to do everything, from birthday cakes to cinnamon rolls to baked lasagna, in my electric frying pan!
  • From there, we moved to a house on Johnson Mill Road. As much as I’d loved the last kitchen, I hated this one! Dark, wood-look cabinets were a dramatic counterpoint to the lively 1960’s era white, blue and green wallpaper. The floor was vinyl tile making an effort to look like brick. Ugh!
  • Then, back to Beaver Island: first the family farmhouse again, then a mobile home that faced the harbor. I can’t remember anything about that kitchen, but I know we had guests over for Thanksgiving dinner, and I prepared the meal.
  • We moved in to McCafferty’s Hotel for the winter. The kitchen there was spacious, warm and easy to work in.
  • Within the year, we moved in to our own little house, still unfinished and with few interior walls, but workable. Until the water froze.
  • Then, my girls and I moved in to the Erin Motel for the winter. Though the room had a small refrigerator and an electric burner, most of our meals were pretty unimaginative that winter.
  • After that, a house in North Branch, where the kitchen is remembered mostly for the bat that visited us there. Dinner was often take-out from the pizzeria where I worked.
  • Then, the Cherry Lane apartments on the campus of Michigan State University. We lived in two during the course of our time there, but they were nearly identical. In the small kitchens as in every other aspect of the space, the designers were masters at making the most of the space. Cooking there was memorable as we were walking distance from a large, cosmopolitan grocery store. Foods from all around the world were available there.
  • Finally, back to my own little house on Beaver Island. I added cabinets in the kitchen, then rearranged them. Four times. I moved the sink, and the window over the sink. I put up shelves for my cookbooks. It’s still a work in progress, but after all these years, this kitchen suits me.

Dutch Baby

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Last year at Christmastime, my friend, Denise, posted a photo, labeled “Dutch Baby,” and said that was what she planned to make for her holiday breakfast. I had never heard of a Dutch Baby before, but I was intrigued. I turned to Google. A little research, and I found that “a Dutch Baby is a big, poofy, family-style pancake with a custardy center.” It’s sometimes called a German pancake, and there were many recipes available.

I found a recipe, and altered it just a little: I lowered the amount of sugar from the tablespoon it called for to a scant teaspoonful. Though the directions said to bake it in a heavy frying pan, I used a 9″ Pyrex pie dish instead. My cast iron pans have wood handles that shouldn’t go into the hot oven. The Dutch Baby is easy to make, and it’s delicious.

The basic recipe is here:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of milk, a scant teaspoon of sugar, and a dash of nutmeg
  • Put 4 Tablespoons of butter in a heavy fry pan or Pyrex pie dish, and put in in the oven to melt
  • When the butter is melted, pour the batter on top of it, and return it to the oven
  • Bake for 20 minutes; reduce the heat to 300 degrees, and bake for 5 minutes longer
  • Serve hot from the oven, topped with fresh berries or dusted with powdered sugar (I like it plain!)

The next time I made it, I sliced a couple pared apples into the melted butter and sprinkled them with cinnamon before pouring in the batter. Even better!!

Parallels

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What gets you out of the winter doldrums?

That question comes not from me, but from the creative mind of Kathy, who writes from the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula. I’ve followed her blog, Lake Superior Spirit (www.upwoods.wordpress.com), for many years now, and am always enlightened and entertained by what she has to say, and by how she says it. It’s one thing to have good thoughts and ideas; quite another to be able to voice them in a way that draws others in. She’s got that knack.

We’ve gotten to know each other over the years, by reading and commenting on each other’s blogs. Though we have never met in person, I consider her a friend. I appreciate her insight, humor, and thoughtful commentary. I’ve noticed that there are several parallels in our lives.

Though I have a few years on her, Kathy and I are close to the same age. We were both raised downstate, in fairly small towns in the “thumb area” of Michigan. We both migrated north as adults, Kathy to the upper peninsula, and I to Beaver Island. Each of us raised two children. Though we were raised with traditional religious traditions, we have both looked for spirit and deeper meaning outside of the walls of a church.

The other day, Kathy wrote about this long, dragging month of January. We all feel it, don’t we? At least all of us in this hemisphere, where the days are short, and the land is frozen, and the pace is sooo veeery slooow…we feel it. And, I found that many of her winter activities paralleled mine, as well.

Kathy made granola; so did I! Kathy did laundry; me, too! Kathy made oat energy balls with nibbles of dark chocolate; I opted for the oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate no-bake cookies that don’t sound nearly as healthy…but still. We both turn to caffeine, for warm comfort. Finally, whether it is a walk in nature or a drive to the water’s edge, we both recognize the healthy difference a simple change in scenery makes in a dreary January day.

Of course, I’m sure we have plenty of differences, too. If we ever met face-to-face, we might discover even more. Our lives have meandered along, leading us one way and another. I know I’ve been as surprised as anyone at some of the unexpected turns my life has taken. But, my topic today is “parallels,” so that’s what I’m focusing on. Today, I’m happy to note that Kathy and I are both successfully navigating through the doldrums of winter.

One big kettle of Granola

Nostalgia

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It’s after four o’clock on this Sunday afternoon. I should have published a blog by now. It’s time to get outside for a walk with the dogs. The day is practically gone, but I’ve been busy. Because this is my oldest daughter’s birthday, I made sure to set time aside to call her, not too early, in case she worked the late shift last night; not too late, in case she had plans. I also spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about all the lovely times we’ve shared.

I made granola. I don’t eat breakfast, but I like a bowl of cereal with milk after supper. It kind of stands in for dessert. As children, my brothers and sisters and I all liked a bowl of cereal at night, before we went to bed. Yesterday, I paid over six dollars for a box of cereal. It was a smallish box, too, for that price. I’ll be lucky to get five or six bowls out of it. So. today, I got up and made a big kettle of oats, nuts and seeds granola.

When I pulled out the spiral notebook with my tried-and-true granola recipe in it, a dozen or more pages came out in my hands. It is, granted, just an old, cheap spiral notebook, but the recipes it holds are precious. I bought it at the grocery store in 1978, the first winter I spent on Beaver Island. We were renting a big old stone house that had belonged to a retired priest, Father Donahue. It came furnished. The shelves in the dining room were filled with vintage cookbooks. I divided the notebook into sections for appetizers and beverages, breads, side dishes, main dishes and desserts, and started copying down any recipes that looked interesting.

I’ve continued to add to it over the years. That’s where I recorded my mother-in-law’s directions for the best no-bake cookies. My Mom’s rhubarb crisp. My daughter’s broccoli salad. My sister-in-law’s cheese ball. I copied the recipe for “Spicy Perk-a-Punch” from my mother’s Farm Journal magazine, and I make it every year at Christmastime. The pages that have cookie recipes are spattered with evidence of their use. Though I own a large collection of interesting cookbooks, that old spiral notebook is where I turn when I’m looking for a specific recipe that I know I can count on.

Before it’s all lost for good, I decided it’s time to get the recipes copied. Because I never seem able to take the simplest or most direct path, rather than just re-writing the recipes, I decided to type them into the computer. That way, they could be more easily turned into a book, to share with my children and grandchildren.

Because it’s the first complete day off I’ve had in five days, and because I added to my wardrobe with a few good pieces from the Resale Shop, I had laundry to do. Luckily, all of those things fit nicely together. I got the granola mixed up and in a low oven, then started a load of wash. I typed a couple recipes, stirred the granola, then typed a couple more. I got up to put the clothes in the dryer, another stir, a little more typing.

In between, there was the steady rotation of dogs going outside and coming back in. And lots of good memories filling in every pause. From the January night when Jennifer was born, through all of the years, and every single cherished moment. A good Sunday!

I Love David Allen!

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I love David Allen! And that’s not all.

Today, I love the fact that Blackie Chan is feeling better, after a scary long day and all through the night when he was not doing well at all. Yesterday, I had one of his prescriptions filled. The little dog needs one of these pills in the morning, and one at night, every day, along with two other types of medicine. Usually, I get thirty tablets at a time.

Since I am no longer working at the hardware, which is owned by the veterinarian, it is a little more difficult having prescriptions filled. Blackie Chan will need these pills for the rest of his life. With his congestive heart failure, it is, in fact, the medications that are keeping him going. He’s been doing well, so yesterday, I asked if I could get a double prescription, so that I would have enough for a month before I had to get it refilled.

I came home with a double dose of heart medicine, only to find that Blackie Chan was extremely under the weather. He wasn’t on his feet, wriggling, wagging his tail, and barking out a greeting, as he does every day when I come home. He showed only a little enthusiasm when I picked him up, and he clearly wasn’t feeling well. He went outside with the other dogs, but was not up for a walk. He was uninterested in treats, and he refused his dinner.

When I drove cars that were less dependable than the one I have now, I used to abide by quite a few superstitions about how to keep them running. Never fill the tank up with gas, never buy all new tires, and, god forbid, never take it through the car wash, because, sure enough, as soon as I’d invested that much time or money into a vehicle, disaster would strike. There I would be, on the side of the road with a blown engine, a damaged tie-rod, or a broken axle on my shiny car, wishing I had the money back that I’d just put in to the gas tank.

That occurred to me yesterday, as I stashed a full month’s worth of medication, and wondered if Blackie Chan would make it through the night. But, this morning, he woke up feeling fine. He took his medicine without hesitation, and accepted treats when he came in from outside. He won’t be around forever, but I’m loving the fact that, for now, he’s okay.

In addition, I’m loving a “Dutch Baby.” Also called a German pancake, a Dutch Baby is like a giant popover. My friend, Denise, posted the recipe over the holidays. I copied it down, so that I could try it. It’s wonderful! It comes out of the oven all puffed and crisp and buttery; today I’m having it with “Four Fruits Preserves.”

As for David Allen, I haven’t always loved him. I have been reading his book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity. For a loooong time. During my morning study time, I read and take notes on the particulars. It’s a pretty lengthy book, over three-hundred pages, and it has a lot of information. All of the instruction takes some time to become clear. I rarely get through more than five or six pages a day. I started the book two months ago! So, I’m anxious to finish it, and move on to something else. I’ve been getting pretty tired of David Allen and everything he has to say about getting things done.

Except, today, when – all the way on page two-hundred and fifty-seven – I came upon a chapter titled “Why Bright People Procrastinate the Most,” and, in reading it, felt like someone saw me for the very first time! “The smartest and most sensitive people have the highest number of undecided things in their lives and on their lists,” he writes. He goes on to say, “the most creative, sensitive and intelligent people have the capability to produce in their minds lurid nightmare scenarios about what might be involved in doing a particular project, and all the negative consequences that might occur if it isn’t done perfectly.” He even uses filing income taxes as an example! I am famous for putting off filing my income taxes! Oh, David Allen, you know me so well! And you put a positive spin on procrastination, which is my worst behavior flaw. I love you, David Allen!

An Almost Disastrous Holiday

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the inside of my cabinet door, painted

On the day before Christmas Eve, I finished my shift at the hardware store, picked up my mail at the Post Office, and stopped at the gas station, where I picked up a few things: frozen pizza; a bag of barbecue potato chips; a box of “pot-stickers.” At the counter, I joked that, “it’s evidently going to be a junk food holiday!”

I had the next four days off, and was looking forward to a mellow, relaxing time. All Christmas cards had been sent; all packages were mailed. I had a chicken to roast on Christmas day; beyond that, I had no intention to fuss over meals. I had my supplies from the gas station, and a pot of soup to warm up if I felt like it. I was going to put away the gift-wrapping clutter, and give the house a “once-over,” so that I could enjoy its tidiness. That’s how it started out.

The dogs and I took our walk down the Fox Lake Road. I gave them their dinner while my pizza cooked. I read through a nice Christmas letter, and taped the last few cards onto the mirror. I started a movie and watched it while I had dinner. Then I got up to clean the kitchen.

Pizza generates few dishes. From my entire day, I had only a few items in the sink: one coffee cup; one lidded soup bowl and an insulated mug that I had carried to work; one small plate; one fork; one spoon; and the knife I had used to cut the pizza into sections. I could have just left the dishes, but I like to wake up to a clean kitchen, so it’s worth the small effort. I started filling the sink with soapy water. I picked up a bowl that was in the drainer, and opened the cupboard to put it away.

That was the start of my nearly disastrous holiday.

Without a bit of provocation – I didn’t pull or lean on the cupboard; I barely touched the knob to swing the door open – the entire thirty-six inch overhead cabinet came off the wall, and down on top of me! There was no time to react; I had barely enough time to think “yikes!” as assorted dinner plates, soup bowls, jars and vases rained down on me. I have always assumed my last words would be something like that, as I absentmindedly did some stupid thing that caused my demise.

Not this time, though. Instinctively, I turned, and deflected most of the weight of it away from me. I took a breath. Assessed the situation. I wasn’t broken, though I was standing in a mass of shattered dishes. One shoulder was sore, I had a bump on my forehead, and I’d jammed the thumb of my right hand. Not bad. I called a friend, just to share the enormous, scary, “holy shit” moment that it was. Then I started cleaning up the mess.

It didn’t take long before my racing heart had slowed down, and I’d begun to see the positive aspects of this disaster. First, I wasn’t killed, nor even badly injured. Second, I’ve been planning for quite some time to move the refrigerator over to this spot in the kitchen; I was stopped by the huge effort involved in moving the cabinets. Now, that job was half done! Third, this manner of weeding out of the excess was far less painful than trying to make those decisions on my own.

Last, and of utmost importance, are the things that were saved. Four vases: one that my friend Judi had given me; another from my friend, Carol; a third, handmade by my friend Ruth; and the fourth made by my friend, Susan. Several food storage containers made it through. One soup bowl survived the fall.

On each of the knobs on my cabinet doors, I have small ornaments hanging. On these doors I had: a felted wool, copper and cork Christmas tree that was a gift from my daughter, Kate: a painted shell ornament that my daughter, Jen, made; and a woven paper star that I’d learned to make in a class held by my now departed friend, Larry. All survived!

I had a set of four red plates that I’d bought several years ago. They were a part of a Jaclyn Smith collection for K-Mart. They are small, for dinner plates, and have an embossed floral design on the surface. I just love them! They were stacked on the lower shelf in the left side of the cabinet, on top of four larger black glazed dinner plates and a red and gold hand painted chicken plate that I had recently picked up at the Resale Shop. On top of them was a celadon green ceramic plate and a pink glass dessert plate. All were smashed. Except for the four red plates that – by some holiday miracle – tipped out onto the countertop, still stacked together, and completely intact!

This wasn’t without loss. I liked my cupboards. Though they were “bottom-of-the-line,” I saved several years to afford them, and it was a big improvement to my kitchen. When I painted them several years ago, I added poster-like images on the inside of each cabinet door. The doors and drawers are adorned with a wild collection of mismatched knobs, a gift from my daughter, Kate. But, as catastrophes go, this could have been much more dreadful. So, I avoided the worst this year on the holidays…I’m hoping yours were equally disaster-free!

Welcome, Snow

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I woke up this morning to about five inches of new snow, and it has given me a whole new perspective on the day.

Yesterday, a storm came through the area, and much of the state got significant snowfall. I’ve seen reports of it from friends and family all around Michigan. There have been lots of comments about “the white stuff,” and how unwelcome it is.

“Ugh!”

“I’m not ready for this!”

“Here it comes!”

“I don’t think it’s ‘pretty!'”

There was plenty of reinforcement for every negative comment. From the sounds of things, nobody wants to see the snow. I understand. Wintertime, in this climate, adds a great deal of work and considerable discomfort. Everything, from a walk to the car to a drive to town, seems to take longer. It’s cold. I get it. Still, I hold a different viewpoint.

First, I live in Michigan. We will always have winter. Second, I live on an island, where the surrounding water provides such good insulation, the snow sometimes hangs around for six months! It seems ridiculous to spend energy despising it, when it comes every singe year. Third, as it covers dead grass and brown earth with sparkling white, I think it is quite beautiful. Finally, I find something magical about that first snowfall.

It brings me back to my childhood, coming home from school to find that my mother had put out the holiday decorations. The kitchen was bright and warm, with lively snowmen, Santa and reindeer hanging in the picture window, a dish of hard candy on the table, and cookies cooling on the rack. The record player was serving up carols sung by Perry Como, Julie Andrews, or Bing Crosby. The living room glowed, quiet and mysterious, from the little light provided by the nativity set, which now sat upon a tapestry cloth on top of the television set. Everything quiet, and warm, and our hearts filled with anticipation.

When the wind is howling, and snow is coming down, I start thinking about comfort. That is the time to put on the warm flannels and fleece, and to slide my feet into the fuzzy slippers. I want to put a pot of soup on the stove, to simmer all day, and set bread to rise. Freshly baked bread and hot soup are the perfect evening meal for a snowy day. I start daydreaming about winter projects. Though I rarely crochet and almost never sew anymore, a snowy day makes the fabrics and yarn sound inviting. Good books, too, are always better when it’s wintry outside.

When the first snow blankets my view, I always breathe a sigh of relief. I can quit, right now, worrying about whether I should give my lawn “one more mowing” before winter. Raking the leaves is now out of the question, too. All of the outside lawn and garden activities that were keeping me agitated as “things I should make time for” are now happily off the table until spring. Snow acts as good camouflage, too. It has covered the leaves that weren’t raked, the grass that wasn’t mowed, and the shrubs that weren’t pruned. It has hidden a hundred little flaws in my landscape.

Though it’s clearly not a very widespread point of view, I have to say, I welcome the snow!

What In the World??

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What is going on? Where are the stars and planets? It seems, according to my life, that something must certainly be out of whack. What in the world?

Usually, my life rolls along on a pretty even keel. I have good days and bad days in a fair balance, in between the majority of days that are just routine. Which is fine with me.

The last couple of days, though, have brought a string of unfortunate events, one on top of another.

First, the weather. Is it wanting to be spring…or fall? Rain turns to snow, then, along with cold weather and whipping winds, it turns back to rain. The weather affects my ability to get a good walk in, which makes it harder to get rid of a sour mood.

It seems like I often come home from work with a poor frame of mind. I get so tired of all the machinations of just getting through a day. But, I’d need much more room than I have here, to do my grumbling about that!

Yesterday, my bathroom ceiling developed a serious leak. Water dripped into the bathtub for hours, as the rain came down outside. The drywall on the ceiling sagged, and felt spongy. Where is that water coming from? My bathroom is on the first floor of a story-and-a-half house, with an inaccessible space above it. The roof is a 12-12 pitch; there is no plumbing up there. It wasn’t raining that hard!

Then, while I was cooking dinner, the panel of indicator lights on the back of the stove started going crazy. There was a humming sound coming from it as the clock flashed on and off, with numbers on display that made no sense. The indicator lights for “Bake,” “Broil,” and “Clean” flashed on and off, too. After several minutes of that, it all went dark. I have no oven, until I get it fixed.

Today, for the first time this month, I didn’t have a blog written ahead. No problem, I was up early enough to write. I had it started, even. The title was “Waking Up.” Then, in helping Blackie Chan get down from the bed, I wrenched my back. Blackie Chan is my smallest, lightest dog! I’ve made that maneuver hundreds of times before. Today, I put my back out! So, the rest of the morning was spent alternating hot compresses and ice packs, so that I could go to work.

And, once again, work was a strain of swallowing my pride, accepting my station, and just continuing to do my job. By the time I got home, the rain was pouring down (and still dripping enthusiastically into the bathtub inside, as well), and the temperature had dropped. No walk. I’d make a nice dinner.

No oven.

Okay. Dinner would be leftovers warmed-up on top of the stove. I decided to treat myself to dessert. I had a box of no-bake cheesecake, and all of the ingredients I needed to put it together. With the crust nicely formed and chilling in the refrigerator, I mixed up the filling. Nice and thick. I pulled the beaters out of the bowl. Then, in a moment of idiocy, I pushed the button that I thought (because that’s how it was on my old mixer) would release the beaters. On this new mixer (that I’ve had, and used, for at least five years, mind you) that button is the “burst of power.” Pushing it sent the beaters madly spinning, coating everything with sweet filling. From the floor to the coffee pot to the entire stove top to the overhead cabinets to last night’s dishes still in the drainer, everything is spattered.

What else could possibly go wrong? What in the world?

Rest

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When my “To-Do” list is long and overwhelming, I have to remind myself to rest.

When deadlines loom, and time seems short, it’s not easy to take time out, but that’s when it is most necessary.

Sometimes a few minutes is enough. I step out the door, breathe in fresh air, and take a moment to admire what’s budding or sprouting or blossoming. Or, I sit down in the comfortable armchair, where I almost never sit, beside whichever small dog has settled there, and open a book. I might make a cup of tea and page through a magazine. Sometimes, I just allow myself a few moments of stillness.

Other days, a longer break is in order. The dogs are always up for a walk, no matter the weather, and it is a welcome break for me, too. Or, I might call a daughter, a sister or a friend for a few minutes of conversation. Or, I gather a book, a beer, my camera and my sketchbook. I load everything – plus three dogs – into the car for a run to Fox Lake. There, I’ll sit at the picnic table while the dogs enjoy the brand new smells, and change of scenery.

Sometimes, simply changing from one activity to another is enough. When I’m struggling with tax documents, writing a blog can seem restful. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by a blogging challenge, shaking out the rugs gives me a break. As a master procrastinator, I recognize these things for the diversionary tactics that they are. Still, if something productive is getting done, seriously, what the hell.

Then there are times when the only thing to do is come to a full stop, I can feel the agitation of too much to do and not enough time. Nerves are getting in the way of any progress. I know that panic, or tears, are close. No break, whether long or short, and no alternate activity will cut it. Then, I just have to respect my need for rest. I have to be bravely careless enough to let all forward motion stop. Make soup. Watch a movie. Read something mindless. Take a nap. Save shame and judgment for another day. Just rest.