the things that excite-sadden-inspire-create-suffering in us

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Meeting a guy who professionally sold office supplies and offered me an endless supply of different pens on a regular basis. Yeah, back then, that was fab. But not the kind of guy I was going to, say, marry. But back then fistfuls of pens would get me really excited.

These triggers for excitement change a lot… strange to think that nowadays I get really fired up talking about infection control or antibiotic resistance or cutting-edge plastic surgery techniques.

Or that I am excited when new web browsers come into the world.

And then the things that make us inexpressibly sad. US Vice President Joe Biden and all the loss he has experienced. Reading an MIT commencement address delivered long ago by former politician Paul Tsongas (before he died, young). Lachrymose, feeling this mortality and the grief unfolding. More nostalgic than normal.

Seeing that Duran Duran will play the WA State Fair… igniting Duran nostalgia, reminding me of a third-grade field trip back when chaperone parents were still allowed to drive kids in private cars – I went with a guy whose mom had a new Camaro or something like that and we listened to Seven and the Ragged Tiger over and over. I envied that her car had a cassette deck and could automatically reverse and play the tapes. My parents’ car, which eventually became my car, had nothing of the sort.

In junior high my best friend and her “former” best friend from elementary school went to see Duran Duran on their sort of “comeback” tour in 1988 – funny to think of it being a comeback since they had not really gone anywhere. They had just gone quiet for a handful of years. I imagine that I protested and pretended to like Duran less than I did because I was jealous that my friend and her former friend (just because their parents would buy them tickets, of course) were going to the concert.

I write about this former friend a lot, especially in the throes of nostalgia, because so many things remind me of her. Hearing U2, Robyn Hitchcock, Crowded House, being in Scotland, seeing Starburst candy (which is not the norm here in Sweden), making snickerdoodle cookies or cinnamon rolls (she was always the one to make the glaze).

We drifted apart long before we actually lost touch entirely. For so many years I wanted to have closure or to know that she was okay. She really just disappeared from the face of the earth and there was no way for me to find her. She is one of the few people without a discernible web identity/presence. It’s almost impressive. I went out of my way trying to find out for a really long time, making a nuisance of myself at times.

I have mostly let go of that, and I have come to understand the selfishness of that need. Maybe she wasn’t okay and my demanding to know she was could have been just another nagging thing for her. Especially because her well-being is and was not my business. Our past friendship creates no obligation for her to share any of it. I still hope she is well, regardless. Sigh – the intensity of youth friendship and that compact worldview of youth make it hard to imagine a closer friendship even if, reflecting, there was very little to it.

Snickerdoodle cookies – nothing to do with Snickers

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I will say it again – snickerdoodles have nothing to do with Snickers candy. Every time I make these cookies, someone always asks, “Don’t these have anything to do with Snickers?

When I made Halloween snickerdoodles, using black and orange sanding sugar, people raved like these were the best things they ever ate. Maybe this is because at Halloween, although there were choices, there were fewer choices than at Christmas. The Christmas snickerdoodles, using red and green sugar, were among the last to go. There’s just no telling what’s going to float a group’s boat (palate-wise). (Can you just imagine what “no telling what’s going to float a group’s boat” sounds like in a lovely Scottish accent, by the way?)

Christmas snickerdoodles

Christmas snickerdoodles

SNICKERDOODLES
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
t. is for teaspoon; T. is tablespoon; c. is cup

1½ c. sugar (about 250g)
½ c. butter (113g)
½ c. shortening (113g)
2 eggs
2¾ c. flour (355g)
2 t. cream of tartar (8g)
1 t. baking soda (4g)
¼ t. salt (1.4g)
2 T. sugar (25g)
2 T. cinnamon (12.5g)
Mix sugar, butter, shortening, egg. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix sugar and cinnamon together. In order to bake, roll dough into small balls and roll balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes.

“Nothing clings to you like laughter…” – Full list of 2013 holiday baking

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I started off today in the office exchanging messages on Facebook with a colleague who was on a bus – it was unintentionally stalker-like to see her progress as her public transport made its way to different parts of the city, and I could track her, thinking, “Oh, she must have stopped responding because she is walking up the path to the office now…”. In any case, our conversation started the day off on the right foot because it sparked laughter. And, as Robyn Hitchcock sings, “Nothing clings to you like laughter…“. Too true.

I also noted that the 24 kinds of baked goods that I brought to the office yesterday – the logistical nightmare that that was – has been reduced and fits nicely on two long tables instead of three. Progress!

Christmas 2013 spread - three full tables

Christmas 2013 spread – three full tables

The final list of stuff baked and brought along with links to recipes (where they exist – some I was making for the first time so will post in new posts in the coming days)…

COCONUT-MACADAMIA COOKIES

CHRISTMAS M&M COOKIES (I know this links to a white chocolate macadamia cookie recipe, but I have been using it for M&M cookies for a while – prefer it to the one I used to use. Just eliminate the macadamia and white chocolate and put M&Ms in instead!)

VANILLA ORANGE ALMOND BISCOTTI   

CRANBERRY PISTACHIO BISCOTTI

TART CHERRY & PINE NUT BISCOTTI      

GINGERBREAD

THUMBPRINTS (WALNUTS & CHERRY)  

RUSSIAN TEA CAKES (ALMOND)

SHORTBREAD                            

CHOCOLATE MINT COOKIES

SNICKERDOODLES                    

RASPBERRY OAT BARS

PEANUT BUTTER CUPS                  

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

OREO TRUFFLES           

MAPLE PECAN COOKIES

PUMPKIN PIE                             

RAFFAELLO CANDY CUPCAKES (ALMOND, COCONUT)

BROWN SUGAR CUPCAKES W/ MAPLE FROSTING AND CANDIED BACON

GUINNESS CUPCAKES W/ BAILEYS FROSTING

OREO CHOCOLATE COOKIES-AND-CREAM CUPCAKES

EGGNOG COOKIES                    

PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS

HONEY ALMOND SHORTBREAD

Worry overtakes

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I had one of those days recently that just made everything seem so hopeless. Such days happen. I want to give them a name. Like “Snickerdoodle Days” – harkening back to the days when all I had to think about was passing my driver’s licensing test, school and listening to new music with friends. And baking snickerdoodles every weekend, of course. Back in the end of the 1980s or the early 1990s. Listening to “Harold and Joe” in the tail-end of the goodness of The Cure’s musical career. I reminisce clearly about this song, playing on a mix tape from my friend Gary as I crossed the field from the main campus to the “vocational building” for my ill-fated drafting class. Or just, in general, “…it was acceptable in the 80s… it was acceptable at the time…” (Calvin Harris).

Sometimes, if I have a drink – since I don’t drink – I become quite emotional. Feelings wash over me in a way that convinces me that I would be one of those “sad drunks”.

I am thinking of the verb “to miss” – against the term “to be missing”. I read something that stated “I am just missing Bob in Skype”, which was unclear. We’re back to the challenge of how to phrase it when you want to state that you miss someone versus what you should state when you want to say that something is missing/not there/lacking. Does “I am just missing Bob in Skype” mean that he is not signed in (and you miss talking to him)? Or is this missing him in the sense that he is missing, e.g. he never subscribed to Skype and you are missing him from your contact list? Like a missing child, a missing puzzle piece – something that is not there versus something that you have a sentimental sense of loss for. The sense of loss and the idea of losing people and of murder – I recently published the recipe for some vanilla cupcakes filled with cherry “blood” filling and some candy knives as decoration – this rushes to mind. All the loss, untimely and senseless, as described below, or the ideas of murder – e.g, a former colleague who was accused of murdering a neighbor in their common parking garage. I don’t ultimately know what happened there, but it is still the loss of a life – both the victim and potentially that of the former colleague.

I have recently moved my blog to a new platform (the brilliant WordPress). I had been using MyOpera because it was handy – I worked at Opera for so long, it seemed like a smart idea to just use the community blog… but I always had the nagging feeling in my mind that it would one day meet its demise. Like most things – it was too altruistic an effort – and a real effort – to maintain such a community – for a company that is increasingly profit obsessed. I moved the whole thing over, but I don’t know that I love the layout/theme I chose. But it will do for now. Ideally I would get the whole thing set up and designed for my own domains, but I am just time-challenged. MyOpera was never ideal – quite ugly and no one had ever heard of it. My new choice is still a wee bit ugly, but at least WordPress is hardly going to collapse. Either way, my choice is a little bit ugly. Not unlike the whole Wolf Eel idea.

This year has been such an empty, gray space. It started with major change, but has just felt like a daily grind, churning through the abyss of dull daily life with the accompanying annoyances – but they have been frequent. Since the start of the year, there have been so many deaths, illnesses, big changes – so much unexpected and unpleasant change. I go through so much of my own completely ON my own – and then become so completely overwhelmed by the issues affecting other people – the suicide of a young former colleague (a new mother), the death of a friend’s young wife, the death of a former colleague’s young child – and then the catastrophic illness of another former colleague and an accident that nearly took the life of a family friend (he fell off a ladder when he was home alone). Or the murder accusation about the former colleague, mentioned in an earlier post about cupcakes. “Murder Tonight in the Trailer Park” by the Cowboy Junkies springs to mind, only it’s murder tonight in the parking lot, not trailer park, in this case. And then I think further on loss – not personal but to the artistic community – the recent death of Lou Reed. And I think then of how much of an impact Lou Reed and his creativity had, how much they contributed. Stream of consciousness.

Not to add the upcoming, somewhat sudden, voluntary deployment abroad of my brother – military. Worry.

The nature of worry springs to mind. Worry overtakes me so easily.

Happy Halloween orange-and-black Snickerdoodles

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For not the first time, I made Halloween-themed, pimped-out orange-and-black sugar Snickerdoodles.

My best friend in younger years, T., celebrated her birthday on Halloween – and on an entirely unrelated note, we used to bake Snickerdoodles together almost every weekend. I have been thinking about her a lot lately… not that I have not always thought of her. We never really had a falling out so much as we had a growing apart. Our interests were not the same, we wanted different things, we were young. It was never that I did not care – but upon reflection, I remember feeling very alone, awkward, depressed and even desperate around the time that we really drifted apart. Things had a kind of floating tendency between us. At different points in the friendship, it was as though one of us led and the other followed. But either way it was a comfortable pattern as long as we were content to travel in each other’s orbits. Once we were in different orbits, though, there was really nothing left to say and neither of us would have followed the other.

The last time I spoke to her was in the middle of 1999. I tried in vain to get in touch with her in the ensuing years, and later with her family, just to find out if she was okay – but I never got an answer. It is strange in this day and age that an entire family can fall so far off the grid. Not a single member of the family can be found online – people from high school repeatedly come to me and ask how they can get in touch with her since I was perceived as her best friend. But sadly I don’t have any better idea than they do.

For a number of years, I was haunted by thoughts and dreams of her – strange, subconscious worry and concern. Every single night for many years, she appeared in all my dreams like some kind of pesky phantom. Sometimes she figured into the main plotline, sometimes she was a minor character. Either way, she was always there. It took a long time to realize how painful I had found all of this to be – the fact that we had no friendship or connection, particularly at a vulnerable time in my own life. It did not fully hit me until recently just how vulnerable she may have been – probably a much more fragile character on the whole than I had ever been despite how ridiculous I felt back then.

Sometimes I long for the simplicity of the days when all we really had to care about was baking cookies and going to Depeche Mode concerts, before time splintered everything into a million shards. Everything now is just hazy memory – I question so much of it as an adult. It is so much easier, nearing middle age, to look at things with a mixture of objectivity and compassion.

SNICKERDOODLES
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
t. is for teaspoon; T. is tablespoon; c. is cup

1½ c. sugar
½ c. butter
½ c. shortening
2 eggs
2¾ c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
2 T. sugar
2 T. cinnamon

Mix sugar, butter, shortening, egg. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix sugar and cinnamon together. In order to bake, roll dough into small balls and roll balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes.

October baking ambitions

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Decisions, bartering and resistance: On trading and the nature of rural neighbors

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