Reflection

Reflection

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Check your brain at the door....


"If you can't take the heat, don't go in the kitchen".   Is that the saying or one of my Ellenism's that I have twisted up?

Today I am suppose to bring dessert to my sister by marriage's home, the amazing cook she is, for our long standing New Year's Eve party.   Now any other time I might be able to pull off a flashy dessert but I am in the middle of a head cold so my brain is not functioning to well.

She asked for chocolate cupcakes.  Simple, right?  Maybe my heart wasn't in it for chocolate or the cupcakes (say what?!), that and I couldn't remember which chocolate cupcake recipe I used last that turned out perfecto.  Oh Lord not now, don't fail me.  I pull out several recipes and not one clicks in my clogged head.   Nothing registers.

I decide in the end,  after sifting through my dessert file for a half hour, on the Hersey's Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe thinking that I know that it will taste yummy.  I have never made cupcakes with it however.  As I prepare the batter I remember the overflow issue when making the layers for the cake.  I make sure to under fill the paper liners and put the first batch in the oven.  Tick, tick the timer goes.  I check through the oven window and notice the rise and then I have my first dreaded feeling.  They are going to spill over and why did I forget that the recipe does this?   That was why I went to using a Springform cake pan versus a regular cake pan since the sides are higher.

The timer rings and I test with the toothpick for doneness.  Yes, they are done but they sure look ugly, all flat and pockmarked.  Thank goodness I will have frosting on top to cover that up.  I put the next batch in and allow the first one to cool.


After a decent time of cooking I try, yes try, to remove the cupcakes.  The tops are glued to the cupcake pan and I am moaning of what to do.  I grab a small knife and attempt to lift the edge enough to allow them to come out.  Muffin tops anyone?  Because that is what is going to happen if I do it this way.  Okay.....now I decide to cut off around the rim and the side of the cupcake and forget the glued edges.  Did I say they were ugly?  Now I have crumbly edges and knife marks in the stupid paper liners.  Already I am wanting to chuck the whole lot of them into the garbage.  Husband in the kitchen is being ever so quiet and not making a comment one way or another of my endeavor to make simple cupcakes.  Oops he finally says it, "It can't be that hard to make cupcakes".  He is reading the newspaper and really hasn't been watching me.  I grit my teeth as the second batch timer goes off.  More ugly cupcakes stare me in the face.

I decide to make the frosting that goes with the recipe.  I've done it countless times and it always turns out.  Big mistake this time as I softened the butter instead of melting it as the recipe says.  What is with me today?  I blew it big time now with the frosting that I had hoped would cover the pathetic cupcakes.  The frosting is not looking like it should and my tastebuds feel this is all too sweet.  This I did chuck into the disposal.  Happy to see it melt away under the hot water coming from the tap with the wroom of the blades below.

Now what?

Advice.  If you can't laugh at your cooking...don't cook.  How many failed recipes have any of us done?  I bet more than we are willing to admit to.  Isn't that how we learn?  Sometimes our loved ones get to try them as testers, to see if it will be part of the family meal rotation or if it will take a "never to be fixed, ever again" recipe.  Like meatloaf, which I do not fix anymore.  No one liked it.  Stroganoff isn't looked at too fondly either.  I liked them but I was outnumbered by the clan.  I don't mind in the end.  I don't fix Beef Tongue anymore though my husband loves it.  I can't bear the smell let alone the texture or color.

The cupcakes and how to redeem them comes from my wise son who says not to waste them but make some new frosting.  Yes, I will make a new frosting, a white one that I will follow the recipe just as it says.  I still don't want them or like them, they will be a joke for the evening.  I did a totally different recipe for tonight....ahhh I will share that one on the next post.  It did turn out triumphantly!


 I leave you with a fading tradition that dear hubby heard on NPR.  Perhaps next year we should do this one for the holidays.



Happy New Years to all!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Nutcracker




     The house lights begin to dim, a settling in our seats, murmuring voices fade and the orchestra begins the overture.  I can see the side view of the cherubic faces of my daughters, one, two, three as we sit in the three rows of our box seats at the Opera House.  My mother and Papa, my Love and I attending the Nutcracker with our little girls decked out in their holiday dresses with black Mary Jane shoes, and their hair pulled back with bows.  The music swells and the heavy velvet curtain opens.  The magic begins.  We are caught up in the story that has entertained us for so many years.  

     Our tradition started when K. was three years old.   First just my mom/Nana, my niece and K., and thereafter we all would go.  Nana and Papa would get box seats for us.  We would take the side stairway up to the level that the box seats were on and walk till we came to the correct numbered door.  Opening the door one would enter into a dimly lit petite sitting room with a few chairs.  A velvet fringed curtain opened out upon the box seating with the sweeping view of the theater.  Before the show, the girls would lean over the balcony rail to peer down at the orchestra seating, their eyes would swing over to the stage area,  look upon the orchestra pit where the musicians would be warming up, and look up to the higher balcony seating.  They would wait ever so patiently.  

     Each year the story became more firmly ingrained in their minds.  What were the favorite parts?  What might have changed this year with the story?  Those dear happy times, even when trying to get them each dressed and out the door on time to pick up Nana and Papa or most times have a limo pick us up at their home.  

     At the Intermission, Nana would always have brought peanut butter sandwiches cut into shapes (no crust) of little horses from a cookie cutter.  Godiva chocolate and Champagne, maybe some cheese and crackers.  There would be 7-Up or Coke for the girls.  Every year.....the story was all of the day not just the ballet.  My mom created a dreamy scene of joy for her Granddaughters.  Those fleeting years when magic and dress-up went hand in hand.  Were they not little Princesses off to the castle (the Opera House), to pirouette in their full fancy dresses.  Even I felt the grandeur as we would walk up the front steps of the columned facade, pass through the large doors, and into the grand lobby.  

     Our daughters took all this without how out of ordinary this was.  They never were ill-behaved nor acted spoiled.  Just delighted to what to them was a Nana event.  Somehow the magic and desire to go began to pass.  Perhaps seeing it year after year lost its charm.  We tried seeing "A Christmas Carol" but didn't like the ACT production, which left us down rather that elated.  And then we stopped going.  

     The last time we all went was when R. was a wee little guy.  He hadn't a clue what he was to see.  He sat upon my lap as he didn't want to sit on the chair, Papa to our side.  All was well till the big dancing bear came out of the box, which was a new twist they did for a number of years.  That was enough for R. who promptly had enough.  He and I sat in the sitting room for a time, with Papa coming in to ask if he would sit with him.  We tried to show him that the bear was gone but R. would not go back to the seat.  In the end I moved the sitting room chair near the velvet curtain of our box area and we peeked out to watch the ballet.  Needless to say that was the last and only time R. has seen The Nutcracker.

     The very last time we saw The Nutcracker was several years ago.  One of the girls wanted to go and thought it would be nice to do just a girl time with Nana.  Nana bought the tickets and we were already to go.  The day of the show she cancelled out on joining.  It wasn't the same without her.  It wasn't the same not sitting in the box seats, without the peanut butter horse shaped sandwiches, the Godiva Chocolate, the Champagne the fullness of the holiday theme, of the comfort of family tradition.  It was gone.  Oh yes, we had a good time together my daughters and I.  But I felt it, that bleed in my heart.  The memory of Papa in his jacket, tie, ascot, his aftershave lotion, his pleasure of watching his Granddaughters, of even the year when R. didn't really see the show but entertained us in a new way which is forever in our memory.  

     I drove to my mom's last week, listening to The Nutcracker, memories flooding me.  The tears of missing it all, the tears of how much I really enjoyed it all.  How much I appreciated that yearly gift they gave us of going to the ballet.  The dinner out afterwards at Trader Vic's in Emeryville where we would talk about the performance.  All the hustle, the bustle, the stress of preparing for that day, it was all worth it.  

    In my dreams I hold a magic light.  It is a light that guides me with a child's hand in mine as we walk into a door, into a small room and I pull the curtain back for them to see where they too will watch for two hours a story of dance and delight.  I will make peanut butter sandwiches made from a horse shaped cookie cutter.  I will sip my glass of champagne and gaze on my family surrounding me.  

**** My dear niece duly noted a treat that I forgot to add!  How could I have forgotten the Petite Fours?  Nana always bought them at the Cake Box Bakery in Lafayette, still the best to me.  Yes, of course that was dessert after our other goodies.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (almost)


Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

September 24, 2011 ~ Erin and my visit



October 25, 2011 ~ one month after we have left


The Sandwich Years

 Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will
(You know he never will)
And the patches m
ake the goodbye harder still

     I never thought life as a grown up would be like this.  Of course none of us can know what our lives will become as the years stroll by.   I'm speaking though of the Sandwich Years, of when our parents have aged and need care and that some of us have young ones needing care too.  Granted that I did have R. at a later age than the young 20's when I had my girls; whereas some of my peers are having grandkids, I am in the teenage years of parenting with no grandkids.  Some of us have adult children that need our emotional and financial care with the economy the way it is.  We may have our own financial worries that we never expected. 

     In the past 15 years our parents began having health problems that at the time seemed like they dealt with them and didn't need our assistance.  Well, of course we were there for the moral support they needed but they didn't want or need our advice.  Just our love.  My Papa dying 12 years ago was the beginning of the crisis era with the parents.  Suddenly the roles started to shift and the children (us) of the parents began to worry of what lay ahead.

     In the past 12 years my mom had multiple surgeries, appeared to be in a depression over the loss of Papa (perfectly expected with how much they loved each other), and began her descent into FTD  somewhere in there.  We couldn't reach her though she yanked our chains plenty, we tried everything from counseling, calling her Dr.'s, setting up boundaries, to being passive towards what she acted like behaviorally to keep peace,  all the while our worry and frustration growing day after day.  We tried to ask of her long term plans, her estate, all with no success.  Now the pieces are placed and they have fallen as though she is in a warped Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, where she is trapped in her castle with no Prince who can come to her save her.   Forever she is in a spell of perpetual unrest.

     Enough of the fairy tales.  Life isn't that.  We are born, we grow, we age.  Facts are proof that the elder generation is aging to longer Golden Years than ever before.  But are those years as Golden as they wish they could be or dreamed they would be?   If they can live longer than those of their own parents then how will those extended years be lived?   I can say first hand that neither my parents nor my husbands parents have thought this intelligently through.  What happens when you can live that long life but are no longer able to understand your true needs?  Or that you refuse to accept you really need help?  You can't take care of yourself and your family watches with breaking hearts how the parent they knew to be fully aware of themselves is no longer fully there mentally or physically.


Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

     This past year my Love's father had a heart valve replacement, to fix the one he had done 11 years ago.  An extended warranty so to speak by going in and replacing the worn out one.  Okay, the valve replacement surgery went fine but since that surgery in January he has been going down hill.  First it was in his strength he complained about.  He didn't have the energy like he did before.  We tried to remind him he had had major surgery where his chest was cracked open to do the repair job.  It takes time to build up that strength.  Next it was his weight.  He couldn't keep up his weight, he kept losing weight, and he wasn't very hungry.  We reminded him that it was important to eat well to keep his strength up.  If you don't have the good nutrition with healthy meals then you won't be able to give the fuel your body needs to keep strong.  At least he attempted to take walks near his home.  

     Over the years he has been the primary caregiver to his wife, our mom who has had her own health problems.  He unfortunately is a very stubborn man, and that is being polite.  He won't let anyone help her which ultimately would help him.  He wants to make every single decision.  With his failing health, his ability to help her has increasingly diminished to where he is unable to care for her.  She has been at risk for too long.  He refused to have safety fixtures in all the places she needed them.  Her last fall, in the shower, was a nightmare.


Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still


     With great worry, emotions on high, relief, frustration, concern, mom has been removed from her home and into respite care.  Dad was sometimes wanting her out of the house NOW or the answer was NO she could not leave.  Sister and brothers finally had enough of watching Mom suffer.  Sometimes the hardest answer is the only solution.  For now Mom is safe with round the clock care in a very pleasant, warm, supportive atmosphere.  She has her own studio apartment with healthy meals, exercise classes, and entertainment a couple of days a week (the holidays have been great for this with choirs coming to sing for the residents).  Naturally she is having swings of missing home, missing her husband, to peace.  The long term story is still unwritten.  Her Dr. knows in her home would not be good, especially with the awful wound from the shower fall.  The family all feel that she should stay where she is and not go home, knowing that Dad will not be able to take care of her and the ugly scene that will ultimately happen all over again.

     Making decisions on what to do when each of us age to the Golden Years and beyond should be well thought out.  We don't just die in our sleep anymore, or from sudden heart attacks or strokes.  You may be incapacitated and unable to walk, or drive.  You may get Dementia and unable to make the right choices or decisions or even be prone to Elder Care Abuse.  We all need to ask ourselves the hard questions and come up with clear answers for yourselves and for your families.  

     I have heard so many times my mom saying she never wanted to be a burden.  Yet she created a burden by not including her family in what would happen if she couldn't care for herself or make sound decisions.  While she indeed did a Trust and we can only assume that it was done correctly, she made some serious poor choices and I believe was not counseled by her attorney well.  Then again, what choice does an attorney have if a client makes or changes their Will or Trust and they can't convince their client that maybe they need to think about it or consult their family.  An attorney works for their client not the client's family.  It is private unless the client wishes their family to be included.

     No the problem arises when older folks ignore their frailty and think they can continue life as it has been.  Even when they know they shouldn't drive a car, climb a ladder, or take on home care like when they were physically able.  They need to accept their aging bodies and ask or accept help.  Not doing so is the burden.  Asking is not a burden.  Allowing is not a burden. 


     When I was in my early teens I use to love listening to Cat Stevens.  I have heard this song so many times and knew the words by heart.  I may have sung them but I did not understand the meaning.  Somehow in my 50's this song brings on a new meaning in my life.
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time


 

Earth Tour 1976  ~ the young musician I loved to hear as a teen


                            
                                      2008 ~ I really liked hearing him speak.....the older man he has become                                         

Monday, December 5, 2011

Some morning sky........


 


I took the poochies out as I do, but yesterday morning  this huge winged cloud hung heavy in the sky.  The colors, the immense size made me feel very small as well as feeling humble.

What song came to me?  After the Goldrush, Neil Young.


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