♦ What A Luxury

Dear Shaina,
The first time I read your letter, I laughed out loud (LOL). The second time…I did it again! LLOL!!

I don’t know why it struck my funny bone…maybe your annoyance, maybe the memories of all those pursuits, maybe it’s the very clever way you deflect the conversation…

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You did fail to mention the nirvana-seeking college visits a mere five years after the Puma odyssey. I vividly remember the very long northeastern road trip to colleges big and small all of which you decided were not for you before you even stepped out of the car. No campus tours for you. You relied solely on your gut test…or was it the way they posted their school clubs, or that the gym was too nice, or that there was no campus life or too much campus life…?

Like the Pumas, you didn’t know what you were looking for, but you knew it wasn’t what was in front of you at that moment…so we kept on looking. Then there was the meltdown after visiting a school you got into that you so desperately wanted to go to…and then decided, maybe not so much.

I was patient. I soothed. I indulged. What was that all about? Whatever it was, we shared it. It was fun…and sometimes torturous. It is part of our mother-daughter memory bank. And I smile (actually LOL) thinking about it, grateful for the hours spent together in a mutual single-minded pursuit of something that was ultimately inconsequential. What a luxury!

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So now I am retired. I remember those days of back-to-back meetings, appointments and real obligations. My spare time was filled with thrown together dinners, bath and bed-time rituals and laundry and cooking when the house went dark. I was on a minute-to-minute schedule and I thrived on it to the point of exhaustion. I crashed, slept twelve hours and started all over again. Searching for Pumas with my daughter for three whole days was a luxury!

I now live in time that is stretched and padded. Space between activities still feels oddly foreign and decadent to me. I am always surprised when I step into a grocery store in the middle of the day and there are other people there. I am discovering how much luxury can be found in moments of time; meticulously cleansing my face and putting lotion all over my body, luxuriating in a steam shower, hanging out with family and friends, doing nothing (yes, nothing is a thing).

Birthday Celebrations

Birthday Celebrations

There are an infinite number of small pleasures that can happily suck up time, including contemplating relationships.

Your life is a whirlwind of new activities and experiences. Your pace is fast and intense. I love watching you immerse yourself fully in the action of your life. I want to keep up with you…not in real time, but in connection.

Maybe we need to schedule a shoe or boot or backpack pursuit…or maybe a three day trip to a spa will do just as well. Either way, what a luxury it would be!

I am looking forward to indulging you over Thanksgiving!

Love, Mom
xoxoxooxoxo

 

Jean’s Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

This is one of the recipes I used for those little cakes I baked for Cari’s wedding. It’s Jean’s go-to recipe and a favorite of her friends and mine. I have made it a million times and have never gotten a complaint, except from people who don’t like bananas.

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It satisfies all my baking requirements. It’s easy to make, a great way to use up overripe bananas (I stick them in the freezer so they are there when I need them or have time to bake) and it satisfies the urge for chocolate without being overly unhealthy. It can be served as a breakfast bread, an after-dinner dessert or as a late-night treat with coffee. It freezes well and can be served anytime someone shows up and wants something sweet.

I have been known to double or triple this recipe depending on how many frozen bananas I have around and what party I am planning.

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Jeans Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350°

Beat sugar and butter together until blended.
Beat in eggs.
Add mashed bananas and mix thoroughly.
Mix together flour, salt and baking soda.
Add to the banana mixture and mix thoroughly.
Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan or two small individual sized loaf pans.
Bake 45- 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean for the standard loaf size.  30-40 minutes for individual sized loaves.

Let cool 15 minutes in pan. Remove from pan while still warm.

 

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No Effort Fig Snack

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This treat resulted from a failed attempt to create an original recipe using roasted eggplant strips wrapped around roasted figs with blue cheese. It just didn’t work, but the roasted figs turned out to be a surprisingly good treat…and very easy. I am going to have them sitting around the table to munch on before andIMG_5016 after Thanksgiving dinner. They are especially good served with roasted and spiced walnuts or pecans.

Dried Black Mission figs

Lightly drizzle with olive oil

Salt liberally with sea salt

Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper (Chile powder or chipotle powder can be substituted for variation)

Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at 450° for about 15 minutes or until puffed up and browned a little. The browner they get the chewier they become, so don’t overcook.

Serve at room temperature with roasted and spiced nuts.

They can be stored in a plastic bag and they will soften up at room temperature.

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◊ One hundred percent

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Dear mom,

You abandon the blog for over a month. You call your Mahjong game an obligation. You amount your bathroom renovation to chaos.

Please.

It’s not hard to send me a recipe. Playing games with your friends isn’t a thing. Having a messy bedroom and beautiful bath does not = disaster. Why are these things consuming you?

I’m annoyed because what do you do?

(Laundry isn’t a thing.)

I’m annoyed because I get it and it worries me.

I think I was in 6th grade when I decided that I wanted Puma sneakers. We took a trip to New York to visit family, and you and I spent the first three days fiending for shoes. We mapped out every store in the city that carried Pumas and walked all of Manhattan. At the end of the three days, we found THE Puma factory store, which housed every model in every color. I cried there. The search commenced with a dark-grey suede pair of shoes with red stripes (not cute). They are still sitting in my closet… I maybe wore them twice.

It’s a good thing dad is tolerant of high levels of crazy.

You give 100% every time. It’s a trait that I admire, and a trait that, in my own life, I try to keep in check. It’s too easy to get sucked in – to be totally consumed — by the small things.

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classic family portrait

Pumas in New York, beads in Vancouver, hair-wraps in New Orleans, sweatshirts in San Fransisco, antiques in DC, textiles in India, hermit crabs at the beach. Our family vacations were driven by searches for things that we couldn’t find in Birmingham. My memories make me nervous that we … I… do not know how to enjoy time without something driving me towards an end goal (which has usually amounted to nothing).

Our search for Pumas was torture, but it was fun. The shoes were a catalyst of exploration and togetherness. We walked all of Manhattan and saw so many new things … together.

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Now that you’re retired, your vacation is permanent. Laundry is a thing; Majong is a thing; bathroom renovations are a thing. I ask for help making desserts for Cari’s wedding and you bake, decorate, wrap and deliver 100 individual cakes. It doesn’t surprise me. Even Bubbe, without child-rearing obligations or a proper job, found reasons to wake up at 4 AM. She had to bake hundreds of knishes for … you know …  people.

You enter the most confusing stage of motherhood and ask questions that, in my opinion, are not worth thinking about. All I can say is that the situation is not so confusing. You have time to dwell, so you dwell. How much space defines a close mother-daughter relationship? Ain’t no one got time to decipher that. Except for you.

xo,

Shaina

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I just moved to a house closer to campus. In shifting pantries, I found one milllllion baggies of different seeds and nuts. Instead of re-organizing all the bits and pieces in my new house, I dumped them all into these biscotti and started fresh.

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Honey Orange Whole Wheat Biscotti with Dates and Almonds/Pumpkin seeds/Pistachios

Prep time: 1.5 hours

Makes 3 dozen cookies

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  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of two full oranges
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c dates, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 c shelled, raw (unsalted) pistachios (optional)

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Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the honey, eggs, oil, zest, orange juice and vanilla until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts (you do not have to use every variety of nut listed here – I suggest choosing one). Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

 

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 

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Buckwheat and Rye Biscotti with Fig, Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chunks

Prep time: 1.5 hours

makes 3 dozen cookies

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  • 1 c  dark rye flour
  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 1/2 c dired figs, finely chopped (8-10 figs)
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces (small!)
  • 1/3 c good dark chocolate chunks/chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the sugar, eggs and oil until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts, figs and chocolate. Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 

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