Archive | February 2012

Baked

I made cookies the other night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snickerdoodles from a swell recipe I found online.  One thing I don’t do enough of is baking. I wish I had the flair for it. I can follow a recipe fairly well and make passable treats. I just don’t have the creativity for baking that I do for other things.  Take these cookies-they were good enough but nothing fantastic.  I wish I knew what ingredients would have made them spectacular. Maybe I just need practice.

When I came back from my summer of love at Brianhead, I brought with me some killer cooking and baking skills. I made fantastic Cajun potatoes, made with tons of heavy cream and cayenne pepper . Cheese cake was another specialty I mastered. So dense and lush and creamy, it was my favorite thing though I am embarrassed to tell  the amount of cream cheese in two pies.

When I was first married I used to cook all the time and I want to get back to that. Stir fry dishes and pastas with homemade sauces. They were simple things but both Sheryl and I enjoyed those meals.  I have since forgotten and lost those skills. I can’t recreate any of those items and I have tried.

Its a good thing then that Sheryl has been wanting to make meal planning a priority. I can rediscover my cooking skills and we might eat out less (oh, we love the out to eat nights). The hard part-I am a mood eater and I don’t want to be tied into a certain meal on a certain evening. I would rather have the freedom to make whatever comes to mind, but planning the meals is a perfect way to have things on hand that cultivate that kind of freedom. If I have things in the house that can be used to make multiple dishes, the possibilities are limitless.

So I am gonna do it! It is time to stock up my supplies of ingredients, spices, vegetables and sauces and cook more, bake more, learn more. Maybe I can even make that luscious cheese cake again!

Want to join me?

 

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Memories

On my blogger page a few years back, I asked about earliest memories. I am going to do it again, hoping to get more responses this time.

Memory is a fantastic topic all unto itself, and I will devote more time and blog space at a future date.  Most of us have a time in our lives where the forward momentum of our existence starts to make sense. We have linear memory of events and while we might get certain events out of order, usually we can place an event within a certain limited time frame. When we are very little and our memories are still forming (or maybe we are instead only starting to learn how to access them), much of what we recall is a jumble and we are unsure if it is real or more likely something we have been told about what happened or what we did.

If you are willing to play, I would like you to try this: Put yourself in a place where there will be few distractions . Try and think about your life.  If you can’t get yourself to focus, try breathing in and out deeply and slowly. Close your eyes and think only on your breathing. Think back and try not to recall large events like birthdays or holidays. Instead try and focus on scattered images, almost shades of memory, rather than what we usually think of as memory. See if you can think back, just letting things flow past your mind, not grasping onto any one thing. Things will most likely start out in linear fashion, hopefully going backwards in your life and you will want to explore some things, run from others. Resist that temptation and just let things flow.

When I tried this a few years back, I was surprised to come across three things that predate what I thought for years was my earliest memory.  These  things happen before I turn three and when my family lived in Salt Lake City. In the first I have a distinct image of standing in a room with a green carpet, getting ready to take a bath. My mother is there and we are doing something that is delaying the start of the bath. I just want to play with my toys in the water.

A second image is of a dark stairway and I am standing at the top of it. My mother is calling down to one of her sisters and she answers back. The hallway is filled with her shadow and she walks up.

The last is a vivid dream. I am on a patio situated on the roof of a house over the garage. I am playing  baseball with some people I don’t know. I am holding a brand new catchers glove, with a chest protector, shin guards and a wonderful catchers mask.  I am especially happy for the mask and keep touching it, taking it on and off.

Again, I would love to hear your memories, if you would like to share them.

 

The Right Moment

One of my favorite games was gathering three or four of my friends in my basement for an hour of playing at rock stars. We would grab old tennis racquets for guitars, long stick from outside and hard bound books placed on the bed worked well as drums. A vacuum cleaner made a perfect microphone.  It was my game and as such I picked the music. I knew every lyric (at least I thought I did) and was always the singer. On good days, my sister would have some friends over and we had a built in audience.

I played this game alone in my basement room as a teenager. I would imagine myself on stage playing a killer guitar and making all the ladies swoon. It was a mystery to me how I could so easily fantasize myself a musician, but was so unwilling to actually pick up an instrument and learn to play. None of my close friends were musicians, which may have had something to do with it. If there had been a group of us wanting to make music, I may have found some motivation to learn, but I am unwilling to put my lack of effort on someone else.

During the last three months of my mission, I was in a town called Wolfeboro. Easily my favorite place in New England, it is located in eastern New Hampshire on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. I was there in the fall and while most of the north east is spectacular when the leaves change colors, the area around this lake is the best. I spent many evenings down at a small boat dock, lying on the planks, staring out into the sky or the lake.

One night after spending an hour or so at this boat dock, I had dinner with a family in the area. We got along very well with them, and I felt completely comfortable at their home.  Steve Duffy was a recent convert to the LDS church and loved to do anything for the missionaries. During the course of the meal, it came up that Steve loved to play guitar. With a little prodding he was convinced to play a few songs for us. I was transfixed by it. Watching him was my first experience seeing someone who could actually play up close. I really can’t say if he was super sensational or just average, but to me, it was amazing. His fingers moved effortlessly and if he missed a note or a chord I was oblivious to it.  As we were getting ready to leave that night, I mentioned that I always wished I could play. He said there was no time like the present and loaned me an older guitar he had along with a book to help me learn a few things.

I eagerly jumped in, learning what seemed easiest. I could force my fingers onto the strings and with some sloppiness, play a chord for two strums. No matter how hard I tried, I could not put two chords together. I practiced every night for a month and I remember clearly when I played a successful chord change-G to C- and I actually let out a loud yell. Sadly, that was the end of my success as the guitar had to go back.

A few years later, a good friend of mine loaned me a bass guitar. The two of us made some really simple but fun music. I learned to play totally by ear and most often, just what my friend taught me. I found I had some skill for it. Once again, I found some reason to stop. School, work, family, they took priority and I let anything I had learned fade away.

After being rejected by the three graduate schools I applied to, Sheryl bought me a guitar as a “consolation prize”. It was a beautiful but inexpensive instrument. A solid cedar top, it had a very deep and satisfying sound. The fret board was quite wide, which was good for my novice fingers. Unlike my previous efforts, this was the right time. I dove in with passion, often practicing for hours a day. My goal was to learn and play 12 chords in the first year. I underestimated what would happen once a few things came into place. 12 turned into 20 and once the bar chords joined the arsenal, the numbers no longer mattered.

I never had much interest in playing other peoples music, which has made my learning more difficult (that plus not learning to read music and struggling with TAB).  Not to mention, if someone wants me to play, I have nothing to show them that they might have heard. Still, I loved putting things together, learning on my own what chords and notes sounded best together. I am not at all accomplished at the instrument, and I should practice much more and though this next idea is not very poignant, it has been a recurring theme in my life. I have always had the ability to play the guitar, just not the motivation, determination or desire. Those things I had to learn. When the time is right, when those things all come together, when I am ready, I can accomplish things.

Tell me your stories.

And look at my pretty instruments.