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Morning Sunday, June 15, 2008

Posted by Grace in marble & holly.
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My father was a man in the old classical sense. Tall, broad shouldered, a man of few words, but words well said. He loved to be outdoors, to work with his hands, to be able to fix things and understand how they worked. His father died young, and leaving his mom (my grandmother) and two sisters, so he had a strong sense of needing to be there and provide for his family.

My mom tells stories about how when my brother and I were babies he was always scared that he would break us, so small and fragile in his large, calloused hands. That when we were still pretty brand new he would carry us like little footballs.

The last time I saw him, he came into my bedroom and woke me up. I was confused because it was still dark out. He hugged me and told me he loved me, tucked me back in and got up to leave.

My five-year-old mind was confused, I asked where he was going.

He told me that he was going away. Away to work? I asked. He didn’t answer.

I asked if I could come with him. He came back, sat down on the edge of the bed, and said, No, you can’t come with me Grace.

He stayed for a moment, kissed my forehead, and adjusted the covers. He would always adjust the covers after tucking me in because his strong hands would tuck me in too tight.

I remember hearing the click of my bedroom door closing after he left, the footsteps down the hallway, and after that it goes blank. I must have fallen back asleep. The next thing I remember is sitting in the basement watching The Land Before Time, and my mom coming downstairs and asking if I knew where he was.

Dad, I sometimes still wonder what would have happened if I had been more insistent, if I had tried harder to come with you. A part of me feels you would still be here if I hadn’t confusedly just let you leave. That you couldn’t have done what you did if you had me there, or if you had lingered a little longer with me.

The majority of the time I had with you, I was too young to remember. Still I miss you a lot on days like today.

There is a Mountain Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Posted by Grace in marble & holly.
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I’ve wanted to learn to sew for a while now. It has always seemed like a good thing to be able to do, useful for fixing rips or making alterations, but fun too, because generally I like to be creative and make stuff.

My mother can attach buttons and darn socks, but that is pretty much the span of her sewing skills. She used to, back in the before children days, but hasn’t for years. So she doesn’t want to teach me, as well as claims she can’t.

My Baba is similar. She hasn’t really done any sewing for years. When they were little, my mom and her siblings only wore home made clothes. Alas, she hasn’t done any sewing for years, she actually told me to ask my mother, who had already said no.

I went to Grandma next, she’s the one with the soda bread, because to this day she still sews quite often. She said yes! And I was really excited. So she sat me down at her kitchen table… and opened her day planner. She’s one of those seniors who is as busy as myself, if not busier. She penned me in as a possibility on a Sunday in early May. I have the opportunity, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.

A stroke of genius descended then, I have Delicious, who designs. Diva Boy knows how to sew! I called him up, asked if he would be willing to teach me and he said he’d be delighted. I went to his house, we mixed up some Cosmos, and went into his design room.

It’s taken some work, but now I’m on the road towards it. There were all those options, the mountains just needed a little prod to get things going.

First there is a mountain
Then there is no mountain
Then there is

Song of the Day: There is a Mountain – Donovan

My Way Out: Auntie’s Brownies Friday, February 29, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, marble & holly.
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The marathon of exams, that’s three in sixty hours, is coming to a close. Just 12 more hours until the last one, and here I am, washing the flour off my hands to write a post.

Why does she have flour on her hands? I imagine you readers asking. It is because that is what happens when I feel stressed out and need to take a second to escape. I bake.

Strange coping mechanism, I agree. Lots of difficult exams to write? It would seem logical to be perusing that last textbook, doing sample questions for the umpteenth time, but who ever said that I’m always logical? I am in the kitchen, amongst the cocoa and the sugar. And as soon as this gets typed up, I’ll be back to the books. I promise.

Though cupcakes would be nice to bake too…

I’ve been like this since I started cooking, standing upon a chair pulled up to the counter so I could reach, beside my grandma, or my mother, or (my kitchen idol) my grandpa’s little sister, who we will just call Auntie. Being in the kitchen, doing that alchemy of taking raw ingredients and putting them together just so to make something divine, has always been a very tranquil place for me.

When I visit said Auntie, we invariably end up making something. Either she has a new recipe she wants to show me, or I’m asking about how to make some particular request. And she tells stories of wee little me becoming overwhelmingly engrossed with cooking. The hyper, bouncing off the walls little girl becoming tranquil if she had flour on her hands.

So this post is for that special Auntie, as this is her recipe. They’re perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth, or a need to escape from studying.

Farmer’s Brownies

1 1/4 C Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Salt

3/4 C Butter

1 C Brown Sugar

1 C Granulated Sugar

4 Eggs

2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 C Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Melt butter over low heat in saucepan. Let cool.

Blend together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Beat cocoa, both sugars, eggs, and vanilla into the melted butter. (You really do want to let it cool or else the eggs will start to cook, yuck!)

Stir in dry ingredients and walnuts.

Spread batter in 9X9 inch pan. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes.

Sometimes simple is best.

Song of the Day: My Way Out – David Usher

Fisherman’s Blues: Coming Home to Soda Bread Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, marble & holly.
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My Grandma, a transplanted product of the Green Isle, has never served a meal I’ve attended without soda bread. My mom, who isn’t Irish at all, tells stories about meeting my father’s family and wondering why they always ate that ‘funny, dense, nutty bread.’ It’s tradition that Grandma has just never let go of.

I learned to make this bread standing on a chair at the counter beside her, listening to stories of about my grandfather, her husband, who worked on ships before they came here, and how he would come home smelling of salt in the evening for a warm meal with this ubiquitous bread.

Not being in that household for every meal, the habit of eating it with every meal hasn’t been instilled in me to its full extent, but there is little else so comfortable as a thick slice of soda bread, warm from the oven, with some butter or some home made jam.

Grandma’s Brown Soda Bread

1 C All-purpose flour

1 C Wholemeal flour

3/4 C Rolled oats

1 1/2 tsp Baking soda

1 1/2 tsp Caraway seeds

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Cold butter, cubed

1 C Buttermilk

2 Tbsp Molasses

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (that would be the first six, for those of you who may wonder). Add butter cubes, and use two knives to cut it in until mixture gets fine crumbs.

In a different bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses, and then add to the dry ingredients. I suppose you don’t have to mix the two together beforehand, but doing so lets the molasses distribute evenly. Mix together just until combined; do not overwork!

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 8-10 turns, just to even it out. Form into a round loaf, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top of the loaf, and bake at 375 until the edges go golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Those are the cooking rules I’ve been told, but it generally takes about 45 minutes.

Often, soda bread comes with raisins, it just depends what you’re eating it with. If you want the raisins, add a handful in the mixing process before you start kneading.

I have found that substitutions for the buttermilk do not go over well, as the loaf won’t turn out with the gorgeous tender crumb that soda bread is famous for. Also, after some conversations with non-family members, I’ve learned that molasses isn’t the most common ingredient to use in soda bread, and have tried other recipes without, but this is the one I’ve been raised on, so I’m sticking to it.

Song of the Day: Fisherman’s Blues – Kilt

Sleep Don’t Weep Monday, January 28, 2008

Posted by Grace in marble & holly.
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This weekend I was away visiting a cousin (who has always been like an almost sister), and her new baby. In the starter house with thin walls, if she was up with the baby in the middle of the night, being the very light/non-sleeper that I am, I was up with them too. I offered to get up with the baby, grant her a reprieve and some much needed sleep, but not being the one able to feed her, both of us had to be up anyway.

It was the middle of the night and we were both up in the living room. The baby was fussy but not hungry, and had a clean diaper, so I was walking around with her, humming whatever tunes ran through my head. She was just crying and crying and crying. Her mom was drifting in and out of sleep in the rocking chair.

Gradually, the walk turned into more of a dance, and Moon River became our song of choice. The baby gradually settled and fell asleep. As I turned to leave the room and lay her down to sleep, her mom got up (also to lay down to sleep) and said to me, sleepily smiling with eyes heavily lidded, motions slow, “Grace, you’re going to make a good mom some day.”

Even though she was half asleep, alright, more than half, and probably doesn’t even remember saying it, I don’t think its a comment I’ll soon forget.

Song of the Day: Sleep Don’t Weep – Damien Rice