Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Sun Still Shines

 Several years ago, I boarded a plane to Halifax.  It was miserable weather in Toronto; grey, cold and drizzly.  Halifax was much the same.  But in between, the plane was filled with the most glorious sunshine.  Having a window seat, I basked in the sunshine.  My heart sank as we dipped below the clouds again, waving goodbye to the sun.

 I learned a simple, somewhat obvious truth that day.  Above the clouds, the sun is always shining. (Except at night, of course!)

 Recently, my heart has felt clouded over, grey and miserable.  There have been too many days where I stand in my kitchen crying, overwhelmed by everything.  Being the calm, logical person that I am (HA!),  I then start to freak out about being overwhelmed.  It's a downward spiral from there.

 And in this overcast place, I have begun to remind myself that the sun is still shining though I cannot see it.  This simple truth brings me great comfort.  I know that someday the clouds will lift.  Joy will return.  So for now I look for the little rays of sunlight: a good book, tea with friends, lighting the Menorah candles with my Jewish friends and daughter, good chocolate,  an escape after a crazy day and a carol sing on the way to school.  When the sunshine is covered by the clouds, hope is left behind.  I will be okay, I know it, for the sun still shines.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Horrors of Cookie Baking*

 Yup, it's that time of year again.  Not only is it time for mistletoe, candy cane lattes, and incessant presence of Christmas tunes, the cookie exchange is making its annual appearance. (Why do we only do cookie exchanges in the most chaotic month of the year? Can we have a spring cookie exchange?  I like cookies all year round, how 'bout you? ) Lulled into a state of nostalgia, I look forward to my annual cookie baking extravaganza.  Tantalizing cookie recipes pop up on magazine covers and in my google reader feed, leaving me longing to make those tasty little treats.  After all, cookies are easy, right?

 Ha! Although I'm a reasonably talented cook and baker, cookies seem to have it in for me.  Each year, I agree to an exchange(or two, or maybe even three), choose a yummy sounding recipe, read it over, and think "huh. Sounds straightforward.  I can do that."  Then I wonder why my husband is looking at me with a wary mixture of concern, dread and support.  Me being me, I brush away his concerns with a breezy "It'll be fine.  I read the recipe, should be a cinch. Hey, you can help me! It'll be a great date night".  Strangely instead of reassuring him, my words trigger a nervous twitch which completely confuses me.

 Then I start baking.  Suddenly his twitch makes perfect sense.  All of a sudden, I'm covered in flour and something's gone wrong and my level of stress has reached the breaking point because THESE ARE FOR A COOKIE EXCHANGE AND THEY MUST BE PERFECT!!!!  At this point, my eye has started to twitch, I may or may not be crying and I really really want a glass of something strong, but I'm on call, so I need to be sober just in case I have to drive.  Also, then my cookies really might be ruined.

 Now I was much smarter this time as I didn't leave these to the night before like I typically do. My husband helped me come up with an easy way to quadruple the recipe. I made cardamom orange and chocolate ribbon cookies, which meant I needed two different flavours of dough.  Working in advance, I made up each flavour separately and stored it in the fridge.  This was my first mistake.  The chocolate dough should not have been chilled before using.  Trying to soften it up was a nightmare.  I ended up pulling out my hairdryer to soften it up. This was after placing the bowl inside another bowl filled with hot water.  Even then it was a crumbly mess. (Also, my dough then was a weird mixture of too hot to handle and too cold to squeeze). *sigh*  My second mistake was putting the orange layer on the bottom instead of the chocolate as the recipe recommends.  Yeah, turns out that step was important! *sigh* Having the chocolate layer on the bottom means that it's smooth.  Because it's the hardest layer, it needs to be on the bottom because otherwise the orange layer buckles when trying to cut it.  Then there was the fiasco where I didn't read the directions properly on how to cut the cookies...But I managed to mostly salvage that mistake and slice the other three loaves properly.  But my fourth and final mistake was to turn my back on the youngest member of my family.  I came back to find half of a broken cookie where previously there had been a whole one and a satisfied look on a little boy's face.  Those were some dark times, let me tell you!

 But now my cookies are all made and safely tucked away.  I feel a deep sense of accomplishment and can't wait for all the yummy goodies coming my way.  Already nostalgia is transforming my memories of cookie baking into something beautiful instead of the horrible tangle with Murphy's law it really was.

*This rant should not be interpreted as a complaint or taken as a reason not to invite me to participate in a cookie exchange next year.  I would be devastated if that happened.  Then what would I have to blog about? :)