Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snickerdoodles

"What is a snickerdoodle?" asked one of my readers.

Snickerdoodles are crispy, crunchy cookies coated with cinnamon and sugar, perfect for dunking in coffee or tea or milk.

Snickerdoodles are NOT health food. Some days I grind organic wheat berries and make 100% pure and wholesome whole grain yeast bread. Other days I pull out the Crisco and white flour and make snickerdoodles. I make no apologies for this. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Here is my favorite recipe.

SNICKERDOODLES

1 cup shortening, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping:
2 tablespoons sugar combined with 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cream shortening and sugar; add eggs; combine remaining ingredients and stir in. Mix thoroughly. Roll in balls the size of small walnuts. Roll balls in topping mixture. Place about two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees 8-10 minutes until lightly browned but still soft. These cookies puff out at first, then flatten out with crinkled tops.

Try 'em. You'll like 'em!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dating Game

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I have been playing the dating game. Not the one on television. The real life dating game. I have frequented several singles sites over the years since my divorce, and ended up in a couple of serious relationships as a result, but none of them panned out in the end. So here I go again.

Just to recap, I joined eHarmony towards the end of November, met several potential suitors as a result, and shared a few of those experiences here. However, Bachelors #1 and #4 are no longer in the game, which leaves Bachelor #2, Bachelor #3, and Bachelor #5. And since I have decided to let my eHarmony membership lapse when it expires in a few days, there will be no new contenders, at least for a while. So I am dropping the numbers and using pseudonyms--Jerry, Bill and Jacob, respectively--for the remaining players. And, to be honest, that's as far ahead as I am allowing myself to think right now.

I have met Jerry twice, Bill twice, and Jacob once. Google has confirmed their identities and stories; each is legally divorced, gainfully employed, and handsome, sweet and thoughtful in his own way. We are all friends on Facebook and they read my blog (gulp!) I am enjoying getting to know them, and look forward to spending more time with them.

Interestingly, that has turned out to be the hard part. None of them lives close to me--one is in Duluth, one is in Alpharetta, and one is in Griffin--and we all have very busy schedules, which include jobs, hobbies, and children, so it has been unusually challenging to arrange meeting times. For example, over the next two weeks, I have obligations day and night. I teach/take Nathan to music lessons until late into the evening every Monday through Thursday; next weekend, I am judging for piano festivals both Saturday and Sunday and going to a concert with Nathan on Saturday night; the following Friday I am having an outpatient surgical procedure that will probably keep me in bed for at least a day or two. Sigh.

The good news is that none of these men seems needy or desperate, and none of them is demanding exclusivity prematurely. They have rich, full independent lives, and don't need me or anyone else to complete them. Although we have had great conversations, and ultimately want the same thing--a soul mate, someone to share life's ups and downs, someone to talk with and dream with and laugh with--everyone seems realistic about the time frame involved. That is a huge relief. Because if I am going to be in a relationship, it has to be with a man who will understand my daily challenges, who doesn't expect me to be at his beck and call, who will give me the space I need to do my job and raise my children and work towards realizing my dreams.

At this stage of my life, playing the dating game isn't easy. But I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Arbor Day Tale

THE LITTLE CEDAR TREE

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Pam.


She went to Airport Elementary School in Berkeley, Missouri. She loved going to school. Every day was filled with fun and surprises. For example, when she was in the fourth grade, she and each of her classmates was given a tiny Eastern red cedar tree on Arbor Day. Her little seedling was only six and a half inches tall, a fact she lovingly recorded on the brochure that came with it. Then she pasted the brochure into her scrapbook so she would never forget.


On March 25, 1969, Pam's dad helped her plant the tree outside. It started to grow. By August, it looked like this.

Two years later, Pam's family moved from their house in St. Louis County to another house far away from the city. Pam's tree came with them. A few months after that, they moved again, into a farmhouse in southern Illinois. Once again, Pam's tree was transplanted. Miraculously, the tree survived these upheavals. It continued to grow. Seven years later, blanketed in snow, it looked like this.

But Pam's tree had an enemy--a bull named Ferdinand.

Unlike his namesake, this bull was no pacifist. He was fond of breaking through the fence that held him captive, and whenever he was being forced back into his pasture, he took out his frustration on the innocent little cedar tree.

One day, Pam happened to witness one of Ferdinand's attacks on the tree. Despite the fact that Ferdinand outweighed her by almost two tons, she bravely ran to tackle him and save her helpless friend. Fortunately, her dad was there to talk some sense into her. She retreated, but was relieved when he was finally able to prod Ferdinand back into the barn lot before he destroyed either her or her tree.

More than twenty years later, long after Pam had grown up moved away and her parents and sold the farm and left the area, she returned to visit her tree and show it to her children.

Recently, she learned that her tree was finally cut down by the new owners of the farmhouse. So on this Arbor Day in Georgia, 2010, she has resolved to plant another Eastern red cedar tree in the backyard of her home in suburban Atlanta in memory of her little tree from long ago.

THE END

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From this day forward...

Fear is a powerful motivator.

From this day forward:

1. I do not apologize for stupid things--how much I weigh, the length of my hair, my financial situation, my age. I do the best I can with what I have; it's good enough for me, and if it's not good enough for someone else, that's HIS problem, not mine.

2. I make healthy choices--about eating, and drinking, and exercise, and how I spend my time, and who I spend it with. As I live my life, I ask myself, "Will this activity/person help me get closer to achieving my goals, or take me farther away from them?" and make decisions accordingly.

3. While recognizing that it is impossible to avoid every bump in the road, I acknowledge that the obstacles in my path might actually turn out to be in my best interest in the long run, and consider the possibilities provided by an alternate, potentially better, route.

4. I count my blessings--and they are abundant!--every day. I take NOTHING for granted. Keeping my attention on the positive things in my life will help make the inevitable negative experiences more bearable.

That is all.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lucky Seven!


What an thrill to receive the above award from fellow writer/blogger Carol Burnside today! Here in the dead of winter, on the heels of our magnificent snowstorm, these colorful flowers were a welcome sight. Thank you, Carol!

This award came with strings attached, however. First, I must tell you seven things about myself; then, I must extend the award to seven others. Here goes.

SEVEN THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT ME

1. I was born in Missouri but went to high school in Illinois, so I consider Mt. Carmel, Illinois to be my hometown. (Go, Aces!)
2. My favorite colors are pink and purple.
3. I am a "cat person" but my son, Casey, is allergic to cats so I have a dog instead. I love my dog.
4. I hate winter and dream of living on a sunny beach someday. Maui, anyone?
5. Occasionally, I fantasize about being a biker chick with spiky black hair, tattoos and leather boots, but my hairdresser, Jody, says no.
6. I once attempted to defend a very special cedar tree from a charging white charolais bull. (I still don't understand why the bull was so mad at the tree.) My dad stopped me, which explains why I am still alive today.
7. I cannot listen to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" without weeping.

MY SEVEN AWARD WINNERS

1. My friend and inspiration, Stephanie, at http://redclaydiaries.com/
2. Fellow writer, Trish, at http://healthywriter.blogspot.com/
3. Author Elaine (today is her birthday!) at http://thewriterscanvas.blogspot.com/
4. My brother, Eric, at http://ericasberry.com/
5. My high school friend, Debbie, at http://debrabecht.blogspot.com/
6. My NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, Shawn, at http://shawnannmurray.com/
7. My mom, Carley, at http://carleyasberry.com/

I'm hoping that this will inspire some of you who haven't posted for a while! :-)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snowcalypse Atlanta!

Here in metropolitan Atlanta, the mere forecast of snow is a phenomenon. People flock to the grocery stores to stock up on milk and bread; schools and public events are cancelled. Actual snowfall is a grand gala event. Children and adults alike gather outside to sled in the streets and build snowmen and throw snowballs. And take pictures.

Yesterday, we got FOUR INCHES of snow. This was such big news that one of the local television stations preempted Oprah and replaced it with a one-hour special on the winter storm. That was annoying. But as much as I despise the cold, I couldn't help but get caught up in the brouhaha.

The sunrise this morning was spectacular.

And this is the current view outside my bedroom window.

The bad news is that my lunch date scheduled for 12:30 today is off. I just spoke with Bachelor #5 - let's call him Jacob - who has elected not to try to make the drive in from Griffin, GA (about 80 miles away) for our first meeting. Of course, I don't blame him. Besides, I'm not sure I would be able to back my car out of the driveway.

Ice!

However, I am looking forward to dinner with Bachelor #3 - aka Bill, remember? - tonight. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crock Pot Middle Eastern Vegetable Soup

At the end of a long day, it is always nice to sit down to a home cooked meal. But by the time I finish teaching every day-last night it was 9:30-I am too tired to cook and too hungry to wait. So I hope I don't sound too much like Suzy Homemaker (I'm not) when I say that my crock pot is a lifesaver. Yesterday, I tried a new recipe, and it is definitely a keeper. Here it is.

MIDDLE EASTERN VEGETABLE SOUP

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 tomato, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
3 small carrots, sliced
1 small butternut squash, cubed
1/2 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
32 ounces vegetable broth
1 6-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ginger

Combine beans and veggies in crockpot; combine remaining ingredients and pour over; stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.

I topped mine with a generous sprinkle of freshly grated black pepper. Delicious! If you don't want the "Middle Eastern" flavor, you might try leaving out the cinnamon and ginger and substituting oregano and/or thyme for more of a "Mediterranean" flavor. But I liked it just the way it was.

We had brownies for dessert. The perfect finish.

Let me know if you try the soup!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl!

"She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind."~Toni Morrison, Beloved

* * *

Okay, this post isn't really about the Super Bowl. I had no vested interest in the outcome, and I watched the second half only so that I would have some idea what the rest of America is talking about for the next day or so. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the game, I do love a good Super Bowl party. However, I didn't receive any invitations this year. Now I wish I had thrown a party myself.

But I had a good weekend. I did some desperately needed house cleaning and grocery shopping, worked a bit on my novel, and spent time with each of my kids.

And I had a joyful telephone reunion with one of my best friends ever. Pat and I became acquainted in May or June of 1978, shortly after I finished my freshman year of college. The dorms were closed during the summer months, but I took classes year round and had a student job with the university, so I sublet a room in the boarding house she was living in, and the rest, as they say, is history. That's Pat on the left, me in the middle. (Does anyone know where I can find Cheryl, on the right?)

There are so many stories. My roommate, Robbin (left), Pat and I camped out overnight to buy concert tickets, pre-Ticketmaster, to see John Denver in Carbondale in 1978.

We landed seats in the second row.

We shared Halloweens and Christmases and birthdays. We went on camping trips and shopping trips and spent Friday nights at Melvin's and Sunday afternoons at Dairy Queen. Once, she even took me to visit my paternal grandmother in southern Missouri; we went to Elephant Rock State Park and explored Cape Girardeau. She encouraged me to do my first 10K run--well, she ran; I walked--and helped me brew homemade kuhlua from sugar and coffee and Everclear, which we used to make milk shakes. Those were good times.

She graduated before I did, and landed a job in Tucson, Arizona; my first airplane trip was to visit her there. I shared Thanksgiving with her and her roommate, Nancy.


And later that weekend we walked across the border into Nogales, Mexico, the first time I ever left the United States of America.

Pat actually knew my ex-husband before I met him--they were both members of a co-ed service fraternity, which I eventually joined--and was my maid-of-honor in our wedding in May, 1982.

She even visited us once after we moved to Raleigh in 1985. Then it was just Christmas cards for a few years, and with our nomadic lives, we eventually lost touch altogether. I tried to find her on Facebook, but she shares her name with over five hundred people there, so it was rather like looking for a needle in a haystack. She didn't know I had reclaimed my maiden name, so she had a hard time finding me, too, but eventually tracked me through Casey (thanks, Casey!)

It has been so wonderful to reconnect with Pat--reminiscing about the good times we shared, and catching up on the past many years. Each of us has been through a lot, both good and bad, but it is as if we were never apart.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart."

Mmm-hmm.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rainy Days and Fridays

It's Friday night, and I'm in bed with my laptop.

Romantic, eh?

I'm wearing my favorite long flannel nightgown, the one with the pink rose print, over a pair of purple leggings, buried beneath four layers of covers--a flannel sheet, a fleece blanket, a quilted bedspread, and a microfleece throw--because the sun hasn't shone in days and I am COLD.

Sexy, eh?

I was supposed to have a date tonight--we engraved it in stone a week ago, and he said he was "excited"--but I received no reply from him when I texted to confirm on Wednesday. Ditto Thursday. Bachelor #2 also asked me out for this weekend, but didn't actually pick a date; I was rather hoping to see him tomorrow night, but haven't heard a peep from him since Wednesday. Bachelor #3 has family in from out of town, so is unavailable this weekend. And don't even ASK me about Bachelor #1.

Sigh.

I am getting a message from the Universe, loud and clear. "Stay home. Teach your piano students. Write your novel. Watch television with your kids. Bake pies."

Yep. That's a direct quote.

* * *

The truth is, I have had no choice but to stay home, because Casey's car is still in the shop, so he has needed my trusty red Honda Accord to get to and from his classes at GGC. Luckily, my piano students come to me. But they have been unusually challenging the past couple of weeks. Most of them are preparing for for a piano festival on February 20th, so we're getting down to the wire, and the pressure is on all of us. As a result, I have been dealing with tears and tantrums, joy and triumph--with love and patience, for the most part. Here's hoping that joy and triumph prevail in the days ahead.

On the other hand, my novel is coming right along. I committed to the "1000 Words A Day Challenge for Writers," meaning I will write 1000 words a day at least six days a week for the entire year, and so far, so good. Some days it is harder than others, but right now, the words are flowing, so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

* * *

Most days, I get up, see Nathan onto the school bus, exercise for 30-45 minutes, write for a couple of hours, and then teach somewhere between nine and fifteen piano students. Mondays and Thursdays, Nathan has music lessons afterwards. After all that, he and I usually kick back with a little television. Thank goodness for TiVo. We are regular viewers of Desperate Housewives, House, 30 Rock, Ugly Betty, and American Idol. (I also keep up with Oprah, David Letterman, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy, but I do that on my own time.) I am pleased to report that, with the exception of last week's episode of House, Nathan and I are fully caught up on our television viewing. (And we have House on our schedule for tomorrow morning).

Fridays, I have no piano students; my intention today was to focus on my writing. I am planning to submit the first 25 pages of my novel into a critique workshop scheduled for March; the submission deadline is February 20th, and I wanted to work work on those revisions today. But the gray skies and endless rainfall have made it difficult to maintain a positive attitude and a stiff upper lip, and that, combined with the dating situation and a couple of middle-of-the-night phone calls from my firstborn, made it hard for me to get going this morning. One thing I have always done to get myself through a tough day is baking, because it makes the house smell good, and then there is the reward of something delicious to eat. Usually, my project of choice is cookies, but this week, it has been pies. Nathan loves cherry pie, so I baked a cherry pie for him to come home to on Wednesday; it was an early release day from school, but I had piano students until 9:30, and I wanted him to know I was there for him, at least in spirit. Today, I baked both a pumpkin pie and an apple streusel pie. I tasted both--just the tiniest sliver of each, I had to work too hard to lose that 3.8 pounds--and I do believe that apple streusel pie is one of the best I ever made. Here is the recipe.


APPLE STREUSEL PIE

4 large Rome apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
A generous sprinkle of lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Pillsbury pie crust, prepared according to package directions

Topping:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Toss sliced apples with lemon juice to coat well. Add 1/2 cup sugar and the brown sugar, flour and spices, and stir until well blended. Pour into pie crust.

Using a food processor or pastry blender, combine topping ingredients; sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 to 60 minutes, until apples are tender and topping is browned.

Vanilla bean ice cream would have made this absolutely perfect.

* * *

And there you have it--a Friday in the life of a romantic, sexy, single, successful middle aged woman. Ooh, la, la.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February Update

We are a solid month into the New Year's Resolutions at this point, so I decided it was time to review my progress so far.

Here are the statistics.

I have lost 3.8 pounds and 3 inches. I have exercised an average of four days a week and written a thousand words a day, four days per week. (Although, as of yesterday, I committed to writing a thousand words a day, SIX days per week).

Apparently, these are the areas that matter most to me. Because I have fallen short everywhere else. Although I did finish reading a HILARIOUS book, "Home Is Where the Wine Is," by Laurie Perrie, which I will review in the next day or two. Laurie is a woman after my heart. And I have completed two more rows on my brother's Christmas afghan. (Sorry, Eric. Did I suggest it might be finished by Valentine's Day, 2010? Because I meant Valentine's Day, 2011!)

In my defense, I took on two huge projects during the month of January. One was completing the rehearsal schedule/putting together the teacher packets for the Gwinnett County Music Teachers Ensemble concert. The other was completing the performance schedule for Gwinnett County Central District's National Federation of Music Clubs Federated Festival. The details aren't very interesting, but trust me when I say that these jobs demanded hours and HOURS of my time. But now that they are finished, I am hoping to get back on track with my New Year's Resolutions.

"It is never too late to be what you might have been."