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Sunday, November 16, 2014


We had three power cuts on Saturday.  It was not expected, despite the weather being most inclement.  It was, however, most poignant that the lights should go out as last Sunday was Rememberance Sunday, and we remembered that it was a century since the outbreak of the Great War.

The lights did not go out on Tuesday, this year, as on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we celebrated (which I feel is sort of contradiction in terms) Veterans Day.  The courthouse closed in honour of those who have fought and returned, and those who fought and did not return, and so our office did likewise. 

The day is of special significance to me.  My grandfather fought in The Great War, and despite leaving many of his fellow nineteen year olds on the fields of Flanders ('They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old - to quote Laurence Binyon circa 1914) he returned.  It is also the day of my official wedding anniversary.  When we registered our marriage at the courthouse, we wanted a date that would be significant, and also one that I could not transpose (this reasoning I have, no doubt, mentioned before - not only was it to remember our family members, but also because the Brits write the date then the month, and the Americans write the month then the date.  11/11).

Although the day was specifically for honouring others, it was, less importantly, a day off in the middle of the week.  Edward did not have this luxury, and left for work as normal.  Dana and I enjoyed a cup of coffee together, and he planned to go into the office to see if there was anything 'a happening'.  Samantha and I had decided to do some baking.  I had purchased a variety of ingredients the previous Saturday, without thinking too deeply about the goodies that I intended to create.  As I flicked through some recipe books on Monday, it was quite obvious that despite having a cupboard full of tins, packets and jars, none were applicable for my chosen concoctions.  I wanted to make Coconut Ice!  This very sweet, sweet, needed just three items, none of which I had!  As my baking is now rather limited, due to a number of reasons (including, lack of motivation, lack of time, lack of motivation, not wanting to put on weight, lack of motivation), I had not realised that my cupboard was so ill-equipped. 

Samantha and puppy arrived a couple of minutes before Dana departed, and despite the fact that she had bought a few necessities before coming to me, we still did not have all we required.  Dana, without having to be asked, took the dog, and headed out to the office.  Samantha and I went to Walmart!  Once laden down with enough confectionery items to keep a dentist happy for a life time, we headed north, as we had also planned a quick wander around Ikea.  However, she had also arranged to meet Edward, and their realtor, to sign a couple of papers, which had to be completed in their quest to search for the perfect house.  The realtor was running late, and Edward had to get back to work, so by the time we left the liaison point, time had marched along and we were no longer within the morning part of the day.  Ikea was put on hold!  Instead we visited HEB in search of glace cherries.  I stood in the baking aisle like a child disappointed at Christmas, and wailed, 'They have nothing here!'  Taking me by the arm, my daughter led me away from confused shoppers (the shelves were filled to bursting) and we paid for the items that the shop did stock.

My kitchen soon became a culinary battleground.  Two cooks, five recipes, and one oven.  The food mixer was commandeered by my daughter, as I combined the coconut, icing sugar and condensed milk, by hand, in a plastic bowl.  This particular recipe was a favourite with kids for kids when I was young, as it required no cooking, and legitimately allowed us to get our hands very sticky.  However, my memory of how to make it look good, failed me.  I separated the mixture into two bowls, dropped in a few drips of colour into one, and was left with a bowl of white mixture and a bowl of pink.  The recipe said to place one lot on top of the other, and then 'roll' it out.  It was in the 'cooks tips' that were on the opposite side of the page, that indicated a dusting of icing sugar (or powdered sugar as it is also known) be applied to the rolling pin. I was quite astonished that this basic application had alluded me, and I was now elbows deep in coconut mixture, with a rolling pin that would only be good for catching flies!  I chose to leave the mixture to set before attempting to shape it into anything that remotely looked like the beautiful picture depicted on the page. 

Samantha's lemon poppy seed muffins were in the oven, rising beautifully.  My sink overflowed with bowls, spoons and measuring things.  I remembered why I had resisted the 'bake day challenge'.  It appears to fall upon me to do the washing up!  Always the bridesmaid, huh!

After reasonable decorum was restored in the kitchen, I set about starting my second recipe.  Florentines.  These (for those not in the know) are small fruity bites in a slightly chewy mixture, with (or without) a chocolate base.  Melting the butter and sugar was easy.  Adding the fruit and nuts to the hot syrup was easy.  Spooning the mixture onto a baking tray was easy.  Removing the items from the oven did not prove to be difficult.  Separating the spreading mixture and trying to make two dozen perfectly shaped circles, by manipulating the caramel before it set and became brittle, was almost impossible. I looked at the perfect picture on the page, and back at the blobs on my baking sheet.  Circles they were not.  If 'round' means anything but square, then yes, they were round.  However, if it means circle, then no, they were not round.  I left them to cool on the kitchen table. 

Samantha's dough for the 'Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies', was made and set to cool in the fridge.  The muffins were cooling on a rack, and looked scrumptious, despite not yet having their lemon topping, topping them. My sink overflowed with bowls, spoons and measuring things. I remembered why I had resisted the 'bake day challenge'. It appears to fall upon me to do the washing up! Always the bridesmaid, huh!

Recipe number three required a little baking, and a little mixing.  This was something that I had never made before.  Mint Chocolate Slices. The base was a 'swiss roll' mixture which was baked and appeared to resemble the one in the book. Next came the mint cream mixture. There did not seem to be any instructions as to 'how', but peppermint creams were another childhood favourite, one for which I had retained a less vague remembrance.  I placed the ingredients in the mixing bowl, and let it turn. I added more liquid, more peppermint essence, and more power!  The time shown for 'preparation' for the whole cake was less than the time it took for the cream to cream.  However, eventually, it bore a similarity to that on the page, and I spread it on the cooled cake.  I had to turn the page to find out 'how to' make the chocolate topping.  There, under the instructions, were the instructions for the mint mixture.  It started, 'over heat.....'.  It suddenly made sense as to why the recipe had indicated to let the mixture cool., and why it had taken so long to bond.  I assumed that due to the effort used to make it, and the sweat that poured from me whilst whisking, that when it said, 'when cool', it was referring to the cook!

I made the chocolate mixture with ease, and poured it onto the two tiered block, and set it aside.  Samantha's cookies were browning beautifully in the oven.  My sink overflowed with bowls, spoons and measuring things. I remembered why I had resisted the 'bake day challenge'. It appears to fall upon me to do the washing up! Always the bridesmaid, huh!

Back on the kitchen table, the Florentines were turned upside down, and a thin coating of melted chocolate was spread across the base, and the excess dripped on to the parchment paper that was cleverly placed on the tray beneath the biscuits. Perhaps obvious to some, but always a treat when I remember to be so intelligent! 

With my kitchen sparkling, and baked goods separated into containers ready to be released upon unsuspecting guinea pigs, Samantha took her dog and went home.  Dana and I watched a movie, and then went to meet the kids for dinner.  Of course, the restaurants honouring the Veterans were full to bursting, and we chose not to wait for an hour in order to take advantage of one gratis dinner. Instead we opted for the Mexican restaurant that did not provide any 'rememberance', and we honoured our family member, namely my husband, privately! 

The Guinea pigs enjoyed the treats immensely.  When I made the disclaimer that the mint mixture was not quite right, I was immediately told, 'Oh yes it is!'  The mis-cubed coconut ice disappeared within moments, and the odd blobs that were meant to be Florentines, were cast as 'too good!'  The muffins and cookies barely saw the light of day before being consumed eagerly.  The pain that was associated with the washing up paled into insignificance as the overture of 'success' could be heard playing well into Wednesday afternoon and beyond. 

Conflict and suppression are by no means a thing of the past.  However, my grandfather's generation, as well as those before, and after, saw to it that I was able to freely make biscuits, cakes and sweets on Tuesday, and I am grateful.  The lights did go out on Saturday, but the power cuts did not last for any significant length of time.  The only limits were my own!  I knew I had a flashlight in the cupboard, and was going to use this to look for some candles.  In my search for the flashlight, I removed a large candle and placed it on the floor, and continued looking for the flashlight.  The light bulb in my brain did not illuminate very quickly!  It was only when Dana asked, 'what are you looking for', and I said, 'a torch, so that I can find the candles', did I realise my stupidity!  You can fight for freedom, but you can't make common sense!

I finish today's post by sending my thanks to all veterans, past, present, and indeed future!  My grandfather, father-in-law, husband, family and friends.  To quote Binyon once again, 'Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them'.  Without their dedication to their 'King' and/or Country, history may well have been ...... another story!

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