Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pleasant rediscoveries

I've recently rediscovered a few things that delight me. I love when that happens.

Painting. A couple of months, maybe more, had passed since I'd attempted to paint anything. There wasn't time, there wasn't inspiration, the blizzard's natural lighting was poor, and then so much time went by that I began to psych myself out of actually doing it. I'd find a momentary opportunity and I'd start to get ready, but then laundry would beckon, or I'd realize I had nothing for dinner, or I'd look at the clock and notice I really only had about 40 minutes and that's not nearly enough time to gather supplies and prepare the easel and—you get the idea. Maybe you do this, too, especially with pastimes you love that can be intimidating after long absences. But then, I did it: I forced myself to grab the measly window of time, to get out the paints, to dive in. And now, the gourd family portrait is finally complete. Aaaahhhhh. Painting.

Shortening. The thick, stiff, white stuff that looks like lard. The totally unnatural substance that was every housewife's necessity, every baker's dream until the words saturated fat and trans fat and olive oil and margarine began to cloud people's perception of the stuff. I had sworn off shortening years ago, embracing butter for all baking needs and making no excuses for the heart-clogging properties it brought with it. I was not about to let shortening into my home, because it didn't go bad, ever! And then I read online that it doesn't even attract bugs or flies! And I couldn't begin to explain the process of partial or complete hydrogenization, so anything created by that process could not live in my kitchen. And yet, years later, it was still on the shelves, and had not yet killed anyone. I relented recently, because a cookie recipe I wanted to try called for the nasty, white, flavorless stuff. I bought some. I baked the cookies. Whoa. The cookies were fluffy. They were soft and chewy yet crisp on the outside. They were divine. It had to be the shortening. Now the can of it that I bought is half-empty. Why did I stay away so long? All those good old-fashioned bakeries can't be wrong. Just wait until I use it to make icing...!

Hoods on coats. They rock. Now that I'm old, I don't care quite as much as I used to about whether my appearance is pleasing to others. Now, in winter, I just slap the giant, oversized hood of my coat atop my head, and step out into the dizziest blizzard with no fears of sticky hairspray head. Feeding the birds in a storm? Not a problem with my huge hood head. Rushing into the office through yet another snow shower, sporting just-styled hair? No worries, mate—just don the hood and tread onward. Best of all, I can't lose the darned thing like I do umbrellas, because the wonderful hood is attached to the coat or jacket it adorns (sort of my like my proverbial head which, thankfully, is attached and therefore cannot be left somewhere inappropriate or misplaced in a hurried shuffle). And hoods look so perfect with tall boots, which are also fabulous... but I've already waxed poetic about one item of winter gear, and that's enough.

Good friends and neighbors. I forget their utmost importance until times of need arise. My folks have had a rough couple of weeks; their offspring and various family members rally around them and do their best, which is great—but some good pals and caring neighbors of theirs recently stepped up to the plate and hit a home run or two or five. Convenient rides, big snow plows, and just plain helpful hands have all been proffered and very much appreciated. It's one of the positive things about hardships: the stress reveals not just cracks, but also partners and supporters. I need to appreciate those people more, and also work on being one of them whenever I can.

Have you had any great rediscoveries lately?


Anonymous said...

Cant live w/o shortening. When you make your icing, let me know. Oreo icing is shortening and sugar. YUMMO. Agree, hoods. never buying a coat w/o one again.

How about an easter themed list of pleasant rediscoveries:
marshmallow chicks
black jelly beans
chocolate rabbits
can you tell i'm on a diet...

ps love the gourd family gathering or whatever. which one is your husband? hahahaha

chris h. said...

I have a favorite ginger cookie recipe that uses melted shortening. I feel guilty for at least 30 seconds when I make them -- then it passes. They are so worth it.

And if I was smart, I would button back on the hoods I took off my coats! I've missed them more than a few times this winter.

Mel said...

anon, I'll let you know if/when I try the shortening icing. I love your list of Easter-themed pleasantries. although I could do without the black jellies... thanks for gourd comment. hadn't decided which one was which yet... I think I am the bumpy one on the right. ; )

Chris, get those hoods back on, girl! and no guilt allowed re: melted shortening. when something is melted, it is calorie-free and also less harmful--Mel's law says so.

Anonymous said...

Great job on the gourd family portrait. Can't wait to see it in person.

- Shelley

Mel said...

hey Shel! thanks!!! and when you see the gourds, I can return your very cool book on Principles of Uncertainty. suddenly, uncertainty is cool again...; )

so glad you stopped by.