Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Coffee Chat: Waning Summer, Waxing Autumn Days
It might be a little bit early to have a coffee chat...I mean we might as well have iced tea on hand as well since it is still a little warm, but the three cooler days we had over the weekend really inspired me...and so it's coffee chat season in theory if not yet in fact. I'll offer you your choice, okay?
Years ago, I had a Family Circle cookbook, one of those special edition magazine type things and therein was a recipe for an apple cake. It began with a bundt pan that was greased and then dusted with bread crumbs. The apple cake had finely diced apples in it.
The apple cake is the main idea but you see I've rabbit trailed just so quickly down many lanes of memory. The cake was tender and delicious with moist bits of apple and wasn't iced but might have had a drizzle glaze. It wasn't loaded with oil either which is mostly what I find online. I am pretty sure it must have had either shortening or butter since I loathe cakes with vegetable oil. But I don't remember anything else much except that it was delicious and a favorite recipe and I long to have it once more.
I can tell you nothing else about it except that I've searched high and low for years for an apple cake recipe that appeared even a tiny bit similar and with absolutely no luck whatsoever. I've even looked for the magazine which must have been published sometime between 1979-1982. I say this because Amie was just two and a half during the time I made that cake the first time and we were living in the historic little town of Andersonville, Georgia. I don't know what happened to the recipe magazine (though I do recall two or three other recipes I made during that same time frame, one of which involved spare ribs and a pressure cooker). Did I lose it the winter of that year when we moved to another town into the house I loved best? Was it lost in a purge at some point in time? No clue.
Other memories that come with that time frame are the cozy warmth of that house with it's fireplace in the bedroom and the coal stove in the living room and the big wood burning range with double warming ovens and water reservoir on the side in the kitchen. That stove was never used, though my great grandmother was absolutely over the moon about that Home Comfort range. It was truly a massive thing and a gray spatterware enamel beauty. I shall never forget how she halted in her steps as she came through the back door on her first visit to that house, clasped her hands, gasped and said "Why baby! That is a $100 stove!" It was not hard to gather that this had been something in her wood stove days that was much wanted. Alas she never did cook in it for me as she'd promised she one day would.
It's a shame I never used that wood stove (but I had no way to chop wood and what was available locally was a lot of pine, so just as well) because the electric stove was a tinky little three burner thing of which two burners failed to work and the oven was a misery to work with. How on earth I ever managed with it is a real wonder because as I recall the oven either barely heated or it ran full blast. I must have hit the magic formula the day I baked the apple cake.
The house itself wasn't anything special but it was nicely redone inside and had big paned windows on every outside wall that filled it full of light. I always felt fully discombulated in the kitchen there because to all appearances the room faced east...only it didn't because the western setting sun routinely ran me from the room all that summer and led me to beg for take out meals. The house had no AC, you see. I don't know just why I always felt so disoriented by the way the house sat on the property but I did. I've never known another house that so upset my sense of direction as that one. As soon as we left the property and were on the dirt road that led to town I could regain some natural sense but there on that property I was forever upset. Perhaps there was a weird magnetic field there or something? Or maybe it was the natural gas that was abundant underground seeping up? Really I'm just guessing here as I've no clue.
What I loved about the place was living in Andersonville itself, with the tiny little old fashioned post office, the old train depot turned city offices, the old churches and homes. Just a wee little town with a few antique shops and a general store. One of my favorite antique stores was a combined antiques shop and home based in the old brick school house built at the turn of the 20th century... That pull of history, sad as part of the history of this place was, filled me with awe. The house we lived in was just a four room central hall hip roofed house with an old fashioned hedged front garden. It was a neat little house overall.
This summer I was in that area and wound my way up the old dirt road that led to the house and briefly mourned the changes. The big chestnut trees, the old fashioned butterfly bushes, the privet hedge and old fashioned gate that framed the front yard were gone. The ancient apple tree no longer stood on the bedroom side of the house. The place was unrecognizable as the house I'd lived in 32 years ago. I tell you sincerely it wasn't a particularly happy nor very unhappy time of life. It was just a bit over a year of life and so no real attachment ever formed with the house.
And no it was not apples from that tree that I used in the apple cake. Those apples were the sourest, hardest, mean tasting apples I've ever encountered. Not a variety anyone would ever want. Not a crabapple nor a cider apple but just a bad apple all around. However, the redeeming feature of that tree was the lovely spring blooms which began as hard deep pink buds then bloomed and slowly faded from pale pink to pure white. I woke one morning following a hard storm and found the tree filled with parakeets blown off course by that tropical storm that had pushed inland.
And why all the memories? Because I was just over on Pinterest examining every apple cake recipe I could find in the hopes I'd find that perfect recipe once more...
There are several recipes I reserve for making in autumn only: Granny's fried apple pies used to be a huge favorite here, but I started baking them to cut down on the grease. They are still quite good...An apple pie, a lovely recipe from a 1980's family circle magazine that is rich with cinnamon streusel...a Butter Nut cake so prettily yellow with rich cream cheese frosting and butter nut flavoring liberally dressed on the sides with crushed toasted nut meats...Rich pot roast with vegetables...Chicken Dumplings with big fluffy dumplings cooked in the creamy broth...Sweet potato pie and sweet potato biscuits...and last year we added a new favorite of roasted butter nut squash with pecans and dried cranberries.
I like to cook in autumn and begin to feel my interest rousing up. I start to collect recipes once more and to think creatively in the kitchen. You'd think summer's bounty would be what inspires me and I suppose it would if it weren't so hot and miserable. We do have a whole house air conditioning system and we use it, but even so it's mighty warm if the stove is going and on really humid days when the AC is running non-stop it's agony to stand in the kitchen and make the simplest and fastest of meals. But this time of year I come into my own once more, thoroughly enjoying cooking and eating and thinking about meals, though there are fewer seasonal foods available.
I went through a bit of a writing slump towards the end of August as I came out of the massive push to do Frugal Boot Camp. I also began Fall cleaning at that time and sorted out all sorts of spaces, cleaned and organized and made pretty where I could. I was just gearing up for another big work month when we went to look at flooring last week. We called towards the end of the week and scheduled an appointment to get a quote. They were here early this afternoon. Now we wait for the quote and the final decision...
It was really a wonderful thing how we came to have the money to do this. When we went to look we were considering ways and means. We are believers in sowing seeds toward your need and after months of prayer we did just that, making an offering and specifically naming it new flooring. We went to look at flooring two days later and talked to the sales person and asked hundreds of questions. It was that day we both realized that we really wanted vinyl flooring once more.
As Lana commented on that post last week, vinyl flooring is much improved over what it was even 20 years ago when we bought this place and I am quite sure we have a low end product, but all in all it's held up well. Years of trekking in and out, having a main pathway straight through the kitchen(and white flooring at that, in the country of all places), sliding heavy loads across the floor, rolling every single piece of furniture that ever came into or out of the house through the kitchen and we've got a few nicks and dings but no major wear. We talked about hard woods which is not recommended for our double wide because there is too much contraction and expansion due to temperature and moisture. I don't care for wood laminate though it can be installed as a floating floor system. My dislike of it is that it doesn't really feel like wood, and if a piece is nicked or worn it shows plainly. As well, I've walked on floating floors that literally floated and it was an uncomfortable sensation.
So we decided upon vinyl. We brought home a sample book and looked at all that was in the line and we decided upon two patterns that are well matched.
At the time we went to look we really had no idea just how we'd manage to pay for it, but we felt strongly that it was time to do it. We were moving strictly upon faith that the money would come. We tentatively decided we'd finance it ourselves but then the very next day, just out of the blue, we were given a substantial financial gift, three days after sowing our seed. I was so astonished I couldn't even speak for a bit and it took me a couple of hours before I could even think rightly enough to text John at work and tell him. He called me about an hour later and asked if I'd been given any clue why we were gifted. I told him that it was as unexpected as could be and I was simply told that it was something that they wanted to do. Honestly at that point, there was nothing more to say except to praise God.
I don't think I've shared but we recently started attending another church. There wasn't a thing in the world wrong with the church we attended over the last three years or so. It had good solid preaching and was very nice, both physically and spiritually. But it was HUGE. I'd attended there every other weekend for years with Katie and these last years with John and I say this honestly: I know exactly no one and no one knows me. It's so huge that the odds you'll sit near the same folks twice is pretty slim. We live too far away to be involved in the small groups so popular in many churches now (including this new one) and our erratic schedule still rules us. BUT...I like the smaller more intimate feel of the church. I'd say perhaps 250-300 attend and compared to 1500 it's quite small. I like the longer worship service. I like the solid preaching. I like that while we still don't know anyone, people do at least speak to us which never happened at the bigger church. It may be this doesn't end up being our home church but it's nice and we're enjoying it for this season. It felt right to make the change at this time.
Doesn't it look a lot like autumn already outdoors? Not much golden rod in bloom but the slant of the sun is certainly autumnal and with the brown grass and falling leaves (all brown due to drought except the golden stars from the Sweet Gum), it looks as though it ought to be right nippy outdoors. Looks are so deceiving...We're back to summer temperatures this week but the weekend was slightly cooler and it was welcome. Every where we went people were smiling and happy and enjoying the lovely weather.
I don't know what you all do on Labor Day but I did what I generally do: labored hard. I got a lot done although only about half of what my extremely ambitious self wanted to do. John sort of started the ball rolling on Sunday when he put some little angle brackets on the back of the dresser in the entryway to reinforce it. We went ahead and moved it out of the living room and into the bedroom while it was dismantled and that started my brain jogging around. Oh if I'd had the energy of 100 women and the money of 50 more I'd have had my house redone by morning on Monday! Well being limited to myself and my resources which are rather limited at the moment, I still got a staggering amount done. Far more than I ought to have but it was worthwhile and it opened the paths to get still more done and get further along in my ambitions than I might have otherwise.
However, when I got up yesterday morning, despite a really good night's sleep, I found myself worn flat out by dinner time (our noon meal). I guess I did entirely TOO much labor on Labor Day! Mind you I did plenty by dinner time but the afternoon was lost to me. I had to work at quieter work the rest of the day.
My home is in a real state of transition and I've puzzled and puzzled over that. I can only assume that having Bess and Sam move in and move out eight weeks later upset the energy somewhat, in a very good way. I said at the time that I meant to shake up my routine and let it stay shaken up. Well it has! I've painted the back door, rearranged furniture, cleared, cleaned and done so much more than usual that I'm just astonished at myself. I took off another load of donations today, a car full. It's getting bad when the young man at the Goodwill recognizes you when you come to the door...But I am about done for now. I am sure there's plenty more I might let go of, but I'm not ready just yet. As I told John I stood in the shed yesterday morning and evaluated every thing I could see and added quite a few pieces to what I'd already set aside to donate. What I've got left at present I'll hold onto for a bit. I can't name the number of times I've walked out to the shed and seen something and thought "Oh! I could use that in such and such a way..." or seen a Pin that helped me realize how I might use something I have in a new way. So I'm okay right now with what I have. I have plans for some of the things there and some of it are just pieces I like really well and simply am not currently using. I mean, you can only put so much stuff on a table top or a wall!
I'd no intent of being so late with this post this evening but updates held the computer captive for quite a few hours this afternoon. My programs have been running updates for the past three or four days off and on but today's was massive, requiring far more time than they have yet. I am hopeful this will work out two or five of the bugaboos with the new windows...we'll see. In the meantime, I need to run and I'm sure you've plenty to do as well. Talk to you later!!