Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Cup of Coffee and Conversation

Amazing how coffee is such a phenomenon. So many brands and so many ways to serve it besides the standard hot cup of coffee. Now you have choices with strange names like frappuccino-latte-caffe mocha-macchiato. Then you can choose to stir-whip-steam or shake-and drink and drink some more! Some of these brands are so recognizable that their locations are sought after destinations in metropolitan centers to rural locations and every place in between

When I think of coffee, I think of my aunt who loved to go out for breakfast at local diners or small eateries. She'd savor every bite and enjoy every drop of her brewed coffee served in a thick, milk-white ceramic cup with a saucer. She'd add a bit of milk and sugar and stir it until it was "pretty"-as she called it. The waitress would fill her cup up a few more times as we'd linger and talk and watch people come and go. It was always fun being with her at these places which, to my aunt, were more enjoyable than a five-star restaurant. After leaving a tip on the table she'd put any remaining little paks of jams or jellies in her purse to take home. There was just something about peeling them back and spreading the stuff over toast. My aunt savored the simple things in life.

This aunt also loved it when we'd visit and gather around the kitchen table for conversation and a cup of coffee made in a stainless steel pot void of timers and buttons and bells and whistles. That old pot made the best cup of coffee every single time. Favorite brands were Chuck Full Of Nuts and Eight O'Clock. Watching her make a pot, it was obvious she was as excited to prepare the coffee as drink it. Sometimes during our gathering we'd need more coffee. Up my aunt would jump. Putting the tea kettle back on to boil the water, she'd then clean the old grinds out and add new. Once the kettle whistled, she'd fill the top of the pot with the scalding water. Then we'd wait for it to drip down through the grinds. Sometimes it seemed like it took forever but it wasn't any longer than standing in line for some of today's high tec brands served in plastic cups with lids.

When ready, my aunt would hold the top of the pot with her left hand as she'd make the rounds around the kitchen table, filling empty cups-which were my grandmother's flowered china cups with saucers. We'd wait until everyone had their coffee before we added whatever we felt needed; then we'd sit some more, sipping and talking. There were no earphones blocking our participation. No laptops or Kindles or Nooks grabbing our attention.

I think my aunt had it right-sharing conversation and time together while dipping ginger snaps in our piping hot, freshly dripped coffee. So simple-just so very simple; just how life should be sometimes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Christmas Tree Birthday Cakes

Digging through a kitchen cupboard the other night I came across two cake tins that symbolize the celebration of birthdays out in the country. They're pretty worn but then they were used for every birthday when we were growing up. They're not very deep but they're not supposed to be. Both are shaped like Christmas trees and when stacked on top of each other-with icing in between-they make the perfect sized cake especially when you are young and it is your day on which the Christmas tree cake is made just for you.

It didn't matter in what month a birthday fell. The cake was always the Christmas tree cake. On the morning of a birthday my mother would get the tins ready, coating them with butter and then covering the butter with a layer of flour. It seemed to me the making of the cake was an all-day procedure but I now realize my mother certainly did much more leading up to the celebration after dinner than just bake a cake. But I only cared about the cake-making going on and the licking of the beaters.

My mother would take the same big, yellow bowl out of the cupboard as she always did. There was no box mix. The cake was made from scratch as was the frosting. It was always the same-a white cake with white frosting. Real eggs and real butter and real flour were used. It always smelled the same cooking; always tasted the same when devouring. There were no fancy decorations on top. Just plain, little candles that went out when the birthday kid blew them out. I don't recall any pieces leftover.

By today's standards the Christmas tree cake was pretty simple. There were no licensed characters with multi-colored frosting and fancy script declaring whose birthday it was overpowering the moment baked by someone somewhere other than home. Sometimes simple is best. Sometimes simple tastes better.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Something From Nothing

It was the glitzy box that caught my eye just as it was supposed to do. I'd run in the store for a few things and ended up in the aisle loaded with all sorts of craft kits for kids. I was surprised to see so many kits designed to stir a child's imagination. I was also taken back by memories of doing funstuff when I was growing up in the country and doing projects with my child ren when they were young. But aside from the kits I bought my daughters to make pot holders out of loops on a grid and those bags full of colorful plastic crystals which they used to fill-in wired shapes the best their little fingers could and when ready I'd put them in the oven to bake with the end result being a pretty flower or butterfly or rainbow suncatcher-the rest of whatever was created was purely out of what nature provided-with a little help from crayons and glue made from flour and water when in a pinch. Most of the time imaginations were stirred by what was around.

Rocks were always great fun to paint or glue or use in masterful designs. Adhere some grass for hair and you could make a family with twig feet and arms. Old boards-minus the rusty nails-provided unique surfaces on which to draw or paint. Cutting and folding pieces of paper to make little books was always fun as was cutting construction paper into strips and making paper chains. Sometimes the strips would have an added crayon design; sometimes they didn't. Collecting shells down along the creek and then drying them out in the sun was a favorite thing to do as was painting them and sometimes adding them to a collage on wood or paper of stones and moss and pinecones and stuff.

Probably the most fun for my own children took place at an old camp where we'd spend time during the summer when they were young. There was a perfect spot where the water was shallow; where right under the surface was a huge bed of clay. Walking around in the water-feeling with their feet-once that clay was discovered they'd scoop it up and put it on a board. When satisfied they'd found enough of the gooey mud they'd shape the clay into all sorts of creations and then let the sun be the oven to bake their creations to pefection. Once dried, they'd paint their masterpieces. I did buy ModPodge back then. Decoupaging stones and clay was always fun as was doing the same to little jars which then made cute little flower vases or places to keep secret treasures.

It doesn't take a kit to ignite a child's imagination. Just take a look around and you'll discover how you can make something from nothing and have alot of fun doing so! It's a great way to create memories that last a lifetime.