Sunday, October 31, 2010

Supper Cake

I love to bake. This obsession with making sweet things started when I was 10 and I discovered I could read all the recipes in my mom's Betty Crocker cookbook. I would bake a recipe until I had it perfected. This may sound super sweet on the surface, but it often became an exhausting endeavor of perfection. I made Mrs. Crocker's russian tea cake recipe over 50 times one summer until every ball was the same size, each coated with the same amount of powdered sugar.

That same summer, my grandma got sick with cancer. The worse I felt about her illness (the surgeries, the hospital rooms, her hair falling out), the more I baked and baked and baked. It felt so good to take also those random ingredients that meant nothing by themselves, and measure and mix them into something that came out amazing. While my mom may have found this new-found hobby somewhat extreme, my grandma loved it. She began sharing every recipe she knew and I absorbed it with eagerness and love.

The one recipe I loved to make more than anything was her supper cake. It was a recipe they made a lot during the Depression because it took very few ingredients and only needed 20 minutes to bake, almost the exact time it took a farm family to finish a meal. You sprinkle the cake with cinnamon and sugar and then eat it warm with gusto. It only took me two tries (with my grandma watching, of course) to make it perfectly. After that, I was in total charge of supper cake.

I still make supper cake for my boys. When I pull out my grandma's recipe, the memories of us in her kitchen are so strong, I can almost feel her standing there as I mix it. It is a memory of joy, but also sadness. She lived only a year more after that summer. While her cake is delicious, it serves as a reminder to me of the importance of passing on the sweet things in life--to our families, our friends and even those who may only sit a few minutes in our kitchen.

Life is short. If we are only given 20 minutes, why not bake something wonderful and think about those we love?

Supper Cake
courtesy of Marie Haller Boehmer
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Topping: 1 TBS. butter, 3 TBS. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine sugar and shortening, mixing until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Add vanilla and milk. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt, add to wet mixture, and beat smooth. Bake in greased 9-inch round pan, or 8-inch square pan, at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately spread butter on top, then sift sugar-cinnamon mixture over top. Serve warm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Raising Clark Kent

It's official. I will not be getting the mother-of-the-year award this year. I knew I might be out of the running when my first grader failed his vision test with the school nurse last week, but I was still kind of hopeful, you know. All hopes went right out the window when he couldn't identify any of the letters on the screen at the eye doctor. I mean, seriously. What kind of mother doesn't know her child sees a fuzzy world?

Cooper and I picked out some eye glasses that same afternoon. I liked the wire-rimmed glasses, but he had his heart set on the thicker brown ones. He is such a little guy, so almost every pair looked sweet. When I said the brown ones made him look just like Clark Kent right before he turns into Superman, the deal was sealed. Cooper "Clark Kent" Feeler had his first pair of readers on order.

The first seed of doubt started to creep in when I relayed the story to my husband. He could not believe I let our son have the final say on glasses. A bad choice in glasses could be devastating, he said. Then he relayed his own personal tale of picking out blue-tinted lenses for his red-rimmed glasses in elementary school. He never did recover. I started to panic. Forget the guilt of your kid not seeing. The possibility of my kid being picked on raised my anxious mother meter to a whole new level.

Had I, like my husband claimed, been looking at him through warm mother's eyes versus the critical lenses of cruel kids on the playground? Would he be teased for not only wearing glasses, but for our choice of thicker rims that are common in every newsroom around the country? Is there no place for a unique "super hero" in this world?

Cooper wore his glasses for the first time tonight. Holy smokes, he said, everything looks so huge. He was giddy. I just kept staring at him all night because he looks so different. It's the same crooked smile and bright eyes alright, but the glasses change his whole look. I keep wondering what the kids will say tomorrow at school. Will his world dip down because of what he looks like instead of rising up because he can finally see the beauty in the world?

My hope is that his independence in choosing for himself will override the small hurts that will inevitably come his way. Life is not always kind, but it can still be good. I also pray he can survive a mother that is clueless about mothering, but still loves him unabashedly and unconditionally. There's no perfection in this mother. Isn't that right, Clark Kent?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Love Actually

Christmas will be here soon. Okay, not real soon, but close enough that I am about to break out one of my favorite winter flicks--"Love Actually." I'm not a Hugh Grant fan. Let's just be clear on that fact. But there is something mesmerizing about his voice when he says, "Love actually is all around us." I like that. A lot.

When my life gets crazy and hectic (and this is all the time since I became a mom), I forget about all the wonderful things, big and little, around me. Love is to be had right here and right now. I spend so much time trying to dole it out in perfect spoonfuls that I forget to soak it in. I am, quite frankly, missing the freaking love boat.

In honor of Hugh Grant's voice and the warm feelings it evokes, I decided to write down a few things I actually love, or love actually. It's a work in progress, which works out great because guess what? So am I.

Heather's "Love Actually" List
1. Snuggling in bed with my boys (even with unexpected kicks and then giggles)
2. Warm puppy smell
3. Getting to walk a new trail that goes deep into the woods
4. Steamy romance novels
5. Alpaca socks
6. Sniffing permanent magic markers
7. Kneading bread dough
8. Eating homemade chocolate chip cookies
9. Kissing my hubby
10. Reading good writing, or writing some good reading
11. Quality time with those I love
12. Learning someone's story
13. Eliminating clutter
14. Dancing in the car with all the windows down
15. Buying school or office supplies
16. A hot shower
17. Sharing a meal with family and friends
18. Big bear hugs
19. A random act of kindness
20. Sending handwritten letters in the mail

I could on for a long time, I imagine, but I think there is power in just honoring a few things at a time. It would be even better to make a list each day. Different day, different list, but all things that bring happiness to a life. What's on your "Love Actually" list? Well, besides me, of course.