You know how once in a while you’ll look at your calendar and see a few blank squares and go (silently) yippee!–a few days to catch up, read, watch TV, or whatever is your favorite way to fill uncommitted time?
Even in the pandemic, with all the staying at home, I still have weeks that are filled with doctor appointments, errands (pharmacy, library) and taking the granddaughter to her one daily in-person class.
But last Thursday there were those blank squares (except for the school thing). This is how those days went:
First thing, I noticed the deer had eaten the flowers off the cyclamen I just planted. We’re in drought and the deer must really be hungry to eat flowers.
While we were getting ready to leave for school, a bird got in the house. We opened doors and windows and it soon found its way out, but I was cleaning up droppings in odd places for a few days. (This has happened before and they are drawn to the high clerestory windows, which is the worst place to be trapped. I’m glad this one got out quickly.)
I dropped the child off, picked up a prescription at the drive-through, and by the time I got home there was a flurry of messages and texts regarding her returning to school after Thanksgiving break. I quickly arranged to go in for a conference with her, the counselor and the school psychologist to work out a plan. Afterwards she had her favorite treat, Starbucks, including a snowman cookie. Then she began ordering clothes online, her first priority (rather than finishing up all her online work, because she’ll have different teachers).
Friday was grocery shopping, which is anything but routine. Between the pandemic and our bright, shiny new (huge) store, even getting there at 8 a.m. I found myself dizzy and disoriented wending my way through the unfamiliar and overstimulating space. I got a small-ish turkey for our small Thanksgiving–us plus one neighbor, a widow who would otherwise be alone. (We’ve agreed, sadly, with out-of-town family to avoid risk this year.)
Saturday was my husband’s birthday, and granddaughter wanted to bake a lemon cake. Naturally she found a complicated three-layer job–I would have done a loaf, sheet or Bundt. She zested and juiced the lemons and did the measuring while I ran my ancient (harvest gold!) Sunbeam mixer. Once it was in the oven I needed to deal with an awful smell in the garage. It smelled like burned (or burning) rubber, but we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from–no smoke or flames.
So I called 911 and asked for the fire department to check it out. The truck with flashing lights (but no siren, thank you) got the neighbors’ attention. The squad was wonderful. One used a heat sensor to try to find hot spots. They went around the breakers, the outlets, outside by the AC and pool pump, and into the garage attic! Finally, they pulled out the refrigerator and determined the smell was coming from the back of it. The motor wasn’t running too hot but they recommended turning it off. It was immediately unplugged. I thanked the firemen and dealt with moving everything into the house, while also keeping an eye on the cake’s progress.
Naturally, the fridge had Thanksgiving items in it, including the turkey, beer and wine (that’s why it’s known as a “beer fridge”), bottles of water I fill and keep for emergencies, and the like. The inside refrigerator is now crammed full. (The old one is 21 years old and not worth repairing so we’ll live without it for now.) After making the cake icing and cleaning up, I was exhausted but too wired to nap.
We had a nice birthday dinner (salmon, asparagus, baked potato and the lemon cake.) I went to bed early.
Sunday really was uneventful. I walked the dog, did Zoom church, read, napped. No school this week. Today I made this little ornament. I’m going to get different colored yarn and make them for small gifts (teachers, neighbors). They are super-easy to make. Instructions are here.
Break I did: Four days in a little blue beach cottage on Aransas Bay, doing as little as possible, and it rained. This would normally go on my jillybeans site, since it’s a post card, but it sums up the week.
For a complete change of pace, we hosted a birthday party for the eight-year-old granddaughter the day after we got home. It was more fun than I expected, with all of her cousins and grandparents and a few friends and neighbors. Gary wrangled the kids in a treasure hunt and some other games.
Chloe stayed overnight. The last thing she said before she fell asleep: “Today was really fun. Thank you.”
Best birthday ever, especially for Grandma.
For her seventh birthday, I gave my granddaughter a set of Chloe gift cards with different activities we can do during the year, among them baking cupcakes out of a cookbook she loves.
When I gave her gifts on Friday, we picked a simple chocolate cupcake recipe for which I had ingredients on hand. They were supposed to be “mud” cupcakes with a gooey middle, but we stretched the recipe that was supposed to make 12 to make 18, and thus I had to guess at baking time, and they cooked a little drier. I thought they were delicious but they weren’t sweet enough for her, and what’s a cupcake without frosting? (The recipe had used up all the butter in the house anyway.) She got plenty of icing at her birthday party the next day.
Chocolate Mud Cupcakes
(adapted from 500 Cupcakes, by Fergal Connolly)
1 cup (7 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 cups superfine sugar (we used regular granulated)
¾ cup self-rising flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder, for dusting
Preheat oven to 325° F (160° C). Place 12 paper baking cups in muffin pan(s).
In double boiler or medium bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, melt the chocolate chips and butter together, stirring well. Let cool a little.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick. Fold the flour into the egg mixture and then stir in the melted chocolate and butter until well blended.
Spoon into the cups and bake for 20 minutes. The cupcakes will be soft and gooey in texture and appearance. Cool and dust with cocoa powder.