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Posts Tagged ‘apple cider’

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I’m guessing it couldn’t be helped. When the sour hearkens, a willing heart answers.

This is Halloween. Usually on this date I’m home handing out candy, or more likely crewing a show. This year I’m living in a high-rise and am not backstage, plus I’m taking a much-needed break, so I decided to do something I haven’t done since Halloween 1984: snoop around my old neighborhood after dark.

We’re in a liminal period right now. Halloween is the middle of an ancient three-day pagan holiday, Samhain, which marks the end of their summer and the beginning of winter. And times of transition make people nervous, no matter what year we’re living in. Everything is up in the air, and we don’t know how the chips will fall, if you’ll forgive two idioms in the same sentence. We’re in between planes now, smack in the middle of the cosmic doorway. Back in the day people believed evil spirits could come and go through that doorway during times of change.

These days, I’m feeling that liminal period hard core. New place, new work, a close relative with a questionable diagnosis, a high-voltage election looming (re: that last, I feel about it the way I felt about The English Patient: I want it over and done). Waiting to see what’s on the other side is really, really tough. I’m wondering if evil spirits—be they bad news, irrational colleagues, unintelligible insurance reps, what have you—are sniffing around my threshold. But I won’t know until I know. None of us will. And no matter how you slice it, ambiguity is a bitch.

Walking through my hometown tonight helped. It was a lot quieter than the Halloweens of yore, which was bizarre. What’s more, today’s residents have an odd preoccupation with sweeping leaves off sidewalks; we used to scuff right through them on Halloween. At the end of the night they’d be clinging to the hem of whatever costume I had on.

But another thought came to mind as I was semi-scuffing down those familiar sidewalks, and that is, this was and is a safe town, with lots of houses open for candy-hawking. We didn’t go in at the end of the night because we ran out of houses to visit, or because our moms were texting us to come home (for the pre-cell phone era at Halloween, thank the Lord, Jesus, St. Peter if he’s not too busy, and every last cherubim). We went in because our candy bags had gotten too heavy. There were still plenty of houses and plenty of candy if we wanted them. As much as we wanted, enough to fill our bags to the tops…and more still.

So maybe the trick to weathering liminal periods, when we’re (okay, me) panicking about What Might Happen, is to remember that at times of change anything’s possible. Like anything. Good stuff has just as much of a chance of dropping into our clam chowder as does bad. Anything is available to us.

I’m going to try to imagine a blue-sky future, one with dozens upon dozens of housewives at the ready with orange bowls of full-size Milky Ways. Who’s to say there isn’t plenty of plenty out there waiting for us?

Just to draw a line under that, here’s a pie.

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Improved upon a local classic this week, with apples poached in apple cider and toasted walnuts. I ate this like the Kraken coming off the Atkins diet. Just one slice left. Curses.

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Raisins, Dots, chocolate buttons, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, shredded coconut, Junior Mints…and my brother-in-law’s fantastic concoction (supervising): apple cider, white rum, dry curacao, and orgeat syrup.

Yesterday was spent with my family, making and decorating Christmas cookies, opening presents, and generally chilling. Here are the takeaways, in no particular order.

  1. A small child will never tire of putting her hands in bowls of candy.
  2. And she will extract as much as she can in the manner of the claw machines at the boardwalk.
  3. You may have to tell her that the M&Ms are edible, and not, say, beads. Once you do, you’re on your own.
  4. If you give her two ornaments off the tree as gifts for her and her brother, she will continue removing the rest of the ornaments.
  5. After opening a handful of art supplies, she will want to play with them all. Simultaneously.
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This is Santa, created by my 2-year-old niece. He is either waving a Merry Christmas to everyone or imploring help for a severe Junior Mint injury to his right shoulder. I think we’ve all been there.

6) When offered two different kinds of homemade cookies, grownups will eat one after the other quite mindlessly, as if the room is a zero-calorie-emission zone.

7) Even after going through two pizzas.

8) The floor is a totally acceptable place to sit.

9) After a bottle and a tummy rub, a five-month-old will demonstrate the best way to enjoy life: by falling asleep in the corner of a sofa.

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Mommy at left; tiny artist at right.

10) Whether decorated perfectly or somewhat less so, a cookie made with good ingredients will always taste good.

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Snowflake with red royal icing and mini marshmallows, skillfully applied.

 

 

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Ants in my pants yesterday, what with the rain and all. My brain felt like a pinball on the first day on summer vacation, if pinballs had that sort of thing. This went on all morning.

When the rain stopped, I did the only sensible thing: I put on a long white cotton dress, dusted plum eyeshadow onto my eyes, cheeks, neck, and shoulder blades, clipped a sheer organza curtain to my head as a veil, and trekked out to the Zombie Walk here in Asbury Park. I had a calling to be The Corpse Bride, you understand.

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This bride had cold feet. Cold everything, to tell you the truth.

It’s always mobbed there. Hundreds of people—adults, kids, dogs, all zombiefied. You don’t want to drive in if you can avoid it because often enough the zombies climb all over your car and you get stuck in the middle of the road.* I love seeing people I know, but it’s just as much fun goofing off with a bunch of strangers. Everyone’s being silly. People say and do things they wouldn’t typically do; it’s like we pull aside the sheer organza veil between the everyday and the whack and let ourselves go all upended. People driving by grin and wave at me and I do the same back because I forget I’m supposed to be freaky. It’s strange, this world we create for a few hours. Relaxing. And lots of boardwalk vendors offer zombie specials.

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I went in to the little shop and found a crock pot that the owners had filled with a gallon of apple cider. There was a small ladle resting on a saucer and three bags of little paper cups for us to use. It was lovely.

When I got home, the ants-in-pants thing had abated, so I changed into pajamas and dove into making fondant.** I made a lot of that years ago. It tastes nothing like the dreck from AC Moore, largely because it has milk and sugar and butter in it. The milk is sweetened condensed milk. Maybe you know of this substance and have tried it. Maybe you have the wherewithal to keep from spooning it out of the can and into your face without stopping. I am not blessed thusly.

Fondant, warmed and pourable, is the ‘icing’ that tops petits fours. But it’s also a proper candy in its own right. You can roll it into balls and dip it into yummy things. And you can shape it as long as you work quickly.

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Spatula’ed out of the bowl and onto a powdered-sugared scattered cookie sheet.

Once you make it up, you’re supposed to knead more powdered sugar into it. I will remember next time that heaping it as I did above is foolish, and covered my hands like so much Nickelodeon slime. Spreading it far and wide across the cookie sheet means more surface area touches more sugar. THEN you knead. Noted.

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Here it is containing almost as much sugar as a six-year-old on Halloween night, and ready for the fridge.

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: if you can’t think straight and need a recharge, doing something insane is an excellent place to start. I’m still trying to get all of the mascara off. And I’m thinking the fondant would make a really cool present for someone if I can keep myself from breaking off pieces of it and eating it this week.

*I typed that with a straight face because it’s true. Someday I’ll live someplace normal.

**Still had the heavy plum shadow all over me. If anyone had looked in my kitchen window they’d think I needed a solid couple of days off.

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A portion of Deal Lake, which almost surrounds Interlaken.

There are many things—garishly colored bug juice, for one—that are pretty much appreciated by kids alone. Autumn, on the other hand, is for grownups. I don’t think any of us can appreciate autumn until we’re finally allowed to disassociate it from having to go back to school. As much as I love summer, autumn is delicious, sensuous in a way that July and August can’t compare—a dazzling, aging beauty, at one moment exuberant with passion and color and at another wistful, melancholy. While summer is two-dimensional, a childlike, right-now-in-the-moment Eden, autumn sees its fate across the calendar. Is there beauty in resignation? Maybe so. I think it’s this inherent wisdom in the season that gives it its sweetness.

In autumn I love walking through my hometown, a place in which, to paraphrase the adage, you can hardly see the town for the trees. It’s a strictly residential community, and to look at an aerial-view map, you’d think Interlaken was a forest. Its trees, many 100 years old or more, are enveloping and comforting. Peering up through their rustling leaves on a late-autumn afternoon and seeing thick, heavy, soot-grey clouds is thrilling, the way, as a kid, you loved watching the Wicked Witch of the West on television as long as your mom’s arms were tight around you.

Leaves in the lake.

We had just begun to enjoy autumn here at the Jersey Shore when Hurricane Sandy hit. And sadly, it took most of the leaves with it by the time it was through with us. Still, I took a walk on Thanksgiving Day to sink into the season, and let it sink into me, before the holidays eclipsed it. The park I visited is in Oakhurst, just a couple of miles inland, where autumn’s stark beauty was everywhere.

Sycamore branch.

Pasture and farmhouse.

Windfall.

Sycamore and pasture.

Today I bought local unfiltered apple cider and had a taste. It was as mellow as the autumn sky. And soon I will be baking a cider cake, making a cider buttercream icing for it, having friends and family over to eat it up with me—and making autumn last just a little bit longer.

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