Monday, June 8, 2009

Other Women's Kitchens!

For the past several months, I've been baking in other women's kitchens! The kitchen in my new home will be functional within a few weeks (it's been "two weeks" for a lot of weeks!). This need to find baking space has been a mixed blessing. I've been combining baking with visiting good friends, and it's been a lot of fun.

Sydney: Sydney is the significant other of my daughter's father-in-law. Say that ten times fast! She has offered up her beautiful country kitchen, and that's where the "blueberry muffins" slide-show was photographed. What you don't see is her well-stocked kitchen and gorgeous, cobalt-blue Kitchen Aid with two sizes of mixing bowls! I get excited just thinking about it! We usually bake while little Henry is napping, or sometimes she'll graciously welcome me in the evening and we'll throw together muffins, scones, or cinnamon rolls. One week I made coconut cupcakes with coconut frosting for a taste test for a friend's upcoming wedding cake. Sydney is a quilter-extraordinaire, and has made precious gifts for her family, including Henry. She's about to become a grandmother again soon, and she's thrilled about it. We have lots of fun in that kitchen. The deal is that I leave her with samples. It works well.

Barb: My friend Barb is a lovely woman, and as a recent young widow with grown children, her house is quiet these days, unless she's hosting her new grandson Joey! Joey, the son of her daughter Tracee, brings along his mom and her husband Joe, and Barb loves every second of their visits. When her son Jeff joins them, it's even better. When I asked Barb if I could come bake one evening, she was very welcoming. We enjoyed mudslides while I got flour all over her kitchen. I even left with one of her measuring cups and must remember to return it. We sat and talked about all the fun we had when our girls were Girl Scouts together. We took trips to Philadelphia, the Jersey shore, Walt Disney World (twice!), and just had a great time watching our kids (and ourselves!) grow up together. When my kids were young, there were many Girl Scout outings where all my kids were welcome, and because of Barb and her sister Cathi (GS leader) my children experienced many wonderful trips and outings that they otherwise would have missed. What I didn't mention is that I started out as the leader, with my friend Christina, and neither one of us were anywhere near as enthusiastic about the job as Cathi was, so she happily took over and was an exceptional leader. I was demoted to Cookie Mom, but that was good, too! At least we didn't have to spray paint gold any more macaroni sculptures!

Carolyn: my sister-in-law Carolyn not only provides me baking space, she feeds me too. When I was there last, she and her husband Bill made a great dinner of grilled chicken (marinated in ranch dressing), asparagas, and rice. We always have a great time together. Of our combined nine children, three of mine and three of hers are the same ages, and grew up three houses apart. One memory that's funny now, but wasn't then, is of a birthday party at Carolyn's house for her daugther Louise. I asked if I could help and was told I could make Kool-Aid for the kids. I took the sugar from its canister in the pantry and stirred up a big batch. The kids took sips from their cups and their faces contorted in reaction to the Kool-Aid. Seems I mistook the salt for the sugar. Like I said, it's funny now! We had so many fun times. We used to take the kids to the drive-in movies. They'd be all set in their pajamas with pillows and blankets and we parked our two massive station wagons side by side. Some of the kids sat on the roof of the car, some had lawn chairs, and the little ones fell asleep in our laps. We'd light those misquito-chaser coils and hang the metal speaker on the window. The kids would beg for treats as the loudspeaker announced "five minutes to show time" while hot dogs and tubs of popcorn danced across the screen. Those were wonderful summer nights.

Anne: My sister Anne is the youngest of seven siblings. Her husband John is a great guy. Anne's a realtor in Saratoga and has four boys of her own, almost all grown up. She has a beautiful kitchen and I LOVE baking there -- partly because of the beautiful kitchen -- but more because her boys are there and they are so much fun. Ben just graduated from Marist, where his brother Jack graduated two years ago and where brother Patrick just completed his sophomore year. Will is incredible. He just turned sixteen and is the nicest kid you'd ever want to meet. When I was moving boxes from my apartment to storage, he helped a lot. I wanted to pay him and he refused. He said "That's what family does for each other!" I mean, really. He's sixteen, and so NICE! Plus, like his brothers, he's very handsome and smart! (I'm not biased!).

Katie: I drive up to Bolton Landing to bake in Katie's kitchen, and the bonus is that I get to spend time with her and little Henry. It's the best way to spend a day, that's for sure. Can't wait until we have dueling kitchens in the new house! Neither of us got double ovens because we figure we can bake in each others' kitchens! We're so excited about hosting big meals for family and friends, SOON! I love watching Katie "be" a mom. She's relaxed, confident, and loving. She is patient and doesn't panic when Henry bumps his head. She talks him through the little bumps and bruises and he reacts accordingly. Not like her mother who ran screaming through the house searching for band-aids or said to her husband "You look, I can't!" And I wanted to be a nurse... Yikes.

Patsy: my sister Patsy has been the most gracious host while my "short" stay has been extended beyond three months! That seems unbelievable. I don't typically bake in Patsy's kitchen because she's got a renovation going on, and I'm not the neatest baker. I figure if I bake where I'm not living, I can be tolerated. So, most of my pantry is in the back of my car which now smells like vanilla extract (yes, the good stuff, Ina!) and cinnamon! Patsy has three grown sons, two grandchildren (with #3 due any minute) and fiercely loves her family and friends.

What I'm attempting to say here is that there are many wonderful women in my life, sisters, friends, relatives -- all of whom are so generous and kind. It's so easy to have a great time, and really, what's better than spending a few hours with our best friends? This roving-baker gig has allowed me to impose on my friends and come away with so much more than a basket full of baked goods. I leave them with samples, but I take away so much more -- warm memories of wonderful conversations, laughs, and shared looking-forward to the next time, and the best I can say is, "Thank you."

Next blog: Chicken a la King with Claire, Kathleen, and Ed! And coming soon: my favorite dogs (real dogs, not hot dogs, though I love them too!)

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