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1/52 girls1/52 alma

Lux & Joan: I don’t think I’ll be getting many shots with them individually this year. Gosh I’m so proud of them. 

Alma: the only thing I can type when I see this photo is “coo.”

Every year Jodi inspires me with her talk of a folder full of weekly photos at the end of the year. Why not start anew with a new babe? I just finished The Wright Brothers and am feeling rather optimistic about everything as a result. So inspiring, those boys.

And Joe gave me a new lens for Christmas; my second Canon pancake (= slim, light). I love it.

homedrawn calendars

enlarge

Lux and I sit down and make these calendars fairly often. The lines are forever uneven and many times the last few days of the month have to be squeezed into one square due to lack of drafting. The symbols are rudimentary and would be meaningless if she hadn’t been sitting next to me as I drew, and explained them.

They allow for anticipation (the best part of any event!), and also preparation–like in the case of December having far more babysitters than any previous month.

They comprise what I refer to as my growing collection of mom outsider art. Outsider Art is a term I was introduced to by my art-major friends in college. They kindly said it described the charm of my half-life stick people and extremely rustic sketching abilities. As a term it’s not that popular to use any more (it can be seen as needlessly discriminatory–why not just call it art, though it was created in the backwoods of Mississippi?).

And it wouldn’t have applied to me anyway because though I have no skill, I could have been trained, or at least I lived within the potentials of being trained, social-economically, mentally, and geographically.

ANYWAY. These calendars are very helpful to us whenever something is too distant in the future to discuss usefully. Like when was Halloween approaching and I was going to die if I had to tell her one more time how far away it was. So I would simply remind her to consult her calendar and count the days herself. And my plan with “movie day,” was to eliminate all queries about movie watching throughout the week. Friday was decided and marked on the calendar. I made a four day one when we went away and my mom came. And a shorter one for a long weekend when I was out of town.

They content most, if not all, of the repetitive questions that come as a verbal assault on my daily kitchen calm. Lux just asked me to make a brand new one for January, a very apt thing to do in the new year.

 

 

lullaby

Do you have a favorite lullaby to sing? Would you tell me its name, if so? I’d like to build my collection, write them all down on a post-it note and stick it over the couch. Quote more poetry. Hum more tunes. Alma May, born December 29th at 11:30pm deserves the very best.

alma_may

quotes from a few online essays I loved lately…

“My mom is nothing but love and comfort and happiness to me, and she found even the smallest ways to make us girls feel loved: turning down our covers at night, always playing music, or popping our towels in the dryer to warm them up minutes before our baths were over. Those are the kind of simple, happy memories I want my own kids to have of home.”

-Amelia’s interview on DesignMom

A few years ago, before we decided to start a family, I once feared that when a baby entered our lives I would somehow forget everything I learned about cooking because all my energy would be used to keep a tiny human alive and breathing. I’m happy to report this is not the case. In fact, I’ve discovered the opposite to be true. I’ve remembered how to cook, relying on the muscle memory of peeling and chopping and seasoning and putting meals together, gravitating to tried and true staples rather than trying new dishes with questionable outcomes.”

-Remembering How to Cookby Nicole Gulotta

“Make coffee/drink coffee, inhale/exhale, walk outside/feel your feet on the earth, open the book/read the pages, get off the internet/be present in your home.”

-Jodi, Happy New Day, Practicing Simplicity 

“So 2015. You seem like a year of sunlight extended hours and while I know the tan is worth it, you aged me with your lines of wisdom and your creases of grace. I look in the mirror and see so many things staring back. But mostly, a woman who is changing, a family that is growing, and a savior that is gracious indeed. ”

-Mary Beth, Wishing You Good Cheer, Rosemary Wild

 

 

review // Better Than School

better_than_school

This is a nice read from the ’80s that I stumbled on at our library. It was written when homeschooling was just becoming legal in New Hampshire through a complicated approval process. When it was published, my mom was in Michigan where homeschooling was not yet legal, and she was just beginning to homeschool my older brother. One did not call the local school board and alert them of your plan to keep your kids home, fill out the paperwork, and present your case–as Nancy Wallace, our narrator, did. In Michigan, and many other states at the time, one simply stayed off the grid entirely.

The story follows a very relatable progression: parent proud of their kid’s curiosity and abilities, kid begins school, kid becomes anxious/withdrawn, teacher is too overwhelmed to respond, parent is confused but angry, end school.

Nancy documents her concerns as she eases through the process of deciding to school at home, the mental devil’s advocacy that she plays, the dithering, back and forth-ing. It’s always nice to have a narrator like Nancy who likes research, because they dart around in front of you, the reader, looking things up and solving problems. She relays the small troubles and hurdles of shared life. There’s a bit where she shares from her son’s journal about what he thought he was learning; a refreshing reminder of the small parts of a day that stick out as big in kids’ minds. She shares methods that failed for them, or worked well, and then were dropped anyway, replaced by straightforward ones.One of my favorite parts was towards the end, when they decided to move from rural New Hampshire to a busy university town in New York. She had many expectations of how it might change things for her children–more friends, more activities, different interests. A few of her expectations came to pass, many of them did not. Her children turned out to have the same social interests, no matter if they were in a neighborhood of twelve children, or two.

I always read these things with an eye to spot the mom’s own survival secret. In Nancy’s case, every day she’s able to hand both children off to her freelancing husband at 3pm–at which point she spends a solid three hours to herself, prepping dinner at the end of that time. She luxuriates in this fact, though she doesn’t state outright that it is what is keeping her alive. She has two other influencing factors that help her enjoy homeschooling: she’s intrigued by everything her children study, that is, she wants to learn nearly everything alongside them. And she views her time with her children as a precious, ever-shrinking resource as they age.

Better Than School is a soft, memoir-styled read that anyone toying with educating outside the system would enjoy. It’s available used on Amazon for the price of one cent!

lie low, sweet chariot

junkie

There’s a handy chart that appears in many of the age-defining slim volumes written by Louisa Ames Bates, a psychologist and parent-help-yourself-er. (“Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender” “Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful” “Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene”)

It looks like this:

disequilibrium

A rather serpentine creature, this curvature of behavior fortune-telling has been on my mind lately as I watch both girls simultaneously hitting their half-birthday this month become something wildly infuriating and unpredictable, just every now and again. On a Tuesday evening, but not on a Thursday. A terrible Friday morning, but a wonderful Saturday afternoon.

I think all parents stop fearing that seemingly unpredictable creature: the public tantrum, once they consistently identifies its wingmen. Fatigue, malnutrition, overindulgence. They’re not really that unpredictable; thus the resigned look you may spot on a mother’s face at the grocery store. She probably knew going in that this would happen, but she weighed her odds and pressed on.

But instead there’s another unpredictable, one that is firmly tied-up in development, where you truly feel that the child you have this week is a different child than the one you had last week.

As an old myers-brigg junkie I can tell you that Joan is a feeler. Perhaps safe to say a sensory feeler. She processes everything she encounters by how it feels to her. We went to The Good Dinosaur over Thanksgiving. She must have burst into tears five or six different times. Almost every time I was mystified by what had upset her. “That boy wasn’t being nice,” she sobbed into my hair. “He misses, <sob> his family <sob>,” after the main character had said the same and sighed in a somewhat-downhearted manner. Not just reactions, but nearly instantaneous responses to what the characters portrayed on screen.

I honestly think her suppressed-weep outbursts may have improved the movie going experience for our fellow audience members, adding drama and depth to many moments they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.

It’s not only the talking pictures though. I have looked over, mid-book to find her quietly weeping, like after the Wild Things asked Max not to go—so famously: “Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up, we love you so.” I emphasized to her, “Max is going back to his mom! For dinner!” which soothed her not at all. She reads the illustrated character faces like paragraph descriptions, catching the slightest odd or sad expression and drawing them out. If a character looks hurt, particularly if an animal character looks hurt or slightly frustrated, the alarm bells begin to ring.

Lux still remembers when I laughed so hard that I cried at the dinner table, because Joan was retelling an extremely not-sad-scene where Pooh had hurt feelings. She couldn’t get through the retelling because she would tear up and begin snuffling, mid-sentence. It was a nearly endless loop sequence of “He said that <sob>, he said that he didn’t like it <sob>” that went on for several minutes as I tried to nod sympathetically. I failed.

But this is the real live person, the actual psychological foundation developing of a side of her that I’ve been enjoying for most of her life, albeit in a more endearing infantile way–her sweet, tender, feeling nature. The one that makes her enjoy cuddling or big sweeping impromptu hugs. The one that prompts her to say “I love you all day and all night mama. I need you forever.”

And being aware of my more practical, um I’ll avoid the word “cold”, personality for awhile (ENTJ) it’s very helpful for me to know how different I am. To know how bizarrely cool and detached she might find my approach to the same stories, if she could put words to it. Of course she will eventually put words to it. I understand emotions but I’m not overcome by them. They don’t sweep me off my feet. In particular, sympathy, or the attempt of people to garner sympathy for themselves or their story, is always greeted at my mental door with a firm handshake of pragmatism.

I hope by the time she can put words to it, I’ve figured out how to convey how much I respect her approach (definitely not by collapsing into laughter at the dinner table–working on that!). And how lucky I feel to learn what I can from her rich, reactionary, arms wide open style along the way.

cookie cakes with the girls

“just a fun thing” is my new mantra for kitchen adventures. Just a fun thing to attempt dried grapefruit slices for ornaments (so far, so failed). Just a fun thing to want to make popcorn garlands but realize that involves needles, and end up just eating the popcorn instead.

But Molly Yeh is one of my internet heroes–her posts, her very approach to baking gives me so much JOY to follow. I was delighted when I realized I had the ingredients and circle cutters on hand for her sugar cookie mini cakes. And MAN is that a good sugar cookie recipe she’s got there.

Because I wanted to bring one cake to a neighbor gal turning two-years-old, and another cake to a friend-floral-party, I let the girls cut out all their own circles and decorate them with their own approach. I did not show them photos of what we were going for, woah no. Then I did mine. I typically give them all our supplies and booty and let them take over entirely, but it worked to split up the kitchen by party lines this time (minimalism v. Never Enough Sugar Pearls).

“You’re just doing white frosting mom?” Lux asked with genuine concern for my outcome. But then when I was done, she loved them and complimented me by running for her camera and taking twenty photos of the cake from the exact same angle. I returned the courtesy to her pink extravaganza.

And Joe made us all matchstick flags, hooray.

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a few supplies: round cutter set, Wilton sugar pearls in gold, Wilton pearlized sugar in gold.

 

Somethings can root in the cold

The baby is coming in December, but December is coming first. The calendar is a scribbled caricature of bustling—evening parties, teas at hotels, a Nutcracker performance for Lux, gingerbread house decorating, some warm dinners, and cold mornings (me watching) Joe and Lux ice skate. I hope to visit the local libraries for their shelves of Christmas books, bake salt dough ornaments, help the girls memorize a few carols, find a Christmas pageant to attend, burn some balsam-scented candles, and eat a lot of kale (just got my low iron results back, whoops).

It’s a funny thought that five years ago, pre-kids, I didn’t do any of those things. And eight years ago, when Joe proposed to me in the Garden, it was my first Christmas in Boston. My holiday participation was downstairs to the city’s upstairs, a la Downton Abbey. I helped everyone else celebrate and made some money for my employer along the way.The night Joe proposed, we went to the Christmas Eve service at Trinity Church in Copley Square. It was glorious cozy service, the pews were full with families parading in wrapped in cashmere and wool. It was briskly cold outside, snow was predicted, and very warm inside.

Trinity has old-fashioned bracketed church pews, the type weathly families rented for a few thousands dollars and some prestige back in the day. Nestled between Joe and an old wooden bolster, lulled by the choir and the incensed air, I fell asleep. I had been at the flower store where I worked all day, dashing about tripping on loose red berries and roughing my hands on sticky fragrant evergreen wreaths. I wrapped up hostess gifts, wrote down delivery orders (as a midwesterner, it took me months to memorize the funny pronunciations of all the New England towns), sold brilliant arrangements for tablescapes, and tied everything up festively before it left our doors.

Anyway, I fell asleep at the service, Joe woke me up when it was over, we walked home through the Garden which was lit with white lights, Joe proposed in the snow along the edge of the duck pond and gave me a beautiful perfect ring that was slightly too big. The next day was Christmas, we went out to breakfast, went for a walk, called our families, and relaxed together. I had to work the day after, and that was that for Christmas.

The flower store was beautiful but like any retail-level worker, I was on my feet for 100% of the day, never getting two days off in a row, with no predictability from week to week. If people were going to teas and tree lightings, I didn’t notice. Working at that store was to be surrounded in beauty all the time, though it was beauty that was in various stages of demise. The flowers were dying as soon as we unpacked them from their boxes overnighted from the Netherlands.

To sell a fully open flower was viewed as déclassé, an embarrassment. Arrangements should have many teasing buds waiting to open, with just a few that were open enough to brighten the whole thing. I never attached to the South African amaryllis, the deeply red flowers that arrived in December with droopy unopened buds on each side of their tall celery-like stalks. And I grew to hate the strange truth that poinsettias liked sunshine and warmth—everything our New England winter didn’t offer. Any poinsettas put near the door of the shop would weaken and whither as each customer burst in with a freezing gust of air. Why was a tropical flower being heralded here anyway, I would grouse when we were forced to throw out another dead plant. Right outside there were snow-dusted holly branches glossy and dotted with red berries, deeply green evergreen boughs, pale blue juniper berries, and hearty wooden pine cones that sucked in the cold and relished it.

photos from last year’s holiday season. 

your trip

Adulthood is when you make your own vacations and decide what they will be from the beginning. So much about vacation is inherited or shared with family, which is a great thing. But it’s nice to see the thing that evolves when you decide to make your own vacation. Book it, schedule it, pay for it, anticipate it all yourself.

We caravanned up after first stopping at the Palace Diner just outside of Portland, where we stop as often as we can and have astounding good meals. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the Palace Diner, the thing that leaves you dazed when you finally wander out, is that their menu appears very standard when you read it through, other than canaries like brown butter banana bread and caramelized grapefruit listed casually under SIDES. Their french toast is listed on the menu as challah french toast, no details added, but once it is set in front of you, you realize the two enormous square pieces have been bruleed, and the crust cracks as you cut into it, the eggy custard of the challah softening around the crisp dark caramelized pieces. But it’s also the type of place where you swear to yourself that next time you’ll order lunch, as you watch the waitress place a triple decker burger or a lush freshly-made-tuna melt in front of someone down the bar.

David and I texted about the meals a little bit ahead of time. We stopped at Whole Foods in Portland on the way up and already had a good list in mind before we got there. Joe and I lived with David during one of our summers on Nantucket, he and I often traded off who made dinner, along with our other roommate Pete. Years later I still have a good idea of what type of thing he enjoys cooking–namely impromptu, very satisfying dinners, tossed together with experience savvy instead of a recipe. And he knows I can manage a more complicated dish using my obsessive devotion to recipes. We spent an enormous amount on supplies for the week, splitting the groceries between us. That was perfect because it left us able to make pretty much anything—squash pie, mussel and bean soup, meaty spaghetti, biscuits and gravy, fresh whipped cream, pie crust—once we were up there. We got take-out one time from the local burrito spot, but all the rest of our meals we made together in the big kitchen.

You know, I’ve started buying those tubes of Immaculate Baking Co. cinnamon rolls and they are just stunningly good. I’ve made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I don’t think it is worth it when you can have these ready in 20 minutes with your eggs. And I’ve certainly had much worse tasting cinnamon rolls bought fresh from bakeries. Treat yourself.

Dave made fresh pasta noodles and Joe carved a pumpkin to look just like Darth Vader, as Lux had hoped. I bought ribeye steaks for Joe’s birthday, salted and peppered and unwrapped them when we got to the house, and let them age for two days in the fridge. I’m not accustomed to ordering $70 worth of meat from the meat counter, but when four people get to settle down to an amazing steak dinner, it all becomes clear. I did that steak house trick of putting a stick of butter on a plate, flinging salt at it, piling shredded parmesan and chopped parsley on it and then mashing it together until it was one pale green flecked soft pile of butter. We put half loaves of baguette on the grill for a few minutes and then spread all the amazing butter magic over it.

After a couple nights of watching us eat mussels, the girls realized they too loved mussels, loved plucking out the small cooked creature out and flinging the empty shells into the bowl with a tiny clang. Lux ate faster than everyone and adapted a strange third person request, “Any more mussels for Luxy?” eyeing the plates of the adults with desire. I stopped giving her the mussel broth because she wasn’t using it, and we all added more unplucked shells to her pile.

I cannot get over how it feels to wake up in the trees. With tree branches fully surrounding you, like you’ve been suspended in a soft down blanket of pine boughs. Our room was freezing when we woke up each morning. Of the four cabins, the girls’ cabin has the best insulation, and for the the three other cabins, the adults wake to a room that is fully 45 degrees. No matter if you made a fire at midnight, no matter if you plugged in the supposed space heater. If your arm snuck out while you were sleeping, it now feels like a different entity from your body, and you tug it back under the blankets with alarm.

We told the girls to knock on their cabin door when they wanted us to come get them in the morning. It was the first time they shared a double bed. Welcome to your vacation setup for the rest of your life! I wanted to say to them, thinking of the hundreds of beds my sister and I shared growing up. Joan probably woke Lux up earlier than she otherwise would have, but it was swooningly sweet to watch them snuggle in together each night. Joe has been reading Lux The Hobbit (in fact, they’re on their second read-through of it) so he would build a fire and then read them nearly to sleep each night. Then we would wake to the sound of their chipper knocks pounding on the glass across the deck from us. Joe would bound out of bed, out from the warm covers and into the freezing room, to go check on them. A funny switch-up, as of the two of us, he usually wakes the slowest back in Boston. I would force myself to change into some of my stiff freezing clothes, pick out some warm clothes for them to put on, and then we all tramped over to the main house together. The main house has the kitchen and the living room, and the coffee maker!, and is fully heated.

It was so wonderful to have the company of two non-parents, two people who could comment on the weather, the day, the water, and make plans for general amusement. Two people who haven’t rote-memorized the strange rhythms of their children’s moods and begun to anticipate them at certain times of day with vague dread. Probably the best part was the presence of two adults who wanted to play board games after bedtime or tell old stories, instead of slump on the couch as Joe and I typically do. It was really good to watch the girls play and scheme with someone else who could delight in them. Not to mention help them craft face masks, help them climb rocks, help them get a snack, answer a question.

As for the four of us, the adults, there were times when it felt like—oh yeah, college! Here we are, just kids, we’re all the same and together again. And other times when I felt so different and far away from them, the three men—I’m not drinking, not smoking an occasional celebratory cigarette, not skinny-dipping into the ocean jumping from the sharp rocks, not staying up late into the night to watch stars fall. I’m sleepy and oversized, preoccupied and awaiting the next small child’s request, remembering the soft tang of whiskey with bemusement, remembering the self indulgent rush of a nicotine drag with, well, I can’t remember it at all anymore. It’s been so long; maybe five years? I’m grumpy for no reason other than persistent thud of a small heel against my rib cage. The girls are mine and they cling to me when they’re sleepy, and want me to hold their hand, and arrange their food, and nod in affirmation every single time when they say they need to go potty. you don’t need me to do this, anybody can do this for you, I think to myself here and there, but it’s not really true, is it? Not true in the satisfying nearly trademarked way that mom does it. And the next girl is mine too, and I think about her when I make almost any decision for my day. It was that time, 31 weeks. She’s gone from a quiet swimmer to a nearly omnipresent tangle of limbs, waking me up with her flips and kicks, settling into odd positions that makes my abdomen feel like a couch too full of elbows.

But there’s also that male-ambition thing? The thing that stirs men to memorize long ballads so they can play them at the foot of stone towers? To chop and haul wood, build warm fires, frame houses over their families heads? That infects them with the idea to teach themselves to fix a car when there is a mechanic just down the road? Meanwhile I’m puttering around, baking bread from the exact same recipe I’ve used 300x times? I don’t play an instrument, and I didn’t attempt to memorize the lyrics to Lava, as they did (pixar, look it up, it’s cute). I didn’t want to. I probably could have jumped into the ocean, had I told Joe I wanted to and asked him to stay with the girls. But I didn’t want to. What I’m saying is–don’t feel too sorry, or fall too much for my oh if only. And, I suppose, I was a little jealous of their drive and adventurous ambition? I picked up Annie Dillard’s The living while there, a novel of many stories framed around the families who settled the pacific northwest. What were they doing there? Women watching their children die from various freak threats, is what it felt like to me. It’s obvious the glass on my maternal goggles is rather dense right now, that I can’t even read a historical novel without being nearly flattened by the idea that these people risked their children’s lives for a new adventure.

I made a pie from this squash. It’s quite a satisfying thing to take a hearty heavy vegetable, so thick you can barely cut it in half with a knife, roast it until it’s weak, then blend with all sorts of good things and turn it into a dessert. Great recipe right here.

The post about last year in Deer Isle, plus some area rental suggestions.

so much

autumn_4

It is an oft-bemoaned thing among city mamas to be overscheduled. There are so many great things to do with your kids both in Boston, and especially this time of year, outside of Boston. As a stay at home mom, I look at a calendar with a line of empty days with trepidation. Too much alone time, is what those little blanks say to me. A friend of mine is transitioning out of her job into staying at home. She told me she wasn’t planning on doing anything with her daughters for six months. “We are definitely just going to hang out,” she said. This sounded nice to me, but the first thing that popped into my head was I’m usually tired of sitting around our apartment by 10am. Thus–activities.

If summer was a light bright picnic plate of glimmering beach afternoons and ice cream cone treats, autumn in New England is a hardy gift basket of tempting treats. The pleasant drop in temperature, paired with the hazy memory of the bitter cold that is only a couple weeks away, is very energizing.

But last week I managed to plan four things–country fair, leaf gathering, midwife appointment, Bible study–we needed to drive to, in addition to three classes for Lux, all three of which I chose to drive to. It was just silly and altogether too much. Each activity itself was delightful, but we were all three weary of car seat buckles, glancing at watches, and as we walked to the car, wondering why we weren’t sitting on the grass somewhere, watching the clouds go by. The girls are at amazing stage of entertaining themselves (maybe it’s not a stage! maybe it’s the future from here on!) and I often have to connive them to walk away from their games, get dressed, and get outside in time for our dates.

autumn_3

This act, the conniving wheedling c’mon let’s goo!, is making me feel slightly less anxious about the inevitable lock-down that I know is coming in January and February. Instagram accounts can work as a wonderful datebook, and I took a moment to look back through the photos after Joan was born (which feels quite firmly like it was ten years ago) and the photos from last winter’s snowy January/February/March. I don’t see those worlds colliding smoothly. The girls will be bored and house-trapped this winter, there’s no denying it.

It’s a little like farming I guess. Frantically harvest the fields, the trees, the garden. Abound in beauty and production. Then stay inside for months and shuffle around your root cellar looking for a squash dinner.

October snaps

ginger_snaps

I have not had one daytime sitter for several weeks, thus no posts lately. (Tempted to delete that, because who cares, but it’s important to keep it real for those of you who never get breaks and wonder how you feel so brain dead!) Half of me thinks find a new sitter immediately! And half of me just doesn’t mind. I mind in context of “other things I want to get done” but I don’t mind when I look back on my day with them.

September finished up summer for us–a few more beach days, last ice cream adventures and outdoor picnics–and now October: “the golden hour of the clock of the year,” as I heard it beautifully described in this poem the other day.

We have begun a few school-like activities. I still hesitate to use “homeschool” as she’s only 4, but sometimes it is just easier to label things, isn’t it?

We have a math-games class, her same ballet class (with *all* 4-year-olds now–apparently a game changer for the attention span of the group), and a wood shop class, which I look forward to finding out if it works at all. She may reject it. It’s a big deal to me that Lux likes the classes and looks forward to them. I’m pretty wimpy about pushing things she doesn’t like and I would drop out if she wasn’t enthusiastic. Fortunately she loves everything so far.

These classes are funny because they are drop off, so you only get the review you get. It’s like ordering take-out and instead of eating it, reading a yelp review of it. Last year, the only review Lux solemnly gave me after her first ballet class was, “We didn’t do any twirling at all.”

Something we do labeled distinctly with homeschool is the Friday program at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The kids troop around to see few pieces of art and then make a wonderful craft loosely based on what they discussed. The architecture of that building makes my mood soar, and I get to stare at the paintings for as long as they do, which is lovely.

I took a drive to the cheap area grocery store to stock up on pantry supplies and came upon a tub of non-hydrogenated shortening. It was complete news to me that this product exists! Aside from allowing some of us to dive back into recipes of our grandmother’s that have shortening in them, after reading Amazon reviews, I’ve learned it allows people with dairy allergies to bake well again. Pie crusts which I make with butter, for example, can be very successfully made with shortening.

So anyway I bought it and made several batches of chewy fragrant ginger snaps over the last week. I only had blackstrap molasses in the house (bought in a brave nutritional attempt to fix my constant iron anemia. Found in my pantry unopened, of course.) Using the unsulphered blackstrap instead of “baking” molasses definitely makes it taste more molassas-y, but all batches have been eaten with gusto by Joe and the girls nonetheless.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but in the final step before the oven, kids love to be the ones to roll the balls of dough in the granulated sugar.

Grandma Agnes’ Ginger Snaps

3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 t baking soda

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients in order given and chill. I mixed with a spoon, and then my hands, with great results. I wrapped mine up in saran wrap and chilled for about 40 minutes. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.