Monday, May 18, 2015

The long distance birthday

Today, my son is finishing up his first year of college.  He'll be going to one last class, saying goodbye to his roommate and friends for the summer, covering up holes in his wall with toothpaste, and stuffing a pile of dirty clothes into a duffel bag before turning in his keys and leaving campus behind.

He will do all of this on his own, just like he experienced all the rest of freshman year for himself. Thinking back*, I don't think I appreciated how much of a gift this independence was for me. How foundational having the space to misbehave and strive and goof off and win and fall down and lose sleep and connect and love and eat poorly and bond and learn and type and cheer and drink and run and get naked and question and write and be me would be.  It was, I think, one of the most important periods of my life.  My parents had no part in it. None.

That is as it should be.  But I kinda wish my mom was around now so I could tell her I get it. Long distance relationships are tough.  Long distance motherhood is brutal.

And then, just to make it that much worse, the first birthday away from home comes around.

Yep. Today is his 19th birthday. He's there. I'm here.

Deep breath. Text. Call. Bake.

Tomorrow, he'll be here.  Tomorrow, we'll have cake.

Bite of Butter Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting | Cheesy Pennies

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bark! Bark!

Right around the holidays, we started talking about it.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix-Ins | Cheesy Pennies

Tentatively at first, because we were still so tender and upset, then more analytically and then, at last, giving ourselves permission to be hopeful, with a fair amount of actual giddiness.

I mean, who were we kidding, right?  We had been expertly trained by our big guy on how to be a dog family, and to let all that work go to waste would be almost criminal.  We couldn't do it.

We decided to get a puppy.

Not a replacement, because there can be no such thing, but someone furry and new and special in their own way.

I began my research.

ME: [Googling on my laptop] What breed is like a Bernese, but is not a Bernese

GOOGLE:  Here are images of Bernese Mountain Dogs and websites full of Bernese Mountain Dogs and breeders of Bernese Mountain Dogs and they all look just like your dog that you still miss so much you can barely stand it.

ME: [incoherent muffled sob]

I stayed away from Google after that. Eventually, I found a breed that sounded amazing.  Huge and hairy and friendly and smart.  There was a breeder just a few hours away who was due to have puppies on my husband's birthday.  I told her all about our loss and our family and she loved the whole thing. It was a sign. We were thrilled.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix-Ins II | Cheesy Pennies

The puppies were born, and the photos began arriving. Nine adorable balls of fluff rolling around with their exhausted mom.  My daughter was besotted with them, and I was, too.  My husband, a bit concerned about just how huge and how hairy these things would grow up to be, consented to sending in our deposit.  With so many puppies, the breeder was glad to set one aside for us newcomers, even though other families had been waiting for years.  We signed up for puppy class and bought all the puppy things.  We began counting down the weeks until our little one could come home.

My son was appalled. We should be rescuing a dog, he said firmly.  There were all kinds of animals needing good homes. These purebred dogs didn't need us. There's a dog out there who does.

Yes, I agreed, distracted by a fluffy curly tail in my inbox.  But look how sweet they are, honey. These puppies need homes, too.

Would it be rambunctious Miss Red, or shy little Miss Yellow? Identified only by their adorable bow collars, we could only speculate, as the breeder would be matchmaking when we met.  Miss Orange was awfully winsome, too.

Pick up day was set, less than 10 days away.  After all these weeks, the sheer level of email cuteness and anticipation was staggering.

Then came the staggering email of cruelty.

To: Puppy-obsessed family I have been taunting for three months
From:  Nutjob Breeder from Hell
Subject:  No puppy for you*

I just now noticed that all of my puppies are perfect.  I asked my friends who are puppy experts, and they agree. Every single one of them is going to be a champion show dog. Since you are only going to be bringing the puppy home to love it like mad and make it part of your family, and not parade it around a ring on weekends to earn trophies, I have decided you are unsuitable.  If I had a flawed puppy, I would have given it to you.  But I don't. 

True story.

Mix-Ins in the making | Cheesy Pennies

So instead of Miss Red or Miss Orange or Miss Yellow, who are likely piling up accolades and blue ribbons at this very moment, we rescued Miss Juneau, the mutt.

Miss Juneau the Mutt | Cheesy Pennies

Turns out she is the perfect puppy for us.**

More photos of Juneau can be found daily on Instragram, #juneaudiaries.  

My son was right all along. Mutts rock.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sweet Corn Sugar Cookies

I feel awkward talking about cookies today.  It seems more trivial than usual to be focusing on butter and sugar when people have been buried and found in the mountains by earthquakes and another city has gone feral in front of TV cameras.  In a week where marathoners ran in defiant celebration, and the supreme court is deciding whether people can love each other legally, the relevance of a recipe is negligible at best.

And yet, it is what I have*.

It is, at least, an outstanding irrelevant recipe.

Sweet Corn Sugar Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Monday, April 20, 2015

Better Together

With apologies and much respect to Jack Johnson:

There is no combination of words I could put on screen of my MacBook 
No song that I could sing, but I can certainly cook
These dreams, and they are made out of real things 
Like chocolate chip cookies 
Smushed with deep dark chewy brownies 
These are the answer, 
At least for most of the questions in my heart 
Like what's for dessert? And can I have two? 
And is making them not too hard? 
It's actually easy, and
They're so darn great you must believe me 
I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when they're together 

Brookie Bites | Cheesy Pennies

Mmm, it's always better when they're together 
Yeah, we'll be licking our lips when they're together 
Well, it's always better when they're together 
Yeah, it's always better when they're together 

Brookie Bite Dough | Cheesy Pennies

Mmm, mmm, mmm 

Brookie Bites II | Cheesy Pennies

I believe in Brookie Bites 
They are so, so tasty just to eat 
Plus, when I wrap 'em up, 
They stay delicious, all the way to N.C. 
Now these are favorites of mine 
And there is no, no better mash up I've seen
Caramelized cookie dough and intense chewy brownies
Yeah, I had to tell you this thing 

Brookie Bites III| Cheesy Pennies

They're better together.

Brookie Bites IV | Cheesy Pennies

Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm ,mmm...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just about now...

50 years ago, I was just new.
31 years ago, I fell, unknowingly, for the love of my life.
19 years ago, I was counting down to a due date*.
Six years ago, I started this blog**.
A year ago, I came clean.
Six months ago, we lost Blackjack.
Two weeks ago, we made room for Juneau and all the lovely chaos.

Long, long ago, whenever my mother felt overwhelmed by big events and life's dramatic twists and upheavals, she would go to the stove and begin stirring chocolate and sugar and butter together in a pot.  She would stir and stir and then there would be fudge. Creamy, just a teeny, tiny bit grainy, tender, and cocoa-sugar-salty. Magical.

Until recently, it was elusive, this salve for the extraordinary emotional milestone.

Just a few days ago...
Just in time...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge | Cheesy Pennies

...there was fudge***.

You should have some. Just about now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top 'O The Morning

How to tell if your symbol of luck isn't real.  Image and info from this website.

Clover, schmover.
If you're really lucky, you'll find a pot of these golden biscuits at the end of your breakfast table.

Honey Glazed Biscuits | Cheesy Pennies

They are genuinely ridiculous.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

When bakers and geeks collide

...things get ePIc pretty darn quick.

It's 3.14.15 today.

Image from Wolfram*

The Pi Day of the century.**

There are, of course, T-shirts. You can geek out with the limited edition three-pack "Pi Day" collection from Scientific American, or with one of these Pi-themed goodies on Etsy.

Or you can just forget the math and eat some pie.

Lemon Buttermilk Pie | Cheesy Pennies

Best in Show Apple Pie | Cheesy Pennies

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Hand Pies | Cheesy Pennies

Mexican Chocolate Chess Pie | Cheesy Pennies

Fresh Fruit Pie with Mascarpone Cheese | Cheesy Pennies

Lemon Chess Pie | Cheesy Pennies

Totally fine to take a short cut and hit up a local bakery too. The Foodie Girls love the Mexican Chocolate and Maple Custard Pie at The Pie Hole, and I'm a massive fan*** of the Cherry Pie at Sweet Lady Jane here in LA. Don't forget, pizza counts as pie, too.  Try The Luggage Room in Pasadena or Olive Wood Pizza at the Studio City Farmers Market.

Sweet Lady Jane Cherry Pie

Bonus! Unless your clock runs on military time, or you live outside the US****, on this very special Pi day, you get to celebrate twice.*****

* Did you know that everybody's birthday appears in the number Pi? Mine is at digit 70,113. Find your birthday in Pi here.
** Explained wonderfully here, with five more drool-worthy pie recipes, on the always tasty Shockingly Delicious blog.
*** Literally, I weigh a ton.
**** Pi Day never happens in countries that put the day first in their dates.  America rules.
***** At 9:26:53 a.m. and p.m. Not to mention that you can have mini celebrations at 1:59:26 a.m. and p.m. as well, like people do on non-monumental Pi days. While you're at it, have an extra slice for Albert Einstein.  It's his birthday today.