Friday, May 30, 2008


I finished the Branching Out scarf for Fiona's music teacher, Angela, just in time for her last class (sneef) yesterday. I put a row of crocheted loops at the ends, just to soften the thing (and to prove to myself that I can still crochet a loop which is about the only thing I can crochet).
It looks lovely on Angela--I could never wear that color. Fuschia and I are not a happy combination.

Today was Fiona's last day of preschool (all these "lasts" which I know will turn into a load of "firsts" when she starts Kindergarten in the fall) and I decided I needed a little comfort to deal with all this parenting emotion. Today was my writing day and luckily I had some left over molasses cookie dough in the fridge so I only had to take 5 minutes to roll out some balls, roll the balls in granulated sugar and put a little blob of raspberry jam in the middle.
These are really terrific cookies that I don't make often enough. They are perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon--a little spicy a little sweet, but complementary rather than competitive with the flavor of the tea. And since I'm dwelling a little on parenting in my own life, I worked on the family dynamics of my main character today. I didn't manage to integrate the cookies and tea into the story yet, but give me time...

Molasses Cookies
recipe from some college friend's mother who used to mail us these cookies...

3/4 C butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 C molasses
2 1/4 C flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cloves
1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon

granulated sugar
raspberry preserves

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, then molasses. Sift together dry ingredients then mix into butter mixture.

Put a little granulated sugar in a bowl. Pinch off a blob of dough and roll into a sphere and then roll in the sugar. Put your sugared spheres on a lined baking sheet.

Now you have a choice of how thick and chewy you want your cookies to be--for thick cookies which are a little chewy and a little cakey use your thumb to make a dent in the middle. For thinner cookies that are a little crisp and a little chewy, use the bottom of a glass to squash the spheres to about 1/4" thick. Then make a wee dent with a finger. In the dents, put a scant 1/2 t of raspberry preserves. (The ones in the above photo used the bottom of the glass method; the previous batch used the thumb squash. I like the texture of the bottom of the glass cookie a little better, but you can put a little more jam in the thumb squashed ones and I like as much jam as I can get...)

Pop in the oven and check in 8 minutes. They might need a minute or two more depending on the thickness and size of your spheres. You want the edges to begin to brown (which isn't so easy to see on a dark brown cookie...) but try not to overcook or they get a little dry and loose the chewy factor.

Cool on a rack. Serve with tea.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My poor state

I'm a little behind in my New Yorker reading but thank God I didn't just skip the last few issues because then I would have missed one of the more lovely poems that has been written about my state. Bob Hicok's "A Primer" was published in the May 19 issue and it perfectly captures the complicated feelings I have about my state.

is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. "What did we do?"
is the state motto.

but also:

...daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives...

This is such a gorgeous place to live and such a problematic place, too. The economy, much of the business mindset and the politics are so ass backwards that sometimes it makes me want to pull my hair out. It's easy to love California, but loving Michigan is like loving a smelly little cousin who happens to have a beautiful singing voice. You really have to convince people to get to know him. I know people who moved here to teach at the University and who really never get this place--they stay in our little People's Republic of Ann Arbor and flee to other places for vacations. If they don't get tenure, they leave the state with a feeling of relief. And sometimes I understand where they are coming from. There are days when I wish we lived someplace else, someplace where I could celebrate what is obvious rather than defend what is (mostly) hidden or spend a lot of energy finding and promoting the pockets of goodness and hoping that we can turn the messed up parts around. But other times, my love of this state is so strong that I can't imagine another place providing the same level of satisfaction.

I'm feeling particularly tender towards Michigan since we just got back from a 50 mile 3 day, 2 night canoe camping trip on the Au Sable river, from Grayling to Mio. It was exquisitely beautiful, perfect weather, pleasant and well-kept camp grounds, and lovely people, none of whom rolled their eyes when our 7 year old was eating his 5th s'more and running in circles singing the melody of Ode to Joy at 9:30 PM.

The river was moving (at least until we got to the Mio dam pond) and we played dodge-the-fly-fisher-people and discovered that whistling while paddling is a good way to give them enough acoustical warning that you are coming so they don't hook their waving fly lines in your head. We saw huge beaver dams and trees that were in the process of being chewed through. We found snails and crayfish and played with June bugs and caterpillars. We saw people in their racing canoes training for the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon.

And best of all, we got to know another pocket of Michigan that is exquisite, but humble.