Last Week of January; First Edit of 2019

Where did the month go? How often are these tropes going to pervade my writing - the week that blurred by, the nondescript happenings of an otherwise boring week. I blame the month. January is cruel. It is muddy. It is frozen and I freeze with it.

I sat in bed a lot this week. Warmed by an electric pad my parents got us for Christmas. I sat in bed. Nearly finished a book. Got new reading glasses. Listened to a tree break off in the distance. The noise worried the dogs. They didn’t sit still for an hour. Maybe it was a deer, crashing an antler against the steel sheets of ice that blanket the creekbed.

Hoof prints in the morning, they leave no sign of themselves. I do not mind the company. It gets lonely here. I take care of 30 animals every day. I could still care for a few more, still worry about a few more, still sink into the background thought of the quicksand of commitment I love so much.

Puppy naps. 79 eggs to wash. Makeshift lazy snacks. Mornings in bed with new reading glasses. Milo cuddles at my desk. Milo cuddles when Nolan’s home, too. New vest. Chicken shoes. Walks to the manmade lake by our house. Prepping for winter. Corn and pine and scratch.

Are these the tropes that pervade my writing?

It’s -4° tonight.

Further click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve restarted my Weekly Edit and would love for you to see that each week.

Unfussy Little Cake and Some Farm Updates

I had to look back at my planner for this week. I couldn’t remember anything about it. Still don’t recall most nights. It was a blur. Not sure why. Maybe the ebb of the weather, the mornings lying prostrate under a heated blanket. The dogs, the chickens. The chores piling up. The laundry piling up. The anxiety piling up.

It snowed a couple days this week. Couple inches. Enough to make the floors muddy, not enough to cover my boots. That was about it. Most mornings spent in bed. Most evenings spent on work calls. I tested out some new stationery I had made with my new name. Exciting but fruitless. Letters, I’m finding, aren’t boomerangs.

Made the chickens warm meals this week. “They eat better than me!” people joke. Probably true. I feed them well. They deserve it. Wouldn’t you if you knew each chicken by now? I know when one is absent from the flock. I count every night just to be safe. This week they got a dish of eggs, bread, pepper flakes and cauliflower. Last night they got spaghetti to stay busy, cooked al dente and thrown in their coops to forage. Pecked at it, kept them sane. They had to stay indoors this weekend. It hit 6 degrees and their waters froze. The rooster has frostbite. I’m worried sick.

Saturday was a funeral of Nolan’s great aunt. Sunday our nephew was born. The irony isn’t lost on me.

Monday I had off. Made a cake. Kept my hands busy. Salted the stairs so the dogs don’t slip. Ate one slice of the cake and left the rest for Nolan. Can’t do much eating lately. The chores piling up. The laundry piling up. The anxiety piling up.

Unfussy Little Cake: Vanilla on Vanilla

Little Cake-2.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup white sugar

  • 6 TB unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 eggs + 1 white

  • 2 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 1/2 cup cake flour (or AP if you don’t have cake)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 cup milk (a TB or two more if needed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and grease a 6-inch round cake pan

  2. Sift together your flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl

  3. In your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar

  4. Turn mixer on medium-high and add eggs & white one at a time

  5. Turn mixer down to low, alternating between your dry ingredients and milk

  6. Pour into prepared pan

  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and pugged at top

  8. Allow to cool before decorating (instructions in baker’s notes below)

Baker’s Note: For the buttercream, I used a simple recipe I eyeballed of 3 TB unsalted softened butter, 2 TB shortening, 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, a TB or two or milk and a little bit of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Swirl on your cooled cake, top with favorite sprinkles.

Week In Review, A Splash of Austin in the Mix

A week on the farm, two days in Austin. A whirlwind week. I need a nap. Two naps, actually.

Last Sunday, the mud settled. Pawprints on the dining room rug, tracked up the stairs, tracked to the sheets. We got tired of it, so I had to grab three bails of straw. Smashed into the back of the Mercedes, I had my own trouble tracking dirt into the SUV. Oh well. Made it home, scattered over the muddiest parts. The rest in the barn to keep the chickens warm. Thanks God I did. It ended up at 8 degrees the next morning.

Milo’s vet the next day. Cheeseburgers for him for dinner. Perfect health, they told me. “Check again,” I said. “He looks like he’s been ran over a couple times.” No one laughed.

And then to Texas on Thursday! My mother-in-law owns a dress shop, so we tagged along as she bought new inventory. Lucky for us, my sister-in-law lives in Austin, so we made a weekend of it.

It felt like Old Times, that ephemeral period that’s always a little more rose-colored when looking back. In California, some of my favorite memories were when Nolan’s family would visit. It was nice to have that time repeated here, too.

The agenda:

Thursday - We got in late, so got a cocktail and some small plates at Ah Sing Den.

Friday - This day was spent at the warehouse. Three hours to Dallas, three hours back. Stopped at a Czech bakery that doubled as a gas station. Stopped at Torchy’s, drooled over their queso. A night watching Nailed It on Netflix.

Saturday - Breakfast of English pea beignets and sweet potato hash at Café No Sé. Manicures to follow. Candy store after that to take to Mary Poppins Returns (so good!). Then an evening at antique stores, department stores, and a cupcake nightcap before more Nailed It.

Sunday - Travels home. Stopped for groceries. Missed the howling dogs and chickens. Snow fell, so cold it felt like it seared my skin. The chickens were fine. I missed them terribly, their silhouette illuminated by the heat lamp behind me.

Surrounded the rest of the night by cuddling dogs. The only noise in the whole house, their breathing and the rattling of the dryer in the basement.

And to keep up my tally of books, here’s where I’m at so far this year:

Finished last week: Portrait of a Marriage, Nigel Nicolson and V. Sackville-West
Finished this week: The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street: Letters Between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-73
Working on now: Diaries, 1971-1983, James Lees-Milne

First Week of 2019: The Farm

We’ve (almost) finished the first week of January. How are you feeling?

Me? Like I’m itching to do more. It’s been a weird week. Muddy. Hard to stay awake. Hard to stay focused. Hard to keep up with the dust bunnies and needy, restless, bored dogs and spoiled bantams. But I stay busy. Focused.

I take naps. It helps, too.

I do not know if we will have a white winter still. So far, it doesn’t look like it. But I’m hopeful. I’m trying to see the beauty in the crosshatches of the chicken footprints in the mud puddle outside the large and broken barn door. In the double yolk egg I cracked for breakfast. In the jagged edges of the frozen leaves. I’m trying to find the beauty. It’s just taking a little longer than I would have liked.