This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life
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Baking for Fun and Frustration?

  • May 30, 2017 3:13 am

 

Every now and then I decide to amaze visitors to my home with my baking skills. My Book Club members were the latest witnesses to my baking “skills.”

Now, before I relate this story, I should preface it by saying that I have been cooking since I was a little kid—around the age of 7. I remember lighting our gas stove  when I was in second grade and making eggs for my sister and me. One of my specialties back then was eggs that had “crispy” edges (read slightly burned).  To this day, my sister likes her eggs cooked really well, for which I would like to take credit.

Well, many years have passed, and I’m happy to say that I can cook eggs really well now—I make great omelets and poached eggs among other delectable dishes.

But, I have to admit that baking has never been my forte.

So—my Book Club was coming to my house for the first time recently—and I wanted to make it special. I decide that I wanted to serve artisanal cheeses, fruit and mini-quiche. Yummy!

I scoured the supermarket for those tasty frozen mini-quiches that you just pop in the oven and voila—serve your guests as they o-h-h and a-h-h. They were nowhere to be found.  Then I spied packages of fluted (fluted!!) phyllo dough mini-quiche shells. Wow! I was delighted!

I took them home and then searched for quiche recipes. (I’ve made quiche many times before—but I was looking for the “easy” version.)

The night of the meeting, I was busy mixing and stirring and filling the fluted mini shells with what I hoped would be a delectable quiche mixture.

Soon after placing them in the oven, I realized that something was wrong. When I checked their progress, I noticed that the quiche shells were flattening out and the filling was running out of them onto the pan.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I used my favorite pan—a round pizza pan with holes in it which usually produces perfect cookies. Not only was the filling running out of the previously fluted phyllo shells, it was dripping through the perforations in the pan. My hope and dreams of presenting beautiful little quiches to my new Book Club were dashed! I removed the pan from the oven, and attempted to salvage at least a few of the darling little things—only to realize that they were completely tasteless—apparently I didn’t season them enough.  Most of them were flat circles with the remnants of a bland eggy mixture.

The next day, my friend Susan called me and said that she woke up in the middle of the night and realized what I had done wrong. It seems that the adorable fluted mini-quiche shells should be baked in a mini-muffin pan—not on a flat surfaced pizza pan!

I may never be able to test that theory.

Mini-quiche and I are parting ways. It’s an amicable breakup—we just realize that we can never be friends.

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The few almost edible mini-quiche

 

 

A Solo Traveler

  • May 13, 2017 11:57 pm

sunset-Hawaii

As I get older, I am very aware of how time is limited and the fact that tomorrow—or even five minutes from now—isn’t guaranteed. This realization led me to do something I never thought I’d do—travel outside of familiar places alone. Sure, I fly back and forth to Buffalo and Oregon to visit family and friends by myself all the time. I take pride in my ability to not only plan those trips, but to complete them by myself. But the trip I was contemplating was more complicated.

I wanted to travel to Hawai’i and see Maui again. The only other time I’d been to Maui, I was on a cruise and I got the usual highlights tours of the island. This time, I had a list of things I wanted to do, some for the first time, and others were repeats of things I had enjoyed before.

After working out the logistics of the trip (with a few false starts), I asked various friends and my daughter if they would accompany me on this “Bucket List” trip. I was a little amazed when no one was able and /or interested in going! Their reasons varied from “I’m not interested,” to “I have to work.”

Finally, after thinking about my options, it was obvious that there was only one choice—go by myself. For months, I waffled about whether or not I wanted to travel alone to Hawai’i—which is 2500 miles away from the nearest land mass and where I knew absolutely no one—or if I should just postpone the whole trip until someone could join me.

Finally, I decided to go—and take a chance on staying healthy, finding my way around, and being safe. One of my major concerns was being lonely. The thought of eating all of my meals without a companion was depressing. And to whom would I point out a particularly stunning or exciting sight?

I did my homework, as the saying goes, and prepared for the trip by carefully researching the hotel I chose and booking tours to accomplish my goals.

The trip was fabulous! I found out that going alone isn’t a bad option as long as you are somewhat resilient and make sound plans. Eating dinner at busy restaurants alleviated my loneliness. I enjoyed the people watching and felt like I was part of a community, albeit a temporary one.  Booking group tours meant that I had companions to share my experiences with and diminished any risks involved. Because I am naturally out-going and friendly, I found it easy to strike up a conversation with my tour companions. The down hours I spent with my trusty Tablet, playing games, posting pictures on Face Book, and reading. I also “checked in” every day with some close friends and family via text and phone calls.

There were benefits I didn’t expect. Driving myself to my hotel on a stunningly scenic road on Maui made me feel empowered. After all, this wasn’t a familiar route in my hometown, nor was I being chauffeured by my daughter.  I found my way (thanks to Google) and didn’t make a bunch of wrong turns. (I’m not too adept at using navigation systems.)

Making my way around a strange town and seeing what I came to see was liberating. I didn’t have to accommodate anyone but myself. I chose what I wanted to do—and did it on my own schedule.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I would hesitate if I went to a non-English speaking country of course, because that would present different kinds of challenges. But somehow, the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted was life-affirming for me.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay