Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Invaders in the Night

For two nights I have heard something in this house that is not on two legs. Last night it was quite noisy--not the chewing, scurrying sound of mice or rats (not that I'd know anything about that, mind) but the sound of something moving around and knocking stuff over. The first night it stopped fairly quickly, and I thought maybe it was the cats on the porch.

The second night, though, it sounded like stuff rolling on the floor. This was at 2 am and I was awake because my hips were hurting and I was having trouble sleeping. I listened for a while, then nudged Larry.

"There's something in the house," I whispered. "Not a person, but a something. It's knocking stuff over."

He had a hard time waking up, reluctant to give up his sound sleep for my "something".

"What is it?" he asked.

"I don't know! I can just hear it moving around, and dropping things."

He got out of bed, looked for slippers, turned on a light. The flashlight was in the room where I heard the noise, of course. So Larry walked through the house turning on lights as he went.

Finally he was in the log room. "Nothing here," he called. "Everything looks fine. I got up and went to look. Nothing was out of place. But I had heard stuff being moved or dropped, I knew I had!

Then I saw it. The nut bowl.

Since Christmas we've had a bowl of nuts on the table. They're a great snack when we watch movies, and I bought enough over the holidays to last a while. Those nuts were the clue.

"I bet it's a flying squirrel," I said. "Coming down the chimney and stealing nuts."

That wasn't a wild random idea. Many years ago, I had a bushel basket of hickory nuts in the kitchen. At night I began hearing sounds for all the world like nuts rolling across the floor. Once when I got up I actually found hickory nuts in the living room, far from the basket. I was mystified.

Then one night when we heard the sounds my husband was quick enough with a light to spot the culprit: a flying squirrel had found a tiny hole in our not-yet-quite finished house, and was making nightly forays to steal nuts. We watched the critter fly from our roof to the woods behind the house. Mystery solved--and hole quickly plugged.

I've put the nut bowl away, and Larry closed the damper so perhaps our little thief will be disappointed on his next visit. I hope. Because if that isn't the answer...there's something moving in my house at night, and it isn't on two legs.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cottage Pudding: the Taste of Memories

When I was a child, my mother sometimes allowed my sisters and me to bake, or to make desserts. For a short while we had a "cooking class" taught by a friend of our mother, who taught us the basics of baking. We had great fun but the classes ended after too short a time, probably because the cost of ingredients were just too much for the family food budget.

One dessert we learned to make was Cottage Pudding. It was a sort of heavy cake with a translucent lemon sauce served warm over it. That dessert remained in my mind for years but I never found the recipe for it, and my mother had no recollection of where we got it when I asked her about it years later.

When Mom passed away, some of my sisters and I helped Dad sort and clear up the kitchen. Mom loved to cook but organization? Not so much her thing. There were pans of every kind, gadgets and tools and cookbooks. LOTS of cookbooks. One of them was an old, beat-up Betty Crocker with the red-and-white patterned cover. And in that book, I found the recipe I'd been looking for.

I wrote the recipe out carefully because one of my other sisters wanted to keep the book--she had so many memories of using it. So I copied the recipe into a little notebook I carried with me. The next 10 months were a blur for me of work, storytelling and driving back and forth to Virginia to take my turn at caring for Dad.  And then Dad died too, and life was very dark for a while.

Somewhere in all of that I misplaced the little notebook and could not even remember what notebook I'd used to copy down the recipe. But the other day as I was sorting out a drawer in my desk a little book fell out and pages scattered on the floor. And I found my recipe.

Today I tried making Cottage Pudding for the first time in over 50 years. It is not quite how I remember it--my cake came out a bit heavier than I remember it, but the lemon sauce was perfect. It was like jumping in a time machine and going back in time to the large table surrounded by my brothers and sisters, everyone scraping the last of the lemon sauce out of their bowls.

When I make this again, I will use the usual method of cake-making, adding wet and dry ingredients alternatively and beating them in. I believe that might improve the texture. As it is, it is delicious. Larry and I both had two helpings. So here's the recipe for you to try. If you do try it, tell me what you think. I'm curious to know if others like it as well as I do.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Public Radio

A friend encourages other bloggers to write about something they are thankful for, and for me this morning the first thing to come to mind is public radio.

We don't have television here; we have a TV and use it to watch movies but we don't have cable or satellite by choice. About 10 years ago we decided we did not need the constant flow of babble, commercials, talking heads and nonsense that has come to define TV programming. We've been just fine without it.

But we rely on public radio. I know that right away many readers will say, "Oh, that liberal station?" And I agree, the news programming is definitely left-leaning. But it is also in depth, considerate, well-researched and wide-ranging, and there are plenty of far right talk shows for those of that persuasion. For those of us on the more liberal spectrum, public radio is it. That's all we've got. Where else will I hear Celtic music, old-time music, blues, cooking programs, travel shows with Rick Steves, The People's Pharmacy, hilarious quiz shows, Mountain Stage, and on and on? I listen while I cook, clean, paint, garden...pretty much all the time.

Now I am hearing that funding is being pulled from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and I can only hope (and contact my Congressmen!) that it will be reinstated in the budget. For those of us in far-flung regions of the country with limited access to go quality programming that doesn't require driving an hour or more, public broadcasting is a lifeline to culture of all kinds.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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