Thursday, November 7, 2013

Musings on a gray day

     The wheel of the year has turned, as we Pagans say, and the new year began at Halloween, a cold, wet, altogether icky night that nevertheless failed to keep my children inside. (Not that I would have tried anyway. It was Halloween, for crying out loud!) We headed out, costumes on, buckets primed, and braved the rain in search of the sweet, sugar-coated manna, Halloween candy. And my children made out like bandits, because there was hardly anyone out. Very happy were my ghouls indeed.
     Halloween, or Samhain, as it is known in the Pagan calendar, arrived to a house in mourning this year, as on October 27 we said a sad farewell to our cat, our faithful, fuzzy, domineering, bossy (we are talking about a cat, after all) companion of thirteen years. Kami was my other baby, and even now, a week after the fact, I still call her when I walk in the door. It's a habit I'm trying to break, as it's only serving to confuse my four year old, who understands that his kitty is gone, but does not quite fully grasp the concept of death.
     And today the sky reflects my feelings, the low-lying clouds are the same gray as my cat's fur, though the weather is surprisingly mild for November, though typically damp. The trees are truly stunning, though, and the cat's-fur clouds are a perfect backdrop for the burnished gold maple in my mother's front lawn. (Yep, pirating Mom's internet, hence my not so jaunty message to you lovely people today. I'll cheer up, I promise. I refuse to believe that misery actually loves company.) October may be my favorite month, but November has its own title in my vast repertoire of vague and odd descriptions:  Cozy Month.
     Yes, the cozy month. Take today for example. Here in Turners Falls it's gray, wet, windy, and altogether yucky. (though the view is fantastic) So I am here, doing what I love, with a steaming mug of tea by my side, curled up on my mother's sinfully squishy couch, covered with a quilt. My sister is making cookies; the house smells like cinnamon, coffee, and is blissfully warm and cozy. Later, I will go home to cook a pot of alphabet soup and loaves of bread, brew a pot of cocoa for me and my children to share, and luxuriate in the knowledge that we have all we need, and are safe and warm. Only in November do I revel in domesticity, though I cook and clean every day of the year. (Well, except when I'm sick. Then super-husband takes over)
     I often wonder why it is that November makes me so home-oriented. Perhaps it's because it is the month recognized as the harvest festival, embodied by Thanksgiving. Perhaps because the weather is generally unpleasant, (not that I like snow much better, but we at least have the advantage of making snow men, and an excuse to make long-simmered stews, like beef and beer stew with mushrooms and potatoes. Really, a momentous happening in our household.), that I am drawn to the center of my home. I spend much of my time in the kitchen; besides cooking, I sit at the table to read, I write poetry and stories at the kitchen table. My children, too, spend a fair amount of time there, as when they get home from school tea is ready, and we sit together, me helping with homework, until they drift away to their own tasks and hobbies, and I begin dinner preparations.
     It is no surprise to me that I love all the Anne of Green Gables books, or the works of Rosamunde Pilcher as much as I do. They are so full of domestic details and tidbits--reading Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell Seekers especially makes me want to cook up a huge dinner for my family--these and other books invite you into a home so welcoming and inviting that you just wish you could be there too. (Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells is another good one, as is Lucia Weiss' My Berlin Kitchen)
     So as the month progresses and gets even more and more foul, relish some stolen moments: curl up on your couch or tuck yourself into bed (oh, how I wish I had a proper tray for tea in bed!). Snuggle into your favorite sweater and read a book or look out the window to watch the world go by. I know you don't have much time for this kind of thing, but you can steal a moment here and there, even if it's just five minutes. And if you're lucky enough to have a whole 2o minutes to yourself, grab it, and don't share! Later you can make it up to people if you feel you must, by making them my mother's coffee cake. One slice, and your family won't care that you absented yourself for a whole 20 minutes. Maybe they'll even arrange for you to do it again soon.

                                                Pam Kapise's Coffee Cake

3/4 c sugar
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

* preheat oven to 375; lightly grease and flour a 9 inch square pan (or a 9 inch round pan)
* beat sugar, oil, and egg until mixed, then add milk. Mix well
* add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until well-blended. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
* mix topping ingredients and spread over top of batter before placing in the oven.
Bake at 375 for 25 to 35 minutes, until tester comes out clean.

     This is the cake I came home to once a week, every week after school as a child. It's sweet, moist, crumby, and perfect with tea, cocoa, chocolate milk, coffee, anything, really. It's just perfect.