I woke up too early on Saturday morning.
I mean, not my usual garden-variety early (5:30) which is comme d’habitude for me in my approaching-old-ladyhood-years, but insanely early—4:15 in the morning!–which (in my opinion) is an hour of the day that is good for only one thing: sleeping.
Some disturbing thoughts and some exciting plans and also some niggling obligations wouldn’t let me sleep. That troublesome triad of sleep-killers!! I turned and tossed for a few minutes before I decided to just get up, already, and get something done. Maybe, after all, there’d be time for a nap later (there wasn’t).
I had such a long list of things that I needed to tackle, immediately–and I knew that it would give me peace to just plow in and get them done, one by one–but it was so early, the house was so dark and cold, and I knew that I had plenty of time before anybody else got up, so I wrote a blog post first, updated some social media posts, answered some blog comments, did a little more writing. That was after I made the fires and fed the kitty and the canary and the gerbils, threw in a load of laundry, and made coffee.
Avoiding that list made me unusually productive in many other areas. 🙂
I stomped outside as soon as the sun was up and took care of the dogs and the cats and the chickens and the ducks and the goose. I took the dogs for a short walk around our property. I brought in the eggs. It’s not as time-consuming as it sounds, by the way, to do all this. I had drunk a couple of cups of coffee already, after all. 🙂
I was moving, baby.
After all this, finally, I shlepped inside to tackle that list. It was time. I was ready. I poured myself another cup of coffee. I sat down. I studied my list. I didn’t have a pen. I got up and found a pen, but noticed that the fire in the living room was only smoldering, so I took some time to start it up again. I started to sit down with the list again, but just then Mack moaned that he couldn’t find his pants! A boy needs his pants, Mom! so we sat down on the living room floor, and folded and put away a load of laundry together.
Found the pants!
Then, I remembered this: I hadn’t been able to find my favorite chore coat for several days, and how irritating that was to me, so I stomped around the house, checking out every room, looking under and around construction debris, until I found it.
Hooray! I love my old chore coat with all the handy pockets, and hate to be without it. I reached into one of the pockets and found—glory be!–my MP3 player, which had gone missing about the time . . . that . . . my chore coat did . . . I was gazing happily at my MP3 player (whereby I can listen to Mozart and Jane Austen and P.G.Wodehouse and the High Kings and Väsen–not all at the same time, mind–while I’m tearing down tomato cages and rounding up chickens and hauling wood chips) when Reuben, our contractor, caught sight of me.
“Find your chore coat?” he asked. I gave him a thumbs-up, and he added ” . . . and did you say something about coffee?”
Was it coffee time already? I glanced at my watch, which--by the way!–is the only blessed thing that I haven’t lost lately. With the house in such an uproar, with our kitchen remodel in full bloom, shall we say, everything is higgledy-piggledy and I can’t find anything (cue distant wailing) . . . Except, of course, my trusty watch, which I keep firmly attached to my wrist so at least I have that one thing that is always where I know it to be.
And, by the way, Gentle Reader, I don’t use the term higgledy-piggledy as in the cute nursery rhyme usage, where everything is just a bit jumbled, yet charmingly so. Like in a naughty fairy’s closet, where everything is just a bit askew and can be put to right with a shake of the fairy’s wand. And a bit of magic dust. Oh no. Oh, oh, noooo.
I use the term higgledy-piggledy in the darkest, most disturbing usage you can imagine. Higgledy-pigglediness like you wouldn’t believe is what I am referring to. Deep. Dense. A black hole of higgledy-pigglediness from which there is ABSOLUTELY NO ESCAPE though you may pray fervently for a magical and convenient, strategically-placed wormhole to open up and just suck you away from it all!
Rotting fruit. Dying houseplants. Lost items galore. Piles of tools and odd boards and cast-off lumber and at least four sinks (I’m not kidding) and a bathtub, all lying about in higgledy-piggledy fashion. Weeping, disoriented, confused guests. And–like a dusting of confectioner’s sugar on the dainty Christmas cookies that you still haven’t made, not for want of trying–sawdust, sheetrock dust, and dirt, covering it all.
Please tell me how to dust a dying houseplant. Anybody? “And does anybody know where I left that pile of bills? If I don’t find it, I’ll have late fees to face—“
Now and then I feel my eyes widening involuntarily, and my heart racing, at the enormity of the task I will soon have in front of me: to put everything to rights again, eventually. Our God, after all, is a God of order, and I’m pretty convinced that we–as his creations–operate best with at least a modicum of order surrounding us. Right now, my place is the opposite of order. The polar opposite of order.
If the sun is Order, in fact, I mused (back to the story), quite lost in my thoughts, I am the planet of Pluto, about as far away from the warmth and life-sustaining Order as you can get in our solar system–a cold, frozen wasteland of disorder, and even unsure that it’s a planet. 🙁 Which is a bummer, actually.
As I mused on these dark and desperate thoughts, Reuben broke through, again, clearing his throat and pantomiming his drinking a cup of coffee. Upraised eyebrows. Crooked grin. Cheeky fellow. Oh, yes. The lad needed his coffee. I set to work making coffee, feeling a bit mollified by this homely, comfortable task. Reminding myself of my blessings, one of which is that this talented young man was willing to work for us for a few months, and that he didn’t scream at me for all the frustrations I regularly wreak on poor him (sorrrrrry, Reubsy). I wended my way through the piles of stuff, to the coffee pot (on a very narrow shelf near the wood stove) back to the sink–and I had a glimmer of a very happy thought.
(By the way . . . Reuben will probably write an ebook about his experience at our house, someday, when the job is completed and he has gone on to bigger and better things. It will be titled: “Remodeling Clients to Avoid at All Costs: 12 Warning Signs that You Don’t Want This Job.”)
To wit. (Back to the happy thought.)
I could make muffins. To go with the coffee. And I could do this without a trace of guilt, because Amalia was at work for the day. My sweet daughter–who is on a nearly-everything-free-diet–isn’t eating bread or sugar, so it has been weeks since I have eaten them, too (at least in her presence 😉 ), in efforts to support her. Well. Except for some of that excellent Swedish Rye bread that Mom has been plying me with. Thanks, Mom. And those wonderful cookies from Gene. Thanks, Gene.
Except for those things.
It was decided, then. Before I tackled my list, I would make muffins. Not cupcake-light muffins, either, but heavy, dense, chewy, studded-with-an-enormous-variety-of-good-things muffins. The kind that you spread a thick layer of butter on, and can make a meal of. Yes. That would redeem the morning; they would only take a few minutes to make, and if I made a small batch, Amalia wouldn’t suffer with temptation for one when she got home.
Because they’d be all gone.
I opened my favorite cookbook to find a quick muffin recipe. Gingerbread muffins—oooh, that struck a chord. I’ve been on a ginger bender for months now, ever since I harvested my ginger root crop early in the fall. And I had a small amount of candied ginger left from a batch I made awhile back–that was it! I’d make gingerbread muffins, only I would just cram them full of goodness. Weeks of denying myself a morsel of bread or a taste of anything sweet were going to end today, with the most wonderful muffins I could make.
A sudden thought gripped me.
What if . . . what if I mixed up ginger-sugar, similar to cinnamon-sugar, only with (of course) ginger, and sprinkled it with gay abandonment on top of the wonderful loaded muffins I was about to make, before sliding them into the oven? I dumped some sugar in a small bowl and stirred in a tablespoon of fresh powdered ginger (I am protective of it and keep it in the freezer, so it really has a nice bite!). I dipped my finger in it and tasted. My tastebuds, denied sweetness, (I am nothing if not a very supportive mum, to the point of tediousness) exploded (not literally) in my mouth.
Then another, even more exciting, idea struck.
Candied nuts. I drooled. Think about it—candied nuts, made very very quickly (there was the niggling concern of The List to consider) in the cast iron skillet–stirred into gingerbread muffins–oooh, what else, what else?-–chocolate chips? Maybe? To cut the spiciness of the ginger, and—ohh yeah, golden raisins, because of their sweet chewiness, and because I had just bought them and I love them so. I was working quickly now, Reuben’s coffee percolating behind me but I was too
crazed busy to bother with it. He was going to have to wait, for just a few more minutes.
Sorry, er, ah, Reubsy, sweetheart.
With a brief stab of guilt, I glanced once more at my chore list, the items neatly numbered in order of their importance, but I didn’t even pause to consider stopping my muffin-making. I was fueled now by passion, not logic. And don’t a lot of great things, include brilliant cooking, begin with passion, after all?
(Still wondering about higgledy-piggledy? It’s defined as “a confused, disordered, or random manner,” but you knew that, right?)
Reuben didn’t have to wait long for his coffee, actually, as I took a break from my mad stirring and conjuring to pour him a cup. The muffins went into the oven mere minutes afterwards, so I could present them to the guys by the time they were ready for their second cup.
And the muffins? They were pretty fabulous. Fabulous enough, in my humble opinion, definitely to make again for company, say, over Christmas, which is probably just what I’ll do.
🙂 Such happy contemplation!
Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to try your hand at making them. And–say–do.
- 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 Tb ginger-sugar
- 2/3 cup candied nuts** (NOT OPTIONAL!!!)
- 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
- 1/2 cup of any or all of the following: golden raisins, chopped dates, chocolate chips
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut oil (or melted butter), melted
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 1 cup buttermilk
- For ginger sugar: 1 Tb powdered ginger + 1/2 cup white sugar, stir together
- For candied nuts: 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 tsp coconut oil, 2 Tb ginger sugar and 1 Tb cinnamon sugar
- Mix up 1 Tb ginger with 1/2 cup sugar to make ginger-sugar.
- To make candied nuts: Melt 1 tsp coconut oil in a heavy cast iron skillet, over medium-low eat. Add one cup of chopped nuts and stir until toasted and lovely-smelling, 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2 Tb ginger-sugar and stir for 1 or 2 minutes more, being VERY CAREFUL not to burn! Take off burner immediately and remove from pan to cool. See now, there’s a full 1/3 cup for you to sample, with plenty left for the muffins! 🙂
- Now for the muffins: Mix the dry ingredients, including nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips.
- In blender combine eggs, oil, molasses, and buttermilk, blend on on low speed until mixed.
- Pour into dry ingredients, stir only until combined.
- Grease muffin tins heavily and fill them with the batter nearly to the top.
- Sprinkle heavily with ginger-sugar.
- Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes until done.
You’re probably concerned about my to-do list. Well. I did, eventually, knock off a few items from that stern taskmaster, and for the rest, I hearkened to the words of that lovely philosopher, Scarlett O’Hara.
And then I had another muffin.
Have a happy day, sweet Gentle Reader, and a very merry Christmas!
I love ya, I do!
. . . aaaaand . . . let’s see how long I can drag this out . . . 😉
- What’s happening in my hoop house the week before Christmas
- Russian Tea Cakes and a handful of delightful variations