live it well

A couple weeks ago, my friend Leryann, the one who moved here from Puerto Rico and then got married in my back yard, hosted a girl cousins’ week. (The backstory: earlier this spring, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer and then, unexpectedly, died suddenly and, in the midst of her grief, Leryann decided to pull together the people she loved — to spend time with them, and laugh and play together — because: life ends, so live it well.) She planned a full week of activities for her cousins, as well as their mothers and my younger daughter, that included everything from movies to eating out to ice cream runs to an all-day trip to an amusement park. One of their “events” was supper at our place.

It was Leryann’s brother’s birthday (he joined in the fun partway through the week); he’d requested waffles weeks in advance but then I forgot and made an entire OTHER meal and then caught my mistake and, the day of, had to pivot — not because he was demanding anything of me, but because I’d said I would and so I would, dang it.

I was glad I did, too, because they all went to town on those waffles. 

The evening also included a (very squealy) water ballon fight, some intense hair braiding (and spraying)…

The reaction upon learning his shoe size (15).

… and, the grand finale, a cheese tasting party. The aunties tasted all the cheeses I put out and then asked for more, and then they selected the cheeses they wanted (a whole bunch of which were gonna be stashed in luggage and hauled back to Puerto Rico), and then Leryann had the brilliant idea to vac-pack one-pound samplers, like so: 

Aren’t they cute? The cheeses should hold up well since they’re individually wrapped and vac-packed, though I’m curious if any of the flavors will migrate to the other cheeses. That Cotswold is pretty oniony….

***

Last week, after taking a six-month hiatus to work on the book (update: got a bunch done, still got a bunch more to do), I started back at the bakery.

I trained three days in a row, getting up at 4:30 each morning. Day One, the baker brought me up to speed on updated systems and technique. Day Two, I did the shift myself with the baker looking on, and answering questions and assisting as needed. Day Three, I was on my own.

Everything came back amazingly fast — bake times, working the ovens, shaping the sourdough, recipe development (we’re working on baguettes!), mixing glaze and egg wash, etc — and it was wonderful fun to catch up with old bakery friends and meet the new ones. At the end of each day, I’d come home and crash on the sofa, absolutely exhausted. 

For now, the plan is for me to just do one bake shift a week. I enjoy the jolt of energy I get from being a part of the team, as well as the hard work. It’s good to be back.

***

Saturday, we made applesauce. For a while there, I thought we were outgrowing applesauce so I kinda stopped making it (much), but then the younger two kids started gobbling it down on the regular (or they would’ve gobbled it down if I’d let them) and I realized that I might need to reconsider. But then I learned that our favorite local orchard no longer had Lodi’s — our favorite saucing apple — so I had to call around to a bunch of places before finally sourcing some.

Long story short, we put up four bushels and now we’re stocked.

***

My brother’s family came in for the weekend so we all planned to get together for a meal at my parents’ place. But then I realized that I’d never had them all over for a cheese party, so I suggested they pop over to our place first, for cheese and champagne.

After they all left to head over to my parents’ place, I fell asleep on the porch swing with a half glass of champagne listing precariously in my hand while my husband cleaned up the kitchen. 

And then we hopped in the car and went over, too.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (7.5.21), the quotidian (7.6.20), cucumber mint cooler, pulling together, three things about writing, let’s revolutionize youth group mission trips! please!, French yogurt cake, grilled flatbread.

2 Comments

  • Thrift at Home

    Your banana pudding is so pretty! I agree with your potluck thoughts!! Also, my cardinal rule is to make sure my potluck food is recognizable, haha.
    YES why is convenience food so weirdly specific?! By now I am accustomed to ingredients that I can use in multiple recipes in multiple ways and if I come across a recipe that specifies some size/type of product I usually find it easier to convert to my pantry staples than to hunt it down in the grocery store, tee hee. Which is my banana pudding recipe that I made up to use some heavy cream and ripe bananas uses my own house staples. . .

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yes, after I posted about the banana pudding, I was thinking about how flexibility is key to home cooking (this is perhaps what makes it so daunting to some people), but to someone who is used to options and adaptation, it’s the specificity of convenience food that’s so daunting.

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