A2 Milk – A game changer

Today’s public service announcement is also a product review/recommendation. Over the last several years, Ted has started to have issues with dairy. He thought perhaps he had become lactose intolerant, so was using goat milk or almond milk for his tea, and otherwise avoiding all dairy.

His sister has similar issues, and told him about this new milk, A2 milk, that doesn’t bother her stomach at all. We gave it a try, and yay! It is gentle on the stomach, and Ted can now have milk in his tea, eat a bowl of cereal if he wants to, and I was able to make the squash soup recipe this week using the milk, all without torturing him. It is more expensive than regular milk, but we were previously devoted to Organic Valley milk, which is pricey as well, so this is about the same price as that, perhaps a little less.

Most cows produce milk with a combination of proteins in the milk, both A1 and A2 proteins. A2 milk is from cows that only produce the A2 protein. That is the only difference, but apparently it is a game changer for some people. For these people, the A1 protein causes stomach issues, which is a zero on the fun scale.

I was so thrilled that it really does help, that I wrote to the company and asked if they are planning to add cheese to their product offerings. They wrote back and said, some day. Right now they are just trying to keep up with demand, and have recently added chocolate milk to their line up, though I haven’t seen it at the grocery store. They sell it at all of the grocery stores we go to, so it’s our new milk.

I thought you might like to know, in case there are people in your life that have trouble digesting dairy. They may indeed be lactose intolerant, in which case this will not help them. Or, they may just need milk that does not have the A1 protein.

Winter Squash Soup


I have a fondness for cooking shows, especially those where they show you how to cook something interesting. Most of the cooking shows I watch currently are on PBS, but I also enjoy watching Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. A few weeks ago, she made a delicious looking soup, with butternut squash and canned pumpkin. I thought it looked like a good dinner to have on Halloween, considering it was orange, so I made it. It was delicious, and I will definitely be making it again.

I made a couple of changes to Ina’s recipe. First, I cut up the butternut squash, then roasted it in the oven until it was soft, rather than cooking it in the soup. I think that gives it more flavor. Second, I used milk instead of half and half. Third, I don’t have a food mill, and I’m not about to go out and buy one since there is zero room in my house for any new ANYTHING, so I used my handy immersion blender, which worked perfectly.

I love butternut squash, but sometimes it is a little too sweet for me.  The pumpkin balanced it out, and maybe the milk did too.  This is a savory soup, and really good.

We didn’t put any cheese on ours. I had mine with toasted sourdough bread, and Maya had hers with cornbread, which was leftover from the night before’s turkey chili. Ted just ate the soup. We all loved it. Here’s the recipe, unedited by me.

Winter Squash Soup

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 (15 – ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half – and – half
Creme fraiche, grated Gruyere, or croutons (see Note), for serving (optional)

Directions
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy – bottomed stockpot, add the onions, and cook over medium – low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium – low heat for about 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is very tender. Process the mixture through the medium blade of a food mill. Return to the pot, add the half – and – half, and heat slowly. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with garnishes, if desired.

Cook’s Note: To serve with croutons, remove the crusts from 2 slices of white bread, cut them in 1/2-inch cubes, and saute them in 1 tablespoon of butter until browned. Season with salt and pepper.

My Le Creuset

Back in early July, my beloved Le Creuset Dutch oven suddenly came down with a horrible chip in the bottom of the enameled coating.  Suddenly, you could see the cast iron at the bottom.  It looked like this.

There isn’t a lot of danger from the cast iron, people cook with cast iron all of the time. But if the enameled coating is chipped, it could continue chipping, and you don’t really want to bite into that. So I did what any 21st Century person would do, and I complained on Facebook. A FB friend (a friend I knew in real life, back in college) mentioned that her Martha Stewert Dutch oven did the same thing, and she returned it to Macy*s, no questions asked.

I liked that solution, but Martha Stewart Dutch ovens are sold exclusively at Macy*s, so it’s not hard for them to take a return. Much as I might rack my brain, I could not remember where I bought my Le Creuset. Macy*s, Williams Sonoma, or Sur La Table. Why can’t I remember? Generally, I do remember such things. Clearly, I had no receipt, as I’ve had it for several years now.

So I looked online, and they have a lifetime guarantee. So you pay to send it back to their returns department, in South Carolina, and they will review it and determine whether it is a defect or not. If it’s a defect, they will replace it, in between 2 – 4 weeks. If it’s not a defect, they’ll send you a coupon to buy a new one at a steep discount. The Le Creuset website doesn’t say how much the discount it, but another website said 75%. That’s pretty awesome.

So I packed my Dutch oven into a Priority mail box (if it fits, it ships, for one price) and mailed it off. I didn’t hear anything for awhile, so I called them. They said they had determined that it was in fact a defect, so they would replace it, but that she didn’t know WHEN yet. They had to send the order over to the warehouse.

I’m getting a little bit bored of telling this story, so I will fast forward. 4 phone calls, 2 emails, and 14 weeks after I mailed my Duth oven, I finally received my replacement. Isn’t it pretty?

My lessons from this are, no matter what the instructions say, heat is not your friend. At least, not direct heat. I’ve been doing some ‘research’ online (I kind of think online research should often be in quotation marks), and it seems like high heat on the stove is bad for enameled cast iron, as well as non-stick. The oven is different, because it is indirect heat. But I kind of think that you don’t want to use high heat on the stove unless you are using regular cast iron, or maybe aluminum. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I’m in my 50s already. Shouldn’t I know this stuff by now?

Apparently not.

Dia de Difuntos

Dia de Muertos is a time to pray for and remember friends and family who have died.  It is traditionally a Mexican holiday, and a Catholic one.  I’ve never really paid any attention to it before, but the bright orange flowers reminded me of my Dad, and my Grandma died last year in November, so it made sense to me to buy some flowers and make a small alter with some pictures of Dad, Mom, and Grandma.  There are too many others that I could easily include…my Uncle Forrest, my Grandma Wells, my Grandpa Ward, etc.  For today, I’m keeping it to these three, the most difficult losses I have had to bear thus far in my life.

The marigolds that I bought came with a tag about Dia de Muertos, and had a quote that I liked.

“There is more time than life.”

The more I find that to be true, the less I like it.

Marigolds

Dad in New York, early 60s

Mom, 1990

Grandma, 1970s

My parents, 1987

Dad’s Memorial

Flowers that my sisters picked for the memorial

My Dad’s memorial was last weekend. It was difficult. But it was very nice as well. It was a lovely service and very well attended. I think there were maybe 300 people there, which showed how many people’s lives he touched. There were people there from the alternative newspapers that he started way back when, from his time managing (and more recently as a board member) an alternative, non profit radio station, from his many years working in grant writing, from mentoring others to writing books, to teaching classes. People from Meals on Wheels, where he volunteered as a delivery person for over 20 years. People from my step-mom’s life as a top tier yoga instructor in Oregon. People from the neighborhood. Friends and family. Lots of family.

It was lovely to see my step-mom, Julie, and to spend some time with her. We went to the beautiful Japanese Garden in Portland, hiked in Forest Park, and ate delicious dinners. It was lovely to spend some time with my sister Melissa, shopping for birthday gifts for my niece and nephew, buying a thank you gift for the kind neighbor who took us in when Ted and Maya joined me a few days in (I went up on Thursday morning, and stayed at the house with Julie, who has two big cats. Ted is VERY allergic, so once he and Maya came up on Saturday, we stayed the next couple of nights at the neighbor’s house.) We went up to Lewis and Clark to see the chapel for the memorial. It was so nice to have some time, sad as it was, just with my sisters and step mom, where she gave us a copy of Dad’s arrest documents from Georgia in 1963, where he was arrested for being part of a march for civil rights, as well as copies of his books, etc. Once Ted and Maya joined me on Saturday morning, we spent a bit of time just the three of us. We went downtown and bought a new shirt for Ted, and had a very nice brunch.  We then went to my sister’s house to arrange the flowers that my sisters had picked at a U Pick farm while I was picking Ted and Maya up from the airport.  Saturday night we went to dinner as a large group, maybe 25 or 30 of us, close friends and family who were in town for the memorial. Sunday was the memorial, which was hard. Monday we went for a hike in Forest Park, then lunch at the house with Julie, then flew home. It was very nice to be home.

The memorial service itself was very nice. In addition to the officiant, Dad’s three daughters each spoke, as did his two best friends. It was hard to get up in front of that many people, but more sad than scary. I started crying pretty much right away, but managed to get through it all. I had ideas of using inflection in my voice and so on, but that did not happen. I just read it and barely got through. I looked down at my hands at one point and saw that my hand was shaking, so I guess I was nervous. Here is what I said.

My dad has been my stalwart, supporting me through tragedy and triumph.  There to cheer me on through life’s events, big and small.  Life in college.  Falling in love with my beloved husband, Ted.  Moving across the country.  Giving birth to my darling daughter, Maya.  Supporting me through the pain of my mother’s death in 2008.  Buying a house.  Getting a job.  Losing a job.

I didn’t know my dad growing up, we have never lived in the same city, or even the same state.  We met when I was 21, and he was 44, when he drove from Portland to San Francisco to meet me.  Since the day we met in October of 1987, he has been there for me, loving me, being my dad.

If you are here today, celebrating his life, you know the kind of man he was.  You know that he has always had a deep sense of justice.  You know that he is kind.  You know that he worked hard his entire life in support of both justice and kindness.  You know that he wanted to have adventures, and enjoy the successes in life.  You know that he was grateful for all of the gifts afforded him. You know that he loved his family deeply, and was a devoted father, husband, and friend.

My inheritance, then, is to live my life following his example, in my own ways. To care deeply about issues that are important, and for those that I love.  To find ways to work for justice.  To be kind whenever possible.  (And it is nearly always possible.) To live my life with integrity, to listen to my inner voice, and trust that voice.  To give of my heart, my time, and my effort.  Most of all, to be grateful for the gifts afforded me, and that he was my much loved Dad.

Dad’s Obituary


Michael Wells passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday July 5, 2017 while hiking in the Dolomites in Italy on a long anticipated trip with his wife, Julie Lawrence, who was the love of his life. He lived his life true to his moral compass, leading with compassion and by example. In addition to being a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he was a grant writer, social activist, consultant, journalist, professor, and business owner. He was a thoughtful, quiet man motivated by his strong beliefs to do the right thing, not seeking public recognition for his actions. Yet, because of his dedication to and deep involvement with many organizations and causes, he lived a public life.

Michael was born August 2, 1943 in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio to Georgia King Wells and Donald Allen Wells. Michael and his parents moved from Ohio to the central valley of California in 1945. He grew up in Modesto, CA in the house that his father built room by room, over several years.

Michael’s strong belief in social justice, civil rights, and equality for all was evident in his lifelong personal actions and community engagement. During his 20’s, he was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He dropped out of UC Berkeley and traveled to the East Coast, where he joined the Committee for Nonviolent Action. He was arrested for civil disobedience in 1963, along with the rest of the group, while traveling through Georgia in the Quebec to Guantanamo March for Peace and Freedom. He also joined The March on Washington. He was again arrested and jailed in San Francisco, CA for participating in the Sheraton Palace sit-ins.

Committed to non-violence, he refused induction into the army during the Vietnam War, and was granted conscientious objector status. He moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he served probation alternative service in lieu of military service.

Michael and his first wife, Mary, moved to Portland Oregon. He was founder and editor of the Willamette Bridge, an alternative newspaper that centered around community organizing, and became the fourth largest newspaper in Oregon. He later founded the Portland Scribe in 1972. With the birth of their twin daughters, Maya and Melissa, Michael made Portland, OR his home for the remainder of his life. His daughters were a source of love, pride and happiness throughout his life.

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, he had a varied work life as station manager of KBOO community radio, writing for Willamette Week, fund-raising for the ACLU, grant writing and fund-raising to start Hospice House. It was at this time he completed his college degree and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Humanities. In 1986 he began practicing yoga, where he met his future wife, Julie Lawrence.

In 1987 Michael received unexpected and joyous news with the discovery of his third and oldest daughter, Julie Ward Asregadoo, whom he enfolded into his life.

In 1987 he started his own business, Grants Northwest. He took his passion for social justice and turned it into his profession. For the next thirty years he wrote grants for nonprofits, championing causes he cared about. Through his work at Grants Northwest, Michael helped over 100 nonprofit organizations, American Indian tribes and local governments to raise over $150 million. Clients included organizations in the arts, aging, alcohol and drug services, community action, education, the environment, healthcare, housing, women’s services, youth and minority services. On a national level, Michael was a former board member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) where he was Treasurer for 4 years and chaired the 2002 national conference in Portland. He was a past board member and president of the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) where he was heavily involved in developing the GPC certification process. Michael also taught grant writing for Portland State University’s Public Administration Department. He wrote and published four books on grant writing.

In 1992 Michael married Julie Lawrence in the back yard of their new home. Their 25th wedding anniversary would have been this August. Michael and Julie loved spending time with family and grandkids, dancing and going to theater and dance performances. They also loved to travel — favorite destinations included India, Bali, Machu Picchu, Europe, Thailand, the Galápagos Islands, and the Serengeti as well as several places in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Michael was a runner for almost 40 years (the name of his Hood to Coast team was the Running Dogs). He was a compulsive reader, tackling several books with varied topics at the same time. Music was central to his life and he filled his home with an amazing variety of music. Michael was an avid volunteer throughout his life as well. He delivered Meals on Wheels for over two decades on the downtown Portland route, was a regular blood donor, served as Board Treasurer for KBOO, and actively volunteered on many political campaigns.

Michael was preceded in death by his parents and his younger brother Robert (Bobby) Wells. He is survived by his wife, Julie Lawrence; daughters and sons-in-laws, Julie Asregadoo (Ted Asregadoo), Melissa Wells (Jason Gibb), Maya Wells (Herb Jahncke); and his grandchildren, Maya Asregadoo, Jack and Sophie Barinaga and Chloe and Justin Jahncke.

(A celebration of his life will be held on September 10, 2017 at 2 pm, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis and Clark College. In honor of Michael wear something orange.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Oregon Community Foundation. www.oregonCF.org

Heartbroken

Dad and Me, January 1988

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,-
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

We suffered a shocking loss this week, when my vibrant and healthy father died from a heart attack while hiking the Italian Alps with my step-mom, Julie. My sister Maya has gone to Italy to be with her while they wait for the necessary paperwork to be completed, so they can send his ashes home. This is a huge loss, confusing and horrible. We, and so many others, will miss him desperately.

Cooking for One

Later this month, Ted and Maya will be in the UK, with a brief trip to Paris, visiting Ted’s extended family.  His mom and brother are going as well, and aside from the time in Paris, they will be staying with family.  I elected to stay home and hold down the fort, take care of the dog, etc.  I would like to go to Europe sometime in the not-too-distant future, but I think I’d prefer it to be just the three of us, though I do adore my MIL and BIL.  I hope they have a fabulous time.

I was thinking about it, and I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time alone before.  I mean, I lived with my mom and brother, then with my roommate Troy, then with Ted, then with Ted and Maya.  There have been times in the past when I went on vacation with my family (to Portland or Juneau), and Maya came with me, and Ted stayed home.  There have been times when Ted went away on vacation or for work with his family, but Maya was here with me then.  There have been times when Maya went away, to cheer camp, to visit her cousin in Los Angeles, to New York with my parents after she graduated from High School, but Ted was here with me then.  There was that time in Anchorage when my mom was having her surgery, but that was strange and bad.

But this time, I will be home with no Ted and no Maya for about 10 days.  I’ll be working, no reason to take any time off.  I’ll be walking the dog, which we both enjoy.  I may get motivated and clean out my closet and do some other de-cluttering around the house, and then again, I may not.  But cooking for one?  Dinner every night?  I’m not sure about that.  One night, Ted’s aunt is going to come over and we will have tuna noodle casserole, which Ted and Maya DO NOT LIKE, nor does Ted’s uncle.  We are the only people in the family who love it.

My friend Neva has invited me and Mulder to come to see her new house, out in the valley near Stockton, one weekend day.  This same friend Neva is going to come to my town another night and we will have dinner.

So that’s 3 dinners…what about the rest of them?  It’s hard to get up a ton of enthusiasm for cooking for one.  I’m not sure why this is true, but it is true for me.  So, I have a few ideas, and am looking to you for inspiration.

  • Baked Potato and Salad (with beets – Ted and Maya hate beets)
  • Crab Cakes (Ted and Maya love crab cakes, so we have this sometimes when they are home)
  • Eggs and potatoes with fruit (like a potato and veggie hash, with an egg)
  • Scallops (Ted likes scallops just fine, but Maya hates them.  They’re spendy, so I might just treat myself and buy 3 big scallops and eat that one night)
  • Soup – There’s a corn chowder recipe that I like that might be nice.  Ted and Maya like it, but it has a good amount of cheese in it, which doesn’t agree with Ted’s stomach as much as it used to.
  • Grilled Cheese and salad or fruit
  • Tuna melt.  I love a good tuna melt, and I make a yummy one with capers that is delicious.  (Ted and Maya like this dish, we have it fairly regularly, but it’s so quick and easy, it might be good while they’re gone.)

I’m sure I can repeat a few of these and make it through the time when they’re gone.  But what about you?  Do you have any great ideas for a dinner for one?

 

My Stupid Shoulder

Mulder and his Crabby on his THICK bed

Back in early April, I was home alone, and bringing a newly laundered tablecloth downstairs. I was holding it just so, so that it blocked my line of sight in just the right way that I tripped over Mulder’s bed. He has a thick bed, and my foot caught on it in such a way that I could not pull my knees up and catch myself. Instead, I fell flat on my face, while my arm went above my head. I fell hard. I was bruised and sore.

After a few days, the bruising and most of the pain went away. But my shoulder continued to hurt, badly enough that I couldn’t raise my hand up high, and it woke me up in the middle of the night. So, after a couple of weeks without improvement, off I went to the doctor. I said I wanted to try physical therapy (Maya’s suggestion), and I didn’t want to pay for X-Rays or anything. I have better insurance now than I did back in 2014 when I came down with the stupid arthritis, but of course there are still expenses, and I hate expenses. The doctor said it didn’t sound to her like a torn rotator cuff, and she was OK with sending me to Physical Therapy. So off I went.

I went 3 times a week for about a month, and it helped with range of motion and strength, but the pain was still there, still waking me up at night. My physical therapist said it might be time to see an orthopedist, just in case. Sigh. Off I went, had an X-Ray, and the diagnosis was a tiny fracture in my shoulder. He wanted me to have an MRI, to check for further damage, but for that, you have to wait for insurance approval. The word surgery was suggested, which I did NOT want. Another thought might be a cortisone shot, which would be fine. But I had to wait for the insurance approval. That finally came through, only after I called the office and asked about it, 2 weeks later. Last week was the MRI, my first. If you’ve never had an MRI, it’s fine. Not painful or scary (unless you’re claustrophobic, which thankfully I am not), but it is loud. A few days later, back to the orthopedist to review the MRI results. The good news? No surgery needed! There’s no tear to the rotator cuff, thankfully. Just a bruised bone, which has another name, Bone Marrow Edema. Which means, inflammation in the bone. Sigh. A cortisone shot won’t help. Only time will help. And my inflammatory arthritis might make it take longer than it would for most people, as that is my body fighting with inflammation, and my body takes it seriously.

So, WHEW, no surgery. That’s a huge relief. I’ll keep up with the exercises that my Physical Therapist gave me, and spend some time in the pool this summer. Keep Ibuprofin around, as I do seem to sleep better if I have that.

Blueberry Pancakes


(Gorgeous photo and recipe found here)

It’s ridiculous how long I’ve been gone, I know. When you’re in the blogging rythem, and you blog often, everything seems like good blogging material. When you’re not, nothing seems like it would be interesting to your readers, so you don’t bother. Don’t bother often enough, and the next thing you know, it’s been over 10 weeks since your last post. Ugh.  So I decided that I would just find something in my brain, and bring it here.  So what you get is yet another recipe.  I’ll try to come up with something NOT recipe related soon.

Ted’s schedule varies a lot, which means that sometimes he works very early in the morning, and sometimes he works late.  Tonight he works late, until after 10pm.  That means just me and Maya for dinner, which often means ‘breakfast for dinner’, which she and I both love, and Ted does not.  I made these blueberry pancakes a few months ago when we were having breakfast for dinner, and they’re delicious.  The recipe seemed a little weird to me, like there isn’t enough flour.  But there is, they work, and they’re super yummy.  Next time you’re in the mood for blueberry pancakes, give this recipe a try.

The Blueberry Pancakes Of Your Dreams
author bakerbynature

Ingredients
*Makes about 14 pancakes
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup full-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
4 tablespoons butter, for the pan
Maple syrup, for serving

Instructions
In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sour cream, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and baking powder.

In a separate large bowl add flour and blueberries and toss to combine, making sure berries are fully coated in the flour.

Add flour mixture to the wet milk mixture, and stir just to combine; do not over mix! The batter will be thick, so don’t worry if there’s a lot of clumps left.

Add egg whites to a large bowl or the body of a stand mixer. Beat using a handheld mixer or the whisk attachment until the whites begin to form soft peaks.

With a rubber spatula fold egg whites into flour/sour cream mixture, stirring until fully incorporated.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Ladle 1/3 cup scoops of the batter into the skillet, only cooking a few at a time so they don’t blend together.

Cook pancakes until the edges begin to brown and the top of the batter bubbles, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat for all pancake batter.

Top pancakes with syrup and extra blueberries, or anything else your heart desires! Serve at once.

Birthday Cake

Before


Maya requested carrot cake for her birthday party. She loves carrot cake and chocolate cake about equally. Last month was her Uncle Steve’s birthday, and as Steve had chocolate cake, she wanted carrot. I thought about buying one at the bakery, but decided the best way to go was going to be homemade, because there is THE family carrot cake recipe.

This is what we call “Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake”, because it is the carrot cake made by Ted’s Grandmother Thomas. It’s from a cookbook, which I believe was part of a woman’s auxiliary, and that’s all I know. My ‘chili relleno’ recipe is from the same cookbook.

I was reading online about carrot cake, and they seem to call for a LOT of oil. One recipe I read, there was a comment where someone said that they found that sometimes carrot cake tasted oily to them, so they substituted 1/2 cup of buttermilk for 1/3 of the oil, with very good results. I’m game, but also chicken, so I decided to make a test run. On the Wednesday before the party, I made a carrot cake, and frosted it, and we tried it. It’s delicious! Then Ted packed the rest of it up and took it to work with him, and his coworkers scarfed down the rest. He even cut it up nicely so they didn’t have to see that they weren’t getting the entire cake. It got rave reviews at work. These pictures are from her actual birthday party yesterday.

After


If you need a carrot cake recipe in your life, and trust me, you do, here is a definite winner.

Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake
Ingredients
1 1/2 cup corn oil *
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda (clearly they mean baking soda)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 7-oz box coconut
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, which I toasted for a few minutes)
1 can (8 3/4 oz) crushed pineapple and juice (clearly sizes have changed. I only found 8oz cans.)

Sift together dry ingredients, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in coconut, carrots, nuts, and pineapple. Pour into lightly greased and floured 10×15-inch pan.**. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. When cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yields 16 to 20 slices.

* I suspect you could try any kind of oil you want. I would suggest a neutral oil, like peanut, but I did see a comment that said, once you try olive oil carrot cake, you’ll never go back. I haven’t tried this. Also, I used 1 cup oil and 1/2 cup buttermilk.

** I wanted a two layer round cake, so I used two 8″ round cake pans instead. I thought it would be ready much faster that way, but I think it turned out to be about 45 minutes. I just kept an eye on it after the 30 minute mark.

Cream Cheese Frosting
ingredients
2 3-oz pkg cream cheese (again, sizes have changed. I used 1 8oz pkg.)
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
1 stick soft margarine (I used butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

The Recipe

Birthday Wine


Back in December of 1997, I worked at a company that had our department holiday party on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was in HR at the time, and there were 4 or 5 of us, I think, not a big crowd. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a passenger train that goes up Napa Valley for maybe an hour, and then comes back. It stops at one winery on the route, and serves pretty nice food and wine along the way. The train cars are decorated in an old fashioned way, like I imagine they might have been in the old west. You depart from a train depot in Napa, which of course has a gift shop with lots of wine stuff to be had. So that December day, just outside of the gift shop, were some crates that said, Maya. “Wow,” I thought, “Is there a Maya wine?” I went in and asked. The answer is yes, there is a Maya wine, and no, you can’t have any. Turns out it is a botique wine, very difficult to come by.

Well, if you’re at all like me, once someone tells me I can’t have something, I WANT IT MORE. Suddenly I was all about the Maya wine. I remember my BFF, Rosemary, and how when I would go to her house, there was some wine on top of the fridge that never got touched. I asked her about it, and she said her dad had bought each of the kids a bottle from the year they were born, and was saving it until they were old enough to drink it. Well, you can only imagine how wine stored on top of the fridge turned out to be (not good), but I liked the idea. And here was a wine that shared my daughter’s name! I MUST BUY SOME.

So, I started calling around. I called the vineyard, but they didn’t have any to sell. I called several small, independent wine stores, and got a resounding NO everywhere I called. One man laughed in my face (Well, in my ear, as I was on the phone). One man told me that they SOMETIMES got a case, but that the owner of the store gave or sold the bottles to his friends, and customers never got any. I had no idea there was wine that was difficult to procure. I’m a Safeway wine shopper.

Finally, I got lucky. I called a local wine store and told him my story. My daughter is Maya, and born in 1996. I want a bottle of 1996 Maya wine to toast her with on her 21st birthday. He said, “Most of the people who come in looking for that wine are posers wanting to show off for their friends. You’re the first down to earth person I’ve come across on this search. If I get any in the store, I will call you.” And he did. I don’t remember what year it was, probably 1999 at this point, but he called me and told me my wine was there. I was thrilled. I rushed to the store and bought it…the only time in my life I’ve paid that much for a bottle of wine (I think it was about $130, about 10x what I usually pay). It has been carefully stored in Ted’s brother’s wine fridge ever since, safe and sound.

Until Saturday. Saturday, we will celebrate my darling Maya’s 21st birthday with lamb curry, carrot cake, and a glass of Maya wine. I think there are 9 of us, so no one will get a lot, but we will toast to her health, and she can keep the bottle as a memento to her mother’s obsessive personality.

I hope it’s not corked.