Peeling an apple in one coil, reading a love story, laughing while we cry: things women do

Peeling an apple in one coil, reading a love story, laughing while we cry: things women do

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The light of the bright fall afternoon shines through the windows at the back of our house and glances off Bethany’s glasses as she peels apples, slowly, each in one long coil. She mixes butter with flour, not gently. Clouds of the white dust waft around my kitchen. Eventually, each speck succumbs to gravity, settling upon any horizontal surface that will stop its fall and convert kinetic back to potential energy.

My daughter is the only functioning body in the place. The cat sleeps on the heating vent with his long, bushy tail shielding the day from his eyes. Joey must be under his bed again. Eddie hasn’t moved from the blue chair yet. The stubble on his chin is graying. I imagine his breath is deadly. He is pathetic. I should feel sympathy for him because he looks like he could use a hug. But I don’t. I can’t yet because I don’t understand his reaction to my death. I wish I could have hugged him and made him smile more while I was alive, but we squandered our time together. Regrets overwhelm me.

I watch my Eddie frown when he smells the apples and cinnamon from the kitchen. I know he’s thinking about me, about us. I try to stay away, but he pulls me into his thoughts with the same magnetic intensity as when he pulled me into his arms thousands of times, still never enough, when I lived.

Anna?

Cinnamon reminds me of you. I can’t go into the kitchen. With both of his large hands, he rubs his face hard and blows out his breath.

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Enticed by the good smells from the kitchen, Joey creeps down the stairs and climbs up on the step stool. He leans to Bethany for a hug. She starts to cry when she hugs him back. She sits him in a pile of flour on the counter. Joey is alarmed by her tears; now that his sister has started to cry, she can’t seem to stop. She wipes her face on the belly of his shirt and gives him an apple slice slathered in sugar and cinnamon.

He takes in the mess of flour and butter she’s concocting and asks shyly, “Apple squares?” He pops the chunk of apple into his mouth.

Bethany nods as she wipes her nose on her sleeve and eats a slice, too. Joey thinks he can help her stop crying. He says with a full mouth, “Hey, Bethy, hold your tongue and say apple.” He shines his wicked grin on her.

Bethany sticks out her tongue and holds it and says, “Athole,” and Joey loses himself in giggles. Eddie hears the sound from the other room, and we both think at the same instant: My children are laughing?

Now, I have left them all. It was not my intention, and I am infinitely pissed. Given a second chance at that choice, now I would have stayed home on Friday, November eleventh. I would’ve tried harder to stay on the same team as Eddie to keep us from falling apart.

As I watch my children, I feel like they are holding my heart.

Death really hurts.

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Excerpts from Chapter 4 of OR NOT TO BE

© 2014 Laura Lanni

used with permission from LMNO Press

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A note from the author

My debut novel OR NOT TO BE will turn 5 years old on Monday 11/11/19 and some of you have neither read it yet nor gifted it (wrapped in glittery paper and a big bow) to your sister or best friend for Christmas or her birthday. Here’s your incentive to pull this story to the top of your TBR pile.

For one day only (11/11/19) the Kindle version of OR NOT TO BE will be available for FREE! Click here.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE! Suppose you read this tragic love story and LOVE IT (or like it quite a bit or even very much). Then you’ll surely want a copy of the paperback to gift to someone you love. So here’s a second and even better offer for OR NOT TO BE fans: Post your review of OR NOT TO BE to Amazon.com or Goodreads or both. Send a link to your review to me on Goodreads (lauralanni) or email lauralanni2014@gmail.com, and we’ll arrange payment and shipping details. If you do all of this, LMNO Press will send you two copies of the paperback for $11.11, free shipping (of course) to anywhere in the continental US. What a great BOGO.

This BOGO paperback offer will last until 50 pairs of copies are claimed or 11/25/19 at 11:11 am EST, whichever comes first, so get started with your #free #Kindle copy on 11/11/19! Limit two (2) paperback copies (for $11.11) per customer. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Permission to share reviews is granted by all who participate. Always read the fine print.

Pie 22.0

Pie 22.0

Key Lime to Happiness Pie was constructed last month for St. Patrick’s Day with the helping hands of my daughter.

With all of these crushed cookie crusts, butter is the binder but the particle size of the crushed solids determines the texture of the base of the pie. We used pretzel sticks and, compared to graham crackers or shortbread cookies, they were very hard to pulverize and resulted in a crust that didn’t stay bound together. Next time, grind in blender and add extra butter.

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The filling was easy and used lime juice from a bottle for “consistent taste.” My helper snuck food coloring in and adjusted the green color with some yellow because she is artsy like that.

The whipped topping was also easy and piped on with a specified tip. We added some grated lime rind instead of the lemon rind called for by the recipe.

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We sprinkled on some coarse salt to make Pie 22.0 taste like a margarita and brought her to a parpy.

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I will try to get back to my bread habit, but pies are so tasty. Pie 23.0 traveled to my daughter’s house yesterday to be the prize after a 10K. I’ll try to write the bacon and blueberry concoction up after I compose my final exams. April is crazy.

Pie 21.0

Disclaimer: this pie is a cake.

Pie 21.0 was not made from scratch. Nor was she made from a recipe in a book. She was a Boston Cream Pie, my favorite cake, and she qualified for a blog post in the Pie Series due only to her name. Oh, and she came out really pretty. Not only was she misnamed, but she looked like a donut, and tasted like an eclair.

I baked the yellow cake mix in a bundt pan that always reminds me of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mother of the groom bride thinks she should put a plant in the hole. I made the vanilla pudding (also from a box) and let it set in the fridge while the cake baked and cooled.

I used a long bread knife to slice the bundt cake horizontally, spread on the pudding, and put the cake back together.

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The chocolate glaze is best when it is melted and drizzled on, but it is tricky. It could come out too thin and all just drip off, onto the counter and the fridge where you hide it to cool and (hopefully) set. That’s what happened years ago by another baker I know. Now I’m a pro. Do it this way: Scoop half of the frosting into a cup and put the rest in the microwave for about 20 seconds at a time. It will warm and get soupy. Then stir in the thick still-cool frosting a bit at a time. It will melt as the hot part cools (heat transfer, basic thermodynamics), and with luck the mix will reach a glossy, pourable yet settable viscosity. Without luck, it will need to be microwaved again, or will remain soupy and need a nap in the fridge. Mine came out a bit thick, but pourable.

I did a combination of pour and spread, making sure some dripped down the edges and into the plant hole because each delectable bite of Boston Cream Pie needs cake and vanilla pudding and chocolate glaze.

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Pie 21.0 added about 5 pounds to my person because I ate a piece of this pie/cake/donut/éclair (at least) twice a day for 5 days–both with my coffee each morning, and either for dessert or in a quick grab with a fork from the plate in the fridge as I passed by stealth like a shadow. I’ve been informed by people in the know that the last two pieces are hidden in the freezer. I’m currently contemplating how long I could thaw a piece in the micro without messing up the glaze.

Anyway, here she is. Go make one. It is so simple and you can lose those same 5 pounds next year.

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Bread 3.0

Bread 3.0

A sweet bread with my coffee–that’s what I needed. I found one in Beard on Bread made with sour cream and milk and butter and eggs, all baked up in a bundt pan. It had raisins and chopped nuts, cinnamon and a vanilla glaze. It came out delicious. Finally a good one. And on this Wednesday of the tenth week of the semester, that’s all I have time to say about it. Here are some pictures. Hasta la vista.

Bread 1.0

Bread 1.0

More than three decades ago, I started making homemade bread. Before breadmakers and cell phones, I learned the feel of the dough that marked the end of the kneading process. I fell in love with the smell of bread baking and the taste of the first steamy slice slathered in butter. All of this followed months of failed attempts where I made bricks, and I even sliced and tasted them. The best lessons are learned by failing. I repeatedly killed the yeast with too-hot water to produce those bricks. I recall making half a dozen bricks, at least, before accepting that I needed help.

At the local park I met a mom of two little blond boys. My red-haired daughter caught the eye of the red-haired mom and helped me make one of my first adult friends. The other mom and I got to know each other and one day at the apartment complex pool I told her the funny story of my bread bricks. She didn’t laugh like everyone else. She invited me over the next day to teach me to make bread.

She taught me to proof the yeast with some sugar in a small bowl with the perfect temperature of water. She actually taught me the feel of the water by showing me what was too hot and too cold and just right under the tap.

She taught me to knead, from the raggedy mess of the starting mixture to the smooth and elastic ready-to-rise dough.

She taught me to form loaves and how long to bake them, and to melt butter on the baked crust by rubbing it with a partly peeled stick of cold butter to make the crust delectable.

She saved me from my path to one hundred bricks.

For Christmas this year, my daughter (who has given up on gifting me novels anymore because she said my writing hobby has ruined me as a reader) gave me a bread cookbook call BEARD ON BREAD, first published on Mole Day in 1973. Unlike my pie habit from last year with glorious heaps of meringue and brightly colored fruits, my bread blog entries might be bland and pale and tan, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Last weekend I made the first recipe in the book, called “Basic White Bread” on page 22. Unlike my memorized recipe, this loaf called for no butter or milk, and a flipped ratio of sugar to salt. I followed along like a neophyte.

I proofed the yeast.

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I mixed and kneaded the dough.

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I let the first rise occur in a buttered and covered bowl until doubled in bulk.

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I formed a loaf and let it rise again.

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I baked for twice as long as I’ve ever baked a loaf, and even preheated the oven for half an hour and left my pizza stone in there. I tapped the loaf to hear its hollowness and set it on the oven rack sans pan for a few extra minutes to finish the bottom crust.

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Then I served it with pasta. It smelled right and looked beautiful and tasted so bland and basic. It made me miss my memorized recipe.

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Next time I’ll try a sour dough recipe since I have never had success in that arena and I must learn some new tricks in 2019.