Easy Like Sunday Morning.

My whole life, I’ve been extremely neat and very short on patience. Neither of these are my most admirable personality traits, but they have always ensured my house is clean, my life is organized, and things are done quickly. And then, motherhood turned me upside down.

This weekend, Penelope and I made Sunday morning waffles together. If you’ve ever cooked with a toddler, you know it is a slow and messy process.

She stood beside me at the counter, wearing pajamas and perching on a dining room chair, her bear clutched in her arm, chattering away about making waffles and using the measuring cup. I watched her and listened to her, resisting the urge to clean up behind her or do it myself.

Batter made a drippy trail from the mixing bowl to the waffle maker and she kept insisting she needed more measuring spoons. It took three times as long as it normally does to make waffles. We were laughing and listening to the radio and the kitchen was warm and smelled like Sunday breakfast. Over and over, she exclaimed, “Pelope and Mommy making waffles!”

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I felt a little bit like I was outside of my body watching us, knowing in my heart that this was it. That this sweet, ordinary, destroying-my-kitchen morning wasn’t to be taken for granted. It was what I waited for.

It took seventeen months for me to get pregnant with Penelope. Short in the scheme of infertility for many, but an eternity when you are the one in the thick of it. During that time, I would hear people complaining all day long about their kids, counting down the minutes until bedtime. I told myself, if I was lucky enough to have a baby, I would never be like that.

And, then I had a baby. And the truth is, motherhood is frustrating and exhausting and all-consuming. It is messy. There is no rushing. There are moments where I would pay someone one hundred dollars for five minutes by myself. I know now where those people were coming from. It is easy to find reasons to complain.

But, I know the alternative, too. I know how it feels to want so desperately the exact moments of my ordinary, every day life now. To feel like I would pay someone all the money I will ever have to have a little person stand beside me and dump waffle batter on my counter.

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Somehow, I was lucky enough to get just that. And, when I feel the urge to rush, to complain, to race through and wish it away for a time that is neater, more efficient, quieter, less demanding, more mine, I ask myself, for what?

I had that time, and it didn’t hold a candle to this one.

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Celebrate the joy, friends.

A Cookie for Your Spirits.

So, you might have heard that the South got a little bit of snow yesterday.

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Here in Birmingham, we were supposed to get barely a dusting and ended up with easily two inches.

The thing that makes snow so exciting for a place that never gets any, the novelty, also makes it a bit of a catastrophe. No one knows what to do.

As the snow began falling late yesterday morning, everyone started trying to get home and get to their kids. What resulted was standstill traffic, cars abandoned all over the city, people stuck at work, kids stuck at school.

I got a call from Hugh around 6:00pm that he wasn’t going to be able to make it home from the hospital. With the way the roads were and the below-freezing temperatures we were supposed to have all day today, we knew that meant he probably wouldn’t be able to drive home until after work on Thursday.

I was all, chin up, no big deal. We are all safe and sound and that’s what matters and we’ll see you on Thursday. But as the evening hours ticked on, I got a little bit melancholy about the prospect of three days alone.

After moping around the house and feeling sorry for myself for a few hours, I remembered that, in a flash of brilliance, I had frozen two uncooked chocolate chip cookies in the freezer last time I made a batch.

These, my friends, are not just any chocolate chip cookies. They are the best chocolate chip cookie you will ever eat. They are the big gun of cookies. I have never served them to anyone without getting declarations of cookie nirvana. They are the cookie that makes you stop making other chocolate chip cookies. They are it.

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So, at 9:30pm, I pulled my cookies out of the freezer, popped them in the oven, and 15 minutes later I had two perfect lift-your-spirits cookies ready to eat.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, I got a call from my best guy that he was walking up the hill to our house. He had driven halfway home from the work and then had to abandon his car when he started sliding backward on the ice. A stranger stopped and helped him push the car to the side of the road, and then the police pulled up and offered Hugh a ride. They got him to the entrance to our neighborhood, and then he walked to the rest of the way.

He said it was easily one of the stupidest things he’s ever done. I could not have been more relieved to see him trudging up to our house, cold and very shaken up.

I even let him have my other cookie.

Notes:

After you make the cookie dough, it needs to rest in the fridge for 24 – 36 hours. You may be tempted to write-off this recipe because of that, as I did the first three times I read it. Learn from my mistakes and just make the cookies. They are worth the pre-planning.

Also, if you want to freeze them to pull out when you want to be like, “Oh, these? Just a little something I whipped up to woo you/pep you up/make you think I’m the best baker of all time,” simply stick them in the freezer on a baking sheet after you have scooped them out in 1/3 cup portions. Once they are frozen through, pop them into a plastic bag. When you are ready, just add a few minutes to the baking time.

I’m not going to post the recipe here. I only post recipes that are my own or that I adapt enough to make them feel like my own.  And, these cookies are completely perfect just as written.

Pimento Cheese

There is a part of my personality that I will call Hostess Cassie. I love taking care of people in our home; for dinner, for happy hour, for the weekend – come and see me and let me feed you. Hugh would sometimes call this part of my personality Crazy Cassie, because I have a problem – I can’t not make too much food. At our house, hosting prep involves lists and timelines and multiple trips to multiple stores and hours in kitchen. No complaints from me, as I love it, but it can be a little much for the other people who live here.

I come by it honestly. When Hugh and I go to visit my parents, the refrigerator is literally overflowing with everything we love to eat. As a little girl, I remember helping my Mom get the food ready for a dinner with friends. As I was setting the appetizers out, my Mom kept piling the serving plates higher with food, and she said, “It should look always look like there is plenty of food.” Well, let me assure you, my little Southern-self took that message and ingrained it deep into my future hostess list of rules.

When Hugh and I first started living together and, subsequently, having friends over for dinner, I would feel compelled to make at least three appetizers, from scratch. Which resulted in me running around like a lunatic until the second the doorbell rang. And then, by the time we would all sit down for dinner, everyone would be half-full already from the massive appetizer spread.

I would love to say I naturally saw the excess of my ways and toned it down. And I kind of did. I had a baby. And suddenly my time became much more precious. Now, there is a strict one appetizer rule in our house. In addition to the fact that I want to spend less than fifteen minutes putting it together, I want it to be really good.

Enter, my Pimento Cheese. Unless you live under a rock, you know that Pimento Cheese is having a real heyday right now. Rightfully so, seeing that it is a can’t-go-wrong combination of mayonnaise and cheese. Really, is there any way it could not be good?

Plus, it takes ten minutes to make, tastes better after a night in the fridge, and is always the first thing to go at a party.

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese
makes approximately 2 cups

If we’re serving this as an appetizer, we serve it with water table crackers and celery sticks for dipping. And, lately we’ve been loving it on buffalo pretzel crisps (available near the deli section of Publix). But don’t just serve it as a starter – Pimento Cheese is also great on a burger or as the cheese component of a grilled cheese sandwich. Or, with a spoon from the container with the refrigerator door open when no one is looking…

8oz extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
8oz extra-sharp yellow cheddar, grated
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
4oz jar chopped pimentos, undrained
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce
Black pepper to taste (usually I do about 10 grinds from my pepper grinder)

In a medium bowl, mix cheese and mayonnaise with a wooden spoon. Add pimentos (with liquid) and remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add more mayonnaise by the tablespoon if dry.

Refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight. The longer it sets, the better it gets. Within reason, of course.

Eat it up!

Notes:
Do not buy pre-shredded cheese (ever, but especially for a recipe in which cheese is a main ingredient). Buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. It will only take a few minutes to do by hand and it tastes so much better. I always use the Cabot Seriously Sharp for both my white and yellow cheddar. And Duke’s is the only mayo we keep in our kitchen.