Saturday, October 23, 2010


We had what I think of as a soft, gentle day yesterday---we went for a walk around the neighborhood, looking for clues once again---this time with a REAL spyglass, with a light in it. She focused it on leaves, berries, the lines in the sidewalk, a few errant dandelion flowers who obviously got bumped off the hibernation train in favor of the hostas out back, who are all lying bedraggled and yellowing, like limp daisies in the beds.

We stopped to speak to our neighbor, who does the pretty necklace crafts, and whose efforts have redoubled with all the orders she's taken in the past couple of weeks. Herself was most interested in all the pretties in those nice crinkly bags, and Neighbor offered to give her some of the beads she's no longer using.

We chose seven, from the small box of shining wooden beads, choosing four pale blonde woods for the two ends, then two chocolates, to flank a center bead of dark mahogany. We came into the house and had a bite of lunch; she had a cut-up hot dog, (naked, thank you, with ketchup for dipping) with a cup of vanilla yogurt each and a handful of the loveliest grapes we've found in many a moon. They're immense pinkish pearly things, almost translucent, and almost too sweet, with the tablespoon or so of juice quite apt to christen your chin as you take that first bite.

We got our hands all cleaned up, and I went looking for an appropriate cord for stringing; my choices seemed to be amongst plain sewing thread, sorta haystackish raffia, and a pair of New Balance shoestrings, languishing in the sock shelf. We chose the laces, and though their pale gray tones did not quite match the tans and browns of the beads, Herself was QUITE pleased.

All I had to do was set them down in the order should go on the string, and tie a knot in the other end to prevent slippage. The little lace-aglet made a perfect guide:

Then, until naptime,we busied ourselves with making a cake. I had several mixes to choose from and asked my fellow cook. “Orange," she pronounced, with a glance at the boxes. Having no orange in the lot, I settled on an old stand-by from the past, when every birthday and wedding drew requests for “that gooooood orange cake.”

The recipe was quick serendipity one fall night long ago, when I needed to make cupcakes for the concession stand at the next night’s football game at the kids’ school. I grabbed a box of Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Yellow, dumped in a quarter cup of TANG, dry, and baked the cupcakes as usual. They were SUBLIME, as if you’d squeezed and zested the most luscious oranges. I don’t know what it was about those plebeian ingredients, but the combination of the butter and that orange flavor and the buttery crust---a new family favorite, which quite a number of other people liked, as well.

Alas---no Tang in the house, but there was a box of Sugar-Free Jello, so we tried it. We got into our matching aprons, she stepped up onto her little stool at the breakfast table, and I gave her the bowl, with about a quarter of the cake mix and a quarter of the dry Jello, keeping the level small to avoid accidents. As I got out the mixer, she stirred that bowl with a teaspoon as easily as Miss Martha herself.

See that little brown wisp of paper way over on the right side of the table? Keep your eye on that---it will figure in the story later. I melted the butter, measured out the water, brought a little bowl for the eggs. As I cracked the first one, I offered it to her, to separate the two shell-halves and drop it into the bowl. Forgetting, of course, her idea of eggs: Squeeze them as hard as you can, and they will open.

And it did: Sploosh into the bowl, with only a little of the yolk spread around, and no shell. We put in the rest of the cake mix and mixed up a batter as bright as the harvest moon. Not until I cleared the table did I see that the little Jello packet was quite empty---she’d caught me with my back turned and poured the whole thing into the batter.

We put it in to bake and took her upstairs for her nap. When she awoke, the cake was cooled and ready to frost. The little divot is “cook’s treat,” dug out for sampling with one of the tiny knives from her teaset.

We frosted, and I know you see that can of Bought Frosting. Chris brought us a Christmas kit the other day to make one of those Funfetti cakes, and so we used just the frosting, and our own Fall sprinkles. Anybody want to say “EEEEWWWW!!” at the thought of bought frosting?? You can come right on over here and try YOUR hand at Swiss Meringue or Warm Buttercream with a three-year old at your hip. HMMMMM???? Didn’t think so.

She started the sprinkles with infinitesimal finger-pinches of one or two, and laid them gravely on the cake; things got faster as she went on, with great handfuls cascading down onto the cake, and once, with her hand caught in the little jar like the monkey in the monkey-trap, unwilling to let go, and unable to get out.
But you'll notice that quite a few of those leaves are already swept into piles.
After she and her Mommy left for the day, Chris and I settled for a simple supper of Crab Louis for him, with a lettuce/tomato/sweet onion salad beneath, homemade 1000 with Cajun seasonings, and great spoon-clops of avocado.

Mine's the same, with a can of tuna instead of crab:

Some of those wonderful Asian Green Beans on the side with skillet toast and crackers.
And cake for dessert---which is even more TANG-y than I remember!
And speaking of CAKE: The most charming Halloween Party is going on over at
I signed up to have a party here, before I got this cold, and it totally slipped my mind---please go a take a look---It's the most inspired Lawn Tea in the history of Teapots!!
I've never seen ANYONE with such lovely ideas of an outdoor Halloween Party, and the decorations will amaze you. Please drop in---I'm going back right after dinner, so I'll have time to browse and let the enchantment sink in.


Kat said...

I'm quite positive "Herself" had a wonderful time and has a great memory stored away. Your idea of Tang in the cake sounds unique, but in a good way.


Wendy said...

What a beautiful and enchanting post. I loved it. Thank you for sharing.
I would love for you to stop by for a cup of tea and some magical fun

Spells and Wishes,
Wendy from Wonderland

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I have NEVER heard of a better way to use Tang. Honestly, I didn't know Tang was still around as I have not seen it or even heard of it in some time.
I sound like a wonderful afternoon...and I do mean just WONDERFUL!! :)

Southern Lady said...

There's nothing as sweet and precious to me as cooking with a granddaughter ... and your little Sweetpea looks like she is "in her glory" helping you make that cake. They're like little sponges, just soaking up all those sweet memories. I love her precious profile in the picture ... I can just see the "sugar" dripping from those little cheeks.

Jeanne said...

Good morning Rachel, I am the first one up this morning but I should still be sleeping. Oh what party. My BBQ was a success and fun. I have photos of my entire deck lined up with tripods and cameras waiting for the Oct. full moon to show itself. It did, in a spectacular show. I will blog about the party soon.
I love your story as always and I can't think of a better way to use Tang. I wonder if the jello was a good substitute. Especially the whole box. Smile! Your stories shared with us about your precious Gr girl are so darling. The photo of her making cake is adorable.

Happy Sunday to you.
Hug, Jeanne

Kim Shook said...

Beautiful story and beautiful pictures. Is there anything better than pictures of hands doing things?

I love that you let her do things and don't insist on them being your way. I think that I did much too much of that (trying to 'teach' or hurry things along) when the Bear was little and I'm sorry I did. You are doin' it right, girl!

Bev said...

A picture with the baby girls hands making a bracelet should be printed and framed..beautiful!

Bev said...

sorry a necklace..I have bracelets on the brain.