NOT-Road Trip I: Let’s Get Ready To…Stay Right Here

Anyone who’s followed this blog for a calendar year will know that at this point in the calendar, Wing’s World morphs into a travel blog for 6-8 weeks. Since our kids left the nest, since I left teaching, since the Mate retired and we moved to Lopez Island, we have been leaving in mid-February to drive across the country to North Carolina, returning at the end of March in order for me to start a new season at Holly B’s Bakery.

[Why North Carolina in March? Read a quick primer here.]

This time last year, we were packing up Red Rover for Road Trip X. In any normal year, we’d be doing the same right now for RTXI. But you don’t need me to announce that this isn’t any normal year.

The Mate’s waiting for his second COVID shot. I’m waiting for my first. The country is waiting, period. And we’re not going anywhere. [Well, maybe a teensy, contact-free staycation. But our kind of Road Trip? Forget it.]

So I thought I’d take these next few blog posts to celebrate the joy of the past 10 years of road tripping–my way of keeping hope alive for the time when we can do this again. All of us–whatever our version of Road Trips may be.

Road Trip I: 2011

I hadn’t started blogging then, so this trip’s not recorded. Had it been, your reaction may have been, “Really? You’re trying to cram all THAT into one road trip?”

THAT = visiting out-of-the-way parks we’d never taken the time to explore, like Sunol, near the Bay Area…

This one oak pretty much sums up the place. Go and see for yourself!

…but also famous national parks we already knew and loved, like Joshua Tree

If you read the above explanation about North Carolina, you will know what team The Mate’s cheering for, listening to our satellite radio in our campsite!

THAT also = visiting family, like my grandmother in Santa Barbara–she turned 103 two months after this photo, and lived for another half a year

My Grandma Dede

Of course THAT includes daily doses of recreation, hiking or biking together. (In those days I was still running too, but The Mate had had to give up his beloved sport some years earlier). We quickly became aficionados of desert hiking, despite the need for frequent photography stops.

I mean–come on! (Saguaro National Park near Tucson)

Some of the special new corners of our country that we “discovered” became dear favorites, to which we’ve returned repeatedly, like the Chiricahua National Monument.

We’ll never EVER get tired of this place.

THAT also meant, of course, visiting our “far and dear,” folks who went and moved to places like Arizona & Texas. But, I reasoned, would they welcome us coming to stay with them in the middle of a work week? Shouldn’t we give ourselves some work while we visited, to keep us out of their hair?

And so, in two different cities, San Antonio and Dallas, I signed us up for 3-day stints with Habitat for Humanity.

San Antonio. We got to paint this one.

Our far & dear thought we were silly. “Next time, skip the volunteer work and spend more time with us!”

Midweek in February, there are no big group “builds,” we found–so we did a lot of this.

Turns out, for us, the idea of combining socializing with volunteering was cooler in concept than reality. Since then, we’ve kept the two separate.

We learned on Road Trip I to enjoy the incredible contrasts our big country has to offer–desert one week, swamps the next.

I love cypress knees.

We also folded some history into those off-the-beaten-track stops, like Birmingham.

Walking through this Civil Rights memorial in Birmingham was an extremely emotional experience.

In the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, more old friends. (You’ll notice I don’t include these photos because I don’t want to violate their privacy, but this one, at a distance, gives the idea.)

Still friends, for 40 years now

And when we finally got to Durham–my hometown, and Chapel Hill, where The Mate and I met–we celebrated what we had come for: family and Tarheel basketball. And Tarheel basketball family.

Son Two even skipped a few college classes that year to join us at his grandparents’ house.

I should clarify that. My parents are NOT Tarheel fans. They are nuts about other things, like animals and recreation, but NOT the Heels.

Dogs rule–and also horses, goats, chickens, and a llama–at my folks’ farm, Tierreich, which translates to “Kingdom of Animals.”

Here’s the basketball family–which I have come to think of as the Tribe.

Some of the faithful get too nervous during the games to sit down. (Not pictured: all the delicious Southern food that’s part of the ACC Tournament ritual.)

The one place both basketball and non-basketball family meet is the annual Wildflower Walk, a tradition The Mate started back when he used to fly back for the ACCs.

Trout lily!

After the tournament (The Mate surely remembers how the Heels did that year, but I don’t) Road Trip I took us north–way north: through DC, then up to Rhode Island. Why not? We’re not due home till end of March!

One of the best urban bike systems ever!

Then, Maine, where we spent half a sabbatical year in 2003.

Aw, Peaks we missed ya!

Finally, we made what I’ve come to think of as The Big Left Turn. Crossing the country at this latitude in March is no joke, so we traveled fast, sticking to interstates to beat the winter storms. This photo of a groundhog in upstate NY is the only one showing any kind of scenery; the rest was just “let’s try not to die when that semi going 85 hits that ice patch.”

No shadow! But still, sadly, winter.

So, to recap: Road Trip I established a bunch of patterns–new discoveries of small parks; pilgrimages to big ones; brief and longer reunions with family & friends; homage to history; bike paths & hiking trails as tools of exploration; deep infusion of family & basketball in NC; daring winter on our way home.

Patterns that never took: volunteer work. That had to find another place in our lives. (Don’t worry–it has.)

Next post: So this is how you Road Trip?

What’s Your Position on Positions?

Note: this post is NOT intended to elicit sympathy toward the author. If you notice any indications to the contrary, please feel free to slap her, remotely (there must be an emoji for that)–or just close the page.

These past couple of weeks I’ve been forced to think quite a bit about positions. Not political ones; I mean physical: lying down, sitting, and standing. Injuries acquired in the service of democracy* have me no longer taking these simple options for granted.

*turns out when you spend hours and hours and hours writing letters and making phone calls to voters, sitting at a table which is just SLIGHTLY the wrong height, your back takes its revenge.

Still worth it. I think.

Before my back started hurting, I was all about sitting. Like many jobs, working as a baker is about 98% bipedal, but I took every 2% chance I got to set my butt down, between rounds of butterhorns. (That doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean.)

OK, these are not actually butterhorns…but gooey enough to be close. (photo courtesy Holly B’s Bakery)

Now? Sitting is the enemy. Even perching makes me pay a price. So what the heck. Let’s celebrate some of the gifts of the other positions, shall we?

LYING DOWN. Good for:

Sleeping–duh. And sex. And reading–like my latest recommendation, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. If you’re looking for short, lyrical pieces that fill you with the desire to go sit (or lie) in your favorite woods, and bring those woods to you if you’re stuck somewhere un-woodsy–this is your book. Get two copies, one for yourself and one for someone you care about.

Bad for:

Zoom. I really, really dislike seeing my future, double-chinned self staring back at me when I Zoom horizontally.

Not my favorite look.

STANDING. Good for:

When someone hands you a puppy.

Though in fairness, I would also have accepted this gift sitting down.

Appreciating sunsets.

Ditto.

Locomoting–which brings you to places where people might hand you a puppy, or to places of extra beauty. (It’s not impossible to locomote from a horizontal or sitting position–just harder.)

Pictured: place of extra beauty.

Bad for:

Knees. Also dizziness induced by drugs taken for back pain.

Which brings us back to…

SITTING. Good for:

Knees. (At least mine.)

All social situations where lying down isn’t quite appropriate (even if you wish it were).

Just sayin’–burgers while reclining could end…badly.

Bad for:

Me, right now. Which is why I’ve written this all on my back (not literally; now THAT would take some dexterity).

But–that fact, above? It’s actually a “good for,” because…well, look. What better time than a global pandemic to start appreciating things as basic as Sitting, Standing, and Lying Down?

Which is YOUR favorite? Tell me why.

Pie (Decorating) Anxiety

“I’m scared of pie,” the founder of the bakery where I work once admitted when I asked her why we didn’t make it. And legend has it that the second thing I said to my new employer when she took over said bakery, after “Hi, I’m Gretchen,” was, “Can we make pie now?”

So what I’m saying is–I’m not scared of pie. In fact, I’m cocky enough to have blogged about my “pie secrets.” But still surprises me how many people do feel the pastry fear. Then I  a couple of weeks ago, I decided to get fancy and DECORATE my pie for a community harvest potluck, and I took a walk in the shoes of pastry fear.

Here’s the thing. I’m not scared of pie because I started making it when I was about twelve. Add forty-five years of pie making, and…ten thousand hours? Probably not hyperbole in this case.

But decorating? Never. Closest I ever got was to fashion a few generic leaves, maybe some berries, or stars for July 4. Easy-peasy blackberry piesy.

I think these are Doughtree leaves, from the family, uh, Crustia.

I’m wise smart old enough to stay off Instagram, but nonetheless, images of gorgeous pies have made their way to my brain via Facebook, and friends who know me as a Pie Woman. So I finally got ambitious stupid curious. How hard could this decorating thing be?

But as soon as I rolled out that top crust, my stomach clenched with anxiety. Should I stop here and go watch a video? Should I be rolling this onto wax paper? Why did I decide to diverge from my happy, thoughtless pie path?

Leaves. Okay. I got this. But not without help. And since the visual arts are not my strength, I decided to look up images of maple and oak leaves and then copy them onto cardboard as templates.

Did I mention visual arts are NOT my thing?

So far so…well, let’s go with “okay.” But it needs a little something more. Braids! Who can’t do braids? At least I didn’t have to google images for that.

Rustic is good. Rustic is good. It’s a PIE. Rustic is good.

Better. But let’s add a few o’ those trademark generic leaves, eh?

Cautiously optimistic…

OK. This is as good as it’s gonna get. Let’s bake this puppy!

Blackberry-strawberry, in case you were wondering.

Lessons learned:

a) Do use templates. Just cut them a little smaller next time. Or buy cutters in cute shapes. (But I’m too cheap for that.)

b) Do use wax paper to avoid mushing your cutouts. Chill or freeze them before applying.

c) Chill, but don’t freeze your braid strands. (Ever tried braiding frozen dough?)

d) Stay humble. In baking, as in life, there is always something to fear…and learn from.

Will I keep decorating pies? Probably, though only on occasion. I’m a happy imperfectionist, and pie is, in my opinion, meant to look rustic, so I don’t NEED to decorate. But I think it’s good for me to brush up against that fear now and then. And the compliments are nice too.

Placeholder Post: Still Here–Not Sure Why

You may have noticed Wing’s World has gone pretty silent lately. Usually when I’m planning to head off on a trip and ditch the cyber-world I’ll prewrite a few posts, or I’ll make a statement about taking time off.

This time, I just…stopped.

I don’t enjoy reading politically-themed rants, so I sure as hell don’t want to be writing them. But since my tax dollars have started separating little kids from their parents, I’ve haven’t really felt like writing about, oh, I don’t know, Canada geese or raspberries or bluegrass, in my usual random style.

I did consider a post about the joy of picnics. But when I didn’t even bother taking a picture of the rockfish/roasted kale/avocado & brie wraps I made, I knew my heart wasn’t in it.

(The wraps were still delicious.)

So I went on a walk/talk with myself today to consider my lack of posting-verve. Here’s what that sounded like:

I’m a writer. This blog is how I connect with my audience, between books. (Yes, I am working on the next one. No, I don’t want to write about that now.) Could I stop blogging? Of course. Should I? Who gives a shit? Is this the kind of blather anyone wants to read?

But when I got home a package was waiting: the new modem Centurylink had promised, to bump up our wifi speed and make uploading pictures to my blog take less than, well…a century to link. I’ve now hooked it all up, but I need to test it out.

So without further ado, here’s a picture of me at work in Holly B’s Bakery, taken by my photographer friend Robert Harrison.

Photo: Robert Harrison. Pie dough: Holly B’s Bakery.

Oh, MY! That was fast. (You’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Will the thrill of quick uploads be enough to re-ignite my blogging spark? Stay tuned. And stay useful. And kind, people. Please be kind.

This Is Your Brain On Proofs: Why Proofreading Is–Or Isn’t–Like Making Bread

Ever wonder what someone’s brain sounds like after ten straight hours of proofreading proofs?

 

Exactly what it says.

“Proof. Poof. Why do they sound so similar?”

“‘The proof is in the pudding!’ Shouldn’t that be, ‘The proof is in taking a BITE of the pudding?’ I mean, plenty of pudding LOOKS great, but don’t judge a pudding by its looks, right? That would be like judging a book by its cover. Which people shouldn’t do. Which is why I’m currently proofreading these proofs.”

No cover-judging!

“And you know when they say ‘pudding,’ they mean dessert, right? Those ol’ British Commonwealth types, they actually ask their mums, ‘What’s for pudding, then?'”

“Hope they get their just desserts. I mean puddings.”

“You know what else proofs? Bread. Or anything with yeast in it. That’s what we bakers call the rising part: proofing. Isn’t that the OPPOSITE of what I’m doing now? I’m poking holes in my own prose, deflating its presumptions of quality.”

Proof of bread proofing.

“Or am I? I mean, proofing my proofs IS helping their overall quality rise in the long run, right? Well, yeah…but only after I make all those corrections. So the proofs have to flatten themselves in humiliation before they can rise. What’s the bread equivalent of proofreading?”

All THESE corrections.

“Did you know that the German word for ‘test’ is ‘PRÜFUNG’? So guess where ‘proofing’ comes from? And, yup…’proving.’ All these words have to pass their test. Just like the bread does.”

Proof of croissants proofing.

“If I quit proofing these proofs too soon, will they go ‘poof’ and prove me a fool?”

“And don’t even start me on loafing puns.”

Happy Whatever of July

“Does Canada have a July Fourth?” goes the riddle. The answer still makes me chuckle. (I’m not writing it here; if you don’t know it already, think about it.)

My own personal riddle goes more like, “When does July Fourth end?” Answer: “Are we there yet?”

OK, maybe that doesn’t qualify as a riddle; pretty sure riddles are funny. My point is, for people who work in the tourism/food industries, Independence Day is one killer holiday. And when it falls on a Tuesday (which is generally the best day for small food businesses to close), what should be a three or four-day weekend suddenly becomes a week-long tunnel. (In the case of Holly B’s Bakery, where I work, it’s a tunnel of Love & Butter.)

20 to a pan. On July 4 we baked 19 pans…and still ran out.

Not complaining! It’s great work. I’m just throwing this out there to remind everyone to be kind to their servers this week–they are probably exhausted.

(And to explain why I’ve been AWOL for a week. I’m back…and might even have something intelligent to share by the next post!)

Till then–Happy Birthday, America! Now I’m going back to bed.

Reuse, Recycle, Renew Your Appetite: “Upcycling” Cooking Boo-Boos

If you’re like me, you HATE throwing away good food. The more you need to toss, the more you hate it. So imagine the loathing that accompanies needing to compost an entire 20×30″ pan of overbaked brownies, for example. This tragedy plays out all too commonly in commercial kitchens.

But it doesn’t have to!

At Holly B’s Bakery, we are becoming (we modestly think) the masters of up-cycling “useless” food. Let me give you three scrumptious examples.

Example #1: those overbaked brownies. We tossed them in the Cuisinart with a little butter to glue them back together, then pressed them into a buttered pan as a pre-baked crust…which we then proceeded to top with dulce de leche cheesecake filling. Sprinkle with sea salt…bake…heaven.

Honestly, it’s more like cheesecake frosting on a brownie. Only more so.

Example #2: over-toasted Cappucino Bars (our name for espresso shortbread with tiny chocolate chips and a cinnamon-espresso glaze). Once more into the “Cuize” with…wait for it…a glob of ganache (a.k.a. the essence of a truffle: dark chocolate melted with whipping cream). And a healthy dash of Kahlua. Form into balls, dip into more (much more!) ganache with toothpicks, and voila…Kahlua Truffle Balls.

Even better than they look. Seriously.

Example #3 isn’t due to an overbake, but rather a scraps problem. When you cut croissants from dough, you end up with bits. Lots of bits. What to do with them? After only a couple of weeks of croissant-making, we were drowning in bits.

Too…many…bits!

So…we baked them. Note: please force yourself past this part of the process. If you stop here and just start eating warm croissant bits, all is lost. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Mmmm…the bits…the bits are calling me. DON’T GIVE IN.

Once baked and cooled, we bag them and freeze them until it’s time to make strata. Guess what? It’s always time to make strata.

Strata before…

Strata = croissant bits (Most people just use stale bread–I recommend this! Much healthier. A little less delicious.) + beaten eggs + a little milk or cream + tomatoes (fresh, canned or dried) + cooked greens of any kind + sauteed onions and mushrooms + mozzarella. Topped with Parmesan. Baked till brown and bubbly.

Strata after. Yes please.

And the best part is feeling so good about avoiding waste! No, I’m lying–the best part is eating your creation. But that no-waste thing is pretty cool.

So…what do you think? Pretty droolly, right? Got any delightful/delicious food-upcycles of your own to share?

The ??th Annual What I’m Thankful For List

Thanksgiving is still several days away as I write this. But the more I contemplate the fearful unknowns and the ugly knowns of my country, the more I feel like turning back into a third grader and writing my I Am Thankful For list. This is one is completely off the cuff; I’m not even wearing cuffs. Just letting my mind ramble over bright spots. Like…

–having a job where I get to work with interesting, supportive people, and to make stuff like this:

(Courtesy Stephanie Smith and Holly B's Bakery)

(Courtesy Stephanie Smith and Holly B’s Bakery)

–having friends to sing with at (very nearly) the drop of a hat:

(Photo: Anne Whirledge-Karp)

(Photo: Anne Whirledge-Karp)

–being able to enjoy other people’s dogs vicariously, since we no longer have one:

"Which hand has the treat?" "Both?"

“Which hand has the treat?” “Both?”

Road Trips to visit Cute Cousins (more on this later):

"Quick, hide their ice chest! Then they can't leave!"

“Quick, hide their ice chest! Then they can’t leave!”

Will I be doing more of this in the coming months? Yes. Does it help? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Count whatever blessings you can, and be careful of one another.

Oh, and if you’d like to share some of your blessings here, I would love that.

Meatza Or Prepples: What’s Your Favorite Foodword?

Probably I’ve been working too many hours next to an oven this summer, because I’m finding ridiculous amounts of joy in making up foodwords with my colleagues at the bakery. For example…

Prepples = apples prepped for pie

Meatza = obvious

Charden = what everyone’s garden turns into this time of year (unless it’s zucchini, but that doesn’t make a good foodword)

Loafening = making loaves slowly

Strompost = what we call our compost, which is taken home by the family of my colleague, Laura Strom

Plumble = a plum crumble (the best kind!)

Rhuberry Rasbarb Squares

Ready to be turned into plumbles, rhuberry rasbarb squares, and...blue -peach scones...bleach scones? Maybe not. (Photo by Stephanie Smith)

Ready to be turned into plumbles, rhuberry rasbarb squares, and…blue -peach scones…bleach scones? Maybe not. (Photo by Stephanie Smith)

I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea. Your turn now: what foodwords have you or your family invented?

 

Love & Butter & Luck: Yes, Island Life Is Sweet–Just Not Always Equally So

Our beautiful island and its sweet bakery, Holly B’s, were featured last week on Seattle’s KING 5 Evening Magazine. Here we are, lookin’ smooth:

http://www.king5.com/mb/entertainment/television/programs/evening/at-lopez-holly-bs-the-love-and-butter-legacy-lives-on/170800955

Seeing this take on my life of Love & Butter, I am struck by a couple of facts:

  • I am blessed to adore my job, but I only need to work part-time. There are plenty of folks on Lopez who work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
  • I am blessed to be able to do the hard physical work my job requires. I know many folks who, through illness, injury, age, or some combination of those simply cannot work where I work, no matter how much they would like to.
  • I am blessed with wonderful, supportive, easygoing co-workers & boss. How many folks I know who cannot say that!

How we roll...(photo by Stephanie Smith, Boss Extraordinaire)

How we roll…(photo by Stephanie Smith, Boss Extraordinaire)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Love & Butter, yes–but also sheer, dumb luck. I try very hard not to take that for granted.