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Baking Therapy

I spent quite a few hours in my kitchen this past Saturday. My father-in-law’s birthday was last Friday, and we were celebrating Saturday. My husband asked if I’d make a Sour Orange pie he’d seen on America’s Test Kitchen for his dad, who loves lemon meringue and other such sour things. I offered to make some coleslaw too, since hubby and his brother had decided to make ribs (heat & serve – Curly’s from Costo…so good!) and baked beans (BIL’s recipe) for the dinner.

I started off with the crust for the pie, then made the coleslaw while the crust was cooling, and then made the pie filling…and then hubby mentioned that his dad was out of his favorite peanut butter cookies and had hinted for more. So I whipped up a batch of those while the pie was cooling.

Then I had 4 egg whites leftover from the pie filling, and decided to make orange flavored (lightly) meringue cookies to go with the pie. So, I did that, made some orange-flavored whipped cream to go with the pie, and the meringues were just barely done by the time I had to head out the door with all that food.

One would think I’d be tired after spending all day in the kitchen, and I was. But it was a relaxed sort of tired, and my mind was clear and calm (always good before spending time with family of any sort). Everything I made was a big hit, and I had so many meringues that I took some to work on Monday, sent some to work with hubby, and still have some we’re nibbling on at home.

I know a lot of women (people, for that matter), don’t like to cook, or like having help in the kitchen. Not me. I like having the kitchen to myself, and if you offer to help, you’re very likely to be turned down. My kitchen is my “alone” space, a space where I don’t have to make room for other people, or try to work around someone else. I can do what I want, how I want, and when I want in that particular domain, and I don’t have to deal with compromise or interaction or even communicating what I’m doing when. I like having that time to myself, and my small galley kitchen gives me a great excuse for turning down company – there really isn’t a lot of space for more than one person to work in there. I actually kind of hate open kitchens because they invite people to “watch” or help with the cooking process.

Selfish? Of course. And obviously I’m polite and offer to help whenever I’m at someone else’s house (and normally people take me up on it and we have a good time, though I am more grateful for large/open kitchens in that scenario). But when I’m home, in my own domain, kitchen time is much-needed “me time”, and a sort of sneaky, yummy way for this introvert to recharge the social batteries a bit.

That’s probably why I like doing food prep for the week on Sundays – hardboiled eggs for breakfasts, making burritos, meat pies, or whatever else might be nice to have in the freezer for quick lunches, and prepping salads/cutting fruit for eating later in the week. I love food, I like to cook, and I love to bake (though I don’t much, because…calories & carbs), and while kitchen time is a lot of work, it’s also very therapeutic for me.

The only thing I’m really not fond of is the cleanup. But, it’s a small price to pay for the joy of making something I know that I (and hopefully others) will enjoy. And honestly, since I always have the kitchen to myself for my nightly clean-up time too (I don’t clean until late at night), it’s another good transition time when I can let my mind wander, and look forward to one last cup of tea once it’s done.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to cook, bake, taste, and not have all those calories stick like frickin’ glue…that would make this particular hobby/therapy absolutely perfect…


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Nailin’ It…Slowly.

So far, its been pretty easy to eat an egg once per day (see this year’s resolution post if you have no idea what I’m talking about). Getting six continuous hours of sleep a night? Not so easy. Especially on Saturday nights, which is when you’d think it would be the easiest, since I can generally sleep in on Sundays. Alas, no matter how late I can sleep, I still have to be up by 7:30am or so to feed the dogs, so my 6 hours has to happen before then (anything that happens after is just a bonus, and one I often take advantage of).

This is because Saturday nights are “nail nights”, or more properly, manicure nights. So I wait until the dogs and husband are settled for the night around 11:30pm-12am, and then I get out my nail “stuff”, pull up whatever show(s) I’m currently watching, and start the process of removing my old nail polish, filing, shaping, buffing, and re-polishing. I also soak my feet and do a simple pedicure at the same time…re-polishing my toenails every 4-5 weeks or so. I generally get done around 3:30-4am, but then I have to wait for the new polish to dry before I can go to bed, which is another hour or so. Even then, I often end up with sheet prints in my polish or scrunched up tips just because the polish wasn’t *truly* dry.

In any case, I decided to try a new method of doing my nails this week, to see if I could speed up the process a bit, and even with a somewhat steep learning curve, I shaved an hour off my normal time. I still need practice, but considering I spent an hour or more just reading instructions, watching videos and being extra-careful, I think I can cut at least another hour, hour and a half off next time. And there are other things I can do to speed things up, like setting up my “space” and picking out colors, etc…earlier in the day, so it doesn’t take that extra half hour in the evening before I can even start.

Could I just skip all this and go to the salon for a couple of hours? Sure. But I really don’t like having someone else do my nails. I did once, because I got a gift certificate for a manicure, and I didn’t like anything about the way she filed, shaped or polished my nails. I didn’t like the touch from a stranger on my hands. And doing that every two weeks holds no appeal to me whatsoever, much less every week.

More importantly though, nail night is “me time”. Not “me and a stranger’s time” or even “me and a friendly acquaintence’s time”, but time for me to be alone, recharging my introverted little batteries, watching shows my husband has no interest in, and just generally enjoying having a few hours to myself. I still fully intend to take 3 hours every Saturday night to relax, do my nails and watch my shows. I’m just cutting that time down from 5 hours to take better care of my brain (such as it is) by sleeping more.

I think by mid-February, I should have it all down to a science of sorts, and I’ll be in bed by 1:30am on Sunday mornings. I dare say that will make Sundays more productive as well. Which would be really nice. We’ll see.

Now, back to the grind. But only for a week – I’ve got next week off work, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. Five more days…