Last blog for 2014. Time is flying by and I’m getting ready to celebrate Christmas with my family. I hope the holidays bring you happiness and joy and the year before us presents a more peaceful face than the one we leave behind.
This will be a short blog as I have baking to do and a house that isn’t going to clean itself. Rick always finds it amusing that I scrub the house from top to bottom so that people can come and mess it up. For him, the logical solution would be to leave it as is, make a mess, and then only have to clean it once. Being slightly anal on my mother’s side, this solution won’t work for me.
I’m naturally neat. Early training rather than a strong desire to clean probably attributes to this trait. My grandmother and my mother are immaculate beings. Cohabiting with both ladies as a child left little room for me to run amok. By the time I was old enough to have the coordination to manage it, I was taught to make my bed. Not just to make it, but to make it as a proper bed should be made. Before climbing into it at night my toys were to be deposited in the large wooden toy box in the corner and my clothes put in the hamper. I cannot remember ever seeing the big house on Ogilvie Street a mess. There may have been an open newspaper lying next to a cup of tea or a bag of yarn by the chair in the corner, but for the most part the white glove test wouldn’t have turned up much to complain about. A lady, Ida by name, came once a week to tackle heavier cleaning such as windows, floors, and ironing. I loved Ida. Besides helping with the house she often provided extra hands in the kitchen. The woman baked the most amazing Boston cream pies I’ve ever had the pleasure to drop in my mouth. Yum. Food was always at the head of my list of priorities so when the baked goods started showing up when Ida did, we forged a bond for life.
As a youngster when I was restless and looking for something to occupy my time, Ida would fold one of her aprons in half and tie it twice around me. Handing me a whisk broom and a dust pan, I would work alongside her humming as she did while sweeping dusty corners and listening to stories about her life. Tales of eight siblings and life on her family’s farm in New Brunswick kept me sweeping and dusting for hours. Ida was a black woman of undetermined age. To me she seemed old, but then at the age of six anyone over twelve was grouped under that umbrella. As I remember she hadn’t an easy life, not that she discussed it with me. Inadvertently I overheard a conversation between my grandparents not meant for my ears, in which my grandfather spoke of Ida’s husband being out of work and Ida carrying the weight of supporting the family. Never did I hear her complain. Ida didn’t abide whining. “Complaining don’t make it any better”, was her response if I engaged such behavior. On occasion when the need arose, I was released into her care to run errands downtown. My grandmother never had a driver’s license so Ida and I would sit at the bus stop on the corner of Young Avenue and wait for the bus with the sign reading “Downtown Halifax” to take where we needed to go. A shopping bag with wheels accompanied us to carry our load, including our lunch which was usually a sandwich wrapped in waxed paper to be eaten on the lawn in the Public Gardens. Located in the center of the city, the Public Gardens with its manicured lawns, resplendent flower beds, and peaceful ponds was a lovely place to take a break after shopping. During the summer the gazebo provided a home for local musicians to entertain those interested in stopping to have a listen. Always when finished we saved the crusts for the geese and ducks lingering nearby hoping for a handout.
The first time we boarded the bus I ran and jumped into a seat right behind the driver. There is something about a man in uniform even at that young age. Quietly Ida took my hand and led me to the bench seat all the way in the back. Having no understanding at that age of why we were there I occupied myself looking out the window and chattering excitedly. This was to be my first taste of prejudice, though I didn’t recognize the flavor at the time. In those days it was the way it was. Not having an understanding of what the word involved, I lived outside of that world oblivious to its very existence. To me Ida was my friend, a great story-teller and cook, and someone I looked up to. Still do. Had she been green with purple horns I wouldn’t have noticed because to me she was simply, Ida. Unfortunately life does not remain that unlined as we get older, but each person willing to extend a hand is a step forward.
So much unrest in the world. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to let it go and accept one another for who we are. That’s my wish for this year. Have a happy holiday! See you in 2015.
When I need a really good sweet in a hurry I pull out my box of saltine crackers and make these. Another recipe that looks time consuming but isn’t.
Saltine Chocolate Caramel Bark
30 saltine crackers
1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup Heath English toffee bits
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray well with cooking spray.
Place crackers on sheet in a single layer.
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and bring to boil. Cook and stir for 4 mins. until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool slightly.
Spoon equally over crackers and spread with knife. Bake for 10 mins. or until bubbly. Remove from oven.
Mix together chocolate chips and toffee bits. Sprinkle immediately on top of crackers. Wait about 5 mins. until melty. Spread with knife. Sprinkle walnuts over top.
Place in refrigerator for 1 hr. Break into pieces.