Monday, December 11, 2023

Woes and Peace: Winter Poetry Monday


Blackberry Ginger Cookies | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #cookies

Poetry Monday's once a week.
I bet you know which day.
I don't participate every time,
But today I've come out to play.

My friends assign each week a theme,
Winter is what they chose.
Now it's up to all of us,
to put our thoughts into prose.


Woes and Peace

Winter is a time when I
need too many clothes!
Freezing, I must cover up,
from head down to my toes.

Driving's not so easy now, 
it's quite the scary deal.
Has me asking myself twice, 
before I take the wheel.

Full on storms are just the worst,
snow with sleet and ice.
Those days I stay in the house,
indulge my baking vice.

Blackberry Ginger Cookies | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #cookies
Blackberry Ginger Cookies

And those storms that never end,
our muscles pay the price,
when we need the snowblower,
to go over the driveway twice.
But then . . . 

Woes and Peace: Winter Poetry Monday | picture taken by, featured on, and property of Karen of | #winter #snow

Freshly fallen snow can bring, 
a calming sense of peace,
sitting by a roaring fire,
and all wrapped up in fleece.

Poetry Monday | Graphic designed by and property of | #poem #poetryWait!
Read more poetry, 
you're not through.
Some talented writers
are in this crew:


Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Blackberry Ginger Cookies         

Printable Recipe

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 stick margarine, softened
1 egg, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 TBSP sugar, divided
2 TBSP molasses
1 TBSP black raspberry sparkling water
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
1/4 tsp salt 
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup blackberry preserves
18 blackberries, halved

*Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
*Cream the butter, margarine, egg, brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the sugar, molasses, and black raspberry sparkling water, until smooth. Mix in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda.
*Drop the blackberry preserves into the dough and roughly cut in with a knife.
*Drop by heaping tsp onto the baking sheets. Leave lots of room, they spread. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
*Bake for 9 - 11 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately press a blackberry half into the center of each cookie. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Expand. Embrace. Empower.


Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #Bread

Expand. Embrace. Empower.

If this country were to need a new watchword, and it does, this is it.

I know that we all feel that there is strength in shared experiences, outlooks, and core beliefs, in identifying with our tribe. But it is less strength, and more comfort. Comfort is necessary, of course, but it can also be limiting. Stagnating. The risk of missing out.

I wrote a post a couple of days ago called What the Immigrants Knew, if you didn't read it, I hope you will. It's a personal story about a lesson from my great grandparents. In many ways, I'm making the same point again today, but through my own, online and blogging experiences.

Shortly after I started blogging, I made my first real online, never met in person friend. We had a connection right from the start, she had a great sense of humor and was supportive of everything I wrote. 

I am skeptical by nature, and even more so online. I'm well aware that people can say they are whoever they want to online. And there are scammers everywhere, but this woman was the real deal.

So when my first friend was thinking of giving up blogging, I convinced her to continue by coming up with a writing challenge, the Secret Subject Swap, and talked a bunch of other bloggers to join in. Although it was meant to be a one time deal, it blew up. Bloggers asked to join in. At one point I had 30 bloggers participating and was running 8 different challenges.

The challenges were open to all, but when someone asked to join, I always checked them out, looked at their blog and social media.

At one point, Stephanie asked to join. Her social media was full of Christian proclamations. She was, of course, welcome to join, but clearly would never be a part of my personal inner circle.

But I got to know her, this woman who ended every sentence with two exclamation marks!! She is a kind, positive, fun, and funny friend, always up to join in on anything I came up with. I saw her strength when she finally got up the nerve to leave her abusive husband with nothing but a beat up car and her kids. 

Reyna is someone else who joined the challenges with whom I had nothing in common. It was difficult to read her posts, she was not a deep thinker, and clearly did not have a grasp of sentence structure or punctuation, something that makes me crazy.

But, I came to see, she was an empath, a warm and comfortable person, and a fiercely supportive friend. 

Some of these people, with whom I had little in common, supported me in ways and at times when I needed it the most.

I could have comfortably lived in my own "tribal" bubble but oh, how I would have missed out. Expanding my little writing world, embracing what others had to offer, taking the time to look beneath the surface, has been empowering.

There is black, there is white, and then there is all of that vibrant color in between. We should be looking for it.

Expand. Embrace. Empower | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of Karen of | #MyGraphics #blogging

I acknowledge the nurturing strength of like-mindedness and shared purpose. The truth is though, that there is an added layer of power in diversity. Growth lies in the acceptance of, the embracing of, diversity.

Tribalism is comfortable, yes, but it can also be counterproductive. Inclusion based on exclusion is a recipe for societal atrophy.

Heterogeneity, all it can bring us, and all it can teach us, provides balance. Depth of flavor.

Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #Bread
Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls 

I was talking recently with Sage, someone who I got to know through my Baking In A Tornado FB page. Her children are on the autism spectrum and are gender diverse. She and her husband are currently estranged from her in-laws who are not accepting of their own grandchildren. 

Sage has had difficult times, including a challenging childhood and the loss of her twin. She deals with physical challenges and has had multiple surgeries. People are often distant with her, uncomfortable with the burdens she carries, often see her as damaged, not even willing to get to know her past what they (think they) see.

Are we really that shallow?

Yes. Yes, we are.

Shallow, closed minded enough to embrace: listless over vibrancy, constrained over dynamic, stagnation over progress, blnded over enlightened, immobility over growth.

The divisiveness of tribalism has become dangerous.

An open mind is a healthy mind. And it is only an open society that is poised for a healthy future.

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls        

Printable Recipe

1# loaf frozen bread dough
2 - 3 TBSP flour
4 oz cream cheese
2 TBSP Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

6 TBSP powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp milk

*NOTE: to make these ahead, bake the day before, cover and refrigerate, then just warm up and frost the next day.
*Wrap the bread dough in greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Spread the flour onto the counter, unwrap the defrosted dough and place on the flour. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
*Grease a 9 X 13 baking pan.
*In a bowl, mash together the cream cheese, Nutella, brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp of the cinnamon using the back of a spoon.
*Roll out the dough to about 20 inches in length by about 12 inches in width. Spread with the cream cheese mixture to about 1/4 of an inch of each edge. Fold the short sides in, just 1/4 of an inch.
*Using the long end, roll up to about a 20 inch long tube. Cut into 16 slices and place them, open side down, into the prepared pan. Cover with a plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 4 hours.
*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the rolls for 25 minutes. 
*Whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, remaining cinnamon, and the milk until smooth. Drizzle over warm rolls.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

What the Immigrants Knew

Cranberry Pistachio Cake | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #dinner

I've been thinking a lot about what's missing in our society today. Well, there's a whole lot missing, like honesty, political representation, a shared vision for this country, integrity, basic morals and values, to name a few. You probably know how I feel about these issues if you read this blog regularly.

But those are more national issues, visible on a macro level. Today I'm thinking more on a micro level, looking at the core of who we were and what we've lost.

And what we've lost is a sense of community. 

We became segregated first by Covid and now the byproduct of the virus, the convenience and options provided by online shopping, the ability many have to work from home, take out delivered to our front door, the lack of any human customer service, now to a great degree provided by online bots. We have become much more isolated, in many ways disconnected from our shared humanity, by the decline in day to day, face to face human interpersonal interaction.

Political, religious, and racial tribalism is fast becoming another nail in our collective societal coffin. 

What the Immigrants Knew | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of Karen of | #MyGraphics #blogging

I was really lucky. I had my great grandmother, Bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) until I was in my mid-twenties. In one way, I had her longer than that. My mother's cousin, back when Bubbe was in (I think) her 80s, sat her in front of a tape recorder and told her to talk. She told stories from all the way back to her childhoood in Russia, of the pogroms, how her cousins came to be her half siblings, how they came to this country when her half-brother was (falsely) accused of murder. After she was gone, I still had her voice, telling so many fascinating stories that could have been lost.

But, of course, she couldn't possibly imagine that the one story I've been trying to piece together lately was worth mentioning. This one took place after she came to this country, and married Zayde (Yiddish for grandfather), another Russian immigrant, who I never met.

I grew up knowing that for some amount time, they had taken someone into their home. I can't figure out whether or not at that point they'd had all of their 5 children. I do know that at least some of them were there, so they were a family of up to 7, living in a small house in Roxbury, MA in the early 1900s. I also know that even my great uncle, the youngest of them, knew him well (at some point) and spoke of him in later years. I wish I'd asked my uncle then the questions I have now.

Because now it's kind of muddled, the memories of those of us who are two and three generations removed don't completely gel. My mother seems to remember that the man they took in had a drinking problem, my uncle is pretty sure he didn't. What they agree on is that he needed help of some kind and my great grandparents stepped up. My uncle remembers that he was characterized as a friend of the Goldman (the last name assigned to Zayde and some but not all of the family, at Ellis Island) family. Bubbe and Zayde owned a very small corner store/grocery, and apparently he hung out there, even helped out both at the store and at home when he was needed.
I don't know what circumstances led to him living with my great grandparents, how long he was there, or even what ultimately happened to him, other than he was part of their lives for longer than he lived in the home.

Bubbe and Zayde were immigrants living in a small house, running a little community store, and trying to get by. They didn't have much. But their friend both gave what he could and accepted what he needed. He was welcome in their home and shared meals at their dinner table. He became family.

Cranberry Pistachio Cake | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #dinner

Cranberry Pistachio Cake


Now, you may be thinking that Jewish Russian immigrants helping each other out in a new country isn't really much of a surprise. But here's where I make my point.

The man who became like family? His name was John Donovan.

Bubbe's and Zayde's inclusion, their camaraderie, their compassion, reached further than their tribe. It encompassed their entire and yes, diverse, community.

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Cranberry Pistachio Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 box (3.4 oz) pistachio pudding mix
1/2 cup oil
1 cup milk
3 eggs
OPT: green food coloring
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
18 fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup cranberry juice

1 can (16 oz) cream cheese frosting
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 TBSP cranberry juice
OPT: red food coloring

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans.
*Sift 3 TBSP pudding mix (you want the powder only) and set aside for the frosting. Set aside 9 of the cranberries for decoration. Cut the rest of the cranberries into quarters.
*Beat cake mix, remaining pudding mix, oil, milk, eggs, (and, if desired, a few drops of green food coloring) for 2 minutes. Fold in half of the chopped pistachios. Spread evenly into the prepared pans. Sprinkle 1/3 of the quartered cranberries onto each cake batter. Gently press just barely into the batter.
*Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the center of the tops spring back to the touch. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans and cool completely. Place the bottom layer onto a serving plate.
*Using a pastry brush, brush 1/4 cup of the cranberry juice onto each cake layer.
*Beat together the cream cheese frosting, cream cheese, reserved pudding mix, powdered sugar, remaining 2 TBSP cranberry juice, (and, if desired, a few drops of red food coloring). Reserve 1/3 cup of the frosting to a piping bag and refrigerate for decoration.
*Use about 1/4 of the remaining frosting to frost the bottom layer, place the middle layer on top and use about the same amount to frost this layer. Add the top layer, then frost the top and sides with the other half of the frosting. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
*Decorate the top of the cake with the reserved frosting, remaining cranberries, and remaining chopped pistachios.