Baking a Cake

One of my earliest childhood memories is from when I was about five years old.  Like all early memories this one is a little fuzzy, but my daddy has told me that it is a real memory and has reminded me about it over the years.

Our very first house was really small and had a set of stairs up to a deck.  Beneath the deck was a patch of dirt and it was there that I loved to make mud pies and “cakes.” My dad, would come up the walk from working as a firefighter and would say, “What cha doin?”  (Short for What are you doing?) And I would say in my little voice, “I’m baking a cake!”

I remember how I loved to put the muddy batter in my little pretend cake pans and then decorate them.  With a sprinkle of sand and a few little rocks and flowers, each creation was a work of art. I think what I really wanted was my dad to see what I had made and tell me what a good job I was doing.

When I was a teenager, my “stay at home” mom went back to work.  It was short-lived for her because we really weren’t used to a mom who worked outside of our home. But for me, it was fun. I tried to help out after school and during that time I embraced cooking and making meals for our family.  I loved to make all kinds of deserts, pies, breads and cakes. I especially liked my dad’s approval when he would acknowledge one of my creations.

Nowadays I don’t make many cakes or desserts. With no holidays or parties to attend my baking has gone on hiatus. Plus, I think it is easy to eat too much during a pandemic.

However, my granddaughter loves to bake with me.  One of her favorite things to do is watch baking shows together.  There is one called “Sugar Rush-Extra Sweet” https://www.netflix.com/title/80201328.  This baking show features professional bakers competing for a grand prize and they make amazing sweets and cakes. The other is “Nailed It” https://www.netflix.com/title/80179138. On Nailed It, they feature novice bakers who are trying to replicate a master piece with hysterical results. They usually do the opposite of nailing it.

Her love for baking shows has inspired me to give her birthday and Christmas gifts that include utensils, cooking gadgets and baking supplies.  This year I gave her all the things she needs to decorate cakes.

My son turned 36 this week and so last weekend we baked a cake together to celebrate his birthday.  After the cake had cooled, my granddaughter and her best friend decorated the cake. With the Seahawks game running in the background, we chose blue and green colors to add color to our vanilla butter cream cake. We had so much fun together, reading the directions, doing the math and then being patient while they cooled. She has really learned so much from watching her baking shows. I can’t wait for this summer at “Nana Camp” to bake some more.

This week it felt like coming full circle for me. Fifty seven years later, the little girl that wanted to please her daddy by making mud pies had a chance to help another little girl make her daddy a real cake. She was so proud of what she had made and her daddy (my son) praised her efforts!

It is hitting home this week that time is flying by. Making memories with grandchildren, celebrating family milestones, laughing at parties are all things I’m looking forward to as I approach my next chapter.  I have less than 40 working days until that happens.

The next time I talk with my dad in Arizona maybe he’ll ask me, “What cha doin?” and I’ll say, “I’m bakin a cake!”

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!Can you believe it is finally 2021!  

Looking back on this past year, it is hard to believe that we’ll ever forget it.  Will it become a distant memory or will we always remember this as the year of the pandemic?  In the future, will we think of it as a major historic event, like 9-11 in 2001 or the “crash” and worldwide economic downturn of 2008? There have been so many changes for all of us.  Some are temporary but others may be a bit more permanent.

After this, I think employers will have to consider giving more choices.  In the future, I imagine it will become standard practice to allow more employees to work from home, especially now that we have shown we can do it.  I wonder if the idea to convert all the empty office spaces into more housing will catch on. Encouraging people to work and live where they want to could reduce commutes and eliminate some of the traffic jams that were a regular occurrence before the pandemic.

How will health care and education change?  Will we be able to travel, go to restaurants and bars, attend a sporting event or a concert in the same ways we did before? I really hope so, but somehow I think it won’t be the same.  I remember that we used to be able to say goodbye to someone at the gate in the airport, we could wear jewelry and shoes and there was no such thing as a security line.  We never went back to the way it was before.  Could it be that we’ll have a rapid test for the virus before we can get on and off planes?

Everything seems to be different.  For the first time in many years, we are not skiing in Eastern Washington on New Years Day with our friends.  We are staying home and spending time with two of our four grandkids.  Since we are being hit with a major winter storm, which means lots of wind and rain, instead of sliding down the mountain, we’ll be reading books, playing with Christmas toys, putting together puzzles, and baking a cake.

I’ve never been a big New Year’s resolution person.  I can keep something up for a few weeks, but by February I usually forget whatever it was I resolved to do.  If it is not a habit by then, nothing will change.

But for 2021 I thought about some words and phrases I want to focus on.  These are my Top 10 big ideas that I hope to implement at the beginning of my retirement season.  Instead of trying to plan everything out in detail – I’ve “resolved” to see what happens and stay flexible.  Instead of a resolution, I’ll never keep, I’m printing my Top 10 list and sticking it on my bathroom mirror.  As I begin each new day, I’ll read these to remind myself, at least for a few months, to think about these things:

1. Be open to new possibilities

2. Care for others

3. Embrace Change

4. Be Patient

5. Look for the Good

6. Reconnect with old friends and family

7. Don’t be in a hurry

8. Remember “Every day is Saturday”

9. Make new friends

10. Find joy in simple pleasures

Whether you are considering retirement, retiring this year, or are already retired – I wish you all the best in 2021!  I hope you will “Rock Your Retirement!” Happy New Year!


MilestonesI’ve been thinking about milestones this week.  Our lives can have many different milestones.  When we start kindergarten, graduate from high school, college, leaving home for the first time, starting work, getting married, or having kids, all of these are considered milestones that mark a life event.

Milestones were stones placed beside a road to mark the distance in miles between destinations. Today, we use the term to describe a significant event in our life or an important change in the stage of development of a person.  We are all familiar with “childhood” and “adulthood” Maybe instead of calling this next stage, “retirement” a better term could be “elderhood.”  Although that makes me feel old!

Just this week, I noticed I reached several milestones:

My husband and I made it through 2020 and thankfully, so far, we haven’t been exposed to the virus.

My daughter in law, a registered nurse for a heart surgeon received her first of two Covid vaccines.

I made all of the calls to the agencies, offices, and places I can think of to get information and all my questions answered.

I’ve analyzed, considered, and made all of the financial decisions that I think I need to make, at least for now.

Since I won’t have the same insurance coverage after I retire, I completed an annual exam, mammogram, bloodwork, bone scan, skin cancer check, dental cleaning, replacement of some old fillings with two crowns, and had my vision checked.  (Fortunately, I don’t need bodywork like getting a hip or knee replaced.)

This week I applied to our state retirement system and I submitted my application with a real date.  I “pushed” the button and the only thing left to do is to send in a copy of my husband’s birth certificate.

I counted how many “working days” I have left – something I never expected to do.  There are 48 by the way.

All of these “milestones” are making things more real and it feels really official.  In less than 90 calendar days I’ll join the ranks of those who have reimagined their life. I’ll give up the friends I’ve made, regular contact with my colleagues, a title, benefits, and a wage.

Sometimes I get nervous and ask myself, should I be retiring in the middle of a pandemic?  I also wonder what I’ll be doing every day after I’m no longer employed.

How will be both adjust to me being retired?  When my husband retired three years ago, he said it took him about a year to get used to his new way of life.  Now he is wondering what will need to change for him, in terms of his activities and schedule, when I retire.

I think since a big retirement party is currently out of the question, my next milestone will be to turn in my badge, keys, and computer equipment.  There really isn’t much more to do.

So this is Christmas?

So this is Christmas?Travel restrictions, mandates for smaller groups, quarantines, no in-person church – this is the holiday season that wasn’t.  But at least we finally have a vaccine now!  It just wasn’t quite in time to make Christmas, well, Christmas.

Nothing is the way it has always been for our family this year.

I’m wondering if celebrating Christmas in July, like the Hallmark Channel did last summer will make more sense.  At least we can be outside.  Maybe by next summer, this will all be a distant dream and the pain will be less sharp.  A little like childbirth, you know it hurts but time dims the memory.

This year instead of gathering with lots and lots of people, we quarantined and so did our kids and grandkids.  This way at least six of us can be together.  Our 35+ family members will stay in their own homes and we won’t see aunties, uncles, cousins, and second cousins.

For this year, it will only be my son, daughter-in-law, and two of our four grandkids, plus three dogs. We’ll be quietly playing games, doing puzzles, and enjoying a simple meal instead of the crazy “hen house” we usually experience. 

A year from now, hopefully by the end of 2021, we can have a blow out of a holiday. I have to admit that without Christmas parties, traveling the roads, and gathering together it just doesn’t feel the same.

Last year we were in Oregon and we went to my daughter and son-in-laws’ Christmas Eve church service.  It is called Candles and Carols.  After prayer, worship, and guest musicians, the best part of the night is when they darken the church to pitch black.  Then each person is given a tiny little candle.  In the front of the church, the pastor’s grandkids begin to light a candle at the ends of each row.  In just a few moments the darkness departs and the church is lit by candlelight, each one of us holding aloft our little tiny candles.  Then we all sing Silent Night, a cappella.

This year, her church sent out “Christmas Eve in a box.”  My sweet daughter sent a box to her brother where we will spend the night.  Each box has a set of candles and a devotion. It won’t be the same, but on Christmas Eve at least we can have the light of Christmas, say a prayer for the new year, and light our little candles.

Next year will be so much sweeter when we can all be together again.  Merry Christmas!



Winter Solstice

Winter SolsticeI’ve decided that the day I experienced for Winter Solstice on December 21st is like a picture of 2020.  The day included high hopes and dreams, canceled plans, lots of turbulence, and broken records.

My plan was to see the once in a lifetime Christmas Star.   https://www.keloland.com/news/local-news/photos-jupiter-saturn-and-the-christmas-star/.  I would take a walk in my little town along the path near the river which would be lined with hundreds of luminaries.  It would be a beautiful quiet moment to reflect on the year that was past and contemplate the year to come.  

But so much for hopes and dreams! After all, it is 2020 and I should have known better than to plan on anything!

The day before, a broken 35-year-old water service line meant digging up over 400 feet of our front, side, and backyard with a backhoe and installing new pipes.  Never mind the cost of the plumber, it will take months this summer to restore the grass.  We have a muddy mess to clean up.

My high hopes for my winter solstice walk were dashed when the monsoon-like rains started.  We had nearly 2 inches of rain that day.  The ditches were overflowing, there were puddles everywhere, our drainage systems overloaded.  With a high of 57 degrees and the freezing level rising to 6000 feet (our local mountain pass is at 4000 feet) all the snow our ski resorts had received the last two weeks, started melting.  Flood warnings were issued in the valley for our local rivers.  Landslides were predicted by our emergency managers because the soils were saturated on the hillsides.  Lovely!

Then the winds started blowing with gusts that toppled trees in our neighborhood. I reluctantly decided that I wouldn’t try to drag my tired husband to the cute little event downtown.  He had spent the entire day before working in a ditch and on a tractor helping to fix our leaking pipes.  He said, “You go ahead, have a ball!”  Ahhh no, I think I’ll pass.

Feeling a bit disappointed that evening, I grabbed a “summer beach novel” made some hot tea, and sat by the fire to escape.  The temperature dropped rapidly from the warmth of the afternoon.  Incredibly, in just an hour the weather went from warm to freezing.   On top of all of the rain, we suddenly had ice and two inches of snow!  Okay, 2020 – knock it off!  We don’t need any more broken records.

Well if that wasn’t enough, with the weight of the ice and snow on the power lines….you guessed it.  The power went out.  At this point, I gave up on all my plans for the winter solstice of 2020. I grabbed my flashlight, went upstairs, and was in bed by 8 p.m.

The next morning, the skies cleared a little but the snow remained.  I keep realizing what a crazy year this has been.  Why would it end any differently?

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