quiet evening + cookies

I’m sitting on my couch with one leg tucked under the other, my head resting against the overstuffed cushion that right now I have become grateful for. This couch belonged to my grandparents and was handed down to me and now to us, and today I have made peace with its lumpy, neutral self because it is offering me the rest I need. The low hum of NPR on the radio dances with the buzz of the ceiling fan. I was going to play soccer this afternoon but I just sent Andrew off with his cleats without me – it is hot, too hot, so hot it makes me sad. I feel out of sorts anyway, so instead I’ll sit and write for a bit, and think quietly how good this life is, but mostly about what I should do with it.

Maybe later, after I’ve had some sort of revelation, I’ll make a batch of chocolate chip butterscotch oatmeal cookies. Those are Andrew’s favorites, and the comforting motion of creaming together butter and sugar, folding in those perfect little confectionary peaks, is what I crave. Something gentle and rhythmic to encourage my mind to wander. But also, something to nourish him, body and soul. In this intermediary period, where he is not on active duty but waiting to be called out of the reserves, we are in a period of stasis. I’m working two part-time jobs, taking what I can and who will take me, and hoping that all ends will be met in our little newlywed life. He’s applying and job-searching diligently, as if it were his actual job, in addition to taking a summer class to keep him sharp, but I know that he wants to do something good and useful in the world…while he’s waiting for his chance in “real life” to do good and be useful in his job in the Air Force. A series of rejections and “not hiring” stock answers have come our way, and I brings up a lot of interesting thoughts about what we want to do versus what we have to do — all this, of course, applies to life in general but also the world of work.

But around here, even though there are few answers and even fewer certainties, life is good. Life is busy. I’m much less busy now than I was even a mere month ago with my library job and crepe-kitchen job, and yet I can’t seem to catch up on rest, much less get out of bed before the second alarm in the mornings. Perhaps my head and my body are recovering from weeks of nonstop workingtryingrushing to prepare for all of the changes and events.

I wonder if this chronic tiredness concerns the nature of what I’ve been doing lately. I’m doing a bit of work here and there, some writing and some kitchen work, and I’m doing fun active summer things and staying up late watching drive-in movies with Andrew. But in the moments like this when I find myself wondering about my purpose, I wonder too if what I do is so tiring because it isn’t fulfilling. Is there a connection?

But then, what is fulfillment? Is it money, prestige, power, recognition, control…? I don’t necessarily want those things. I prefer, at least ideologically, simplicity and humility and quiet. (Here is a really great collection of articles and experts on doing what you love. They discuss prestige at length.)

And, in all honesty, if you were to ask me what I want to “do” with my life, I wouldn’t be able to provide a neat answer, or even one without ambiguities. I want to travel, I want to love completely, I want to write, I want…it’s all very nice, but it’s all very vague. I also want a Le Creuset pot and a new camera lens, how’s that for concrete imagery? But those are just things, and in my mind things have very little to do with fulfillment.

Perhaps the trick is being settled with the vagueries and looking out for the opportunities, to snatch at whim with the certainty that comes with the spur-of-the-moment recognition of a true passion.

Things like that are worth waiting for, through part-time shifts and hourly wages, through assignments that inspire little and excite few. And meanwhile, how glad I am to devote the head and heart space to enjoying the little things while the big things are still cooking up.

I think this counts as revelation enough for cookies, but then again, who am I to say that cookies need an occasion? (And yes, I remember complaining about the heat earlier, but I’m still going to turn on that oven.)

Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

(adapted from my grandmother’s Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, 1981 edition)

1 c. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 c. Rapadura sugar

1 egg

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. rolled oats

½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ c. butterscotch chips

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat together softened butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Add dry ingredients to the wet in increments until well blended. Stir in oats and chips. Drop tablespoon-full sized lumps of cookie dough onto a baking sheet (I like to use a silicon baking mat) and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. They emerge golden and perfect. This is by far the best cookies recipe I’ve used in a long time. It is simple, reliable, and perhaps blessed by my grandmother — she had written “very good” in cursive on the recipe page. xo

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9 thoughts on “quiet evening + cookies

  1. I know we talked about this once before, but I have struggled with what I do with my days, and the niggling feeling that maybe it isn’t enough or ‘good enough.’ But, similarly to you, the things I truly love are more simple (the perfect french bread loaf out of the oven, the great shot during a photo session, the early morning sun while camping) and about a month ago I felt something click inside of me. I went from discontent with my day job to content enough, to do it while it allows me to do the things I love. And is it perfect? No. But I feel so much happier, knowing that this is okay for now, and it’s likely not forever, that life can change all the time and that things are on the horizon even if I can’t see them yet. As you say: “Things like that are worth waiting for, through part-time shifts and hourly wages, through assignments that inspire little and excite few.”

    I have always admired you and I am so glad to know you. I know you have so many good things in your present and future, and you and Andrew take care of each other and that is really something.

  2. Oh Helen, I so admire you too, and I’m grateful for your words and that you share in the struggle and are making something good out of it. What is life if we are just striving for “success”, whatever that is? What is life if we don’t enjoy the actual living part of it?!

    I wish you many perfect shots and loaves of french bread, and many many gorgeous sunrises. xoxo

    • Oh, thank you, dear. You are always so sweet.

      You might find this post and subsequent comments interesting: http://betterinrealife.com/2012/04/success-or-not/

      It’s my friend Lauren’s blog, and I think there’s some really interesting thoughts in the conversation that takes place in the comments. It is fascinating to me how differently people define success/fulfillment/contentment– and the difference between personal fulfillment and externally recognized success, and where different people put the most weight and emphasis.

      (ps. I like the new blog layout! I know it might not be terribly new, but I usually read in Google Reader and so it is the first time I’ve seen it.)

  3. But it is terribly new! And thanks for noticing, I think it’s more clean and sophisticated. BC Photography got a new layout too, yes? Gorgeous.

    Checking out your friend’s blog now, thanks for the recommendation!

  4. My sweet Erin, enjoy these moments while you can. I get so jealous every day I see your blog posts (but love reading them) that you have time for such a simple, but wonderful thing. I think you two are SO blessed to have this time together without the pressures of full-times jobs and I sometimes wish we had had that. Though I’m so thankful for the jobs we’ve been given. You’re so good at enjoying the little things, so enjoy this time you’ve been given just as much. xoxo

    • Oh Mille, thank you for that encouragement. You are so right. Regardless of our situations, we need to train ourselves to enjoy the little moments — as I’m sure you and Kyle do, too! Lots of love to you, dear friend.

  5. around here | Moveable Feast

  6. cookin’ up a storm | Moveable Feast

  7. a riff on a favorite :: birthday cookies | little dutch wife

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