Subtext

This week, a fiction offering in lieu of procrastibaking.


We're quiet, in that moment, with stars embroidered on a blanket of night wrapped around us. The trees shiver an apology and hold their breath. Waiting. I shift, stretching legs anxious to run. Move just a tiny bit closer to the top of the slide, ready to let the edge pitch me down and away from the precarious absurdity of the whole situation. But guilt nudges me back and I lean into it, settle against him.

We watch the headlights from a sudden burst of late-night traffic rush forward and recede, dancing brief green exuberance out of stillness. 

I want him to speak, but I know that he won't. Silence is easier than the emptiness of words. We both know we've run out of things to say, but neither one of us wants to admit it. I don't want to go. I don't want to stay. I'm not sure how to cover the gap between where we are and where we need to be. 

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/miquelgp/11527259755/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/miquelgp/11527259755/

It's my voice, finally, that expands to fill the space, an awkward flutter of thought, uncontained. I've never been good at holding peace. Always, it comes out mangled. “I'll write to you.” This is true, and not true. I will write to him, in short fits and daily accounts. For a while. I'll fill the space he leaves behind with chatter. I'll offer up my observations in dispatches of pages filled with triviality, but I won't fill them with myself. 

“It'll be okay.”  We know that this also, is true, but not true. He says it because it's the only thing he can say. We've each been in this place before, lost and found and lost again. It's not a question of being okay. It's a question of being.

He turns to kiss my forehead and I shrug away from him, finally, pushing off with a quick swoop to the bottom of the slide. My feet hit the ground in a rush and I surge forward, scattering leaves and startling a raccoon who trundles off, indignant.

“It's not okay. You know it isn't. Nothing about this was ever okay.” My voice quavers and I hate myself for it.

He shoots down after me. “What do you want me to do? I can't fix it. I can't undo it. It's done.” On the ground, he towers over me. His shoulders hunch reflexively and he leans against a small brick half-wall at the edge of the park. I know he's hoping that I'll turn, stop pacing, drift back and settle beside him again. He's hoping I won't be difficult.

He wants to offer comfort, and I'm angry at him for it. I'm angry at him for leading me to this place. I'm angry at myself for following. For pretending I didn't know the answers to questions I decided not to ask. I'm all out of analogies for ugly truths and I have no patience for his comfort. I have no desire to be the one who makes this easy.

I whirl on him. Right now, I want noise. There's nothing left in me but noise. For the space of a heartbeat, I consider telling him the rest. The part of the story he doesn't know. But it doesn't belong to him, not really, and I don't want to share it.

“Done? It was done before it ever started. You're right. You can't fix it. And the fallout is all mine to deal with.”

“I just— I can't think anymore.” His voice is soft.

“You don't want to think! You never did. If there'd been even one second of thought we wouldn't be here now.”

“You know it's not that simple.”

“Isn't it? You let your best intentions mask what you know is the most likely outcome. You hedge your bets to leave room for the best case scenario while making choices that lead to the very same disaster again and again. And I – I just followed along. I let you suck me in. I tried so hard to pretend it real.” I can't even look at him. It's just so unbelievably, mind numbingly cliché. I did everything I could not to be that girl.

“I know it's hard to believe now, but I really thought this would be different. I believed I could make it work. I thought she'd be okay. I thought – I thought she'd get used to it. I thought she'd let go.” 

I resist the urge to roll my eyes, fix my gaze instead on the nearest streetlight and its frenzied flutter of moths. I stare at them until the light is all I can see and the sound of his voice is lost in the battering of wings. I don't need him to tell me about her. I've been where she is, too.

He wants absolution. But there is none to be had. Not from where I'm standing, ready to watch him walk out of my life.

Another set of headlights appears at the intersection. It makes the turn slowly, and I realize it's a patrol car.

“We should go.”

He nods, and reaches for my hand. I hesitate for just a second, before allowing the luxury of that one small comfort. I can't decide if it's for him or for me, but it doesn't matter anymore.

We leave the park together, silent. Carrying our last truths away, unspoken. 


 Photo Credit: Jen Delorme

Photo Credit: Jen Delorme

Jeanette Jones

Jeanette lives, writes, and bakes in a quiet little corner of Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Known for the generous distribution of baked goods and the keen precision of her editor’s marks, Jeanette swears by the Oxford English Dictionary and favours semi-sweet chocolate in her brownies.

SITES I LOVE: 

Chocolate Covered Katie | Smitten Kitchen | Cardamom and Cloves

Skip The Mall. Make Cookies.

Winter was made for procrastibaking. Cold temperatures, treacherous sidewalks, cranky mall employees and belligerent holiday shoppers are all great reasons to just stay inside and bake. Who needs the stress when you can order all your presents from ThinkGeek, sipping tea in your pajamas while sitting in front of your laptop?

As soon as you’ve completed the arduous task of filling your online shopping cart with gifts, you can wander off to the kitchen with a smug sense of accomplishment and turn your attention to more important things. Like a batch of Holiday Cream Wafers.

Flaky little cookie rounds, dusted with sugar and then sandwiched together with an ultra-buttery buttercream frosting, you need these cookies in your life. They’re not quick to make, with all of the rolling and cutting, baking and filling, so they’re perfect for a day when the snow is falling and you’re looking for an excuse to stay home.

For best results, these cookies should be made while the snow piles up outside and classic Christmas movies are playing in the background. My December baking sessions usually include at least one round of We’re No Angels, the 1955 classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov; closely followed by the incomparable Tracy and Hepburn in Desk Set. And of course, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye make White Christmas an absolute necessity.

Cream wafers are also a great project to make with little ones, if you have that kind of patience and make peace with the fact that every surface in your kitchen will be strewn with sugar by the time you’re done. I like them a lot more than the rock hard sugar cookies with royal icing, the standard kitchen project for children at this time of year. Since the frosting is inside, cream wafers don’t present as many opportunities for decorating as plain sugar cookies, but they taste so much better! They also freeze beautifully, and they’re edible straight out of the freezer.

Which is perfect, because the freezer is a great place to hide your stash. Just in case you weren’t planning to share.  


 Photo Credit: Jen Delorme

Photo Credit: Jen Delorme

Jeanette Jones

Jeanette lives, writes, and bakes in a quiet little corner of Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Known for the generous distribution of baked goods and the keen precision of her editor’s marks, Jeanette swears by the Oxford English Dictionary and favours semi-sweet chocolate in her brownies.

SITES I LOVE: 

Chocolate Covered Katie | Smitten Kitchen | Cardamom and Cloves

Rainy Day Banana Bread

It’s an uninspired fall day and I’m curled up under a soft blanket, alternating blank stares at the homework open on my laptop and the dreary scene outside my living room window. My to-do list for the day includes three assignments and a trip to the grocery store. The internet is short on happy distractions and the world in general has been feeling a little colder these last few weeks.

I don’t want to go out and I’m not making any progress on my editing presentation. An escape to the kitchen seems inevitable.

Banana bread may not be the answer to the world’s problems, but it definitely offers comfort. It’s the best excuse to stay inside and avoid the chill of a drizzly, grey November day. No one complains that you didn’t go out for groceries when they come home to the warm scent of brown sugar and bananas. And I’m pretty sure you’re covering all the food groups, if you wind up eating it for dinner. You could always add peanut butter to a slice, just in case.

My all-time favourite recipe can be found on page 42 of this book. It makes two gorgeous loaves of irresistibly sweet, incredibly moist banana bread. This is a huge advantage for those of us who might be inclined to eat an entire loaf by ourselves. I mean, I've heard that can happen. 

If, by chance, you don’t happen to have a collection of cookbooks numbering in the hundreds, this recipe is also a good one.

For maximum comfort, head to the kitchen while you’re still in your pajamas. I recommend listening to Jack Johnson while you stir things up. It’s basically impossible to feel discouraged about life when you’re listening to Jack Johnson. And no one is going to judge you if you wind up dancing around the kitchen in your pajamas while the bread is baking. In case you were wondering.

You’ll still have to do your homework, eventually. But it all seems easier with a hot cup of tea and a thick slice of oven-warm banana bread.


  PHOTO CREDIT: JEN DELORME

PHOTO CREDIT: JEN DELORME

Jeanette Jones

Jeanette lives, writes, and bakes in a quiet little corner of Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Known for the generous distribution of baked goods and the keen precision of her editor’s marks, Jeanette swears by the Oxford English Dictionary and favours semi-sweet chocolate in her brownies.

SITES I LOVE: 

Chocolate Covered Katie | Smitten Kitchen | Cardamom and Cloves

 

 

Cinnamon Rolls and Escapism

In a magical, wish-granting world where small children bring fairies to life with a clap of their hands, all of my homework would be done and the bathroom would be clean.

This is not that world.

Sometimes, procrastibaking is a way to recruit people to your cause. Sometimes it’s a form of escapism. It’s always a source of comfort. But this week it is nothing short of survival. With no fewer than five different assignments due, this week demands the ultimate sugar buzz, with the extra dose of stress relief that comes from kneading dough.

 Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilmungo/76666951/

Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilmungo/76666951/

This week requires cinnamon rolls.

For bonus points, serve them up with a hot cup of strong, black tea. Add a liberal splash of whiskey to the mug. I won’t tell anyone.

My favourite recipe for cinnamon rolls can be found here. It mixes up easily and the dough is a dream to work with. It can be left to rest in the refrigerator, on the off chance that inspiration strikes while you’re working and you need to take a break from the kitchen to work on the review column that’s due on Monday.  

Be warned: this recipe produces a huge batch of sticky, golden, cinnamon-scented goodness. More than you can possibly eat, even in the most desperate depths of homework-induced stress-eating. But the dough can be divided in half and baked on different days. Try the first batch as directed and then switch it up by adding a handful of chocolate chips scattered over the cinnamon sugar before you roll up your second batch. Because everything is better with chocolate. And here is the real magic: pans of cinnamon rolls can be frozen, unbaked for future emergencies. Or gifts. I know it’s hard to believe, but this recipe will produce a sufficient quantity of baked goods that you’ll be willing to give some away.  

This recipe is a commitment. A delicious, calorie-laden, sugary commitment. Which is probably a good thing, because you’re not leaving the house for a few days while you work on your assignments, right?


 PHOTO CREDIT: JEN DELORME

PHOTO CREDIT: JEN DELORME

JEANETTE JONES

Jeanette lives, writes, and bakes in a quiet little corner of Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Known for the generous distribution of baked goods and the keen precision of her editor’s marks, Jeanette swears by the Oxford English Dictionary and favours semi-sweet chocolate in her brownies.

SITES I LOVE:

 Chocolate Covered Katie | Smitten Kitchen | Cardamom and Cloves

Guinness Cake and Crisis Management

 Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/auddess/3988877755/

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/auddess/3988877755/

They say procrastinators are some of the most productive people around. It’s a gratifying concept for those of us who tend to put things off. While avoiding tasks that feel burdensome, procrastinators often fill their time doing all kinds of useful, creative things. I have no idea if it would stand up to empirical testing, but if productivity is measured in baked goods, I can offer myself as a happy example of this theory.

I’d rather bake than do just about anything on my fearfully long to-do list. Chocolate chip cookies take priority over laundry and cinnamon buns are clearly more important than a clean floor. Scones are best when a story won’t write itself, and brownies usually come before homework. (To be fair, homework is always easier to do while consuming brownies. Chocolate is brain food. I’m sure of it.)

Flour, butter, sugar, and eggs are the perfect antidote to most forms of stress, and once you’re out of bed, the kitchen is easily the most comforting place in the house.

I always called it avoidance baking, until the week the procrastibaking meme started circling the web. That cheerful chocolate cupcake was posted to my social media page by no fewer than six people ... apparently I have a reputation in addition to a problem. The advantage to this reputation? I can bake my way out of all sorts of situations I’d rather not deal with … people expect to find me in the kitchen, stirring, melting, rolling, and frosting. 

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake is my go-to recipe when nothing short of miracle pastry will do. It’s rich, dark, dense, and promises of Guinness Cake will convince people to do almost anything for you. This is especially helpful when you find yourself in a mad rush to organize an unexpected household move the week before school starts.

I spent a frantic six days sorting and filling boxes, but when moving day rolled around, I was the girl in the kitchen, baking up a cake for the people who came to do the heavy lifting. (It’s also possible I know some really wonderful people.) 

In any event, Guinness Cake is definitely the answer in almost every situation. It doesn’t matter what the question might be. Bake it for moving days, birthdays, graduations, or anniversaries. Bake it because it’s Saturday. And by all means, bake it to avoid that thing at the top of your to-do list. 


 Photo Credit: Jen Delorme

Photo Credit: Jen Delorme

Jeanette Jones

Jeanette lives, writes, and bakes in a quiet little corner of Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Known for the generous distribution of baked goods and the keen precision of her editor’s marks, Jeanette swears by the Oxford English Dictionary and favours semi-sweet chocolate in her brownies.

Sites I love:

 Chocolate Covered Katie | Smitten Kitchen | Cardamom and Cloves