THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— ROBERT FROST
During this Covid-19 shutdown, I find myself doing lots of things I don’t ordinarily do. That’s not to say that what I’m doing now is so very different from my ordinary life—it’s not. I mean, what does a writer typically do all day but stay home in front of a computer, away from people? In fact, I’ve heard lots of folks (friends, even) say, “Oh, I'd love to write. That way, I could stay home all day in my pajamas.” Well, that’s true, but even I find occasional encounters with the UPS person or folks walking their dogs on the street as I jaunt to the mailbox in my slippers at 2pm shame me into wanting to take that extra bit of effort to don at least a housedress. I mean, after all. But there’s no point in going overboard.
But that wasn't the issue yesterday when I decided to make a dozen blueberry muffins. Last time I tried this, back in the previous century, I’m sure they started life as a box. You know: open box, pour contents into bowl, add an egg and water, and swish. Then deposit ice-cream-scoopfuls of batter into those cute muffin pan liners.
Not this time. My new mode (yesterday, at least) was to avoid packaged foods and create my own from scratch. I would start small and work my way up to full-blown meals. How hard could cooking muffins be? [That I thought “cooking” instead of “baking” might give you a clue.]
I turned the oven on and gathered my ingredients. Things went well until I had to add sugar and realized I’d missed getting that out. I hunted in the cupboard and the crocks that I’d moved during Corona Virus Shutdown Week 2: Organize (which followed Week 1: Clean). Then I had a dim flimmer (that should have read, “glimmer,” but I liked flimmer so well that I left it for you to enjoy) of a time when I’d decided we should avoid granulated sugar. Evidently, I’d given it away, leaving us with only a small bag of powdered and a tiny, rock-hard bag of brown sugar mixed with Splenda.
Then, I remembered you can cook with Splenda, and we have an abundance of that for my husband’s coffee and cereal. The package said to check Splenda.com for info about using it in cooking. Their website said:
“Splenda recommends using a one-to-one ratio of Splenda Granulated to sugar when the amount of sugar is 1 1/4 cups or fewer, or the amount of flour used in the recipe is at least two times the amount of sugar. However, when using more than 1 1/4 cups of Splenda or the amount of flour used is less than two times the amount of sugar, you should replace only half of the sugar with Splenda to help preserve the best consistency and baking yield.”
I sensed I was in a lot of trouble.
Still, not one to be daunted easily, I read the passage nine more times until I thought I understood. Let’s say you think I did, too. I gazed back at my muffin recipe. The amount of flour dictated that I replace only half of the sugar with Splenda. But I was using powdered sugar, not granulated. How would that conversion would work?
Google said 1 cup of granulated sugar is roughly equal to 1-3/4 cups of powdered. The recipe called for 2-1/2 cups of granulated sugar. I needed only half of that because I’d use Splenda for the rest. That meant 1-1/4 cups of granulated, which was equivalent to . . .
I needed an algebraic equation. Luckily for me, the only equation I’ve ever found useful (or remembered, probably because it was useful) happened to be the one I needed. I pulled out a pencil and got to work. Or, rather, I hollered to our surveillance robot, “Hey, Google, what’s . . ..”
Two and a half hours later, I placed the muffins in the oven. They cooked nicely in the prescribed amount of time. These were my muffins. I delivered half next door, my husband ate one (out of duty, if not desire), and I peeled the cute little paper away from mine.
Sigh. I had to admit (to myself only, at first) that our local Bashas supermarket has better muffins. To my husband’s credit, it was only after I mentioned that the muffin I was eating might be a little bit “crumby” did my husband’s eyes twinkle, and then his mouth cocked into the crooked grin that only an Irishman can make.
“Yeah, they are kinda crummy, at that,” he said, and his twinkle twinkled more brightly and his grin widened.
Remember, those were MY muffins, the ones I’d slaved over for three hours, when I could have been washing the floor or doing more laundry. He was maligning my crumby muffins. Then he made that little laugh of his that reminds me of Snidely Whiplash. That did it. I gathered up the last four crumby muffins, sat at my desk, and ate them. All. At once. I even ate the crumbs that landed on the lap of my housedress.
An hour and a dose of antacid later, I calculated the costs of my endeavor. Electricity used to keep the oven hot for two hours while I calculated the amount of sugar to use? Probably the same as the gas to drive to Basha's market and back. Dry ingredients to make muffins: who knows? But they just might be more expensive than a box of muffin mix on sale.
While I couldn’t really put a price on my crumby masterpiece, I definitely knew the payout: I had fun (sort of), I completed the project and learned some facts about sugar, I certainly scored in the calorie department, and I made my crummy husband smile. That’s priceless.
Our first paddle at Lake Pleasant, AZ, in the new Eddyline Skylark kayaks. We departed in late afternoon for an evening paddle during the full moon. The kayaks were great, although after the trip, we decided to exchange them for sit-on-top models (the Eddyline Caribbean).
6/5/2019 Update: We have one of the new boats and are waiting for the other to arrive. We had made plans to drive with these kayaks to Indiana to exchange our current fifth wheel RV for a smaller, lighter trailer. However, after much thought and rethought, we've decided to keep what we have, which is fine. Fifth wheel trailers are safer, and ours suits our needs well enough. We'll also avoid traveling through the tornado alley at a very crazy-weather time of year.
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Come, Let Us Find
by William Henry Davies
Come, let us find a cottage, love,
That’s green for half a mile around;
To laugh at every grumbling bee,
Whose sweetest blossom’s not yet found.
Where many a bird shall sing for you,
And in your garden build its nest:
They’ll sing for you as though their eggs
Were lying in your breast,
Were lying warm in your soft breast.
‘Tis strange how men find time to hate,
When life is all too short for love;
But we, away from our own kind,
A different life can live and prove.
And early on a summer’s morn,
As I go walking out with you,
We’ll help the sun with our warm breath
To clear away the dew,
To clear away the morning dew.
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