Three Life Lessons Gleaned from The Great British Bake Off…

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Three Life Lessons Gleaned from The Great British Bake Off

I no longer enjoy cooking. My idea of a great meal is one that someone else has cooked. And as for baking, well, I was never a baker, for baking is essentially chemistry, precise measuring, all the while considering altitude and humidity. Too much like work, when you can purchase deliciously made sweets and savories all the while supporting local businesses.

So it’s odd that I’m now enamored with The Great British Bake Off. But it’s not the baking that has captivated me. No. It’s the people, both bakers and judges and then whoever those two jocular women are who insist on picking up spoons, asking questions while bakers are trying to concentrate, and, once, toppling over a carefully arranged stack of…something that looked like a cross between a pancake and a cookie. I’m fascinated by their actions and responses and love the way that the show’s producers/directors portray them. I’ve learned a lot from them, not about cooking, but about life.

So here are three life lessons I’ll share:

First:

Sooner or later someone will take your ice cream out of the freezer without your knowing it. They will neither admit this nor apologize. It will ruin what you are attempting to do. Now, the life lesson is that you must keep your cool, though your ice cream has not, continue with what you have left, do your best, and present your product with as much aplomb as you can muster. It will get your points for poise and dash. What you should not do is throw a fit and make a production of throwing your entire creation in the trash. You will be voted off for sure and will have to live with YouTube views for the rest of your life.

Second:

There will always be someone who will want to help, sometimes officiously, even though you prefer to be left alone. They will huddle over you, they will talk to you, they will clean up what they think should be thrown away. Often it should not be. It will not matter what you say to them. And finally, as they turn to leave, they will brush against your carefully constructed skyscraper of pancakes and gingerbread. It will topple. They won’t know this because by this time they are bothering someone else. When this happens, and, to be sure, it will, though it may your ego that is toppled rather than cakes, just pile them up again as best you can and go on with life. After all, it’s only cake, or, in most cases, your self-esteem. Under no circumstances, throw whipped cream, raw eggs, or scatological insults at the perpetrator. That will only mark you as an hysteric. Time later for tears and tantrums in the privacy of your own home where, I  hope, there would be doughnuts, suitably purchased from a local bakery, certainly not a shop that specializes in doughnuts.

And, third,

There will always be a beautiful, green-eyed, gazelle of a 20-year-old, who will present her bakes with quivering lip and tear-filled eyes. She will say, her voice catching, that her work is terrible. She will enchant at least one of the judges, who will comfort her. Such comfort will involve making sure she moves to the next level, and then the next. You will seethe and try to hide it. It will give you a major migraine. But do take comfort, eventually – though we may not be around to see it – a better baker will prevail, and that person will win based on the baking, not his ability to line his/her eyes with a color that makes those green eyes even more hypnotizing. However, even though she will not win, she will be the one everyone remembers. There is no getting around this, so when this comes, and it comes to all of us, I advise finding a good book – Jane Austen, Barbara Pym or somesuch writer who appreciates excellent women.

For that is what most of us are. And, really, would you trade it?

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

 

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On a Bedside Basket of Books…

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On a Bedside Basket of Books…

Just this morning it happened. The pile became one book too high. The basket of books beside my bed came tumbling down. Not only down, but across and over.

Now most people I know have a To Be Read shelf. And most have a substantial portion of that at hand by their bed. But as in all things, there can be too much of a good thing. This morning proved to be just that. And as I scooped and gathered and crawled under the bed to retrieve all that had been in my wonderful basket, this is what I found:

  • Two Lemony Snicketts
  • Barefoot to Avalon – David Payne (I started this, but it just hit too close to home. And from it, the idea for my third novel sprang.)
  • Expert’s Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know—I know a few.
  • Make Way for Lucia – E.F. Benson (all 1120 pages) – one of my favorites, to be savored, read and re-read, although all those pages make for a heavy book.
  • What Writers Do – a wonderful gift from a friend, and a delightful lagniappe to find my dear muse, Abigail DeWitt featured.
  • A Simenon Maigret mystery – and old paperback, yellowed, crumbling pages and 8-point type.
  • Rude Bitches Make Me Tired – Celia Rivenbark – a gift from a friend.
  • An old copy of The Missouri Review – I know there is good stuff in here – one day…
  • O.Henry Magazine (3) -ditto
  • Atlantic Magazine (3) – triple ditto
  • New York Magazine with an article about Obama – sigh…
  • Shambala Sun (6) – I know I’ll get to those articles one day…
  • Journal of a Solitude – May Sarton – always good for a third, or fourth, reading.
  • Crampton Hodnet – Barbara Pym – one of my favorite Pym’s…a comfort read.
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff – the author of the wonderful 84 Charing Cross Road.
  • The Power of Intention – Wayne Dyer – must have needed inspiration– read it years ago and it gave me the shot in the arm I needed.
  • The Survival of the Bark Canoe – John McPhee – for my outdoor moments.
  • The Wonder Spot – Mellisa Bank – ??
  • Ravelstein– Saul Bellow – need a dictionary at my elbow when I read Bellow.
  • The Emperor’s Children – Claire Messud – I know this will be good.
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage – Ann Patchett- think that I actually read this and wanted to go back and savor.

So that is my collection – and it doesn’t count the library books that always seem to end up on top – because they have to be returned. I often think about taking a break from the library, to catch up on these and the others on the TBR shelf. But, as I stopped by the library today to pick up two that I had on reserve, I thought – maybe later.

 

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Gifts That Last Forever

Sometimes a book just appears in our lives — a delightful langniappe that stays with you, one that just might change your life. I happened upon Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody years ago – a chance encounter at the High Point Library, long before I ever dreamed that I could actually be a writer. I thought, reading her memoir, that if I ever wrote, that’s how I would want to do it. Her searing honesty stayed with me, and in every word that I put to paper, I endeavor to be as honest, as authentic, as she.

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Another chance encounter, shortly after I moved to Greensboro, came again in a library, this time a tiny branch that was soon to be replaced by a modern, up-to-date location. This branch still had catalog cards, and was a delightful escape from the pressures of my very modern job. And there I discovered Miss Read, a sort-of 1950s answer to Alexander McCall Smith. Her tales of an English village where nothing really ever happened proved just the ticket to an evening of unwinding from a job where my brain was full-wired and ever-alert.

 

Barbara pym chronologically:

And then there are the lovely suggestions of friends, those who know more about you than you imagine. One such friend, from my Chicago days, looked at me shortly after we met and said, “I’ll bet you’d like Barbara Pym.” And was she ever right. Those stoic women-of-a-certain-age and their quiet courage certainly influenced me personally and in the characters I portray in my novels.

And now toStoner. Ah…John Williams’s book reached down into the depths of my heart, and I am ever grateful to dear Jane for recognizing that resonance.

 

And from my Raleigh days, I learned about E.F.Benson and Mapp and Lucia. Kathy, a quilter, a knitter, and a reader, opened my eyes to this writer and his fictional band of characters. I even visited Rye to walk the bricks that Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas had fictitiously trod.

Alice Steinbach passed away on Tuesday.

And finally Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations. This recommended by a distant relative, whose reading menu I respect impeccably. I thought that it would be a worthwhile read, but was delighted to read of Steinbach’s honest insights on being on one’s own, of learning, digging deep, to find just who she really is.

So, this are just a few gifts that have made my reading life, or rather my life, my soul, fuller, deeper, more committed. I pass these few on to you with the hope that some, maybe even all, will do the same.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Gifts That Last Forever

Sometimes a book just appears in our lives — a delightful langniappe that stays with you, one that just might change your life. I happened upon Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody years ago – a chance encounter at the High Point Library, long before I ever dreamed that I could actually be a writer. I thought, reading her memoir, that if I ever wrote, that’s how I would want to do it. Her searing honesty stayed with me, and in every word that I put to paper, I endeavor to be as honest, as authentic, as she.

Product Details

Another chance encounter, shortly after I moved to Greensboro, came again in a library, this time a tiny branch that was soon to be replaced by a modern, up-to-date location. This branch still had catalog cards, and was a delightful escape from the pressures of my very modern job. And there I discovered Miss Read, a sort-of 1950s answer to Alexander McCall Smith. Her tales of an English village where nothing really ever happened proved just the ticket to an evening of unwinding from a job where my brain was full-wired and ever-alert.

 

Barbara pym chronologically:

And then there are the lovely suggestions of friends, those who know more about you than you imagine. One such friend, from my Chicago days, looked at me shortly after we met and said, “I’ll bet you’d like Barbara Pym.” And was she ever right. Those stoic women-of-a-certain-age and their quiet courage certainly influenced me personally and in the characters I portray in my novels.

And now toStoner. Ah…John Williams’s book reached down into the depths of my heart, and I am ever grateful to dear Jane for recognizing that resonance.

 

And from my Raleigh days, I learned about E.F.Benson and Mapp and Lucia. Kathy, a quilter, a knitter, and a reader, opened my eyes to this writer and his fictional band of characters. I even visited Rye to walk the bricks that Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas had fictitiously trod.

Alice Steinbach passed away on Tuesday.

And finally Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations. This recommended by a distant relative, whose reading menu I respect impeccably. I thought that it would be a worthwhile read, but was delighted to read of Steinbach’s honest insights on being on one’s own, of learning, digging deep, to find just who she really is.

So, this are just a few gifts that have made my reading life, or rather my life, my soul, fuller, deeper, more committed. I pass these few on to you with the hope that some, maybe even all, will do the same.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com