The Rodbusters

Do you ever wonder how parking garages can hold all the weight of the cars? For me it’s one of those things – like open heart surgery or jet engine maintenance – that has science and skill behind it but is in that large set of things I will never understand. I know I just have to trust that the people who do this work do it right.  As you carefully drive from one end to the other of a parking deck, making tight turns at the ends to get to the next level to eventually find your spot, do you wonder how those concrete columns are connected to entire floors of concrete, and how the floors of concrete hold up vehicle after vehicle in neat rows?

I don’t wonder about parking garages every day, but today I watched the ongoing construction of one in Kirkland, Washington, just outside Seattle and I am less foggy about them. I watched with great interest not only because I saw various stages of the process, but also because my son Bradley, who built the cottage on my property six years ago, is managing this project. Here he is with his family at the job site. Beth is holding two-week-old Zoe and Brad has two-year-old Piper, who was not as fascinated with the rodbusting as I was.


Eventually this site will become a six-story, mixed use building, meaning in this case retail on the ground level and apartments above. Its architectural rendering is posted behind the fence.

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Right now it’s a hardhat area at the beginning stage of construction.


This was my first view of the job site.


The white concrete columns – see them? – are standing on the lower level of what will be the underground parking deck of the new building. (The people who will live in the apartments above will need a place to park their cars below.) If you look a little closer at the columns (next photo), you see rods sticking up from them. The rods stick up much taller than the concrete of the column because…

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…once you put the floor of the second level in, the rods from the first level need to stick up through the floor, like this. You’ll see why shortly.


Those rods are strong steel called rebar that’s caged in by more strong steel. Before the concrete encases it and forms the strong concrete column, the assembled steel looks like this …

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The guys in the photo below, who cage the rebar, assembling the strong innards of each concrete column, are the “rodbusters.” They are using a kind of cable tie to connect the rebar to the steel caging pieces around it.

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When they finish one, the crane comes along, picks it up and brings it to its mate, i.e. to the rebar that’s sticking up from the level below. The workers in the next photo are helping the crane operator to guide the caged rebar to the exact spot, and…

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…Ah, there it goes.

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Each assembled steel column is then surrounded by a wooden concrete form. See the rows of wooden forms below? The height of the form will be the height of the concrete column.

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A gigantic cement truck comes along next with its very long arm and pours concrete into each form. When the concrete is dry, the workers remove the forms and set them aside for the next use. The steel inside adds a lot of strength to the column. Notice again how the rods stick up much taller than the concrete of the column. The part that’s sticking up becomes the base for the next level.

Now for the floor. You know what a concrete floor looks like. But under the concrete are cables, very strong steel cables. They are red in the picture below. Just as the steel rebar in the columns makes the columns much stronger, the steel of the cable makes the floor much stronger – in fact strong enough to support all the weight of the cars.


After the concrete is poured onto the wooden platform, making the floor, the cables are pulled from all sides and secured (sealed) at a specific tightness. This provides the support so the floor doesn’t collapse. After the concrete dries, the no-longer-necessary wooden platform (now underneath) is removed.

Rebar is great for adding strength to the columns, but cables are preferable to rebar for the floors. To gain the same strength/support using rebar, you would have to make the floors much thicker, which uses more concrete and makes the building overall taller. The curve of the cables plus the tension gained from the pulling means the floor can be thinner (less concrete is used and the building is not as tall overall), which is a more efficient use of materials and space. You have to know your math and your science to make this all work of course, and you have to have the right machinery and good materials and the project manager and the inspectors and all the workers, including the rodbusters. Without the rodbusters, forget it.

If you didn’t know all this before, as I didn’t, don’t you feel better now about parking garages? I do!

I also feel very proud of my son.


New To Me and Unexpected

No matter how old we are, there is something new around every corner. This is especially true if you are traveling to places that are not so familiar. Delightful discoveries keep things so interesting. They make you see the world differently. They keep you young, reminding you that you have not arrived yet, that there is yet something to learn, to puzzle over, to marvel at, to be astonished about and even in some cases to cringe about (see below!). Let us never lose our sense of Are you kidding me?

In San Francisco, a bird looked dead on the street. I felt a moment of sadness. But as in Berkeley, where I questioned why the cooler-on-wheels was moving along the sidewalk on its own and Drew said nonchalantly Oh, that’s a robot delivering smoothies, I was equally taken aback by this bird on the street as we walked to the Embarcadero Ferry Building.bird from afar sleeping int he road.jpg

It sure looked dead to me. But no, Drew said, it’s just sleeping.

Sleeping? Whoever heard of a bird sleeping in a road? What kind of bird sleeps in a road? This kind apparently. Get a little closer. Is this bird sleeping?

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Doesn’t it know that a road is a bad place to sleep? Didn’t its mother teach it the basics? If you want a long life, stay in high places away from humans and large, fast-moving vehicles. Get close only when you see lots of grass and the humans are tossing food about. Well, I don’t see grass here and no humans are offering food, but something must have clued it in, maybe even the person who then walked close to it, because in the time it took for us to get past, that bird turned around, faced the sidewalk and got out of harm’s way.

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Smart bird? Or dumb bird got lucky?

Approaching the Embarcadero, we encountered a massive polar bear, part of the Salesforce descent upon the city this week. It isn’t every day you see a massive polar bear. There is something both majestic and adorable about polar bears, even when they are fake. You must agree, this is massive.

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It also leans toward adorable rather than majestic, as does the one in a fairly new book called There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins that I discovered at Marie’s house. It has joined my all-time-favorite-kids’-books list. I will show you the pages at the end.


I am a huge fan of children’s books. The good ones are as good for adults as they are for kids. This one has it all: rhyme, cadence, delightful illustrations, originality, silliness, cleverness (the kind kids show you at the most unexpected times), hilarity and subtle yet powerful parallels to the “real” world, though you have to think about it a little to arrive at these.

It is impossible to be around children, as I am here now in Boise, without discovering something new in something old. Another book on my list, one that has been there for decades, is Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Unsurprisingly, someone thought to make it an audio book. That’s all well and good. What would never have occurred to me is using the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the background with bagpipes, and a narrator with an Irish accent! I never thought of that! Mike Mulligan. Irish. Go figure! Ellie loves listening to Mike Mulligan on the way to school. The music meshes with the story perfectly.

If you have a child in your life – your own or a neighbor having a birthday or a niece or nephew – get both of these books and the philharmonic audiobook to go along with Mike Mulligan. You cannot go wrong.

While on the adorable track, I must mention the three-year-olds at soccer practice, another reality of the world that somehow escaped me before now. I am sure I didn’t do any organized sport myself until I was at least nine or so, but these days they have soccer at three. They do in Boise anyway. Ellie loves it. All those cones are for foot control, by the way. You put your foot in the open end and lift it off the ground and hold it up. Who knew?


This is the same child who loves to wear a paper skirt, by the way.

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Anyway, in case you didn’t know it, soccer for three-year-olds in Boise sometimes involves “making a pizza” on a parachute (after you walk around in circles for a bit to make you hungry enough to eat the pizza),


the last part of which is kicking the “meatballs” on top of the pizza. What’s your guess? Will these children grow up to love soccer or some other active organized sport? I think so!

Not everything that is new is adorable. Not everything is even pleasant. Whether just contemplating it or actually taking a drink from it (I couldn’t!), this exhibit at the Exploratorium in San Francisco challenges your grossness meter. According to the sign, the standard drinking fountain on the right and the one attached to this toilet (which has never been used as a toilet) are identical. Both clean, both usable, both dispensing fresh water. But who can bring themselves to drink out of the fountain attached to the toilet? “A Sip of Conflict,” they call it. I’ll say!

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I can hardly look at it without cringing, let alone take a drink! So enough of grossness, let’s head back to Boise for something else I did not expect.

Here is a very old tortoise. How do I know he’s old? I have no idea actually. Tortoises are always old, right? This one was at the downtown zoo, active as a sloth, dry as the sand he stands on. Ellie was fascinated with him.


Why did I not expect a tortoise at the zoo? You expect giraffes, llamas, zebras. But a tortoise? Possibly I am overwhelmed with newness and adorableness all around me (save for above toilet, we can all agree) and I didn’t even have time to have expectations. I just know that this amazing animal took me by surprise.

Lastly (you knew there had to be food somewhere in here), we made a stop this morning at a French bakery in Boise called Janjou Pâtisserie. I know: French bakery in Boise, something else you would not expect. But what was even more unexpected, what was totally new to me, was a spiral croissant with olives and manchego cheese. Oh yum! I have never seen or had olives and cheese in a croissant before, let alone in a croissant of award-winning quality. Who thinks of this? Why didn’t I think of this?!

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I cannot describe this adequately. You will just have to imagine the soft/crisp, buttery/flavorful, done-to-absolute-perfection nature of this pastry. Drool if you have to. I won’t tell.

I would like credit for having restrained myself in this post with regard to the many awesome trees and other plants one finds while traveling. I know I covered the eucalyptus trees in Berkeley and the Boise rose garden recently, but Boise has more awesome flora, and it is with serious effort that I hold back the low-lying spikey things, the weird wisteria, the blob tree – I spare you this time!

But I have to show you the pages of the adorable polar bear and mouse book. Thank you, Ross Collins, for your marvelous book!

Take your time now. Read slowly, deliberately and out loud if you can. Get a good rhythm going. Look at how the illustrations coordinate with the text. Pretend you have a child on your lap… Better yet, pretend you are the child.



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The Artist in the Grocer

Some people are artists. Some aren’t. But this is not a black and white distinction. Somewhere along the spectrum between Artist Extraordinaire and Person with No Sense Whatsoever for Color, Form and Design is the place where I suspect most of us reside. We may marvel at the artist’s skill – how can human hands can produce something that amazing – yet have a modicum of understanding (a little, anyway? a teeny bit?) as to why the rest of the world marvels with us.

Part of the reason we marvel is that we ourselves (all right, let me speak for myself), I myself, would have all to do to draw a shape vaguely resembling an apple (through it might look more like a pumpkin or a tomato) and color it red (to hopefully distinguish it from the pumpkin at least) and put little green leaves at the top of a brown stem (to hopefully distinguish it from the tomato). In my wildest dreams I couldn’t come up with something like this. I’m not sure I could even imagine this composition, let alone put color to canvas and create it.


But William Rickerby Miller did. This oil on canvas “Study of Apples” that he painted in 1862, hanging in the de Young Museum in San Francisco, falls into the category of art known as trompe l’oeil. Do you see how the leaf at the edge of the table seems to be coming off of the canvas, almost three-dimensional? Do you see how the apples shine, as if someone just polished them because they wanted a bite? How does he do that??

Trompe l’oeil is a genre of art that is a trick, a trick of the eye, a very deliberate attempt to make you think the objects on the two-dimensional canvas are real, when you know (because you are looking at a painted drawing in a frame) and the artist knows (because of having painted that drawing) that they are not. In theory, this trick reminds you that all art is an illusion, so do not be mistaken: What you are looking at is an image of the thing, and not the thing itself. In turn we can take the broader lesson to be careful in this world: All is not what it seems to be!

These oranges have the same effect on me. Also a still life, also oil on canvas, it is called “Oranges in Tissue Paper,” painted in 1980 by William Joseph McCloskey. The oranges look so real, even more real than a photograph could render them. The orange color is bright, almost plastic, with a dark background setting them off even more. The tissue paper practically sounds crinkley, the sections of fruit look juicy. I want to eat them! No wonder this painting is part of a group the museum calls “10 Works of Art to Avoid if You’re Hungry.”

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I grant mega-credit to these artists and all great artists. I stand in awe at what they do with tools and color, with hands and minds, with time and effort. But I return to the spectrum – those who cannot be considered in the master class, but nonetheless have an admirable eye for Color, Form and Design and some skill with the same. I present the unnamed person behind the fruit display at a grocer called Farm Fresh to You, one of the extraordinary little businesses at the Embarcadero’s Ferry Building Marketplace.

It takes no small skill to arrange the display I observed there. At first glance, and to most passersby, it’s fruit for sale. Indeed it is, but if that’s all it is, why the spattering and alternating of color? Why the angled baskets leading up to the top-most level? Why the bananas all together as almost a backdrop of the familiar but the black mission figs (that look purple to me) alternated among its fellows in sixteen different spots, setting off the yellow-greens, green-greens and oranges of the fruits and veggies around them?

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Why green apples on one side of the raised, middle carton and large orange/pinkish/reddish tomatoes on the other? Why some small, orangy, cherry tomatoes below some others just like it but in line with the ones above? Why the peppers below the purple figs and multi-colored small tomatoes below some other orangy ones? Why not purple figs here in this one spot, orangy cherry tomatoes there in another spot, big fat tomatoes all together in one basket?

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Because whoever put this display together has an eye for Color, Form and Design. Whoever did this made multiple decisions to put this here and that there, to vary the colors and shapes, to let some look random and some intentional – for good reason! Just like the trompe l’oeil above or any other type of art, it catches your eye, draws you in, gives you pause, and in this case, hopefully causes you to buy something!

Why don’t we see such elaborate displays more often? Because they take time and effort and no small amount of skill. Because the owner of the shop has to pay the person who does it, and that adds to the cost, which some markets cannot bear (but evidently this one can). Because people who can do this don’t come along every day. Because the artist had fun!

Granted, the colors of the natural fruits and vegetables negate the artist having to duplicate them with oil or acrylic on canvas, their natural shapes are 3-D to begin with, and the continually changing nature of the display – the gaps here and there reveal that someone recently bought multi-colored tomatoes, purple figs and green peppers – makes it a continual work in progress for this artist. I do not place this art on par with the paintings above. But whoever does this work (probably all the time) gets new material every day and every season, can rearrange at will and elicits admiration, I venture to say, on a daily basis. I was not the only one taking a picture of it.

I also venture that there is great pleasure in work well done, in creating something both functional and pleasing to the eye, in knowing that some people – just a few maybe, but still some – see the artist in the grocer, the art in the display,  and smile. I did.

Having Eyes, and Seeing Beauty

In downtown Boise (Idaho) is a lovely rose garden. I explored a small part of it today with my daughter and her two little darlings, and I learned something about myself: I’ve changed. There was a time when I would have said Those are pretty flowers, and left it at that. I did not “have time” for such things. I had other things to do. I had seen pretty flowers before.

No more. I could have spent all afternoon admiring the blooms. There were so many! They were every color imaginable. They were so perfect.

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Clearly someone (or probably a team) spends a lot of time tending them and does it very well. As we approached on this picture-perfect day, I realized this was no ordinary rose garden. There are over 2000 rose bushes in this special place named after Julia Davis, Boise’s “city mother.”

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You can’t rush through a rose garden because roses are such extraordinary flowers up close. In my case, however, you also can’t take too much time when you have a three-year-old with you and another who’s almost one because the zoo is right next to the rose garden, and that is the actual destination – and guess where they would rather go! Roses do not compete with giraffes when you are three, especially since they have a baby giraffe!

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But Marie graciously gave me some time to use my eyes and see the beauty of the roses. It’s impossible to decide which is the prettiest color. I have always loved the yellow ones.

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This one decided to be both pink and yellow.

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Coincidentally, one of the books I brought along to read on this trip is the engaging story of a little girl growing up in pre-WWII Japan (Totto-chan, The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a longstanding bestseller describing the early school days of a woman who went on to become one of Japan’s most popular television personalities).

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Beginning when she is about five – having been expelled from her previous school because her intense curiosity was disruptive to other students – Totto-chan attends an extraordinary school led by a schoolmaster who becomes a hero to her. This man listens carefully, allows for individual differences, advocates for the unsung, celebrates a fresh look on almost anything and creates an environment intent on giving every child the best way to grow, to learn, to shine. How ironic that I come to an extraordinary rose garden the very day after reading these words:

“Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear, said the headmaster.”

I did have eyes and I did see beauty, and for the beauty I saw I am very grateful. But I did not see only beautiful roses in the rose garden. In the middle of the path leading to the gazebo sits this fountain. I don’t like the blue water because it looks artificial to me, but I soon saw past that. Look carefully around the edge and you will see imbedded plaques.


The etched words were mostly in memory of loved ones, such as this one.

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But this is the one that moved me nearly to tears:

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At first I thought maybe Linda’s Uncle Fred was one of the gardeners, and maybe he was. But it could also be that they strolled this garden together and it was all the better for having done it together. In the end, for these two people, together was best. And I thought: Would the zoo today have been as wonderful if I had not been able to listen to Ellie’s gasp when she saw the lion?

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Would I have enjoyed watching the anteater look for his own lunch in the dirt if we had not been together on benches next to him eating ours?


Being together today, I stood next to my daughter holding her daughter who’s feeding the llama – most definitely a sight more beautiful than any rose – and the roses are very beautiful! I am so blessed to have eyes to see it all, to enjoy their sweet company, to spend this week together.

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“Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear, said the headmaster.”

Monkey Bread: A Baking First

It was not the original plan to make monkey bread this morning. I have never even made it before. Other than having seen it (though not purchased it) at Vive la Tarte yesterday, I only vaguely even heard of it. Having only random fragments in my mind about a thing, disconnected from personal experience, generally would not translate into Let’s Make That Thing.

But if you had seen the monkey bread yesterday, you might be motivated to try it too. This is what we saw.

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You have small chunks of dough individually coated with cinnamon, sugar and butter all baked together into one multi-chunk, sweet treat.

Drew and Nicole and I had started talking about the buttery, sweet, cinnamony goodness of monkey bread, and I said to myself: It Can’t Be That Hard.

Suddenly there we were with a plan. Early morning grocery run for yeast, butter and other essentials followed by fun in the kitchen. Meet at 8, eat by about 10, right?

Oh, dear. Jet lag is real, and I still have it. Every morning since I got to the west coast I have woken up by about 4am. Thinking about the monkey bread project, I was allowing two hours for all of the following: a four-block walk to the store, shopping, walk back, prep of dough, rising of dough, assembly of sweetened dough chunks into muffin tins, re-rising of dough and baking – all to make something I have not made before and in somebody else’s kitchen! Yeah, I was way off. Can I blame this on jet lag?

All to say, the idea-to-results sequence took way longer than anticipated. Nonetheless, we would have our monkey bread.

When you have never made something before, it’s a good idea to have a good recipe. I read a few online. They were all different, but basically we’re talking about a sweet, soft dough that is smothered in butter, sugar and cinnamon and baked into delicate, pull-apart, heavenly rolls. I have a great recipe for soft dinner rolls. Add the sweet element and that should work, I thought. It was going to be, shall we say… experimental. Thankfully my sister Lynn came to the rescue. She is a great cook, has made monkey bread many times and gladly sent me her recipe. See below.

I had no doubt that this was the best plan. And perhaps if I had followed the instructions, these would have been even better than they were.

You read that right: IF I had followed instructions…

Let me back up. I love my phone. I think smart phones are amazing. But one downside is that they are very small. I opened up the recipe on my phone and it was really hard to read. I did not have a printer or a larger screen. My eyes aren’t that good. Then you set the phone down to do the next thing, and by the time you do that next thing, the screen has gone black. You open it again, get to the download again, try to read the tiny writing again. It was problematic. I know I got the ingredients right, but why I thought to put the brown sugar in with the melted butter in preparation for rolling the dough balls, I am unsure.

This was my deviation, putting the brown sugar into the melted butter. Then Drew added the cinnamon and I got to stirring.

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I actually got quite excited about how beautiful the sugar and cinnamon looked as I was swirling it in there with the butter. That’s about the time I got a flashback to the actual words of the recipe which was something to the effect of “Dip the dough balls in butter, then roll in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.” Oops.

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I did most everything right, I promise. The dough was soft and elastic.


I covered it and let it rest.

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I buttered the muffin tins. Lynn’s recipe says to use a bundt pan, but I wanted ours to be like Vive la Tarte’s, so I used muffin tins. See all the pieces of butter waiting to coat the inside of each cup?

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I cut the dough up into pieces and formed little irregular balls.

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But then I had no choice but to dip the pieces one by one into the butter/sugar/cinnamon goo

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and put them in the cups of the muffin tins

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until they were all in.

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Up close it looked like this.

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Baked, like this. We had waited so long by this time. It was long past when we had had the rest of the brunch we’d planned. I didn’t take the time to put powdered sugar or a glaze on top.

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Still, they pulled apart like nothing. The dough was soft as a pillow. The sweetness surrounding the dough was divine (seemingly none the worse for having been done wrong). If I had sprinkled powdered sugar on this plate, or put the suggested glaze on them, it would have looked better, but hot out of the oven Drew and Nicole loved them. Loved them. Do wait a few minutes until they are not quite so hot but still warm. Yes, do eat them warm out of the oven.

Still, I was not perfectly happy with them and will try again another time. I think more balls per cup would be better. Letting them raise longer would have been better (we were in a hurry to get to the Exploratorium so I rushed that part). Following instructions about the butter-dipping and sugar-rolling might have been better (not sure, that part seemed okay).

And this is how we learn. Try it, work with what you have, try to recover if you make an oops, see what happens. Try again another time, a little smarter than the first time. This is how we learn anything.

Lynn’s recipe:

Monkey Bread


  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
  • 1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted


  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar 2 tablespoons milk
  1. Butter a Bundt pan with the 2 tablespoons softened butter. Use a pastry brush or a paper towel or anything that will really help get inside all of those nooks and crannies. Set aside.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together the milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Mix the flour and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with dough hook (see below for instructions to make the dough by hand). Turn the machine to low and slowly add the milk mixture. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. If you think the dough is too wet (i.e. having a hard time forming a cohesive mass), add 2 tablespoons flour at a time and mix until the dough comes together (it should still be on the sticky side, just not overly wet). Coat a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat lightly with the cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1-2 hours (alternately, you can preheat the oven to 200 degrees, turning it off once it reaches 200 degrees and place the covered bowl in the oven to speed up the rising time).
  3. For the sugar coating, while the dough is rising, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Place the melted butter in a second bowl or shallow pie plate. Set aside.
  4. To form the bread, gently remove the dough from the bowl and press it into a rough 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut the dough into 64 pieces.
  5. Roll each dough piece into a ball (it doesn’t have to be perfect, just get it into a rough ball-shape). Working one at a time, dip the balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into the bowl or pie plate. Roll the dipped dough ball in the brown sugar mixture, then layer the balls in the Bundt pan, staggering the seams where the dough balls meet as you build layers.
  6. Cover the Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and let the monkey bread rise until puffy and they have risen 1-2 inches from the top of the pan, 1-2 hours (again, you can use the warm oven approach to speed this up).
  7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (remove the pan from the oven if you placed it there to rise). Unwrap the pan and bake until the top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the monkey bread in the pan for 5 minutes (any longer and the bread will be too sticky and hard to remove!), then turn out on a platter or large plate and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  8. For the glaze, while the bread cools, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and milk together in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth. Using a whisk, drizzle the glaze over the warm monkey bread, letting it run over the top and sides of the bread. Serve warm.


Vive la Tarte

It isn’t every day you have pizza for breakfast. It isn’t every day your breakfast pizza includes an egg. I want to think that the eggs on our breakfast pizza today came from chickens as happy as mine at home in Virginia, but of this I cannot be sure. Regardless, this breakfast pizza with its bacon, egg and shallots, was (note past tense) an excellent way to start a Saturday in San Francisco. It was absolutely the perfect balance of its three simple toppings on a soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside, bread-like crust. What else can you say but Oh yum!?

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The full pan of them looked like this. Drew told me that by 11am, these, and all the delectables you see below, will be gone, disappeared into the happy stomachs of Vive la Tarte’s customers. Notice they don’t call it breakfast pizza. I think they should. Drew did.

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Vive la Tarte is one of those places you hope the residents of this city are very grateful for.  It’s popular for good reason — its food shares the same basic descriptors as most good foods, the most important descriptors: simple and delicious. You know you have come to a wonderful place when you want to eat one of every single thing they offer. I’m talking croissants,

croissants up close


more croissants, monkey bread,

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donuts, Danish,

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and the pizza, which was at the end of the line and became mine because walking through the line again would not have made it any easier to choose.

Seeing all of these wonders makes me want to bake more at home, to play around with different ingredients. That middle quiche has goat cheese in it. Why didn’t I ever think to put goat cheese in mine? And monkey bread – what’s monkey bread? Think pieces of soft bread dough baked together with cinnamon, sugar and butter in such a way that the adjectives to describe it include: soft, sweet, gooey, sticky, golden, cinnamon, buttery and last but not least sinful.

From the outside, Vive la Tarte doesn’t look like much.That large open space on the right, that’s called the sunroom. It was too cloudy a morning for me to attest as to any sun that might on a different day stream in there, but if they want to call it the sunroom, so shall it be. There’s an opening within the sunroom that leads into the restaurant, besides a main entrance. See the sandwich board outside the main entrance?


As you are walking down Howard Street, that’s your indicator. This is the place to be.

sandwich board

The same simple block-lettered name in the window identifies the bakery. Look elsewhere for fancy.


Two simple signs hang in the windows. One has the basics.

window sign.jpg

And one informs you of the dog policy.

dog policy (2)

Not to worry if you have your dog with you. That open garage door, a.k.a. the sunroom, is indoor-outdoor space is just for you and your dog. No takers while we were there.


I am especially enamored of San Francisco’s evident commitment to producing less waste. The coffee station does not have sugar in packets that become trash, plastic or wooden stirrers that become trash, or half and half in little plastic cups that become trash. I know these things have their place, but the less of them the better.

milk and sugar

You have real spoons for measuring your sugar out of a glass jar (and for stirring), a cup to put the dirty spoon in, ceramic cups and real glasses to drink from and a helpful staff to get you anything you need that you don’t see.

coffee station

After I finished my pizza and tea (which I grant does not, without context, sound like a good combo but you know what my pizza looked like), I stood back and took the whole scene in. It’s huge and wide open.

long view inside

The kitchen is in full view as you approach the counter. I like when you can see what they are doing.


I watched the lady banging her huge whisk to get most of the meringue off it. It’s a quantity of meringue that is inconceivable in a home kitchen, but oh how delightful a dollop of it is on a lemon tarte. Meringue is a kind of free-form marshmallow fluff, a simple mix of egg whites and sugar beat up till it’s fluffy as a cloud. Oh, the incredible ways people have come up with to make food so delicious!

meringue2 (2)

I wish I could come here for breakfast every day.

No, I don’t.

If I did, at least two things would happen that I don’t want to happen.

1. Vive la Tarte wouldn’t be special any more. It would be normal, every-day-ish, and I want places like this to always be special to me. (Once a week maybe I could live with though…!)

2. I would not be incentivized to play in my own kitchen or somebody else’s, which a visit here has very much made me want to do. For starters, monkey bread… So guess what we are going to do tomorrow in Drew and Nicole’s kitchen! I’ll let you know how it comes out 😊

The More You Look, The More You See

I am not in Virginia. I am so far afield in fact that yesterday I asked myself What planet am I on? The observation causing this question occurred on the streets of Berkeley as my son Drew and I walked toward his office. This little cooler-on-wheels caught my eye.

robot2 (2)

I was so fixated on the cooler – which was not sitting still but moving right along, making its way on the sidewalk just like the rest of us – that I didn’t include in the photo the man who was walking sort of behind it. I assumed he was directing it by remote control. Drew said no, nonchalantly, that it was a robot delivering smoothies. A what?

The robot continued along the sidewalk, passing the homeless person sleeping in the blue blanket,

robot delivering smoothies (2)

bumping along on its own until we reached the door of Drew’s office and, again nonchalantly (as if such a thing is not supposed to faze you!), carried on. Turns out — when you dig a little deeper, look a little closer — it’s called a Kiwibot, delivers food from various local restaurants including Jamba Juice and Chipotle, and by the end of May of this year had delivered its 10,000th meal. Okay!

You know you are going to see new things when you travel, but I did not anticipate a robot delivering food. A beautiful tree, on the other hand, a beautiful tree I am not necessarily surprised to see. Nicole, Drew’s fiancée, says trees are a thing white people see (she being of Chinese heritage herself). White people know trees, flowers, birds, she says. I don’t know about this, having only in the past few years learned the difference between a white oak and a chestnut oak. But I do not deny that I am drawn to beautiful trees.

I had some time, so I walked up to the University of California campus, also simply known as Berkeley. It’s a hilly area with lush green grass, the kind that feels like there is a spongy pad underneath it, which is to say the polar opposite of the grass at my house which, on account of the hard pack clay, feels like there must be concrete under those few surviving blades.

This photo gives you an idea of both the spongy grass and the magnificent eucalyptus tree that stood in the middle of the campus.

eucalyptus tree3

I got up close to it, of course, because who wouldn’t? Look at this trunk.

eucalyptus trunk.jpg

I got a little closer, to observe the intricacies of its texture

eucalyptus up closer still

its coloring,

eucalyptus tree art

its bark. Artwork is all around us. We just have to look. Who is the artist? You decide.

eucalyptus tree bark2

If a human had created this, it would be hanging in a museum somewhere. But no. Leave it to humans to create a controversy about this tree and the grove behind it. I looked a little closer into the problem. How could such beautiful trees be a problem?

eucalyptus grove trunks4

They might be a fire hazard, you see. A few years ago, $4.6 million in federal grant money was awarded to help “thin” this area of “hazardous” trees, a prospect that inflamed (pun intended) some locals enough that they tied themselves naked to the trees in protest. (You may look that up on your own.)

There’s always more to everything, right? Later, as I walked the streets again (no robots this time), I saw this in the pavement.

eucalyptus 1856 (2)

Some well meaning botanist brought them here in 1856 apparently. I looked that up too. Again, the more you look, the more you see. Was it really 1856? This page from a 1935 journal of the California Botanical Society casts doubt.

eucalyptus article 1935 (2)

I don’t know, and I don’t want to split hairs about it. I just got this overriding sense yesterday of the complexity of the world, of how everything – a business that uses robots to deliver food, a beautiful tree, a detail of historical fact – everything has more to it than you initially see. Get a little closer to this shrub, look carefully just to the left of that taller plant in the middle,

berries in bush.jpg

and you find berries hiding in it.

berries hiding

How did they get there? Are they renegade berries, holdouts from seeds that dropped long ago, insisted on growing into this other plant, refused to be eradicated altogether by diligent gardeners who have tried time and again to get rid of the little free-riders? Damn berries, the gardener probably says to himself, there they are again!

Look a little closer at this shrub

pink bush

and see the delicate flowers that the Berkeley students walk past all the time and for the most part, I guess, hardly notice. The blossoms come, the blossoms go, who sees? Still they make their own beauty and bask in the sunlight.

pink up

This thing looks like a weed. Maybe it is?

spikey whole

But get a little closer and you might be looking at a different plant altogether. The patterning of its spikes takes on an artsy look, and the stems emanate from the center with gorgeous proportion.

spikey plant

I love how nature is gorgeous but not perfect. Perfect would be unreal, plastic, manufactured, cookie-cutterish. I love how the artist behind nature knows how to make it imperfect just enough for it to be real. I love how there is always more to learn about, always more to see.

What else is new in Berkeley (and likely elsewhere)? New but also not new? A new twist on an old idea?

I kid you not, this is a phone booth. It sits within Drew’s office space, giving a private place for phone conversations because the employees of this company share open office space, and sometimes you don’t want your conversations to be overheard.

office phone2

What goes around, comes around, tis true…

I loved seeing Drew in his office, hearing about the good work they do helping veterans find optimal employment following their release from service, sensing the passion he brings to their mission (


They do it because the founders saw a need, looked at it carefully, then developed an idea that makes the transition process for veterans smoother and more successful. Bravo to them!

It’s easy to just look.

When you look a little closer, the world shows you something new.

Simple Shortbread Cookies Better Than Any in a Tin

“Patricia, there’s a mouse in my bed.” I had been asleep when my friend Eileen gently shook me awake with these very calm words in her very sweet voice one night many years ago when she came to visit us in Vermont. A mouse? How could there be a mouse?

I am not disturbed by mice, but one early experience – it’s vague, but it includes my mother up on a chair all in a flutter because of a mouse somewhere in her room – taught me that some people don’t like them. I followed Eileen downstairs to where she had been asleep and then awakened by said mouse. Sure enough, a small rodent was nestled among her sheets.

“This is not a mouse, Eileen,” I said, somehow thinking this would improve the situation. “This is a hamster. How on earth did it get out of its cage?” I never did learn the answer to that question, but perhaps should have expected such things to happen. After all, I’m the one who allowed the kids to have hamsters as pets. The first one died when Bradley decided to give it a bath in the bathroom sink (surprise, surprise). I was never sure exactly what aspect of that experience sealed the furry little thing’s fate, but I allowed another and another until I even allowed a rat they called Templeton, for which I always thought I should get extra credit as a mom. Thankfully these things do not live forever, bath or no bath.

Eileen didn’t hold the hamster incident against us – though now that I think of it, perhaps this is why she hasn’t come to visit since…

Ironically, Eileen lives in New Jersey with her dear cat. She will forever be associated in my mind not only with the small-rodent-in-the-bed experience, but also with the shortbread cookies I make for my cottage guests. She gave me the recipe years ago. I can’t look at its determined handwriting and explicit instructions without recalling the intelligent woman who wrote such succinct instructions as “must be butter” and “Cut in fancy shapes” and left it at that.

This is Eileen’s recipe.

recipe2 (2)

These are tasty, easy and simple. You don’t have to wonder if someone likes nuts or raisins or chocolate (though I know only one person on the face of the earth who doesn’t like chocolate!). If you like a simple, buttery, crisp, non-foo-foo cookie, you’ll like these. My son Drew tells me that when I send them to him, they last only a few hours and then are gone. (Last night, in a moment of supreme delight, I handed him a little sleeve of them face to face here in San Francisco!)

I know you will appreciate how exact Eileen is about the measurements. All that is good. And you are welcome to follow her instructions on the rolling out and cutting out of the cookies as well. But I have a much quicker way once the dough is together.

Three ingredients: butter, sugar, flour. Mix together, form into logs, wrap and refrigerate, and then, when you are ready, slice and bake. Bake as many as you want that day or the next week. The reason this works well for cottage guests is that I can make the dough, keep it chilled, and bake fresh as many as I need just before they arrive.

Start with a pound of butter, that wonderful dairy product that makes so many foods so much better. (When Tracy came for dinner on Wednesday I put a few pats into drained, boiled potatoes along with some chopped, fresh parsley – oh yum! Oh, did I get distracted there? Back to cookies!)

Take the butter out hours before you want to make the cookies so that it is as soft as it can get at room temperature. If you are in a hurry and want to soften the butter in the microwave, that’s fine, but watch it carefully. You want it soft, not melted.

Add the 1 ¼ cups of sugar and stir up until creamy. This should not take long if your butter is properly soft. Then add the five cups of flour. Eileen’s recipe says be sure to sift before measuring. You can do this, but pre-sifted flour has worked fine for me. Your call.

The mixed-up butter-sugar-flour will look like this in the bowl.

dough loose in bowl

Now use your hands to smoosh that dough together, like this.

dough together in bowl

I don’t mind the hands-in-dough aspect of this process, in fact it is a pleasure like none other, but you will get a better result if, for the next part, you enlist the help of waxed paper.

This is where Eileen and I part ways. I was right there with her with “Mix thoroughly w/hands.” But the rolling out and cutting into fancy shapes I do only when my granddaughters are around or it’s a holiday and we want to make hearts or stars or dogbone shapes. Normally I cut four pieces of waxed paper about 18” long. Divide the dough roughly in quarters, form a rough “log” on each sheet and elongate it by hand, like this.

elongated by hand

Then use the paper to help you form a smoother log. Be gentle with the paper or it will tear. Your logs will look like this.

rolling with paper

This amount of dough, when rolled into logs about 1 1/4” in diameter, makes about 52 linear inches total. Mine looked like this, wrapped up and ready for the refrigerator.


I put the logs in a plastic bag closed up tight and leave them there at least an hour, sometimes days or even a couple weeks, and slice them for baking when I am ready. Of course, you can slice off and bake only as many as you need. I seldom make this many at once, but I was going to be traveling and taking some with me.


Place them on the pans about this distance apart.

on pans unbaked

The shapes are not perfect as you can see. To me this is part of their beauty, their individuality, their authenticity. Make them perfect if you prefer 😊 The dough is easy to work with.

Bake them to about this color. Eileen’s recipe says 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes. I always found that with such a slow oven, they took much longer than that. No harm ever came in my kitchen from upping the temp to 350 and just keeping a close eye on them. In my experience, 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes is more like it.

on pan baked2

To serve to guests, pick a pretty plate or shallow bowl and make it nice.

in bowl to serve

Or put them in plastic sleeves (the kind you can get at a craft store like AC Moore or Michael’s). They travel well this way. Cut the recipe in half if you want fewer cookies, but why would you do that? These make great gifts!

in sleeves (2)

And By September…

The geese are calling to each other in their southward journey. The chill in the air made me put on a long-sleeved shirt this morning. My toes are asking for booties. Claudia is making amazing apple strudel. It must be September!

Claudia's apple strudel (2).jpg

Yesterday the sun shone and the sky was blue-blue for the first time in a while – all grave danger of hurricane Florence seeming to have stayed distant and now passed. Maybe the rain we did get helped my property look especially splendorous to me recently, or maybe it’s that I’m going away to visit my children and grandbabies and therefore am imprinting images with especial effort. In any case, I am struck with awe not only at the beauty around me, but also at how things have grown by September.

First and foremost, I have never seen coleus get so huge, let alone in my own planter boxes! Planted in April (the ones toward the back with the multi-colored leaves), by June my show-offs looked like this:

coleus in June.jpg

By July:


Relocated because of the upcoming Big Dig, and placed next to each other, they now look like this:

coleus 9.18.jpg

Happy plants, to be sure! Perhaps the chrysanthemum is in competition with the coleus. It is a holdover from last year, having survived not only the winter but also being transplanted to a new box. It is close to bursting into color, though I will miss the peak I expect.

This was in May. You can hardly see it, but just in front of the beets, closest to the seat on the end of the box, that’s the mum.

mums in May.jpg

By last week, Mums Gigantus!

mum gigantus!.jpg

And today. The bursting of color begins!

mums 9.19.jpg

The scarlet flame caladium doesn’t get as much sun and has not even trebled in size, but its colors are glorious.

scarlet flame caladium.jpg

Speaking of glorious, this butterfly has a most amazingly delicate transition from blue to black on its wings.

butterfly on bench.jpg

Fall seems a good time for spots of color. The marigolds were also gigantic this year, as is clear in this photo with Rise about six weeks ago:

rise marigold.jpg

But their splendor is perhaps best appreciated up close.

marigold close up.jpg

The lemon grass also went crazy, but no crazier than usual. I gave it its own bed this year.

Here it is in May, just planted (foreground bed).

lemon grass in May.jpg

And in June.

lemon grass in June.jpg

And today. You can’t even see its bed!

lemon grass 9.19.jpg

You almost wonder what’s lurking inside there!

What’s lurking is the same thing that’s lurking inside them all – life! Here we are, every one of us, with life and beauty all around us, a gazillion different examples, we and they all enjoying moments, catch as catch can, in the sun, in the rain, no matter the situation. If we have open hearts, beauty will make itself clear at almost every turn.

Bobbe’s Granola, a.k.a. 5K Granola

For 22 years I lived in Vermont – made my own bread, homeschooled my kids, wore Birkenstocks year-round. I was a Granola Mom and proud of it. As you would doubtless expect, I also made my own granola. At some point my friend Bobbe gave me her recipe, and I made it and tweaked it and gave it away many times since. For a few years I even got to serve it to runners and walkers (along with little yogurts) at the annual 5K fundraising event our local hospice organization held at Keswick Golf Club.

Hospice of the Piedmont in Charlottesville, Virginia, has all my admiration for the outstanding job it does of ensuring that no one in this community dies alone or in pain, and that the families of those with terminal illnesses get the help they need too. I loved helping with the 5K every spring. Four or five years ago, thinking of my granola, I suggested that at a 5K, we should have food that the runners will remember. You want them to come back, to choose your race instead of some other race. Every event like this has banana halves and orange smiles, and lots of them have donated waters and bagels. But who has yogurt and homemade granola? It worked! The runners loved it!

Last year this amazing group of women, led by rock star Melba Campbell on the far right (who, for those of you who see the balloons, was also the birthday girl that day), raised more than $176,000 through this event that included just over 300 runners and walkers – a phenomenal ratio of dollars to runners. Every single volunteer contributed heart and soul, and I could not be prouder to have worked alongside them.

5K 2017 group photo.jpg

But a funny thing happened this morning. I took out my cookbook to look at the original recipe, you know, just in case it was in Bobbe’s handwriting, which would have been very cool, but instead the handwriting was mine. She must have dictated it to me. Too bad, a missing piece of authenticity. Nonetheless, I laughed to see, right there in blue ink on an old index card, the very technique I thought I had “discovered” only a few years ago, the critical step, the “secret” to making the granola crunchy but not overcooked! Yes, it was a piece of humble pie for breakfast. How did that happen?!

It happens when you have made a thing many times, so many times that after a while you don’t look at the recipe because the ingredients and steps are all in your head. You begin to feel comfortable with eyeballing the quantity of, let’s say, the cinnamon, you use a different kind of wheat germ instead of the kind you always used, you decide you like it a little darker so you leave it in the oven longer – that sort of thing.

One time a few years ago, while working long days at the hotel, the glass, gallon-size jar that I keep my granola in was empty and I didn’t want to delay making a new batch any longer. Because of my schedule, I made it late that night. By the time it was done and I had turned the oven off, I was super tired. Eh, I’ll finish it in the morning (meaning I’d take it off the pans then and put it away). And off I went to bed. The next morning as I positioned the spatula at the edge of the pan to begin the process of breaking it up for transfer to said jar…


… I heard a different sound, a sound like crunch.

Words are great and they come in very handy for a lot of communication. Pictures add tremendously to the understanding of anything. But sounds! Sounds have their own benefit. When something has sounded a certain way all along, and then suddenly it sounds different, you pay attention. I deduced, from the sound that morning that sounded like crunchy, that the overnight stay my granola had had in my oven had pulled more of the moisture out of it than if you take it out of the oven after it’s cooked and let it cool on the counter. It was drier, crispier, crunchier. I loved it! I was elated!

This was a breakthrough, and I had my crazy work schedule to thank for it. The granola was better in yogurt, better in milk, just plain better. When Lori Woods, one of the exceedingly competent and dedicated hospice workers, asked me for the recipe last year, I included in it:

Bake at 375 until the tops get brownish, which takes about 25 minutes. I happen to like mine a little on the darker side, but the shade of brown is up to you. When you have decided it’s right, turn off the oven but leave the pans in there. I found out by accident that leaving the pans in the oven overnight to cool slowly allows the residual heat to pull any excess moisture from the granola and gives it (and allows it to keep) a wonderful crunch if stored without fruit in it. 

See that part: I found out by accident…? I did! At least I think I did! But maybe I didn’t. Maybe the very clear instruction on the original recipe came out of deep storage in my brain, came right up to the front and presented itself anew. Here it is, see it? Plain as day: Turn oven off & leave in overnight.

recipe (2).jpg

Now I know you think the moral of this story is: Every now and then you should look at the recipe! Yes, that’s part of it. But something else interesting happened this morning. When I took my pans out of the oven, having baked the granola last night and left it to dry overnight, as I pushed the edge of the spatula along the bottom of the pan to loosen it up, I did not hear the crunchy sound as usual. It sounded, well, softer. This story is NOT unfolding as it is supposed to!

Food is funny that way. It does not always cooperate the way you expect it to. Boxed cake mixes used to have alternate instructions for people who live at high altitudes (probably they still do, I haven’t bought one in a long time). This is because, for one thing, the air pressure is lower and foods take longer to cook. I never lived at a high altitude but if you did, it would make sense to pay attention to that.

I have never seen alternate instructions for hurricanes or other weird weather situations, but I think maybe, just maybe, the excessive humidity in the air right now because of Florence affected my granola, even inside the oven. Could it be? For several years now, I’ve done the overnight method. Why this time is it different? Lucky me: I have another batch to compare with mine.

Mom wanted to make some too because Jerry is a big fan of this granola and he was running low. (Poor man, must keep him well supplied.) She made it herself a few weeks ago and it didn’t come out right, so I made a batch together with her yesterday morning and then a batch of my own when I got home. This was great not only because I could spend some fun time with Mom, but also because I could see the process through the eyes of someone who was new at it.

Start with these ingredients.



1 large round container old fashioned oats (42oz, 1.2kg, which is 15 8oz measuring cups full in case you buy your oats in bulk packaging)

1 ½ cups shredded coconut (this 7oz bag was a little more than that, I used the whole thing)

1 cup wheat germ

½ cup flax seed meal (optional)

1 cup brown sugar, light or dark

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Several points to note.

  1. Old fashioned oats are better than quick oats for this.
  2. You might like your granola sweeter or not as sweet. You can add some more brown sugar, or use less. You can use unsweetened coconut.
  3. Your wheat germ might be toasted or some other variety. Fine.
  4. I use flax seed only when I have it. Mom had it and wanted to use it.
  5. There are no nuts in this list. There are two reasons for this. One, I do not eat nuts. Two, if you eat nuts and want to add them, it is best to do them after the granola is baked and cooled.
  6. There is no dried fruit in this list. If you add the dried fruit before baking, you will end up with fruit that is hard as rocks and hard to chew. Put it in later.

My 8-quart, 14” dough bowl works well for this amount of ingredients. I brought mine to Mom’s because she doesn’t have that big a bowl. She said to add to these instructions that you might want to either use a big pot as a big bowl or cut the recipe in half so that you can use a smaller bowl.

Mix all of this together well in a very large bowl. Make sure you break down any brown sugar or coconut clumps at this time. Fingers or the back of the spoon work well.

Once the dry ingredients are mixed together, add 1 ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (or whatever cooking oil you prefer) and then 1 cup honey (local is best, you know what they say about it being good for you). Measuring the oil first, then the honey in the same measuring cup, helps your honey not stick so much to the inside of the measuring cup. When you have added both, stir it up carefully.

I loved stirring it all up using this beautiful hardwood spoon that my son Bradley made for Mom years ago. The very tools we cook with evoke good emotions sometimes!

stirring (2).jpg

Once the mixture looks well mixed, which is to say de-clumped, divide it between two 12×18” pans or the equivalent. These have a nice standing-up edge and that’s important against spillage. The silicone mats are underneath, but you can’t see them. Bradley made that fish cutting board too, by the way.


We preheated Mom’s oven to 375 and left the pans in there for 25 minutes. The top pan got browner than the bottom pan.

dark and light, cooked.jpg

Both are acceptable. You make it however dark you like. The original recipe does say a 300 degree oven, oops, I also see today. Maybe I got impatient somewhere along the line and upped the temp. Either way, it bakes, and you decide how brown you want it.

Do note that brown corresponds directly to crunch. The browner, the crunchier, regardless of residual oven heat. Getting back to the humidity question, Mom’s granola turned out crunchier than mine despite the humidity and I think this is because hers stayed in the hot oven longer. She mixed up the darker and the lighter before putting it away and got a very acceptable result. SO… maybe it’s the combination of length of time in the oven (how much it cooks in the first place) plus length of time in the residual heat plus the (random, uncontrollable amount of) humidity in the air.

All right, so you mixed up the dry, stirred in the oil and honey, de-clumped, spread in pans, baked for 20-25 mins, turned the oven off and let it sit overnight in your oven. The next morning, use a spatula to loosen the granola from the pan and use your fingers to break up the larger pieces. Now either put it directly into jars or tins to store without dried fruit and/or nuts, OR combine with the fruit and/or nuts now and then put away for storage. I store mine without fruit. IF you store your homemade granola with the dried fruit mixed into it, the dried fruit will put some of the moisture back in it and your granola will be softer. Adding nuts before storing the granola should not affect the moisture the way fruit does, but I cannot be sure about this. The 5K race day fruit was dried cranberries, cherries, cut up apricots and golden raisins; use whatever you like and quantities you think are appropriate. Almonds, walnuts or pecans are good I’m told, but I cannot be sure about this either.

My favorite combo in a cereal bowl is equal parts granola and Grape-Nuts (which contains neither grapes nor nuts, but that’s another story) with some dried cranberries on top (dried cherries on special occasions or to treat myself). I use the Grape-Nuts because the flavors and textures combine well and it helps to stretch out the batch of granola, meaning I don’t need to make it as often (which was super important back when I was working ten or so hours a day at the hotel). Mixing some granola into plain yogurt with a little bit of strawberry jam is also very nice…

Granola makes a great gift because it keeps well and looks nice in a tin or a mason jar or a clear plastic bag tied up with a bow.