Oh, Honey—That’s Good!

Jewish honey cake is traditionally served at Rosh Hashanah, but all Shirley Tedesco knows is that her new neighbor, Muriel Shapiro, loves the stuff. Besides, it’s only January, and Shirley is desperate. At least she takes the time to discover Muriel’s heritage as well as her preferences in desserts.

From the deep wells of kindness that abide in Shirley’s heart, she uses the delicious cake to make inroads with Muriel. And while her motives are pure—she really does want to become close with the shy Jewess from New Jersey—if pressed to admit, Shirley also needs a babysitter who has never experienced her brood of eight unholy terrors.

The following recipe is the one I had in mind for Shirley to present as a peace-offering prior to Muriel experiencing the Tedesco horde. When Muriel agrees to babysit, she has to watch the twins, Holly and Noelle. Unfortunately, the twins are disgruntled at being the only siblings without plans for the evening, and they take it out on their unsuspecting babysitter. There isn’t enough honey cake in the world to repair the damage the girls inflict upon poor Muriel.

Jewish Honey Cake

3 ½ c unbleached flour

1 t baking soda

1 T baking powder

1 t cinnamon

½ t ginger

¼ t cloves

¼ t nutmeg

Dash of allspice

4 extra large eggs

1 ¼ c packed dark brown sugar

4 T extra virgin olive oil

1 t vanilla

1 ¾ c honey

1 c very strong coffee (decaf is fine)

1 c golden raisins

1 c whole or half candied or plain almonds

Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease and flour two 9×5-inch loaf pans or one 9×13 pan. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coffee and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices together. In a large mixing bowl, blend the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and oil. Do not overbeat.

Stir the flour and honey/coffee into the egg mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the liquid. Blend well. Toss the raisins in a little flour to keeping them from sinking and stir them in gently. Pour into the prepared pan(s) and place the almonds over the cake. (If using whole almonds, arrange them in straight rows to denote a serving and to indicate where to cut the cake finishing with an almond on top of each piece.)

Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the cake springs back. Let the cake sit overnight before serving.

Serve as is or top off with freshly whipped cream. Enjoy!

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 14

Writer's Soul 14I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my writing, and I don’t mean in quantity. Rather, I’ve been thinking a lot of different things about what my writing is or isn’t.

It started last year around November when my novel was technically finished. There were a few minor points that needed to be re-researched (is that even a word), and I had a wonderful research librarian who I met at the Conneaut D-day Reenactment assisting me. The whole process was starting to bog me down. I began to hate it, resent it, and wanted to dig a deep hole in my back yard in which I could bury my book without any witnesses.

The holidays were coming, and since much of the preparation for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas fell to me, I really didn’t have anything left to give my writing. I didn’t want my writing to suffer, but I felt so guilty about setting it aside. After all, what kind of writer would I be if I wasn’t writing every single day? Good question.

While wrestling with this dilemma and wanting to be able to focus on all the fun that comes with the holidays, I ran into our pastor’s wife at the local grocery store. After the usual pleasantries, she asked after my novel. I told her what I’ve already mentioned above and concluded that I wish someone would give me the permission to quit for a little while. If I could just take a break, I knew I would go back to writing in January once I was refreshed.

She looked at me and said, “Heather, I give you permission to quit.”

Even now I laugh at how easy it was for someone else to grant me the grace I needed to give myself but was unable to. And guess what? I did go back to the writing and research in January as I promised myself I would. In fact, I attacked it with renewed vigor and produced better writing than I would have had I pressed myself to go on through November and December. What’s more, I enjoyed it!

So what’s the point of this blog post you may ask? It still scares me somewhat that I took off two months of much needed rest time. There are so many writing books, and I imagine books devoted to other forms of art, that will tell you to create every day without fail. Are these people right in tasking others in this way?

Yes and no. If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. You have to find out what works for you. Thankfully, the day I returned to writing coincided with Chapter 11 of Heather Seller’s book, Page After Page. The writing exercises in this chapter were wonderful for getting me back on my rails. You’ll understand this better when you read the book which I highly recommend you do.

The funny thing was, while Chapter 11 worked for me, I recalled that before the holidays, Chapter 10 flipped me out. This is the beauty of the book. The next time I read it, Chapter 10 may be exactly what my writing needs. All this to say, don’t be afraid to embrace the bad (insert chosen art form here) because you may uncover a gem on the way to the good (insert chosen art form here).

In doing so, your creativity will flow and your art will come naturally. There are going to be different amounts of flow, and that’s to be expected. Don’t despair over these days even if they extend into weeks, months, or years. Begin again in small ways, flex your creative muscles, and build up to your peak performance like an athlete training for the Olympics. You will achieve gold.

Write Happy!

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