Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm Back

I took the summer off.

It was supposed to just be a break from my job. Time away from meetings and contracts and managing, from sales calls, board reports, inventory and auditors, Powerpoint and spreadsheets and Salesforce.

And conference calls.  I was going cold turkey on those.

Don't get me wrong.  I value and thrive on my work and the people I get to do it with.  But I just couldn't be my working self this summer.

I needed to be a different self.

So I snatched at the gift of this time.

I thought I'd tackle projects, make progress, tick long postponed tasks off of lists, and set my life in order.  I envisioned photography sessions, elaborate recipes, blog redesigns, a new cookbook.  I saw myself deeply enmeshed in my children's consciousness, undistracted and welcomed.

I would write.

None of this happened.

Instead, I took a break from all of it.

I calmed down. I breathed and slept and had the house to myself. I walked. I read many marvelous books*.  I grew tomatoes and found wonderful ways to eat them**.

I baked slabs of pie***, and had people over.

Cherry Nectarine Slab Pie | Cheesy Pennies

I stretched and tried spinning and came to truly crave exercise.  I felt myself begin to be stronger, and was thrilled.  I even went so far as to initiate hiking.  Once.

I hung out with my dog.

I played Mahj and made it to book group and met my son for lunch at his job.  I returned carpool favors and drove my daughter to the airport and to camp and to anywhere else she wanted to go. I let my hair get all curly and didn't touch my blow drier and rotated between five t-shirts that have holes in them now.

My nails, though, have never looked better.  I made time for manicures and drank decaf iced tea.

I left home often.  I travelled to Iceland**** with my family and to Alaska***** with my friend. Both times I came back deeply moved and quietly elated by the experience.

For all of this, every lazy moment and plate of pancakes, all the cheerful reunions, each glass of good wine and the many sweaty drives home from the gym, I am grateful.

For the gift of this extraordinary ordinary summer, I give thanks on my knees.

I needed it, all of it. The perspective. The peace. I needed to be this relaxed and resilient self so I could bear what came next.

So I could sit on the couch next to my son watching Suits on TV like it was any other August night, and not the last night******.  So we could laugh together with the rest of the house asleep and his bags packed in a room down the hall, and I would not fall apart into a million pieces on the floor.

Now he's gone.

And I'm back.

Toffee Cheesecake Bars | Cheesy Pennies

Toffee Cheesecake Bars

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45-50 minutes
I made these bars for the folks at the office to say thanks on the day before my summer break.  I just wanted to be sure they'd really miss me.  These are exceptionally well suited for when you are weeping uncontrollably with pride and loss at the same time, for hours on end. They are decadent and spectacular and over the top - with a little bit of bite from the oats and crunch from the toffee in the topping.   Based on a recipe from the blog Creme de la Crumb.

For the base and topping:
  • 1 c. flour
  • ½ c. granola (I used Trader Joe's Maple Pecan Praline) or quick oats
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar (or 1/2 c. if using oats)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ c. butter, softened
For the filling:
  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • ⅓ c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 c. Heath Bar Toffee Bits
  • Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 inch pan with nonstick foil and spray with cooking spray. NOTE: You can double the recipe and use a 13x9 pan if you like. I like.
  • Combine flour, granola (oats), brown sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse until no large chunks of granola remain. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles damp crumbs. Press ¾ of the mixture into bottom of prepared pan. (save the rest for topping the bars).
  • Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown.
  • Combine cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl, and blend until smooth with an electric mixer. Pour batter onto baked crust. Scatter Heath Bar bits and reserved crumb mixture over the cheesecake layer.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes (40 for the larger pan, 30 for the regular size) or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove the bars from oven and allow to cool completely. Chill for another hour or so, or longer, in the fridge before cutting into squares and serving, cool or at room temperature.

* Two recent favorites were A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, and Transatlantic, by Colm McCann.
**  A post with all the recipes and details will be up this weekend.
*** I made mine with the award winning pie crust, and a sweet cherry and nectarine filling adapted from my cherry crisp recipe.  It rocked.
**** Loads of photos from Iceland here.
***** Scads of photos from Alaska here.
****** He posted his own feelings on "the end of act one" on his blog.  Wow.


  1. You made me cry. And then I read your son's post. WOW! doesn't even begin to cover it!

    1. Thank you, Dorothy. To say I'm blown away by that kid is an understatement.

  2. What a wonderful vacation! How lucky that you were able to take that time for yourself and your family. And you look beautiful!

  3. The toffee bars were a big hit at my block party. Great recipe.