when sentiment meets photography

Photography has a practical side. Sometimes, I need help remembering details and pictures have been my prompter; helping fill in the blank spots of my memory. Taking a walk down memory lane via one’s photos reveals all kinds of long forgotten moments. From one’s fashion sense through the years to the small details of a trip, photos can capture, freeze and help one trigger memories of events.

At the Musée Rodin in Paris. . .

look-a-likeThe photo, although overexposed, brings a smile to my face as I recall spotting the “look-a-likes” that day.

man waving Spanish flag

Without this picture to jog my memory, I undoubtedly would have forgotten our dinner at this restaurant in Alcala de Henares, Spain. It was taken the night Spain won the Euro cup in June 2008 and the people took to the streets to celebrate. Seeing the flag waving owner of the restaurant sparks memories of the throngs of people coming out into the streets to celebrate the victory with cheers, chants and national pride. I am swept up in the excitement of the victory once again.

Using photography to document something as trivial as the time I bought store brand cotton swabs instead of Q-tips has helped me remember why. . .

store brand cotton swabsI will only buy Q-tips brand from now on. Come to think of it, I should frame this and hang it in my bathroom so I can be reminded every day.

Another way to put photography to use in the memory making process is to document an item you want to remember but don’t have enough room to store. My parents recently found and returned a keepsake of mine; a bread dough sculpture one of my elementary school friends made for me as a going away present, on the occasion of our moving out of the area.

I had forgotten this cute little guy. Even though, I must admit, I don’t remember who gave it to me anymore; it still holds a special place in my heart. Now it will be memorialized in pixels forever and I will stash it in my albums to be rediscovered some day in the future; when I will be transported once again back to, not only the original gifting, but now also the time this gift re-entered my life and the photo shoot and fond memories it ignited.

Join me on memory lane,

~ Sue

The Weekend Dish-Chocolate Caramel Dandies

The Backyard Sisters are getting competitive. The LA Times is holding the third annual cookie recipe competition and we have entered our favorite recipe from our annual Four Sisters Cookie Bake. Entries are being accepted until 5PM PDT today so if you’re feeling the calling to share we welcome the competition. Voting will take place on the LA Times facebook page from November 2-12. We encourage you to visit and vote, especially for ours if you like what you see.  You can peruse all the entries, or search for Chocolate Caramel Dandies. Here’s our entry:

Chocolate Caramel Dandies

If you close your eyes shortly after you slide a pan of crumbly Chocolate Caramel Dandies into the oven, you’ll notice a slight scent of roasted almonds, faint, as if a street vendor one block down has just begun warming his parchment packets of crispy delicacies.

This scent heralds the arrival of the annual Four Sisters Great Cookie Bake, a raucous all-day affair when we, with as many of our ten children as are in town, gather in Pasadena or Torrance or Trabuco Canyon to continue a tradition reaching back to our maternal grandmother and her three sisters.  We bake as if Christmas Eve couldn’t happen if we didn’t fill the white oval platter, big as a hug, to tipping with cookies made from recipes smudged with cocoa and butter and child size fingerprints and as inextricable from our Christmas memory as Santa and a tree and twinkly lights.

We make fudge and peppermint fudge. We bake molasses crinkles, delicate thin sugar crispies and frosted sugar cut-outs. We bake chocolate mud puddles and powdered sugar-covered snowballs and everyday chocolate chip cookies to keep the husbands away from the specialties and we often try something new, but we always, always, always bake Chocolate Caramel Dandies.

In fact, we usually bake two batches because they’re everyone’s favorite, including our neighbors who anticipate their own red plate gifts from the Four Sisters Great Cookie Bake.  It’s the timpani of a milk and semi-sweet chocolate duet, served upon a toasty almond-oatmeal crust and mellowed with a swirl of smooth caramel that thrills.  Even though Chocolate Caramel Dandies are as easy to make as a good decision, we reserve these treats for that one magical week in December when we share our good fortune and good cooking with each other and now here, we share with you.

Chocolate Caramel Dandies

Chocolate Caramel Dandies

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a 9 x 13″ pan.

1   3/4 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C almond meal

2 C old-fashioned oats

1C packed brown sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 C (2 sticks) butter, melted

2 C (12oz. pkg) chocolate chips.

(I usually mix 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 semi-sweet.)

1 C caramel ice cream topping

1/3 C all-purpose flour

Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, almond meal, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Stir in butter.  Mix well.

Measure out one heaping cup of crumble and set aside.

Press remaining crumble mixture into greased 9 X 13″ pan.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove from oven.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Let chips melt (about one minute) and spread evenly over crumble mixture.

In a small bowl, combine caramel topping with remaining 1/3 C flour.

Drizzle evenly over melted chocolate chips.

Sprinkle with reserved crumble mixture.

Bake at 350 degree for 20-23 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool in pan on wire rack then cut into small squares. Makes about 24 two-inch bars.

Tossing our oven mitt into the ring.

~ Catherine and Sue

Desire, expectation, and surprise

Autumn Afternoon

A startled flock of coots.
At once a chorus!  Wing beats rise upon the reservoir, soft like a stadium full of children wearing mittens.

I close my eyes. Can you pretend it’s angels clapping? 

(October 29, 2011)

I find this in my journal and decide to return to the reservoir this morning to snap a quick photo to illustrate my words so I can get back to today’s real task of beginning that novel I will write in a month.

An overcast sky creates a muted light, fitting for this day-after-Halloween hush hanging palpable as the clouds. We pass a few smashed pumpkins and I pick up empty Three Musketeers, Peanut M&M and Snickers wrappers that I find littered along the way.  They crinkle now when I reach into my pocket to grab the camera before we crest the ridge to the reservoir overlook.

Chester pulls on his leash. He’s not used to being confined out here but I don’t want him to  dash into the water and scare the coots like last time before I can focus on:

Four unruffled ducks, utterly unconcerned about our arrival.  Aren’t I a lame one. I should have known better than to expect a repeat performance from something as serendipitous as an entire resting flock of coots which flapped away to my poetic enjoyment.

I give myself permission to skip writing a post today and decide to return quickly home when streak of white flashes on the far shore.

A heron! I’ll admit, I thought it was crane until I got home and learned that cranes fly with necks extended, while herons fly with necks held in a crook. Somehow I find great comfort in knowing that nature allows, in her wisdom for diversity, for both those who stretch as far as they are able in every single flight and those who keep their reach a little closer to their hearts each time they glide.

There in the distance are more herons, an egret, and yes, a few coots.

Chester sits on my foot. Is he telling me not to rush away? We pause and watch the herons swoop and drift and soar. There are no angels clapping but if I squint, it’s easy to imagine, on a day so fresh from memorializing death, that here at dawn we can witness angels flying.  Is this enough for one ordinary day?

We pull ourselves away.
There are words to write and “…miles to go before I sleep.” Chester is used to me quoting him lines of poetry when we walk.  For one brief moment he stops tugging on his leash. He looks over his shoulder and I swear he smiles.

With enchantment,