View on Inspiration – Hockey Pucks and Quick-Rising Yeast

Charlene Paul

‘Twas the day of Thanksgiving and all through the house

the occupants were all scrambling, except maybe, the mouse.

The turkey was roasted, the potatoes – warm and fluffy,

were waiting for the gravy and a big spoon of stuffing.

The crust on the pies was brown, flaky, and thin,

and the folks in the room couldn’t wait to dig in.

With tummies all full and dishes all done,

it was off to the TV for some college football fun.

Then Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and off to the mall –

time to get shopping for the big Christmas haul.

Decorating and baking and paper and lights –

all the things that are needed to make the day bright.

Cards all addressed and packages mailed,

cookies all frosted and cranberries jelled.

Ring in the New Year with a toast and a shout;

in with the new, with the old – toss it out.

Exhaustion sets in and the resolution is made

that this year will be different, our nerves won’t get frayed.

But the year will pass quickly and before we all know it,

we’ll once again recite the words of the poet:

“’Twas the Night Before . . . ”  

It was the middle of September when I sat down to write this article. It was still a hundred degrees outside, and there were no visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. The holiday season still seemed light years away.

But one quick check of the calendar drove home the fact that the holidays were quickly approaching. That realization conjured up thoughts of the frantic pace this time of year often ushers in. We plan and we clean, we bake and we cook, we shop and we wrap, and we decorate and entertain. And then just as quickly as the holidays came, they are relegated to memory.

By the time the decorations are tucked away, and the last of the leftovers have been washed down the garbage disposal, out comes that resolution list. With promises to ourselves about losing weight, being more patient, quitting a bad habit or three, saving money, and a host of other commitments, our new year looks more like a notebook full of check-lists rather than a clean slate.

When I was learning to bake, I had a hard time getting the hang of yeast – you know, that stuff that makes baked goods rise to fluffy heights. My mom and her mom were master bakers and could turn out perfectly risen loaves of bread and baking sheets filled with light, aromatic rolls almost effortlessly. It looked so easy. Proof the yeast in a small amount of water with a bit of sugar and then add it to the flour mixture, and you’re good to go.

My first batch of rolls turned out to be something my husband lovingly referred to as hardtack. They were flat, brown, and almost impossible to bite. My second batch was much the same. By my third batch, I had perfected the homemade hockey puck. The good news was they were preservative-free and would never spoil. The bad news was that they couldn’t be eaten.

I asked my mom why her recipe didn’t work. We checked it over to make sure I hadn’t left out any of the ingredients and that I had correctly copied the directions. Then she asked how long I allowed the dough to rise. It sounded like a goofy question since I used quick-rising yeast. Mom and Grandma were pretty old fashioned, so they used regular yeast and had to let their dough rise for one to two hours before punching it down and letting it rise again. I was a modern woman. I used that quick-rising yeast and only let my dough rise about fifteen minutes before popping my rolls straight into the oven. (Someone told me they would finish raising in the oven.)  

Mom then told me something that applies to almost every facet of life. “If you keep doing it the same way, you are going to keep getting the same results. No matter how much you want to believe it will work next time, if you don’t change what you’re doing, it never will.”

She was right – something I hated to admit. I let the next batch rise until it was doubled in size, punched it down, put the rolls on the baking sheet, and let them rise again before putting them in the hot oven. They came out light, fluffy, and mouth-wateringly delicious. Who would have thought?

Life is a lot like my foray into the world of baking. If we keep doing things the way we have always done them, we are going to get the same results we have always gotten. No amount of blood, sweat, and tears will ever change that fact.

If we want to wake up refreshed and ready to face the new year with zest and zeal, we have to do something different before it gets here. For me, that means cutting back on things that won’t have a lasting impact on those I love and cherish. Will my family really remember that my pies were store bought? Will they care if I didn’t spend hours mixing bread dough or hand-decorating cookies? Oh, they might tease me about it, but in the long run, they will remember sitting around the table on Thanksgiving talking about old times or enjoying a rousing game of Monopoly or watching Christmas movies.

If being able to awaken on New Year’s morning feeling like I am ready to face whatever lies ahead means cutting back on a few of the holiday details, I’m all in. My resolution list for 2019 will have four items:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Do enjoy the good stuff
  • Love deeper
  • Live happier

I wish our View On Magazine family, our readers, advertisers, and everyone in between the most joyous of Holidays and the happiest New Year!

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