Change is good. Or so I’ve been told. Being a fan of the status quo has given me minimal experience with metamorphosis. I’ve had the same phone number for over 20 years, the same haircut for almost as long and, despite purchasing some very pretty flatware at an antiques fair, I still eat my cereal with the same yellow plastic handled spoon that was part of a set my first roommate abandoned when she moved out in 1989. It is hideous but has the perfect weight and delivers the ideal mouthful. But there are times when, unless you want to turn into Miss Havisham or a Collyer brother, you have to change your surroundings. Or at least get a paint job. That is what I finally did over Thanksgiving. It had only been 10 years. Why rush into anything, right?
You would have thought I lived in a 15 room house filled with priceless objets with the way I behaved. I complained to anyone who’d listen about being displaced, which really wasn’t true. I just tacked on two days to the holiday and hid at my parents’ place just to get out of the painters’ way. I whined about having to prepare my apartment, which also really wasn’t true. The painters said they’d move everything, but because I’m a control freak and wanted workers in my space for as few days as possible, I moved all of the furniture myself. I left Post-It’s everywhere and memos printed out in Arial Bold 18 point, as if the guys were blind rather than Spanish speaking. I was ridiculous.
But the great thing was coming home to a freshly painted abode. Much like having your hair colored, it took 10 years off the place! But then I had what I refer to as a Carol Brady Moment. Do you remember the episode on The Brady Bunch where Carol convinces Mike to let her buy wallpaper for the bedroom? Once they make a choice she realizes the new paper will make the rest of the room look terrible and she lobbies for new carpeting, curtains and a bedspread. (FYI—they solved the dilemma by repainting the room in the existing color.)
That’s what happened to me. After my walls were refreshed my once shabby-chic red floral rug looked just plain shabby. What started out as red, around which I had based the palette of the rest of my living room, evaporated into a sort of marbleized steak look, heavy on the fat. But after my positive painting experience I was geared up to keep the changes coming and when I saw a rug on One Kings Lane (a fabulous home decorating website that you should definitely check out) that was majorly discounted and seemingly the right color, I pounced.
Like all new things (and people) I bring home I delayed incorporating the rug into my life. First I left it in the package room in my building’s lobby over the weekend. Then once the porter lugged it into my apartment I let the giant shrink-wrapped, rolled up thing lie on my kitchen floor for another few days. When I finally slit open the plastic and unrolled it as much as my narrow kitchen would allow, I panicked. The color was way off. I was sure it clashed with the red paint in my kitchen and the red in my living room upholstery. Granted I was basing my reaction on having viewed the very little bit I was able to unfurl, but still. I went online, filled out the free shipping form to send it back and enlisted Rich to come over to help me stuff it back into the casing from which I had released it.
Rich has a great decorative eye, and is also a thorough, prudent evaluator. He had just the right reaction to my rash, get-it-out-of-here, knee-jerk response. Based on what he could see in the kitchen he deemed it worthy of dragging into the living room and unrolling completely. The upshot was he thought the rug looked great. We disposed of the old rug, vacuumed, measured, cut the carpet pad down to size and lay down the new rug. I loved it!
Of course I needed to thank my friend (who had basically had it with my micro-managing the installation of my new floor covering and wanted to get to the gym before it closed) and I attempted to pack up a container of recently made cookies. He refused them.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had been confronting and accepting change. Rich had just returned from a transformative week at Rancho La Puerta, a spa in Mexico, with his friend Philip. Phil is an old Rancho pro and health fanatic with whom I have had heated discussions about “healthy” baked goods. While he was away Rich was up at dawn, having hiked five miles, eaten breakfast, practiced yoga and taken a Pilates class all before 10AM, the time he is usually cracking open the newspaper. But most importantly, he was feeling great after a week of eating the freshest local, organic, sustainable everything. No more mindless consumption of my full-fat and plenty-of-sugar treats.
I wasn’t sure I approved of such a drastic about-face. He’s been a loyal consumer of my treats for 15 years. But I still needed to give him a proper thank you. So I baked him Chocolate Chip Cranberry cookies from the Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta cookbook. (Thank you Cookstr!) Delivering them to his door I awaited his response. He swallowed hard and said (I think), “I need something to drink. They’re kind of dry.” This wasn’t surprising to me since the recipe calls for very little brown sugar which would provide moisture and flavor if the amount were increased. The best part about the cookies is the dark chocolate kiss stuck in the middle. As far as I’m concerned, why would you bother wasting time with the dry cookie when you can cut to the kiss? To be fair, there is an oatmeal-y wholesomeness to them and in fact, I ate several. But I suggested Rich share some with Phil whose taste was so strongly influenced by the Rancho imprimatur he popped one in his mouth and pronounced it “great!” I’ll leave the judgment to you while I go back to baking real cookies. Some things should never be changed. In the meantime, anyone want a giant white wall unit? It really doesn’t work with my rug.
Change is Good Healthy Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Kiss Cookies Adapted from Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta: Recipes from the World-Famous Spa, Deborah Schneider, Deborah Szekely October 2008
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick) softened
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup wheat flake cereal
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup darkest chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
40-ish Dark Chocolate Kisses, unwrapped (the 12 ounce bag will be more than enough)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg, then the milk, beating until combined. (The mixture isn't going to come together and will look a little soupy. That's okay)
In a separate bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, cereal, pastry flour, almonds, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips and cranberries.
Add oat mixture to the milk mixture, and mix on the lowest speed until thoroughly combined.
Use a tablespoon measure or small ice cream scoop to scoop the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each scoop. Press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Bake for 14 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let cool on the pan for a few minutes then place on a rack to cool completely.
Yield: 40-45 cookies