I woke up at 5.45 a.m. on Sunday, to the sound of a howling wind and the droning and crunching of a snow plow somewhere out there in the lonely early morning dark. I had gone to bed at 3.00 a.m. after a day and evening of Christmas celebrations. The house was still night-time cold, so I snuggled down deeper within the covers, although I knew that I shouldn't. I needed to be up baking squares for the Christmas Pot-Luck lunch at church.
An hour later, with the house getting warmer, I made a supreme effort and exited the bed. In the bathroom downstairs I brushed my teeth and threw on whatever garments I could lay my hands on, just to be warm. Getting ready for the day would come later, after the baking!
It was still dark and snow swirled around the windows. Outside the temperature was frigid, but inside the Christmas tree in the hallway twinkled with brightly coloured lights and I put on some Christmas music by Canadian singer/songwriter Ali Matthews and cracked open a cookbook. To the strains of her lovely voice, singing, "Looking for Christmas," I looked at a recipe called, Caramel Toffee Squares, that said, "Make this one of the first recipes you try;" so I did.
On Saturday I had bought a random assortment of ingredients based on a glance at the book: Sweetened condensed milk, crushed pineapple, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, chopped pecans--oh--and graham cracker crumbs. I don't normally make squares, so I was a little out of my comfort zone.
I stirred and melted, drained and patted, and the hours flew by. As I lifted each pyrex glass container out of the oven, I carefully carried them out to our enclosed glass front porch, to "chill." It was definitely "chilly" out there.
I was just cleaning up the debris after my third recipe, when Paul came downstairs, dressed and ready for church, to find me in black rimmed glasses, light green nightie, covered by a flour covered black zippered sweater, over black yoga pants and surrounded by pots, pans and the scattered remnants of a frenzy of baking.
This is where Paul entered a danger zone, for he said, "Why are you doing this? M and M's has squares that are perfectly good; you should have just bought them."
Along with the chocolate, walnuts and flour, I had just poured my heart into those squares, so I said something snippy and very uncharitable, like, "Brenda is taking M & M squares. You can have some of those if you prefer them."
He muttered, "Now you are just being silly."
Don't you sometimes just wish you could rewind a conversation? At the back of my mind I could hear 1 Corinthians 13, The Love Chapter, reminding me that if I made the most delicious squares but had no love, I was just a resounding gong or clanging cymbal (my paraphrase.)
I cleaned the cluttered kitchen and went to get ready for church....
An hour later I brought in the now very chilled squares from the porch, and laid out Christmas napkins on two large, round platters. I started with the Caramel Toffee Squares, which I had made first, as the book suggested, and which therefore had been out in the cold porch the longest. The knife would not penetrate the top layer of chocolate, which had hardened into a frozen shield. I stabbed, sawed, heated the knife in hot water, and finally achieved the sawing up of 3/4 of a 9 x13 pan of Caramel Toffee Squares into oddly shaped chunks. I might have had more success with a chain saw from the garage, but fortunately for my church family, I didn't think of that.
The pineapple squares and "magic" squares were easier to cut, but all of them scattered a lot of crumbs, which of course, since I don't make squares normally, I had to test to see how they tasted.
By the time I had everything packed into the car, and ready to go, I felt very full. Squares are made from the sweetest of sweet ingredients and the thought of the turkey lunch at church was a bit overwhelming.
I called my friend Neena to tell her I was on my way to pick her up from the group home where she lives. She came out, bundled in her fur coat, bearing a silver tin full of brownies that she had baked, more wisely than I, a few days ahead of time.
As we drove together to church (an hour late, Paul having gone on ahead--on time), we laughed at how full I felt and how she had had to keep all of her housemates away from the brownies by telling them, "No, these are for church!" The caloric content in the car was high and so were we--on laughter and Christmas spirit.
Somewhere since Sunday I said, "I'm sorry for my very unsweet retort."
"That's allright, let's forget it," he said, "I was just concerned for you."
"Yes, I know."
All is peaceful, for now, in Belindaland.