I am becoming a connoisseur of sunrises. This is deeply surprising to me. I am not a morning person. Never have been. When I was a senior in high school I had my morning routine so carefully timed that at times I could get from bed to bus stop (to catch the last possible bus, of course) in nine minutes. Given my choice, I’d lie abed until after the sun was well up, lazily rise to drink deep cups of coffee in some sunny window, and only then start to think about beginning my day. But somehow I found myself working a job that requires me to wake well before dawn (even on the days when I only manage to rise fifteen minutes before I have to leave) at least five mornings a week. It is a little surreal to me to be driving out east as the dawn is breaking, watching the eastern sky lighten and the sun cautiously peer over the horizon as I approach my destination. Some mornings, particularly as daybreak has gotten later and later, I never see the morning sun at all, walking into the building in the pre-dawn half light. It has been fascinating tracking the change of seasons by the sun. One week I can see the sun breaking over the horizon as I pass what used to be St. E’s hospital near downtown, and a few weeks later, it hasn’t appeared until well into my commute. Some days the only hint of sun I can see is in the lightening clouds on the horizon, going from flat black to a sort of translucent deepest blue.
And then Daylight Savings Time ended, we all set our clocks back, and suddenly this morning, for the first time in ages, I didn’t need my headlights on my way to work. The sunrise was nearly over, the sun a bright ball already well over the horizon. The eastern sky was a delicate flush of lilac, the kind that anymore I associate with being quite late for work. Except I wasn’t. I was right on time. And it was beautiful.
Although I am quite fond of getting to see the sun in the morning, I am not a fan of cold. Trying to get dressed while your feet are freezing to the floor is not fun. Neither is trying to work up the courage to get out from under your warm snuggly covers when you know it’s that cold outside. My least favorite part, though, is scraping my windshield. Part of my dislike is that I never remember to leave enough time to do it, so I’m always feeling rushed and panicked about whether this will make me late for work. The other part is how cold my fingers get. I don’t know if my hands are extra sensitive to cold, or if maybe I’m just a wuss. Either way, it’s no fun not being able to feel your fingertips. Plus, I’ve never found a windshield scraper that really works. They’re all too rigid, and don’t really conform to the windshield, so end up scraping up thin lines of frost instead of the fat curls I want. Anymore, I’ve found it easier to ignore the small collection of fancy scrapers in my back seat in favor of using a credit card. Well, actually it’s a thin plastic discount card that used to be distributed by work, a size and shape to conveniently to into a wallet. Instead, it conveniently goes into my coat pocket, and is the handiest windshield scraper I’ve ever used – thin enough to conform to the windshield and shave frost away in wide swaths. The only negative is that sometimes it’s a bit hard to hold on to through my thick mittens. But maybe one of these days I’ll figure out a way around that too.
One thing cold days are good for is baking. This weekend I made soft pretzels for the first time. You might say they turned out pretty well.
This was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend, where he mentioned the sub-par soft pretzels on sale at his work cafeteria. That reminded me of all the recipes I’ve seen on Pinterest lately for various kinds of soft pretzel bites, including some stuffed with ham & cheese. So I looked up a couple of recipes online, and you know, they looked pretty simple. So on Sunday I made my yeast dough, let it rise, and set a big pot of water on the stove to boil while I rolled out my rounds and filled them with sliced ham, cheese (either sharp cheddar or Gouda), and sometimes a little brown mustard. I gotta tell ya, they were really, really good – with that perfect crispy crust, chewy delicious dough, and delectable filling. I let Johnnycakes have one. He took one bite, and just sortof stopped dead in his tracks, his face frozen in a mask of wonder and awe. And I thought, “Dang, I’m good.”