I've seen a rash of it around lately. It sneaks up on my students and renders them heavy-lidded and drooly after lunch. It infects the undereyes of my peers, making them darken and sag. Friends whine more than usual, coughing up their versions of the disease. My own movements are slowed, weighted down by too much to do and too little time to do it, with little opportunity to catch up. To quote The Red Hot Chili Peppers, "I'm getting sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Yup. It's the October Blues.
October and March are the two most dreaded months in the school calendar, for they are break-free and loooooooooooong. Right now I'm caught in what seems like the unending month, panting for November with its two mini-vacations and an even more refreshing vacation promised in December. So, instead of trudging through much writing (for tonight, it really does feel like a trudge in my state of mind), I'll offer a photo-essay instead. This is a photo-essay of no-brainers, things from my repertoire that require little thought and produce great pleasure. This is a brief list of my Go Tos when I'm out of other ideas.
Looking for something edible, floral, reliable, and downright pretty for the winter vegetable garden? My Go To: Violas.
When I'm searching for a fascinating place to bring out-of-towners , I know exactly where to take them. My Go To: The Huntington Library and Gardens (especially during the Southland Orchid Show and Sale) .
And when I need a reliable, yummy trick to woo coworkers to yet another meeting, I have this Go To: Brandon Fishbine's Grandmother's Oatmeal Cookies.
This recipe comes from one of the most entertaining (yet least well-organized) cookbooks I've ever owned, The Ex-Boyfriend Cook Book: They Came, They Cooked, They Left, by Erin Ergenbright and Thisbe Nissen. I found the book on a discount rack a few years ago, bought it for a buck, and have been giggling at it ever since. Not every recipe in this book is a winner, and if you do find one you like, good luck finding it again, because there is no table of contents or index! But (and that is a big but indeed), it is full of fun stories, collages, and it gave me this recipe, which has turned out to have the best proportions I've ever discovered for good ol' oatmeal raisin cookies. I've tweaked the ingredients slightly to fit my palate (and added flax meal because I add flax meal to almost everything I bake); however, the basic recipe is from the unlikely, but happily-found source.
You will need:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups raw rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1 cup broken walnut halves
To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, and flax meal. Set aside.
Beat together the butter and the sugars until they have increased in volume slightly and thoroughly incorporated into each other. Add the egg and milk and beat again until the mixture is completely homogeneous; then, add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the raisins, oats, and nuts.
Use a large spoon to dole out balls of dough (with diameters of about 1 1/2 inches), spaced about 3 inches apart, onto a Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until toasty-brown on the edges and peaks of the cookies. Remove from the oven, cool on racks, and keep in a sealed container at room temperature.
These babies won't last long.