The cold and ice have swept across the country, leaving people in Southern states wondering if they woke up in Minnesota, and also wondering why the hell any of us live here on purpose.
While the weather is at least an inconvenience for adults and sometimes dangerous, our kids rarely notice anything except that they get to play with their inside toys more, and that Mommy cries into her coffee a little bit more when the temps don’t climb above zero for too many days in a row. I actually don’t mind being cooped up, but the short days, dark mornings and evenings, and the mucky mud that gets tracked into the house are enough to make me want to go back to bed until May. Or June, just to make it safe.
But when I was younger, my brother and I loved snow days. Our district rarely closed school, so in the rare event that we got a “free” day off of school, we felt like we had won the lottery. We even liked school, but luxuriating in pajamas all day was definitely a rare treat.
There was one week in particular, when my brother and I were in high school, that we had several days off in a row. We finished all of our homework (plus all of the optional assigned reading), we didn’t have cable or internet, and we got bored with fighting with each other after the first morning. We knew if we didn’t make ourselves useful, our parents would give us a job, and if you’ve ever stacked firewood for a wood-burning furnace in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, you’ll know that it didn’t take us long to find something quiet to do.
So, I baked. I’m sure I started with brownies, and maybe some cupcakes or some cornbread. I moved onto rice krispie treats, and then maybe some good old-fashioned Midwestern bars.
By the time my mom came home that first day, she was horrified. “We do not need this much food! Why do you keep baking?”
My brother and I shrugged our shoulders at her, and that’s when we realized she might not be our biological parent.
So, the next day, we got smart. I still baked, my brother still ate, but we hid the goods. When my dad got home from work, we snuck him up to my brother’s room, like we were confessing an illicit drug habit. “Dad, we have something to show you. Look under the bed.” There was a layer cake tucked under my brother’s bed. “Now look in the closet.” A couple of containers of cookies stacked on the shelves. Dad laughed so hard that we thought we might have broken him.
My brother was the perfect first audience. He was a hungry teenage boy and would try virtually anything, but he was honest enough to tell me when something was a little bit off, or needed work. And having a common goal – hiding all the baked goods from Mom – united us with a bond that has lasted for decades.
Paul’s favorites are chocolate revel bars. I see from the recipe that it’s supposed to be divided among 75 servings, but my brother will tell you that that’s a joke. Maybe 75 bites is more like it.
I try to make them for him whenever he visits, but sometimes I can’t resist taunting him with photos of them baking in my oven from thousands of miles away:
A few months ago, Paul was at a conference with a mutual friend and colleague of mine. “Oh, you know Carrie?” he said. “What has she baked for you?”
“She bakes?” our legitimately confused friend asked.
“Well, she bakes for her FRIENDS.”
Ouch. I pity anyone who has to deal with both me and my brother. See e.g., above, my parents.
So, when I made the next batch, I took them to that friend and another mutual friend, so they could gloat to my brother that they received the spoils:
We decided that day that the oatmeal and walnuts in the revel bars practically make them health food.
So, to your health!
Enjoy! And stay warm during those snow days. If you get hungry, check under my brother’s bed for goodies.