Jane Rae

Do Good. Live Well.

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Winter Holiday Watch

Holidays gather, and now my watch begins.

It shall not end until my goal is met. I shall take no weeks off, miss no workouts, justify no overeating. I shall wear no stretchy pants and win no glory. I shall live and die by my commitment to myself. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the Watcher of my body. I am the fire that burns against the cold days, the light that brings my momentum, the horn that wakes my emotions, the shield that guards the realms of my health.

I pledge my life and honor to the Holiday Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

-Jane Rae Coe

This is my pledge for the next six cold weeks leading up to January 1, 2016. Thanks to Steve at Nerd Fitness for the inspiration!

Stay warm <3

Regret is a useless emotion

I had the opportunity to make great strides with my blog, and on lots of other ongoing projects, while I wasn’t working an 8-5 job. But I didn’t use my opportunity very well. Instead, I tended to make progress on creative endeavors sporadically, often waiting until I felt “inspired.” I realize now that it was because I didn’t place much value in my free time; I felt as though my hobbies were frivolous and unnecessary. But creating art in this world is never a purely frivolous pursuit. And creating beautiful objects with which to surround myself is better than sitting around being a consumer.

Now that I am once again working a day job (part-time internship, actually), I have the structure I need to make my free time seem more valuable. I perceive my leisure time as having a higher value as it has become more scarce. I’m hoping this increase in perceived value will help me to maintain the focus I need to accomplish the artistic projects I want create.

With my weekly day off at home, and with the day I spend with Grandma, I would like to work harder on things that have importance for me, instead of letting myself float by, uncaring, not even noticing that I’m wasting my days with television or unimportant housework.

For me to accomplish tasks worth doing, it is absolutely necessary to work from a checklist; to follow a similar, if not identical, set of steps each day that will increase my creative outputs by establishing personal habits to help me accomplish the things I know I’m capable of.

I like to create this checklist for my day at home before the end of the previous day. Obviously, it can be improved upon as I use it, both during the day and from week to week, but I have to start somewhere. I just have to make up my mind to start, and not worry about whether I’m “ready.”

Here’s to moving forward, and learning from the past–without letting it define my future.

What is your concrete first step to move forward today?

Grandma’s Stories, Part II

Summers were great when I was a kid. Spud had a banty (?) hen and he lived across the alley on the next street over. That little hen died and all us kids in the neighborhood had a funeral for it. Donas, Ruth, Aileen, Bonnie, Geraldine, Spud was the preacher. We rode bicycles, walked, rode on in wagons for days until the hen was stinking so bad–Spud’s mother made us bury it.

We also played basket ball, roller skated & roasted potatoes in the alley–played anti-over–went to Sunday nite youth group at the Turner Bapt Church.

We also all got together & walked to Argentine for the 10¢ movie

We had a lot of “medicine shows” come to town & stay a week or so. Some of us kids performed in their talent shows. Once I won 50¢ for singing “Cowboy Joe.”

We played a lot of basket ball in the pasture land across the st. and used hard cow pods for our base. I was always tearing my overalls on barb wired fence and Hazel Donas mother mended them.

We went fishing a lot. My dad was a night watchman at the sand plant down by the river. Our families–Vernon & I and Mom would go and take a big picnic–I played in big piles of sand & my dad sat our fish lines. We made a lot of homemade ice cream. Earned money picking raspberies, bunching radishes for the small farmers around us. We had a lot of chores to do, one of mine was to empty [the water] that dripped in the ice box but some time I forgot and it ran all over the kitchen floor. I got in trouble for that.

We always went to church so we had lots of activities there.

My grandpa Buchanan lived at the Old Solders home in Lansing, KS–so we went to see him a lot.

 

As written by Vivian Leat, circa 2014-15, and given to Jane Rae Hahn Leat Coe

Values

“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family. Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

What she’s getting at is that having it all in life is about choosing wisely, not about cramming in everything indiscriminately. I’m trying more and more to follow her advice, and my life is absolutely improved for these efforts. The values I strive for include love, family, generosity, equality, artistic expression, and gratitude.

What are your essential values?

This passage lifted me up today

“But if a man has commonly a very clear and happy daily life then I think we are justified in asking that he shall not make mountains out of molehills.  I do not deny that molehills can sometimes be important.  Small annoyances have this evil about them, that they can be more abrupt because they are more invisible; they cast no shadow before, they have no atmosphere….But when all this is allowed for, I repeat that we may ask a happy man…to put up with pure inconveniences, and even make them part of his happiness.  Of positive pain or positive poverty I do not here speak. I speak of those innumerable accidental limitations that are always falling across our path – bad weather, confinement to this or that house or room, failure of appointments or arrangements…”

- G.K. Chesterton, “The Advantages of Having One Leg.”

 

 

I love how quotations and books and blogs and essays can make us feel connected to humanity, and help us to better understand ourselves. Feeling connected helps me carve out my own, personal creative space in this big wide world.

In the Kitchen with Grandma

I did a sort of baking interview with my Grandma last Wednesday, November 5th. And let me tell you, it was just fabulous. Well, she was fabulous, and continues to be, on nearly every occasion. My 88-year-old, teeny tiny Grandma, who broke her hip just about a year ago, was totally schooling me in the kitchen. I had a blast looking at recipes, learning her technique, eating cookies, and just hanging out.

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We started the day with an old recipe of Grandma’s, which my Aunt Becky had specially requested: Seven-Layer Cookies. Now. These. Cookies. Seriously! They are by far the richest cookies I have ever eaten, as if you’d taken seven of the most decadent baking accompaniments and layered them one on top of the other before melting the whole thing into a delicious gooey mass. Which is exactly what they are.

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More of a candy than a cookie, these are completely decadent, and rather difficult to stop eating. My husband likened them to “survival food,” as in as many calories as possible stuffed into a minuscule package. And I’ve gotta say, he’s probably right. Nonetheless, I give you, shamelessly, but with great warning:

Seven-Layer Cookies

Recipe by Vivian Leat

Ingredients:

1 stick margarine, melted

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 can coconut (we used approximately 1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut instead)

6 oz chocolate chips (we used semi-sweet)

6 oz butterscotch chips (I think this would also be wonderful with a homemade butterscotch layer instead of the chips…please let me know if you try this!)

1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk (Grandma referred to this exclusively as “Eagle brand,” which I found pretty adorbs)

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Layer all ingredients as listed on recipe. Bake in 8×8 square Pyrex at 350 for 30 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.*(Chill in the fridge for at least two hours before cutting with a sharp knife into small bars).

So, those are all the directions listed in Grandma’s original recipe, with my notes in parentheses. However, it had been quite a number of years since Grandma had made these, and we learned a few things this time through that I’ll share here:

First of all, we made a double batch of these, since we’d be splitting them. So Grandma pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees F, and while it was pre-heating, dropped a stick of margarine into each of the baking pans and popped them in the oven to melt. This is a nice short cut, and dirties fewer dishes. Win-win!

Second, the “Eagle brand” should be bubbling and golden at the edges of the pan when the cookies are ready to come out, which was exactly 30 minutes in Grandma’s oven.

*Third, it’s best to let the finished cookies cool to room temp, then allow them to set up in the fridge before attempting to cut them. Because this is basically melted candy and baking mix-ins, it stays quite gooey at room temperature, and is nearly impossible to cut into bars without being refrigerated (ask me how I know…). So, as the last direction to Grandma’s recipe, I’ve added the step of chilling before cutting them into bars with a sharp knife.

The final thing I noticed was that, because we were making a simultaneous double batch, we used a glass Pyrex baking dish for one batch, which is what the recipe recommends. But, we used a metal baking pan for the other batch, and I found that the graham cracker crust set up better, and turned out more crisp in the metal pan. I have left the original recommendation in place, but if I were making it again, and I had a choice, I’d use a metal pan. And I might even line it with parchment paper on the bottom and sides, but only if I had it in the house. The original recipe doesn’t call for greasing the pan either, and we didn’t do it this time, it might be worth the bother to butter the sides of the pan to make the cookies easier to remove.

 

Neapolitan Cookies

The next cookies we made were the Neapolitan cookies, with this recipe, although we elected to omit the walnuts. They turned out beautifully, although at least in Grandma’s oven, they would have been better at eight minutes’ baking time, as by ten minutes, some of them had gotten a bit beyond golden on the bottom.

Grandma really enjoyed making these, and I enjoyed hearing about the time she had made them for visiting Thai missionaries, ‘way back around 1970. My grandpa was a Baptist minister, and Grandma was proud to be a minister’s wife, and to be able to host visitors so graciously in her beautiful home. Grandma is a born hostess if I ever met one, but at the same time she has the ability to relax and enjoy her company, which is something I really admire, and is the part of hospitality that makes her guests feel truly at ease. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo of these little babies before we gobbled them all up, but they really do look just like Neapolitan ice cream. I bet they’d be amazing as the outsides of an ice cream sandwich!

 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Recipe by Vivian Leat

Ingredients:

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup shortening

1/2 cup raisin water*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 cups oatmeal (old fashioned or quick-cooking oats will both work fine)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup nuts (optional; we made these without, and I didn’t miss em)

*Simmer raisins in approximately one cup of water until plump (~10 minutes), and the “raisin water” will be the liquid left in the pot

Directions:

Mix sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot raisin water (we did this in a mug), and add to sugar mixture. Add raisins and combine before adding oats and flour. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 12 minutes, until golden brown, and transfer to rack to cool.

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We made a double batch of these cookies too. Grandma talked while we worked, and I snapped this photo of her mixing them up in one of the heirloom stainless steel bowls she adores, given to her by an elderly lady at the church where Grandpa preached many years ago. She talked about how Grandpa liked these cookies so much, and said she’d never seen another recipe that used the hot “raisin water” to get the baking soda to foam up, just so. She double-checked that she’d added all her ingredients, as she’d been doing all day, and had me check too. A useful tip for absent-minded bakers like myself. Similar to the, “measure twice, cut once” rule in carpentry.

As she dropped the cookie dough by heaping spoonfuls onto her brand-new cookie sheets, bought for this occasion, she mentioned that they always got bigger as she went along. The last two sheets were pulled from the oven, and lo and behold, it was true. She looked approvingly at the four-inch monster cookies and proclaimed, “That’s how Grandpa liked ‘em!”

As we wound down, and cleaned up from our day of baking and a tasty lunch of ham ‘n beans, I felt thankful to have had this day with her. I feel thankful now, and I feel a gladness in my heart, to have my grandma to learn from and to talk with. We talked about how we both have a sweet tooth, and about her diabetes, and the self-control she has to not eat sweets, even when they’re in the house. We touched on the topic of mindfulness, and mindful eating, since it sounds as though she’s been practicing it for years, even if not by the same name. Mindful eating, and mindfulness in general, are some things I’m working on for myself, and it gave me a sense of solidarity to hear Grandma’s tactics.

After all the baking dishes were done up, I sliced the lovely, home-grown green tomatoes I’d brought over (thanks Lydia and Jon!), and Grandma got out the saltine cracker crumbs, eggs, and milk. She whipped up a simple egg wash, made with two eggs and a splash of milk. She dunked the tomato slices in the egg wash, and then into the cracker crumb-filled pie pan to coat the tomatoes on both sides. Then they were plopped into a shallow fry in the skillet, and from there they made their way to our hungry cookie-filled bellies. This is only the second time I’ve eaten fried green tomatoes, the first time being when Grandma made them for me over the summer. But I think I have the beginnings of an addiction. The rich, crunchy, golden cracker crust, paired with the hot, sour, fresh, juicy umami of the green tomatoes is just out of this world delicious.

 

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(Jane takes photo of Grandma frying up some green tomatoes)

Grandma: “They’re gonna think all I do is cook!”

Jane: “But Grandma, you do!”

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Here’s to you, Grandma. I love you!

Fall Back

Whew. Last week was quite the week! Jeff and I encountered a little plumbing emergency that turned out to be a BIG FAT plumbing emergency wherein we would need to do all sorts of excavating…at least, according to Bob Hamilton Plumbers. So, being the responsible little new-homeowners that we are, we hurried to figure out how we’d pay for this mess, and I called another local plumbing company, The Plumbing Pros, for a second estimate on the work that would need to be done.

The Plumbing Pros said they’d send a certain Travis out in the early afternoon to take a look. In fact, he arrived early, around eleven, and got down to brass tacks. Within 30 minutes, he’d discovered an obstruction in the indoor pipe that both of the plumbers the previous day had missed. He got out his lighted sewer camera to take a look, and it turned out to be a water bottle. A plastic, 16-oz water bottle, crumpled up and full of sewage, ick. But! That little water bottle saved us six. thousand. dollars., and a whole lotta stress. So, thank you, water bottle, and most of all, thank you, Travis, for doing your job at a reasonable fee, and for cementing for me the importance of a second opinion.

So, crisis averted, and instead of stressing out and trying to quickly opening up a new credit card, I got inspired by this article to have a slow, relaxed Halloweekend around the house. My sister came over to help pass out Halloween candy to the new neighbor kids, and she stayed to watch The Shining. Although we did spend a fair amount of time on the couch, it was definitely luxurious to while away our Saturday with some Grumpy Old Men and the like, while the wind blustered outside. Other highlights include the fabulous chili supper at Chef Kamal’s new restaurant, Chips and Dips, a cozy extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, and a beautiful evening with the DeMontes that included home-canned hot pickles, a lovely vegetarian Cottage Pie, and a toasty little outdoor blaze. Fall back, indeed.

Grandma’s Stories, Part I

When my grandma, Vivian Leat (neé Buchanan), was a little girl living in Turner, Kansas, her Aunt Ada made her a dress for the Christmas play. Aunt Ada was a skilled seamstress, and she told Vivian’s mama, and Ada’s sister, Mollie Emiline, that if Mollie could come up with the money to buy a length of material, Ada would sew Vivian’s dress. So Vivian picked out her pattern from a catalog, and her mama paid no more than a dollar and a half for the length of silky blue fabric Aunt Ada used make the dress.

Vivian was in first grade, and she thought her dress was just beautiful. Most of her dresses were made by her mama from feed sacks, and those were lovely as well. Everything in those days was sewn by hand, at home. It was the Great Depression, and as Grandma said, “we were poor, but we didn’t know it.”

Vivian had one of the main parts in the Christmas play that year: she sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” all by herself. She wore a costume dress made of crêpe paper and stood in front of the curtain to sing her solo, as the sets were being changed behind it.

Grandma and I spent this past Wednesday talking, baking pumpkin bread, looking at photos, and of course, watching The Price is Right. We remembered my Grandpa, Bill Leat, together, whom Grandma refers to interchangeably and endearingly as Grandpa, Bill, and Dad. He was a force, and a personality, as is she. I feel supremely fortunate to have their experience, love, and advice to give me strength and direction in my own life. I love you both, so much, and I’m so thankful to be part of your family.

Spotlight

I filled out a quick “spotlight” questionnaire today, and I decided I may as well post it here too. Share your responses if you feel the desire.

Name: Jane Rae Hahn Leat (Coe). Jane Rae Coe is what it will be eventually.

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

Languages: English, French, Italian

Profession: Undecided

Why You Volunteer for Kiva.org: I like the sense of community I get from translating the personal stories of the people requesting loans, far away as we may be from one another.

Fun Fact: My favorite 80s movie is Ghostbusters

Personal News

I returned to the US in March from a four-month-long trip with my husband to Southeast Asia. We decided to purchase our first home in Kansas City, MO, and have finally gotten settled in, just in time for the cozy fall weather. I’ve included a photo of the new house, and a picture of my husband and I during our stay in Thailand. If you’d like to know more about the trip, please check out the travel blog we made at the time: www.jeffenjane.com, or leave a comment below.
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Repetition

Last week, our new house started feeling more like home (more on that soon!). As things calm down around here, I’m encouraging myself to have good habits as I work on my writing and look for a job. With that in mind, here is how my schedule has looked so far today:

7:30 Get up, brush teeth

8:00 Shower in luxury

8:30 Get dressed and light a candle

8:35 Write/sketch a page in journal, think about blog post, do some yoga stretches

9:00 Eat breakfast, feed the cats

9:20 Start writing an article

…and that’s as far as I’ve gotten today. But I’d say that’s a pretty good start! The reason I’m sharing this is two-fold: it helps me to write down what I’ve done, which gives me a sense of accomplishment, and it also helps me to remember which things are working, and which aren’t, so that I can keep doing the good stuff tomorrow, and again the next day. The implementation of grand plans is always my stumbling block. I can make schedules and plans for hours, but unless I continue, and follow through on my projects, nothing can ever get done. So I’m working on beefing up my (good) habit muscles, and staying happier and healthier in the process.

What habit are you trying to build?

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