I have friends who make fabulously delicious things, and for reasons known and unknown, they will not share the recipe. I can see why. Our culinary creations become part of our identity. Or not.
I will admit it sometimes smarts when someone brings an item to a gathering and it's my recipe but everyone is oohing and ahhing over her yummies. But that's all pride. I'd rather share the joy.
Caramel Fingers is one of those recipes people talk about. Kind of like a gourmet Twix bar. It presents well, and it tastes delish. I found the recipe upon which these are based in a French cookbook. The measurements were all metric. But the ingredients and the pictures were universal. I played with it and adjusted and think it came out pretty good. Many a bridal shower, homecoming, holiday, birthday, and just plain ordinary craving kind of day has seen these arranged on a silver tray. Mmmm.
There is only one person I know who makes these better than I do. It doesn't bother me in the least, perhaps because I think of her as…well, as …sort of…me. My Sarah. My second born. I watch her artist hands spread the chocolate over the cooled caramel and I feel a completely inappropriate amount of pride. She is graceful even in the spreading of warm liquid chocolate.
Sarah Love. That's what I call her. Or Bella Boo, or just plain Boo. Sarah is my birthday girl. She came to me on my 22nd birthday, when we were living in New York. She carries my first name as her own middle name. Sarah Corinne Connors. Fourteen years ago "Petersen" overtook the "Connors" part. It's been a good addition. The other day Sarah was handing someone her business card. I asked her if she had a spare, because I didn't have one. I have to admit I was tickled to see this:
I'm super proud of the M.D. after Petersen. But truth be known, I'm quietly pleased about the Connors before Petersen. Maybe I shouldn't take ownership in her, but I do. I am wholly aware of her dynamics. Every person I know is balanced, in the sense that no one is perfect. (I guess there is One divine exception.) But every human has flaws. And every human has strengths.
On Sarah's fourth birthday I explained to her that she had a whole year to figure out how to not suck her thumb. She loved her thumb. It was always accommodating and trustworthy and never passed judgment on her. (We should all be more like thumbs.) She agreed to the deal, and throughout that year we occasionally talked about how that was going- the thumb issue. On her 5th birthday I knelt beside her as she said her nightly prayers. She climbed up in her bed and I laid beside her and read a bedtime story. When we were done I tucked her green checkered blanket up under her chin and kissed her.
"Happy Birthday, Momma" she whispered. I whispered the same back in her ear. Then, with my heart about to crack in two, I reminded her of the thumb deal.
"You're a five year old now!" I said, trying to sound enthusiastic. She nodded, her thumb hidden behind her sweet little lips.
"You know what that means?"
She nodded again, her eyes welling up.
Before I could say anything else, she pulled the thumb from her mouth, a little click of suction like an exclamation point following it. Then she rolled onto her side, tucking her hand with the wet thumb between her knees, wrapped in her safe green blankey.
As far as I know she never sucked her thumb again.
Through the years I have reminded Sarah of that night. I remind her, when doubts overcome her, and when she wonders if she can achieve goals that seem so distant and difficult, that there is something very powerful in her that she found a way to access at a very young age. I am inclined to think we all have that kind of power, but we are afraid to access it.
Sarah has many gifts. Really. More talents than any one human should be granted, if the world were fair. She is devoted, and impassioned, and is equally yoked with right and left brain abilities. Her college degree is in Fine Art. She is a wonderful artist! If you have known anyone with a college art degree you would know how time consuming that degree is. It's not an easy diploma to earn. Yet at the same time she was taking classes like Organic Chemistry and Human Anatomy, with the distant hope of applying to medical school. I believe, in retrospect, that her degree in Art was pivotal in her acceptance to medical school. I suspect they do not have many applicants with those credentials. At the same time she served as a Presidential Ambassador at SUU, representing the school to dignitaries and others. And she taught ski classes at Brian Head Resort in her spare time. She in probably one of the most diversely talented people I have ever known.
But one of the most stunningly beautiful aspects of my birthday girl is her spiritual core. She has learned, through her own journeys through Gethsemane, to trust her faith in God, even when it is only a thread. Trust it will keep her connected to the source of her power, like an umbilical cord. Trust it more than her doubts when the world and its demons try to thrust her down. This is what her dance through life has taught her. Sometimes that connecting thread is thin, almost invisible. But it is strong, regardless of its size. She will tell you that, as she tells herself. She hold tightly to that thread. She wraps it around her hand so it won't slip away.
Sarah had an innate ability to love deeply. Especially children. She was an amazing babysitter. People called to arrange for her weeks in advance. She had her magical babysitting kit, and was able to pretend with the best of pretenders, and yet be amazingly responsible at a young age. Among our four dynamic children, Sarah was the only one who was never a problem at bed time. I think it was because she loved to read, and if her homework was done and her teeth were brushed and prayers said, she could read in bed until lights out. She devoured the entire Babysitters Club series before she was twelve years old.
Sarah had an unspoken understanding of her abilities, and that sometimes came across to other elementary schoolmates as over confidence. No matter. It didn't stop her from using that divine drive that was placed in her before she sprang from my womb. I have seen others who will withdraw from doing their best because they want to be accepted socially. I can understand that. But I don't necessarily think that is good stewardship over the gifts God planted in them. I cherish that part of my Boo. I celebrate it, and honor her for it. But when you have such a drive for success at whatever it is you approach, it has the potential of backfiring, of shifting into reverse, so that what other people perceive as just a simple blip in the ticker of life, you perceive as failure. My Bella is a pendulum, swinging passionately from side to side. She feels joy so deeply. And likewise sorrow. How I love her!
When Sarah was about to finish her medical residency in Kansas City she came back to Utah to interview for positions as a Pediatrician. She told her mentors at Children's Mercy in KC that she was looking to work part time, that she wanted to be able to raise her children at home. She had started medical school pregnant, and finished pregnant, and she left her two treasures far too much for her comfort throughout her internship and residency. Everyone told her that it would be impossible to get hired part time. But she insisted. Even I tried to convince her that after residency, working a forty hour week would be like working half time. But she persisted, quietly, heading out to her interviews with a prayer in her heart and photos of her kids in her pocket. To everyone's surprise, including her mother, she was offered jobs by every major employer in northern Utah. Part time jobs. So now she works two very long days a week, trying her darndest to give the very best personal attention to her patients when her employer gives her limited time to do it. (Her patient satisfaction rate is uncommonly high.) She has more quiet determination than anyone I know. But that determination walks hand in hand with humility, and an inordinate amount of self doubt for one who has proven to be so capable. She sure does have to fight to feel alright about herself. Can you imagine?
From my close but distant vantage point I see my Sarah Love's little family in that gracious home in Herriman, chipping away at life. Her Dave, her Timo, her Bella, and her Joe own her heart. And nested under that amazing heart beats another little heart, due to arrive in May. Do you know, baby girl growing inside my baby girl, what a gift you are about to receive? Has your Heavenly Father told you about your mother…how she will love you more than she loves her paints, and her work, and her music and her need for rest. She is tired, little one. She is still trying to catch up from 8 years on the battlefield of medical training versus adequate sleep. She worries that she is not enough for you. So be gentle with her. Accept her love, and her tears, and her doubts, and her faith. It all flows freely from her artist hands. And it all swirls together like watercolor on wet paper, guided to some degree, but left to the mercy of the medium as well. And that is how it should be, when you walk by faith. Trust that whatever path the color takes, in the end it will be exactly as it should be.
Happy Day of Birth, Daughter of my Heart!
1 ½ C butter
3/4 c sugar
4 ½ c flour
This will make a crumbly mixture. Pour it into a well greased x-large cookie sheet.
Spread evenly, then press in firmly with rolling pin or side of a round glass.
Prick all over with fork or dough docker.
Bake till golden- 350 15 - 20 mins. Remove from oven and cool completely.
14 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 c sugar
1 c butter
2 T corn syrup
Melt butter, add sugar and Sweetened Condensed Milk. then corn syrup and vanilla. Stir on med for 12-15 minutes, making sure the bottom does not burn. Pour on top of shortbread and spread evenly. If you are adding slivered almonds, put them on while caramel is still hot. Add melted chocolate after caramel has cooled. I usually make 1/4 slivered almond, 1/4 chocolate drizzles, 1/4 white chocolate drizzles, and 1/4 white and dark chocolate drizzles one over the other. My Sarah usually spreads melted chocolate over the whole thing.
To me, the chocolate is best tasting, but the presentation of the variety of toppings, placed like a delicious quilt top or checkerboard on a silver tray, is pretty stellar.
( melt 2/3 c. chips in baggie, in hot water. Knead it so there are no chunks of chips in it. Snip corner, drizzle over some or all of caramel fingers.)
|This dandy tool is a dough docker, used to make a uniform prick pattern in the shortbread.|
This shortbread alone makes for a dandy treat.