When I started writing a story tentatively called Reasons to be Happy I don’t think I realized I’d need to invoke that title on a personal level. It’s not about me. It’s about a fictional character whose mother leaves her when she’s 10, and ultimately, after reconciling with that, growing up with an older dad as her single parent and moving on in life, she discovers that she was adopted. So, the mother she pined over was not the first to leave her. And, now as an adult, she must come to terms all over again with the feelings of abandonment she thought she’d successfully pushed aside. At the same time, she unravels the surprising history of her birth mother and the family she might have had.

Geez.. now that I’ve written that synopsis, I feel compelled to just stop this entry and go back to that story. I’d been procrastinating on that one in a way I think is typical of writers. I just open the story and start from the top recasting sentences, editing and re-editing without adding much substance to the story.


That said,  Even though I have many reasons now to be sad, to be depressed, to feel hopeless — (desperately ill friends, lack of job, fear of financial ruin) — I remain unable (or should I say unready, if that is a word?) to accept defeat. Not that I’m doing anything heroic about it. I probably should be.

A lot of the blogs I enjoy reading are relentlessly perky. That’s not why I read them though. I read them because they offer me great ideas: patterns for toys or clothing or crazy objects I want to make. Most of these wonderfully cheery creative types seem to be young mothers living in Utah. Go figure! Once in a blue moon I find myself happily reading the creative blog of someone from New York, and I feel somehow more kindred spirit with that East Coaster.

Cynicism is our stock in trade out here. Maybe it’s the weather. 

And now, as Mother Nature wavers in her resolve about whether to bring on the cold or reward us with a few more sunny, warm (temps in the 50s) days, I am once again an East Coaster with a cynical attitude but an inability to really get down. I feel in my heart of hearts that something will change. We will emerge from this purgatory of joblessness. And, while we cannot fix some things we will do our best to appreciate all that is good. 

Crap! That just sounds so Pollyanna… How do I ever reconcile these two aspects? 

How about with a great recipe?

Please make these amazing brownies and feel happy!

Nick’s Brownies

with thanks to my friend Nick K.

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

½ teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup butter

½ cup boiling water

2 cups sugar (you can use 1-3/4 cups)

2 eggs

¼ tsp salt

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Combine the cocoa and baking soda in a bowl. Melt the butter and blend half of it with the cocoa-baking powder mixture. Add boiling water. Stir until mixture thickens. Stir in the sugar, eggs and remaining one-third cup of melted butter. Stir until smooth.

 Add flour, vanilla and salt. Blend completely. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes. When corners start to darken, brownies are done. Cool and then frost with Buttercream Frosting; recipe below.

 Buttercream Frosting

 6 Tablespoons butter (Nick’s recipes call for light butter in both the brownies and frosting, if you want to use it.)

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

2-2/3 cups confectioners sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Melt butter. Transfer to a small bowl and add, a bit at a time: milk, cocoa and confectioners sugar until each is blended in. Beat to spreading consistency. Blend in vanilla. If frosting is too thick, add more milk.

Cut the brownies into small two-bite pieces. They’re very rich and most people feel compelled to make a statement about how they shouldn’t eat so much or whatever, so save them the guilt. If you cut them small, they can eat more!


Just put this photo in because I am a huge Lincoln fan and I had no photo of these amazing brownies. Trust me. Make them. They’re amazing.