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Cooking with Myra: Fulfilling dreams, growing older

By By Myra Starkey
Feb. 14, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 13, 2012 at 8:14 p.m.

Cranberry Almond Streusel Cake

CRANBERRY ALMOND STREUSEL CAKE

21/2 cups flour2 tsp. baking powder1 stick salted butter1 cup sugar3 large eggs1/2 tsp. vanilla extract1/4 tsp. almond extract11/22 cups fresh cranberries3 Tbsp. sugarTopping

1/2 cup light brown sugar11/2 cups plain flour11/2 sticks salted butterPreheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour and baking powder. Butter a 9-inch square or round pan. Cream butter and sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add the two extracts and sour cream. Add the flour and baking powder mix. Coat the cranberries with sugar in a separate bowl and fold into mix by hand. Spoon mix into cake pan.

Make the streusel, work together sugar, flour and butter until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the cake.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. until golden brown. Remove from the oven and and dust with powdered sugar.

On any given day of the week, I feel young. However, after a busy Monday, I arrived home late and sat down at the kitchen table to open mail.

There was the usual barrage of department store catalogs, fundraising requests, bills and solicitations.

One envelope was from AARP. I gingerly opened it and gasped to find my name printed on an AARP card. I don't think it is my own personal card, but rather an invitation card to join the esteemed organization.

I thought that perhaps they had been misinformed as I am only 51 years old, no where near retired and far too young to be asked to become a card carrying AARP member. I yelled to Taylor to acknowledge this fact, and he assured me it was correctly addressed to me.

Bummer!

It is sobering to find out that more than half my life is over, but I prefer to think of it as having half of my life to go. I feel fulfilled in my life, most of the time.

Although I have failed to become a famous restaurateur, chef, or at least a dozen of the dreams I once had, I feel certain that I have achieved some of what God intended for me. I am a daughter, wife, mother and a friend.

I have a good job and enjoy my co-workers and cannot think of too many other things I want to be. Perhaps age has taken care of many of my dreams and good sense has solved the remainder of them.

I was working in the yard last weekend and looked up at the beautiful blue sky. The sun was shining brightly, and although there was a slight chill in the air, the hard work made the temperature seem perfect.

I was getting my garden ready for spring. The weeds had overtaken one corner, so I spent a few hours removing the last stubborn ones. I had a few errands to accomplish. I set aside my hoe and got in Taylor's pickup.

I had left my barbecue pit at a friend's country place and needed to move it. My friend, Janet, had agreed to go along with me as it sometimes takes two of us to back the monster pit into the garage.

Taylor had gone to a guy's hunting camp to shoot skeet, so the day was mine to use as I wished. Janet and I stopped by to see our friend Mel's new house in the country.

It's about 80 percent finished, and so it was fun to see at that stage. I had my two big poodles with me, and both of them enjoyed running around inside the house and then the pasture, but they got covered with mortar mix and sheetrock dust.

As we were pulling the barbecue pit home, another friend called to ask to borrow it for a wedding shower, so we diverted to her place out toward Goliad.

We got to visit with Robert and Mary Ann for awhile, and they were also using the great weather to put in their spring garden. Since Janet and I were in no hurry to get anywhere, we stopped at Devereux Gardens at the main campus to pick up some freeze-hardy plants. They had some beautiful specimens, and I bought numerous herbs.

My last goal of the day was to look for a new garden tiller. My previous one was ready for the junkyard after 10 years of faithful service.

Janet thinks I am too old to use a tiller, and suggested I hire a man to help me till the garden. I assured her that I could still use a tiller. I left out the AARP card issue, but I am sure she probably has one in her wallet, also.

I did find a good, heavy-duty tiller, and so I bought it. We loaded it in the back of the truck and headed for home. Well, actually we detoured through Sonic for a cherry limeade slush, which perfectly rounded out my day.

I think I particularly enjoyed my Saturday because it was so relaxing and unhurried.

I am usually in a frenzied rush trying to fit in all the things I must accomplish on my days off. A weekend day that can be spent outside in the sunshine or riding around with a friend is a true gift.

In fact, each day that I live is a gift, and my AARP card is a vivid reminder of that. When I was 20, it seemed like I had a lifetime ahead of me, and the time passed so slowly. Now that I am 51, I wonder where all those years went.

My friend, Sylvia, is a cupcake queen. She used to be on our staff at the clinic, so I got to know her well. She left for another job. I saw her a few years later, and she told me she was on the donor list for a liver.

Not long after I heard that, someone had made this great gift to her. She is someone who understands what it means to live each day to the fullest as she came very close to not living at all. She is now doing something she loves, and that is making incredible and delicious desserts.

Her cupcakes are beautiful to look at and even better to eat. Last week, I ordered a few dozen from her for a South Texas Children's Home Valentine Brunch. The brunch is an annual event that I do at my house with the help of numerous friends.

I love to host the dedicated house-mothers and staff of the children's home. When Sylvia dropped off the cupcakes, she reminded me that it had been 10 years since her liver transplant, and she looks great.

When life gets too complicated or stressful, it is important to sit back and remember that living is a gift, and it comes to us one day at a time. We may wish for a long life, but the truth is, we are not fully in charge of how long we live.

Each day is precious, and we can choose to make the most of how we spend it. Smile and feel the sunshine on your face. Drink a cherry-limeade slush with a friend. Go visit people. Plant a garden. Breathe the fresh air, and count your blessings.

I prepared a cranberry almond streusel cake last week, and it was delicious. The cake is perfect for breakfast or for an evening dessert. The tanginess of the cranberries is offset by the sweetness of the streusel topping. I baked the cake in a silicone pan, which made it easier to remove after baking. Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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