• Susan Byers

Silver Linings


EASTER SUNDAY, HARRISONBURG, VA

"It never rains, but it pours." Yes, another of my mother's oft-used expressions, but like most clichés, it is too often true. Kind of like, "trouble comes in threes" (please, no) and "you can't win for losing." On the other hand, there's "every cloud has a silver lining." That one, for sure, is true this week.


So, the bad news first: we did, indeed, need a new axle on the trailer. And since the springs were very old and sprung, and the shocks were pretty much shot, well ... we ended up with a rather hefty bill and another delay, as the shop wouldn't be able to get an axle until Monday morning.


But the good news is that our daughter Zoe lives about 40 minutes south of Woodstock in Harrisonburg, so on Friday morning, having once again rounded up our cats, we packed up the pets, a litter box, pet food, toothbrushes and a change of clothes and moved into her guest room. Since her dog, Toby, has been a frequent visitor, everyone gets along fairly well--or did, until one of the cats jumped up on a piece furniture. Toby does not like it when animals are higher than he is. We don't have a clue why, but when Merlin got "up," Toby went nuts, and from that point on, he has chased any wandering cat back upstairs. Oh well, it's only until Tuesday, and they're not scared of him, just annoyed.


After we had driven down to Harrisonburg, we got confirmation that, indeed, the axle had to be replaced. And since it was Friday and they were closing for the weekend ... we would be spending Easter with our daughter!


We had to drive back up to make a deposit and get more clothes and food--a lot of driving ...



...but when the sky looks like this and the redbud is in bloom, and you've been cooped up for weeks, who could complain?



Back at the RV shop, we got to chatting about renovating campers with the owner. He let us peek inside a few of his projects (oh, WHY didn't I take pictures?!), including a couple of old Airstreams and a huge, old retired city bus that had once transported horses and was now being converted into an absolutely wonderful tiny home. We gave him a tour of our little house on wheels. Before we left, I decided I wanted to work for him (I love renovating campers!)


Once we got back, my daughter and I went grocery shopping. While we were there, we invited son Ben, who's at Virginia Tech a couple of hours south, to come up for Easter (a surprise for Len). And we've been cooking and eating--while keeping our distance--ever since. Since it's Passover (Len is Jewish), on Saturday I made matzo ball soup and barbecued gefilte fish (I know, it sounds awful, but it's good enough that my daughter asked for it), as well as a Passover lemon & almond cake and a Burnt Basque Cheesecake (there are several versions online these days, but I'll post the original, no longer online, below).


Last night, Zoe started my grandmother's signature "Ching Wings," which we baked after brunch to snack on.



This morning, I cooked the last of my precious North Country Smokehouse bacon from New England (THE best bacon I have ever had, bar none) and made a frittata that cooked while we all watched the Easter service from the National Cathedral (we're an interfaith family, what can I say?). For dinner, there's potato salad, spinach salad with oranges and avocado, deviled eggs, asparagus and the glazed ham is baking. In fact, I started the computer to look up a glaze recipe and ended up here ... So I'd better get back to cooking.


Wishing you a Happy Passover or a Joyous Easter, or in a few days, Ramadan Mubarak ... Whatever holidays you celebrate to greet the new spring, may they bring you joy and peace. A few feet apart ...


Here's that recipe; I wish I could tell you what it's from (maybe Condé Nast Traveler?), but I can no longer find it. I sometimes add a quarter teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon or two of vanilla, but it really is wonderful just as is, and the browned spikes of paper make a spectacular presentation:



Basque Burnt Cheesecake

1kg (4 bricks) Philadelphia cream cheese

1 ¾ cup castor sugar (hard to find; I use regular)

7 whole eggs

2 cups double cream or heavy whipping cream

¼ cup flour


Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease a 23cm (9 inch) spring-form pan and line with parchment paper, making sure the paper comes at least three inches above the top of the pan (I use two pieces, crisscrossed).

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times. Pour in the double cream and mix until incorporated. Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and place into the center of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is deeply golden and the center barely jiggles. Let cool completely before removing the sides of the pan.



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