A LAZY SUNDAY AND THE ART OF DOING NOTHING

"I work hard at doing nothing", my husband tells me as he rolls out the lounge chair onto the bright green grass to a shady spot near the children's sandbox and lies down to read a book.

"I'll be right out with a book to join you, just as soon as I...", I assure him as I chop the garlic and tomatoes for a simple tomato sauce to top the penne pasta. I really did intend to join him with Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food - a book I've been reading on and off for the past month or so. Somehow, I never quite made time to relax, instead continued to put the finishing touches on Sunday dinner - including harvesting some of the fresh thyme leaves, oregano, and basil sitting in containers on the patio.

Breakfast was hot cereal exactly as the children like it: milk, 5-grain cereal, wild dried blueberries, almonds, honey, and cream. Because I took time to shoot the ingredients for a recipe post, breakfast was a bit delayed. While the cereal cooked, the kids sat outside at the patio table and I placed the last of the fresh red raspberries into a bowl for them to eat. Somehow, Sagey believed that the bowl of raspberries was intended all for him and thus proceeded to eat them all. Saffron was not too happy about that. I think she managed to get a few, but decided pouting was a better option.

After breakfast, my husband set newspapers out on the patio table to start a fun new project - the 50-cent project. Last weekend, he drove to at least six different Goodwills looking for some electronics parts. He came back with a new-looking dual cassette player for me (not that I ever requested that) that only cost him $14.99 and a craft kit for the children that cost 50 cents.

The children and Papa sanded the individual wooden pieces of the truck, painted them in green and blue and yellow, and made a great big mess, but they also had a lot of fun - which was most important.

As they worked outdoors, I ran around the kitchen on this hot Sunday afternoon looking for a cake recipe for a simple Sunday cake - another cookbook recipe that ended up making me wonder how much testing really takes place before a cookbook is published. The recipe was for Italian Cream Cake from a little cookbook I purchased way back in January 1999 (I found that I stamped the inside cover with a rubber stamp and wrote the date I bought it for some strange reason). I remember making this cake once before where I used two 8" cake pans and wanted to try out the author's alternate suggestion of using a 10"springform pan since I wanted a no fuss, no frosting cake. Besides the cake pan size, the other changes to the recipe I made include using rum - one whole tablespoonful - and topping the cake with sliced almonds. I was puzzled by the instructions stating to "Add the 3 egg yolks" seeing that the list of ingredients specified using 5 eggs with no mention of using 3 of those yolks in that list. I quickly wrote an email to the author (not that I thought she would actually reply - which she didn't) asking for clarification, but decided then to use all five yolks after doing a quick search on Google for similar cake recipes.

The baking suggestion stated 25-35 minutes - quite a wide range, but I figured the 35 minutes might be the suggested baking time for the 10"pan, so I went with it. After 35 minutes, the cake was jiggly in the middle. After 40 minutes it was starting to brown more than I'd like, but it was still not baked. After another 5 minutes, a skewer inserted into the middle came out clean and I decided to take the cake out to let it cool.

It started to pull away from the sides and fall onto itself. When I served it - with whipped cream and a sauce I made from blended sour cherries and Kirsch - my husband said, "You should have baked it longer". "I did", I exclaimed. Ok, so I won't be making that cake again, but I will be trying to make my own version of a simple Sunday cake - a cake with less butter, less sugar, and one that requires only one bowl to be used instead of having to wash the mixer bowl to whip the egg whites separately. Regardless, we still ate the cake.

After spending time outdoors, the three little ones went inside the air conditioned house and played awhile before deciding they were tired...one of those rare occasions where the house is quiet. Cinnamon fell asleep in this strange contraption: two Ikea plastic storage boxes for the Trofast system (the ones that held the wooden train tracks now strewn about the entire first floor), two sofa pillows, and another small German down blanket we use as a pillow.

Instead of taking advantage of the quiet and joining my husband outside in the beautiful shade on our nice green lawn, I continued running around the kitchen. "You need to learn to relax", he keeps telling me. I agree. I need to learn the art of doing nothing. Which reminds me that I have a book with that very title sitting upstairs on one of the many dusty bookshelves - the six that I happily assembled while pregnant with Saffron. Perhaps I should go find that book and see if I can learn to do nothing. Or perhaps I simply need to get back to yoga - something my husband and I discovered and greatly enjoyed before the children were born.