"We should go on a shopping trip," Craig says. And before I can roll my eyes, he adds quickly, "I'll bet it's a good cloud day." In our family, my husband is the shopper – the person keeping the lists, scoping out sales, and clipping coupons. Although we mostly shop locally, on some occasions we must trek more than three hours to a bigger city to stock up on what we can't find here – a trip Craig relishes. He is on the hunt for the best deals.
Me? I hate to shop. Five minutes in a mall is five minutes too long. Trips to a warehouse store result in too much money spent in order to "save" money. It's hard to resist those low prices on large quantities, which explains the gallon of mustard hogging our refrigerator space. "Take mustard," we urge our sons' families when they visit, "or inherit it in our will – your choice."
"What do you say?" Craig asks, interrupting my reverie. "Shopping? You and me? The big city?"
"Let's not," I answer.
"Clouds," Craig chants. "The clouds are calling you.... Always listen to the clouds...."
He's got me – and he knows it.
Where we live, we don't have much in the way of clouds. "High fog" is common above our little patch of coast, which leaves us gazing up at a gray dome. When the frequent winds blow, we admire brilliant blue skies. But we rarely see clouds: gobs of whipped cream; mashed-potato mounds, white marble castles; or snowy figures of kangaroos, whales, and dancing couples.
Growing up in California's Sacramento Valley, I spent long daydreaming hours lounging on a lush emerald lawn, a rapt audience for an afternoon's worth of sky matinee. I hanker for those clouds of my childhood the way some folks yearn for their mother's special chocolate cake.
Cloud-bribed, I join my husband in the car with his lists, a book on tape from the library, and a plastic bag of freshly baked oatmeal cookies. These cookies are also a memento of my childhood, I realize with a small private smile, making them appropriate for a reminiscent cloud-hunting expedition.
They are made from my mom's recipe, which came to her via my Aunt Mary. Mom's recipe calls the treat "Chuck's Oatmeal Cookies," in honor of Mary's husband, my Uncle Chuck. But they've come to be known in our household as Craig's Favorite Cookies.
Inland, I open what Honda has misnamed a "moon roof" (anyone can plainly see it is, in reality, a "cloud ceiling") and settle in for the show. It soon has me smiling with delight.
"Look at that," I marvel at the piles of cumulus clouds. "Scoops of vanilla ice cream!"
"Wow!" we exclaim over rays of sunshine slanting through ivory cloud boulders, turning the edges fiery opalescent.
"They're moving so fast," Craig says as the sky transforms into a mobile blue and white tapestry.
Shopping ensues in a blur of shops, products, and people. On our way home, the back seat is heaped with the things we needed or couldn't resist.
Craig sighs with pleasure, knowing that his shopping lists are now empty. I'm beside him and also far away, smelling the sweet, warm grass below me, wafted on the memory of a long-ago summer's day.
We're quiet and content, filled with the visions of clouds we've viewed as well as the ones still streaking by overhead.
Soon, we'll be home in the Land of No Clouds once again. For now, our eyes lift to the amazing spectacle above us. Our clouds are physically distant yet somehow mysteriously nearly close enough that it seems as though you could touch them with just a bit of reaching – much like in my childhood.
"See?" Craig says. "You should always listen to what the clouds tell you."
Wispy cloud letters in the sky spell out, plain as day: "Eat." And so we do. Fortunately for us, we packed those oatmeal cookies, all crumbly and buttery-rich, studded with chewy sweet raisins and bits of memories.
Those cookies, formerly known as Craig's Favorite Cookies, are now destined to be known forevermore as Cloud Day Cookies.
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups regular or quick-cooking oats
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add vanilla and eggs and beat well.
Gradually mix in flour, soda, salt, cinnamon. Mix in oatmeal until well blended (you may need to do this by hand; batter will be thick). Add raisins and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula to mix evenly.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper, if possible; otherwise plain) – no more than 12 to a sheet, since they spread – and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned and centers are almost set. (If you want moist, chewy cookies, watch carefully.)
Let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute if you used parchment paper and 30 seconds if the pan was left plain. Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store covered.
Makes about 5 dozen, depending on size. These are thin cookies.