Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d just gotten off the phone with my friend Vernie who called to tell me she was just calling to let me know she wasn’t feeling well and she wouldn’t be calling that evening. She does that. Calls to tell me she isn’t calling. I don’t get it. Why not NOT call, and that way you really won’t call and I’ll know all the same. But I don’t push it with Vernie. She’s quite a bit older than I, and prone to taking offense, and when you love someone why pick? Just let them be. There’s a better chance they’ll let you be, and what greater thing in life is there than to be able to be just who you are, and loved, without being picked at?
That’s one reason I don’t want to be president. Because no matter what you wear or do or say, someone is going to go after you. Your tie is the wrong color, your haircut cost too much, or it’s the wrong haircut. You spelled “tomato” wrong, you tripped while exiting the plane, you dribbled some spaghetti sauce on your shirt, and your fly was open. You dozed during a meeting. You’re left-handed. You’re right-handed. You’re underhanded, backwards, overdoing it, smooth. You’re slow. You’re slick. You fly around the world too much; you really ought to go.
And on and on. I can’t imagine. It’s bad enough going to church some Sundays wearing a wrinkled dress or jeans instead of a dress and sitting in someone else’s pew by mistake and forgetting it was Potluck Sunday so you have to stop by the corner store and pick up some rolls or a jar of pickles. ‘Course, you show up just right in a polka dot dress with a hotdish and you sit where you belong, and there will be something. Your hair, your lipstick, your weight, your whatever. Someone will find it. Your flaw of the day.
Those who point and whisper and gossip and pick? They can take a flying leap. The people you want around are the ones who don’t notice, or the ones who notice and don’t say boo. It’s good to be human, after all. Your imperfections make you real, and make me just a tad more comfortable with mine. Ain’t that the truth.
Pop these little humdingers in the oven on Super Bowl Sunday and 20 minutes later you’ll have a crowd in the kitchen.
2 packages white whole mushrooms
8 ounces cream cheese
1 package Jimmy Dean sausage
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
Gently hollow out mushrooms with teaspoon, wash, and set aside.
Brown sausage, breaking into crumbles. Drain excess fat. Let sausage
cool a bit and mix with cream cheese in a bowl until well-blended.
Stuff mixture into hollowed-out mushrooms. Bake on a foil-lined
jelly-roll pan at 325 for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top when removed from oven.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was one of those shows where, if you really give yourself up to it, you find yourself singing along. It was Patty Loveless and “Cold, Cold Heart” this time around — “Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?” Oh, gosh, that woman can sing. Her voice is so rich and strong, filled with warmth and conviction all at once. Gave me goose bumps right there in the kitchen. People will tell you to put on a sweater, but I say it’s all about passion. When you’re moved by something you love, when you’re stirred deeply, you can do all you can to hide it, but those goose bumps will getcha every time.
I’ve had goose bumps all week, come to think of it. Of course you’re going to tell me it’s the weather. Sure, it’s been cold, alright. Colder ‘n it’s been for a long, long time. Cold. Cold, cold. Spit freezin’, eye-popping, butt-cheek clenchin’, spine-rippin’, breathtakin’, face-numbin’, lung-bitin’, toe-snappin’, ear-poppin’ cold. Really cold. So cold they closed school, for God’s sake, so the kids were home five days in a row (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was Monday, and that one was planned). The goose bumps came as they filed out the door Tuesday on their way BACK to school. Was I happy the kids were leaving? Not really. But I was thrilled to bits that I had the kitchen all to myself for a day of cooking and baking while watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Pure joy. Goose Bump City.
It’s true. Shredded beef simmered all day in beer and ketchup while I made wild rice soup and crème de menthe brownies and cream cheese coffee cake and homemade bread and snack mix and chicken for the next night and on and on. Hail to the Chief. Those goose bumps returned on and off throughout the day Tuesday, and the next day, too, while I was daydreaming about the icehouse I just might buy for myself. There’s one for sale cheap over near the hardware store, and wouldn’t it be something to have an icehouse of my own out on the lake? I could put a couple of chairs in there, and a few stadium blankets and a battery-operated radio, and a box of those frosted animal cookies and some Bailey’s Irish cr`me and a couple of good books. I’ll bet I wouldn’t have any trouble talking any one of my friends into spending time out in my icehouse with me. Or I could keep it a secret and just go there on my own late in the afternoon and at long last read that book about mountain climbing the kids got me for Christmas
I’ve got goose bumps just thinking about it.
Three Banana Bread
This is my own recipe, perfected after years of imperfect loaves of banana bread. Yet another cause for goose bumps, for sure.
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Dash or two of cinnamon
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, lemon juice, and bananas.
Blend. Add dry ingredients and milk. Mix well. Grease and flour
Bottom of 9″ x 5″ x 3″ pan. Pour batter into pan. Sprinkle sugar over.
Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been cold out there, and it’s getting colder. We spent Saturday pretty much holed up in the house, doing the kinds of things people do when it’s just too dang cold to do much of anything outside. The kids got out the kits they got for Christmas: the wood burning kit and the miniature fairy kit and the perfume kit and the mosaic kit where, if you place all the little tiles properly, you end up with the image of a wolf howling at the moon. We worked on all that awhile and then it was lunchtime so we had a cooking show where I was the host and they were my guests and we made a giant pot of White Chicken Chili, which turned out quite well. Then it was time to drag out the Twister game and the Karaoke machine, and someone got a puzzle going and someone got out the dart guns with the 48 foam darts. By the time the show got going, all three kids were sprawled on the living room floor watching Great White Sharks stalking otters on the sea life portion of the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series.
Sometimes I don’t know what to make for dinner. So I made creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and I let the kids eat in the living room which I don’t normally do. It’s a Winter Picnic, I told them, and they sat in a circle and talked about what’s really scary and what’s only a little scary. Sharks and people standing outside looking at the house and voices in the night. Just then there was a big thump on the front steps and they all screamed. The door swung open, and there was Mr. Sundberg, back from two days in Madison giving a motivational speech from a new series he’s written titled, “How to Be Real in An Unreal World.” He was wearing a black snowmobile suit and holding, in his right hand, a pail of vanilla ice cream. “Chocolate malts, anyone?” he asked, and the kids screamed again.
This was the weekend of the Wolf Moon, the biggest moon all year. It was so big and bright and marvelous, and I can’t help but think it had something to do with how the kids just could not get to sleep Saturday night. Even after they went to bed and we did the whole kiss-goodnight thing, they were up and wandering around. Finally, I had to holler up the stairs, BED! And there was a rustling and a giggle and then silence. Mr. Sundberg, on the other hand, didn’t let any ol’ moonlight get to him. He fell asleep in his recliner, a smile on his face, his cheeks still red from the cold of the night.
I figured I’d go out and stand in that lovely moonlight before I woke Mr. Sundberg to go up to bed, and I did. Put on my warm coat and stood there out on the driveway, and it looked more like afternoon than midnight. I heard an owl far off in the woods, and thought how smooth the kids’ sledding hill looked just beyond the house near the trees. Wasn’t more than a minute before I was on that hill, on a red saucer sled, spinning my way down in the blue moonlight. I made three or four runs, and laughed out loud several times along the way. Well, now, then, I said out loud, as I leaned the saucer up against the garage. That was about as real as fun can get. And it was.
White Chicken Chili
When you’re cold, you’re cold, and not much is going to warm you up as fast as a bowl of hot chili. Try this one for a change. Kids love it, and so do good friends, and grandmas.
2.5 cups chicken stock
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning (or lime pepper if you have it)
2 tsp ground cumin
4 chopped cooked chicken breasts (you may also add some dark meat)
2 or more cloves (to taste) chopped garlic
2 cups chopped onion
2 (8 oz.) cans white shoepeg corn, drained
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chilies, undrained (you could substitute 1 can of jalapeno chilies)
2 large cans hominy (often in the Mexican food section of the grocery)
2 to 4 (14 oz.) cans great northern beans, undrained (more beans make more chili)
Juice of a half lime (or more if you prefer)
In stockpot, combine seasonings, broth, chicken and simmer. Add garlic, onion, corn, hominy, and green chilies and continue to simmer. At the last minute, add beans and fresh lime and heat for 45 minutes or so. Serve with shredded Monterey jack or Colby/jack cheeses, chopped cilantro, sour cream and/or jalapeno slices. Cornbread makes a great accompaniment. This particular recipe tastes great reheated.
Serves 8. Double, quadruple, etc. as needed.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent a good part of the day with the kids putting away the rest of the Christmas decorations. It’s always a little bit sad to pack away all those ornaments and dishes and ribbons and lights, though I’m not sure I know why. It’s not as if anyone in their right mind could keep up that holiday pace for very long. I know the kids are going to have one humdinger of a time getting up at 6 a.m. for school this week since they’ve been staying up way past their bedtime for nearly two weeks, and we’re back to meals featuring food groups other than the fat group. There aren’t any parties on the calendar for the next month, and the FedEx man hasn’t knocked since last Tuesday.
It all happened so fast, and now it’s over, so you pack everything away for next time around, and while you’re packing, you remember things. You remember the year the tree tipped over and that’s how the porcelain house ornament got cracked. And you remember how these tiny, multicolored lights were your godmother’s favorite so long ago, and she’s gone now, and now they’re your favorite. You remember the year one of the aunts made a pumpkin drink for a special treat and the thick liquid looked like baby poop and no one really liked it until someone figured out if you poured in just enough rum it wasn’t half bad. And there was the year you were alone on Christmas Eve, all alone.
So there it is. I think that what makes people sad when the party’s over is that you can’t turn back time. While days fade into memory, time keeps marching on. What’s gone is gone. Poofty. Glorious thing is, we can look forward. Now we’re on to what’s next, the resolutions and inaugurations and groundhogs. Valentines are on the shelves already, and you can buy a swimsuit now, if you’d like. So much to look forward to, don’t you think? I mean, really. Think about how your life has changed, even in a year. Think about how it could change. Isn’t it exciting? Onward, then. Get those holiday decorations packed away. Vacuum up the pine needles and polish off the fudge and get on it with. This New Year is waiting, and you just never know.
Swiss Cherry Cheese Torte
This lovely twelve-layer dessert is as good to look at as it is to eat. When the kids were young, I made it ‘most every Christmas Eve. I made it this New Year’s Eve for a change, and I imagine the kids will still be talking about it when I am long gone.
1 Swiss chocolate cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling
4 ounces cream cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1 can vanilla frosting
Prepare cake mix as directed; bake in 8″ greased and floured rounds. Cool. Slice each layer into two thin layers.
Make frosting by beating cream cheese and lemon until smooth. Fold in vanilla frosting. Spread frosting toward outside of first cake layer, overlapping with a layer of cherry filling more toward the inside. Place a cake layer on top of the first layer, and repeat with frosting and cherries until you’ve reached the top. It’s normal for frosting to be dripping down the sides and cherries to be sliding off the top. Refrigerate.
Blend 1 softened stick butter, 8 ounces cream cheese, and 1 bag of powdered sugar together for homemade cream cheese frosting.