Where there’s a give, there’s a take

Archived | March 30, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent much of the day talking on the phone so I was happy to sit and listen awhile. Not that I didn’t do my share of listenin’ on the phone, mind you. There were a few stretches there where it was at least five minutes before I got a word in. Amazing what people can come up with to keep you on the phone. I called seven people in my search for volunteers for the Easter breakfast at church, and what do you know? All seven of them had both some news to share and a question or two about some news that had been shared with them.
Now, I’m not a secretive person, but I like to employ a bit of discretion now and then. I don’t just go and holler out my personal issues into the phone, especially those creating discomfort or urgency in matters of infections. While on the phone Saturday? I heard about a strange foot fungus, back pain, underwear that is suddenly much too snug, someone’s cousin in Sarasota who is having second thoughts during Phase Two of a sex change operation, unwanted body hair, and the adverse effects of burritos on someone’s gastric system.
Egg bake, people. Please. I’m calling about egg bake. I need thirty of them on Sunday the 12th, hot and ready to go by 6 a.m., and thirty coffee cakes, and ten gallons of milk, and ten of orange juice, and a load of jelly beans. This is not the time for hygienic wisdom to come rolling down the chute. Not the time, people. I have calls to make, and I’m only half way there.
Oh, my. It is what it is, I guess. The phone rings and here’s someone to talk with. Tough to say no to a friend or even an acquaintance, especially when you’re calling to ask for something. That’s the blessed thing about being human. Where there’s a give, there’s a take, and, frankly, I have these headaches now and then…
Perfect Bread Pudding
This recipe just may get you through the next week. It takes five minutes to put together, and the brandy adds a little special something. Take my word for it. Serve it up when a friend comes over for a good long talk. (You may wish to leave the brandy out. Just in case.)
1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread (doesn’t have to be all that fresh)
4 T butter, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 shots brandy
Cut up 1/2 of the loaf into chunks and grill with butter in a skillet until brown and crispy.
In small saucepan, heat sweetened condensed milk over low heat for 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in brandy. Put bread into bowls and top with sauce and whipped cream. The real stuff. Mmm. Enjoy!

And then the phone rang once more

Archived | March 24, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Now that spring is here and we’ve already done the Daylight Saving Time switcheroo and there’s no more leftover corned beef, it’s time to get down to business. Taxes are next on the docket, and that was my plan for Saturday. Emphasis on the “was.”
The kids thought it would be funny to plant a walkie talkie in the kitchen drawer next to where I was working. After a good half hour of quiet and focus, I heard a rustling from within the drawer. I opened it. Empty. Closed it. Rustling louder this time, almost like static. I opened it again. “WILD CHERRY SODA IS THE ULTIMATE BELCH POP.” The words blared out from the drawer. Then giggles. Lots of giggles. I lifted up the silverware tray and there it was, way in the back. The walkie talkie. I picked it up and pressed the “Talk” button and worked up my best Satan voice. DO YOUR HOMEWORK, I said into the mouthpiece. AND DON’T SHOW YOUR FACE UNTIL IT’S DONE.
Well, once the kids were out of my way, it was Regina down the road, who is one of the last great cup-of-sugar-borrowers. Sure. She’s borrowed over ten pounds of sugar since she moved to town a few years back, and I haven’t seen a baked good to save my life. She’s lonely, I think. Loneliness will take you as far as you need to go to find a loving ear. Then there was my mother, who called with news of cousin Lurv and his winning lottery ticket. Ten thousand dollars is not the biggest whoop, I told her. Sure, it’s something. It would be a nice down payment on a car. A trip out west. It would pay someone to do my taxes for the next twenty years. Or so. Depending.
And then the phone rang once more. “Do you speak Chinese?” the voice hollered in a Southern accent. It was my friend Louis from New York. He’s going to some remote part of China to teach English for a year. “I need a change in my life. Something bold, something grand,” he explained, and went on explaining. For an hour. So much for my taxes. Good for you, I told him. And good for me. Maybe there are no phones where he’s going. And if there are, it’ll be pricey. So when he calls next year to say he’s coming home, he’ll have only five minutes. Then maybe I’ll get my taxes done. Or at least get ’em started.
Fresh Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing
That time of year again. Let’s lighten up. Away with the bubbling, greasy, cheesy bakes! Bring on the greens and the citrus and the fruit. (But keep the bacon fat in this one. I’m serious.)
7 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
3 T bacon fat
3 T sugar
3 T vinegar
Fry bacon until crispy-crunchy. Remove from pan.
Pour grease into a small bowl. Wipe out pan with paper towel.
Measure 3 T bacon grease back into pan. Add sugar and vinegar.
Bring to a boil. Pour over spinach leaves and toss with dried
cranberries, candied walnuts, and a bit of feta cheese. Top with
crumbled bacon.

Extraordinary in itself

Archived | March 16, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent much of the morning outside playing in what’s left of the snow with the kids and managed to take a walk in the afternoon with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. There was something of a storm early last week and it left a beautiful blanket of white over everything and brought the temperature down to the single digits for a few days. But I’m afraid it may have been the last snow storm of the season.
I’ll confess I’m one of those few people who have a bit of a rough time letting go of winter. It’s not that I have issues letting go in general. Quite the contrary. I let go of those lovely lawn chairs Mr. Sundberg ordered for me from Seat Yourself. I can let go of my childhood and my frustration with the neighbor boys for throwing our mailbox into the pond. I’m not a grudge-holder and I’ve pretty much let go of any deluded thinking I might have had that my life is going to be anything but ordinary, which is fine with me because I like ordinary. Ordinary is reliable and real and allows one to use paper napkins with little vines printed on them. Silk stockings and motorcycle licenses are optional. And an ordinary life, if you play your cards right, is extraordinary in itself.
Anyway, I have a bit of trouble about this time each year. I struggle. I want to hold on to winter. I’m simply not a spring person; I’d rather skip it and go straight to summer. I find myself secretly hoping for one more snowstorm, just one, long after warm weather has set in. Perhaps I like the dark of winter. Perhaps I like cozy and where else can you get cozy but winter? Perhaps I like to be reminded of my mortality, I like to know where my edges are, sense where I end and the air begins, feel a fine layer of frost coat my throat and lungs. Perhaps I am a bit crazy. But I was born here, and I will die here, and where ever I go in the mean time, about this time of year I will long for snow, a storm of snow, and the thunder that comes with it. I’ll hope for it even as the ice breaks up on the river and the grass grows green and the rabbits come ’round.
So bring on the sunshine, and the rainstorms and the leaves. Send in the tulips, and the jellybeans. Rev up the rototiller. You’ll find me repairing the hammock, where, on a windy afternoon later in March, you’ll find me dozing away, dreaming of winter, which, when you think about it, is not long off.
Creamy Lime Pie
If you’re looking for something light and sweet for St. Patrick’s Day, this pie will do the trick. It’s also green, and takes only ten minutes or so to make.
1 graham cracker crust
Mix 1 envelope (.13 oz) unsweetened lime drink
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
Fold in 8 oz Cool whip, thawed
Pour into crust. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

They Were Only Having Fun

Archived | March 10, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. The kids have the week off for Spring Break so to say they were wired Saturday night is an understatement. They went from the phone to the mini-trampoline to email to making popcorn to a documentary about ghosts and when they got bored they turned to each other and to Mr. Sundberg for a game of pile-on which ended in a mild back injury for Mr. Sundberg and a less-than-mild chewing out for the three kids. I informed them that if they aren’t able to find constructive ways to occupy themselves over the next week, I would do so myself, and mentioned that the basement is in need of a good cleaning and that there’s a fair amount of forest that could be cleared of brush if one only had a solid stretch of hours and a good pair of gloves.
Not that they were being naughty. No, they were only having fun and I imagine the mile high lemon meringue pie I fed them didn’t help much in the restraint department. But it’s always good at the beginning of a long week to lay down a few words as a reference point. That way, if things get out of hand, I can always say, Now, where did I put that crate of work gloves?
They say Big Snow is on its way around Tuesday so I picked up a new board game and some vanilla ice cream and root beer for floats. I plan to work on my taxes and imagine the day will start out that way, with noble intentions, and some kind of fibrous cereal and coffee, and laundry done early, but who knows? Mr. Sundberg has to head out before nine, and I’m thinking the kids will be wanting pie for breakfast. At some point, I’ll holler, PIE! and break the silence, and then what will sound like a small herd will come thundering down the stairs. For homemade pie. And there are exactly four pieces left, and spring is on its way.
Cheesy Garlic Biscuits
You can whip up these biscuits in no time at all. They’re best with chicken, salad, or pasta, and taste best when still warm. A good friend calls them “Tape-’em-to-your-buttscuits” but we won’t go there.
2 c. Bisquick or similar baking mix
2/3 c. milk
1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. melted butter
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Mix Bisquick, milk and cheddar until a soft ball forms. Beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Drop by balls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes or so. Mix butter and garlic and brush on rolls while still hot on the pan.

It’s all about perspective

Archived | March 4, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a bit of a rough time lately with the economy and all. Oh, they’re still making pies over at the café, but no one has bought a whole pie lately, and they’ve stopped putting fresh parsley on the dinner plates. The manager over at the grocery store isn’t as quick to smile. Business hasn’t been so good and he’s had to cut employee hours. At parent-teacher conferences Monday night, they were talking about a four-day school week next year. And I noticed, late last night, Girl Scout cookie boxes are smaller than ever. No parsley? Fewer days of school? Enough to get a person down, sure enough.
I’ve told my kids, time and again, it’s not the weight of the load, but how you carry it. It’s all about perspective. You can get all hot and bothered, or you can adjust. Thing is, life always has been, always will be about ups and downs, and I’ve never encountered much of anything that doesn’t have some good in it.
I remember the big July 15 storm when I was a child. Came through like nothing I’d ever seen before. We were in the basement for hours, huddled around a flashlight listening to the radio, while high winds and driving rain took down trees and power lines for miles around. For days after, the townspeople worked together gathering debris from each other’s yards, cutting up trees that had fallen over lot lines, helping rebuild garages and replace broken windows and find lost dogs. There were potlucks in parking lots and barbecues in backyards and, late at night, neighbors who’d never really talked before sat out on their porches and drank grandma’s homemade double-grape wine and surveyed their progress.
Nothing like a good storm to put it all in perspective. And Spring, bless her heart, is just around the corner. Think I’ll plant some parsley this time around.
Beef Noodle Hotdish
One more hotdish as we round the corner into spring. Take this one along when you visit someone who doesn’t do much cooking, or as a gift to someone who could use a gift.
1 pound ground beef lean
1 medium onion chopped
8 ounce can whole kernel corn
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup black olives, pitted, halved (optional)
2 cups uncooked noodles
2 cups water
1 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
Cook and stir the meat and onion in a large skillet until the meat is brown. Drain off the excess fat. Stir in corn (undrained) and the rest of the ingredients.
To prepare in a skillet: heat the mixture to boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, about 20 minutes.
To prepare in the oven: pour the mixture into an ungreased 2-quart casserole. Cover and bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bake until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.
Serve hot with biscuits or cornbread or bread. Enjoy!