Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d finally had a day — what I’d wished for — just One Whole Day — and what a day it was. The kids were all off at various camps: Horse Camp, Fishing Camp, and Praise Camp, and Mr. Sundberg was on a marathon tour of speaking engagements on the topic of “The Value of Difficulty: Finding the Good In a Bad Time.”
Whatever it is you long for, it sits there on the horizon, edged in silver, hovering, and as you near it you tremble, thinking, “At last, at long last,” and it hardly seems real. So when I woke up Saturday with no one around, no alarm, no kids hollering for breakfast, no television blaring — only silence — I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:03 a.m. One Whole Day all my own, however I wanted to spend it. And oh, did I have plans.
Emphasis on the “did.” I lay there awhile, all warm and cozy, and when I decided at last to get up, it was after 8. No big deal. I took a long, hot shower, dressed, made a few calls and mailed a few letters, and by then it was almost noon and I was hungry so I grilled a few chicken breasts and French bread and made some fancy sandwiches and ate them on the porch with a glass of wine. Good wine which I’d purchased a while back for a special day, which this was. So I had another glass, and a peanut butter truffle, which I’d bought at the fudge shop in a little town on the way back from dropping one of the kids off at camp. It was so delicious I had to have another, this one caramel, and half a glass more of wine to wash it all down. Which made me a bit drowsy, so I lay down on the couch with a magazine article about a couple who met at Woodstock and who have been together since and I somehow dozed off. I was awakened some time later by the phone ringing. It was Mr. Sundberg calling to see how things were going and I said, Fine, and he said he’d be home the next day in the late afternoon and hoped I was enjoying my day. Just after I hung up the doorbell rang. It was the UPS man with a package, and while I was talking with him, the phone rang again. It was a counselor from Horse Camp and would I give permission for ibuprofen to be administered as there was a minor incident, nothing to worry about, a bruised knee, of course they’ll keep me updated.
It was mid-afternoon and there was really nothing for dinner except leftover chicken, so I shredded it and seasoned it and made a frittata with eggs and corn. I finished the laundry and watered the plants and took a walk in the woods while my dinner was baking. When I got back, it was almost time for the show, so I served up my frittata on a plate and poured another glass of wine and cranked the stereo’s volume to “7” and sat myself down on the couch. I turned the phone’s ringer to “Off” and let out one big long sigh as Mr. Keillor launched into song. After the show, I did up the dishes, took a long, hot bath, and watched the evening news, and an old movie on the only channel that comes in clearly. Even slept on the couch because it’s so dang comfortable.
A few days have passed since my one whole day. I won’t say I have regrets about how I spent it; I will say things aren’t always what you expect. That silver edging sometime turns out to be aluminum foil. Thing is, I got to be alone with my thoughts awhile. And I took a nap. Both fine and rare occasions, and so I am grateful.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
The weather cooled off this past week and I found myself craving homemade macaroni and cheese. Here’s a recipe that’s fairly simple, and the result is a creamy, rich dish everyone will love.
3 T butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 ½ cups milk
2 c. Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb. Velveeta cheese
1 cup Mozzarella cheese
1 (16 oz.) box elbow macaroni
In large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt, mustard and pepper until smooth; remove from heat. Stir in milk until smooth and continue for 10 minutes until thick; remove from heat. Add 1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, Velveeta cheese and Mozzarella cheese until melted. Place cooked macaroni in a greased casserole dish, pour cheese mixture over and mix well. Sprinkle paprika and leftover Cheddar on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
Recipe can be halved if you’d rather go that route.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Mr. Sundberg was in Chicago doing a talk on Ways to Make Yourself Happy in Three Minutes or Less and the kids were busy sorting through their things deciding what they did/didn’t want to take to camp. No stuffed animals, I’d told them, and you really ought to bring a book. You never know.
I was in the kitchen, sharing a bottle of wine and some beans and rice with my friends Mike and Jane who live over on Leland Avenue and have for some years now. Mike and Jane met at a square dance, at Ohio State University, in the late 1960s. He was wearing an FFA jacket, and she was dressed tastefully in a black A-line dress with belt detail across the front. They saw each other, and liked each other, and that was that. Now he’s a coffee nerd who wears green socks with Velcro-strapped sandals and she’s still tasteful and still wears black and smiles sweetly at him when he sings, or does his Tai Chi out in the back yard in the rain.
It’s funny that we met because they prefer to relax on Saturdays after their stressful work week, where I like to get things done. But we did meet, at an afternoon birthday party for the son of a mutual friend. They were interesting and friendly like most good people are, but what made us friends was his flamboyance and her patience: if he were a bird, he’d be a peacock, and the “Happy Birthday Song” would be his feathered tail. When he sings it, he sings it with gusto, and holds on to the person’s name for so long that everyone else stops singing. This particular party was for a young man named “Warren.” Mike held on to the “-EN” for nearly two minutes in his booming baritone, his arms outstretched, fingers trembling. When he stopped, he gestured and everyone joined in, “Happy Birthday, to you!” We were all a bit bewildered, all but Jane, who smiled at Mike and took his arm in hers as if nothing even remotely unusual had taken place.
Strange how life brings us — out of the blue, at square dances and birthday parties — the very people we need along the way. Let us not question, but rather smile sweetly, take the blessed hand in ours and walk on toward the next thing. It’s all far too fleeting. Remember this.
Tuna Layered Salad
I’ve never been a real fan of raw tomatoes ever since my mother ate them like apples out on the porch when I was a child, but I’m working on it. You can take ’em or leave ’em in this fine salad perfect for a birthday party or a light lunch on a summer afternoon.
4 cups shredded lettuce
1 1/2 cups (4 oz.) medium shell macaroni, cooked and drained
2 cups chopped cucumber
2 cups chopped tomatoes (optional if you’re not a tomato person)
2 can (6 1/2 oz. each) tuna, drained and flaked
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Birds Eye green peas, thawed and drained
1 cup (4 oz.) Kraft natural shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing
Layer lettuce, shells, cucumber, tomatoes, tuna, peas and cheese in three-quart serving bowl. Spread Miracle Whip salad dressing over salad, sealing to edge of bowl. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Toss to serve. Makes about 8 servings.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. The kids were busy playing with friends and I was out driving around, enjoying the heat of midsummer with the windows down and the radio turned up. I’d spent a good part of the afternoon shopping for the kids’ upcoming camp outings and it seems every mother and every other father in the county had the same idea and I needed to unwind a bit and what better way than a winding country road set to some good time music?
I have a theory I would apply to the events of that particular drive. I call it my “Skeet Shooting Theory.” I must have talked about it at some point. It has to do with the whole feeling of freedom, of flying high, of at last rising up into the joy of where you want to be. You’re unencumbered, you’ve nowhere in particular to be, you’re light as air, and BOOM — out of nowhere something blasts you out of your blissful arc and you’re back on the earth again, dirt on your parts, likely in pieces, unsure about whether or not you’ll ever be airborne again.
For the skeet, it’s a bullet. For me, it was a 230 lb. state trooper named Jerry. I happened to give him a smile as I waved and flew on by, realizing a bit too late I’d neglected to fasten my seat belt. Jerry noticed, too. Within minutes he’d pulled me over, and that was that. He asked where I was headed, and I showed him all the things I’d gotten the kids for camp, but he didn’t seem all that impressed. I told him that since the seatbelt law is so new, I forget on occasion. He smiled and said, “Sure, Lady. Maybe this will help jog your memory next time you go for a drive.” And he handed me a citation and told me to call the number in ten days and they would tell me what my fine is. “It’ll be around a hundred bucks,” he said. Thank you, Sir, I said, and fastened my seat belt, and drove off thinking of all the things a hundred dollars can buy.
The thing about falling from the sky is there’s always the rising. Which I plan to do. I’ll be belted in, of course, but I’ll be flying again in no time. I might hit the dust now and then, but I don’t stay there long. Never have, never will. You can tuck that in your belt and buckle it.
Hobo Dinners on the Grill
Here’s a recipe for a gathering. Make sure each person makes his or her own hobo dinner, and have an array of vegetables and condiments available. I sometimes set out a bowl of pineapple for a touch of the tropics. Serve with salad and Jell-O and a pan of bars.
Mold hamburger into patties, place each on a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place sliced potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and/or whatever vegetables you desire on top of each hamburger patty. Add 2-3 T butter, and salt and pepper. You might add a bit of barbecue sauce if that’s your kind of thing. Seal foil well, and place each hobo dinner on the grill. Cover grill if possible.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Listen was about all I could do. I was resting on the couch, hoping for a second wind. It had been one of those amazing days where I got up and had no clue that before the day was over I’d not only witness a Fourth of July parade with 33,999 other people, but I’d end up marching in it because while I was following my son’s marching band with my friend Angela from St. Paul, we found ourselves in the street with no way out because the crowd was so thick and I’d wanted to follow my son’s band along the parade route. Our only real options were to climb over the people in their lawn chairs or join up with the next float which happened to be the Boy Scouts of America pulling wagons and throwing candy.
So we walked along for a few blocks, smiling and waving and I don’t think anyone thought twice about it. I did look for something in my purse to throw, but there wasn’t much there but pens and some gum and migraine pills, which, from the looks of it, a few mothers along the route might have appreciated. The waving seemed to do the trick, though, and by the time we found a hole in the crowd, the band was playing “Louie, Louie” for the fourth time and we were near the end of the parade.
After all of that excitement, I went to get the car which was four blocks away and had to literally talk my way through two police barricades in order to get to the band, and to my son, who was cordoned off behind a school building. I was allowed to park in a nearby lot, and Angela waited and took a mini-nap while I walked another two blocks, to where he was waiting patiently with shorts and a T-shirt on – his band uniform wadded up in his duffel bag. It was hot. Ice cream? I asked. He nodded.
I used to tell people I know the words to “Louie, Louie.” I told enough people that I believed it myself. Truth is, I don’t know the words, but marching along behind that band on Saturday, it came to me that “Louie, Louie” is the kind of song where you just make up your own words and no one knows the difference. You can even just do sounds. “Nah nah, nah nah, ooh la la la…” It works. I know. Because I tried it.
Now, I’m not one for vegetarian food every day of the year, but I have a few recipes that taste mighty fine. Try this one, and don’t let ’em know these meatballs are meatless. My guess is no one will notice.
4 oz. lowfat cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 1/2 cups ground crackers
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup Italian seasoning
2 T soy sauce
Dashes of onion salt and garlic powder.
Mix well. Form into walnut-sized balls.
Brown in an oiled skillet.
Bake in a covered dish at 350 for 30 min, uncovered for 5. Serve with noodles or potatoes and whatever sauce you like, or in a sandwich with some pizza sauce and cheese.