Not Much of Summer Left to Go

Archived | August 25, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a busy week after time away in the north woods. We managed to do just about everything on the list, and add a few things that weren’t ON the list. That’s the lovely thing about time away, what you don’t plan out so thoroughly. It was the cooking that was the surprise this time around. Such fun in a cabin kitchen throwing together a salad worthy of a museum display, and chicken breasts marinaded in Italian dressing on the grill, and a surprise cake with peach-colored roses from a local bakery topped off an evening of culinary decadence.
Time away is often not what you hope it to be, and though it wasn’t as relaxing as it could have been, a stay in the north woods is inevitably soothing to the soul and you come back refreshed and feeling somehow more than you were than when you left. Which is a good thing because you’ve got piles of laundry waiting, and an empty fridge, and a long list of school supplies to purchase before September 8, and the kids are a bit anxious and restless and there’s not much of summer left to go.
So I’ve been doing laundry these past few days, something I’ll confess I rather enjoy. It’s good work, work I do because these are the shorts my daughter wore on a hike in the woods on Saturday, and this is the shirt my son wears every other day because it has a happy face on it and it’s his favorite, and these are the new purple footie pajamas I bought my daughter which she wants to wear to school and I say I don’t think so, Honey, and this is Mr. Sundberg’s moss-colored sweater I bought when we drove down to Redwing to get away for a day and sit in the sun and eat strawberries and drink wine from those little bottles.
I love the smell of clean clothes and how they come back to me over the days, shrinking and fading and eventually they disappear, and new ones arrive — bigger and brighter with a new clothes smell, a reminder that time is passing faster that I care to admit. I think it was Einstein who said we have time so everything doesn’t happen at once. And thank the good Lord for that.
Peanut Butter Brownies
A friend made these for me when I was feeling down and, let me tell you, it wasn’t long before I was feeling good again. They’re tasty anytime, and enough that you can keep half the pan and give half away. Which is how it should be with a pan of something this good.
1 box (1 lb 6.5 oz) Betty Crocker® Original Supreme brownie mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on brownie mix box
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 13×9 pan. (For easier cutting, line pan with foil, then grease foil on bottom only of pan.)
2. In medium bowl, stir brownie mix, pouch of chocolate syrup, water, oil and eggs until well blended. Spread in pan. Bake 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely.
3. In medium bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over base.
4. In small microwavable bowl, microwave topping ingredients uncovered on high 30 to 60 seconds; stir until smooth. Cool 10 minutes; spread over filling. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until set. Cut into 36 squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

Trust me on this one

Archived | August 17, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been hot and humid and rainy again, and anyone with air conditioning is feeling the strangeness of moving between wet heat and dry cool, or even cold. If you do it enough, you can make yourself ill, and then you have to pick one or the other and lay yourself down and sweat or shiver it out, and no one wants that, not in the middle of August.
Though some of us are looking forward to autumn, there are still a few summer things left undone — and this week, I plan to do them. While Mr. Sundberg’s away at a convention and two of the kids are with their grandparents at their cabin, I’m heading out up to the north woods to another cabin with a friend of mine and the remaining kid and a good friend of hers. The plan is to relax a bit, and that we will do, but along with relaxing, I’ve got seven things in mind:

  • A bottle of Gewurtztraminer on the dock, afternoon into sunset.
  • A nap in the hammock, two hours minimum.
  • A long walk along a wooded road, with whomever, for as long as it can be.
  • A swim. Naked and at night, preferably. But a swim, nonetheless. In the deep, clear lake.
  • One good evening movie, everyone invited, popcorn included, in the living room. Fire, optional.
  • Barbecued chicken breasts on the grill, corn on the cob, salad, and cherry pie for dessert.
  • An evening campfire with singing, marshmallows, stories, loons, and the “Pine Trees” song, which goes like this: “Pine trees, pine trees, pine trees. / Pine trees, pine trees, pine trees. / Pine trees, pine trees, pine trees, pine trees, / Pine trees, pine trees, pine trees.” Well, guess the melody would help a bit. But once you hear it, it’ll never leave your head. Kind of like the call of the loon. Or your mother’s voice. Trust me on this one.

Strawberry Sensation
Whip this one together and call up all your sisters and have ’em over next Sunday after church. If you don’t have any sisters, invite someone you run into at church. And if you don’t make it to church, well, you’ve got neighbors, don’t you? Give ’em a call. It won’t be long before you’ll have to climb over drifts to see each other and this dessert won’t taste as good.
4 cups strawberries divided in half
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice (approx. 1 lemon)
12 oz Cool Whip
8 Oreo cookies
1 T butter
Mash 2 cups strawberries in a large bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice, and blend in 2 cups (8 oz) of Cool Whip. Line a bread loaf pan with aluminum foil and pour mixture into pan. Crush Oreo cookies into fine crumbs. Pour into bowl and mix with 1 T melted butter. Pat on top of mixture in pan. Cover and freeze for 6 hours. Uncover and invert loaf pan onto a plate. Peel off foil and frost with remaining Cool Whip. Slice remaining strawberries and cover top with slices. Serves 10-12.

A face lit up by lightning

Archived | August 11, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It had been one of those crazy hot humid days when you can see the heat rise off the pavement, and things like the creak of the porch swing and the ring of the phone seem a bit louder than usual, and echo, even, and you can’t see it but you feel the storm coming and you know it’s going to be a humdinger, and part of you, secretly, hopes for that.
It’s not that you want mass destruction or anything, or even downed trees and power lines. A power outage would be alright, and some leaves blown around the yard would be good. It’s not so much what actually happens as it is the thought of it. You hear the wind pick up and you see those purple and black clouds all swirling and everything goes green for a while and the rain comes down in torrents. There’s a kind of beauty in a face lit up by lightning, and a softness in skin wet by rain, and to be so bold as to go out on the porch to meet that storm in person is pretty much irresistible.
For me, anyway. The kids think I’m nuts, but I can’t help it. When that storm rolled in Saturday night, there I was, out there in the driveway like the Welcome Wagon on moving day. “Get in here, Mom,” the kids hollered from the doorway. Not just yet, I told them. I’m seeing what’s going on. Didn’t take long for them to join me, and there we stood, wide-eyed with wonder at the first real storm of summer. The thunder clapped loud and the kids oohed and aahhed, and when the lightning show began it was time to go in.
By morning the storm was gone, and the sun came out bright and the windows were all clean. There wasn’t much to pick up, and everything smelled fresh and new. That’s the thing about storms. They come through all dark and flashing, and when they’re gone, you see the loveliness in what’s left behind.
Mrs. Sundberg’s Dad’s Easy Beer Batter for Fish
We’ve been doing some fishing lately, and have plans to do some more. This recipe comes from my father, who has used it for years. It makes the best battered halibut I’ve ever had, and walleye, too. Give it a go, and see what you think.
1. Pour 1/3 – 1/2 can beer in mixing bowl (don’t waste it, you can add more later). A dark beer is best – like a red or a dark ale. Stir beer with whisk, and let stand.
2. Stir in 1 egg – beat with whisk or fork.
3. Add 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup Bisquick, 1/2 tsp. salt, some pepper, and a few shakes of paprika. Mix well. Add more beer as necessary to make a thin batter. (Some also like to add a few shakes of garlic powder to batter.)
4. Add fish, and thoroughly coat with batter, shaking off the excess. Fry in oil at 375 degrees F. Cook ’til golden brown. Fish will float when done. Consume remainder of beer with the fish, which ought to be served with fried potatoes and green beans. Best when served to good friends or family whom you love.

Hurtling Off Into the Clouds

Archived | August 4, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. We were all packed in the car after a long day at my parents’ cabin, a lovely day, one which included a ride in my father’s pontoon boat — without which summer simply isn’t summer — regardless of the weather.
There were seven grandchildren present, and at least five dogs, and Lord knows how many adults when someone hollered “Pontoon!” and we made the short pilgrimage to the boat clutching our drinks. Not everyone went of course. The thing only holds so many, and those who stayed behind sat around the table in the cabin playing cards and laughing loud enough that we could hear it out on the water. “Bring a jacket!” one of the mothers yelled from the cabin. “It’s cold out there on the water!” So there was a rush back up the steps to get jackets and towels and someone grabbed a blanket.
Thank goodness for all that, because cold it was. We never did hit 90 degrees during the month of July, and, though we figured it was the 1st of August on Saturday and things were going to heat up, it didn’t happen. The wind out on that lake was an icy wind, and the lips of the seven grandchildren were blue. To no avail. They all jumped in at the swimming hole anyway, along with the two crazy uncles, and we adults sat there wrapped in our jackets and towels and the one wool blanket and sipped our gin and tonics and beers and oohed and aahed at the insanity of the children.
And they, in their near-naked innocence, screamed and squealed and climbed the ladder again and again and leaped out into the air over the dark blue water as the clouds once again blotted out the sun. There were cannonballs and perfect dives and enough splashing to get us wet enough to spark a conversation on the purpose of the human nipple, and things kind of spiraled from there. The wind picked up and the waves grew choppy and the children were shivering from head to toe, yet they kept going, splashing and laughing and dashing into the waves.
Whatever it is we lose when we grow up, my brothers have managed to hold on to a thread. I imagine we each have that thread lying around somewhere, and it’s up to us whether or not we choose to pick it up and give it a tug. Not to say I wish I would have taken that swim. Nah. But there are days when I find myself longing for the feeling you can get only on a swing set. You know the one, where you’re as high as you can go and you pause for a moment on the edge of the earth, and your feet are nearly in the apple tree, and you think you might go hurtling off into the clouds. That one.
Sweet Vidalia Cheese Dip
Some recipes are so simple you think there’s no way this is going to be anything, and then you pull it out of the oven, and it’s gone in no time. My brother-in-law showed up with this lovely dip on Saturday, only three ingredients, and was it ever a hit.
2 cups mayonnaise
2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded Sweet Vidalia onions
Mix. Pour into casserole. Bake at 350 for 45 min or until lightly browned along the edges. Serve with crackers, foccacia bread, anything that dips well.