It’s not officially summer yet, but sure feels that way

Archived | May 26, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent a good part of the day picking tent caterpillars off the walls and carpeting and returning them to where they belong out-of-doors. Don’t know how they find their way in, but they do and the last thing you want to feel before you climb into bed is a caterpillar meeting its end under the weight of your bare foot. Really.
It’s not officially summer yet, but sure feels that way with the heat and humidity this week, the rain, the bugs and the amount of flesh exposed in the checkout line at the grocery store. It’s no secret autumn ranks top among the seasons for me, but every time of year has its glory and summer is the season of lounging, of comfortable disarray, of nostalgia and nudity and fun.
Out come the serving trays and the drinks with little umbrellas; out come the inflatable water toys and lotion smelling of coconut and footwear exposing the toes.
The kids are onto it. They’ve slipped into kick back mode and linger a bit outside after getting off the bus. Jeans have been replaced by plaid shorts and denim cutoffs and t-shirts that read “This is My Happy Shirt” and “Save the Earth.” There’s a pile of flip-flops by the front door, and if you get down on your knees at just the right angle, you can see perfectly smudged footprints of sweaty, dusty feet on the wood floor in the hallway. There have been requests for strawberries, a walleye fry, campfires, the new giant marshmallows as big as baseballs supposedly available at the store, and sunscreen. Someone needs a beach blanket, and someone else asked about swimming this weekend. I did check, and all three swimsuits are ostensibly in good shape, wearable, elastic intact.
After this coming weekend, there are only 8 days of school left in our small town. I’m not wasting any time. Summer is near, and there are things to be done. I’ve added to my list a few good books. Something to look forward to along with the giant marshmallows.
I’m not one for fancy things, but these cookies come close without being fussy or difficult. They’re simple, and taste like sunshine, and a plate of ’em will need refilling in short order.
1 2/3 c. flour
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. butter
In a medium bowl, combine first 4 ingredients. Chill dough. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1″ balls and place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. With thumb or forefinger, make imprint in center of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately remove from cookie sheet, cool.
In medium saucepan, combine filling ingredients; cook over low heat, stirring until smooth and thickened. Cool. Top each cookie with about 1/4 teaspoon of filling; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 36 cookies.

It comes to me out of the blue and back into the blue it goes

Archived | May 18, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been so beautiful lately I figured instead of staying in and tuning in I’d hook myself up to a pair of headphones and go on a walkabout. Which I did. I had to borrow a portable radio from the kids; I’m not up on all the latest technology, and that’s not because I’m cheap or lazy or old or out of it. To be honest, I’m not all that interested. The more gadgets there are in my life, the less comfort I find, and why add the stress of a video cam when a photograph will do?
Not that I don’t appreciate my cell phone or my computer, mind you. And I did breathe a sigh of relief when telephones lost their cords and cameras went digital. But I don’t own a device with all of my music on it. Why would I? It’s like living in a town with trains: you don’t notice it when it’s always there. When I hear one of my songs on the radio, I stop and swoon or sing along or holler for the kids to come and hear because it’s a fleeting thing, a gift, a sign. It comes to me out of the blue and back into the blue it goes, and to have it at my fingertips would take away the sparkle.
Of course there are certain things a person never tires of. You could hear them, see them, taste them, touch them, smell them on Tuesday and Wednesday comes ’round and here they are again and thank goodness for that. The cd of music for waltzing Mr. Sundberg gave to me in 1987; the collection of clay sculptures and watercolor paintings the kids made over the years, crowded into the middle shelf of the hutch; chocolate chip cookie dough, fresh bread and lemonade; the kids’ skin, especially their cheeks and hands and bellies; lavender and cinnamon and freshly-mowed grass and home-brewed beer.
Easy access and technology and efficiency have their places, I don’t deny that. But when it comes down to it, don’t bother with the digital mixer. A wooden spoon works just fine for me. No manual necessary.
Foil-wrapped Barbecue Steak
It’s patio season, and if you’ve got friends coming for dinner, consider this simple, hearty meal on the grill.
8-10 oz. sirloin tip steak (per serving)
2-4 T of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, seeded, chopped
1 T butter or olive oil
2 18-inch squares heavy duty foil
salt, pepper and garlic powder
Cut the sirloin tip steak into 1 inch cubes.
Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Place steak cubes in center of foil (shiny side of foil facing inward) and cover with remaining ingredients.
Wrap up into a foil packet or envelope, with seam facing up and with a secure fold to retain contents. Place over sizzling hot coals and cook for an hour or less as you wish. For variety, add a few slices of cheese to each packet, or a few mushrooms and a quarter cup or so of condensed cream of mushroom soup.
Serve with a dense bread and salad.

Lifts you right up off the floor, it does

Archived | May 12, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been something of a dreary May with the cold weather and the snow last weekend, and when it’s an effort to keep your own spirits up, sometimes you’ve got to find someone else to give you a lift. Just for a while, anyway, until you’ve got your own hot air balloon in working order.
For me, this week anyway, it was my friend Richard. Richard lives in the city and collects rocks and animal skulls and driftwood. I met him a few years back in a class at the community center called “The Morel of the Story” on how to find, harvest and cook morel mushrooms. We sat together and when I found out how much he loves to cook AND how he spent much of his childhood on a trampoline, that was that; we became fast friends.
So when Richard called out of the blue Saturday night and told me all about steamed rhubarb, his latest discovery, I was all ears. He told me how he steams the rhubarb in a double boiler, throws it in a blender and blends it up, and adds apples or whatever fruit is in season. Then he adds some bee pollen and flax seed oil, and that’s what he’s been having for breakfast every morning. He claims it keeps him regular and keeps him going, and that’s the truth of it. He also shared his top two secrets for the Perfect Rhubarb Pie:
#1 Add 1 T regular strawberry Jell-O to the flour mixture for color, flavor & thickening.
#2 Add 1/4 tsp orange zest, grated very fine.
And then he asked me what I’ve been cooking up lately, and how I’ve been.
The fact of the matter is that it’s a rare and fine thing to find people who love what you love and take the time to share it with you. And it’s even rarer when they give a pause and ask a question or two. Lifts you right up off the floor, it does, when people care and let you know. Something to consider on a rainy day in May, eh?
Cherry Dump Cake
Here’s a sweet and easy dessert for a spring picnic or potluck. Throw it together and head on over to the party.
1 16 oz can crushed pineapple
1 20 oz can cherry pie filling
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 cup or so flaked coconut
1 c. pecans, chopped
2 sticks butter, melted
Dump pineapple, including juice, into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Spread evenly. Spread the cherry pie filling over the pineapple. Spread dry cake mix evenly over all. Then sprinkle coconut and nuts over that. Pour melted butter over all. Bake 1 hour in 325 degree oven. Serve with whipped cream. Enjoy!

Even a crappy day has its own twilight

Archived | May 4, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d had one of those days when my head just wasn’t on straight and most everything I did was either poorly done or simply a waste of time. I can’t explain it. I’m generally a productive person who does pretty good work, but I, for the life of me, could not accomplish much of anything. I forgot to add baking soda to the chocolate chip cookie bars, I washed my jeans with my multi-vitamin in the pocket — resulting in an obnoxious yellow stain on the rear which has yet to wash out — and I accidentally threw away tickets to CATS, to which I’m taking the kids for a birthday celebration. Suffice to say, that’s just the beginning. By day’s end, I’d thickened the scar tissue where I frequently bump my head on the cupboard, I managed to put dent number seven in the car, and I realized I’d forgotten to pay a bill that was already overdue. And there was more, but you get the gist.
I saw a series of photos online recently, pictures of how crappy other people’s jobs can be and how you really ought to appreciate yours. One of the photos was of a man in a plastic suit with his body half-way up the rear end of an elephant. I’m not sure what he was doing in there and I don’t really need to know, but I will say that I felt something like that man on Saturday, only I wasn’t wearing a suit and it was my own butt my head was up. Enough said.
One of the gratifying things about life in general is that nothing lasts forever, and even a crappy day has its own twilight. By the time I turned the show on, I’d been sufficiently humbled after sifting through a week’s worth of garbage, something every person ought to do once in his or her lifetime. I didn’t find the tickets, but I was reminded of the significant trail one person (not to mention five) can leave behind. It got me thinking about paying attention, and how I get so wound up in everything that I forget to notice what I’m doing while I’m doing it. Might have fewer scars if I slowed it down a bit. Might not have had to throw out those cookie bars. Then again, I did manage to see the stars at twilight, and notice how the sky to the west was three shades of purple. So I must be on my way.
Italian Bread
If you’re like me, there’s nothing like a mouthful of carbohydrates to make a meal just right.
This is one simple recipe, and you’ll be happy you gave it a whirl.
3 cups cold water
7 cups bread flour
2 pkg quick rise yeast
1 T salt
Mix ingredients together and let rest 15 minutes.
Cut into 7 pieces. Cover. Let sit 10 minutes.
Punch down and remold 7 loaves.
Place on a large, greased baking sheet.
Cover. Let rest 20 minutes.
Cut x’s over dough. Bake at 400 for 45-50 minutes.