Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. There I was, smack dab in the middle of the living room floor amidst piles of notebooks and three-ring binders and pens and erasers and loose-leaf paper and rulers… Inventory time. Had the list right there, checking off what we have and don’t have as far as school supplies go, and we’ve got a lot, but what’s on the list is substantial and I’ve got my work cut out for me.
School starts up the day after Labor Day, and, let me tell you, the kids are counting down the days. Summer always starts off slow and lazy, but somewhere along the way things accelerate and suddenly you can count those days on two hands, and there’s a small feeling resembling panic on the skin. But not panic. A restlessness, maybe, for what we haven’t done yet, for the numbered hours, for the class schedule and unfamiliar classrooms and teachers and textbooks to be covered.
I’ve always held in me a love for school, for learning, for the feeling that rises up this time of year. There’s been a break from the heat and a few cool nights and that first sense of autumn’s approach, and that familiar excitement for lit lights on the football field and full backpacks and plaid flannel shirts and the scent of pencil shavings and fresh paper and eraser rubbings and the sounds of chalk on the board and teachers lecturing up and down the halls.
You can’t force or even pass on a love for all this to your children. You can only load ’em up with supplies and your own stories and hope to high heaven they get off that bus on Day One with smiles on their faces and their own stories to tell. You sure can hope. Because there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having learned something new, some beautiful poem or story or theorem or musical score; a line of Spanish, perhaps, or a new play on the ball field. Thank goodness for those teachers who know about that hope and put it to work in sculpture class and band and economics and science. All those hopes. All those dreams. All those supplies I need to pick up. But not today. It’s still summer enough, and there’s a lake too near to ignore.
Before you’re blueberried out, here’s a healthy route to go. Save the mac and cheese for tomorrow, and get out your blender and whip up a batch for lunch. No one is going to complain about this one. Guaranteed.
1 cup blueberries
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup frozen vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup ice
Whirl in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately or freeze.
Just so you know: The Department of Agriculture tested over 40 fruits and vegetables in 1997 and found blueberries to be the highest of all tested in the amount of antioxidants. Now, that was a while back, but still.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. After a week of heat, things have finally cooled down and I must say it is a glorious thing. I looked everywhere but couldn’t find the old fan I did out only during heat spells, one of those old clunky things that works way better than anything made these days. Kicks out a cool stream like nothing else, and I’ll be darned if I can find it. The kids have their little plastic fans that work somewhat, but I’ll take my mini-barn fan any day. But no luck. I’m thinking it was lent out along the way, and someone forgot to return it. That’s how it goes. You don’t just lose a clunky old fan.
Loss is for other things, like your favorite pen or your wallet or your sanity. I seem to have lost my share of items valuable to me along the way, and I can’t chalk it up to old age because I’m not old. Don’t feel old. Don’t look all that old. What I can blame it on is a head full of thoughts that tend to get in the way of mindfulness, and that can be a real trip. Especially when a big ol’ fan goes missing. Along with, in the last few months, a brand new package of my favorite underwear, and a bottle of real — not imitation — vanilla I picked up for cookies for the kids. How on earth?
So I’ve been giving thought these days to becoming more mindful, to living in the moment, to not concerning myself with tomorrow and last week and who poked a hole in the screen door. Been thinking more about not concerning myself with the needs of the universe as much as what is happening right now, this moment, where I am. It is working. Not only have I not lost anything this week, but I found a few things I hadn’t known I’d lost: a spare key for the house, an old map of the Grand Canyon (my dream place to go), and a secret recipe for mint juleps only my great aunt Wanda could make just right. And now so can I. Today. I have all the ingredients, and a cool breeze is blowing, and what better thing to do in this present moment than make myself a drink and sit outside where there’s nothing to lose but my shoes — because I take them off — and my cares, like leaves falling from trees. Sure. That’s today. Tomorrow will take care of itself, Honey. It sure will.
BLUEBERRY PEACH CREAM PIE
You’ve probably had it up to here with blueberries, but I haven’t. Load me up, and bring in some more. This recipe will get whatever needs going, going. Wherever you may be.
9 inch pie shell (bottom pastry only)
2 1/2 cup peeled and diced peaches
1 1/2 cup blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
A dash or two of nutmeg
1/3 cup half and half cream
Mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add nutmeg. Fold in peaches and blueberries. Place in unbaked pie shell. Pour cream evenly over fruit mixture in pie shell. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Cool to lukewarm before serving.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Been a long stretch of storms and heat lately and we’re enjoying the drama of it all. No sooner does one line of storms pass through when another comes rolling on it. Thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain. Nothing like it in all the world. Then the darkness falls, and morning, and the heat rises up like some kind of wild creature. Heat like wild horses, kicking up dust, stopping for nothing and showing no mercy.
I rather like it hot, I must say. There is something about feeling your body melt into the air around you, and letting the heat lull you into a zone where things that are normally a big deal don’t matter so much anymore. Like the mail. Seems in normal weather you get the mail when it shows up. When it’s this hot out, it’s fine to let it sit out there in the box until after dark, midnight– tomorrow, even. And the laundry doesn’t need folding right off the bat. Let it cool awhile, or wait. Who wants to wear clothes anyway? And cooking dinner? Less of an issue. Throw together a salad or a sandwich or some dip for chips and you’re there. A little fruit, maybe. Too hot for pasta, or thick cream sauces, or anything requiring a ladle or a spatula.
But what I like most about the unforsaking, breath-taking, energy-sapping, penetrating, really-most-relentless nature of the stretch of heat that’s got us on its back, whose mane we’re clinging to in salty desperation…what I love, even, about that heat, is how good it’s going feel when it lets up. How the heat will come to a rest not suddenly, but slowly, and the cooler air will glide in over my skin and I’ll feel once again where I end and the atmosphere begins. Who knows when it will happen, but it will. And about that time, I’ll feel like whipping up a batch of something. Brownies, maybe. Or a pound cake. Maybe even a pan of stroganoff or a meatloaf. For now, though, I’ll stick to something I can sip. Through a straw. Lemon-flavored, if you please.
BLUEBERRY STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE
Had to send along another blueberry recipe, as this is the time of year to make the most of the fresh berries. This coffeecake is easy and something everyone at the picnic or card party or gathering will enjoy. Sure, sweet thing.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour mixed with 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
8 oz sour cream, mixed with 1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups blueberries
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in sour cream mixture. Spread half the batter into a greased 9×13 pan, sprinkle evenly with the blueberries. Blend the topping mixture ingredients together and spread half evenly over the blueberries. Spoon the remaining batter evenly and then sprinkle with remaining topping. Bake in 350 oven for 40-50 minutes or until wooden tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a busy summer so far with the kids’ activities and driving here and there and Mr. Sundberg’s speaking engagements taking up a good deal of his time. He comes and goes and in between works on his chainsaw carvings and the stone wall he’s building out back, and, once in a while, he takes a break and sits in a chair and lets out a big sigh and smiles. “How ya doin’?” he says, and drinks his iced tea, and I say, Fine, and you? And he nods and taps the table with his glass and smiles some more like his life is something else.
It’s good to have things to do, and it’s good to sit and do nothing sometimes, too. Though I have a hard time with that, as I always want to be doing something. Gives the hours meaning, you know, to fill them with something as opposed to nothing. Though nothing can be something if you’re in need of fillin’ up.
Like this weekend. I’m taking off for a retreat, a kind of women’s thing where you gather at a farm in the middle of nowhere and sit in a circle and tell stories and write about your life and laugh and cry, and then you go off on your own and write some more and cry some more and fall asleep doing so, and when you wake up the sun is setting and you smell a campfire and hear voices and birds and think you might be in heaven but it’s really as close as you’re gonna get for a while. They might call it a “retreat” but I’m thinking my mother is right. It’s recreation. Not waterskiing and rock climbing and boating and all that, but “re-creation” in its most literal sense. You go away awhile to re-create yourself and it’s a thing worth its while. Some people carve bears out of wood. Others meditate nude in the center of a meadow. Me? I take a road-trip, find some people to share stories with, and fall asleep writing. No socks to wash, no dishes, no children hollering, “He licked me!” Sounds like a good time to me. Sure does.
Blueberry Cherry Pie
If you’re a pie person like I am, you’ll get a real rush out of this one. Blueberries AND cherries in one pastry crust. The kind of pie you just want to climb on into and spend the afternoon in. Good for a luncheon or a grill party.
Pastry for double crust pie
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 T tapioca (or cornstarch)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups pitted red sour cherries, drained, add 1/2 cup of cherry juice back in
1 T lemon juice
Combine all filling ingredients into a bowl and let stand for 15 min. Pour into pastry-lined 9-inch pie plate. Dot with butter. Cover with remaining pastry. Make small slits in top crust to let steam escape. Bake 400º F for 45-50 min.