One fine afternoon out there in the park

Archived | June 27, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was a bit tired after washing and hanging out sheets all day and won’t say I dozed off during the show but it’s so darn relaxing I came close. If I’d been out in the hammock, I would have been out for sure. Turned in early as a result, and lucky for me, as Sunday was a day of energy and surprises.
I’ve a few friends who have a hooking group and work on these lovely rugs and wall hangings together every week for a few hours. They’ve been on me to try it out, and – not being a person to avoid new ventures – I headed out late Sunday morning for a hooking store down in Minneapolis. I figured I’d load up on a few basic supplies and give it a whirl.
Normally I’m good with directions, but I got turned around and ended up caught in traffic like I’ve not seen in a long while. Rather than fight it for an inordinate amount of time, I parked my car and figured I could find the place on foot. I stopped a group of interesting looking people to ask for directions to the hooking store, and one of them told me she knew of it, but it was some distance away and I might want to drive there. I asked what was going on with all the traffic and people and they explained that the parade had just started and events in the park had been going on all weekend.
More than most things, I love a good parade and figured why not? Ten minutes later I found myself with a front-row seat for one of the great parades I’ve seen in all my years. The Gay Pride Parade. My gosh. There were all kinds of churches represented, and organizations, and the mayor was there, and all kinds of politicians and radio stations. There were a few floats I didn’t quite get, like the one with over twenty men in smallish swimsuits dancing wildly, but they were having a great time and the music was loud and had a catchy beat. My own grocery store was even represented with a giant grocery cart and lots of people handing out pamphlets.
Every now and then people in costume rode past on bikes or golf carts, people dressed in flamingo costumes and lovely dresses, with a lot of makeup and big hair and they were having such fun.
As I wandered through the park after the parade, I felt a bit moved. Such a vast array of people in the world, and here were a good number of them, and they were eating pronto pups and buying jewelry and singing on stage and dancing in the grass and having long conversations with people they love or just met or have known all their lives. It felt comfortable to me, like a family reunion, and I confess I really didn’t want to leave. So I didn’t. Hooking can wait, I thought, and I got myself a deep-fried pickle and sat on a bench next to a lovely person named Chris and had myself one fine afternoon out there in the park, sun-lit and miles from home.
Lemon bars are best on warm days when you crave something sweet and tangy and chocolate isn’t an option. This recipe has been around as long as I recall, and I imagine once you try it, it will become a summer treat for years to come.
Grandma’s Lemon Bars
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix well. Press into a greased 9×13 pan.
Bake for 15 minutes at 325.
Mix together:
4 T flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
Add 4 eggs
4 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Whisk mixture until blended and pour over cooled crust. Bake 25 minutes at 350. When cool, glaze with a mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar.

To life and to Onward and to the rain pouring down

Archived | June 20, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I had to sneak away from clean-up after the big Open House for our daughter. It was a four-hour event, but the build-up went for weeks and though the clean-up didn’t take long, it seemed like a lot in one day. We had, at one point, over 50 people in our two-car garage, where we’d set up tables for food and gifts and eating. The rain did not hold off and it came pouring down several times that afternoon, and what can you do. You seek shelter, and hold on to your cup, and let go of your thoughts of The Perfect Day.
Some people spend years preparing for the Graduation Open House – landscaping and deck building and cultivating and so on, but we’ve never been much for that. Mr. Sundberg mowed and cleaned the garage and swept the drive, and I gave the house a once-over with a dusting cloth and vacuum, but beyond that we didn’t do a lot. So when the rain came pouring down it wasn’t a major let-down, rather a demand for small adjustments like moving tables inside and making sure the crepe paper stayed in the rafters where it wouldn’t be dragged through water on the wet garage floor.
What makes a gathering good and successful isn’t about the weather. It’s the mix of people and the camaraderie, and if there’s good food and drink on the side, that’s a real bonus. We had a lovely taco bar, several coolers full of pop and beer, and a modest box of rather cheap wine. There were plastic lime, pink and orange tablecloths (our daughter’s color selection) and a cake you could use as a weapon, it was so large and dense. And delicious. Vanilla, with raspberry filling.
And we had family there, and friends, and people from church and town and school whom our daughter invited because they’ve meant something to her life, and the mix of people in all of their humanness and brokenness and joy was something to behold. There was room for tension here and there, and not everyone knew everyone else, but when you get a bunch of people together in celebration, something happens. It’s magical, maybe, or holy, or just my imagination, but Good rises up and we raise our plastic cups to life and to Onward and to the rain pouring down.
It might be the tang, or the simple everywhereness of it, but I’ve had rhubarb on my mind and here’s another recipe that very well may send you over the edge.
Rhubarb Crunch
1 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
Red food coloring
In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter; mix until crumbly. Press half of the mixture into an ungreased 9 inch square baking pan. Cover with rhubarb. For topping, combine sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and add water. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and food coloring. Pour over the rhubarb. Top with the remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until bubbly.

Memory is such a blessed thing

Archived | June 13, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was happy to kick back awhile after one of those long weeks you don’t encounter very often. Last week of school, a bunch of concerts, and the graduation of the first born from high school — something you can prepare yourself for til the cows come home and then it happens and you’re there and you trace the circle from day one in your mind and it’s something to behold. It’s your kid up there, in a cap and gown, receiving a diploma signifying passage onward, and something catches in your heart.
Mr. Sundberg and I were there, in the field house, as the weather was threatening so they moved it inside and our ticket number dropped to two. Just us standing, together, for over two hours where time stood still, and I don’t know about Mr. Sundberg but I was reliving days gone by — her first day of school when she got off the bus and asked what the “f” word means, the day she was confirmed, the time she had mono for two weeks, her first kiss, how happy she was that one autumn day last fall when she spent most of the day in the sun out on the porch making collages and said, quietly, “I’m so excited for my life.” And, of course, the day she came into the world. Plump, dark-eyed, alert. I said her name and she looked at me and I told her I’m her mom. Mr. Sundberg took her in his arms and held her and looked at her for a very long time and whispered things I could not hear. That was eighteen years ago, and I remember those moments and how she smelled and her long fingers clear as day.
Much of life is on the uneventful side, but it balances out the chaos, and somewhere in between you have these moments, these extraordinary simple moments, and they are beautiful, and fleeting, like wind storms, or birds flying by, and you can’t make them stay. That’s why we have scrapbooks, and why memory is such a blessed thing.
I’m on a rhubarb kick lately, and made these for the kids on their first day of summer vacation. I found it years ago in an old church cookbook and tweaked it a bit to make it my own. It’s the nutmeg with this one, and the oatmeal, too.
Rhubarb Crumb Bars
Top and bottom “crust”
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (uncooked)
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
1 cup butter (melted)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 T butter (softened)
2 eggs (beaten)
4 cups rhubarb (cut into 1/2″ pieces)
Mix flour, oatmeal, brown sugar and butter until crumbly. Press 1/2 into greased 9 x 13 pan. Add rhubarb. Beat egg. Blend sugar, flour, nutmeg and butter and add beaten egg; beat until smooth. Pour over rhubarb. Top with other half crumb mixture, press mixture down lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

So many ways of looking at a thing

Archived | June 6, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I meant to sit down and write on Monday but it was so hot I couldn’t do much of anything. The only thing that made Tuesday better was the wind. Lovely, strong wind burning through the trees. Oh, and the toffee ice cream I picked up Monday night helped make Tuesday bearable. The temp in my car was 106 at three in the afternoon. I felt I’d been dipped.
I’d run out for some paper towels and a container of Baby Bella mushrooms for burgers, and as I entered the grocery store, I heard the screaming child. I don’t mean crying. I mean screaming. And it didn’t stop, for twenty minutes. Everyone in the store could hear, and everyone had been or would eventually be out in that heat. Tolerance was low. When I at last caught a glimpse of the mother at the checkout, she looked rather of it. Glazed. She was smiling and humming as if her child wasn’t screaming in front of her. Out the door they went, out into the hot heat, and a quiet fell over the store.
People shook their heads. I didn’t, but might have. On one hand, that woman ought to have removed her child from the store in the first minutes of tantrum. On the other hand, she seemed to have found a fine way to manage her stress, and her child got some serious exercise, and it was no skin off my elbow. I’d cry too if I were wearing a wet diaper and stuck in a cart and unable to find the right words for how I feel.
I love that there are always so many ways of looking at a thing. Which is where we get arguments, and I always did love a good argument. If I were to argue now, I’d speak on the side of compassion, for having it, and for exercising it, whatever that means. Because it makes sense to me. Sure does.
Seems when it’s this hot, a slice of sweet bread will fill a person up til the next meal. Try this one out, and if you don’t share the second loaf with a neighbor, throw it in the freezer.
Rhubarb Bread
1 1/2 c diced rhubarb
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2/3 c. oil
1 egg slightly beaten
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
A pinch of cinnamon
Topping — 2/3 c. granulated sugar mixed with 2 T melted butter
Mix brown sugar, oil, and egg together. Sift salt, soda, flour & cinnamon together. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to other mixture. Fold in rhubarb and nuts. Fill 2 lightly greased loaf pans 2/3 full. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 325 for 1 hour.