Something to be said for the moment

Archived | July 25, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was the cruise show, and while I listened I imagined myself all sprawled out on the deck of a ship, with nothing to do but breathe in the ocean air and listen to the birds and feel the lull of the ship and the mild vibrations from Mr. Sundberg snoring next to me. Makes me shiver a bit. Not my husband’s snoring, but the thought of floating out on the ocean with no dryer buzzer going off in the background and no one asking, “Aren’t you making bars today?”
No, I’m not making bars today. It’s not my destiny. My destiny has to do with a house on a lake with a big front porch and some rose bushes and pine trees. My destiny includes a boat (I don’t care much whether it’s a canoe or bass boat or pontoon but now that I think about it I think I’d go for the pontoon), a swing on that big ol’ open porch, and whitecaps on those lake waves as often as the North Wind pleases. There’s a big ol’ gas oven in the kitchen, and toilet seats that don’t pinch your butt, and a bed with a soft, even mattress, and windows with shutters to fling open in the morning and lean out like in that aftershave commercial.
There will be photos all ’round of everything between now and then, and the phone won’t ring; it will hum, “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here” and I will hear echoes of my children’s voices in every room. And yes, there will be bars. Of course. How could bars not appear in my destiny? Chocolate cherry bars, mostly-baked chocolate chip bars, lemon bars. Bars every day, or cookies, or a good loaf of cranberry orange bread.
Lord, Almighty. I’m going to have to make a pan of bars. The cruise, a nap with Mr. S on the deck, my dream house on a Minnesota lake, that enormous porch with a view of the sun falling away… It can wait. The kids will be home from the beach soon, and it’s been awhile since I’ve made those peanut butter bars, the ones with the chocolate topping. Something to be said for the moment, this moment, and life within it.
The best things are pretty simple, and one of my favorite meals of my life included cabbage with vinegar poured over it. Here’s a fine recipe, one you can count on, and it won’t take more than a minute or two.
Simply Fine Coleslaw
1 cup mayonnaise
2 T milk
2 T vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 medium head of cabbage
1 lg. carrot, shredded
In large bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper; mix well. Add cabbage, shredded, and carrot. Toss gently until well coated. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or longer to blend flavors. Makes 8 servings.

The land of Heat

Archived | July 18, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. No, not bad at all. I’m going to keep it short this week, a postcard, an advertisement, even, from the land of Heat. Because it’s hot as all getout, and it’s been that way since the last show, and it’s not going to let up for a while now. Most people I’ve encountered are a bit on the crabby side, and those who aren’t have either holed up or irritated the heck out of everyone around with their “I love this warm weather” attitudes. As for me, I can take it or leave it, but in the meantime there are a few things I’m doing to make life not only bearable but something like fun.
1) I’m drinking lemonade like no one’s business. Quarts of it. Light and sugar-free, and I’m peeing like a racehorse. But I’m hydrated and it tastes good and I drink it right out of the plastic container.
2) I’ve abandoned my routine. For now. What’s next is whatever goes. I mowed the lawn early on Monday and lay in a tub of cool water for an hour after. With my bottle of lemonade. Apples and berries and bread and cheese instead of meals, the AC on medium cool, and movies in the sleeping dog hours of the day. I do at least one productive thing each day, and at least one thing that feels purposeful. Apart from that, routine has gone out the window. I even sleep when I feel tired, and have been up late doing the laundry. Routine is like a reliable aunt. She’ll return in good time, and when she does, things will get done.
3) I’ve taken off my clothes. Not permanently, and not in public. But when I’m alone and it’s this hot, well, there’s something to be said for nudity. My kids are away at Grandpa’s Fishing Camp this week, and I’m hoping it’s a Nude Fishing Camp. More power to ’em. As for me, already this week I’ve made lemon bars and vacuumed and dusted and watched two movies thusly. Nude. Not the same as naked, which has something to do with impulse and risk and could get naughty. Nope. Nude is respectful and without apology and carries an element of grace if you don’t get caught up in details. So there you have it. My response to weather so hot you lose where your skin ends and the air begins. Have some lemonade, put in a movie, and take off your clothes. Enjoy. Winter’s not long off, and it’s going to be a cold one.
Made this one on Tuesday and it tastes even better today. Serve it up with fresh strawberries for anyone who drops in. Just make sure you throw on some clothes first.
Buttery Bundt Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup yogurt
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
Buttery Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 T water
2 tsp vanilla
Grease a Bundt or tube pan with butter and dust lightly with flour. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for cake. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds. Beat for 3 minutes at medium speed. Pour into pan and bake at 325 for 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
In a small saucepan, mix together sugar, water, and butter. When butter has melted, remove pan from heat. Stir in vanilla. Using a large fork, make deep perforations in top of cake. Pour 3/4 cup hot sauce over cake while still warm.
Cool cake upright in pan for 5 minutes. Run a butter knife around edges of cake to help free from the pan; turn cake out onto a serving dish. Pour remaining sauce over cake.
Serve with fresh berries and ice cream.

Gifts for the good life

Archived | July 11, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I went through my recipe box as I listened, hoping to find something new, and I did — a small pile — and Mr. Sundberg and I had a long talk over artichoke dip about what our respective purpose(s) might be and whether or we’re making progress. We certainly don’t agree on everything, but that is not a bad thing. Someone else’s opinion helps you to clarify your own, and clarity is often an elusive thing. What we did agree on is that we like each other still, and it’s nice to have a little mystery in life, and that we seem to be on track with why we are here.
It’s not often I have the pleasure of good conversation. Much of my talk time takes place over the phone, kind of matter-of-fact discussions about today and tomorrow and what’s good lately and so on and what’s going on with the kids and what our plans are for fall. Not that I mind that. It’s essential, I think, that kind of connecting. Just a call to say “hi” and touch base and so on. I like the ordinariness of daily conversation, the run-into-each-other-at-the-post-office impromptu-ness and the small questions and such.
Where it’s at for me, though, are those few-and-far-between flights into higher-level thought and/or the Extraordinary, where two or more people ask and answer questions about why we are here and how survival of the fittest can be applied to human life and to what end we procrastinate. The realm of supposition, speculation, introspection, theory. The big What If conversations, and the What Are Your Thoughts on Doubt go-rounds and the What’s Out There discussions No, there aren’t any real answers, and no one really knows anything for sure. But the attempt to understand is an answer in itself to the Big Questions, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a plate of bars on the table, or a perfectly roasted pork roast.
So there you have it. Food and conversation. Gifts for the good life. If you want to discuss it, you know where to find me.
This week I’m sending along a recipe from Mary Timmons Graupman, generous of heart visitor to my Facebook page. I tried this recipe with fresh raspberries and my gosh. Wonderful, and simple as all getout. The blueberry version is next. Have at it, and enjoy!
Fruit Crisp
Place 5 cups of fruit in a lightly greased
8×8 pan. Toss gently with 2 to 4 T of sugar.
Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon, depending on the fruit.
Cut in 1/4 cup butter
Stir in 1/4 cup chopped nuts or coconut
Sprinkle mixture on top of the fruit.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
For blueberry crisp, which can be tart, you may need to add an additional 4 T of sugar and 3 T of flour.

Work is like air

Archived | July 4, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a bit frustrating these few days with the government shut-down and all. Nothing I can’t deal with. My son can wait to get his driving permit, and the fact that the bridge work is on hold just means we’ll have to wait a bit longer to get where we’re going in a timely manner. The county road work is being done, though, and thank goodness for people who know how to fix roads.
Whom I feel for are the people whose work has been shut down. Work is like air. Keeps a person alive and smiling, and if you don’t get enough, you can suffocate. I imagine they’re finding things to keep them busy, but I wish more than anything that they get their work back in a timely manner. I imagine people find things to do in the meantime, but it’s not the same as having your work to go to and do and come home from.
My oldest just started her first job a week ago. She’s a hostess at a small family restaurant, and she chatters all the way there and all the way back about how happy she is to have work to do that keeps her busy and feels productive. She hasn’t mentioned being paid for that work more than once, and for her the paycheck isn’t the glory. It’s the feeling useful and doing something that, to her, is meaningful.
Once she does get paid, and I ask for a cut to cover gas and her “uniform”, I imagine she’ll give more thought to the significance of the money she’s earning. She may step back. She may get a bit ruffled. I’ll explain that there’s a cost to living, and to convenience, and that real life isn’t as easy as it appears. That it’s good to love your work, and it makes sense to get paid, and to pay your own way. And that when that privilege and freedom is taken from you, it takes your breath away.
I’m going to clean my house today. Not because it’s so dirty, but because it’s mine, and because I can. I’m going to bake, too, and take the back road to drop the kids off for a movie, and write some about what it means to shut down, and why it’s important to be positive, and maybe a short piece about the best kinds of wooden spoons. Here’s to good work, and hard work, and the people who do it, and those who wish to.
There are a few blueberries left in my freezer, and since I’m going pickin’ soon, I’m using what I’ve got so I might load ‘er up again. This recipe uses one cup of blueberries. And it’s dang good. Remember to be gentle, always, when mixing in berries.
Blueberry Biscuits
Mix the following in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup white sugar
Mix in 1 cup blueberries.
In a separate bowl, mix the following:
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup of your favorite oil
1 beaten egg
Gently stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Turn out onto a floured breadboard, divide into 12-16 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 400 deg. oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.