One Entire Day, a Snow Day

Archived | February 27, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday, and it was not bad. They were broadcasting from Duluth, near where our daughter now lives, on the same night she attended a “zombie prom” after which, dressed as a zombie, she took a walk with her friends along the waterfront, hoping to bump into Mr. Keillor or someone from the show, just to say they did. No luck, but most often the adventure is in the possibility.
Very much like my feelings about the imminent snowstorm. News reports have been flashing for the past few days about a storm of considerable size and fury making its way from the Pacific toward the Midwest. The snowflakes have been falling on and off all day, and it’s as if everyone in town is holding his and her breath. It’s a wonderful thought, the possibility of an enormous amount of snow piling up in the next 24 hours. The possibility of waking up in the middle of the night to see thick clumps falling in the glow of the streetlights, and again in the morning, waking to the silence of deep snow everywhere, and news reports that school has been cancelled, and the possibility of One Entire Day, a Snow Day. A day free to stay in, and read books and watch movies and bake and nap on the floor in front of the fire.
Tomorrow will come, and with it an ordinary day, with the big storm having been nothing more than a passing snowfall, and school may commence as usual, and the bag of salt by the garage door may, very well, remain unopened. It could be another False Alarm.
Doesn’t matter. For now, there’s this possible thing hovering dark and beautiful on the horizon, and we’ll go with it. We’ll wait for the real heavy stuff to start up. We may even stay up late. Whatever happens, we’ll have a thrill, and a great meal of pasta and meatballs and bread, and a sweet evening of “wouldn’t it be nice if’s” and “I think it’s getting heavier” and we’ll fall asleep remembering our childhoods when the drifts were over our heads and we couldn’t get out so we made tunnels and we survived on pancakes and sausage and warm chocolate chip cookies. With a candle lit in case the power went out, and a pile of quilts ready for the wrapping. Oh, those snowy days.
It’s National Pancake Day today, but really, it could be pancake day every day for those of us who live among dairy farms. If you do your research, pancakes were created out of a need to use milk and eggs before they went bad. Good thing. Life without pancakes? Perish the thought.
Flapjacks Supreme
4 eggs
2 t sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 T melted butter
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
Separate eggs into two medium-sized bowls, whites in one, yolks in the other. Beat whites until stiff; set aside. Beat yolks. Add buttermilk and melted butter. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder; add to buttermilk mixture. Blend well. Fold in whites.

When I say it’s bedtime, that’s what time it is

Archived | February 20, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. For some odd reason we were all craving salt after a dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and not one to ignore what might be nature sending out a flare, I made a large pan of snack mix with pretzels and rye chips and cashews, and followed it with some dark chocolate sea salt caramel drops which I’m still perfecting to give as gifts when occasions arise.
So we snacked and drank a lot of lemonade and snacked some more and then it was hot chocolate and time for bed. Bedtime has always been a bit of a challenge. Used to be that Mr. Sundberg and I tag-teamed it and he bathed the kids and I dried and dressed them in their fuzzy footie pajamas and then we did the tuck-in with sometimes a story and sometimes not. There were short prayers and kisses and wishes on the moon and questions like, “Is God a flower?” and “Why can’t poop be orange?”
Now, Mr. Sundberg is away much of the time, and you’d think managing, at bedtime, two adolescent children and one away at school ought to be a piece of cake. Well, it’s not. Mostly it’s a bit trying and sometimes it’s a real ass-pain.
Nine Recent Reasons My Teenagers Won’t Go To Bed At A Reasonable Hour When Asked:
1. I can’t. I have too much to do and I don’t have any other time to do it.
2. I can’t. I have a headache and I think I might throw up.
3. I can’t. Our teacher said that if you sleep too much it affects your concentration.
4. I can’t. I can’t sleep. My bed sucks. I keep feeling things crawling on me. I think I’m allergic to whatever my sheets are made of.
5. I can’t. If I don’t do this assignment tonight I’ll get an “F” and then I’ll graduate a year late and have to live with you a year longer.
6. I can’t. I’m texting a friend who is having a REAL crisis this time.
7. I can’t. I’m still hungry and my stomach is gonna keep me awake.
8. I can’t. I keep having dreams about going through the ice and that water is cold.
9. I can’t. I’m homesick (via telephone, text, or email).
It seems bedtime is when I’m most vulnerable to being crabby. For a short while. It’s pretty much selfish, as the hour after the kids go to bed is time alone when I don’t have to do anything. After 6-8 hours of answering questions requiring analysis and synthesis, cooking a variety of foods and coordinating its arrival at the table, cleaning up and helping with more homework (advanced chemistry and Romeo and Juliet papers lately), giving occasional long-distance encouragement for the college girl, and somewhere in there filling in Mr. Sundberg of the events of the day, I’ve earned a break, and that’s why when I say it’s bedtime, that’s what time it is. Hungry or not. I’ve said it twice, now, and if I have to say it again, well, you don’t want to go there.
Here’s a recipe for something tangy to serve along with whatever meat you’re serving. It’s hearty and memorable. Much like my great Aunt Wanda, by whom this recipe came to me.
German Sweet/Sour Red Cabbage
3 – 4 slices bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 head thin sliced red cabbage
1 lg. sliced onion (red preferred)
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. vinegar
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper as you wish
Pinches of your favorite spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger
In a large sauce pan, saute bacon until limp but not crisp. Add cabbage, onion and apple slices. Toss to coat with bacon drippings. Cover and simmer until cabbage becomes limp. Add vinegar (red wine, balsamic, or apple cider), sugar and other seasoning. Continue simmering, covered; the longer you simmer, the better the flavor. You may need to add a little more water; check while simmering. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving. Very good leftover and reheated. You may also use honey in place of the brown sugar, 1/2 cup.

Love is infinitely powerful

Archived | February 13, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was lovely, really, and even lovelier was the light fall of snow we had Monday night, just right, where these tiny sparkly flakes fell, three or four flakes deep, over the land. And when the light returned on Valentine’s Day, everything sparkled for a while.
Mr. Sundberg is away this week, in Nashville this time, giving a presentation about quality of life and failure to thrive and how each day ought to include laughter. Well, I agree with that one. It’s Valentine’s Day, year three spending it alone, and I’ve managed to keep my own spirits up. I got up this morning and called my neighbor Simon, 72ish, whose wife is not well and who loves a good piece of chocolate. He agreed to a road trip with me to buy a gift for his wife and we visited two local chocolateries (I know. Not a word. But I like it.) Though the chocolates weren’t cheap, we went ahead and bought truffles and raspberry cordials and mint crèmes and something called a “Columbian Hotsy Totsy.” That was the first place, and on our drive to the next we ate some chocolate with almonds and it was so good. We didn’t buy much at the next apart from the colorful ten chocolates he chose for Violet, his wife. On the drive home, more chocolate consumed, and laughter shared.
I don’t know how I’ll spend the rest of the day. The kids will be home soon, and there’s a plate of heart-shaped cookies waiting for them on the counter. I gave them each a sack of chocolate this morning, with a Valentine card and a rhyming poem I wrote myself for each. “Mine doesn’t rhyme,” one of them said, and when I read it aloud, I got a bit choked up. “I guess it does. Thanks Mom,” she said.
We’re having boneless pork chops with wild rice and sweet and sour sauce for dinner. I thought about shaping the pork into hearts and then rolled my eyes at myself. There will be homework, and chocolate malts, and a call from Mr. Sundberg. I’ll remind him how he gave me gas station roses, a handmade card, and some blaze orange underwear the first Valentine’s Day we shared, and we’ll laugh, long-distance, and whisper, “I love you so much.”
Yes. A perfectly imperfect day. I may watch, late in the night, Romeo and Juliet for the 27th time. I love that story. The lesson being we really should all just get along, and that love is infinitely powerful, and that there are people out there, should we choose to seek them out, who might enliven our lives in a moment. And others, all round, who bring light to the moments in our lives. Hold them close, those people. Hold their hands. Take ’em on a road trip, or make pork for them, or dial their numbers and tell them, “I will always love you.”
Here’s about the easiest amazing treat I could find. A cake mix, some cream cheese, and chocolate chips and you’ll send your loved ones into orbit.
Cream Cheese Cupcakes
Chocolate cake mix, any variety
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
6 oz chocolate chips
Dash of salt
Mix cake batter according to directions. Set aside. Combine cream cheese and sugar. Add egg, chips and salt. Mix.
Place cupcake papers in pan. Fill each about 1/3 full of batter. Drop a spoonful of cream cheese mixture in center. Cover with batter til paper is about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake according to mix directions.
Frost with your favorite frosting. Cream cheese or chocolate is good.

Nice to be surprised now and then

Archived | February 6, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Another weekend without much snow but that’s not the worst thing in the world. I’m contemplating making an appointment for a massage not so much because I need one but because it’s something different to do since I can’t go tobogganing and it would feel good and why not. It’s ok to treat oneself now and then. Especially when there is stress involved. I recall reading once about how stress is simply the condition of being human. Well, I’m human.
And Valentine’s Day is coming so maybe Mr. Sundberg will think, “Hmm. A gift card to the spa for this particular human is just the thing.” But it doesn’t matter much what he decides. He’s never given me anything that isn’t the sweetest thing. Last year it was roses and chocolate. Only the roses were this lovely purplish silver color, and the chocolate was filled with sea salt and caramel and almond slivers. I mean, my gosh. His every gift is so thoughtful.
I have to say, it has been a stressful few days with one of the kids having strep throat and one with an advanced chemistry class. And one far away wishing for cookies shaped like hearts. Throw in a strange odor in the basement while the washer is running, and my lack of familiarity with the periodic chart and a conversation about politics that got out of hand and a new pet dwarf bunny. Who chews on the paneling but IS potty trained already. Throw on top of it all an ad from a local floral shop suggesting if a man buys their wife flowers, he is guaranteed a “Happy Valentine’s Night.”
Well. What a lot of pressure to put on people receiving flowers. I won’t go into detail, but gifts are from the heart, and given without expectation, or keeping track, and I know it seems trivial but you can’t guarantee sex, or romance even. You just give. From your heart. Especially when Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday and includes guitar lessons, three hours of chemistry homework, a community development meeting, leftover pizza for dinner, and a need for formalwear to be pressed and ready to go for the jazz ensemble on Wednesday. The rest happens when it happens, flowers or no. The beauty of it all is, it’s bound to, at some point. How ’bout that for an ad, Mr. Flower Man? How ’bout, “Love Someone? We Have Flowers, A Whole Bunch from Which to Choose. Pink and Red included. Give it a thought. You just never know.”
It’s the possibility of good things that keeps life interesting. Nice to be surprised now and then. Especially when you’re human.
Feel like surprising your honey with a nice meal for Valentine’s Day? Here’s a soup for starters. Or for a main course if you’ve got a cheesecake hidden away in the fridge. With love from me to you.
Baked French Onion Soup
6 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
9 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/3 tsp ground black pepper
6-8 slices French or white bread
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
8 slices Gruyere or provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 325°.
Remove the crusts from slices of bread if you desire. Bake bread pieces 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden and crisped. Set aside.
Sauté sliced onions in olive oil over medium heat until onions become translucent but not brown. Add minced garlic cloves to onions during last few minutes, making sure garlic does not brown.
Stir in beef broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste adding salt and pepper as required. Remember that Parmesan is salty, so don’t go overboard with the salt.
Ladle the soup into ovenproof serving bowls, one for each serving. Cover soup with a slice of bread. Top with Gruyère or provolone and sprinkle with Parmesan. Place serving bowls under broiler set on high, and broil six to seven minutes or until cheese is bubbly and a browned a bit. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling at table.
Makes about eight servings.