The Big Plunge

Archived | May 28, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d been writing all afternoon, about how things were a while back, and how they are now, and what happened in between.
Writing is one of the best things. It just is. It feels like the wind must feel when it blows, or cheese when it melts, how those Jesus lizards feel when the run across the water. It feels like what I’m supposed to be doing sometimes, as much as making a rhubarb pie feels other times, or attempting to help the kids with their chemistry on occasion. I don’t really keep a journal, and I don’t really know what I’m going to do with all of the pages piled up on my bookshelf, but that doesn’t matter so much. I’m not writing for any real reason except to do it, and because I may discover something important and because I somehow feel lighter afterward. Though I do enjoy reading to Mr. Sundberg when he’s around. He laughs sometimes, and calls me “Woman” and shakes his head in a way that tells me he likes what I wrote. Sometimes it’s something just for him, how I feel about him, and that can be interesting for sure. It’s easier sometimes to put it on paper. All that feeling.
On Saturday afternoon I wrote a number of pages about the summers of my childhood, how idyllic they were with the visits to the swimming hole, walks past the old railroad bridge, the cow poop pond, the five cent candy rack at the corner store, hot church services, the sounds of cicadas and crickets and peepers. I wrote about reading in the maple tree and washing my hair under the gutters during a big rain and taking naps in the warm grass and rope jumping off the cliffs into the river. Which is how writing feels to me, pretty much. Like letting go, flying through the air, and making a splash into cool, clear river water. Yeah. The Big Plunge.
The kids and I bake different things in different seasons, and summer is prime time for Whoopie Pies. Variations galore, and there’s something of being a kid in it all for me.
Wonderful Whoopie Pies
1 box chocolate fudge or devil’s food cake mix
1 sm. box instant chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 cup water
1 cup shortening
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup marshmallows or marshmallow creme
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together with a electric mixer for 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350. When done, place cookies on waxed paper or rack to cool.
Cream shortening and sugar, then add vanilla and marshmallow. Mix well. Place filling between two whoopie cookies and now you have a yummy chocolate pie. Try other mix flavors — cherry chip, lemon, etc.

Get your arms around the universe

Archived | May 21, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d just finished making the beds after washing all the bedding and boy, did it feel good to finish. Like I accomplished something. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes even finishing something small makes me feel productive and worth the time and space I inhabit. The kids see me making my bed every morning and for a long time said, “What’s the point? You just mess it up again.”
True. So why not mix up all your food on your plate? Why bother cutting the grass, it’s just going to GROW again. Why put away, fold, or even wash your clothes? Why bathe? You’re going to sweat tomorrow. Or perspire, depending upon whom you are. Why get up in the morning? You’re going to have to return there. Why open your eyes?
One of my great teachers often said, “There are no stupid questions.” Well, I don’t know about that. I would argue that there are foolish questions, for sure. Just silly. Some things may not make sense up close, but step back a bit. Imagine all the seemingly pointless order and balance and routine and familiar just disappearing. You’d never find the cumin. No one would know when to show up for church. Your teeth would suffer decay. We’d all be shoving each other on the playground, and we’d have a rougher time finding each other every evening as the sun goes down. Sure. So yes, children. Make your bed, for God’s sake. It’s one of the simple ways to get your arms around the universe. Same with brushing your teeth, and hugging your parents now and then. Many of the Big Things will take care of themselves, and the few that don’t you have little control over anyway. Just sayin’.
It’s happened. The Great Rhubarb Hankering. This dessert is worthy of a moment of silence, just before you take the first bite, which, in most instances, will send you reeling.
Buttery Rhubarb Crunch
4 c rhubarb — diced
1 c sugar — heaping
3-4 T flour
½-1 tsp cinnamon
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c butter
1/2 c shortening (or butter)
Combine rhubarb, sugar, cinnamon and 3-4 T flour and place in greased 8×12 baking dish. Combine brown sugar, oats, and 1 1/2 c. flour; cut in butter and shortening, and sprinkle over rhubarb.
Bake at 375 for 35-40 min. Enjoy!

It’s good to have each other

Archived | May 14, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was all geared up for a good time Sunday, Mother’s Day, and a good time it was. Included a visit to Urgent Care, as my grandmother, who is up there in years, was having trouble with her knee, and so much for the grand buffet were to eat for brunch at a lovely Wisconsin supper club.
Instead, the kids and I headed out for sandwiches to go while my mother, bless her, waited in X-ray and simple patience took the reins. We were back in no time and talked a while, and it didn’t matter much where we were but that we were together. Grandma decided on the way back to her assisted living center that she wanted a hotdog with mustard on Mother’s Day, and that’s what we got her, along with some fries and a glass of Bailey’s Irish Crème once we got to her room.
The kids, bless them, didn’t complain once, and we made it home, and Mr. Sundberg took us all out to a local place with good ribs and great burgers and we stuffed ourselves with pork and beans and the kids told me what makes me a good mother and I got where I couldn’t say a word in reply.
It’s good to have each other, I thought to myself, and thought about that sweet girl in that small Minnesota town who — because she’d been bullied by some peers at school — felt lonely and sad enough to take her own life. I wish I might have a moment to hug her parents, and not say much of anything, but I imagine they’re grieving deeply the loss of that dear girl. I’d like to find the kids responsible and give them an earful for starters, but that wouldn’t do much but cause more pain.
I’d like to think that we people on the Earth, way deep down, are grateful for each other, and that our lives have complicated our ways of showing it. Perhaps a reminder, then. It’s good to have each other, different as we are. You bullies out there, figure it out. There are better ways to express all your fear and insecurity. I mean, really. It’s mostly common sense. And a little compassion. Because life isn’t much about being alone; it’s about the gathering, and everyone’s invited.
Being a salt person, and lover of mustards and vinegars and rubs, I find this recipe about as perfect as can be for an afternoon luncheon on the deck with friends. Give it a go, and serve a salad on the side, and watermelon, perhaps. Or red grapes.
Mini Reuben Sandwiches
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
4 T relish
1 loaf mini rye bread, sliced
1 package sauerkraut
1 package pastrami
Baby Swiss cheese, sliced
Mustard for dipping
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare sauerkraut as directed. Remove from bag and squeeze out any liquid. Mix together relish, mayo and ketchup to make Thousand Island dressing, and spread on bread. Assemble sandwiches on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Put pastrami on the dressing-coated rye bread and top with sauerkraut and a slice of baby Swiss. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with extra Thousand Island dressing, and mustard on the side.

May the Wild Rumpus continue

Archived | May 8, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d just finished reading a book to the kids, I’ll Always Find You, one of their favorites from years back. It’s not something I do often, just sit down and read to them like that, but I did once, and I happened to come across their old books while I was looking for a photograph. So I read and they were impatient at first, but it didn’t take long for their eyes to glaze a bit and their jaws relax, and their shoulders to settle. I had their full, even-breathed attention.
That’s the thing about a good book, and a good storyteller. You can relax and breathe and let the story take you up, and you float away to somewhere else. I remember well the books of my childhood, those entire worlds between covers: Treasure Island, running around with the Lost Boys, palaces and labyrinths with beasts, big sailing ships and a tiny old man spinning gold out of straw, and pancakes that run around and a wizard and a rainbow. And the island where the Wild Things are.
He died today. The man who wrote that story, Maurice Sendak. He was 83, and had had a stroke, and was sick. I never had coffee with him, but if I had, I would have thanked him for his stories — especially for the notion that a forest may very well rise up in my bedroom at night, and that I might sail on my own ocean to my own island of Wild Things. I believed him. Right on, Mr. Sendak. Bless your dear heart, and the darkness, too. May the Wild Rumpus continue, for you and for us all.
I’m into sandwiches lately with spring having arrived, and I like that I can whip this one up in no time at all. Good for a picnic or a meal, with some rice or salad or simply on its own.
Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2 tsp. oil
1 lb. ground chicken
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T soy sauce
2 T hoisin sauce*
1 head Boston bibb lettuce leaves, separated, cleaned and dried
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 c. fresh bean sprouts
1/4 c. chopped peanuts, optional
2 green onions, thinly sliced
In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil and sauté chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and hoisin and cook for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and serve warm wrapped in lettuce leaves with carrots, bean sprouts, peanuts and green onions on the side for garnish.
*Hoisin is similar to barbecue sauce. You’ll find it among the Asian foods at your grocery store.
Makes four wraps. Enjoy!