Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d just gotten back from what I believe was the final trip to the store for school items. The load included folders, juice, granola bars, laundry detergent, a shoe organizer, socks, and underwear. Lot of underwear. I don’t know why it is the start of school requires new underwear but it does. I always thought of Underwear for Occasions as adult-type, but perhaps school starting is enough of an occasion. Anyway, it’s good to head out into the unknown with a few new things, well-supplied, geared up, and the kids are, officially, prepared. Materially, anyway. Need to practice getting up earlier these next few days.
Emotional preparation is another story.
They feel apprehensive, I think. Nervous. Not sure of what Day One will bring, not certain about who it is they are, themselves, venturing out. Not entirely convinced that It’s All Good. Growing up isn’t in the Top Ten list of Easy Things. Frankly, it’s painful. Takes up a lot of energy and time. And room. But it’s inevitable, necessary and, ultimately, good.
I thought I’d stop growing when I became a grown-up. I’m not sure when I became one, to be honest. And it seems when I did, the growing didn’t stop; it shifted gears. Now I not only get to keep growing, but also to nudge along three young people who often look to me for assurance, advice, comfort. “Am I OK?” my son asked today. He’s been counting days, I think. “Yes, you are,” I told him. “How do you know?” he questioned. “Because I know,” I said.
I do know. Whatever makes you grow is gonna hurt somehow. It might take you away from someone you love, might keep you from paying bills on time, might make you work out more often or eat foods that will lower your cholesterol. It might force you to draft a budget or buy a wheelchair or meet with the person you least wish to see. Might have to forego the new boots, sell the house, or sign a legal document. Might have to grieve an unexpected death, take a class, or enroll in a program. Or recover from 26 hours of labor. Or sign up for an online dating service in your sixties. Or get up on stage. On and on.
No, you don’t need new underwear to meet the next challenge. But it can’t hurt, really. Underwear is good. Growth is good. Always has been. Always will be.
Feelin’ a craving for the spicy as summer dwindles. This dip goes just right with Fritos, or any corn chip, and can be a light lunch of its own or just right at a cookout.
Southern Kick Salsa
1 can black-eyed peas
1 can black beans
1 can shoe-peg corn
Open and drain each.
2 cans diced tomatoes (you can use Rotel or fresh tomato if you wish)
Drain tomatoes and chop finely.
1/2 to 3/4 cup diced celery
1 diced green pepper
1 diced mild onion
1 small can black olives, drained
Add some chopped jalapeno if you want more kick
1/2 to 3/4 bottle Italian dressing
Mix gently all ingredients and allow the flavors to blend overnight.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. After a long week of school shopping and supply buying and loading up on afterschool snacks and answering questions about school and what bus and how many more days … Saturday felt like Saturday. I spent a good part of the morning talking with people — on the phone with a salesperson, and with someone handing out tracts door to door. Some people you meet only once in your life and nothing wrong with kindness and a good ear.
Been a lot of high emotion these August days with the heat and all, and storm systems rolling in, and the rush to get it together before school begins. My comment Saturday afternoon at the grocery store got a laugh from the woman working at the deli: “Guess the Good Mood Club canceled their meeting today.” Easy to forget that every person is a life, with a bazillion relatives who each have their own lives. And every life is full up with every facet of what it means to be a human being on Earth in 2012: issues financial, marital, parental, social, job-related, religious, political, global, personal. So much. On top of all of that, we have beds to make, clothes to coordinate, food to cook, pets to manage, and a real need for a hearty laugh now and then, and a deep conversation, and a good long hug.
Dropped the kids off at school this morning for orientation, and they didn’t want to hug me. Too many other kids around, maybe, for the awkwardness of leaning over the seat or into the car. Which is OK. They hugged me last night, each of them, before bed. “A Real One,” I said, and they each came through. I got three solid embraces, felt their hearts beating and the warmth of their skin, smelled their hair.
Easy to forget, in all the rush, in all of the pain and anxiety and tumult, in the quiet and the clamor of the doorbell and Aisle 4 and in the waiting room at the car repair shop how important it is to touch each other, to pause just for a moment and wrap our arms around a person we love and feel the beat of a heart other than our own. So here’s my charge this time around: Hold someone close to you today, someone you love or could love, or someone who drives you up a wall but you’re going to give it a whirl anyway. If nothing else, it’s a shot of endorphins. Which we all need. And I find, often, when I need something, I give it. Just sayin’.
Something about caramel, chocolate and salt all together in one bite. Can’t explain it right now, but it feels right to me. These bars would be more than welcome at the end of a first day at school. At the end of any day, really.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 T butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped
3 T heavy cream
Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave caramels on high until caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.
Divide the cookie dough in half. Press half of the cookie dough into an 11×7 greased baking pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Pour hot caramel over the cookie dough. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough over the caramel and spread dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.
Bake cookie bars for 30 minutes at 325 or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars. Cut bars into squares and serve.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Winding down the days now, so much of Saturday was about cleaning up the house and light salads and attention to the lawn. Each day seems to have taken on an importance of its own because you can get them all in your head now, the last days of summer, and the countdown to school has begun. When I walked in Sunday with a pile of notebooks and a sack of highlighters and note cards and pencils and erasers, the kids all froze, then got up and left the room. “I don’t want to talk about it,” one of them said. Which is fine, really. Have to ease into thought about some things, and it’s not lecture time. Not yet. So I planned a small road trip, short, 24 hours or so to my parents’ cabin up in Wisconsin. Leave today, home tomorrow. Enough time for a long swim, some grilled teriyaki kabobs with chicken and rice, a campfire, a breakfast at a place called “Garmisch” where the French toast will burn itself into your memory, and a bit of shopping – including a visit to the homemade fudge shop of my childhood. Then another couple hours in the car, back to the rhythm of things. I’m asking them each to bring a swimsuit and towel, a change of clothes, and a book. Same as I am. It’ll happen too quickly like good things do, and what I’m looking forward to most is sitting with my mother on the dock as the sun sets over the lake, and hearing the kids’ conversation around the campfire. I’m looking forward to the drive, too, and time neither here nor there, with talk of how things were, and what we might be one day, and the radio playing along, and how good an ice cream cone sounds.
Here’s to the last days of summer, and fresh fruit, and the smell of something fine baking on a chilly morning.
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 can 21 oz cherry or blueberry pie filling
Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs. Beat til light and fluffy. Add the almond extract, and stir in flour and baking powder. Mix til smooth. Butter a 9×13 cake pan, and turn the mixture into the pan. Spoon pie filling into the cake, in 16 spots, evenly in each direction.
Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes. Filling will sink into cake while baking. Turn bottom side up onto serving plate. Dust with pwd sugar, and/or spoon slightly sweetened whipped cream over each serving.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s August now, what I want to be the slow burn into September but what is, really, a mad dash of a month to get it all together. School supplies, picnics and cookouts, another visit to the cabin, drivers’ tests, doctors and dentists, haircuts, forms to fill out, school clothes, time at the beach, forms to fill out, school orientation night, and more – all on top of the usual meals and cleaning and can-we-go-somewhere-and-do-something?
I spent Monday with Angela, who came over to do laundry and work while the kids were at work and out with friends. We both had a project to tackle and sometimes it’s easier and more productive to work on a project with your best friend, even if it amounts to the two of you sitting at opposite sides of the table with your laptops and bottles of water. I was working on my cookbook, which is coming along and needs a bit more attention before it’s ready for the next place. Angela is looking for a new job, and was faced with a list of possibilities to weed through, a resume to revise, and all that comes with such a quest.
There was a moment when we were sitting there at the big old oak table, complete silence in the house except for cars passing on the street outside and the fridge humming and our fingers tapping keys, sunlight filtering through trees onto the living room carpet and a breeze coming in through the window, when everything felt right in the world. I felt it. And I looked at Angela, and she smiled at me.
Now, I don’t mean to be a cornball about it, but a moment like that is gold, especially if you’ve got a life full up with mad dashes and deadlines and want ads. A few minutes passed, and the kids appeared wanting food and Angela got up to gather her clothes from the deck railing where she was drying them, and I switched into cooking mode. Fajitas and cornbread, with some Spanish rice on the side, in no time at all.
“Didn’t we just have Mexican food two days ago?” the kids asked as they sat down at the table.
“My panties blew all over the lawn,” Angela said as she joined them. “I even said a little prayer as I lay them out, they went north into your lawn. Thank goodness. South would be the neighbors and I’d have had to climb over a fence.”
Thank goodness, yes. For fajitas and flying panties and time with your best friend. And for goodness itself, thanks.
Here’s a recipe Angela gave me a while back. I have a thing for peanut butter, and she does not, and we are both okay with that.
2 sticks butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 lb powdered sugar
1 bag (12 oz) chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup peanut butter
Melt together first two ingredients in microwave. Mix into sugar. Pat into 9×13 cake pan. Melt chocolate and half a cup peanut butter together. Place over bottom layer. Refrigerate and cut into squares.