The things we can’t not do

Archived | October 31, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d spent the day cleaning up every last red maple leaf in the yard, and there were a lot of them. It felt good, though, to work hard, and felt good to make dinner with the radio on and candles lit and the big ol’ moon far away in the sky. I watched three more leaves fall to the grass as I cooked, and it brought a smile to my face.
It’s funny when you think about it. All those leaves everywhere, and we go out with our little rakes and bags and attempt to gather them all. When you consider all the trees and all the fallen leaves it seems silly that we think we have a chance. Kind of like vacuuming. Little tiny dust collecting machines and a whole planet made of dust. And we, a good number of us, give it a go every week.
I saw a movie last week from which I took a line that has been running through my head. “You have to do whatever you can’t not do.” We’re like that, spending our days doing things we, really, CAN not do, and the things we CAN’T not do grow larger until we can’t move around them. What are they, then? Not raking. Paying taxes, perhaps. Or having children. Or applying for that one job. I think the things we can’t not do involve some kind of risk. Which gives them a kind of vitality and weight. Making a commitment to a person you love, telling the truth about a painful thing, letting yourself be happy. Can’t not do it. Big stuff, while the leaves fall.
Here’s a fine fall recipe, one both young and old will enjoy. These cookies keep awhile, much longer than they’ll be around.
Pumpkin Cookies
½ cup butter or margarine
1 ½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup diced roasted almonds
1 cup chocolate pieces
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, pumpkin and vanilla. Mix and sift flour, baking pwd and baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add to creamed mixture. Add almonds and chocolate chips or raisins. Mix.
Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 15 minutes or until light brown. (I like to under bake them just a bit.) Let cool.

Never met a perfect person

Archived | October 24, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Such a relaxing time, and I did a bit of dancing to the “Kentucky Waltz” while I made pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. It was the “duet” show, which got me thinking about how people work together, and then I got to thinking about how people in love work together, and then I missed Mr. Sundberg, who is away this week in Toronto, doing a series called “Your Vision for Your Life: 3 Steps to Making It Real.”
I helped him with that presentation. It was kind of my idea, and we had some fun writing it all down. I try to keep my distance for the most part. I always have thoughts and ideas about what he might say, but I know by now that I ought to keep it to myself unless he asks, and he did this time around, so I told him I think that getting to where you want to be in life ought to be simple: you take a look at where you’ve been; you give a nod to where you are, and you declare where it is you’d like to be one day. I’m not talking about a place, as much as a state of being, and Mr. Sundberg agreed.
It’s not easy having a partner. Especially when he or she is often away. Takes a lot of patience and forgiveness, along with simple acceptance. There’s a reason we have in our heads “Dream Man” or “Dream Woman” (people always say “dream girl” but “woman” works better in my book), because there is no such thing. Never met a perfect person. What makes two imperfect people work together is messy and complicated. You learn each other, and you accommodate, and you give a lot and you take. You count on each other. You don’t give up, and you leave room for brokenness, and you laugh now and then, and one day you realize you have been with your Dream Person all along.
Sometimes I don’t think marriage is about love as much as it is about familiarity, and companionship, and witnessing each others’ lives. You choose to love each other every day, but maybe it’s what you’ve shared and what you hope for that keeps you together. Complicated, yes. And frustrating and lonely sometimes. But fun, too. Like singing “I Got You, Babe” or “Unforgettable.” When neither of you can sing all that well, and you don’t know all the words. You just learn it. Together. And when you falter, well, try more cowbell. Can’t hurt.
I’m not sure what it is about October, but I’ve been craving meat lately. I’m not talking hamburger, either. Big meat, like roast beef and pork chops and corned beef and steak. At the same time, I have a hankering for spices — cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, cloves. So this recipe would be among those in the jackpot.
Apple Brown Sugar Pork Chops
2 pork chops (1″ thick)
1 apple sliced or chopped into small pieces
1 stick of butter
½ cup brown sugar
dash of cinnamon
Slice pork chops into small, thin slices. Cut apple into small pieces.
In a large skillet, add ¾ stick of butter and brown sugar. Cook the pork chop strips on medium heat until pork is cooked through.
Once the pork chops start looking done, add the rest of the butter and the apples until slightly softened but not limp.
Serve with vegetables or baked potatoes or noodles, even.

Just ask a question or two

Archived | October 17, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a windy week, and gray, and I can’t believe how many leaves have fallen and how many have yet to fall. There’s a gold glow coming in the living room window from the birch leaves, and a red-orange glow in the kitchen from the maple, and the wind makes me want to find my red shoes and wear them out onto the deck and who knows where a big gust might carry me?
Not that I want to get out of Dodge, by any means. No, it’s not like I want to leave this place, but I’ve always had this thing about flying, and always entertain thoughts about what would happen IF? I think it drives Mr. Sundberg to the edge sometimes. He’s not an inhabitant of the Realm of Supposition. He prefers reality. I remember one of the kids once asked him if he’d rather move to Saudi Arabia or poop in public for a year and he about blew a gasket. The fact that it came third in a series of similar questions while he was trying to read the paper is probably a good part of why he’d about had it.
He’s pretty patient with me, though. I share with him, often, things like, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up, tomorrow, on a big boat on the sea, no land in sight, just us and a huge bowl of popcorn and two fishing poles?” or “Would you rather have the ability to travel through time once or predict the future?” There are ways for us to know each other better without working too hard. Just ask a question or two.
Thanks to the kids, we all know Mr. Sundberg would rather be a dairy farmer than work on an oil rig, he’d rather climb Mt. Everest than canoe the Amazon, and he won’t ever be a resident of Saudia Arabia. And thanks to my own curiosity, I understand I won’t be deep-sea fishing with Mr. Sundberg in our future together, but chances are good for hiking in the Alps. He’d rather give up milkshakes than be a vegetarian, and he won’t be taking line-dancing lessons. Ever. And that’s okay by me. If he’s willing to talk Alp-hike, I’m happy. And maybe he’ll finally wear those Lederhosen his Aunt Bev gave him just before she, herself, actually did leave this earth on a windy day in October.
I love peanut butter AND chocolate. This recipe is simple, and travels well, and makes a fine gift if you package it right, and will disappear in minutes once the kids get their hands on it. Seriously.
Peanut Butter Pebbles
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Melt together in microwave.
Pour a 12 oz box Crispix cereal in large bowl.
Pour chocolate mixture over and turn gently with a large spatula.
Pour 1 cup pwd sugar over and turn gently some more.
Empty contents of bowl into a large plastic bag (I double-bag 2 13-gallon kitchen garbage bags)
Add 2 more cups pwd sugar to bag, twist ends shut and shake, using the other hand to separate/help coat cereal as you shake.
Empty into a large bowl after shaking for a few minutes.

What I get in return?

Archived | October 10, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Was a bit of a rush trying to listen with the kids in and out of the kitchen looking for pumpkin bars and juice and answers I do not have to advanced chemistry and physics questions. Then there were questions about the upcoming driver’s test, and advice on a friend issue, and frustration with a slow computer. And a few bad jokes just after a mad search for trumpet music. Thank the Lord for the multitasking gene.
We’re at the stage of things where not everything I do is cool, and that’s ok with me. Being cool is not my prime directive. I think sometimes the kids think I’m, well, kind of a nerd, the way I sing and clean up and get all hepped up about something I made for dinner. I know that they kind of linger with their friends after play practice when I pull up in the Minivan with music blasting, and I know that my overweening desire to bring fresh cookies or bars wherever I go to share with whomever I meet is probably a bit embarrassing. And I know that sometimes, when friends are over and I’m cleaning and wearing my shredded up jeans and my old nasty Converse sneakers and my “Dreamer” T-shirt or my hoodie that is barely holding itself together, they may rather I spend some time in the pantry or my closet until their friends leave.
But. It’s not my job to be cool, or to be their friend, even. My job is to parent them through all of their rebellious, negative, frustrating days along with the happy, optimistic, joy-filled days. My job is to make sure they have enough protein, especially on test days; provide warm, clean beds and clothes that are functional and reasonably hip; listen to their agonies and their thrills; answer what questions I can and give direction for those I can’t; give them a solid example of what it means to try to be a good person; hold them close when they’re lost; and the list goes on, and is long. Today we get out the winter coats and hats and mittens, and they’re not going to enjoy trying it all on…
What I get in return? I get called “Mom.” Big deal to me, and whether I’m cool or not is beside the point. Rather “Mom” than “Pope” or “Queen”, or “Rock Star”, and that’s the truth of it. And, now and then, I get to be told I was right. Like this morning. “I do feel better after going to bed early.” I’ll have to remind her again of that, but it is nice to be — if not cool — right. For a fleeting moment.
If I found myself on an island for a year, and had only one thing to eat for lunch each day, this one would be in my top five choices. No doubt at all.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
8 oz elbow macaroni
½ cup butter, divided
1 T chopped garlic
6 T flour
3 cups whole milk, warmed
1½ cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1¼ cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
½-1 cup bread crumbs
Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Sauté garlic in butter for about a minute.
Whisk in flour; cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually add warmed milk, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat while whisking, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil.
Blend in cheeses (reserving ¼ cup shredded Parmesan); salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until cheese is melted.
Toss pasta with sauce and transfer to a 2½-quart greased baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Toss with bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan cheese; sprinkle over pasta.
Bake in a preheated 375° oven 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Serves 6.

Listen awhile, and you’ll hear it, too

Archived | October 2, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent the afternoon doing yard work, mostly raking and trimming and gathering up the detritus that can go nasty under several feet of snow. They say the blustery winds are coming, and that’s fine with me. Let ’em blow. It’ll be a sight to see, I’m sure, all those leaves hurling through the air. I’ve been getting the work done early this week so this weekend I might watch the leaves dancing. Mowed, cleaned the garage, washed sheets.
Spent much of Monday at the orthodontist, too, where my youngest spent close to an hour with her mouth open as the doctor fitted her upper teeth with braces. The lower ones will come in two weeks. She’s been a good sport about it all, really. No headgear, but there will be a retainer, and rubberbands. She won’t be able to eat some of her favorite foods, unless I frappe them first. She’ll wear the braces until the autumn of 2014. And the doctor explained how a surgeon will make an incision in the roof of her mouth and little gold chains will be attached to the two teeth still buried up in there, and yanked on periodically in order to pull them down to their proper places. I thought I heard him say “stitched raw flesh.” My knees felt a bit weak.
Her response? “Do I get to pick the color of my rubberbands?” She chose a blue-green. Color of her eyes. The big drawback for her? “You mean I can’t chew gum?” I explained that some types of gum will work fine. But not that sugary watermelon stuff. She looked out of the window as we drove away. “I’m hungry,” she said. “I’d love a piece of chicken.” And so we stopped at her favorite fast food chicken place, and got one chicken breast: boneless, skinless, lightly breaded – and a strawberry smoothie. When we got home, she carefully placed the chicken on a small plate, and with a knife and fork, gently cut the chicken into small pieces as she’d been instructed. She chewed gingerly, smiled at me. “This isn’t so bad,” she said. “Not bad at all.”
Nice thing about young people. They remind us of what’s good in life. Listen awhile, and you’ll hear it, too.
Deliciously simple, this pie is all about comfort.
Sweet Hubbard Squash Custard Pie
2 ½ pounds Hubbard squash – cut into chunks and seeds removed
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 ½ tsp apple pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 T salted butter, softened
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
Arrange squash on lined baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until the skin is browned and flesh is tender, about 45 minutes; allow to cool. Remove flesh from squash using a spoon.
Reduce oven temp to 375.
Place 2 cups of squash in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the brown sugar, eggs, cream, apple pie spice, salt, and butter; process until smooth.
Pour the squash mixture into the pie crust. Bake until the filling rises, about 1 hour.
Serves 8.