You have each other to love

Archived | November 27, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Felt good to laugh that hard during the monologue, especially while I was still cleaning up from several big meals celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. I don’t much mind cleaning up, and mind it even less when there’s good music playing, or something is making me laugh. Felt good after a few days of the kind of tension the holidays bring.
Not that I don’t enjoy holidays. I do. I love the anticipation, the preparation, the festivities, the people, the food, the ambiance. All of it. But holiday gatherings come with a particular stress impossible to deny, and resistant to precautionary measures. It comes and goes, true. But it’s there and it can wear on a person. Because we want things to be right. We want the food to turn out well, the gifts to be perfect, our family to be happy, the plumbing to work properly, the weather to cooperate. Things a person doesn’t think about in a given day can take on sudden importance. A boat of gravy spilled on a perfect table, someone arriving an hour late, the tag left on the gift, the completely wrong comment at the absolutely wrong time, the toilet backs up. Tension rises, and peace disappears, and we do our best to smooth it on over.
All because we love each other and want each other to feel good and be happy. The holidays have arrived, and soon will all of the relatives, and the beauty of it all is that nothing is going to be perfect, and people are responsible for their own happiness. Amidst the repeat gifts and the clogged toilets and inappropriate comments and the overdone ham, you have each other to love. And everything’s going to be just fine.
Bacon is in my top ten, and this recipe works for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or at midnight — when food often is most satisfying.
Bacon Cornbread
¾ cup yellow corn meal
1 cup milk
1 cup dairy sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
Blend cornmeal, milk and sour cream together. Set aside for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375. Sift together other dry ingredients. Beat egg lightly and add to cornmeal mixture. Blend in dry ingredients and beat until just smooth. Add bacon, pour into greased preheated 9-inch square pan. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

The gift of the story of Three Perfect Strangers

Archived | November 21, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d gotten the house clean and had turned my attention to The Closet downstairs where the Christmas gifts have been slowly accumulating. Was doing an inventory of sorts, and it seems I’m about half done with gift-buying for the kids. I pay attention most of the year, and pick up what I can ahead of time when it’s on sale, and I’m not in a bad place. Gifts are important, but the spirit of giving is even more so, and when my brothers and our spouses and I draw names on Thanksgiving Day, I know just what gift I’ll ask for when the question arises: what do you want for Christmas?
We have a fifty dollar limit for the one name we draw, and I’ve given thought and this is what I’d like: the gift of the story of Three Perfect Strangers. My request will be that whomever draws my name will, in the course of one day, spend the money on three perfect strangers, in whatever way might brighten their day: paying for lunch at a drive-thru, sending flowers anonymously, handing over a gas card or gift card for a pizza or a twenty-dollar bill. I don’t know. The gifts will make themselves known to the giver, and MY gift will be, when we gather at Christmas, to hear the story of those three perfect strangers and what they received and how, in the spirit of giving.
I imagine this could take some work, but no more work than choosing a material gift for me. It’s rumored I’m tough to buy for, and I suppose it is, as I don’t have an affinity for things, and I wear pretty much the same general outfit all the time, and I am not a jewelry person, and I tend to say “books or chocolate or wooden spoons or Ciara perfume” when the question arises. But what I want this year is that story, and the thought that three lives were lit up, if only for a few moments, in the spirit of the season, of giving gifts without attachment, without expectation, without anything but warmth of heart, and thoughtful attention. It feels a bit selfish, this request. And maybe it is. But it’s number one on my short list of two things. The second thing? That’s for another day. Thanksgiving is at hand, and I have bars and corn casserole to make.
Just thinking the word “cranberry” makes my mouth water. Combine it with “meatballs” and you’ve got my attention. These cranberry meatballs will get the party going, but you may have to make something else on the side, in the event that they disappear, and they will.
Cranberry Meatballs
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 (1 to 2 oz.) pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg
16 oz. catsup
16 oz. water
1 cup brown sugar
1 (16 oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
1 (16 oz.) can sauerkraut, rinsed/drained
Combine all meatball ingredients and form into cocktail-sized balls. Place in a large shallow roasting pan. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer 10 minutes. Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Keep warm in a covered ovenproof serving dish until serving. You may prepare these ahead of time and serve in a warm crock pot.


Archived | November 14, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Was, in fact, indulging myself in what a word I just learned best describes: gemutlichkeit (n) (guh-myoot-lish-KYT): warm friendliness; comfortableness; coziness. The word came from Anu Garg’s “A Word a Day” email I receive, and I could not get it out of my head. I even played the pronunciation over and over again, and practiced. I want to know this word.
Important, these months ahead, to seek and find comfort. Important always, I guess, with the storms we face, and the aftermaths. So much comes at a human life, one can’t help but think gemutlichkeit a kind of reward, if not a necessity. So often the promise of getting home can get a person through a day.
What’s so ironic this time of year, the holidays coming along and all, is that what was once, for me a great source of gemutlichkeit has become nearly the opposite. When I was a child, the shopping after Thanksgiving, maybe a week or so after – sometimes that weekend — in stores all decked out for the holidays, was something I looked forward to and enjoyed with my mom and my brothers. Now? Now they call it “Black Friday.” The music has already begun, and from what I hear, the sales will begin sometime on Thanksgiving Day. How insane is that.
Come on, people. Thanksgiving is a day out of real time to be with your family, to share your gratitude, to immerse yourself in gemutlichkeit. It’s a day to pause. NOT to rush to You-Know-What-Store(s) to get the giant TV on sale, to get the video game, the latest phone, whatever. You don’t even NEED a TV. And I’m guessing not many people you know do, either.
Consider not shopping until the turkey has grown cold. Until it’s gone, even. Consider making sure you have enough groceries before Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, then not leaving the house til Saturday, Sunday even. Consider simply being. Not buying. Your loved ones don’t want stuff. They want you. To be near you and with you. Comfortable, and cozy. That’s my plan, and you’re invited.
Because they hate the smell, I often open a can of sauerkraut when the kids aren’t around, and I eat it. With a fork. Right out of the can. Mixed up in a hotdish, however, is one way to get them to at least consider eating it. Especially with cheese sprinkled on top.
Sauerkraut Hotdish
1 lb ground beef, browned
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
28 oz sauerkraut, drained
2 cups wide egg noodles, uncooked
12 oz cream of celery soup
12 oz cream of mushroom soup
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
Mix all ingredients but cheese together.
Pour into casserole. Sprinkle cheese over top.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour, and up to 20 minutes more until lightly browned.
Serves 4-6.

For many of the best things in life, a person has to wait in line

Archived | November 7, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. A fine part of a good weekend at home, not doing much of anything but board games, homework, and the kind of cleaning people do just before winter arrives. Preparatory, I’d call it. Making space in the mudroom and filling space in the pantry. There was conversation, too, mostly about the holidays and the election, and the latter brought on a low-level stress which ended Tuesday, gloriously, as I filled in those little circles to signify my choices for those I wish to lead our country along.
Seems that for many of the best things in life, a person has to wait in line. Groceries, a haircut, growing up, money. I did have to wait in line to vote, and I didn’t mind so much. Somewhere along the line I forced myself to learn and know patience, and waiting isn’t a problem. I’ll wait. Sure. Because, depending where you are, a moderate wait is good quality people-watching time, and voting locations are prime for a whole mix of the odd and the ordinary.
I’m not rude about it, I don’t think. I don’t stare and I smile a genuine smile. I just like seeing who else is around at this time on this planet. The people with whom I’m on the Big Trip. What I noticed Tuesday morning that struck me and still has me thinking is that the men, for the most part, looked calm and maybe even bored, while all but one of the women there were clutching something. Not just holding it, but holding it tight, holding it close, as if something was about to happen and they were ready for it. Purses, umbrellas, folders, colorful bags, car keys.
Perhaps it’s the whole hunter gatherer thing: the men were surveying the landscape, while the women had gathered up what they needed and were ready to go. Perhaps it’s about multi-tasking abilities, and the men had given their thoughts to the task at hand while the women were holding what was necessary for the last thing or the next thing. Maybe I had too much time in line to even get myself to wondering about clutching in the first place.
I’ve never owned a clutch purse. I don’t think I want one. I prefer the idea of it, and of clutching, and what I might choose to hold tight and close on a day when the words, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” run through my head as I fill circles with black ink and walk out the door wearing a red sticker with the words, in white, “I Voted.”
Here’s one for this stretch of gray, dreary, drippy, chilly days. Breakfast, lunch or dinner; goes well with a glass of milk or wine, as you wish.
Baby Bella Brie Quiche
¾ cup chopped portabella mushrooms
¼ cup shallots, minced
1 T butter
1 deep-dish pie shell
3 oz. brie cheese, rind removed and sliced
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups cream
Sauté the mushrooms and shallots in the butter. Set aside. Place the cheese in the bottom of the pie shell. Mix the eggs, cream, and mushroom mixture together and pour into the shell. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes (or until the top is lightly browned and the pie is firm in the middle).
Serves 4-6.