Just Be

Archived | July 25, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Summer has turned a corner for us, it seems. There are a few butternut trees around whose leaves have begun to yellow. This is a sign. And so it the fact that I’ve purchased a pile of notebooks, a few packs of highlighters, a box of pencils, some loose leaf paper. The kids don’t want to hear the word “school”, and I don’t say it, but it’s on the horizon and I’m thinking of who needs what shoes and on what day we drive up to the college. It’s not a sad time, but there’s a shift in things, and a renewed eagerness for things summery: a visit to the lake, a day at a festival, more farmer’s markets, some extra wood for the fire pit, and could there please be something grilled this week? Something with barbecue sauce, and some corn wrapped in foil, and s’mores after?
As I cleaned up some of the weeds in the yard today, I gave my thoughts to how we measure time, and how there’s always a turning, and to how there are people who are handed diagnoses which tell them they don’t have the kind of time left that most people do. All my life, since reading the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross books on my parents’ bookshelf, I have been drawn to the wisdom of the people who have been told “what they have” will end their lives before their lives might otherwise have ended. And I have been moved by their strength, and their candor. “I wish I’d taken more time,” they have said. “I wish I had played more,” or “I wish I’d kept it touch with my friends.”
And there are some who have no warning at all, no time to look back, whose lives flicker and fade in a sudden moment on a road somewhere, an unexpected swerving; those whose chests tighten and seize as they run the last mile toward home; those who don’t smell the smoke in time; those caught by the sudden fall of a tree, a hay bale, their own body.
Everything ends, and you carry this knowledge with you inside, until you’re reminded by something like the summer’s fading flowers, the turning leaves, how tumbleweeds bounce down dirt roads in the wind. The blessing, perhaps, is that we don’t know when. The blessing, too, is that we might rise up tomorrow, choose to take a bit more time, play more, and make a phone call to a friend. Just be, out there in the windy heat of summer, because it’s there. And so are we.
Need a quick something to bring along to the cookout? This recipe will take only a few minutes to make, and you’ll have people asking, “What is this?” “It’s a ball of cheese,” you can tell them. Plain and simple.
Cheese Ball
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz Velveeta, diced
1 package sliced beef, diced
Minced onion to taste
2 T Miracle Whip
1 tsp garlic powder
Mix all ingredients together; form into a ball.
Serve with crackers and a garnish.

This Too, People, Shall Pass

Archived | July 18, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a hot week, so the AC has been on, and time outside has been limited. Mostly because you walk out there and lose, right off the bat, where you end and the air begins. The heat is suffocating for some, and I have some real compassion for people who work in the heat. It’s almost as if you melt into the atmosphere, and that can be a good feeling, but I generally prefer feeling intact. I prefer not feeling crabby, too, and I did notice on my venture to the grocery store yesterday for popsicles and ice cream and butter that the crab factor is up there. Tolerance is not as high when someone gets in your way, and this is too bad but understandable. Heat indices as high as they are can do that to a person.
The thing to keep in mind when it’s so hot for so long is that this, too, shall pass. Everything ends, so do what you can inside. I made a pan of lemon bars yesterday, and cleaned up a bunch of strawberries, and made some wraps for lunch, and thought about the tattoos on the wrists of the checkout girl. They were flowers, kind of winding up her arm, and they were interesting, and rather pretty. Now, I’m not a person who passes judgment on what people choose to do with and to their bodies. I have an affinity for moderation. Tattoos are interesting and fun and I get it, but I get a bit willied out when I see a person covered, head to toe, in dragons and skulls. Piercings are the same way. Nice to see a short line of sparkly stones on one’s ear, or a sporadic little stud on an eyebrow, but a mazillion rings scattered over a human head is a bit unsettling.
And then there’s the whole realm of altering one’s body. Not a bad thing. A nip here, tuck there. Some injections for color along the eyes. A desire for a smooth neck. I get all that. But there are people who can’t stop, who get on the plastic surgery train and they’re off. At some point they stop looking like who they are, and sometimes things go badly and become a bit scary, and that makes me kind of sad. The human body is supposed to age. We are supposed to have wrinkles and turn gray. The trick is to move in that direction with a kind of an acceptance and grace. Not pay a crapload of money to put a stop to it. Because you can’t stop it. Same way you can’t stop the next wave of heat.
Ok, maybe I’m a little on the cranky side, and I ought to shut my piehole. It may be true that one day, despite my current feelings, I will go in to a kind doctor who wants to help out and point out my sagging eyelids and the wrinkles around my eyes and say, “Help.” I may. I may step up my exercise regimen as the years pass to fight the gentle rise of my belly. I may continue to work hard my whole life at maintaining something of a girlish figure. And it may or may not work. My soul has a body; the former will likely keep going, the latter will not. I guess the thing to do is do the best you can with both. Work on the inside, and have some tolerance for the out. And don’t get all mixed up with the world. It needs you, however you are. And if that includes a blue dolphin on your bicep or a nose ring or a mini-lift, well, that’s just fine. Just remember that who you are doesn’t have as much to do with what you look like as HOW you are. Especially on days this hot where you want to holler at everyone to get a move on. This too, people, shall pass. Saw the butternut leaves have begun to turn, and autumn is on its way.
Pulled the last of the rhubarb not too long ago, and figured I’ll wait for the cool of evening and throw together a pie. Something about rhubarb is just the thing on a hot day, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream makes it even better.
Rhubarb Pie
2 eggs
1½ cup sugar
2 T tapioca
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
Beat eggs, and stir in remaining ingredients.
Line an 8 inch pie tin or plate with pastry. Fill with 3 cups thinly sliced rhubarb. Pour egg mixture over rhubarb, dot with a bit of butter, and cover with top crust, sealing and crimping edges. Brush top crust with milk, slit here and there, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until crust is golden and fruit comes bubbling out of slits. Cool.
You might add 1-2 tsp of strawberry-flavored gelatin powder to the egg mixture, for color and delight.

Mother Nature Will Have Her Way

Archived | July 10, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. After these weeks of heat and rain and humidity, I was feeling like doing something else. Anything. Something. Mr. Sundberg is away for a stretch, and after I sent the two older kids off to camp on Monday, my younger daughter and I were left to pull weeds (needs to be done) in the heat (around 90, but with humidity, if felt like hot soup), and while I was out there, I got to thinking how good it would feel if a cool breeze blew in and just kept on blowin’.
Well, you can wish for a cool breeze ’til the cows come home, but Mother Nature will have her way. My next thought was, Okay, if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. One option was getting a barn fan from the rental place in town, but that would entail a bit of hassle and then standing in front of it, or lying down, and there is nothing of “doing something else” in that. So I went with the next thought that came to mind, and it seemed a stretch but why not. A rollercoaster. It’s close to flying, you’re almost sure to laugh, and a good measure of cool breeze is guaranteed.
And so it was. We got into the car, the two of us, and drove an hour-and-a-half through rush-hour traffic to the Shakopee area — the rollercoaster capital of Minnesota — and we had at it, all Monday evening. Hit every rollercoaster we could, and then some. We screamed and laughed and cooled down on every ride, and walked through the heat to the next and did it all again. For four hours, until we were both smilin’ tired and ready to go home.
Taking a ride on a rollercoaster won’t solve all your problems, but it sure does something for one’s spirit that not much else in the world will do. Except maybe a galloping horseback ride or a good belly laugh on the floor or sex or standing out in a heavy downpour. A rollercoaster ride cools you down and brings you back to yourself. Kind of readjusts one’s perspective, and reminds you of gravity, which is a good thing — and so is defying it now and then.
I have more than a handful of recipes that take me back to that feeling that summer might never end and there wasn’t a care to be had in the world. This is one of ’em. Molasses creams. They’re best made by my mother, but I give it a whirl now and then, and they come out close.
Molasses Creams
¼ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup molasses
2 cups flour
½ tsp soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ cup water
Cream together shortening and sugar; beat in egg, and add molasses and stir. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with water. Mix well.
Drop with teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 about 8 minutes. When cool, frost with powdered sugar frosting or cream cheese frosting. 3 dozen or so.

Letting Go is Tough

Archived | July 5, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been a humdinger of a week with the festivities of the Fourth, the kids’ work schedules, the lawn chores, the heat. I’ve been making lemonade daily, and, instead of using the oven, throwing together salads filled with fruit and sunflower seeds and shredded vegetables and dried cranberries. Light things. Bowls of raspberries and cantaloupe chunks, fresh pineapple and blueberries, watermelon sliced in triangles.
There are bags of potato chips on the counter, however. And some beef jerky and trail mix and pink wafer cookies. The kids are headed to camp on Monday, and I can’t very well send a sack of fruit. So it’s licorice and nuts and jellied fruit snacks. That’s my responsibility. The food. Along with mosquito repellent and sunscreen. The basics. I used to pack all of the kids’ things for camp — clothes and sleeping bags and swimsuits and such — but they’re to a point now where they want me to butt on out. “We can do it ourselves, Mom,” they say, in a reassuring tone with an independent air.
This is how it is supposed to go. I remember when they were young, earlier with each of them, the phrase, “I can do it myself.” It’s a healthy thing for a child to say. And healthy for the parent to back off and let it happen. It isn’t easy for someone like me, though, a kind of type A perfectionist who can relax, certainly, but enjoys getting it all done, and done well. Letting go is tough. Especially when you see a mistake in the making, and you want to intervene. “I think the person you are dating is a real dork.” Or, “I think you’re going to majorly regret quitting that job.” Or, “Maybe being in the play on top of work and school is a completely insane overload.” There are gentle ways to communicate concern, and I do, but kids need to make mistakes. And sometimes what Mr. Sundberg and I see as a mistake really is the right move. Thing is, this is where experience comes from, and, eventually, wisdom. From doing it yourself, and sometimes screwing up.
A parent’s prime directive is to foster independence. It’s a real gift. You want the day to come when they pack up and leave for good. And you hope that they will always, always, come back. Even for a day. So as the kids pack for camp, I’m watching, and thinking, yes, and Onward. And hoping they remember to pack a jacket, or a sweatshirt. You just never know.
Heat like we’re having this summer brings on the salt craving. Instead of opening a bag of chips, try one of these nut bars. The bonus is a dose of protein, and they taste dang good.
Caramel Nut Bars
1½ cups flour
½ cup butter
¾ cup brown sugar
Mix in lightly greased 9×13 pan. Pat evenly, and bake 10 minutes at 350. Let cool.
6 oz butterscotch chips
½ cup white corn syrup
2 T butter
1 T water
Combine chips, syrup, butter and water in a saucepan and melt on low heat. Stir well. Pour a can of mixed nuts, cashews or peanuts over crust, and pour butterscotch mixture over. Bake 10 minutes at 350. Let cool, and cut.