Everyone Has Something

Archived | March 27, 2014 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Was pushing at the first soft lights signifying an impending migraine, and I should know by now that there really is no point. It’s like trying to push away the full moon, or a thunderstorm. It’s going to show up, and stay awhile, and then it will fade away. Yes, I have a prescription, and yes, there are many things that alleviate the pain. Mostly hot showers and mindful rest and water with lemon. I used to have the kids sit on my head, but they’re getting a bit old, so I’ve compensated with books and a pillow.
I do hear there’s a device out there now, a headband, and I’m looking into it. Hopefully it will work. It does sound a bit odd, wearing a metal band on one’s forehead, but who am I to say it’s silly? There’s an answer to every question, and sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes it’s odd, and sometimes you just have to take someone’s word for it.
There’s also a blessing in most crappy things. Or alongside them. After years of being alive, I know this. Not because I lean toward optimism (some days reality is a challenge), but because it’s true. Thing is, you have to find that blessing on your own. With migraines, there are several: I get to rest for a few days; I experience stretches of uber-creativity; and the feeling I have once that ache leaves my head is on par with ecstasy, and almost (but not quite) worth the pain.
Everyone has Something. I know this too. Even if they don’t seem like they do, there’s something. Fear of this, hatred of that, OCD, anxiety, self-esteem issues, anger problems, marriage frustration, rebellious children, financial struggles, back pain, hammertoes, seasonal affective disorder, allergies, food challenges, something. Some people have several Somethings. And yes, for some of those Somethings, it’s not easy finding the blessing part. Sometimes the blessing appears after the fact, or in the words, “Well, it could have been worse.” But if you can find it, you’re that much stronger. And strength, my friends, is a blessing in itself.
This recipe comes to me from a dear friend far away, whose mother made applesauce cookies for him when he was young, and who makes them now for the people he loves. I enjoyed them, too, as a child, when my grandma set them out on a big flowery plate when I visited. They’re pretty darn good cookies. And light on the butter, for those of you who like your cookies by the handful.
Applesauce Drop Cookies
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1¾ cups flour
1 tsp soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
1 cup quick oats
a handful of raisins
Cream together shortening and sugar; stir in egg and applesauce. Add flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, oatmeal, and raisins. Fold in oatmeal until all ingredients are combined–do not over-mix.
Drop by tablespoonsful onto foil-lined cookie sheet and bake in 375 degree oven, 9-12 minutes. Cookies only brown very slightly at edge when done; do not over bake. These are soft cookies, very moist and cake-like. Store in a closed container like a tin, separating layers with wax paper.
(When I asked my friend how many cookies this recipe makes, he replied, “I have no idea what the yield is on these, I’ve never managed to get all the dough in the oven.” So there you have it.)

Live in the Leap

Archived | March 18, 2014 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Tail end of Spring Break and I pretty much lost consciousness on the living room rug (comfortably so) while Karan Casey and Aoife O’Donovan sang “Home.” The break began with a flurry of shopping for supplies and packing, and two 3 a.m. airport visits. That was last weekend. In the time since, I’ve caught up on just about everything, and over the weekend I was in that good place where I could do what I felt like doing for a day or two. Which included baking, and sleeping in (it’s been a long time) and making wonderful meals for myself — reubens and roasted asparagus with pureed peas and pine nuts, and mini pizzas topped with caramelized baby bellas and real Italian sausage.
We’re at the Inbetween Time now, with snow on its way, and warmth to follow, and maybe more snow. Inbetween is a good place to be. You’re neither here or nor there. You’re in the leap between the stepping stones, on the bridge, on an oddly pleasant emotional bus ride. You know where you’re going, but you’re not sure when you’ll get there. Don’t put away the mittens yet, but don’t unpack the shorts. There’s flurry here, and excitement, and everything’s shifting gears.
Met a man named Louis at a writing workshop in Vermont some years ago who was as taken as I am with what it means to “live in the leap.” We had several conversations about it, and I learned later that he had the words tattooed on his chest. I didn’t take it quite that far, but I do think about it, and believe it can mean something different to just about everyone. It could mean that one should not stop, or shut down, when things are up the air. Or it could be a rally to take more risks. Or a challenge to not rush through but to fully experience the unpredictable.
Or it could mean we ought to dance a little more. Kick your heels up, sashay about the kitchen, do a little Irish jig. And when you’re done, we’ll have a Irish coffee topped with homemade whipped cream. Go mbeannaí Dia duit!
Get out the butter and jam. All there is to it.
Cranberry Orange Scones
1¾ cups all purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 T sugar
grated zest of an orange
½ cup dried cranberries
1 stick cold unsalted butter
⅔ cup buttermilk (plus extra for brushing)
coarse sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
Cut the cold butter into small cubes ¼-½ inch. Mix until butter is just coated with flour, leaving large chunks. Stir in the cranberries and the zest. (You may briefly soak dried fruits in hot water or rum, then drain and toss in sugar before adding).
Stir in ⅔ cup buttermilk and mix just until the liquid is absorbed and the batter begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape the dough down with a spatula and form into a ball.
Flatten the dough into a circle ¾-inch thick, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a silicone baking sheet or a buttered sheet of wax paper. Divide the circle into eight wedges and separate the wedges out leaving a ½-inch space between them.
Brush the tops with remaining buttermilk or egg white. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Dust scones with confectioner’s sugar, if desired, and serve warm with butter and jam or honey.

A Break is a Good Thing to Take

Archived | March 7, 2014 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent the day looking at travel size shampoo bottles and deodorant and Kleenex, and searching all over for a flashlight that might send a good amount of light through the brush of the jungles of Costa Rica, and hoping to find just the right rain jacket for a March day in New York.
It’s Spring Break this week, everyone, and if I’m intact come 8 a.m. Saturday, I’ll take a break myself. By intact, I mean able to think more clearly than I am right now. Been a long week of coming up with my own version of travel size because heck if I’m paying two dollars for a smudge of something when a bottle and a baggie will do as well. Been picking up hiking gear and clothes pins to hold sheet music and cash for spending and snacks that will pass plane inspector inspection. Two kids off on school outings: one to Costa Rica for an eleven day biology study of ants for vaccine-creating purposes; another, to the city of New York for a five day whirlwind tour and orchestra performance.
I waved goodbye at the airport this morning and drove toward home thinking good thoughts. One down; one to go. The meet time Saturday is 3:45 a.m., and there’s a lot to do before then. It’s a wonderful thing, to see your children off on adventures. First time I got on a plane, I was much older and somewhat more naïve, but just as excited. A break for them, this time around, is about adventure and risk and being somewhere they’ve never been before.
A break, for me, this time around, means no laundry for a while, quiet in the house, and sleep. My Spring Break is going to be extraordinarily ordinary, and I’m going to savor every moment of it. Spring rolls, washing the mud and salt from the floors, shaking carpets out over the melting snow, cleaning the oven, cooking what I feel like cooking (or not) for a few days. This break means reading one or two of the books on the pile on my nightstand, and falling asleep on the couch, and taking a walk down by the river. And Mr. Sundberg flies in Sunday, in time to catch a movie and make some homemade pizza together before he leaves again on Tuesday.
A break is a good thing to take, now and then. Just time, a few days, to reacquaint yourself with where the world ends and you begin. A place you won’t find on any map.
Still in comfort mode, and this one is a work of chicken art. Pair it with some good bread and a decent bottle of wine, and you’ve got a meal for any crowd. Or just for you, if you’re alone in the house awhile and wanting something just this side of special.
Alfredo Chicken Lasagna
2 cups cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
1 pkg. (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese (the kind with Philadelphia in it if you can), divided
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup milk
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup tightly packed fresh basil, chopped, divided
12 lasagna noodles, cooked
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine chicken, artichokes, 1 cup mozzarella, Parmesan and tomatoes. Beat cream cheese, milk and garlic powder with mixer until well blended; stir in 2 T basil. Mix half the cream cheese mixture with the chicken mixture.
Spread half the remaining cream cheese mixture onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish; cover with 3 noodles and ⅓ of the chicken mixture. Repeat layers of noodles and chicken mixture twice. Top with remaining noodles, cream cheese mixture and mozzarella; cover. Bake 25 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining basil. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting to serve.