For As Long As the Winds May Blow

Made some homemade soup on Saturday, and it was not bad. It’s been a bit chilly out lately, but warm enough that the frogs sing through the twilight hours, and unless there’s rain comin’ down, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. Last of the hot soup weather, I’d say, and a good time of year for cleaning out the pantry and the freezer, and that’s exactly what I did Saturday afternoon.

And Sunday we grilled out. Three kinds of brats from a place called “Grundhofer’s” on Hwy 61 down near the Twin Cities. Hugo, I think, is the town. Drove through there a while back and picked up some Whiskey Peppercorn brats and Apple Pie Moonshine brats and – my favorite – Beer, Bacon and Cheese Curd brats. (And yes, if you’re wonderin’, I DID have one of each.) We had potato salad, too, and five bean hotdish (more bacon) and pasta salad and corn on the cob, and a chocolate cake I made as an afterthought, which quickly became a forethought as Mr. S lit the charcoal and my stomach got to rumbling.

A bit of a somber weekend, as always, this one. Thoughts of our grandfathers long gone and the time they spent in service to our country, along with friends of friends and family members and people all along the way who have given up time, peace of mind, limbs, lives…so that we may continue on in this land we love with our good lives, our families, our own peace of mind.

Went to the Memorial Day service Monday, and it was lovely in quiet ways. The wind blew and there were clouds and children hollering and people in lawn chairs gathered round the gazebo in the center of the park. The pastor led us in prayer, and we sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and people stood and were acknowledged as the clouds spilled out of themselves over us in shades of blue and grey. And a man spoke, a soldier, who has been out and back twelve times. He was decorated and composed, even as he named the many friends he’d lost. What he read was a quote from David Eagleman’s Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives:

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

And we stood for him and clapped, and then a longer list was read, men and women who have served and passed away in the last year. There were so many, and their names rang out in the quiet morning, over the people in their blankets and lawn chairs, over the parking lot and the boat landing and the lake. Off in all directions, those whispered names, rising up into the blue, where they entwine with the winds, and circle the planet for as long as the winds may blow.

Here’s one last hurrah for comfort food. Chicken soup, homemade. For a windy evening after a day of rain. This one goes with a light salad, or some fresh rolls, and a little pat o’ butter.

Homemade Chicken Soup

3 T butter
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced into rounds
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 T fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
3 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cups heavy cream
1 cup wild rice

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt butter. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated, 6 minutes or so. Add chicken and cook until golden, 10 minutes, then add thyme and garlic and stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Add flour and whisk until golden.. Pour over chicken broth and milk and season with salt and pepper. Add rice and bring to a simmer until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.


The Sun and the Wind and the Scent of Lilacs

Made some Oreo Pudding Dessert Saturday and it was not bad. Our youngest is home from college for a week or two, mostly to regroup and gather things for her summer stay on campus and recover from the tonsillectomy she underwent last week. The house is full of “soft foods” like applesauce and yogurt and tapioca and beets and kale (for smoothies, seriously. The dessert I made mostly for a Mother’s Day treat, as we have been good lately about not indulging and it sounded so good and it was.

I woke at 2 a.m. this morning to give our daughter her meds. She was in pain – four days after the procedure – and has been taking painkillers every four hours since. It has meant little sleep for the both of us, and a bit of a challenge getting out of bed in the morning. When Mr. S is around (he is in Arizona until Tuesday giving a talk called “How to Be Positive When Things Are Not”), he often acts as my alarm clock. When he is not, I place the alarm across the room so I have to get up and walk and that often helps. But when I’m worn out, well, I need a strategy. Ideally, I would attach my alarm to one of those Roomba vacuums that travels about the house. Then I would have to get up AND search the house. Couldn’t fail.

We’re seeing the light at the tunnel’s end. She’s feeling better today, and talking more, and swallowing forkfuls of lo mein. The headache has gone away, and some of the swelling, and we got to spend four days together which is a rare and lovely thing. I got to make homemade tapioca and macaroni and cheese for a reason, and we watched a movie or two together (I dozed off) and I got to give her a head and neck rub when things were at their worst. What else could I do?

That’s one thing about being a mother. Your children always are just that –your children; you want, always, to alleviate their pain; you want to feed them and do so well; and when they come home your heart races, and when they drive away, it aches.

Another thing is, once you’re a mother, you are so for all your life. It doesn’t end until you do. (And even then, who knows?) They come and go, and they look for you, and for them it is enough, often, to know you are there.

She’ll be feeling better by Thursday, when she plans to head back to school. And our son? Well, he arrived from Ireland today, where he spent a semester studying and loving stray cats and wandering through castles. And our oldest? Well, it’s because of her and her dear husband that I’ve been smiling now and then in the quiet hours. This time next year, I’ll be a grandma. Not sure how ready I am for THAT, but it ain’t about me. It’s about them, about their life, unfolding and beautiful, and I’m all for it. Just like I’m all for traveling to faraway lands, and spending the summer working at school.

Mother’s Day was – with all the questions about airport pickup times and whether this prescription can cause damage long-term and what is the best lotion to use to combat stretch mark – perfect. I don’t remember much of it, I was so tired. I do remember Mr. S calling and thanking me for who I am (and the bottle of Bailey’s and the card and the massage gift card hidden in the closet). I remember the sun and the wind and the scent of lilacs. I remember eating shredded barbecued pork Mr. S made before he left. And the peanut butter M&Ms my youngest managed to procure. My son’s face during a video chat from Dublin, and my oldest daughter’s gift of lovely mini-roses. Red. And her phone call. All those phone calls, all the flurry on a day when sleep felt especially good. And so did waking around 2 am, and – after meds and a bathroom visit and a glass of mango juice – tucking in that healing young woman and turning out the light. There was silence awhile. And then, her sweet, clear voice in the night: “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” Oh, and it was. And is. And evermore shall be.

Here’s one for any crowd, any occasion, any time, any place.
Speaks for itself. Give it a whirl.

Oreo Pudding Dessert

1 package regular Oreo cookies (Not Double Stuff) – about 36 cookies
6 Tablespoon butter, melted
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons cold milk
12 ounce tub Cool Whip, divided
2 of the 3.9 ounce packages Chocolate Instant Pudding
3 1/4 cups cold milk
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

Begin by crushing 36 Oreo cookies. I used my food processor for this, but you could also place them in a large Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. When the Oreos have turned into fine crumbs, you are done.

Transfer the Oreo crumbs to a large bowl. Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and use a fork to incorporate the butter into the cookie crumbs. When the butter is distributed, transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you work on the additional layers.

Mix the cream cheese with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add in 2 Tablespoons of milk, and sugar, and mix well. Stir in 1 and 1/4 cups Cool Whip. Spread this mixture over the crust.

In a bowl, combine chocolate instant pudding with 3 and 1/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for several minutes until the pudding starts to thicken. Use a spatula to spread the mixture over the previous cream cheese layer. Allow the dessert to rest for about 5 minutes so that the pudding can firm up further.

Spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips evenly over the top. Place in the freezer for 1 hour, or the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.