The Gift of Time

Made some cookie bars Saturday and they were not bad. A new recipe from an old friend, and they were just what I was thinkin’ would be good during a rainy day to myself. And they were. Oh, boy. And so was the leftover bacon and cheddar burger we’d grilled on Thursday, and so was the popcorn I ate while watching Sweetland for the 17th time, and so was the small pile of buckwheat cakes I ate without a fork and with genuine maple syrup. And butter. Oh, my.

It’s my birthday next week, a big ol’ birthday, and I admit I’m feeling more like 27 years along and not nearly old enough to see my lit cake from space. Which could happen, if the sky is clear and Target has enough candles. This year in particular I figure it’s ok to celebrate that I was born. And that my mother survived those 26 hours of sheer agony trying to push into the world the fat baby that was me. And that my father survived what might have been his most anxious hours up until then, pacing the halls of the hospital, waiting for the word back in the day when fathers were off limits in the delivery room and mothers likely were not covered in hot, moist towels after my own challenges to breathe and push and breathe.

A lot of life is like that…you breathe and push and breathe and sometimes you navigate the wheelbarrow up the hill and sometimes it rolls on back down. Sometimes the soufflé falls, and sometimes the sandcastle is there in the morning. Now and then the grill won’t light, and I’ll be darned if I can hang a picture straight. My back kind of goes out (it did last week), but I can stand on my head at any given moment and there’s something to be said ‘bout that.

I’ve got a poem in my head most of the time, and this week it’s one I learned as a child, and it goes like this:

Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.
― R. Lee Sharpe

I don’t know what over the hill is, but I ain’t there yet. Really, it feels as if I am just beginning, the second story of my life, perhaps. The one where I don’t have to push so often or so hard. The one where breathing is a bit easier, and I give away my wristwatches, all three of them, to people who have a need to know what time it is. I certainly don’t. What I know is that I have it, and it’s a gift, and I can open it every day and throw the ribbons all about or wear them in my hair. I can waltz with it, and sing, and take a trip to Italy where, on a second floor, there’s a table by a window with a view of the sea. I can plant a holly bush and watch it grow, and hang at last the hammock I’ve been waiting to try. I don’t plan to retire; life must retire me. Until then, that day, when there is no gift of time, I’ll keep making cakes and lighting candles and making wishes that always seem to come true.

I don’t wish for much, you see. Just my favorite jeans, fresh bread, a cup of coffee in the morning. Windows open when the winds pick up, and a promise to never oil the creak in the swing on the porch. Good books piled about, the children calling now and then, a day to rake the fallen leaves, and hot baths and friends over for dinner with Mr. S at the grill. And in the night when breathing is all there is, and the sheets smell of the meadow as I fall into sleep, I feel grateful I am here, and that I know it’s just for a while. And that I’ve yet to live a day without laughter in the house.

These bars are simple to make, with all the flavor of cutout cookies and I must say they’re not filling at all. Even three of ‘em leaves room for more, and I had to contain my enthusiasm by taking a plate over to the neighbor’s and packing the rest in a Tupperware container I placed on the top pantry shelf. Even had to use the ladder, and that is somethin’.

Sugar Cookie Bars

2½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 T sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

The Frosting:
5 T butter, softened
3 T milk
1 T vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
3-5 drops food coloring

Preheat your oven to 375. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg, sour cream and vanilla and combine.

Slowly add flour mixture while stirring until everything is combined. (The dough will be crumbly.) Press the batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish and spread it out evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until edges just barely start to turn golden.

Cool completely. Mix together all ingredients for frosting until creamy. Add in desired amount of food coloring and spread frosting evenly over bars.
Cut into squares and serve. Makes 18-24.

Enjoy!

About to Turn the Corner Now

Made some roasted veggies Saturday and they were not bad. Roasted cauliflower, and some red peppers, and Sweet Vidalia onion. It was what we had in the fridge, what I picked up from last week’s farmer’s market. And there were potatoes too, which I did not roast but made into yet another iteration of potato salad as I search for the Perfect Potato Salad Recipe. This one may be it. 6 potatoes, 6 hardboiled eggs, some mayo and mustard and apple cider vinegar, onion powder and garlic salt and half a jar of capers. They’re like little pickle balls and they seem to be just the thing.

We’re about to turn the corner now, lately, with the sun setting a bit earlier each day, and the green of the trees fading a bit. The neighbors are rolling up their hay in big ol’ bales, and the mazillion baby frogs that appeared a few weeks back have become fewer in number but big as walnuts now. And today, as I drove by the school, I saw a whole bunch of teachers out getting some sun over their lunch break. It’s prep week already and they are hard at work. And I imagine they are full of thought about how to go about things with all that’s happening in our country. I imagine they’re thinking about things like bias, and tolerance, and peace and hope and connection and truth.

I know I’M thinking about all that. I’m not one to rant, but my goodness. We each have a line that ought not be crossed. It’s kind of like personal space, and it has to do with how we are treated and how we observe others being treated. It has to do with how we carry ourselves. And, it seems, we have a line Together. The one where the crossing has a bearing on humanity itself. Compassion awakens. Empathy rises up. Time to stand up. To speak, to walk, to write, to talk with each other. Time to reach out, to embrace, to lift up.

Whispers won’t do much good right now, it seems. Nor will silence. We need to talk with each other. Conversations all the heck over. In classrooms and churches and parks and restaurants. On the streets and at home in the living room. On the light rail, airplanes, the phone and in waiting rooms. On road trips, in seminars, over lunch and on the beach.

And by Each Other, I mean every person. Every human. And until we can see that, and talk about who we are and from where we come and where we wish to go and how and why, and feel heard, and listen to Others until they feel heard, well, I just can’t see much progress happening.

Each of us is an Other. Let’s consider making “Other” not about segregating but celebrating.

Here’s one to balance out the fried fish. Nice ‘n light and worth the trip to the Farmer’s Market.

Baked Cauliflower Bites

1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup grated cheddar
½ tsp garlic salt (optional)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°. Wrap cauliflower in a clean dish towel, then turn it upside down, and bang it against the surface of your counter until you feel the cauliflower crack (rotate to break it up on all sides). Pull florets off stem and break apart the bigger florets into smaller pieces.

Pour flour in one small bowl; in another, whisk two eggs; and in a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, and cheddar cheese. Coat each piece in flour, followed by the eggs, and finally the bread crumb mixture.

Spray a baking sheet and place all cauliflower bites in it, then drizzle olive oil over them or spray with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with marinara, ranch, or sour cream, and enjoy!