Romance Days

Made some flan on Saturday and it was not bad. I have a thing for custardy desserts and this was a new recipe from an old friend and I thought I’d give it a whirl. So I did, and I made some fried chicken, too, and potato salad and coleslaw, and opened up a can of my favorite Bush’s baked beans. It was a gloriously simple meal and just right after a day out working in the woods.

Yup. It’s that time again. Mr. S has been out cutting up dead ol’ trees and hauling the wood up to the house where I help him with splitting and stacking it all. Sometimes, when I’m feeling up to it, I help out with the hauling part, but I prefer the satisfaction I get running the smaller pieces through the splitter. It’s good, hard work, woodgathering. One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday if I must be honest.

Unless it rains. Then my favorite thing on Saturdays is to clean the house and bake something good. Satisfaction again. Something productive and forward-moving is what I like. And I like the whole idea of getting ready for winter, and I love the feel of a clean house, and the smell of something baking in the oven. Occasionally, though, Mr. S and I have what he calls “Romance Day” on Saturday. Instead of working together, we find a way to play. Sometimes we hop in the car and drive to a town and find a restaurant we’ve never been to before. Sometimes we pack a picnic lunch and head for a state park for some hiking and forest bathing. And sometimes we order a pizza or some pad Thai and stay in and watch movies all day and just enjoy laughing and eating together. And sometimes we spend the day reading and cook dinner out on the grill together.

They’re important, you know. Romance Days. They bring two people back to each other so they might remind each other who they are. They aren’t restricted to Saturdays for us (though that’s the most common day). Like Mr. S will say, on a Tuesday, “How’d you like to romance it today and go to the county fair with me?” Or he’ll leave a note on a Friday, “I’m romancin’ you with homemade pizza tonight.” Or occasionally on a Sunday afternoon, “Let’s go find a mountain to climb.” And I’ll reply, “Right on.” Sometimes I say, “You bet your bippy” and sometimes I just smile, and nod, and get myself ready to go. And of course I make my own suggestions. My Romance Day suggestions recently have included a symphony orchestra evening, a road trip to the Duluth Grill, a day at an amusement park and a trip to the zoo. Yes, indeed.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had a Romance Day, I highly recommend it. It’s good to laugh, and it’s good to switch things up a bit, and mostly, it’s good to love. Sure is.

Here’s the flan recipe, and it will go with pretty much any meal, or, in my case, may be a meal in itself.

Baked Flan

2/3 cup sugar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
5 eggs
2-3 tsp vanilla

In a small nonstick saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat. Swirl pan occasionally to distribute sugar until it is dissolved and begins to brown. Stir only a bit. Lift the pan over the burner a few inches and continue to brown the sugar until it becomes a dark golden brown. Pour caramelized sugar into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish or a large loaf pan, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan evenly.

Blend together sweetened condensed milk, cream, milk, eggs and vanilla. Blend on high for one minute. Pour over the caramelized sugar.

Place the filled casserole dish into a larger pan filled with an inch or so of hot water.
Bake at 350 for 50 to 60 minutes, or until set.

A Life Given to Simple Things

Made some sangria on Saturday and it was not bad. Funny, I just woke up that morning with two cravings: one for lilacs, and one for sangria. I went out and picked some lilacs and arranged them in an old milk bottle and set it on the dining room table. Craving satisfied. And, oh, that smell. The scent of blooming lilacs.

Then I went and dug into my recipe box and pulled out a sangria recipe. Had to run out and pick up a mango and some rum, and the pitcher is now full of sangria in the fridge. After that, I went outside and picked up rocks and threw them back home into the landscaping, and I planted some flower seeds (which means I threw the contents of a few seed packs up into the air on the edge of the lawn where the swampy grass begins) and I made a pan of bars and a meatloaf for dinner.

That’s how it goes. I wake up every morning with something on my mind and it almost always gets done. There’s a Japanese word, “Ikigai”, whose meaning is pretty much “a reason for being”, and a sense of meaning and joy and purpose with some well-being thrown in there. I didn’t know there was a word for this until I ran across it in an article, and I have to say that “ikigai” is something I feel most days a few minutes after my alarm goes off.

It’s important, purpose is. We need to feel our lives are meaningful, and purpose helps. Throw in some joy and well-being in there and you’ve got it made. Ikigai. You probably have it and don’t even know it, and it’s important, too, to take note of what you’ve got. As for me, on this lovely June day, I’ve got a lot. More seeds to plant, some rhubarb to harvest, neighbors for whom to bake, a partner with and for whom to cook, some picnics and grad parties down the road, and this lovely milk bottle full of lilacs on my table. Such abundance, I say, in a life given to simple things. How fortunate I am. And now the birds are singing, and the geese are back with their goslings, and the neighbor’s dog just wandered over looking for scraps. Which I also have. I saved a good bone just for her. Time to wind down the day now, and I think I’ll sweep the porch. Mostly because I can, and sweeping is relaxing, and who knows who might walk by and say “hello” awhile.

Here’s my favorite sangria recipe, perfect for entertaining on hot summer days. Give it a whirl. You never do know ‘til you try.

Sangria

1 liter rose wine
1 cup rum
1 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 lemon (sliced into rounds)
1 lime (sliced into rounds)
1 mango (peeled and cut into chunks)
½ cup sugar, optional

In a large glass pitcher, combine the wine, rum, pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar. Stir.
Add the sliced lemons and limes, and the mango. Chill. Garnish with lemon or lime peel and serve it on up!