Saturday, February 27, 2010

winter warmth

There's nothing like a vintage travel poster to make you dream of a getaway. And there's a way to do just that without renewing your passport, depleting your bank account or boarding the dog. My nephew Christian and I made a lunchtime trip yesterday to a little restaurant here in town for Cuban sandwiches, sweet plantains, tres leches cake. Capped off with Cuban coffees in demitasse cups, a thimble full of the darkest, most sugary brew imaginable. It transported us, for a while, far from the contemporary American South, from winter, from work and worries. To a place captured in joyful, sepia-toned family photographs on the menu, full of warm sunshine and laughter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

winter sunshine

When the weather, or life, isn't cooperating, we simply have to manufacture our own sunshine. Think bright yellow. Think zesty. Think tart yet buttery sweet. Think lemon bars. One bite of these and you won't be thinking about the weather one little bit.

Lemon Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 1/4 cups flour, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt

Combine butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Blend until smooth and pat dough into lightly greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Combine eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add 1/4 cup flour, salt and baking powder. Blend well and pour over the shortbread base. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cool and cut into heavenly squares. Freezes well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

dear diary

When I write, I shall shake off all my cares, said Anne Frank. Her diary (above), written at the time of the Holocaust, is one of the most widely read books in the world and surely one of the most important. It's true that writing is one of the very best ways to process the wonders and woes of life. So is reading.

Friday, February 19, 2010

it's all good

It's Friday. Time to stop and smell the daffodils that are poking out of the ground in Mom's garden. Time to celebrate the first tendrils of light now appearing just as the alarm clock rings on school mornings. Time to say Hallelujah and Amen over a big work project completed and delivered. Time for a looooong Lenten lunch with Kathleen in which life's mysteries were discussed, some even solved. Most of all, high time to raise a lacrosse stick to the new girl on the varsity team!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

notes on writing

Notes scribbled from last week's excellent presentation by author/UNCC Professor Karon Luddy which was sponsored by the Writing Your Faith Group at Christ Episcopal Church. What a treat to gather in a room full of people who love to write and wax philosophical on our favorite subject. Thought-provoking prompts and Mint Milano cookies were included.

1. All writing is a spiritual act, an act of faith.
2. It's not a journal, it's a writer's book.
3. Writing is a practice to keep your heart open.
4. Silence is a writer's friend (or she must befriend it).
5. You can hear so much in the silence.
6. State the 3 most important words in your life.
(hers are writing + love + people)
7. Dreams are a great source to write poems from.
8. Write with your 5 senses plus these other senses:
common sense
sense of humor
sense of something greater than self

Monday, February 15, 2010

happy Mimiries

It was a picture perfect Valentine's Day. Lots of flowers (mostly roses!), pink and purple and red hearts, cards galore, a lovely lunch, cake and ice cream. Picture a great-grandmother, Mimi, wearing a bright red jacket with pink jeweled pin, two doting grandmothers, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. And ninety-nine reasons to celebrate!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

secret senses

I think Kwan intended to show me the world is not a place but a vastness of the soul. And the soul is nothing more than love, limitless, endless, all that moves us toward knowing what is true. I once thought love was supposed to be nothing but bliss. I now know it is also worry and grief, hope and trust. And believing in ghosts - that's believing that love never dies. If people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them any time with our hundred secret senses. Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

love list

Valentine to-do list: cards mailed (plus the cherry red Juju Hearts with a $20 tucked in). The baking ritual of heart-shaped shortbread cookies, some half-dipped in melted chocolate. Get out the rolling pin! Work that dough! There must also be tulips . . . pale pink, hot pink, white. Buy 'em wrapped in cellophane at the grocery store to hurry spring along. And do not leave the domicile without wearing a dash of red or pink. Love.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

laws of friendship

If you need a top-notch securities attorney, you'd be extremely lucky to have Jane in your court. But luckier still are those who've retained shares in her friendship. She got up before dawn on Friday to assemble a delectable shrimp and grits casserole. She put out dinner plates and trays, linens, silverware and candles. She put fresh flowers all around the house. Then she put in a full day of legal work - and mothering - before welcoming a dozen of us over to celebrate the birthday of another rare and gracious friend, Roline. We ate like royalty, howled with laughter, teared up a time or two, and generally had the time of our mid-lives as a winter storm tapered off outside and the cares of the world remained parked at the curb. If you have friends like Jane and Roline, hold onto them for dear life. They're what makes life dear.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Food for thought

This little tome is so fresh and inspiring, you'll eat up every word of it. Michael Pollan proved his writing chops with The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. In Food Rules, he boils down today's glut of food information and misinformation into 64 easy-to-swallow tidbits that, if followed, will make a sizeable difference in your health and improve your quality of life. Simple, common-sensical and not weighed down with scientific jargon, they range from 'Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients' to 'Eat your colors.' Nourishing the spirit is also on the menu: think farm stand veggies, family dinners and even homemade bread with real butter. Pollan reminds us that not only are we what we eat . . . we're how we eat, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

i'll have what they're having

There aren't many lunch counters around these days. I used to take the kids to one for milkshakes after the first day of school. Hard to fathom that something so simple and convivial became a symbol of racial injustice fifty years ago on a Monday like this one, the first of February. I was blessed to hear Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four, speak a few years back. He was passionate and inspiring, with a story so vivid it would make the hair on your arms stand up. Lunch counters like that particular one at F.W. Woolworth are a vanishing breed. Some say heroes are, too. But you can still find them. In college dorms and church basements and around kitchen tables, trying to change the order of things from wrong to right. With a side of humanity.