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Friday, July 19, 2013

Totally selfish post: Campfire Crisp

Admission:  In the past I have posted recipes on this blog just to keep them in a place where I won't be able to lose them, because I lose a lot of things.  (My mind, included.)

At a recent Girl Scout campout, we made this cobbler and I just kept thinking in my head that s'mores and pie irons had better move over-- this is my new favorite campfire dessert!

And to make the recipe available to myself wherever I am, I'm posting it here.  As a bonus, You guys can have it, too.

Campfire Crisp -- this makes about 4-6 crisps

Heavy duty foil in 12x12 or so pieces
Pie filling of choice
Cooking spray

Topping ingredients:
1 cup quick cook oats
1/3 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

Combine topping ingredients in a bowl and cut in butter to form the crumble.  Set aside.

Spray foil with cooking spray, because no one likes to chisel their food.  Spoon desired amount of pie filling in the center of each foil piece.  Top with crumb topping, seal foil, and cook it on the fire until heated through and crumb topping crisps up.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taming the Wild Mind Monkeys

We subscribe to a running magazine.  That does not make up prolific readers or runners, but at times we do our best to pretend we are both.  I usually prefer to read my running magazine while wearing sweat pants and eating pepperoni, thinking that I’ll definitely start tomorrow and leave it at that, but in one such issue I found something quite remarkable.
Running and life.  They are more alike than I thought.
The article referenced a Buddhist philosophy that inside all of our minds live a bunch of monkeys.  The way to succeed in any run is to tame the monkeys of the mind by meditation.  And as I sat there reading the article, suddenly I realized that I was running low on pepperoni and that if was going to make pizza for my family later in the week I had better get some at the store.   And eggs.  We are almost out of eggs.  And then I wondered where my phone was last put because I have a handy app that I use to write my shopping list so I don’t always leave it in the car like I do every single time I write my list on a piece of paper.  And speaking of papers, I had also better find the permission slip for school.  
Oh, and we’re also out of apple juice.
And one more thing.  My mind monkeys had completely torn me away from the article I was reading, which was sure to make me a better runner because a) I was actually reading a running magazine and b) I was going to tame those mind monkeys like the article mentioned.
The whole Buddhist theory of these monkeys makes a lot of sense to a busy person like myself, so much that I often wonder if there’s some inner supply of bananas growing in my skull to support them all.  The monkeys aren’t real, of course, but if you’ve ever seen a monkey or a video of one, you know that they swing from branch to branch, letting go of one before quickly latching onto another.  This non-committal repetition mimics exactly what my brain does as I go through life as a mother and wife.  (Self note: send in camp registrations ASAP.)  My own thought process moves at such a rapid pace that things fly through my mind without giving them enough time to sink in and settle down.  And according to Buddhist theory, these monkeys in my mind cause chaos and stress and eventually unhappiness, which is something I can totally buy into, right after I make that shopping list.  
The article’s answer to the primate problem is, of course, running.  By using the basic principles of meditation, you and feel better, run better, and live better.  Whether or not you are a running or pretend to be a runner while eating pepperoni, the bullet points the author listed make a lot of sense.
Tune in.  Pay attention to exactly what you’re doing at any given moment.  
Think happy.  Live with the glass half full and give yourself a pep talk whenever possible.  
Accept the challenge.  Running challenges are not much different than life if you dig that metaphorical stuff.  Let the challenge push you to be brave, not to try to escape whatever it is that is tickling your mind monkeys.
Love the run.  Or the life.  Think about what good things you are doing at that moment, for yourself, for the people around you, for all that you do and are.  
So the next time I’m running—whether it be actually moving my feet or just running my kids here there and everywhere, I am going to do my best to keep my monkeys at bay.  A happy mama is a good mama, and when mama’s happy, everyone’s happy.
(But we still need bananas.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Make it out to Bill and JoAnn

Once upon a time, my “low tire” light came on in my car.  This would not be enough to make anyone nervous or impatient, but seeing as I have a life-long fear of driving down the road and my entire tire falling off or exploding like an overfilled balloon, I was not too excited.  My husband is well aware of my nightmarish fear and that I am convinced that the moment of the great explosion I would be sent careening off the road down a 400 foot cliff even when driving right here in Wayne County, Ohio.
So he kindly helped with setting up an appointment to have my tires changed, a painfully priced necessity, and after handing over my keys, I settled in with a cup of coffee and few things to keep me occupied while I sat in the waiting room for the next couple of hours.
Soon after I sat down, I realized that the older couple that was also waiting for their vehicle to be serviced were reading the newspaper.  The Daily Record, to be specific.  And they were just getting to the section that held my column.
Ever since I began writing for the local newspapers, I have dreamed of the moment that I would be in a public place and someone would be reading my very words and glance up to realize that I was sitting right there next to them.  I envisioned them looking at me, and then my photo in the paper, and back at me just to double check.  Then we’d laugh and chat and assuming they didn’t have major complaints about things that I have written, become instant friends.  But this scenario has sadly never happened, in all my six-plus years of being a newspaper columnist.
Until the tire service center.
The woman leaned over and asked her husband if he had ever heard of “Smigus Dyngus,” which was the topic of last week’s column.  They worked through the article and by the end were having a debate on how to pronounce the Polish holiday.  Unable to resist it any more, I said, “it’s pronounced SCHMEE-goos DING-goos.”  
“Thank you,” she said.
“Do you know how I know that?” I asked, fishing for her to make a connection between the picture and the person sitting next to her.  But her blank stare told me it wasn’t quite there.  “That’s me.  I wrote the article.”
And then it came—the look at the printed paper, the closer investigation of my face, back to the paper, back to my face, and finally, “oh my word, it is you!  Bill!  The lady who wrote the article is sitting right there!”
He could barely believe it either.  
I told them all I know about the Polish holiday and we talked about this that and everything else, because that’s what you do when you are sitting and waiting for new tires.  They happened to be traveling through town on their way home to West Virginia and had car troubles.
Before they left, she scooted closer to me and handed me the paper.  “Could you please sign this?  My friends back home will never believe that I actually met you!  Here’s a pen.  Right here.  Can you make it out to Bill and JoAnn?”
Never having actually given an autograph, I was barely able to write my name, which is fairly illegible to begin with.  But she said thanks and with their newly repaired vehicle went out the door and headed south to West Virginia to tell her friends that she had met someone famous.
She’ll never know that I’m nothing special, that I’m just an ordinary person with a new set of tires.  But I’ll let her have her glory because finally, after all these years, I finally got mine.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SHMEE-gooss DIN-gooss makes me SM-ile

There are some things in life I that leave me wide-eyed and jaw-dropped, not because of their incredibility, but rather because they are new.  “How could I have possibly lived on this Earth for 35 years and not known that?!?” I have been known to shout, while shaking my fists and knocking my head.
And that was just the reaction I had when I heard about Smigus Dyngus.  Because if there are two things that I love, it’s Polish heritage and water fights.  The thought of combining them both in the honor of Spring nearly makes my head spin.  (There is a casserole involved, too, but we’ll save that for later.)
Easter traditions are dear to my heart, mostly because revolving around the amazing food we eat.  Easter Sunday is a veritable feast of kielbasa, babka (sweet Easter bread), ham, soft cheese, eggs, and enough beet horseradish to wash it all down.  Before eating the eggs, we all choose our favorite one and tap the ends together, to see who will get their Easter wish, similar to a turkey’s wishbone.  This Polish tradition has trickled into many other cultures because it’s fun.  And fun is good.
But there’s another Polish tradition that I hope makes its way to every happy household.  It’s called Smigus Dyngus and it’s a celebration on Easter Monday.  Boys are supposed to douse the girls with buckets of water, where the water signified a good rains for the agricultural season.  Girls could make them stop by offering painted eggs to the boys, signifying a good harvest and healthy offspring.  It is said that attractive girls would be continually drenched throughout the day.  There is also a tradition of boys switching girls with the braches of pussy willow trees, but of course I’m not telling my kids about that part.  Apparently, on Easter Tuesday (or the day after Smigus Dyngus), the girls have their opportunity to seek sweet revenge on the boys by firing up their own super soakers.  Personally, I don’t think I could wait that long.  If someone woke me from a deep slumber with a bucket of water, an egg would be the last thing they would get…
Smigus Dyngus is celebrated in some American cities as Dyngus Day, with Buffalo, New York hosting the largest one.  The streets are lined with polka bands, delicious foods, and there’s just a giant water fight, with both genders equally soaking each other.  What a fabulous way to welcome Spring and nearby Summer which has its fair share of water fights ‘round these parts.  Especially if mom is in charge of the hose.
This year, I plan to indulge a bit in my new-found tradition strictly for educational purposes.   I plan on reviewing the true meaning of Easter with my children, tap our eggs together, and educate them about the importance of celebrating their heritage because if we don’t continue them on, traditions will dry up as fast as the water that I will throw all over them.  
(That part about education?  Kinda kidding.)
And hey!  Here’s a recipe for a drool-worthy Smigus Dyngus casserole, from About.com!
Smigus Dyngus Casserole
Ingredients: 1 can cream of mushroom soup, ¼ cup caramelized onion, 1 ½ tsp yellow mustard, 1 pound sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry, 4 oz. uncooked kluski noodles, 1 pound smoked kielbasa sliced ¼ inch thick, 4 oz. shredded swiss cheese, ¼ cup breadcrumbs
Directions:  Heat oven to 350.  Lightly coat a ceramic casserole dish with cooking spray.  In small bowl, mix together soup, onion, and mustard and set aside.  In casserole dish layer half the sauerkraut.  Layer half the kluski on top, followed by half of the kielbasa.  Spread half of the soup mixture over the kielbasa.  Repeat layering sequence.  Sprinkle cheese and then breadcrumbs over casserole.  Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.  You may want to put a sheet pan under to catch any drips during baking.
Serve with a squirt gun and beach towel.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Shower the people you love with plastic bowls

I will never forget the moment I first held the gun in my hand.  The little scanner gun at the department store, of course.  With my fiancĂ© at my side, we entered the aisles, ready to point, aim, and shoot everything we could possibly need to help us start our life together.  With our wedding shower being planned, we needed to give our family and friends an idea of what they should gift us at the party.
Of all of the items we scanned, there was one such menial gift that meant the world to me.  It was my own set of plastic mixing bowls.  They weren’t fancy by any means, and I think the price tag barely topped five dollars.  They were practical and being a young bride-to-be who had never really lived on her own before, they seemed to encompass all that I wanted to be in my new role as wife and someday mother.  I remember opening that very gift, which was given to me by my grandmother.  I envisioned stirring bread dough and mixing Christmas cookies with my children.  I pictured myself filling it with popcorn on movie night.  I knew exactly which empty cupboard I would store them in, because when you have nothing when you start out, big plastic mixing bowls are pretty important.
And they should be.  
The history of wedding showers dates back quite far.  They were given to allow fathers who could not afford their daughter’s dowry to collect gifts of household necessities so that the girl could marry.  Other times in history the showering of gifts happened because the father did not approve of the marriage and would not offer a dowry.  In the United States, urban people started having bridal showers as early as 1890, and by the 1930’s, even rural Americans were catching on to this ancient tradition.
And now, in 2013, couples have taken to requesting presents for their new life together that include things like a hovercraft, a fishbowl toilet, and beer kegs.
In a recent news piece, The Today Show reported that more and more non-traditional things are making their way on to registry lists.  The above mentioned is just a speckling, because I found that the further I watched the news clip, the angrier I got.  Robots?  Food and drink?  Cash?  I dare say that the tradition of wedding showers has gone down the drain.
In my mind, I have always thought that the showering of gifts was meant to be to supply the new couple with what they needed, not exorbitant gifts and outrageous whims of fancy.  Most showers these days don’t even touch the bare essentials that I was so tickled with, and I find older brides-to-be requesting gourmet cooking devices and stemware nicer than anything I have ever owned and it just makes me kind of wish I was getting married again because those plastic bowls I have treasured for almost 14 years are getting a little worn out from the years of love and beater marks.
So as we head into this season of weddings and the showers that precede them, I can simply hope that the happy couples remember to keep in mind that a happy marriage is not built on lavish kitchenware and Egyptian cotton towels.  And scanning a robot onto your computerized registry isn’t going to do anything for the good of the world, and that their guests are probably at home wishing they had a tenth of the nice things that will show up on that gift table.  And finally, I hope that anyone who invites me to a wedding shower of their own is ready for a brand new set of plastic mixing bowls.  If they’re lucky, I might just throw in a good cookie recipe and some popcorn kernels.

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