Monday, January 30, 2012

This Just In

My friends Tom and Colleen have a green thumb.  Things thrive under their care: a massive garden, horses, and a lovely little pooch named Sherman.  For a long time, it was the kids, who were brilliant and beautiful both, that occupied their time and their lives.  Now the kids are grown with lives of their own.  The girls are married, Becky with two gorgeous little girls, and a new little guy, now in the tongue-sticking-out stage.   Becky is married to a nice Scottish boy, Alex, who built their stunning home with his bare hands.  Beth is married to Ryan and she’s a national talent as a writer.  More about Ryan in a minute.  Tucker is a newly appointed minister at their family church.  He’s a traveler, an innate visitor who can talk to anyone at any time.  Three A.M?  On a  street corner in Brussels?   A perfect or maybe an imperfect stranger?  No problem.
            Beth fell in love with Ryan in her last year of college.  They waited to spend time together until she graduated.   And what’s not to love.  He is a massively kind, thoughtful man, an artist and a classically trained musician who was teaching at a University.   Then the recession hit. Hard here.  Hard other places too.  The University did away with his position.  Then Beth and Ryan spent time in graduate school, refining their skills and refurbishing their outlooks.  Beth got kudos and national attention.  But Ryan really struggled to find work—for three years.  Multiple resumes sent all over the world, miles traveled for interviews, a life on the computer looking for leads. Sticking with such a daunting, discouraging task for that long is the epitome of courage and character.   The family helped with support, encouragement, and prayers.  Tom and Colleen were doing their ever-loving best to make sure their kids were all right. Becky and Tucker were on their knees, sweating it out. All that turned out to be ever-so-helpful. 
            This week, Ryan’s efforts paid off.  He landed a miracle job.  He’ll be in charge of a big governmental and scientific institution. Somewhere North of here.  Starting right away.  They’ll be close to a major university so Beth can find a job or write.  Either way there will be enough money and a new life in a new community.  Everybody has the weak knees of gratitude.  

Friday, January 27, 2012


In our family, we think cookies are royalty and by-and-large sacred.  When my cousin Julie had cancer, we found this recipe on the Weight Watcher site and because they were absent flour and low in sugar, she could have them as a treat.  We made a batch for her oncologist and chemo nurses and those cookies were lauded for being healthy.  When My Buddy’s Sherry main man John had some very serious cardiac issues, we made him batch after batch and he took them to New York where two very renowned cardiac surgeons saved his life.  We think the cookies had something to do with it.  And when a young gospel singer threw a clot at church and spent the week in ICU, we made some for her and her family.  They lived on those cookies and oranges for a week—and cups of tea they got at the cafeteria.

So you can see why these cookies have a noble heritage and are held in such esteem.  We share them frequently with our dearest friends and family.  Here’s to your health and all the happiness cookies can bring. 

Pecan Lace Cookies, via Weight Watchers, plus some additions.

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

1 ¼  old fashioned oats (don’t use the quick variety, they are cut too thinly)
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Blend these with your hands

Melt 1/3 cup butter, let cool for a minute
Add 1 large beaten egg
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract

Beat together and add to dry ingredients.

Add 1 cup of dried fruit and 1 cup of nuts such as

Cranberries and pecans
Or cherries and walnuts
Or apricots and coconut

 Use your medium sized ice scream scoop.  Fill about half of the scoop.  Pat the cookies into a round shape and flatten them. The cookies spread a little bit on the cookie sheet

Bake them for 4 minutes and switch the sheets end to end.  Bale another 4 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before you remove them from the cookies sheet.  Makes 24 nice-sized  (4-6 inch) cookies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Counts

Maybe it’s just me, but families haven’t been getting great press lately.  Maybe it’s the number of mindless marriages and divorces?  Maybe it’s the number of single-parent kids who need to be on free school lunch programs? Maybe it’s the number of grandparents who are stepping up and helping raise their children’s children?
            But I think there are other stories out there.  Families are getting great things right:  Beautiful young children.  Teens who have been distracted by dark actions and activities are coming to their senses.  Moms and dads are heroic—everyday.
 Those are the stories I want to tell.  Beautiful stories.  Funny stories.  Brave, stick-together no-matter-what stories.  Love stories.  Making-the-money-work stories.
So why do these stories count?  Families are as critical to society as the alphabet is to language or numbers are to mathematics.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

When Families Celebrate

There’s a vibe, a northwestern sensibility, that requires deep green stands of pine, hand-planted gardens with carrots and daisies, and cherry orchards.  The vibe is more prevalent in places where is rains, like coastal communities.  It requires the old, and the even older, but is has to be spiffed up and made presentable.  If it’s your grand mother’s china cabinet it has to be waxed by hand.  If it’s clothing, it has to be feminine and fluffy, with lots of lace and tulle, but it must be paired with high top leather boots, so it’s no longer sentimental.  If it’s food, it might be slow roasted and hand-made, and minutes from the field and farm.
            I’m  deep in the vibe; in an elegant dining room of a family-owned restaurant, that’s just north of McMinnville, Oregon. My family is here: my brother and his wife, their two adult children, Grandma, and me.  We are celebrating my niece’s graduation from college and her magna cum lauda achievements.
            The dining room walls are the color of fresh cream.  The leaded glass windows shimmer behind the white lace curtains.  The windows frame the highway outside, and the light of the automobiles dance across the glass like rumors.  The chairs and tables are of old wood and host white linen and real silver.  The wine glasses are luminous and deep and filled with a mighty Syrah, although the kids opt for root beer. 
            So here is what we eat:  braised lamb shanks for the boys and grandma; roasted coastal salmon with a lemon sauce for the girls. They come with fresh veggies, which are as beautiful as they are tasty.  At some point, a lemon sorbet comes round to cleanse our palates.  I slurp up the last of that because I refuse to let anything so exquisite be wasted. 
            We’re on our best behaviors in our best clothes, part of the crèche that will form Mackenzie’s memory of her brilliant graduation.  The jokes are gentle, silly, sweet.  We’re not so far from our days of not-so-much money that we’re still adamant about being grateful—and vocal about that. We complement our chef and tell him how much we loved his work.  His wife, our hostess and our waitress—we tease her a bit, my brother’s contribution—gets a generous, grateful tip.  It’s for everything—the blueberry bushes outside their backdoor, for the perfectly prepared salmon and the succulent lamb shakes, and for the beautiful memory, most of all, for the memory.