Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Yesterday, our son called to propose that he and his lovely wife make a quick, before school starts trip here. What a wonderful, serendipitous summer gift! We shared a tasty supper, assembled from the bounty of the season--corn on the cob, chicken on the grill, green beans, tomato/onion/green pepper and vinaigrette salad, and a new cookie recipe for dessert. Try these! Here is the recipe (I used my frozen July blueberries):

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(Adapted from

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.blueberry crumb bar

Yield: I cut these into 36 smallish rectangles

These are easiest to cut once chilled, and store even better in the fridge than they do at room temperature–something unusual for cookies!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the wane

Last evening biking around campus, I couldn't help but see signs of fall abounding. The sun is setting sooner and yesterday, it seemed especially close and brilliant. A more than slightly detectable fall chill hangs in the dusk air. Hopeful Blue Banders line Penn State practice fields as the director barks out amplified commands. The dorms fully filled and fully lit spill out their occupants who dribble basketballs on courts, throw footballs on nearby grassy grounds, or simply congregate on sidewalks.

Tuesday, I head back to school. This past week we took a final getaway jaunt to Pittsburgh to ride the Montour Trail, a Rails-to-Trails path that winds through Moon Township, the same parcel of land where my grandparents once lived. We visited my Aunt Betty, who at 92 is still as sharp as ever. She baked us cookies--oatmeal with crasins; they were delicious. We also found The Dor Stop Restaurant, one of the places featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" (one of my husband's favorite television show, second only to watching his Pittsburgh Pirates). I had amazing banana oatmeal pancakes, and we enjoyed delightful conversation with the owner and his daughter who told us stories of meeting Guy Fieri and his Food Network crew.

All in all, a perfect summer capstone.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Small things

"Let's give our thanks for little things
that waking up each morning brings..."

I have been working small lately--napkins, these, socks, dishcloths, drawstring bags, etc. I haven't even decided which gifts go where, but rather simply have rested in the pleasure of creating something from the yarn and fabric stashed around my house.

Too often I fear I live my life making ambitious lists, adding on to things, or embellishing ideas, ultimately making them far more complicated than need be. Uncharacteristically, this summer began with a relatively short list of things to accomplish; that list is now complete. I cleaned a bit, read a bit, reconnected with family and friends (actually more than a bit), biked, cooked, froze, jammed, and took as many naps as I think I needed. This is not to boast that I conquered the summer simplicity scene, because truthfully, the family stuff (the beach week and reunion week) seemed a bit like staging a minor theatrical production, complete with cast, crew, set, and props. That really was no ones fault but my own.

In a little over a week, work routine and school demands return. My yearly mantra when school resumes is typically to admonish myself to live fully in the present, enjoying each moment while refusing to worry about what lies ahead. This year, I hope I listen.

Friday, August 13, 2010


...and raspberry peach jam. August.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back-to-School Sales

Two weeks from tomorrow, I officially go "back to school," as I return for three days of in-service. Three weeks from tomorrow, I welcome students into my classroom. And of course, all the "Back to School" sales have been well underway for who-knows-how-long...

Already, I have gathered for one, sort-of-informal breakfast gathering with two of my co-teachers and attended one formal meeting to consider the "9th Grade Academy" our school district intends to implement one year from now. I really should be planning but...instead, I decided to sew today (in large part because this morning I was waiting on the dishwasher installation which, I am happy to report, is complete!)

Our church collects blankets, soap and relief kits in September for our world mission effort. In the past several years, I have assembled one or two layette kits, knitting baby sweaters to include with the cloth diapers, onesies, sleepers, undershirts, etc. But this year, I decided to pull together a sewing kit and some school kits. And so today, I sewed up three draw string tote bags and then went shopping at Walmart for 15¢ notebooks, $1.00 scissors and crayons, along with the other reasonably priced supplies needed to fill the bag.

I had fabric to use, purchased from a yard sale, so I only needed to cut squares of material to the required size, follow the easy pattern found here, sew up the edges, create a casing, thread the cord for the drawstring, stuff the tote and ta da! Here they are. My hope is that these scissors, pencils, paper, rulers, erasers, and colored paper will help some children some other where than here learn a little bit better and know a little more fully that seeking an education matters.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Yarn Haiku

Patches of color
flow gently from my needles
cascading prayers.

(This prayer shawl is destined to go to Nicaragua in March, along with the medical mission team from our church.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Unplugged yet connected

“One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
-Robert Frost

We were without the use of our landline telephone and plagued by spotty internet connection for a full week last week. I must confess that it was a bit disconcerting how anxious this made me feel. How have I become so tied to wires and wireless connections that when they snap, I feel as if the ground shifts and footholds disappear?

In the middle of being off the grid, we held Camp Alexander, our annual summer week with our grandson (without his Mama and Dad). What a glorious week it was. We spent every day but one (the day we went to Harrisburg to see Aunt Alexis' owls and kingly Uncle Rob) in the water. We splashed and he tubed the magical Spring Creek, we experienced the outdoor pool at Penn State, and we swam (and boated) several times in waters of Whipple Dam. We were outdoors so long and so often that my tan is deeper than after a week on a North Carolina beach!

Before bed each night we read James and the Giant Peach, during the day we molded play dough, built block garage complexes, created a chalk roadway on every hard surface surrounding our house, looked for butterflies, and watched rabbits scamper in the yard. One rainy morning we simply sat observing pools of water forming on the street outside. Alex quietly stated, “Nana, I love watching the rain make puddles on the road.” I can’t remember the last time I puddle watched, but most assuredly, it has been far too long.

The juxtaposition of a child’s innate capacity for unfettered play with my own seemingly peripatetic pattern of relating to the world through a keyboard or a phone has been revealing. My wired life creates a surreal urgency that robs me of the truly significant. I need to do less to live more fully…every, every day.

p.s. In addition, my dishwasher died last week. The jury is still out on whether or not washing dishes by hand creates spiritual discipline.