The heat is on


Thanksgiving is just 10 days away. How can that possibly be?

With her relatively mild fall, Mother Nature has lulled us into a false sense of security. If the petunias are still blooming in front of my house (and they still were as of late last week), the Holiday of the Big Feast can’t possibly be that close, right?

Not right. 10 days. That’s all we have left to figure out the logistics — the when, where and how — of the Thanksgiving eats.

Those of you who have followed this forum for a while should know by now what’s coming. Yep, it’s my annual campaign to convince all cooks out there to try my favorite Thanksgiving recipe — Slow Cooker Stuffing. In past years, I have convinced a number of you to give it a try, and I’ve heard from many of its devotees. For those of you who are not yet convinced (yes, I know Great Aunt Opal’s recipe is a family tradition, but isn’t it a lot of work?), I must once again extol the virtues of cooking the stuffing in the slow cooker.
First of all, it can be made in advance. I always make it the day before, put it in the crock and refrigerate; then the next morning, it just needs to be pulled out, set to cook on low, and stirred occasionally. (That task usually falls to Hubby Bryan first thing on Thanksgiving morning, while I am still abed.)

Secondly, it’s a lot safer than stuffing the turkey. Food safety experts have been warning about this practice for years, saying the stuffing may not reach the temperature necessary to kill any lurking bacteria.

And if you cook the stuffing/dressing in a casserole in the oven, it tends to dry out. Not the case in the slow cooker.

Lastly, it’s delicious. Enough said.

As long as I am once again sharing the stuffing recipe, I will also include my other all-time favorite time saver for a big gathering. Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes can also be made ahead and reheated up to almost two weeks in your refrigerator.

With such make-ahead mainstays on your menu — and a bit of delegation for the rest of the meal — preparing a delicious feast can be relatively hassle-free.

Crockpot Stuffing

In 1 cup butter, saute 1 cup chopped onion and 2 cups chopped celery. Remove mixture from stove and stir in 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning and 2 teaspoons sage.
In a large bowl, combine 12 cups dried bread pieces with the butter-vegetable mixture.

Beat 2 eggs and combine with 3 to 4 cups chicken broth; pour over bread and stir well to combine.

Place mixture in slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. (I turn it up to high for about 1 hour in order to get the crispy stuff around the edges.)

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

Peel 5 pounds (10 large) potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Mash until smooth (no lumps).

Add 6 ounces cream cheese (or lower fat Neufchatel), 1 cup dairy sour cream (I prefer the light version or Greek yogurt), 2 teaspoons onion salt, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Beat until light and fluffy. Cool. Cover and place in refrigerator.

May be used anytime within 10 days. Place desired amount in a greased casserole, dot with butter and bake in 350 degree oven until heated through, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on size of dish.

Soup’s on

As the temps get cooler and the days grow shorter, there is a menu shift at our house. During the spring and summer months, most evenings the focus is on the grill — grilled chicken, grilled burgers, grilled sausages, grilled pork chops … you get the picture. And once a week, we have a salad supper — usually a big bowl of lettuce greens topped with vegetables and some lean protein.

But as winter gets closer, we begin to crave comfort foods — meatloaf, stews, pot roast with roasted vegetables, hotdishes …. And instead of salads on one night a week, we do soup instead. Most often, that means I take whatever veggies I can find in the refrigerator, add some chicken stock (preferably homemade) and simmer it into something edible and warming. (Occasionally I get lazy and open up a box of roasted red pepper-tomato soup.)

Even though we’ve had some unseasonably warm days lately, the soup phase of the year is already under way at our abode and has been for a few weeks. A big bowl of salad just isn’t cutting it anymore.

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for possible soup contenders for those rare occasions when time allows me to do more than just throw something together from refrigerator remnants. Thus, I was intrigued by a press release from the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council, which runs an annual recipe contest called “Get Wild with Wild Rice.” The grand prize winner, determined by a panel of judges headed up by Minnesota Chef Ken Goff, is — not surprisingly —  a take on what has to be the most popular wild rice dish of all time, wild rice soup,. Roxanne Chen of Albany, Calif., submitted the winning dish, Wild Rice Chicken Chowder. Since it makes use of ground chicken and both frozen and canned ingredients, it shouldn’t take too long to whip up for a soup supper sometime soon.

Wild Rice Chicken Chowder

One 16-ounce package ground chicken

2 tablespoons canola oil

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup each chopped celery and red pepper

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken broth

One 14.75-ounce can cream-style sweet corn

One 9-ounce box frozen niblets corn

1½ cups half and half

2 cups cooked wild rice

One 9-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove moisture

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon each ground pepper and salt

⅓ cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)

In large saucepan, brown chicken in oil. Add onion, celery, red pepper and poultry seasoning; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add flour, stirring until bubbly; gradually add in broth. Stir in cream-style corn, niblets corn and half and half; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in wild rice, spinach, zest, pepper and salt; heat through. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Spoon into bowls, top with cheese. Makes 4 servings.

If you have a favorite soup recipe, please feel free to share it with me and Daily Globe readers. And with the holiday season fast approaching, I’d love to start a forum of holiday specialties, too. Please email; or send to Lagniappe, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.


Revisiting Sundays with Eleanor

While I was out of the office a couple of weeks ago, Ruth Nystrom left a lovely surprise on my desk. She graciously loaned me her autographed copy of “Always on Sunday Revisited,” by Eleanor Ostman. Ostman had a weekly column called Tested Recipes that ran for 30 years in the Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Ruth attended an event at which Ostman was a presenter.

It is an updated version of Ostman’s cookbook, originally published in 2007.

“I decided ‘Always on Sunday’ would be revived with a revisit,” explains Ostman in the forward about her decision to republish the book. “It would be what I always wish I was — slimmed down. After all those years of cookbook readers telling me which recipes were their stand-bys and which stories charmed them most, revisions were made to showcase the best of the best from the 30-year career of cooking and writing.”

I can so relate to Ostman’s dilemma, as I am often asked why my siblings and I don’t do a reprint of the “Mixing & Musing Cookbook,” published by my late mother Dorthy Rickers, based on her long-standing column in the Daily Globe. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a call from someone inquiring about purchasing a copy of Mom’s cookbook, and I must reluctantly tell them it is long out of print. And at this point in time, we simply don’t have the time and money to invest in a revision and reprinting. (Long before she died, DotMom lamented that it was in need of an update, so I wouldn’t dare proceed without doing so.)
So I greatly admire Ostman’s desire to update her own book while still keeping in those time-tested recipes from the past. It still begins with her first column from July 21, 1968, in which she explains the column’s premise:

On a homemaker-to-homemaker basis, today we inaugurate a new column that will feature one tested recipe each week. The writer will try each dish, chosen as most appealing (or as Minnesotans say, most “different”) from among the dozens of recipes that arrive at the Pioneer Press-Dispatch offices each week. Each will be tested, not from the viewpoint of a scientific experiment, but to see if it tastes as good as it reads. We will include comments on preparation and mention any small disasters so you can learn from them. And as a homemaker, I will let you know how my husband and any guests liked the finished results.

As cookies have been on my mind lately, thinking that I need to test out my new mixer by whipping up a batch, I was intrigued by Ostman’s mention that she “baked thousands upon thousands of Everyday Cookies” to entice prospective buyers of her book at events promoting it. Ostman first shared the recipe in her column in 1979 as a memorial shortly after the death of her friend and neighbor Martha Peters.

“A wonderful cook, Martha made the most delectable cookies I’ve ever tasted,” writes Ostman. “She called them Everyday Cookies and took no credit for originating the recipe, which was soon circulating among my relatives and friends.

“I suggested that Martha should enter Everyday Cookies in the State Fair. She was suffering from cancer, but she accepted the challenge, taking some from the freezer to the Fairgrounds. They won third place. If she’d baked a fresh batch, they would have taken a purple ribbon, I bet.”

Everyday Cookies

1 cup butter (or half margarine)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn oil (Mazola)
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup coconut
½ cup chopped pecans
To make cookies: In mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars and oil. Add eggs. Beat well so oil won’t separate. Add vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, soda, salt and cream of tartar. Add to egg mixture. Stir in Rice Krispies, oatmeal, coconut and nuts.
To bake cookies: Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake on lower shelf of 350-degree oven for 5 to 6 minutes. Move pan to shelf at middle of oven. Bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool.
Note: Martha Peters suggested having another sheet of cookies ready to bake so when the first pan is moved to the middle shelf, the second pan can go on the bottom shelf to speed up baking. She admonished to “watch carefully” so the delicate and crisp cookies don’t overbrown.

One person’s opinion on the change of seasons

It’s that time of year again, when the temps get noticeably cooler, the days are shorter, the teeny-weeny gnats bite a little harder … and the squirrels begin to try my patience.

While others expound about the glories of autumn, I find little to commend the season. I’d much rather have a sun-drenched warm and humid summer day instead — please?

Of course, as I’ve noted before, my main objection to fall is that winter follows swiftly on its heels. As I’ve grown older, winter has become a season that I truly detest.

But back to autumn. Yes, it can be a beautiful time of the year. I do enjoy the turning of the leaves with their vibrant glowing colors, but eventually those leaves fall from their branches and end up all piled on our lawn (even though we have not a single tree in our own yard). When the wind blows from the south, all the leaves from across the street in the city park end up blanketing our property.

Right along with the falling leaves come the bugs. Those nasty gnats that we call “no-see-ums” are now out in full force, and my body seems to have a particularly contrary reaction to whatever it is they leave when they bite. The welts that ensue are worse than a mosquito bite and seem to itch twice as badly, particularly at night when I’m trying to fall asleep.

And I can’t forget about the squirrels. No flower pot in my garden has been left untouched by the bushy-tailed rodents that inhabit our neighborhood. In a couple cases, they have dug all the way down to the roots of my still blooming petunias.

But that’s just a small matter of replacing the dirt that the pests have so ungraciously displaced. What really irritates me is when they dig in the pot in which I’ve recently sowed some Swiss chard seeds. It’s the perfect time of year to plant a late-season crop of such greens, but it’s hard to get them to grow when their bed is routinely plowed up by tiny paws. I’ve tried scattering cayenne pepper to dissuade the darn critters, but nothing seems to deter their urge to bury whatever nuts and pods they can forage.

I realize it’s a seasonal urge they just can’t fight, just as I can’t tamp down my irritation with what seems like autumn’s all-too-swift arrival.

Yes, I realize that I sound like a cantankerous old woman — but I’ve given you a few chuckles along the way, haven’t I?

And there is one aspect of autumn that I do thoroughly enjoy — the apple harvest. I was hoping to have received at least an apple recipe or two from you readers by the time my turn on the column rotation rolled around, but alas my mailbox has remained empty. So once again I turn to my cookbook collection, selecting this pie from Pillsbury’s “The Big Book of Pies & Tarts.”

Apple Cheesecake Pie

1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

8 cups thinly sliced peeled apples

1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

For topping:

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Make pie crusts as directed on box for two-crust pie using 9-inch glass pie plate.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, vanilla and almond extracts with electric mixer on high speed until smooth. Beat in eggs, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into crust-lined plate. In another large bowl, toss apples and lemon juice to coat; stir in brown sugar, cornstarch and 1½ teaspoons cinnamon. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer.

Unroll second crust on lightly floured work surface. With a 2- to 2 ½-inch apple-shaped (or star, flower or leaf) cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Reroll scraps and cut out additional shapes. Using pancake turner, gently arrange shapes on top of pie to cover most of filling.

In small bowl, beat egg white and water until blended. Brush over shapes. In another small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over egg wash.

Line cookie sheet with foil. Cover pie with sheet of foil to prevent excessive browning; place pie on cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. Cool 1 hour on cooling rack. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Serve cold. Store in refrigerator.



It’s the core of apple season

If the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is true, I shouldn’t need to see a physician any time soon. (Not true, of course — I’m overdue for a checkup.) I eat an apple pretty much every morning, and that breakfast couldn’t get any tastier than at this time of year, the height of the apple season.
Currently, there is a big bag of Zestar apples in my refrigerator, and when I eat my way through that, I will likely switch it up with another variety of eating apple. While I prefer my apples straight out of the bag, I know that a lot of you readers are cooking up some delicious apple confections in your kitchens. Got a new recipe or a tried-and-true favorite to share? Please email me at
If you are on the hunt for some new ways to utilize the season’s apple bounty, check out the Food page in Monday’s Daily Globe. I’ve searched a variety of sources to come up with some apple recipes.
In the meantime, here are a couple of oldies-but-goodies, gleaned once again from DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” As I paged my well-worn copy looking for possibilities, I was drawn to these not by the recipes themselves, but the names of the women who originally submitted them — both of whom I knew as “Mrs. (Last Name),” but for different reasons. The cake recipe is credited to the late Stella Vance, whose husband and sons owned and operated the Daily Globe during my mother’s tenure here at the newspaper; and the second to Jan Perry, my long ago home economics teacher at Worthington High School, who now lives in Moorhead.

Mrs. Vance’s Apple Cake

½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups unpeeled sliced apples
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 scant cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons flour
Cream ½ cup butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in apples and nuts.
Combine dry ingredients — flour, cinnamon, soda and salt — and add to apple mixture. Put batter in a 9- by 13-inch pan.
Combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle atop batter. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. Serve with whipped cream. (For a special touch, add almond flavoring to the cream.)

Mrs. Perry’s Apple Caramel Dessert

2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups finely chopped raw apples
¼ cup butter
1¼ cups brown sugar
1 cup white syrup
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
Cream granulated sugar and ½ cup butter. Mix in eggs, flour, soda, salt, spices and nuts. Last fold in the apples. Bake in 9- by 13-inch pan 1 hour at 300 degrees.
Serve with this sauce: Combine the ¼ cup butter, brown sugar and syrup. Boil 5 minutes. Add cream and bring back to boil. Add vanilla. Pour sauce over each piece just before serving and top with a dab of whipped cream.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The older I get, the more I repeat myself. About once a day, I say to Hubby Bryan, “Did I tell you …?”
Usually, the answer is yes — yes, I already told him whatever it was. I have to give him credit — he doesn’t roll his eyes, at least not that I see.
Despite my loss of short-term memory, I try not to repeat the same recipes in this forum, with some notable exceptions. Occasionally, things bear repeating. For instance, each year prior to Thanksgiving I feel obligated to reprint the recipe for Slow Cooker Stuffing, as I feel more people should know the joy of this make-ahead-and-not-tie-up-oven-space dish. (Watch for that in November.)
And today I’m repeating a recipe that first appeared last year on the Daily Globe’s Food page. I looked up this recipe for Lemon-Lime Bread a few days ago so that I could use up a couple of zucchini found languishing on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator. When I posted pictures of the finished bread on Facebook, it garnered more than a few comments and requests for the recipe, so I’m inclined to think they missed it the first time around, and perhaps a few of you readers out there did, too.
This citrus-flavored bread is moist, delicious and freezes well. It’s a good way to use up a zucchini or two (depending on size) and will fool even the most suspicious of zucchini naysayers.
When I made it this time around, I ended up with seven mini loaves of bread, probably attributable to using a bit more than 2 cups of zucchini. I just grated up a medium-sized squash and dumped it in (no draining necessary), the thick batter easily filling seven small pans. (If you prefer to make two regular-size loaves of bread instead of the minis, bake for 50 to 60 minutes.)
As I mentioned originally, I use the zest and juice of both limes and lemons in both the bread and glaze in order to pass off the green zucchini flecks as something other than what they are. But if you don’t have limes on hand, go ahead and use all lemon instead. You can also add poppy seeds, but I don’t find that addition necessary — all they do is get caught in one’s teeth.

Lemon-Lime (Zucchini) Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1 package (3.4-ounce) instant lemon pudding mix
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1¼ cups milk
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 tablespoon grated lemon/lime zest
For glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon/lime zest
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk, oil, lemon and lime juices. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in the zucchini and zest. Pour batter into six greased mini loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.
In the meantime, mix together glaze ingredients, adding more juice if necessary to get a glaze consistency. Spoon glaze over bread while still warm. Cool before cutting and serving.

Road trip ramblings

As somewhat regular watchers of the “American Pickers” TV show on The History Channel, Hubby Bryan and I felt compelled to stop by the town of LeClaire, Iowa, on a recent foray down the Mississippi to the Quad Cities. LeClaire — located just north of the Quads — is a historic river town that is home base for the “Pickers” and their Antique Archaeology enterprise. Mike and Frank scour the country searching out for treasures and bring them back to Iowa to sell and their adventures are chronicled on the show.

Although we had been warned that we would not see Mike or Frank or their much-tattooed assistant Danielle, we still hoped to catch a glimpse. But all we saw was a lot of other tourists and piles of “Picker” souvenirs dominating the buildings that appear much bigger on TV. (It’s my belief they actually now film on a soundstage at some other venue.)

We were much more charmed by the shops and establishments along LeClaire’s main drag, including a new brewpub, Green Tree Brewing, open for only two weeks at the time of our visit. We also enjoyed the time we spent in downtown Davenport, as well as a side trip down to Muscatine, which we learned is the Pearl Button Capital of the World, the fasteners fashioned from clam shells harvested from the river.

All in all, it was a delightful road trip, made even more enjoyable by mostly warm and sunny weather.

My sister Margaret and her husband, Don, recently took their own road trip from their home in Denver to the Western Slope of Colorado. The purpose of their trip was to attend the Palisade Peach Festival, which features peach cuisine demonstrations, a peach recipe contest and peach-eating contests. In all their peachy samplings, their favorite was a hot beverage, made with peach wine. Since it’s supposed to be a bit warm here today for a hot toddy, I’m including one of the other recipes Margaret dutifully sent along for my perusal — a refreshing summer smoothie.


Hot Peach Cobbler in a Mug

1 bottle peach wine

4 to 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup.

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Add wine to a non-aluminum pan. Add all the other ingredients and heat. Do not boil.Serve warm.


Double Peach Smoothie

1 cup peeled, sliced peaches

1 cup peach juice or nectar, chilled

½ cup vanilla low-fat yogurt

3 ice cubes

In blender, combine peaches, juice, yogurt and ice and blend until mixture is smooth and frothy. Makes 2 servings.

If it’s cool, time to make chowder

Brrrrrrrr. Is anybody else cold?

I know there will be those who argue with me (sorry, but I want to strangle you fall and winter enthusiasts when you tell me how you are looking forward to cooler weather, and I’m sure I shoot you some withering looks), but I much prefer the warm and humid conditions of last week. The older I get, the less I appreciate the cold and the more I savor summer.

The only redeeming value I can find in a cool and rainy August day is that the weather conditions make me want to make soup. And the only soup I can possibly think about cooking in August is corn chowder.

As much as I love soup, it really isn’t summertime fare. And, since fresh corn season falls in the midst of the hot weather season, years can go by without making up a batch of chowder.

Since the coolness is supposed to continue today, here’s the chowder recipe I usually use, from DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” Mom credited it to Judy Fisher, who in sharing it so many years ago said it was “the best corn chowder I have ever tasted.”

“The Best” Corn Chowder

2 cups cubed raw potatoes

2 cups fresh corn, cut from the cob

2 cups water

1 cup cubed bacon

1 medium onion, diced

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Cook potatoes and corn in water until potatoes are tender. Sauté bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Fry onion in bacon fat until soft. Stir in flour. Add milk, stirring slowly until thick. Add this gravy to potato mixture. Add bacon and seasonings. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Seats of sanctuary

Does any other month go by as fast as July?

I tend to think not. The month that is at the heart of the summer is always over in the blink of an eye. It seems that I was just gearing up for the Fourth of July festivities, and now here it is a month later, and July is no more.

The pace at which this July progressed, at least for me, was likely enhanced by some time off from work. The first such days weren’t really vacation. They were get-ready-for-visitors days — a whirlwind of cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking in preparation for the arrival of my sister and her husband, followed by an even crazier couple days while they were actually here.

One of the highlights of their visit was a family dedication rite for park benches recently placed in Olson Park in memory of our parents, Don and Dorthy Rickers, and in honor of our uncle and aunt, Russ and Jan Rickers. Brother Marty gets credit for spearheading the effort to erect the benches, and we decided it would be a good time to get some of the family together to formally acknowledge their placement.

Campers and passersby on the bike trail that wends it way around Olson Park that evening might have wondered what the small group of people was doing gathered around a park bench, loudly proclaiming “Amen” every once in a while and breaking into song.

Bro-in-law Don, a retired Lutheran pastor, put together the program with help from my sister, Margaret, taking some liberties with the readings and “hymns” selected for the occasion. The readings included John 4: 4-6: (Jesus finds a park bench.) Jesus had to go through Samaria. So he came to a city named Sychar near a plot of ground which Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. And Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting on a park bench by the well. It was about noon. (Translation not exact.)

There were two personalized “hymns.” The first, to the tune of “Daisy, Daisy,” (appropriate since they often pedaled around town on a tandem bicycle) was sung around Mom and Dad’s bench, which sits facing the bridge that crosses to Olson Park from the grade.

Donald, Dorthy, we think of your love so true;

You once pedaled on a bicycle built for two.

Around the lake you traveled, greeting friends and neighbors,

You sure looked sweet, upon the seats of a bicycle built for two.


Just down the trail a bit, overlooking Sunset Bay, we repeated the dedication, ending with this tune in honor of Russ and Jan, sung to “Swanee River.”

Way down upon Lake Okabena, Russ and Jan do roam.

Where the trees and grass are always greener — that’s where they have their home.

All around the lake they wander, hand in hand they stride.

Oh, walkers see this bench, remember, Russell and Jan, side by side.


In the days since the benches were dedicated, I have passed by them almost nightly on my bicycle, and the memory brings a smile to my face as I find myself humming “Daisy” or “Swanee River.” If you happen to be out at Olson Park, stop and sit for a while on one of these benches and remember these words Don used in dedication:

In a world of too much movement, too much worry and angst, we find places of rest where we can breathe deeply and merely BE. We look around us at the grandeur and peace of creation, and we recall the lasting goodness of God in our lives. Through loving relationships over the years, through children and grandchildren, the legacy of God’s love lingers at such places of sanctuary as these benches.bethblogrgb

A melancholy milestone

(This blog originally ran in the Daily Globe on Thursday, July 23, 2015.)

When I looked at the calendar and realized what date this blog would fall upon, my heart paused for a second.
July 23. My mother’s birthday.
And after another moment of contemplation, I realized it wasn’t just her birthday. It would be her 90th birthday. An occasion that, if DotMom was still alive, would likely have been celebrated with a cake and much fanfare, if not a party in the church basement.
Earlier this year, the calendar heralded a different milestone — the 10th anniversary of her death. It seems like just yesterday that we had one of our daily morning phone calls. As she was a late riser, I always called to check in on her about 11 a.m.
She wouldn’t like me sharing this, but she often wasn’t out of bed yet. Although she was a night owl for as far back as I could remember, that tendency to stay up late and sleep the morning away got more frequent in her later years. As rheumatoid arthritis took its toll upon her body, her joints would loosen up and the aches would lessen later in the day, prompting her to stay up later and later and later. Many of her Mixing & Musing columns for the Daily Globe were written in the wee hours of the morning, and that’s also when she liked to call and order items from the stacks of catalogs she received in the mail (chatting up the late-night marketers) and catch up on her email correspondence.
Last week, a friend from high school whose mother has also died posted a melancholy cartoon on Facebook that said, “Sadness is not being able to phone your mom.” I concur with that sentiment 100 percent. There are so many times I want to pick up the phone to tell her about my day, consult about a recipe or menu, tell her the latest piece of news or just hear her voice.
Today, perhaps I would have called her a bit earlier than 11 a.m., urging her to rise and shine and celebrate her milestone birthday. And I would have been compelled to make her a birthday cake, as she always insisted that the celebrant have a (preferably homemade) cake on his or her special day.
Since she loved lemon, this would have been my choice for her out of the Cakes section of her “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.”
Happy birthday, Mom. I hope you’re enjoying a slice of cake with the other angels in heaven.

Golden Lemon Angel Food

1 package one-step white angel food cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
6 drops yellow food coloring
For glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon soft butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
In large bowl, blend cake mix, water, juice, lemon peel and food coloring. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed, no longer. Pour batter into ungreased 10-inch angel food tube pan. Bake at 325 on lowest oven rack 45 to 55 minutes. Cool cake upside down (on funnel or bottle) at least 1 hour.
In small bowl, blend glaze ingredients. If thinner glaze is desired, stir in additional milk, a drop at a time. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to drizzle down sides.