A glorious granola recipe (plenty to give & some for you, too)

jarsMy grandmother Kenison crocheted afghans and made the world’s best doughnuts, two skills I still wish I’d learned from her before it was too late.

She was also the first person I ever knew who made her own granola, back in the days when “health food” was considered a fad, “organic” might as well have been a foreign word, and the cereal boxes in our kitchen cupboard at home ran from Raisin Bran to Cap’n Crunch.

At least, on a visit years ago when I was newly married, I did have the foresight to write down Grammie’s recipe.  recipeAnd although I can’t present every member of our family with a hand-made afghan this Christmas as she once did, I am following in her footsteps. With the exception of books (I always give books!), most of the gifts I’m getting ready to wrap this year aren’t coming from stores.  They’re coming from me.

My granola isn’t exactly like my grandmother’s. I’ve taken some license with her original recipe over the years.  It’s fun to play with new combinations of ingredients, and it never turns out quite the same twice anyway.  (She liked carob powder in hers; lately, I’ve been experimenting with cardamom in mine.) The one thing I always do, though, is make a lot.  And it’s always delicious.  I think of my grandmother every time I start gathering the ingredients, and I feel happier creating something simple from scratch than clicking a “buy now” button on my computer or wandering through stores looking for the “perfect” gift.

As I type these words, the smells of maple and cinnamon and cardamom are still lingering.  [continue…]

Time in a bottle

photospent most of yesterday morning in the kitchen with my son Jack, windows open to the September air.  In ten days he will move to Atlanta to begin his new life there as a student.  But for now, the two of us find ourselves home alone together.  (Henry left last week to return to his alma mater, St. Olaf, where he’s helping out with the fall musical; Steve has been away for a few days on business. And so, it’s just two of us here, a rare mother-son combination that hasn’t happened for years and may not recur any time soon.)

All summer, I have mourned the end of summer.  Back in June, my family laughed at me for regretting the passing of time before the time I’d been anticipating had even arrived.  (Yes, I know, it’s crazy.) The days were still getting longer, they pointed out, and already I was imagining how I would feel when they began to grow shorter.  The lake water was perfect for swimming, and I was wondering how many more swims we would have. A piercing awareness of the preciousness, the transience, of everything is, I suppose, both the blessing and the burden of my temperament. It is also the price my family has to pay for living with me.  I am always reminding them (myself!) to notice, to appreciate, to be aware of all that is and of all we have.

The truth is, I write so much about inhabiting the moment largely to help myself remember that it’s where I want to be: simply present.  My tendency, always, is to live with a lump in my throat.  I experience the pain of endings even as I cherish the tenderness of beginnings.  I allow every joy to be shot through with a thread of sadness.  And I see in all that lives, all that has passed;  in all that is, all that one day will no longer be.

And so  I sit in my garden amidst the wildly blooming nasturtiums and feel the fleetingness of their splendor.  I adore our thirteen-year-old dog all the more for knowing her days are numbered.  (When she placed her head on the bed this morning at 6 am and pleaded for a walk, I swung right into action – because, of course, I can so easily imagine the future, when there will be no need to be out taking a hike at dawn.)  I fill our basement freezer with strawberries and blueberries and raspberries picked at the height of the season because I am always conscious of the season’s inexorable turning.

Hanging out with my soon to be 21-year-old son yesterday, I reminded myself to simply enjoy the moment, without layering on the fact that in a few weeks he’ll be in his own new kitchen a few thousand miles away and we’ll be texting instead of talking. [continue…]

Small moments

BI SunsetO
k,” I said to my family, “I have a question.”

We were halfway through dinner at my parents’ house in Maine.  The sun was setting, casting the room in molten, amber light.  The table was littered with lobster shells and corncobs and wadded up napkins: the perfect ending to a perfect end-of-summer day.

No one could remember the last time we’d all been gathered together in this place we love, a place layered with memories and history and hallowed artifacts.  Twenty-six years ago this week, my husband and I were married in the church at the head of the cove.  We began our life together in the bedroom off the kitchen (repainted by my mom and dad in honor of the occasion) – the room where we still sleep when we visit and where my wedding dress still hangs in the back of the closet. Our sons spent all the best vacations of their childhoods at “Nana and Bapa’s Maine house.”

Even now, the books they read as children are stacked on the bedside table between the twin beds upstairs.  Winnie the Pooh sits in silent meditation upon a pillow; the old board games are piled neatly on the shelf; the sea glass and smooth stones they collected line the windowsills.

And yet, time and summer jobs and new interests and horizons have their way with all of us. Life doesn’t’ always carry young adults back  to their best-loved places.   But over Labor Day weekend, with both boys home, we seized our chance.  And for one night, my parents and the four of us were under one roof.

Of course, everyone knew what was coming: Mom was going to ask the family to reflect.

My dad rolled his eyes.   “It’s a nice meal,” he said, only half-joking.  “Do we have to make it meaningful?”  The kids laughed.  Steve said, “You can’t stop her, you know.”  And in fact, no one really tried.

What I wanted to know was simply this:  What moment from the summer are you especially grateful for? [continue…]