Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Eighty Candles

Way back in the early summer my sister Sally from North Carolina asked my sons how they were planning to celebrate my eightieth birthday in December. And the seed was planted. And the roots branched out. Fred was a substitute teacher with one of my friends from church. He asked her for names of people to invite. My son Bob contacted a friend of mine in the Greenbriar Apartment building where I live who supplied him with more names. My sons asked my sister who had given them the idea to drive to Cleveland for the big surprise. She and my brother-in-law Tom planned to give my other sister Brooke, also from North Carolina, a ride with them. My son Donovan who lives in Minneapolis arranged to fly here with his wife and two children. In the middle of summer I remember that my son Fred tossed out the idea that we really should plan something special for my big 80 but nothing else was said. I had no clue of the blossoming plans.

A couple of weeks before my birthday my son Bob called and asked me to save the date. He said he would pick me up around 3 PM and I should wear nice clothes. Well, that tipped me off that something out of the ordinary was going on. He and his family have me over to gatherings often and never mention what to wear. I thought maybe they planned to have a photographer take family photos. A week before my birthday my son Fred invited me out to lunch. He told me he would pick me up around 1 PM and that Bob would join us. We had a lovely lunch at a favorite deli of mine. It was special to be with my sons without the rest of our family. I loved just listening to them discuss various aspects of their lives and work. I enjoy being with the men they have become. Then Bob excused himself and went off to complete a work project. I thought this was a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday.

Fred said he needed to stop at the grocery on the way to drop me off at my apartment after lunch. I needed a few things, too. After we finished our shopping Fred asked me about the possibility of renting the Greenbriar Party Room for a block party with some neighbors. He said he’d like to take a look at it. I agreed.

To back up a little. When I was pondering why Bob wanted me to dress up and be at his house by 3 PM on the day of my birthday I imagined a surprise visit from Donovan. Yet when Donovan called me that morning to wish me happy birthday I realized I got that wrong. Donovan often calls me on his way to work in Minneapolis so he couldn’t be in Cleveland. My sister Brooke also called me in the morning to say happy birthday.

Meanwhile Fred and I arrived at the Greenbriar. We stopped off at my apartment so I could put my groceries away before I showed him the Party Room. Then we took the elevator to the fifth floor and walked up the stairs to the Party Room. I noticed that there were quite a few people up there. I realized they were my friends from the Greenbriar and from church! They all stood up and shouted “SURPRISE!” I couldn’t take it in. I was truly flabbergasted. The surprises kept coming. From out of the crowd I saw Donovan walking toward me. But he was in Minneapolis! His wife Rama and children Kieran and Leela were right behind him. Then I saw my sister Sally, and Tom her husband! And there was Brooke! But I had talked to her in North Carolina that morning. Turns out the out-of-towners had arrived in Cleveland the night before – I just assumed they were at home. And my son Bob was not at home working on a project. He was here helping his wife Linda set out the birthday cake and refreshments. Fred was right beside me. My former husband Bob, who lives down the street from my apartment, was there to celebrate also. Now I know what people mean when they say “I could not believe my eyes!!” More than that there are no words to express the love I felt bubbling up and overflowing all around me. Who needs champagne?!!


Resurrecting a Christmas Recipe: P.S. It Was Wonderful

The other day I saw a neighbor in my apartment building carrying a box with a fruit cake inside. My mother made a fruit cake for Christmas every summer and soaked it with whisky once a month until Christmas Day. It became a strong Christmas tradition. My neighbor said that her mother also made a Christmas fruit cake and now she was using the family recipe to bake her holiday dessert.

I tried to think what I made for my family’s Christmas dessert and could only recall baking chocolate chip cookies. Surely I made something fancier. I asked my sons what our Christmas dessert was. All three responded instantly “cranberry jewel”. Then I remembered. It was a recipe I had clipped from the newspaper or a magazine and no longer had in my recipe file. My son Donovan told me he had a handwritten copy of the recipe that I had mailed him years ago. He emailed it to me. The following is our email dialogue on the subject of the recipe for cranberry jewel.

Original message from Donovan to me, Dec.15. Subject:cranberry jewel.
2 cups oatmeal
2/3 cup nuts
2/3 stick butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup white sugar
8 oz cream cheese
3 cups cranberry
1 8 oz pin
1 cup whip cream
bake nut mix at 350; leave for the top

That’s what I have. I don’t know what a pin is. Could it be condensed milk?

Mom’s Reply: Dec. 16
Donovan, it doesn’t give the baking time for the oatmeal crust/topping?

Donovan: Dec.18. 3:32 PM: Subject: Pin = Pineapple!

Mom: Dec.18. 6 PM
I like that! Do you remember tasting pineapple in the dessert? I think it would taste good and that does make sense.

Donovan: Dec.18. 11:22 PM: Re: Pin = Pineapple!
Yes, I do remember it. Though I did range through a few more recipes before I could remember that.

Mom: Dec.19. 8:05 AM
I think I remember toasting the chopped walnuts and oatmeal on a bread pan then mixing it with softened butter and brown sugar. Then lining my rectangular glass dish with foil and patting the crust/topping mixture in the dish and freezing it – saving a portion for a topping. Figuring out cranberry jewel is like reverse archaeology.

Donovan: Dec.20. 3:23 PM Subject: Re:Pin = Pineapple! UPDATE
I hate to over analyze this but I think it’s foil on the bottom and the nut mix on the top. I know the recipe states the nut mix is “topping” but I have some memory of a nutty crust, so that’s what I said to you yesterday morning.

If you find out the timing on baking the nuts from your friend, plz let me know!.

Mom: Dec.20. 6:28 PM
Well it does say “topping”. That makes sense, especially if the ingredients turn out to make only a small portion. I asked a neighbor, whose hand mixer I am borrowing to whip the whip cream, about how long to toast the oatmeal/nuts in the oven. She said only a short time. If I over-cook it I can start over. I have lots of nuts and a whole box of oatmeal. I will put the mixture of cranberries, cream cheese, etc. in the foil-lined pan, the topping on top, and freeze everything at once. I think I remember doing that. I’ll let you know how long to bake the nuts and oatmeal after I experiment.

P.S.The hand mixer I ordered from Amazon was junk so I returned it.

(An aha! moment. After I wrote the texts of the emails between my son and me I realized what Donovan was saying under the subject: Pin=pineapple! UPDATE. The “topping” goes in the foil-lined glass dish first as a bottom crust. I wonder if I freeze the crust? Then the cream cheese, cranberries, crushed pineapple etc. mixture goes on top of the crust. Finally I crumble some of the oatmeal/nut mixture on top of that and store the cranberry jewel in the refrigerator freezer.)

Happy Holidays!

P.S. After experimenting with different sized pans, deciding to combine the oatmeal and walnuts with the melted butter and brown sugar, how long to keep the oatmeal, walnut, butter and brown sugar mixture in the oven (ten minutes), and being afraid that I had forgotten how to whip the whip cream (I hadn’t) the finished product of my cranberry jewel dessert was fabulous!


Haiku: Winter Solitude

Rich days to prepare
Hustle bustle, shop and cook
Join in festive meal

Christmas now is past
Gift to savor candle light
Settle into calm

Written in response to daily prompt Retreat


Haiku: Quiet Movement

Day after Solstice
A plain ordinary day
It strikes my fancy

Globe keeps on spinning
Days begin their lengthening
Promise of more light.


Haiku: Hope

Dreary rainy day
Cannot douse sparkles of light
On my Christmas tree


Haiku: Then There Were Three

One in each corner
Trees grace gray stone patio
Squirrels summer playground

Autumn leaves glory
Arched cathedral of beauty
Warmth before winter

Noise of buzz-saw
Sounding grave interruption
Felled one dying tree

View from my window
Surprising inheritance
Broad city-scape scene