Archives for : May2016

Yummy Lemon Bars

YUMMY LEMON BARS

Who doesn’t think about lemon desserts in the springtime? This lemon bar recipe is old, but tried and true. They cut, keep, and carry well. That is, if they last that long!

Crust

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar (plus more for decoration)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoon butter, slightly cooler than room temperature, cut into 1″ pieces

Filling

  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest from 2 large lemons
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice from 4 large lemons, strained
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 13″x9″ baking dish and line with a sheet of parchment paper. Dot the paper with butter, then lay a second sheet crosswise over it.
  2. Pulse the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a food processor or blender. Add the butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds. Pulse until the mixture is a pale yellow and resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle the mixture into the lined pan, and press firmly with your fingers into an even 1/4″ layer over the entire bottom of the pan and about 1/2″ up the sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake about 20 minutes.
  3. While the crust is cooling and baking, whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour for the filling in a medium bowl, then stir in the lemon zest, juice, milk and salt to blend well.
  4. When the crust is done baking ,reduce the oven to 325F. Stir the filling mixture to re-blend, then pour into the warm crust. Bake about 20 minutes, or until the filling feels firm when lightly touched (about 20 minutes). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Lift the confection up by the parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board. Fold the paper down and cut into serving size bars.
  5. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the bars for decoration.
  6. Enjoy!

 

Mary Z.

In Honor of My First Piano Teacher

In celebration of the month of MAY,

A Tribute to My First Piano Teacher, MAY Johnson

By Sharon Sheppard

The woman who patiently unlocked the puzzle of note-reading for this undisciplined young musician who had learned to play by ear deserves a (posthumous) medal.

The term musician is used very loosely here.  I began playing the piano as a young child on a homemade keyboard drawn out on butcher paper.  With carefully crayoned black keys in sets of twos and threes as markers, I could plunk out the tunes I heard in church each Sunday, though not nearly as intricately as red-haired Caroline Bundy played them.  I sat near the front each week watching with my eyes and listening with my heart as her nimble fingers rippled over the keyboard.  Someday, I determined, I would play like Caroline.

When I got a little more sophisticated, I created an octave of notes by filling drinking glasses with graduated quantities of water.  It was easy to tap out melodies with a spoon.

Then one magical winter day the parents of my dearest childhood friend, Shirley Beggs, hauled in their old upright piano and slid it onto the linoleum floor of our living room.  It was a painful tradeoff as Shirley and her family headed north to accommodate her dad’s railroad transfer to another small Minnesota town.

I lost and gained my best friend that day.

There would never be another friend like Shirley, but the ecstasy of having a real piano in our living room can’t be captured in words.  I played and played each day almost to the point of exhaustion until my dad would finally say, “Time for bed, Sharon.”

Eventually the day came when my parents decided that it was time I learned to read notes, an exciting, but threatening prospect.  I could already play.  Why did I have to learn a whole new system?

Our town of 350 people did not have many piano teachers to choose from, but fortunately, May Johnson lived just two blocks from our house, and she was patient, kind, and long-suffering.  There was so much to know, and I didn’t like all the constraints that note-reading required.

Each Monday after school I’d trudge over to May Johnson’s house two blocks from our own, with a crumpled dollar bill in my pocket.

What difference does it make which finger I use on which key?  It sounds the same no matter which finger plays the note!  If she would just play through the song for me, I could play it on my own without going through the agony of learning the names of the notes.

The worst part was the lousy time signature and having to count out the rhythm.  It was all so tedious.  But eventually it began to make sense to me.  And when she pulled out cardboard boxes of musty-smelling sheet music, my heart thumped.  Sheet music!  And the ability to play a song I had never heard!

May Johnson lifted out sentimental songs from the 1940s by Carrie Jacobs Bond, their covers adorned with pink cabbage roses.  “When you come to the end of a perfect day,” one began, “and you sit alone with your thoughts…”  Sappy, but I was learning to play by note.

It wasn’t long before I was playing one of Carrie Jacobs Bond’s most famous songs at weddings as a 14-year-old pianist: “I Love You Truly…”  Again, sappy, but I could play it. Reading the notes.

Though I eventually graduated to more advanced teachers, minored in music in college, and ultimately taught piano, I’ll always prefer the free-wheeling, no-rules method of making music.  Improvisation.  Jazzed up hymn tunes. Make it up as you go along.

Playing by ear.  Playing by heart.

©Sharon Sheppard, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Words of Inspiration

Words of Inspiration for the Month of May

From the world’s all-time best seller:  The Holy Bible

MAY the Lord bless and protect you; MAY the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; MAY he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.    (A blessing from The Living Bible, Numbers 6:24-26)

 

 

A Ray of Hope

A RAY OF SUNSHINE . . .

During April’s Autism Awareness Month, I blogged about some of the challenges families often experience when they are unexpectedly called upon to transition into a lifestyle that includes raising children with special needs.

In honor of my daughter Carrie on this MOTHER’S DAY, let me share some of the joys of raising a special needs child.

My dear autistic grandson has always had a marvelous smile.  One day when he was about four, Carrie said, “Aaron, when you smile at me, you make the sun to shine!”

Like many kids on the autism spectrum, he has a wonderful memory for numbers, dates, and trivial facts. And when he wasn’t much more than a toddler, the family would often defer to him when they couldn’t’ remember exactly when something had happened.

“That was July 23rd,” he might reply.

And when they checked their calendar, he was always right.

One Sunday early in May, four-year-old Aaron was up long before his mother, checking the calendar.

“Mama,” he called out, running into his parents’ bedroom.  “Mama,” he said.  “Wake up!  It’s May 10th!  Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!”

Then he walked over to the window and peeked out.

“Oh, but it’s raining!” he said, his heart sinking.

Then he remembered.

“But I know how to make the sun shine,” he said.  And he ran to the bed and gave her that wonderful smile.  The kind that makes the sun to shine.

Now Aaron is a 21-year-old college student, and a couple of days ago I overheard Carrie and Aaron sparring with each other, good-naturedly teasing.

When Carrie left the room, Aaron said to me, “That’s one of the things I love about my mother.  I can give her a bad time, and she will give it right back.”

And that’s one of the things I love about them both.  They know how to make the sun shine for each other.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, CARRIE!        From your proud mother, Sharon Sheppard

©Sharon Sheppard 2016