The past few weeks, Houston has been abloom with beautiful white fragrant flowers. Fences everywhere are draped with star jasmine, also known as Confederate jasmine:
The gardenias must have enjoyed the mild winter, because they are big and beautiful this year:
The same is true for the magnolias:
On a warm night, if you close your eyes and inhale deeply, the scent from these flowers is so powerful it is almost overwhelming. It has been a spectacular spring this year.
Yesterday, however, we were reminded that summer is, if not actually here yet, pretty close. It was hot, muggy, and that familiar dusty haze hung overhead. My husband’s firm had its kickoff summer recruiting party, and my son and I went to our first cookout of the year. Sigh. Time to settle in (and I do mean “in”) for another long, hot, Houston summer.
I made my favorite Black Bean and Corn Salad to bring to the cookout. It’s easy, healthy, and colorful. I make it often, especially in the summer.
I found this vintage war poster at an estate sale. I hung it in my office, as a tribute to myself. After all, I was a nurse in a former life, and, well, the rest is obvious. :)
So what did I do to deserve being chosen (by myself) as “The Greatest Mother in the World?” Well, if you asked my teenage kids today, they would probably say “nothing.” But I have actual documentary proofthat at one time in their lives, I was, indeed, The Greatest Mother in the World in their eyes.
For example, there is this loving tribute from my son when he was around 6 or 7 years old:
See! I was nice, giving, irreplaceable, always doing things for him, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget #7:
Interactive? Like some kind of Mom-bot? But hey, if that’s what it takes to be The World’s Greatest Mother, I’ll be interactive.
I have evidence from my daughter too. In her young eyes, I was not only royalty, but I was bright, funny, cleaning, and working nights (huh?):
But wait, there’s more:
Mostly truthful? Wonder what it was I lied about? Didn’t she think I was telling the truth when I told her she was the smartest, prettiest, funniest, most loving child on the planet? Then there’s this wonderful anagram of my name:
Nice mom, A woman, New York in third grade, Cookies, Yarn knitters — as the song goes, put them all together they spell N-A-N-C-Y. I had to ask where the “yarn knitter” came from, seeing as I’ve never knit, crocheted, or even macramed a thing in my life. She said it was the only adjective she could come up with that started with a Y. Guess “youthful” didn’t make the cut. :( On the other hand, I suppose I should be grateful that “yucky,” “yellow-bellied,” and “yappy,” also didn’t make the cut.
Going back to the poster — look at the pained expression on the face of The Greatest Mother in the World.
If you have kids, you’ve surely worn that face, probably more times than you care to admit. It’s the one you wear when your kid isn’t invited to a party that all of their friends have been invited to. Or when the coach only lets them bat once in 9 innings, and even then, tells them not to swing and not-so-secretly hopes they’ll get hit with the ball and walk to first base. It’s the one you wear when your kid is crushed because they spelled “parfait” incorrectly and didn’t get to be in the Spelling Bee (“It wasn’t fair, Mom, they gave us a French word!”). It’s the one you wear every time you have to flush a fishie or bury a birdie or hold last rites for a hamster.
Although that face got quite a workout when my kids were younger, it really doesn’t surface that much now that they are older (and middle school is, thankfully, in the rear mirror). They’re old enough to handle their own disappointments now, and to brush off the small slights that seemed so huge not so long ago.
Inspired by The World’s Greatest Mother in the vintage poster, and seeing as today is the day we all celebrate our own Greatest Mother in the World, I made a batch of Shortbread Strawberries to bring to my mother-in-law today. I made these for her many years ago, back when my kids were young and thought I hung the moon, and she had remarked then how pretty they were. I wonder if she’ll remember them? You can use any shortbread recipe — the one I’ve provided here is adapted from The Silver Palate. The idea of the cookies is to resemble strawberries, not be strawberries, so don’t get too carried away trying to make them look perfect. (If you are looking for a place to buy colored sprinkles and other decorations, you won’t find a better, less expensive source than Country Kitchen Sweetart.)
*Note — for extra crisp cookies, use 2 cups flour and 1 cup rice flour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and confectioner’s sugar, using an electric beater. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and salt, and mix together thoroughly. Shape into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and refrigerate a few hours until firm.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to ½-inch thickness. Using a strawberry-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes and transfer to cookie sheet or tray. Sprinkle body of strawberry with red sparkling sugar, and leaves with green sparkling sugar. Carefully place a few black or brown sugar crystals on strawberry to resemble seeds. Using a spatula, transfer cookies to a cookie sheet (wipe off any stray sugar crystals around the bottom) and bake approximately 20 minutes. Cookies should not brown. Allow to cool briefly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Ready for the oven
Hot out of the oven
Happy Mother’s Day to all of The Greatest Mothers in the World!