No Bake Stuffed Squash

It was late March, the very beginning of Spring, and I had just planted some red russian kale seeds in the one patch of dirt getting direct sunlight at this early angle in front of the studio in the backyard of the house on Van Buren Street. It was unseasonably warm. I had just finished The Brother’s Karamazov for the second time in my life. Why did I read an 800 page novel again? I could say it was because the librarians told me this new translation was excellent. But the real reason was this: there was a line in it I wanted to find, that those of you who have read all my blog posts may remember me quoting a couple of summers ago: “It’s funny, isn’t it, Karamazov. . .all this grief, and pancakes afterwards.”

Since I hadn’t read this classic masterpiece since college, I could no longer remember where it was or why this line was spoken. And I just had to know.

Although I loved it the first time I read it, the second time I loved it more. Or maybe I understood it more, from the accumulation of years and living and reading I could now bring to it. Each afternoon for a couple of months it was my “after naptime” reading. As I approached the very end of those 800 pages, I still hadn’t found the line I was looking for. I thought I had missed it once again or worse yet it wasn’t there at all in this translation. And then, just 2 or 3 pages from the very end, there it was. I laughed out loud.

Another more reverent notion I took to my literal heart this second time around was how Alexei’s teacher the Elder Zosima told how he would bend down and kiss the earth. On that infant Spring day I planted the kale seeds in the one little sunny and warm patch of open dirt, I was all alone in my little nest of a yard. So I did what Zosima did: I knelt down on the ground and kissed the earth fresh with shoots of new, green grass. And I tried to remember to do it again whenever I could.

The experience of selling the house on Van Buren Street turned out to be a lot like trying to find that line in The Brothers K, although I didn’t see that until the very end. The last time I wrote a blog post I believed all that was left to selling my house was to sign the closing papers, and I was celebrating the acceptance of my offer on the little place that will be my new home in Portland.

Then the bottom fell out. It’s not possible to share the details of real estate contracts here, but no one, not even the loan officer at my buyer’s bank, or her real estate agent, saw this one coming. All of a sudden, the whole thing was upended, with no timeline for a resolution in sight. Then when a timeline was offered, it was most certainly one that would lose me my little condo. Either way it seemed I was sunk. Except. . .

A woman had contacted me out of the blue a week or so previously, describing herself as a design consultant who was looking for what she called a “town cabin.” Might my house still be available? I had written to her kindly to tell her it seemed as if we were on the runway to close. But there was something about the way she signed her first note to me “appreciatively” that made me feel comfortable with her. I was sorry I wouldn’t get to know her more. So when the bottom seemed to be falling out of the necessary chain of transactions, I simply wrote her back and said there was now an element of uncertainty. She wrote me back immediately that she would be in town when I would and could she see the place in person then. And that she would be willing to be a back-up, at least, that she was trusting the universe on this one. A woman after my own heart.

Meanwhile I was waiting to find out what kind of timeline my original buyer’s bank could deliver. When I learned that it was not something the seller in Portland would likely be willing to work with when she had five other offers she could move on to, I hit rock bottom and cried. I wanted out of this no-win situation, but felt terrible it would mean starting over and staying with my generous kids who have rearranged their lives for me the past couple of months for yet amother unknown amount of time. When I told everyone that there seemed to be another prospective buyer interested, both my family and my agent said, “well, if she’s a cash buyer. . .”

The morning before I got the terrible no guarantee timeline e-mail I had written to the design consultant and asked if she could tell me what her financial readiness to buy the house was, not daring to dream it would be any different than most people’s.

After my cry my kids cajoled me into going to Lowe’s to look at toilets with them for their bathroom redo. That made us all laugh, and I sucked up my sniffles and decided to check my e-mail one more time before we left. And there was an e-mail from the design consultant, explaining to me who she was and how she was prepared to make me a cash offer. I have never had such a swift and unexpected answer to a prayer.

We traveled back to Moscow the next day  to pack up as if somehow this was all going to go forward, but not yet knowing how. The day after we arrived she came to view the house. She stayed an hour and a half. We trusted each other instantly, and by that evening, she had made me an offer. In 5 days. she moved heaven and earth to make her funds available so I could close on time in Moscow, so I can close on time in Portland.

It wasn’t easy to tell my buyer’s agent I chose to exercise my option to cancel the original contract since it could not be fulfilled on time, because I knew it would also throw my original buyer’s life into upheaval. But there wasn’t any way I could extend that contract with the timeline and terms involved and hope to keep the condo. I still keep her situation in my prayers and hope it will all resolve for the best for her in the larger picture, despite this difficult setback. But the way it all played out made me feel like I was both finding the line “It’s funny, isn’t it, Karamazov. . .all this grief, and pancakes afterwards.”and living it too. Instead of a deadline, thanks to my new buyer, finishing on time became a lifeline amidst the formidable challenges.

It turns out the woman who bought my house in 5 days and I have lived our lives thus far intertwined in amazing ways we were unaware of until now. One public interconnection is that we both won Orchid Awards for downtown preservation projects in Moscow last summer and were both at the ceremony, but didn’t know each other or meet. And there are many many more private interconnections and understanding that filled us with awe and reverence for what we were brought together to do for each other.

And just like I certainly didn’t expect any of these miraculous rearrangements to happen, I also didn’t expect I’d have a recipe to share with you in this post. To call it a recipe might be a stretch, because I honestly can’t give you exact amounts for everything. So we’ll call it a strategy, and a delicious one, for stuffing large summer squash or zucchini when it’s too hot to bake. This strategy is inspired by my daughter-in-law Kelly’s bountiful garden. She’ll be harvesting a lot of zucchini this summer, and I’ll be hoping to share with you some of the fun ways we prepare it, or remind you of the other fun ways I’ve shared with you in summers past.

Here’s to the lifelines that connect us, even if we don’t know they are there. And the mysterious bounty that shows itself amidst the most challenging of situations, like seeing the fruit hidden in the tangle of the vine.



Last March when I planted the kale seeds and kissed the Earth in Moscow, I never dreamed I’d be writing this post from Portland. Today I signed the closing papers here. Once the transaction is all finished and I’m moved in, I’ll be writing my next post from yet another new home. And that’s worth kneeling to kiss the earth in Portland, too. Usually my life is inscribed by what I call slow motion miracles. But this past week has reminded me that sometimes miracles in my life happen at the speed of light.

Maria (moonwatcher)






banana sundae ice cream 2Waiting to hear good housing news can take a lot out of a family, especially when the weather is as hot as its been out here in the west so early in the summer–even in Portland. Thankfully, a good healthy dessert and a feel-good movie are great distractions to the “what ifs” that are naturally built in to home hunting, buying and selling.

I’ve made banana ice cream so many times over the years I would have thought there was nothing new I could do to it to keep me coming back again and again. But I was wrong. It took the challenge of not wanting to use non-dairy milk and having an audience to inspire me to come up with this new version. I’m happy to say that according to my son and daughter-in-law it can even stand with their favorite vegan and gluten free treats from Back To Eden bakery–but without the side effects of all the sugar and fat.

The secret? A couple of dates, and being too tired and hot to make date paste. I just chopped them up and threw them in with the bananas, along with a splash of pineapple juice–or whatever other juice–or even tea–because it sounded good. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was surprised everyone else was thrilled, particularly because even my chocolate-loving kin have asked for this carob fudge again and again.

Though this might blow (or possible exceed) your fruit count for the day, this banana ice cream is even McDougall Maximum Weight Loss friendly. This recipe makes about 3 nice size servings. Reduce or double for either a single serving or more people.

All our healthy ice cream eating and feel-good movie watching while we were waiting to hear good news paid off. Here is a chalk pastel sketch of my soon-to-be new home in the Alberta Arts District of Portland Oregon, if all goes according to plan. So far it’s sailing through. Romeo and I will be able to walk to Mike and Kelly’s. I’ll soon become a member of the Alberta Street Food Co-op.  I’ll have a small, private yard.  And it was sure fun watching the bicycle chase scene in ET while we waited to find out whether my offer would be chosen out of the 6 that were submitted. I remember when ET first came out and I saw it in the theater, the whole house cheered when those bicycles went up into the air. That’s the way I feel about how things are going with purchasing my new home. I’m about as amazed, happy and blessed as I can possibly imagine. Life is sweet and miraculous, even in slow motion.

my new house 1 by MTM

Maria (moonwatcher)


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