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Mac and Cheese

From my college days, I have loved going to estate sales. There's something about history, life, and the mystery of not really ever being able to know. Life has many parallels, for certain.

Dan and I lived first in Oak Park and then Elmhurst before settling in DeKalb. After getting up with the sun to get a good number, we waited on ill-repaired sidewalks and overgrown paths for the chance at sifting through lifetimes of treasures of those who had gone before. It seemed we always found something: forgotten carnival glass, a chippy little milk mug, the perfect worn-in sewing chair, or even our young family's first piano.

It's harder to find magic in today's sales. The cost of history is higher, with longer lines, and thicker crowds. We usually have to put on surgical shoe covers to walk through rooms where the unnamed's possessions are arranged and stickered, sometimes prohibitively, often to leave with nothing. Last year we did find a cool chrome-and-vinyl Cosco chair for our mud room, though.

This January weather has changed things for many. When home, however chaotic, is your haven, e-learning adds a challenging dimension. I know it's not easy for anyone, including our nine-year-old who, like a vintage lock box, is a bit of a mystery. Just the mention of the chromebook digs deep, and off he goes to line up the Hot Wheels cars along the backs of all the couches, the edges of the kitchen table, and the occasional clear spot on the counter top. He's trying to control what he can in these uncertain days. Aren't we all?

One of the teenagers really wanted macaroni and cheese the other night. I did not have the usual ingredients, and I knew I was not brave enough to bundle up and make my way to the grocery store in the below-zero winter chill. There were various half-eaten packs of cheese in the refrigerator and as many partial bags of pasta in the cabinet. We mixed a whole lot of things together and baked it all in a 9x13 pan for half an hour.

"It's delicious" declared the teenager. And that was the consensus, though my now gluten-free, dairy-free self will never really know.

Something did not go quite right. The recycling, which mustn't have been collected due to last week's weather, had been mounting in the box in the mudroom along with the child's discontent and was now being hurled in every direction. The old Cosco chair, which had been in pristine condition after all its years before it came to the farm, was upended and slammed to the floor to earn yet another dent. Sometimes we just don't know.

I love worn things, things with history, and the idea that someone might still find value in what we have treasured long after we are gone. The Cosco chair will probably endure more fits of rage and maybe one day be dented beyond repair, but for now, it's still a fine place to sit to lace your boots. The wall by my pantry has a stain from a mishap with propolis tincture. I wasn't able to scrub it off, but one day it could be painted. It's okay for now, though. I think we all are. We're doing the best we can with what our days have given us.

Here's how we made our macaroni and cheese, if the cold keeps you inside for much longer.


Boil enough pasta to mostly fill a buttered 9x13 pan.

Make a cheese sauce by melting 4oz cream cheese, 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I'm sure you could substitute milk or nut milk), 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1 cup (or more) cheddar cheese, and some generous shakes of salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over pasta and mix well. Top with additional shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Stay warm!

Love, Patty

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