Collecting Stars, Magic and Memories & Sweet Dream Bars

Children are great collectors. They (along with some adults) collect Barbies, Matchbox cars, teddy bears, angels and fairies, stickers, horses, unicorns, Japanese erasers and something called Pokemon. Some of these treasures are fun for play but many are really just for collecting … and bragging rights. Owning more Polly Pockets or Beanie Babies than anyone in the neighborhood is the ultimate claim to fame for many seven year olds.

When you spend the summer on the shore or in the country, there is lots of wonderful stuff to collect. Frogs are a favorite on Pleasant Lake. There is nothing quite as glorious as capturing your first slippery frog and showing it off in triumph to admiring chums, older brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. Since they are generally released within an hour, usually less, there are always plenty of frogs to capture or recapture.

The hills and woods around Pleasant Lake offer a change of pace from frog hunting and a break from the sun. The woods are filled with treasures ready and waiting for young collectors. Odd twigs, birch bark, stones, abandoned birds’ nests, pinecones and much more are waiting for treasure hunters. Looking around my parent’s house, there are three generations of old birds’ nests and bits and bobs tucked into odd corners, nooks and crannies.

When my sister Brenda and I were little, we spent the summer on Cape Cod. There were no woods to comb but we found lots of treasures on the beach. There were all sorts of interesting stones and shells to discover. We collected driftwood, beach glass and horseshoe crab shells along with a few sunburns, bumps and bruises.

And then there was the summer we collected starfish. Late one afternoon, Brenda and I were out exploring during low tide. We were in search of anything that looked interesting, killing time until we could swim. We found two starfish clinging to the supports of an old dock. We were fascinated. We decided that we needed to adopt these two strange creatures and make them our pets. We pried them off the poles, tossed them into our plastic buckets with some water and headed back to our rental cottage. My sister was the ringleader of our gang of two and she got me running back and forth to the beach for salt water. We filled the birdbath and welcomed our briny friends to their new home. We named them Pole and Dock.

It didn’t take long for my mother to begin to worry. She knew that she would soon have two dead starfish and two hysterical children on her hands. Before tragedy hit, Mom managed to convince us that starfish, given a choice, would choose the big, cool ocean over a hot little birdbath. We lugged them back to the sea, said a few fond farewells and tossed them back under the pier.

Nighttime is a special time in the summer. Children get to stay up late, play hide and seek in the dark and chase fireflies. Every year my grandmother found an old jar and poked holes in the top for us to catch and collect fireflies. It was a great trick on her part. We would chase the flashing lights, rarely catching more than one or two, but it kept us busy and wore us out before bed. There is something magical about fireflies, like sparkling Christmas lights in July. I no longer chase fireflies, but it is still wonderful to take a moment to relax and watch their dance.

I wish you a great summer filled with magic and special memories. I hope that you can find a moment to watch the moon rise over the mountain or fireflies dance in the dark. Enjoy these warm and wonderful times with family and friends.

Bon appétit!

Sweet Dream Bars
A great treat for your next picnic under the stars. Enjoy!
Makes about 24 bars

Hot shortbread base, recipe follows
1 large egg
2 tablespoons rum or bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup grated coconut

Make the shortbread base.

In a large bowl whisk together the egg, rum, vanilla and cream. Add the brown sugar, honey and salt; whisk until smooth and well combined. Stir in the pecans, chocolate chips and coconut; combine.

Pour the nut mixture over the hot shortbread. Bake in the middle of the oven until set, 15-20 minutes. Cool in the pan and cut into 24 bars.

Shortbread Base
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.

In a food processor, process the flour, sugar and salt to combine. Add the butter and process until mixture begins to form small lumps.

Sprinkle the dough in the bottom of the prepared pan. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake the shortbread in the middle of the oven until golden, 15-20 minutes. While shortbread is baking, prepare the topping.

© Susan W. Nye, 2011

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One Year Ago – Lobster Salad

What’s your special summer memories? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

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