Notes from the hunker bunker: Strawberry Jello Pretzel Salad

Rest in peace, Bill Withers.

If I were another kind of person, I would miss the whirl of my social life—but there never was much of a whirl. I do miss seeing my swim lane friends, chatting with Judy, swimming defensively next to splash-man, rolling my eyes at Dave’s puns, checking in with my old swim coach Alan, competing for space with the water aerobic bouncers in the locker room, and getting books from the Lodge library, but I have quickly gotten over my daily swim. I don’t rear up at 6:00, pull on my suit at 7:30, and gear up to scrape the ice off my car before I head to the pool. Certainly don’t miss the chilly, not-enough-hot-water-in-the-locker-room-tanks shower.

Instead I raise up the shades to let in the morning light, tip back the recliner, pull the quilt a little closer, leisurely sip the coffee my Sweetie made me, read another chapter, stitch another block, write another line, sing another song, memorize another verse of Leaves of Grass (I wish that were true), call Ginny, and enjoy the start of the day. Funny though, how too much of our favorites—spice drops and reading on-line news, for example—can wear thin. Without the push of a daily swim, i was feeling very sloth-like and found myself slipping farther down into the couch position. Years ago, before I started to swim, I walked, but gladly gave that up for pool time. “Why not start walking again?” said my life coach, the Sweetie. Why not indeed.

I thought I would ease into it—maybe a ten-minute stroll, twice a day. Now, this is only the fourth day, but so far it’s a revelation. I had forgotten how equalizing the outdoors can be. No matter what the current drama, the sparrows trill their little hearts out, the squirrel scolds from the nearest tree, those rotten spring blackberry shoots threaten to stab, flower buds swell with promise, the woods smell woodsy, new fiddlehead ferns cautiously unfurl (or is it furl), and life without humans goes on. The tree-killing machines that are clearing more land for houses are gone, the giant cranes have nothing to do, the hammers on the new houses down the block are silent, traffic is non-existent, JBLM explosive testing seems to have stopped, and the army base helicopters no longer rattle the windows at night.

So then, what to do with the day after 9:00 am? The Sweetie searches for sanitizing products on-line (lotsa luck there), watches the Nature Channel (one more clip of a baby hippo being chased down by a lion may do me in), whacks weeds, plants wildflower seeds, feeds his animal friends, keeps track of the stock market for me, etc. I natter on in my blog, work on the baby quilt, search for material on-line (lotsa luck there), wash clothes, listen to podcasts, sing along with my favorite tunes, run the Swiffer, visit my neighbors (yes, we remember to maintain social distance), keep up with Australian sitcoms—and it’s about 11:30.

Meanwhile on the flour front: my niece made bagels, my neighbor baked banana bread, my sister made pizza dough, I made ranger cookies, my nephew baked cupcakes, one friend made pretzels, another friend baked biscuits for breakfast, my sister-in-law made two chocolate cakes (one for the table, one for the freezer), my granddaughter baked bread—that’s where all the flour has gone. But, as my Canadian friend asked, “Where did all the Jello go?”

With this culprit you can use both flour and Jello.

Strawberry Jello Pretzel salad from the blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything 

  • 2 cups pretzels (crushed fine)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 6 oz pkg strawberry jello
  • 1 10 oz . pkg. frozen strawberries or small container sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces cool whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan. 

Combine pretzels, brown sugar, and melted butter and press into prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on rack.

Prepare jello according to directions and add the strawberries right before chilling. Refrigerate until partially set. If it is not set enough it will leak through your cream cheese layer and make your pretzels soggy.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in cool whip. Spread over cooled crust make sure you spread completely to the edges to create a seal so your jello doesn’t leak through.

Pour jello over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate.

There were two deaths in my extended family this week: my daughter’s long-time dog friend and my friend’s younger brother. It’s painful to loose a sibling: they have known you from the start, you share childhood memories with them, they watched you evolve from brat to free-standing adult, and they know all your secrets. It is so difficult to be down a family member and my thoughts are with my friend and her family. 

The Batchelor’s family dog Louie was my personal dog. Everyone loved Louie, so many people thought of him as their own. The Batchelors adopted him as a mischievous pup, raised him up to be a loyal, cheerful, family member, monitored his love of adventuresome travels, cared for him during his last days, and will always miss him—me too.


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