Blueberry Crumb Bars

Thursdays are, by far, my favorite day to go to work. And it’s not because spectacular things happen to me at work on Thursdays. Spectacular things never happen to me at work, and Thursdays are just like any other day.  9:30 to 11:15 in my office, 11:20 to 3:00 dividing time between the stage and the control room, and once the show ends at 3:00, I wind my way back to my office to prep for the next day, read food blogs and ponder whether or not my life would be any better if I’d actually gone to law school like my mother wanted, instead of going into television.

The reason Thursdays are my favorite day to go to work is because of Anna Maria.

Thursday is when Anna Maria comes and cleans the messes I make at home… the ones that aren’t emotional.

I wince at the thought of calling Anna Maria “my cleaning lady.”  I’m even more uncomfortable with how my building manager refers to her.  “The water will be turned off this week ‘cuz we’re installing low-flow toilets,” she informed me, “so be sure and tell your maid.”

I haven’t yet found a title for Anna Maria I’m comfortable with.  So most often when I mention her in a conversation, I’ll go to awkward lengths to ensure the proper respect. “Sorry I’m late.  I forgot to leave the key for Anna Maria, the woman who comes to my place and handles the laundry, ensures order in the kitchen and oversees upkeep in the bathroom.”

Of course, Anna Maria has none of these same concerns. Like any good love story, we had a “cute meet,” finding ourselves together in my building’s elevator, practicing our best isolation techniques as strangers trapped together in a confined space often do.  The doors opened to the second floor, and Anna Maria stepped out, turned around and impulsively asked, “You need cleaning lady?” Did she somehow sense in that elevator car that I had wanted to find someone for months, but just didn’t know how to go about it?  “Yes!”  I instantly said, relieved at the load she had taken off of me, “get back in here!”  And up we went to the fourth floor.  She toured my home, ran down her list of preferred cleaning products, and politely corrected me when I offered her the wrong amount of pay.

And since then, I’ve learned to no longer think about what my life was before her.  Anna Maria scrubs down my oven until it could be mistaken for the showroom model at an appliance store. She takes every item out of my refrigerator to clean the shelves and manages to put everything back exactly where it was before.  She finds space in my meager cabinets to store every dish, pan, glass, pot, and useless kitchen gadget I’ve acquired since I started this foodie quest 16 months ago. She waters my plants, vacuums, dusts, and re-orders all the items in my linen closet… by color.

And she leaves me notes. She leaves them for me in the mini orange spiral notebook I got for free when I signed up for At&T U-Verse and keep next to the telephone in case I need to jot down something important during a call, like it’s still 1978.

Anna Maria and I have cultivated a uniquely personal relationship via this notebook that is neither hampered by the fact that we speak different languages nor that we rarely actually see each other in person.  But it is most definitely a relationship.  If I were to come home on a Thursday night and find a clean house but no note, I know the air would be rife with not only disinfectant, but also betrayal.

As most relationships do, ours started with Anna Maria clearly outlining her needs to me, and showing that she was willing to bring down her guard with a personal touch at the end.



And from there, Anna Maria and I slowly took our relationship to a deeper, more meaningful level.


Note in the above photo, the smiley faces have been joined by some unfamiliar race of “flower people”



In this one, I’m not completely sure what message Anna Maria is trying to deliver.  But look!  There is a flirty winking happy face! And more flower people.  They seem to have just come from an Arthur Murray dance class.

The message below is my favorite:



I had left Anna Maria a tin crammed with homemade cookies, bars and brownies, along with a monetary bonus, during her holiday week visit.

It was the first time she had ever made mention that she knew I liked to cook, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. Every Thursday, Anna Maria inhabits the private world I have built for myself.  She has intimate contact with all the things that have most meaning to me.  Through the few in-person conversations we have had, I have learned that she knows I work on a game show, that I have a boyfriend, that I am the youngest of my siblings, that my parents are still married, and that I have a cat who died and is missed very much.

Of her, I know very little.  She is a wife and mother of a son named Jeffrey, who has allergies and doesn’t like homework, but does like winning awards.  She once cleaned the house of a woman who owned two pigs, and another person who lost his entire life to drugs and alcohol, to the point where he was asking her for money.

Anna Maria gets to learn so much about me, and of her I will probably never know much more than I already do.  So I make her desserts, mostly because I know she will enjoy sharing them with Jeffrey.  And because I need her to know that I don’t think she’s a maid.

Blueberry Crumb Bars from Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares (yields approximately 36 squares.

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3 thoughts on “Blueberry Crumb Bars

  • January 30, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Well first of all, I’m truly glad you already have someone like Anna Maria in your life because if you thought I was going to do a speck of cleaning once we were married…well, you would have thought wrong 😛

    Except for the dishes. I actually really like doing the dishes.

    These blueberry crumb bars look fantastic! My life has been strangely devoid of blueberries lately. I think I need to make these.

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  • January 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I had to do my dishes for ten years when I was living in my last place, so I was doing emotional somersaults when I first took a look at my new place and saw the dishwasher. Anna Maria volunteered to clean the litter box, but I won’t let her. I have to take responsibility for that myself. Thanks for you comment, Joanne!

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