Thursday, June 27, 2013

My oldest daughter, Michelle, has been making a flannel quilt (oversized twin) for her step-granddaughter, who is 2-1/2 and moving into a twin princess bed.  The fabric Michelle chose for Ezra is a Disney princess flannel, and she put a coordinating heart fabric on the back, so it is reversible.  She is tying it, and brought it home to accomplish that last task.  Here are photos of the back and front of the quilt.  I hoped she would catch the quilting bug in making this quilt, her first venture into patchwork, but she assured me it may be the only quilt she will ever make, and her real passion is gardening!  I’m glad it is, because I reap the benefits of her garden, also.  I love those fresh tomatoes and peppers!  However, she did a great job on the quilt for her granddaughter.

Grandchildren are much more fun than children!  I have my almost-12-year old granddaughter from Minnesota with me now, at least for 2 more days.  Sunday I will lose her to her other grandma, but I will gain her 8-year-old brother for two weeks, so it won’t be so difficult to have her leave.  We choose to have them one at a time, so that they get plenty of one-on-one attention for the time they are here.  With all the modern conveniences, Ava Skypes with her little 4-year-old sister at home every day.  They play an online game together for at least an hour every night, so Charlotte doesn’t feel the loss of her siblings quite as much as she would if they had no contact.  She is a homebody, and although her brother and sister loved to travel with me when they were her age, she wants everyone to stay home together!  She is named after me... my paternal grandmother was Charlotte, and that is my middle name, also. 
Ava has decided she doesn’t want to eat anything that has a face, although she does like Wendy’s or McDonald’s spicy chicken sandwiches.  She wanted to try KFC one day, but thought it tasted “rotten”.  It was not spoiled… tasted just fine… but to her it was inedible.  She did like Chipotle’s chicken burrito, however, and Auntie Tricia brought us some beef taco lasagna one night that she thought was delicious.  If she isn’t told what meat is in something, it’s easier for her to eat.  She likes spicy things, mushrooms, garlic and onions… but doesn’t like eggs or want meat, so it’s been a challenge to find things she likes to eat.  We shopped for groceries yesterday, and she said she loves onion rings, so we got a bag of Vidalia onions and made some onion rings today.  Ava ate one and declared it was good but maybe her dad’s were better.  The second onion ring brought the pronouncement that they were the best she’s ever eaten.  Here’s the recipe I made up today: 

Onion Rings:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Paprika
½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1-1/2 cups cold beer

Combine all ingredients.  Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.
Slice Vidalia onions into ¼” to 1/2” slices and separate rings.  Let sit to dry for at least an hour.
Dip onion ring into batter with a fork, letting the batter drip off into the bowl.  Then transfer the battered ring to the oil.  Fry onion slices in very hot oil… I use Olive oil… until golden.  Drain on a plate covered with paper toweling.  For anyone who doesn’t like the idea of alcohol in cooking… the alcohol is cooked off by the heat, so there is no beer alcohol in the cooked onion rings.

Ava loves to do handwork, and wanted to learn to crochet… but after learning the chain stitch, decided crocheting wasn’t as much fun as sewing or embroidery.  She picked out a variety of fat quarters and I cut the napkins for her. She hemmed 12 napkins for her family… her first project on the serger… and then made two each for her maternal grandmother and her great-grammy, who is in her 90s and her namesake.  She loved serging once she got over the fear of the speed, and also started serging scraps, just for the fun of it.  She serged around a piece of pink flannel left over from her Auntie Michelle’s quilt, and embroidered a heart with names on it for her cousin. 
My two daughters took a class in cake decorating last night.  We’ve all decorated cakes for many years, but none of us ever took a class in it.  I taught my daughters when they were young, and have given them all of my Wilton pans and decorating supplies, so the cake decorating is up to them these days.  Here are photos of them with the cakes they decorated.  I thought they were going to save them for our birthday on Saturday (Ava and I share a birthday, and I tell her she is the best present I ever received!)  but they said no… they weren’t big enough.  So we had an early “birthday” tasting last night… white cake with raspberry filling… and it was delicious! 

Ava has also been practicing her viola, and she does a beautiful job with it.  She's made a lot of progress since I heard her practicing last year, when listening to her practice was an exercise in patience! 
This weekend, most of my children and grandchildren will be gathering to celebrate our birthdays… great-grandson Lucas is three today, and his party is on Saturday, also.  I love these times when the family is all together… it’s the best gift I can ever receive, and that’s the truth! 


Sunday, June 9, 2013

On aging and being alone... with recipes and food for thought

Breezy summer days in Cincinnati are welcome!  In a climate that is usually humid, the moderate temperature with cool breezes invite time outdoors.  My sister was visiting from Nebraska this week, and we had a lovely lunch with my friend on her garden patio, shaded by a tree.  Her roses are in full bloom, and her raised beds were lush with blossoms and the foliage of a myriad of plants.  Lavender spikes rose majestically over broad-leafed rhubarb, and the gardens were alive with color.  It was a day to be savored, with good company and surrounded with beauty and the intoxicating scents of a summer garden.  It brings to mind the mornings my husband and I spent on the deck admiring our gardens below.  I am not mobile enough to garden anymore, but the memories of
those times are still green in my mind.  Last weekend was my son-in-law’s 60th birthday, and my granddaughter’s 20th birthday. We celebrated the weekend at my home with his two oldest daughters and his two grandchildren here, also.  It was a special time, with a Sunday brunch that included all of my family here in the area. 

(Bob, the birthday boy, shown at the right with baby Leola, 5 months old.  On the left is Leola with her mother, Abby. Alaena Violet is the birthday girl, shown below left with her nephew, my great-grandson, Lucas, who will be three this month.)

Although we grow older and less able to accomplish things we once took for granted, we strive to continue a lifestyle adapted to our circumstances and diminished capabilities.  No one told us it would be this difficult to age!  And when we were young and our bodies were strong, we never thought the time would come when the flesh would not cooperate with what the mind believed to be true!  Perhaps the most difficult thing for me to deal with is being alone.  When we have lost our best friend and life partner, there is no one who knows us intimately enough to share the shattering of our dreams and the frustration that comes with diminished mobility.  I have always treasured time alone, and still enjoy my alone time, but that is a completely different thing than feeling like a lone person, adrift in unfamiliar waters.  I want to be supported emotionally, encouraged and even praised for the things I can still accomplish… but destructive criticism is not welcome in the new world I am being forced to create.

My eyesight is failing, but I still can… and need… to create things of beauty, whether it is knitted, crocheted, or quilted.  Sometimes, it is writing words on paper… transcribing emotions into form and substance for others to read and perhaps identify with.  My physical limitations do not prevent me from baking and cooking, although now much of the preparation is done sitting at my kitchen table.  And what once took minutes to do, now often takes me hours and sometimes days to complete!  But that is acceptable… time is the one commodity I still have, although it seems to have taken on more momentum at this time in my life.  As children, we can’t wait to:  get bigger, get older, reach higher, stay up later… and the list goes on.  Time moves slowly.  Now, time races by… I can almost hear the calendar pages swooshing as they flip from one month to the next!  Instead of anticipating what is to come, I find myself pulling up memories from my past to savor over and over again… the births of my children, watching them grow and learn, moments spent with beloved family and friends.  Just moments, but they were indelibly written on my heartstrings and still play beautiful music in my mind. 
I am growing older, but I am still learning… I find shortcuts and easier methods of doing the necessary things.  I am never going to be an immaculate housekeeper, but that was never my priority or goal in life.  Long ago, my beloved grandmother told me people are coming to see ME, not how clean my house is, and if they criticize my housekeeping, they are not my friends.  That was good advice, and if you are one of those people who takes pride in an immaculate house, that is wonderful.  I am not one of your number, however.  You will seldom be able to write your name in the dust on my tabletop, but I do not dust on a regular basis… just when I see it needs to be dusted.  But you will always find a warm hug when you enter my home, and usually a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea.  And if you see stacks of fabric and quilt blocks laid out on the floor, you will also find finished quilts to snuggle under… and hopefully be able to share some laughter while we visit! 
I do not drink, smoke, or spend money on traveling to exotic places, but I do love fabric and yarn!  And if I choose to spend my money on those things I love at this time in my life, I feel free to do so.  I know I will never live long enough to use it all up, and that’s fine with me… I enjoy the process of acquiring it!   If none of my children want it when I die, I hope it will brighten some stranger’s day to receive it in a bag at Goodwill. It does not mean I am a hoarder, although perhaps I am, when it comes to some things.  (My son-in-law, Bob, says I have 44 cake mixes on my storage shelves... I'll take his word for it, because I don't have time to waste counting them!)  But let these words be a testament to my philosophy of living… I enjoyed each day, and filled my time with things and people I loved! 
Here are a few recipes I have made and liked... quick and easy! 
Angel Bars:
1 boxed angel food cake mix
1 can of pie filling, any flavor,
OR 1 large can of crushed pineapple
Mix the dry cake mix with the can of pie filling
or the crushed pineapple, juice and all.  Spread in
a sprayed 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for
25 to 30 minutes.  Pictured at right are the bars
made with pineapple.  Lemon bars were my
family's favorite.
Taco Log:
2 crescent roll tubes
1 LB ground beef 
1 diced Jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped onion, optional
1 packet of taco seasoning
 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
1 or 2 diced tomatoes depending on size
1/2 small can sliced olives if desired
Sour cream optional
sliced avacado optional

Lay out the two tubes of crescent pastry, thick sides in. Use some of the left over crescent rolls to to make the center a bit thicker.
Brown beef and add taco seasoning.
Lay beef in a circle inside of the laid out crescent rolls
Add cheese to the top
Pull over crescent rolls and tuck in under meat and cheese.
Add cheese, lettuce, tomato, black olives, sour cream or whatever you desire for your tacos, in the middle.

Follow cook time on the pack of crescent rolls, and once it's done, you're good to go!
 Brown beef, pepper and onion and add taco seasoning.
Omit the pepper if you don't like "hot" things.
Lay out the two tubes of crescent pastry on a
cookie sheet, thick sides in. Put the beef mixture
on the center of the crescent rolls.  Top beef
with 1-1/2 cups shredded Fiesta blend cheese.
Fold crescent rolls over the filling, covering as much
as possible of the filling.  Bake as per directions on the
crescent rolls. 

Serve with any of the following garnishes: 
salsa, guacamole, shredded lettuce, tomatoes,
shredded cheese, diced green onions, black olives, or
sour cream.
I leave you with this thought for the day...
Night thoughts...
Just one word:
One, separated from all by just one “L”
A Lone One
One soul alone
Simply One lone word
Adrift in the dictionary of life
What if the missing “L” is love?