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Archive for June, 2017

Strange Bedfellows

It was Camp Grandma this weekend, and Grandma needs a nap. Four-year-olds are easier to babysit than three-year-olds, I must admit. They like ice cream and reading books  and watching cartoons.  Although they are capable of reasonable thinking, it is sometimes futile to try to reason with them.  That isn’t what made me tired, though. It wasn’t the dozens of books we read,  (actually, it was the same five books we read over and over and over again), or the hours of pretending and role playing. I am tired due to lack of sleep. I stayed at my daughter’s house rather than mine so the dogs could be taken care of as well.   Plain and simply said, four-year-olds hog the bed. Max wanted to sleep with me, and I agreed, since of course, we grandmas agree to almost anything. It was fun to read stories and watch Tom and Jerry cartoons, which haven’t changed since I was a kid more than 50 years ago. As he slept, my favorite four-year-old kept scooting over in his sleep  until I had about four inches to spare before falling out. I got up and scooted him back, praying that he wouldn’t awaken. Two hours later, and two hours after that, it was the same thing. The next night, I was smarter, or so I thought. I started wayyyy over on his side of the bed. I read him five books. (Yes, the same five that I now know by heart.) His eyes got heavier and heavier.  So did mine, as a matter of fact. If you remember from reading a couple of previous stories, there is always a little drama when I stay at my daughter’s house. Once, the lights in the basement kept going off and on, seemingly at random. That mystery was solved. Another time, we had the  biggest storm of the summer, with the electric going off for hours, and we told stories in the dark. When Max was sound asleep, and I not far behind him, we were joined in the bed by a large yellow lab. Both dogs have comfortable padded beds on the floor, and I’m sure this was not allowed, but it can be as futile reasoning with a yellow lab as it is reasoning with a four year old boy.  Thankfully, it was just one of the labs and not both.  I shooed him off a couple of times, but finally gave up due to my lack of sleep from the night before. I was awakened again, this time by the sound and light of the TV from the living room and from being cold. Freezing cold, in fact. In typical Minnesota summer style, the tempereatures were hovering around 50 degrees during the night, and not too much higher than that in the day. I was thankful that Camp Grandma was inside and not outside in a tent.  Both Max and the dog had stolen the covers, scooted over, and left me again with about four frigid inches to spare. Certain that I had turned the TV off before we went to bed, I got up to investigate. I was not in the least bit afraid, as the dogs hadn’t uttered a peep, but it was rather strange anyway. I quickly figured out that the remote, which has so many buttons that an old grandma can barely figure it out,  was layed on in just the right spot by the other lab, who must have assumed that since there was no room in the bed, the couch would be the next best option. Tonight, when I get to our quiet little home, I  will turn on my electric mattress pad and have room to spare in the queen-sized bed. I am pretty certain, though, that even though it will be warmer, it will be a lot more lonely without Tom and Jerry, a large yellow lab, and my favorite four-year-old saying, “Read it again, Grandma, read it again!” 

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Listen to the music

“Let the music be your master” ~Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page/Robert Plant)

 When my daughter was a teenager in the 90’s, she and her friends would take the portable CD player outside and listen to Britney Spears or ‘N Sync loudly while they soaked up the summer sun by the pool. I often asked them to turn it down so the neighbors wouldn’t be disturbed. At the time, I never confessed that when I was growing up in the 70’s, I would put the stereo speakers in the open window of my bedroom, stack a few vinyl LP’s on the record player and play Led Zeppelin quite loudly out the window while my friends and I sat outside in the summer sun. I’m sure the whole neighborhood loved it, or maybe not, because my mother would often ask me to turn the volume down…way down. Led Zeppelin just doesn’t sound quite the same when played softly. My mom enjoyed her own music as a teenager,  but the way it was delivered was different. Of course, the family had a radio, which my grandmother listened to while she ironed clothes for those who had enough money to pay someone to do their ironing. Small transistor radios hadn’t been invented yet, so portable music was only a dream. My grandmother was widowed, it was the Great Depression,  and there wasn’t much money for frivolous things like a Victrola to play the latest hits of 1939. My mother turned 14 that summer.  The family did own an Amberola, which was a record player invented by Thomas Edison that played cylinder type records made of wax or celluloid and plaster of Paris. The records would play only if someone cranked up the Amberola using the arm,  which was located at the side of the player. No plug or batteries were needed, which was a good thing, since many homes had not yet been wired for electricity. Mr. Edison helped out with that, also, by perfecting the incandescent light bulb.  When Mom was a teen, she and her friends lugged the Amberola to the lake and put it in the boat along with a picnic lunch, where they cranked it up and enjoyed (kind of) loud music while they sat in the summer sun. I have no idea if Glenn Miller or Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra had music available on Amberola cylinders or not. I do know that there would have been no money to buy them if they did,  so Mom and her depression-era friends made do, just as they always did, and listened to the old music of her parents’ era. Since I have both the player and the cylinders, I know that the collection contains lively tunes sung in Swedish, hymns, and Sousa marches. All of them sound tinny and scratchy to my ears, but the thought of somebody figuring out how to get music to play from a wax cylinder is pure genius. I am privilaged to be the keeper of this family heirloom, which still works despite three generations of young hands that have cranked it up and laughed hysterically at the scratchy Swedish songs. I kept the Led Zeppelin album, too. I wonder if someday, my own grandchildren will laugh at the scratchy sound of the music. 

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Zucchini Soup

Even though I have downsized the garden, I managed to squeeze in spots here and there for four zucchini plants. If two of them manage to live through the scratching chickens around here, it will be fine. If no zucchini plants survive, it will still be fine, because as you know, by the end of summer folks will be begging you to take it off their hands. HE won’t touch the stuff. Never has and never will. I shouldn’t even mention the time I made several loaves of cinnamon zucchini bread for the freezer, which he polished off without ever knowing the ingredients. If you don’t say anything, I won’t.  Not including HIM, this recipe is a family favorite passed on by my mother. As with everything,  I have tweaked it a little to make it my own, which is probably exactly what my daughter will do when she makes it. Our mothers taught us well.  This healthy soup manages to taste creamy without the addition of cream, doubles easily, and freezes well. You can make it with those bags of zucchini cluttering up your freezer that you have no idea what to do with. It also is a way to use up those submarine-sized squash that seem to show up in your garden overnight. In a good gardening year, I am so tired of zucchini that I toss those to the chickens. 

Here is the recipe, which serves four:

2 pounds (about 4 medium) zucchini, scrubbed and sliced     1 medium onion, diced    4 Tbs. butter or olive oil

2 cloves chopped garlic     2 tsp. curry powder    1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes      2 cups  chicken (or vegetable) stock     1/2 cup water

salt and black pepper to taste     grated parmesan or romano cheese as a topping, if desired

Heat butter or olive oil in a saucepan, add onions and zucchini and cook until onions are carmelized. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the zucchini is soft, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly and blend with an immersion blender (Has anybody seen mine? I can’t find it ever since I reorganized the kitchen!)  or place in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Bring back to a simmer before serving. 

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