Friday, September 25, 2009

What's For Dinner

Since my daughter and granddaughter have moved back in, I have fallen back into Homemaker mode. During the last few years of solo living in retirement, I had drifted out of the kitchen. Now I am back shopping at Farmer’s Markets and clipping coupons and making lists and planning menus and trying to make our household meals tasty and healthy. These are crucial years for little Ember to learn food skills from table manners to new tastes. I am abandoning the habit of eating off a tray and watching the news on TV and relocating to the dining room. It is really fun to involve Ember. She helps with preparation, table setting, clearing and washing dishes. It takes a little longer but I hope she is learning lifelong skills and habits. Some of my fondest memories of my mother and grandmother are of times spent together in the kitchen.

I cooked three meals a day for a family of six for twenty years so I have pretty much worked my way through my shelf of cookbooks. Right now I am interested in new ideas for meals that are not only healthy but made from locally grown foods. Quick to fix counts for quite a bit as well. Of course, for myself, these meals are meat free although Windy and Ember eat chicken and fish so sometimes that is added for them.

I enjoy trying recipes or suggestions from friends so I did sign up for an e-mail recipe exchange. I was stunned by the overwhelmingly negative response from friends I contacted. Some “don’t cook” or “don’t do recipes” or “have other interests” or are “too busy” or “hate chain letters” or want to be “taken off the list.” Okay, okay. I get it. Back to cookbooks and magazines for ideas and inspiration. I won’t ask again.

But I think of a pasta salad recipe I have used for years. My kids still remember the first time they ate it and the friend who gave us the recipe when they were little. It’s “Ann’s Vermicelli Salad.” Another family favorite is “Keppy’s Bread Pudding” which dates back to the 1960’s. The children themselves have contributed the child-friendly “Banana Graham Cracker Pudding” to PTA and club cookbooks over the years.

When the kids moved me out here, one of the things they were looking forward to was meals around the antique dining room table. All of us feel that breaking bread together is an essential part of family. And we have always all been involved in planning menus, shopping, preparing the food, cooking/baking, cleaning up and saving favorite recipes to use again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dancing Shadows

The East Winds have bestirred themselves early in the season and arrived while green leaves are still on the trees. The tenacious leaves hang on the branches and wave wildly making dancing shadows on the walls inside and out. These are of unending fascination to Ember and, for some reason, to Buddy. The two of them sit side by side, mesmerized by these dancing shadows.

Is today a manifestation of global warming and climate change? It is supposed to heat up to 94 degrees this afternoon. You can, of course, wear your new Fall wardrobe as the air conditioning will be cranked full bore in all establishments and you will need your wool sweater.

Sometimes I think of other houses, other autumns. In Osceola harvesting pecans and listening to the walnuts fall off the tree in the stillness of a quiet afternoon. And in my Ozark childhood, driving to my grandfather’s in Cabool to gather black walnuts to shell for Christmas gifts. In North Highlands, raking mountains of leaves and stuffing them into green trash bags. Up on The Ridge, getting the wood in was a major task. In San Francisco, I had no leaves in my yard, but it was a time the fog would lift and you could see the Farralons.

We are moving into the season of harvest, of endings, of hunkering down and preparing for winter. A shift to indoor activities. It is a time for travel to visit friends and family. A time for celebrating birthdays and gathering for a bountiful Thanksgiving feast. We’ll rejoice in little Ember’s turning two. So much to be grateful for and each day now a blessing for me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Searching around in my slightly damaged memory bank, I find Fall 1986 as the time I began watching Sunday football games on TV. The purpose was to have a topic of conversation suitable for three sons in their late teens and early 20’s. They used to check in with me by phone on Sunday evenings and we compared notes on the games. In the early months of that Fall, I was living in a rambling old house in Quincy, California. I had moved there with high hopes and a tiny puppy named Babe hoping to start a new life after my divorce and my sister’s death. But shortly after arriving to start the new job, I was summarily fired .

I rented a U-Haul and left there on Halloween, driving over the mountain pass as a huge storm literally stopped all the traffic behind me. I found a tiny dilapidated duplex in the old section of Roseville right beside the railroad tracks. I crammed my possessions in as best I could. I was unemployed, broke, and loose from my moorings. Not the very best Autumn of my life, but it got me back to knitting and introduced me to Sunday sports. Those were the years of the Forty-Niners with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, et al.

In the Spring of 1987 I moved to Turner Drive in North Highlands where I spent seven happy years and watched my beloved Forty Niners win two Super Bowls in 1989 & 1990. By the time they won again in 1995 I was living off the grid with no TV, but I listened on my little battery powered radio up on Wild Pig Ridge.

Since those days football has changed, the teams have changed, players have switched to other teams or retired. But there is still football on TV on Sunday afternoon. And for more than twenty years…nothing beats sitting on the couch with the window open to a crisp Fall day and my knitting in my lap and the Sunday paper available to read during commercials and WATCHING FOOTBALL. Go Niners!!