Browsing Date

September 2015

A Vintage Tomato Memory

Grandpas Garden By September 24, 2015 Tags: , , No Comments

When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a big tomato patch in her backyard.  That is what she called it, I imagine because she grew up on a farm in Missouri.  Looking back now, I realize that what she called her backyard was probably more like an acre of land. The plants were arranged in rows and columns, making a nice, neat rectangular pattern.  All she grew were tomatoes.  As a child peering into the patch, it looked more like a dense forest of stems and leaves than a garden plot. My grandmother would send me into the middle of it (where she couldn’t easily reach) to pick the ripe tomatoes.  I am sure I disappeared from view once I was in the middle.  Eventually, I would emerge with an arm full of juicy, ripe tomatoes.  We would fill the old, large mixing bowl and then head inside to the kitchen. There she would make us tomato sandwiches for lunch.

If you haven’t tasted a juicy, ripe tomato picked fresh from the garden or had a tomato sandwich made from them…you are missing out.  Until I was a young adult, I didn’t realize a home grown and a store bought tomato could taste so different.  But they do!  Besides picking them from your own personal garden, delicious, home grown tomatoes can be found at the local farmers market.   Pick some up, you won’t be disappointed.  Here is a super, simple recipe for making a tomato sandwich (like my grandma made for her grand kids – back in the day).

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Making a Vintage Tomato Sandwich

  • Toast two slices of bread (toasting is not necessary)
  • Slice a ripe tomato into thin slices
  • Generously spread mayonnaise onto the toasted bread
  • Then layer the tomatoes on top of the mayonnaise (sprinkle with salt if desired)

Today I might add slices of avocado and a variety of lettuce or spinach leaves. But that is not how we ate them, decades ago, in my grandma’s kitchen.  Yum!

Did you eat tomato sandwiches growing up?

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Grandkids, Toddlers By September 22, 2015 Tags: , , No Comments

My two-year old granddaughter enjoys eating popsicles while sitting on an old wooden table in my yard.  Our mini-tradition of lounging outdoors, while eating frozen sticks of goodness, started to avoid getting sticky popsicle juice all over my kitchen chairs, the table, the floor, and yes, the rest of the house.  She likes to get up and move around, not quite understanding that she is dripping stuff everywhere!  However, she does understand that I want popsicles eaten outside.

She likes me to sit on the wooden table with her while she attacks her frozen treat. As she licks and slurps away, we talk.  This is the best part.  She asks me what different sounds are.  I have to listen carefully because I take all these noises in stride and they don’t even register with me anymore.  I live on a moderately busy street, close to the beach, with noisy trucks, airplanes flying overhead and loud chipping birds.  She lives in a wooded area that is much quieter, so my “city” sounds are interesting to her.

‘What’s that noise?’, she asks.  ‘A motorcycle”, I respond.  ‘A motorcycle’, she repeats.  ‘What’s that noise? ‘, she asks again. ‘That is a cooing pigeon.  Do you see it up on the wire?’, I point to where it is perched.  She searches until she finds it and then repeats, ‘that’s a pigeon’.  Then I turn the tables on her and ask her the questions.  ‘What’s that noise?’ I question, as a loud truck bumps past.  ‘A truck!’, she answers, as she beams up at me with a huge grin. We go back and forth like this until she gets the very last bit from the popsicle stick.  Then we are done, the moment passes and she is off to her next activity.

I look forward to these outdoor sessions and I think she does too.  It gives us a slice of time, when both of us are just hanging out together. Our focus is on identifying the noises and discussing the world around us.  It is a great teaching time and a great bonding time.

I always make sure I have a stock of popsicles ready in the freezer….just in case.

How do you spend special time with your grandchild?

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Flying with a Toddler

Grandkids, Toddlers By September 15, 2015 Tags: , , 3 Comments

We recently flew with our active two-year old granddaughter.  It was a fairly short flight, only an hour and a half. In order to avoid or at least lessen any toddler melt downs, we did some prep work.resized_bento_box

My granddaughter is a morning person, she wakes up hungry and ready to go.  Since we had to leave the house at 4:30 am, to get to the airport, I prepared some food for her the night before.  I made up a toddler “bento box” for the airplane and a baggie of grapes for the car ride.

I picked up a square plastic sandwich container, I found them on sale for $.50.  I treated these as disposable containers.  Once we reached our destination I threw it away, along with any uneaten contents. However, you could save it for future use by tossing the remaining food and washing it out.  In the box I put two peeled and sliced hard boiled eggs, wrapped individually in plastic wrap, a cheese stick, a tube of yogurt and some grapes.  We gave it to her once the plane was in the air, it kept her busy the first part of the trip. esized_craft_bag

I also put together two activity bags, one for the flight there and one packed in my luggage, for the return home.  In a quart size bag I put a small notebook, some stickers, a few crayons, a container of cards (like Go Fish or Shapes from the dollar store) and a small book.  This kept her busy the second part of the flight.

resized_on_airplaneOn the plane, we talked about the sounds of the engine, the overhead buttons for the lights and air and we held her hand on take-off and landing. Things went smooth, we only experienced a little bit of grumbling, despite sitting on the tarmac for 45 minutes after landing, waiting for our gate to open up!  Well, you can’t plan for everything.

Have you taken a toddler on an airplane?  What worked for you?

This post linked to the GRAND Social over at Grandma’s Briefs, Treasure-Box-Tuesdays over at Memories by the Mile and Creative Muster at Fluster Buster

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10 Tips for a Happier Family Trip to D.C.

Family By September 14, 2015 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

This year, as a collective Christmas present, our family decided to take a vacation together.  We called it the “gift of time” because what we really like to do and don’t get to do as much, is spend time together.

The destination we chose was Washington D.C., over Labor Day weekend.  We decided to add an extra day, extending the already long weekend.  Off we went, celebrating Christmas in September, the grandparents, three grown children, a two-year old and an infant. It turns out we chose well, except for the heat, which hovered around 90 degrees, the summer crowds had thinned and the hotel prices were great.

Here are a few suggestions that helped us:

  1. Let each member pick something they would like to see.  We put together an itinerary so that everyone got to see or do at least one thing on their list. Nobody left disappointed.
  2. Book a hotel close to a metro stop and eating establishments.  At the end of a long day visiting the sites, you just want to get back to the hotel and find somewhere close by to eat dinner.
  3. Get connecting hotel rooms, if possible.  This made it nice for the parents to hand off the grands in the morning, so they could get a few minutes of peace and quiet before breakfast.  My granddaughter loved going back and forth through the “secret door”.
  4. Download the DC Metro Map app onto your phone.  You can get it for both Apple and Android phones.  We downloaded it onto several phones, so more than one person had the map. This proved to be very helpful.
  5. If you are planning to use the metro a lot, consider purchasing an all-day metro pass.  It pays for itself after three or four trips, depending if you travel off-peak or not.  Children 4 and under ride free.
  6. Keep the little kids in the stroller while you are in the metro station.  It is easier and safer to get on and off the train quickly if they are contained in the stroller.
  7. Bring an easily fold-able stroller and one that reclines for nap time on the go.  If you plan on using a double stroller, don’t bring one that sits side by side.  Because they are wide, it is difficult to get them on and off the metro train and they don’t easily fit through a lot of the museum doors or museum security areas.
  8. Find out ahead of time which attractions allow strollers and which ones don’t.  You can usually find this information on their websites.  For example, the Butterfly Exhibit at the Natural History Museum did not allow strollers, but had a place to store it while we were in the exhibit.
  9. Bring water and snacks for the kids (and possibly adults). Food is a bit pricey at the Smithsonian cafeterias.  Have a little something on hand to hold them over until you can find a reasonable restaurant.  The small individual bags of cookies and crackers work well.
  10. Less is more. Don’t try to cram too much into one day.  It is better to see a few things and have time left over to relax, instead of being harried, harassed and exhausted because you had to get it all in.

We had a great time and are now looking forward to our second family Christmas vacation.

Does your multi-generation family travel together?

 

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A Most Embarrassing Moment

Family By September 11, 2015 No Comments

There I was, innocently boarding the Metrorail in Washington DC.  We had decided to take the yellow line or maybe it was the blue line, to have breakfast at a popular waffle house across from Ford’s Theater.  We had to take two different trains to get there and this was the second one. The first ride went very smoothly, there were just a few people and plenty of open seating.  That was not the case with the second train.  It was fairly packed.  There were no empty seats.  This was not a big deal.  I have ridden the subway in New York City, I understand about grabbing the overhead rail and hanging on. Why I decided to forget all that when I did, I don’t know.

I boarded the train, following my husband who was carrying the toddler.  Looking back it would have been much better to keep her in the stroller while we were dealing with getting on and off the train.  Lessons learned.  Anyway, I moved over next to him when my granddaughter suddenly decided she wanted me to hold her.  Of course, being the good grandmother that I am, I reached out to take her.  At that moment, the train decided to lurch forward at full speed.  I wasn’t holding on to the hand rail above my head or anything else, except my granddaughter.  Before I could stop myself, I stumbled backwards and landed in a young man’s lap!  I jumped up as fast as I could, moved a tiny bit away (it was crowed) and made my red faced apologizes, several times.  He was very kind and gracious but I guess the man sitting next to him had experienced quite enough, because he jumped up and disappeared.  His departure left an open seat, which I quickly took, carefully avoiding any eye contact with the victim sitting next to me.  Thankfully, the train ride only lasted a few minutes but it felt like forever.

Meanwhile, my oldest son was trying not to giggle.  He couldn’t wait to get off the train to retell the whole scene from his perspective.  His biggest regret was that he didn’t get it on film!  A few days later we were exiting the Metrorail station when my son pointed out this sign.

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It’s going to be a while before I live this story down!

What embarrassing moments have you experienced while on travel with your family?

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The Wooden Rocking Horse

Grandkids, Toddlers By September 10, 2015 No Comments

Thirty years ago, for my sons first birthday, my husband made him a wooden rocking horse.   We copied the pattern from a rocking horse his cousin had purchased for their children. Since money was tight and my husband was a weekend woodworker, we decided he could make it for a fraction of the cost of buying one.

He was working away, all was going as planned, the horse was almost done until… my husband sliced his hand open with a chisel. Eighty dollars (emergency room costs, thirty years ago) and eight stiches later, the resulting rocking horse ended up costing much more than what we would have originally spent to purchase it.  Big sigh! However, my young son did get hours of enjoyment from the horse and we got a great story. We decided we could pass down the tale, hopefully along with the rocking horse.

Fast forward to today. A few months back I remembered the rocking horse, which has lived in the attic for many years. I pulled it out of its hiding place (actually, I made my son go and haul it down) dusted it off and looked it over.  It was dirty and stained because I had never refinished it properly.  It was put into use right away and back then, unknowingly, I left it natural, with no protection.  However, it did survive, seemed very sturdy and the chips and cracks just add character.

I took it outside and gave it a good sanding and a couple coats of paint.  Once I was satisfied (and tired of painting), I set it in the dining room and waited for my two year old granddaughter to visit.  I figured the worst case scenario would be that I could use it as decoration in my living room.

To my delight she loved the rocking horse.  She regularly rocks on it, next to a giant, leafy avocado tree that occasionally brushes against her hair. She rocks and she sings. One day, when she is an adult, I think she will pull up happy memories of riding her pony though the leafy, green forest.  She will remember it warmly and with a smile.   Only we will know that it was really just a thirty year old, chipped and scared, blue wooden rocking horse that she rode at grandma’s house.

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The Wonders of the Dollar Store

Grandkids, Toddlers By September 2, 2015 No Comments

I guess it has been years since I have ventured into a dollar store.  The first and last time I shopped in one they didn’t have what I needed, so I left unimpressed.  Recently, I tried again.  I was looking for some inexpensive items to take on an airplane trip with my oldest granddaughter (who is almost 2 ½).  I found what I was looking for and a whole lot more.

If you plan a visit to your local dollar store to restock grandma supplies, I suggest you bypass the toy isle, with the cheap toys that will only be looked at once and tossed to the side or broken immediately.  Proceed to the education section.  Here I found a variety of thick coloring books that feature popular characters from Disney and Sesame Street. They had cardboard books for the babies and paperback and picture books for the older grands, those who no longer eat books. They also had educational workbooks like alphabet and number practice if your grandkids are ready for that. I found a variety of puzzles and educational tools for preschoolers on up. I also came across some craft kits that would be prefect for younger kids or tweens.  They have big boxes of crayons and large packages of markers. It is the frugal grandma’s paradise.

So, what did I buy that day?  A package containing two books featuring Elmo (a favorite), three sets of playing cards (one package), a Winnie the Pooh coloring book, pipe cleaners, a small, blue Elmo water bottle and large package of stickers.

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Grand total: $6.36

Ding, ding, ding!  We have a winner.

What treasures have you found at the dollar store?

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Pickles – the Food of Generations

Grandpas Garden, Recipes By September 2, 2015 No Comments

My family loves pickles. From my oldest granddaughter all the way up to her grandpa.  Are they picky about their pickles? Why, yes they are!  Not just any old pickle will do. So, I was a bit nervous when I decided to take on the role of Pickle Chef and make pickles from the cucumbers in my garden. Since I didn’t have all the equipment to actually process them with a heat bath, I decided to make the refrigerator kind.

I purchased an entire case of quart canning jars from Walmart, I noticed (afterwards) that some places actually sell them individually. However, since these pickles won’t be canned (put under heat and pressure), any jar that you have in your cabinet should work.  Like old jars from pickles you bought at the store!  Make sure to thoroughly wash any jar that you use, including the new ones you just bought.

The ingredients:

  •       3 ½ cups of water
  •       1 ¼ cups white vinegar
  •       1 Tablespoon regular sugar
  •       1 Tablespoon regular salt
  •       4 cups cucumbers (cut into spears or slice
  •       2 cloves of garlic (whole, but pealed)
  •       Fresh dill (4 or 5 sprigs or individual stalks)

 

In a sauce pan stir together water, vinegar, salt and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let it cool down completely.

Meanwhile, fill your jar with cucumber spears, dill and garlic.

Pour cooled vinegar mixture over cucumbers in the jar.  Put on lid and refrigerate for at least 3 days.  *adapted from a recipe found on Allrecipes.com

Tips and Hints:

  • Fresh dill seems delicate and turns bad quickly.  I suggest you use it the same day you buy it.  Gently rinse it when you get it home and let it drain.
  • The original recipe called for 2 heads of dill, this confused me. Since the dill divides naturally into individual stalks (sprigs) I translated it into that measurement.  I added dill on the top and to the bottom of the jar.
  • If you are impatient and want your vinegar water to cool faster, stick it in the refrigerator.
  • I let my prepared pickles set in the frig for a week before we tried them.
  • If you want a little kick then add a sliced jalapeno pepper or dried red chile pepper to the jar.

The result:  Everyone liked them, from the granddaughter to the grandfather and everyone in-between.  I even gave a jar away to friends. That’s confidence!

Enjoy!

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