Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Monday

I am back from a long weekend at the beach with friends. I wish I had measured Baby Sister before I left because I'm pretty sure she grew two inches in the three days I was away. But there is absolutely no doubt that her hair grew! If I could do time lapse photography, I think we could see it grow while she sleeps.

Big Sister finished her science fair project while I was gone. I may have lost my status as the resident scissors and glue authority. Kind to nice to know they can do it all with my advice or assistance.

And because it's Monday, I'm cooking while Baby Sister is napping. This should get us through the week without much more to do. I've told my daughters many, many times--cooking isn't so hard. The hard part is deciding what to cook. If you walk in the door from work with a plan, I think you can have dinner on the table quicker than you can go out to eat.

This morning I've already made spaghetti sauce with ground turkey. And right now on the stove is a recipe that my mother made often. She said she made it lots when we were babies because she could put everything in one pot and then it cooked itself. She had a deep well cooker on her stove that would slow cook dinner. Sometimes I actually realize how old I am when I remember something like a deep well cooker and hardly anyone knows what I'm talking about. The deep well cooker was the predecessor of the Crock Pot. Fortunately, the recipe doesn't require one.

Here is my mother's "busy with the baby" recipe for Brunswick Stew. I know this isn't really Brunswick Stew but that's what she called it. I love it. My sister does not. You can decide for yourself. But you can't argue with the fact that it's easy.

Brunswick Stew

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can whole tomatoes, broken up
1 medium onion, diced
1 potato, peeled & diced
1/2 cup whole kernel corn (frozen or canned)
salt & pepper to taste

Put everything together in a heavy sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the juices from the meat release and it almost boils. Then turn to low heat, cover, and cook most of the morning (or at least an hour), stirring occasionally.

I like to serve it over rice with a few shakes of Texas Pete hot sauce over it. There is nothing sacred about the measurements. Use what suits you. This morning I used a can of diced tomatoes because that's what Mommy had in her pantry.

I telephoned a cousin this morning and we talked about this recipe. Her mother (my aunt) browned her ground beef first. My mother did not. Choose your method. BUT NEVER PUT RAW GROUND BEEF IN A CROCK POT--it must be browned first. I don't brown the meat but I don't use a Crock Pot either. I cook it on the stove top. Just making sure no one misunderstands me.

Ummm.......smells good in here!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

He's In Charge

As I was getting ready this morning to head to the beach with "the girls" for the weekend, I could hear Granddaddy reading the newspaper to Baby Sister.  Something about state appropriations and funding for education.  A couple of days with Granddaddy will broaden Baby Sister's horizons, I'm pretty sure.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finished Project

When people ask how I learned to knit, I always wish I could say, "My grandmother taught me." Or, "I learned from my mother." But I learned from a 39-cent Coats & Clark how-to book many years ago that I bought when I worked at our local 5 & 10 cent store after school. It was my job was to restock the yarn shelves. I loved handling all the colors. So I taught myself how to knit a little way back then. I've learned much more in the last few years.

I was excited when Big Sister wanted me to show her how to knit. A few days spent at our house during a snow storm gave us plenty of time to try something new. The very first day she finished an iPod cover. Then she chose her own second project--a scarf for her sister. This project took lots longer than the little iPod cover. Probably longer than she anticipated, but she stayed with it. A few rows every day. And she learned to deal with frustration when some rows had to come back out to be knit over again. "Patience", I kept saying, "Everyone makes mistakes. It's how we learn." After a few weeks, she finished and it was with great pride that she gave the red scarf to Baby Sister who happily modeled it for the camera.

Big Sister now has a beautiful knitting bag of her own. The one she was promised if she finished the scarf. She's looking carefully for the next project. Pretty sure she wants a small one this time. Hopefully, many years from now, when someone asks Big Sister, "Where did you learn to knit?", she will fondly say, "My grandmother taught me."

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Mutual

On the days when Grandmother has a ukulele gig, the "grandmother gig" is taken over by Granddaddy.  It is a complete and utter mutual admiration society.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We Survived

Strategic planning. Maneuvers. Logistics. We might be talking military here. But it's only us trying to make today work. Let's see. Baby Sister's well check (which included vaccinations), Big Sister's visit to the allergist, Granddaddy's doctor visit, and Grandmother's ukulele gig. And let's not forget it's testing day at school. Mommy and Grandmother must swap off at some point. Complete coordination.

We verbally rehearsed variations of the plan that would get everyone where they need to be at the proper time. Adjustments were made, trying to allow for the unforeseen or the unexpected. No time for traffic snarls today. All the parts must fit together with precision. It's planned like a well-choreographed ballet. How on earth did we ever do this before cell phones were invented?

It wasn't much fun for anyone today---except maybe Grandmother and her ukulele gig. So, so glad there are not many days like today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Early Morning

Pattern:  Through The Woods (a cabled hood)
Yarn:  Cascade Eco+
Needles:  Size 10.5 & 3

Someone at church asked me a few weeks ago, "What do you do all day while the baby is sleeping?  Just watch TV?" Well, not exactly. There are days when I am pretty good household help and do some of the regular chores around the house. And other days when I'm not in mood (i.e. tired) I will do something else.

A favorite thing to do is to knit. I've knitted for years but only very simple things. Having my time arranged differently now has provided me an opportunity to try more difficult projects that I might not have before I became the "grandmother in charge" and spend my days at Baby Sister's house. I used to spend a good part of my day in the car zipping from here to there. Not any more.

In this new world taking a class is more difficult, but it's possible to learn almost anything from YouTube. (Probably some things you shouldn't be learning, too.) So when I get stuck, I'll check to see if I can find a how-to video to show me how to do a new technique. And then there is Ravelry--an online community of knitters and fiber artists with over a million members. Joining is free. When I don't understand something in a pattern I can post a question there and usually someone, somewhere in the world, will answer within minutes. How cool is that?

So this morning while the house is quiet, I will savor the stillness. I will work another dozen rows on this cabled hood for my second born daughter. If a long nap happens this afternoon (sometimes it's an hour or two, other times it's 20 minutes) I might just finish this project. Life as a full-time grandmother is different than life as a weekend grandmother. But I love it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In The Club

I tried to learn to play bridge when I was in college. I was a terrible player. There would be no bridge club in my future. When I was a young mother, I did join a garden club and envisioned social time with lovely ladies. Then I discovered they actually expected me to grow things. Me...with my brown thumb. It was a short-lived membership. Over the years I was asked to join a few other clubs but for this reason or that, it never worked out. I decided I just wasn't a club kind of person.

But today Baby Sister and I went to the car wash. Now, when you go to the car wash at 10:30 on a weekday morning, nearly everyone there could belong to AARP. I lugged my "baby in a bucket" into the building to wait for our car to pass through all the brushes and cleaners. Just inside the door a tiny boy was holding his grandpa's hand, watching the soapy cars go by. He spied Baby Sister and broke into a huge smile. He patted the car seat as I passed and kept repeating, "I have one of these." I thought he meant he had a car seat but his grandpa explained he has a new baby sister at home. And I got to hear about their new baby from the proud grandfather. "Three months old and growing like a weed."

We moved on down the line to pay and then found a spot near the front door to wait for our car. A nice man asked, "Does she have red hair? I have two granddaughters with red hair." And we chatted about his girls. The next gray-haired gentleman asked how old Baby Sister is and remarked, "She's kind of little, isn't she? My granddaughter is a runt. But, she ever a powerhouse!" We talked about his grandchildren. Baby Sister enjoyed the attention, flashing her big grin at all of these granddaddys.

Next a lady came up to peek in the baby bucket. And the smiles stopped. This sweet lady said, "Isn't that the way it always is? The mamas and the grandmamas do all the work and it's the daddys and the papas that always get the smiles. That's just how girls are made." Just then a man waved a towel to signal that our car was ready. I said goodbye to our new grandmother friend and Baby Sister even gave her a tiny hint of a smile as we left.

This trip should have been a chore but I'd had fun at the car wash. And then it hit me. After all these years, I finally belong. I belong to the Grandparents Club.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Muffin Madness

Today there will be a treat waiting for Big Sister when she gets home from 4th grade with a spend-the-night friend. Food sensitivities (soy, egg & peanuts) make it hard to pick up an after school snack on the way home. No drive-thru windows for her. Or at least not very often. These muffins are not quite like the cupcakes she cannot have but are still very yummy.

This recipe has been passed around for years.  I found it again on Southern Plate where the former Weight Watchers recipe (low-fat and high fiber) became less diet but more delicious when the crumb topping was added. It has no eggs or soy.  The topping recipe will make enough for several batches of muffins, so the next time you bake it's super easy.  Big Sister has made these all by herself a couple of times. She only needs help getting the hot pan out of the oven.

Here is my version of this recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
1 box Duncan Hines spice cake mix

1 15-oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)    

1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. (PAM has soy, so you'll have to grease the tin the old fashioned way with shortening or cooking oil.)  Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix until well blended. I use an electric hand mixer. Spoon into muffin tin. Add topping (see below).


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 stick butter (margarine has soy)
Stir together flour and brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Cut in butter. Spoon or sprinkle on top of muffins, pat down slightly. 

Bake muffins at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  (It takes 30 minutes in my oven.)
*Leftover topping can be refrigerated for several weeks or frozen for several months until needed.

Feel free to try it with other cake mix flavors.  Yellow cake is pretty good.  Haven't tried chocolate yet.  But the spice cake is the favorite in this house.

And it's Friday.  I'm headed home after school, leaving Baby Sister to keep an eye on everyone for the weekend.