Last week I decided to take advantage of the time of year and the wonderful cool weather and go pick blackberries. I wanted enough to make a batch of jam and some blackberry lemonade. I asked my mother if they wanted to come and she said “not interested.”
But then when she checked with my dad, he changed her mind for her. And they came out and met us at the berry patch, where we found more than enough berries to collect fourteen pounds amongst the five of us, despite the hard winter here, which killed off a great many canes.
Then when my youngest begged his grandmother to come back to the house with us, she succumbed to his wiles.
After all, it’s only 10 minutes from the berry patch, so why not.
Before they arrived I had time to shower and get cleaned up, and by the time they were done picking and joined us, we were ready for a game, which the boy again suggested and the grandparents agreed to.
Then they said they had better get home.
But it was getting on toward lunch time and I said, “Why not stay for lunch?”
“Oh we don’t want to take your leftovers!” Mom looked into the fridge and told my father they had better not stay because I didn’t have enough.
What she had missed was that I had already downloaded the contents of the fridge onto the counter. I assured her that I had enough goodies for everyone…so they stayed a little longer.
They used to live a two days’ drive away.
It is so nice to have them here, where we can meet for berry picking and spend as much time together as we like.
Since I moved here 8 years ago I have noticed that people I meet seem to think I know what I’m doing and that I am not merely a functioning adult, but someone they can assume has parenting experience and will be around to rely on if they need some support.
Now that I’m 47 and have one homeschool graduate to my credit, have done the high school and college admissions thing before, I can understand that view.
What I want to trumpet to the world, about every other day or so, is, “No! I really don’t know what I’m doing! I have fears and questions, regrets and concerns. I have challenges each day about which I could use the advice and support of someone older, smarter, and more experienced.”
But it seems like once you reach a certain point, you get so good at what you do, that your wish to be supported fades into the background.
I like talking with other mothers, being a listening ear, and providing support in hard times. It’s good to have experience and to have made it through difficult situations. That’s a gift which I’ve been given, and I’m glad I can give back.
Still, I have had a difficult time adjusting to the reality that I am now that older, wiser person.
Despite having lived a few years above the age of 40 now, I don’t grasp it. Maybe I don’t want to. I guess as with any change there is both good and bad, and I do miss feeling like there is someone older and wiser watching out for me.
But I had found myself thinking that I had been forced into this new role without any transitional help. Then I realized the other night after processing for a while that this idea was incorrect.
1. First I had about 20 years being a young woman and being loved on and mentored by a lot of fantastic people, peers and adults. (I’m thinking of Marilyn Howe, Carylion Kennedy, Gina Humphrey, Sandy Bumpus, Anni Miller, Kathleen Woolsey and many more)
2. Then I had about 20 more years of some mentoring and a lot of mutual support in relationships with peers. (Here mentors are Judy Calkin, Doris Musser, Kim Gardner, Chris Jolly)
3. Bringing us to the future, where I have made the transition to being more mentor than mentoree. (Here’s Susan Jackson)
So I realized that this trajectory is not all that unusual. In fact, I suspect this is how it’s supposed to work.
For whatever reason, this made it easier to comprehend why I am where I am now.
The only thing I’m wondering is, what will the years from 60 to 80 look like?
Should be fun.
Last night I experienced some of the joy and wonder that cell phones can provide.
I had left for an arts event at a local nature preserve at 6:15. We arrived early, my daughter set out her art, we chatted with the organizer and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Then sometime after the program started, with music and people reading from their work, I noticed I had a phone message I had somehow missed. Probably I missed it because my phone is over 8 years old and “reception” with it is pretty sporadic.
I listened to the message when I could, to find that my youngest child was experiencing distress because he had lost the directions for Lincoln log building which he had been referring to for the past week. I was to call back and give any ideas of where the paper could be.
I checked with the family members I had with me.
No one had touched the piece of paper in question.
I called my son back and made a few suggestions and sympathetic noises, then went back to listening to the program.
Later, we went for a walk on one of the nature trails, back into the woods where all we could hear were a few bugs and the far off sound of music from the event.
There, I got a phone message from my husband, saying my son was still upset, did I know where the directions were, did the other kids know, etc., and to please call him back. As soon as my phone found a stretch of path with some bars, I stopped, called, and explained that I didn’t know, but sympathized.
Then, as we were heading back to the venue, to get my daughter’s art and pack it up, the phone rang again. My son, still sobbing, wanted to know when I would be home. I told him I was on my way. Every time my phone rang, I was hoping it was to tell me that the instructions had been found….but not so.
When we got home, he was reading a book with his dad, the tears at bay for the moment. I discreetly ruffled through the papers in the recycle bin, not expecting to find anything.
Then on to the room where the item had disappeared. I saw a flashlight sitting near the couch, and guessing it had already been used, decided to give it another go and look under the sofa. Pressing my head sideways to the hardwood floor, I attempted to shine the light in the fairly narrow slit that is the space under an old sleeper sofa. And, there in the murky depths…was a piece of wrinkled paper. Could this be what we all sought?
I got a yard stick and after about a minute of pushing and scratching it around, got the paper within reach of my fingertips.
Success. What was lost had been found. My directions and suggestions had not produced the desired results; my looking did.
I was pleased to have been Mom the Great, Who has Found the Instructions. It’s always nice to be essential.
Or is it?
That would be blackberries and what you can do with them.
My personal favorite is blackberry lemonade.
This is what you do. Process 3 cups of freshly picked blackberries through the finest setting of your food processor, to remove seeds and pulp as much as possible. You can hand-mash them through a sieve if you have to, but I prefer using my hand crank food processor. A great investment for this reason and homemade apple and cranberry sauces. Anyway.
In a large glass pitcher, combine one cup sugar, one cup lemon juice, and six cups water. Stir.
Then add the blackberry juice you just created, stir, and serve over ice.
Once you’ve tried this, you will probably feel as I do, that summer is not complete without a taste of it!
And now, in what we hope will be our final zucchini hurrah, I want to share two more very useful zucchini recipes. My two main criteria for what makes a zucchini recipe good are 1. it has to create few leftovers (as that means it’s tasty and I’m not getting any complaints) and 2. it has to use at least several cups of zucchini (otherwise what is the point ?).
Both of these recipes meet the criteria.
I use both of them as main dishes, even though the zucchini garlic pasta, brought to you by a subscription I used to have for Quick Cooking and its author, Shelley Smail of Chico, California, is supposed to be a side salad.
Zucchini Garlic Pasta
16 oz rotini or other specialty pasta
6-8 slices bacon
1 medium onion diced
4-6 garlic cloves minced
3 medium zucchini halved and sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat cook bacon until crisp. Remove, cool and crumble. Discard any drippings you don’t care to use, or add some olive oil if you don’t have enough drippings, and saute onion and garlic until somewhat tender, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and salt; cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Add drained pasta to the zucchini mix. Add lemon juice and bacon, toss. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan.
This is relatively simple as it doesn’t have that many ingredients, but with a side salad and a vegetable, or maybe just some bread, it is always a hit at my house.
Zucchini Lasagna Casserole (my mother’s, modified, from her friend Phyllis Jackson)
1 pound ground beef
1 clove garlic
1 T. basic leaves
1 tsp. salt
15 oz can tomato sauce
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
4 medium to large zucchini (or more if needed) thinly sliced, cutting out areas that have large seeds first, if there are any
3 cups creamy cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. dried parsley flakes
2 beaten eggs
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 pound Mozzarella cheese grated
Brown beef and drain fat. Add other ingredients through tomato paste and simmer for 15 minutes or so while preparing other ingredients. Add water if it becomes pasty; you want to be able to pour it into the casserole. Slice the zucchini thinly, and I do mean that, as you want them to not be crunching under your teeth when you bite in. Mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
When all is prepared, layer the lasagna ingredients in a 9×13 pan starting with first half the zucchini slices, half the cottage cheese mix, half the grated mozzarella, and half the meat sauce. Repeat the layers. Bake in a 375 oven for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes as the filling will set slightly and the lasagna will be easier to serve.
I remember when lasagna was one of the most complicated things I made. It doesn’t feel that way any more, because with enough practice any dish becomes simple. I also like using the zucchini instead of lasagna noodles. It’s much simpler and just as delicious.
And it uses a lot of zucchini.
OK I was just telling myself I would not share bread related recipes, because while I like zucchini bread, zucchini bars, and zucchini muffins, seriously how much chocolate zucchini cake can you make and eat in one summer? And, each bread recipe really doesn’t use up that much zucchini. You’re better off making zucchini pizza or zucchini lasagna for dinner if you truly want to make a dent in the green horde.
However, this morning I tried a zucchini muffin recipe I liked, so I will share it with you. It’s from Mad about Muffins cookbook by Dot Vartan, and I modified it a tad, but I’m giving credit cause it’s still her recipe.
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini ( or double recipe to use even more! ha!)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used less)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup or so maple syrup
1/3 cup milk
Heat oven to 350. Shred the zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix the oil, vanilla, eggs, maple syrup and milk in a large bowl. Add the zucchini. Stir. Add the flour, soda, powder, spices and stir. Add the nuts and chocolate chips, stir again, and then pour/transfer to greased baking tins. Bake for about 18-20 minutes and enjoy. This makes about 18 muffins.
Now if you’re looking for something simpler, for dinner, that uses as many zucchini as you have people in your family, or more, try this.
My friend Erica gave me this idea. It’s perfect for people who are trying to eat low carb.
Wash, cut off ends, and slice in half lengthwise as many zucchinis as you want personal size pizzas. You can use large ones for this or maybe two smaller ones for each person. Remove the seedy part of the pulp if they are large, or if small, just make a little trench in the middle to hold the sauce. Place into a 9×13 casserole pan or any pan they’ll fit in.
Top with a small amount of tomato sauce to taste and sprinkle with garlic power, basil, and oregano to taste. Place a lovely thick layer of grated mozzarella cheese over each zucchini, and then top with your favorite pizza toppings. At our house that is pepperoni, black olive and mushroom.
Then bake at about 400-425 degrees, for about 25-30 minutes. You’ll have to test it by poking with a fork to see if it’s done. Voila, pizza, and you didn’t have to make a crust.
I spent my birthday noon hour with my parents yesterday. They thoughtfully offered to take me out to lunch at a local Ethiopian restaurant they hadn’t visited yet, so I met them there.
They were somewhat delayed due to a combination of vision difficulties and the ludicrously lacking street signage in downtown Louisville, so I had time to get comfortable at my table, order my birthday Coke (there isn’t any in the house due to my youngest having a minor addiction to it. If I buy it, he finds it, and I’m not OK with that) and check out the buffet.
I also had time to reflect on the oddity of being another year older and creeping toward fifty.
But the main thought in my mind was the lovely courtesy of my father, whose idea the lunch date was.
My folks have a variety of volunteer work, hobbies, church events, friends, and appointments that keep them busy, but they still thought it would be fun to take time out of a day that already had a schedule to have lunch with me. And, they wanted to pay for it!
Birthdays are traditionally a day to celebrate the person whose birthday it is, and that’s certainly a tradition I’m very fond of. But if there is anyone, other than the Giver of life, who ought to be celebrated on a birthday, it should be the parents. Without them, you wouldn’t be having a birthday in the first place.
So at one level, it would really make more sense for me to take my parents out to lunch on my birthday, as a way to thank them for the wonderful life they gave me.
But that’s the funny thing about parents. They really enjoy giving you presents, doing nice things for you, surprising you, helping you. It’s (usually) not an obligation, but a pleasure to do something lovely with or for your child.
I know that, because I also am a parent. It has obviously given me a whole new perspective on how my parents raised me.
As I thought about how I really should be paying for my parents’ lunches, because I owe them so much, I realized that is the funny thing about the parent-child relationship.
A child owes her parents everything.
But at the same time, she doesn’t owe them anything.
It’s a paradox. You have an obligation because of bringing another person into the world; but the obligation is yours, not your child’s. You love that child with all your heart, teach the child what life is about, and then accept that the child is his own person. He will make his own choices and do what he thinks is best.
You gave him the gift of being alive.
But by definition, it’s a gift.