Sugar-coated Love

TeddyBearCarWith children, the quality of an “I love you” often depends upon how much sugar we say it with. My mom passed this world eight years ago, yet the smell of molasses cookies still pulls me beside her at the kitchen counter; me standing on a chair, sneaking fingers full of batter. Nothing makes me miss her more.

Last evening we promised to bring dessert  for Sunday dinner with our daughter, son-in-law, and four grand-children. I saw these cute candy racecars on Facebook, and cooking only required a tiny double boiler of chocolate.

TeddyBearCars

At their house my grandkids tried to break us with hugs and kisses and cute sentences:

“Why awe you washing my wacetwack, Gwamma?”

“You’ll see.”

“Gwamma, can I see the dessewt? I can keep a secwet.”

“You’ll see.”

“Papa, I bet the dessewt you and Gwamma made is weawwy, weawwy good.”

The key to feeding fun desserts to kids without freaking their parents is to keep the sweet stuff secret until after the kids eat their healthy food. Sugar will not make the zucchini go down. Especially if it’s staring you in the face.

The key to making kids think you’re cooler than you really are: presentation. At the very least, you’ll think you’re cooler than you really are.

The one with the green tires approaching the bridge is speeding.

The one with the green tires approaching the bridge is speeding. We ate him first.

This was the bottom of the batch. We had lots more colors and cooler presentation, but I forgot to take pictures.

This was the bottom of the batch. We had lots more colors and cooler presentation, but I forgot to take pictures.

“That’s why you washed my wacetwack!”

Social media helps us think more creatively than our parents because of that collaborative dynamic. We can capitalize on others’ innovations and brilliance.

For a fun summer activity, my granddaughters and I made Rice Krispie Paintbrushes. I wish this photograph did them justice. We used more colors of the rainbow. But, you get the idea.

ReindeerandMolassesCookies

Even reindeer like Grandma’s Molasses Cookies.

For Christmas, we made Reindeer Cookies. Paintbrushes and Santa’s helpers came to our families compliments of Pinterest pins which led me to the original blog posts that provided instructions.

I’ve already purchased the Peeps for my Easter project. (I don’t have to worry about my secret being out of the bag, because my grandkids don’t read my blog.)

PeepEasterCake

This photograph came from http://cakecentral.com/.

Funny, though–even after the extra attention to flamboyance and detail, the first dessert to disappear at any family function are Grandma’s Molasses Cookies. There’s something about that traditional smell of love.Grandmas Molasses Cookies

Go Bananas

Our church will host a Green Fair this Saturday to share ideas on how to live lives respectful to our environment. My parents, who married during the Depression Era, were green long before it became fashionable. They taught me that wasting was akin to stealing nourishment from a dying orphan. So, a recent epiphany on how to save aging bananas eased my orphan-killing guilt and made me feel like a better person.

FrozenBananasOldWayWe bought bananas every week, but often discarded those that over ripened. I tried resuscitating them like my mom taught me, putting over ripe ones in the freezer until I baked banana bread. But our crowded freezer protests by throwing hard food on our insteps. And  there’s only so much banana bread you can make before you 1.) can’t stand the sight or smell of banana bread, 2.) your weigh scale starts smoking, and 3.) your friends can’t stand the sight or smell of banana bread.

A food dehydrator might have been an option, but we don’t have the cupboard space for more kitchen appliances. Plus, I can eat just one banana chip.

FrozenBananasNew&ImprovedWayOne day it occurred to me that grapes taste good frozen, why not bananas? So, when our bananas reached the mm-mm good-to-banana-bread-ingredient teetering point, I peeled them, put them in a freezer safe bag, and froze them. It was life changing! They are perfect on cereal and ice cream; in smoothies and chocolate; and in baking–for those days we will surely crave banana bread again. * And banana bread tastes better with fresher bananas.

FrozenBananasinCerealAlso, studies prove that a good breakfast can enhance one’s productivity and overall health. Better bananas = a better breakfast. Hence, a better breakfast = better writing (or stock trading, or rocket building–whatever you’re doing). Freezing bananas reaps these great benefits:

  • less shopping time
  • smaller eco footprint
  • sweeter smelling garbage
  • more grocery savings
  • healthier eating

If you’re saying, “Duh! I’ve frozen bananas forever,” I wish you would have told my mom. You could have saved us both a lot of starving-children-in-Bangladesh shame.

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread reigns as our favorite banana bread recipe. One batch makes six small loaves or two big. The smaller ones allow for freezing more of the batch for company. You can get the small aluminum pans right in the baking section of your grocery store. Reuse the pans to stay ecosystem friendly.

The recipe is idiot-proof. I know from experience. I tend to mix the ingredients out-of-order and the bread still comes out great. They must taste even more amazing when you read the instructions first. 

Bananas! Bananas! Go green bananas!

Alice Herz Sommer-The Lady in Number Six

“I think I am in my last days but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life. And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.”
~Alice Herz Sommer

Today ash crosses adorn foreheads. They serve as a reminder that Easter is coming. Lent literally means “spring”, a season of preparation. The reflective 40 days ahead offer a prime opportunity for growth.

As we enter this growing season, Alice Herz Sommer’s preparation and waiting is over. She’s reached her “harvest” day. The 110-year-old pianist will go down in history as the last living Nazi Holocaust survivor. Yet, she was one of the world’s most joyful, hopeful, and “Lenten” souls.

Alice Herz Sommer says that music saved her life. Maybe her saving grace wasn’t the music, but her capacity to hear it.

THELADYINNUMBERSIXThis Lenten season, my preparation will be less about what I give up and more about who I want to become. In Alice Herz Sommer I’ve found a modern-day mentor.

Read more about The Lady in Number Six here.

I shouldn’t complain, but . . .

MinnesotaIceSculptureIt’s another subzero morning in Minnesota (-16 degrees), and my pen is on strike. The ink won’t to come out–and I don’t blame it. I prefer to stay inside this time of year, too.

Knowing that writers in other states are struggling, too, might make me feel better.

  1. Do Florida iPads ever shut down from too much sand?
  2. Californians–is that pesky sunshine making that laptop too hot to hold on your sunburned legs?
  3. Hawaiians–do you have circular indentations covering the backs of your notebooks, curse jars full of quarters, and trash bins full of dead pens from too much orchid pollen?

For those of you feeling a ting of guilt as you bask on the beach, here are some great good-will ideas for the needy. (I’m talking about us cranky Vitamin D deprived writers and illustrators from up north):

  • fingerless-glovespencils with refillable lead
  • fingerless gloves
  • space heaters
  • hot beverages
  • airline tickets to any southern destination

Okay, I’m warmer, now that I vented.

A gift idea for the KEMs (besides the aforementioned) is to join us February 15 for our Barbara Park tribute post about KEM GEM, MICK HARTE WAS HERE. We’re eager to know your opinion about the middle grade novel and we look forward to seeing you there.

Also, it’s never too late to comment on our first KEM GEM recommendation: Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee’s chapter book, CLEMENTINE.

Movies About Writers

THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLENever stop looking for what’s not there.

This quote came from Morgan Freeman’s character, Monte Wildhorn, in The Magic of Belle Isle.

I love movie characters who share writing wisdom or a glimpse into their writing life.

Since my husband and I are avid motion picture enthusiasts, I looked on-line for more flicks about writers and writing. And voila! Christina and Jason Katz have compiled a list of 277 titles and a Pinterest page of the 277 movie posters.

For fun, I’ve compiled my own Top Ten List of Movies About Writers (and the books that inspired them, where applicable). (My list is PG13 and under and they’re in no particular order.)

  1. movies_saving-mr-banks-posterSaving Mr. Banks (Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, The Real Life Mary Poppins: The Life and Times of P.L. Travers by Paul Brody)
  2. Freedom Writers (Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell)
  3. Diary of Anne Frank and Diary of Anne Frank TV miniseries (Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank)
  4. Funny Farm
  5. Marley and Me (Marley and Me by John Grogan)
  6. The Magic of Belle Isle
  7. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan)
  8. Little Women (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
  9. The Help (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)
  10. Dan in Real Life

On my to-read and watch list:

  1. thebookthiefThe Book Thief (about reading–so it qualifies) (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)
  2. Nim’s Island (Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr)
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney)
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky)

What’s your favorite movie that features a writer or writing?

Seasonal Danger-The Tootsie Pop

We Minnesotans consider ourselves a hardy bunch. That girl on the ski slope in the bikini–that guy ice fishing using his big toe for bait–that family waiting out the snow storm in the outdoor hot tub–they’re probably from Minnesota.

I’ve survived a 270 degree spinning “cookie” in my compact car on Interstate 494 during an ice storm in heavy traffic after dark. Lights blinded me as a ginormous grill  careened toward my driver’s side windows. Thankfully, it stopped just in time to slow other traffic, allowing me to maneuver my vehicle back into the flow. It’s hard to drive when every cell in your body is shaking.

Another time, I shivered in the frigid air over an hour, waiting for a wrecking truck to arrive and pull my smoldering car off of springs that had coiled up in the undercarriage.  Someone lost a twin mattress in the middle of my 55 mph lane after dark. I found it.

My dad said the challenges of life make us stronger. He needed to explain why Grandpa homesteaded in North Dakota.

Yes, living in these Arctic states, we’re proud of our storm-weathering resilience. But experience should also give us a healthy fear of sub-zero temperatures and icy roads. This brings me to the one other thing I now fear. It may seem esoteric, but, in my opinion, the third most dangerous winter season threat in Minnesota is the Tootsie Pop Lollipop.

Seasonal Minnesota hazard-The Tootsie Pop Lollipop

Seasonal Minnesota hazard-The Tootsie Pop Lollipop

During a recent visit to babysit my grandchildren, I was met at the door with the usual, “Gramma, Gramma, look-what-I-can-do/look-what-I-made/look-at-my-bleeding-gums-where-my-tooph-used-to-be” chaos.

I marveled at all of the wondrous sights. Before I could shut my gaping mouth, five-year-old “Sadie” swabbed my tongue and tonsils with her lollipop. She had the finesse of an ER nurse, only she was much more cheery. “Taste this, Gwamma! It’s fwuity!”

“Yummmm!” I said. “It is fruity. Is that mango or is it just sweet because it’s yours?”

She didn’t hear my question. Instead she coughed into her hand and twirled, “Goodness! I’ve just been coughing and sneezing all day!” as if she was experiencing something new and wonderful.

My daughter snickered apologetically.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m immune. I never get sick.”

It’s now 5:05 a.m. and I’m in the bathroom writing this blog in long hand so I won’t awaken my husband. Seems I’ve acquired this exasperating tickle in my throat and no amount of coughing, sneezing, hacking, lozenge sucking, tea sipping, broth slurping, moist air snorting, honey, lemon juice, salt, turmeric, cinnamon, Vapor Rubbing, deep breathing, symptom ignoring, and blind optimism will make it go away.

Every time I go back to bed I fall into another coughing spell. I’ve sucked so many cough drops, they’ve carved a menthol trench to my throat. My ears itch so intensely, I’m contemplating affixing a Q-tip to my husband’s Black & Decker drill. To trick myself back to sleep, I’ve even tried pretending I’m a concentration camp escapee hiding in a culvert. If I cough, the Gestapo will find me and all of the others (including children). I inhale slowly, counting “one-two-three-four-five”, while pretend footsteps crunch snow on the ground above our heads. I inhale for the third time and–I start convulsing like a cat trapped in a paper bag. My husband rolls over and pulls the blankets over his head. Our cover is blown. We’re dead.

The worst part of this is that Sadie has been out-of-sorts–complaining about hot flashes, her aching back, and not enough fiber. (Okay, I made that part up.) In reality, Sadie is now wearing a cast–and she’s super excited because she’s the first member in her family to break a bone. I’m just happy broken bones aren’t contagious, since Sadie loves to spread her joy.

The point is–if you want to survive winter in Minnesota, drive carefully, stay out of the cold, and share the love, not the saliva, no matter how sweet it is.

Reminder
If you love funny, feisty girls like Sadie, read CLEMENTINE with us and post your thoughts in the Comment Section January 15 or after.