Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stuff My Mom is Teaching Me

There are all kinds of pleasant happenings going on around here now, at the end of our summer. Steve and I went out Thursday night! I found a most beautiful Blue Jay feather and saved it. I baked Lemon Limoncello cupcakes (with Mom's help) for dessert. I saw an ultrasound photo of our new grandchild. Mari sent me a beautiful drawing she made of princesses. I'm watching a zucchini in the garden grow inches per day, right before my very eyes. The list goes on...

More than these beautiful things, I think I am learning new life lessons. For one, I am revisiting Parenting 101. All the mishandled opportunities when our children were little and I lost my temper, or focus, or teachable moment; I get to do over with my mom. I'm only slightly more patient now than when our children were little. (Patience is not one of my natural inclinations.) So, when I have to ask four times if she wants an ice cream cone and a cookie or just an ice cream cone and I'm still smiling when I deliver the ice cream cone, I know I've handled myself well. I've often wished I could have a do-over of some of my worst parenting moments and here is my chance. Sort of. I am ever learning and growing.

Today brought back so many memories of having children. I got to relive how clumsy and difficult it is to unload gear from the trunk and push live beings in strollers around at the mall. It's no different with a wheelchair. For goodness sake, why doesn't Sears have automatic doors?! Remember pushing the strollers though tightly packed clothing racks? The kids enjoyed the jungle feel of it. Mom, not so much. She was brushed in the face with a large share of bathrobes and sleepwear today.

Today also clearly showed me how our society (for which the shopping mall is one glaring example) is geared toward the young, fit, and beautiful. From the loud, pulsating music piped throughout the mall, to the racks of clothing not suitable for anyone over twelve, to the make up and hairstyles, posters and mannequins, it all felt utterly ridiculous from my perspective today. I viewed everything from behind my mom's gray head and her hunched little form as I pushed her along in her wheelchair. I thought, "She is completely out of place here." Mom has lived through the 20's, the 30's, the 40's, all the decades up to now and this mall could care less about her. Granted, I don't think she cared much about the mall either. It had its place and time in her past; she ruled the shopping scene in the 60's and 70's. On high heels. But, she's standing at the the threshold of eternal life and this place has nothing to offer her anymore. For all the shopping mall's loudness and color and life... it was all dust.

The biggest lesson I am learning is how incredibly self-centered I am. If you spend 24/7 with an elderly person who needs a lot of assistance, you begin to realize how often you think about yourself. I am constantly thinking about what I want to do, what I can't do, what I resent not being able to do, what I used to do, what I want to do when I finally can do, me, me. Oh my gosh, I'm entirely sick of myself!

We're coping and managing one day at a time. It's such a cliché, but that's what it boils down to.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Turkish Zucchini Fritters

Bless our little garden for it has produced another zucchini. I knew it would be one of the last so I wanted to make something special with it. I can't find a replica of the recipe on the internet to link with, so I'll print it out here as I made them. Fritters are wonderful no matter what type they are, and these are no exception. They are crispy on the outside and tender in the center, flecked with pretty green bits of shredded zucchini, green onion, parsley, and flavored with dill and Feta cheese. I am a terrible food photographer, but I just had to put these up here. These comprised our Sunday dinner along with a tomato and Mozarella salad. Outstanding!

 For our family's traditional tomato salad, we sprinkle dried oregano, salt and pepper over tomatoes and pieces of fresh mozarella. Sprinkle with a small amount of red wine vinegar and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over all. Toss and serve at room temperature.

Turkish Zucchini Fritters 

1 1/2 c. shredded zucchini 
1/2 tea. salt
1/4 c. each of chopped scallions, fresh dill, onion, fresh parsley, and crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 c. flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
olive oil for frying

Sprinkle zucchini with salt, toss, and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain in colander and squeeze out any liquid. Put zucchini in a bowl and add scallions, dill, onion, parsley, and feta. Add beaten eggs and flour. Stir to mix well. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet and heat on medium heat. Drop fritter batter by tablespoonfuls and shallow fry for 2- 3 minutes on each side. Serve with Tzaziki if desired.

Serves 2 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Perseid Meteor Shower

It was one of those nights where I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. I finally got out of bed and crept over to the open window. Now that our bedroom is on the second floor, I'll sit on the floor at the open window and listen to the night sounds when I cannot sleep. There's often a dog barking somewhere off in the distance. I also hear an owl almost every night and sometimes a fox or coyote. This night was cool and clear and the abundance of stars caught all my attention. Suddenly, a beautiful green trailing meteor swept down from the sky on the northern horizon. A few seconds later, another bright white meteor flashed in a different corner of the sky. The night sky was a much better attraction than the bed which felt like my enemy so I decided to go outside and put myself right under that starry sky. I went to the basement and got out two beach chairs and brought them outside, placing them to face the northern sky. Steve was still awake  out on the back porch, so I invited him to come to the other side of the house where it was darker and where the stars shone brighter. We settled into our chairs and every minute or so, we'd see a brilliant flash streaking across the sky. The chilly night felt refreshing after the long, hot spell we had just experienced. I decided to go inside to get my robe and I met Tess coming out the door. She couldn't sleep either and she was coming out to see what the rustling sounds were all about. I grabbed a towel for her to sit on and heading back out the door I met  Henri who had become interested in all the midnight activity. I put him on his leash and the sleepy little man joined us on the lawn. We all sat with our faces turned upward (except for Henri- he dozed) and every little while another meteor shot across a portion of sky. There was no telling which direction it would come from or which direction it would go. I didn't expect this; I thought all the meteors would fall in the same direction. But, no, they fell every which way. Most were white, but a few appeared green. Even when no meteors were streaking down, the stars and the Milky Way were beautiful to sit under. I tried to focus my eyes really hard to take in the entire depth of the stars but it was impossible to grasp. How can one not see God's fingerprint all over this universe? I kept wishing I could see the entire circle of sky all at the same time because I was sure I was missing a meteor in whichever direction I wasn't looking. Steve was the first to go inside. Tess, Henri and I stayed a while longer. I would say to myself, "Just one more and then I'll go in." It was hard to turn away from that sky and go inside to be enclosed by walls and ceiling. While I lay in bed, I imagined my ceiling was made of glass and I could still see the stars falling. With that vision, I fell asleep and it was a good sleep.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Grandmother Maffeo's Eggplant Parmesan

Neighbor W. gave us a some small, tender eggplant this week which made it the perfect time to ask my mom to walk me through the steps of her Eggplant Parmesan. This was the Eggplant Parmesan I grew up with, the one my grandmother made, and the one I will forever crave. Every Italian family has their own sauce, their own meatballs, and probably their own Eggplant Parmesan. My mother's family's meatballs were different than my father's family's meatballs, and so it goes. I did not have time to prepare spaghetti sauce for this dish, so I committed sacrilege and used jarred sauce. I choose the Classico brand if I'm using jarred sauce. This recipe varies from most Eggplant Parmesan recipes because it does not use breadcrumbs. Instead, the eggplant slices are coated in batter. This is what makes it stand out from all the others and my favorite : )

Begin by choosing smallish eggplant, if possible. I find they have better flavor and are less bitter. Mom had me peel them and slice them into about 1/4" thick slices.

Prepare the batter by beating 3-4 eggs for every 2 large or 3 small eggplant. Sift in enough flour to thicken batter to a nice coating consistency. Add about 1 tablespoon dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until blended. Dip eggplant slices into batter and fry a few at a time in extra virgin olive oil, on medium heat, turning once until golden on both sides.

Place a single layer of fried slices in the bottom of a 9x12 baking pan. There is no need to grease the pan or put sauce in the bottom; the oil from the fried slices is enough to keep them from sticking. Spoon a heaping tablespoonful of sauce on top of each slice. (One jar of sauce is enough for this recipe.) Sprinkle each slice with mozarella (One 8-oz. bag) and parmesan. Repeat layers. (My three small eggplant made three layers, which is perfect. Two layers seems a little skimpy)

Cover the baking pan tightly with foil and bake at 350 F. for about 40 minutes.

Absolutely delicious! A big pan is never enough because leftovers are a must. Try a leftover eggplant sandwich on slices of Italian bread with a little provolone melted on top.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Prayer in Song

Another of my favorites that we sang in church today. I love prayers put to song...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Damson Plums

     Our fruit share shifted gears a little this week. Blueberries and nectarines are out; yellow watermelon and Damson plums are in. The day before pick-up, the fruit share newsletter introduced the new arrivals. I was amused when it said the Damson plums were not for eating fresh. As children, we ate many a damson plum from a tree at the end of our road. We also ate many a green apple and sour cherries. We children ran a bit untamed in our little patch of countryside and we ate from every fruit tree and berry bush along the way. My friend Jimmy ate a poisonous mushroom once and had to have his stomach pumped. Otherwise, we never sickened on those green apples or sour Damson plums.
     I have never purchased Damson plums because they are really best for jams or otherwise cooked. The fun thing about buying into a fruit share (or vegetable share, if you do that too) is the surprise element when you pick it up. You get whatever is in season and ripening at the moment. So, with the arrival of Damson plums, it looks like I'll be making some jam this week! I searched my cookbooks and went online for recipes and came up with one to try. Click here for link. It will only produce a few jars, but they will look beautiful on the shelf and be treasured on a slice of toast come winter.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: Messengers of the Lost Battalion by Gregory Orfalea


     After reading Go Set a Watchman, this book was quite the wonder! I set out to read this work of non-fiction in order to better know what my father experienced in the war (World War II). I came away from this book with so much more. It is well researched and written in detail from first hand accounts given to Mr. Orfalea by the veterans who survived and from the author's travels to the battle sights. Mr. Orfalea's father served in this battalion. He was tragically killed later in life, compelling his son to search for the truth about his father's service in the 551st in a similar way that I have been searching for mine. In particular, this book documents the movements of the 551st Paratrooper Infantry Battalion (PIB) known as the GOYAS from their time at Camp Mackall, NC. to Panama, Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, and finally to Germany in 1945. Their story is riveting and I found myself forgetting that this wasn't a novel at all, but the true story of my father. I honestly could not put the book down. Imagine my surprise while reading one afternoon and coming to the following passage:

"Dysentery swept through the unit, probably from bad water. At one point 75 percent of the men suffered from it. In the evenings, a huge radio in the care of a Scottish unit nearby drowned their moans with news of the bogged-down invasion force at Normandy and the attempted breakout at the Falaise pocket. To distract themselves, Bill Hatcher, Joe Edgerly, Gene Cherry, Ted Bass, and a few others decided to put on a floor show to entertain their Scottish counterparts. Hatcher played clarinet, and Charlie Giacomo played guitar. A lieutenant did a striptease of his combat arms, fatigues, parachute boots, even his underdrawers. The Scots brayed loudly."

     Charlie Giacomo played guitar! That's my dad!! They misspelled his last name, but someone remembered him to the author. Seeing his name on the printed page cemented him into the remainder of the book as I read on. Mr. Charette, with whom I'm corresponding, is also named in the book. I can't wait to write him and ask if he's read it.
     I have so many mixed emotions about this book and given my personal interest, it's hard to give an unbiased opinion. It's a great book with or without my dad, of course. Perhaps these accounts of war should be required reading at the upper high school level. I'm sure it would cause society in general to treat our veterans with much greater respect. I also think the general population who are kept safe in our homes by our valiant military would do well to know more than what the nightly news reports to us. Mr. Orfalea tells this story in detail, with truth and tenderness. I have learned so much.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

In My Opinion: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

     I just finished slogging my way through Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. Oh dear. As much as Jean Louise was disappointed in her Atticus, I was disappointed in my Harper Lee. My opinion of the book has nothing to do with the fact that our beloved Atticus was defending the ignorant, racist ways of that time and place, on which so many other reviewers have commented. It is more about the boring, dull writing that seems to go nowhere except around in circles. There were a few shining moments when Scout reminisces about her childhood. These passages reflect the author's brilliance that made me love To Kill a Mockingbird.
     I am one of those who will name To Kill a Mockingbird as one of my favorite books. I pre-ordered Go Set a Watchman in anticipation of the release of something wonderful. I expected something as well written and engaging as her first novel. Oh well. The biography, The Mockingbird Next Door was my first revelation that Nelle Harper Lee was a real person. Go Set a Watchman simply brought her more down to earth for me. Some famous people are better left shrouded in mystery and I should have left well enough alone But how can any fan not read Harper Lee's latest release? It goes without saying; it had to be read.