My Extended Village

The month of May has been a friends and family fest.  First, I spent two weeks in Virginia with my parents and sisters.  Then Shawn and I took the gang to PA for a tour of friend visits.  We caught up with the Fords, Omans, Harmons, Sukowskis, and Pinchots.  We spent over thirty hours in the car in the course of our travels, telling stories, sleeping, and reading.  But I also had plenty of time to reflect on how fortunate I am to have such a close and wonderful family and good, good friends.  Though our visits were too quick, our time together always, always too short, it was enough to remind me how fortunate I am to have such a strong and extended village of people who care about me, Shawn, and our kids.  It was enough to fill me with generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.  When we returned home last week, I felt overwhelmingly grateful for three weeks worth of wonderful moments.  And I wanted to take a moment to say thank you.

Thank you for…

spoiling my children with hugs, clothes, books, cars, and art projects.

Primanti Bros.

egg-cellent breakfasts.

sweet and spicy peppers.

intro to Game of Thrones and iPad envy.

cookouts and coffee.

muffins and confetti cake.

beaver dam walks and front yard swimming.

many, many Settlers of Catan matches.

Amish bread and master bedroom displacement.

back yard barbecues and patio parties.

diaper changes.

chalk and bubbles.

an Elmo birthday party.

children’s museum and playground trips.

Girl’s Weekend.

little people and train sets.

mini bottles of Moscado.

big bottles of red.

catch-up conversations.

laughter.  Lots of laughter.

We love you.  Thank you for loving us and being part of our lives.

May (the month) so far (in brief)

1. Seven-hour car trip to VA with three kids.  Check.

2. Spring semester over.  Year One done.

3. Four trips to the children’s museum.

4.  Lots of time with the grandparents and Aunt Claire and Aunt Alli.

5.  Girls’ weekend in WVA.  Too short.  Shopping, coffee, and even a psychic.  So good.

6.  Too much Bruster’s Ice Cream.  Wait?  Is that possible?

7.  HGTV.

8.  Mad Men.

9.  Bones.

10. Castle.

11. Crazy amounts of kid time.  Lovin’ it.

12. Missing Shawn.  Only three more days.

13.  Day trip to Charlottesville.

14. Catan.

15. Fiction and memoir reading.

16.  Showers.  Four days in a row.  Amazing.  Seriously amazing.

17.  Best white pizza I’ve ever had (@Vito’s in Harrisonburg).

18.  Successfully brewed two pots of coffee two days in a row.  Here’s to tomorrow and three in a row.

19. Did I mention Bruster’s ice cream?

20.  And even a new story in the works…

Squash: In Three Parts

Yes, this post is actually about squash.  The vegetable, but also a dish my grandma used to make when we would visit.  And I suppose this post is also about the way foods inform our lives, but maybe not.

Squash, the Vegetable

In our basket two weeks ago, we got four yellow squash.  I had just made and frozen a squash casserole, so I knew I wanted something different this time.  Really, I wanted squash the way I best knew it: Grandma-Toni-style.  On Monday, the squash were screaming to be used.  I started to slice.

Squash, the Dish

I called my dad to go over ingredients and directions again to remember how the dish comes together.  Talking about the dish brought me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, its round table, the toaster oven, the Portuguese bread sitting on top of the microwave, the skillet sizzling with chicken cutlets and squash.

The staple ingredients are squash and potatoes, cut thin and cooked until soft.  You can also add onions, green peppers, celery, and scallions.  I had an onion and green pepper on Monday, so I threw those in, too.

Seasonings are key and can also vary: I used garlic, basil, oregano, and some salt and pepper.

Once the veggies are soft and seasoned, the last step involves an egg or two.  I used two, just cracked them on top and stirred until incorporated and cooked.  The egg really brings everything together.

And that’s it.  Pretty much the heartiest, home-style side dish I’ve ever had.  It turned out pretty good on Monday, too.  I plan to have the leftovers for lunch today.

Squash, the Memory

The dish brings me back to childhood trips to New York and college weekend visits to Rye.  I remember dinners of breaded chicken pounded thin, manicotti, squash, ambrosia, sometimes liver and onions.  Full dinners.  Loud dinners.  I remember long nights sitting at the kitchen table while my grandma continued to prepare something for us, a cup of tea, dessert.  I don’t think she ever sat down.  I remember talking about boys and school and the changing world and the weather, and not wanting to go to bed.  I remember falling asleep in the family room, so cozy and warm and already looking forward to morning with its promise of fresh cups of tea, toast buttered with Breakstone butter, and grandma bustling around, attending to us, first and always.

I hope Grandma Toni knows how much those meals, those moments meant to me.  I hope we will get the chance to visit soon, to return to that house, that kitchen with our three kids.  I hope someday my kids will actually like eating squash (the dish), and I will get the chance to tell them how it has been passed down through the generations.  Maybe they will make it for their kids.  Maybe I will make it for their kids.

It’s not a pretty dish, and really there is nothing special about it: no special ingredients or procedures.  But perhaps it is the dish’s simplicity that makes it mean so much.

Thanks, Grandma Toni.

Why Grandparents Are Great…

1.  They drive eight hours to come see you and the grandkids.

2.  They watch the grandkids so you can disappear for five hours to grade essays.

3.  They make dinner…

4. …And help with the dishes afterward.

5.  They offer to rock Sidney and watch Mad Men so you can go to sleep.

6.  They take lots of pictures.

7.  They treat you to coffee because they know how much you need coffee.

8.  They do things you don’t, like allow bath time to become a wet, giggling mess, and convince you to that maybe you should do certain things if they lead to so much laughter.

9.  They draw really cool bubble letters.

10.  They have great taste in kids’ clothing.

11.  They plan wild adventures to children’s museums and Johnny Rockets and the mall and the YMCA.

12.  They stare at your baby and laugh when she smiles.  This reminds you to stare at your baby more.  To laugh more.

13.  Your kids adore them.