Friday, January 29, 2010

Crisscross Applesauce-A Rainy Day Project

It's been raining for weeks. I wanted to do something with Aiden, but it had to be indoors. My cottage is very little, but I have a functional kitchen. Here’s what I did with Aiden a couple of weeks ago. I picked him up and  we came home to my little house to have lunch. I bought a bag of red apples (about 12-15 apples) the day before. If you haven’t read my blog before, Aiden is my 4-year-old grandson.

My mom had this strange funnel with holes in it like a colander, but it narrows down into a tip and has a metal holder so it can stand up straight on a counter. Along with both of those, it has a wooden contraption with a round handle that you move around in circles into the funnel pushing against whatever food you have inserted. I saw something a little like it in a food catalogue. They called it a ricer, but this is different. It probably over 75 years old. The wooden beater looks like it caught on fire at some point.

My mother always made applesauce in it and today, so Aiden and I are going to make it also.
This process will probably work with a food mill also. If you want to make this with a child, here’s how to do it:
1. Buy a bag of apples-I bought organic because I heard on the news that strawberries and apples soak up a lot of pesticides.

2. Fill up your sink full of water. Get a step stool for the child and let him put each apple in the water and wash it really well.

3. Let the child dry each apple.

4. Using a butter knife, let the child cut all the apples in half. I usually cut the apples most of the way before I hand them to Aiden.

5. Let the child pull the drain up to let the water go out of the sink, hand him a large pot, let him fill up the pot half way with cold water.

6. Ask the child to put all the apple halves in the water.

7. You put the apples and water on high on the stove. Cook it really well until all the apples are just very mushy. It maybe takes 25-30 minutes, sometimes more. To be sure the apples are done, I stick a fork in an apple-if it goes in really easy, it’s done.

8. Drain the water out but leave about a cup of the water in the pot. It helps the applesauce to thin out a little.

9. Let all of it cool for about 15-20 minutes so no one gets burned. It stays hot for a long time.

10. Arrange the holder’s legs over a large bowl. Place them both in the sink so it’s easy to put enough leverage over the colander. Now put the colander in, get out the wooden masher, put about 5 or 6 apples in it, then get the child up on the stepstool, and stand by the child after you show him how to push the masher around in circles. At this point I said to him, “Use your muscles, Buddy.” I asked him to show me his biceps which he did.

11. Applesauce will immediately begin to come out of the holes into the bowl so keep smashing until all the apples are smooched. Add 2 or 3 apples at a time. The best thing is this contraption keeps all the skins, stems, and seeds out.

12. Take a break for a few minutes to rest your arms, come back, and smash again so you get every bit out. Take a butter knife, life up the colander and scrape all the applesauce off  the outside into the bowl.

13. Let the child pour 1 cup of sugar into the applesauce and stir it in.

14. At this point you can add what you like, but last time I tried fine grating 1 orange rind and it was delicious. You could use cinnamon instead. My mom used to put a orange that had been cut in half upside down in the sauce and squeeze a bit of the juice into the sauce, then leave the orange in it while it’s still warm.

15. If you are opposed to sugar you could use honey instead.

16. Try to eat a small bowl while it is still slightly warm. It's so delicious. Aiden had a look of rapture on his face. "Yummmm," he proclaimed with a big grin. I put most of it into a container for Aiden to take home. I reserve a bowl for me for dinner.

17. I made sure to tell him that his Daddy’s grandma used to make it for him, now he’s making it!
It's so fun and a great way to spend an hour or so with your grandchild. It brings up lovely memories of my mother as well. She would have been 100 years old this March 20th. My niece used to plant flowers with her little girl on my mother's birthday. I think I'll make applesauce.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Innocent Dignity of a Child's Heart

     Rebecca is the daughter of my daughter. I was there the moment she was born and I felt like I knew her immediately. When she first began to speak, she called me "Bama," then "Dama", and finally, Grandma. She was my very first grandchild.

     For her fourth Christmas, I ordered her a Pepto Bismal pink Boogie Board so we could use it together in the ocean when we go to Southern California. Rebecca is a Scorpio girl and adores the water, particularly the ocean. Even when she was tiny, just crawling, she would scoot crab-like towards the water until my daughter gathered her into her arms.
     She has long blond hair with curls. When it's just been washed, her hair sprouts tiny tendrils that frame  her face making her resemble a portrail painting of a 18th century European child. Her eyes are bright blue, her lips a little pink bow. She's a lefty and very bright and imaginative. My God, how the child loves to dress up in crowns, boas, and plastic high heels.
      Last summer she became tall enough to stand in the shallow end of a pool. With the delicacy of an advanced ballerina, she would hold the side of the pool with one hand while balancing herself to make ballet movements with her left arm. While she tiptoed through the water, Rebecca sang a song about a "Rose Fairy Rosemary Tooth Fairy" in a  high thin voice.
     She's a wonder to me. Rebecca is a sometimes a full blown extrovert who enters the library like she's Eloise at the Plaza, dancing and twirling, yelling greetings to  the librarians.She can be full of confidence, then minutes later slumped over in dance class, chewing on the skin of her right thumb looking worried and anxious.
    Rebecca is also extremely literal. I stopped by to see her recently when she had a cold. When I was leaving her, I bent over her, smoothed her forehead, kissed it and said, "You take good care of yourself, sweetheart.!" She looked at me like I was nuts. "I am TOO LITTLE to take care of myself. My Mama and Daddy take care of me."  I could see how shocked she was. "Oh", I said, "Right. What was I thinking?"

     She interpets her world though a combination of steely-eyed realism ("There are no such things as angels, Grandma") and a pure hearted innocence. When she learned she was going to have a new cousin, she marched outside, peered up into the vast universe, then began to recite the old poem, " Wish I may, wish I might, first star I see tonight. Let the baby be a GIRL.!"  At that moment, I knew it would happen.

Friday, January 8, 2010

We LOVE the Library

Aiden and I had planned a trip to the library, but when we got there it was closed-Christmas furloughs. I hadn’t had breakfast yet and we still needed to throw our pennies in the fountain so I parked the car and we got out. The cafĂ© was open so we ordered warm apple cider and peanut butter cookies. After we were done, we practiced hitting the back wall of the fountain with our pennies, throwing as hard and as far as we could. Fifty pennies goes really fast so we needed another plan.

Aiden wanted to paint, but I knew he was low on supplies. “How about Michael’s?” I proposed. “Yes, let’s go!” he replied. We sang on the way over, making up a new song entitled, “Cookies.” It goes like this, “ Cookies on the ….(fill in the blank.” In case you want to try this song, sing it in the cadence of Marine marching songs like this, “Cookies (emphasis on the word cookies) on the freeway, cookies in my mouth, cookies in my ears… whatever strikes your fancy.”

With Aiden as the captain inside the shopping cart, we grabbed paper, new brushes, watercolors, and scissors. On the way back to my house, I asked him what he would like to paint. Aiden says he wanted to “paint pictures of his peeper.” “Lots and lots of peepers.” I knew that was his word for penis. “Why, Aiden?” He just laughed his head off, then began the cookie song again. This is the same kid who was horrified to find trash on the library grounds telling me that the “people were disrespecting the earth.”

That’s the amazing thing about being with my grandchildren. They are such gifts to me. Our discussions can begin with bathroom humor and drift into profound in a just a few minutes and they always make me laugh.