Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grandma Martha's Caramel Corn

My granddaughter Rebecca, who is 5 ½, came to spend the night last Friday. The day before she arrived I asked her what she wanted to do. Here are her replies:

1. Dinner? Mac and Cheese and Hot dogs

2. Movie? Ice Age

3. Activities? Movie, reading, painting, and cooking

4. Snack? Grandma Martha's Caramel Corn

5. Breakfast? Blueberry Pancakes

6. Book? The Land of the Big Red Apple (Laura Ingels Wilder's continuing series, Little House, about her marriage and her own little girl, Rose.) It's a chapter book we’ve been in the process of reading for several months.

The caramel corn takes 1 hour to cook, so we did the prep work before dinner. My mother used to make a big bowl of this when we had family parties. It’s delicious, easy, fool proof, and cheap.

While I popped two bags of popcorn, I thought about my mom and how much I miss her and how she would have loved this little girl and that I made her recipe with my granddaughter.

Here's the recipe:

Grandma Martha's Caramel Corn

1. Pop 3 1/2 quarts of popcorn

2. Pour it into a deep turkey pan or some a deep disposable pan that is at least 4 or 5 inches deep and large.

3. On the stove, in a saucepan put 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/2 tsp salt. Mix together.

4. Cook on medium heat until bubbly-cook for 5 minutes (low to medium heat)

5. Take off the stove.

6. Put in 1/2 tsp baking soda, mix it in (it will rise up to the top-this is very dramatic, like a science fair volcano)

7. Pour the mixture all over the popcorn, mix it around with wooden spoon (it's really hot so be careful).

8. Place in 200 degree oven for 60 minutes (set the timer for 30 minutes at first and turn it all over again)

9. Take out of oven, stir into a large bowl, and mix again, breaking up the big pieces. Let it cool.

10. Put it in an airtight container to store.

I let Rebecca mix the butter, salt, syrup, and brown sugar. The rest is just too hot for a child to handle.

Ice Age, the movie, was really good. When the viewer thinks Diego, the saber-toothed tiger, is dead, Rebecca's eyes got all teary and her mouth turned downward. I told her, "Don't worry, darling. The movie has a really happy ending or I wouldn't show it to you." She loved the baby in the movie just as much as I did.

Together we watched the end of Ice Age and ate some caramel corn and drank lemonade. After the movie, we continue to read 1 or 2 chapters after she gets into pajamas, brushes her teeth, and gets under the covers. I read it out loud to her.

She fell asleep listening to me read Little House on the Prairie book at 8:15 p.m. which is a record. Usually she drags bedtime out until it' s 10 or 11 p.m. and we are both bleary eyed in the morning. She fights me and tests me a little bit each time she comes. She wants to see how far she can push it. Mostly I’m a pushover and she knows it.

This morning we ate blueberry pancakes and drew pictures and painted with my watercolors. I particularly liked the drawing she made of herself, little sister, and cousins wearing bright red clothing. I brought her home at 11:30 a.m.

As I write this on Saturday night, my house seems really still and empty-missing her presence, but needing to rest up for work the next morning.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Everything is Satisfactual

The intense summer heat is gone. There is softness in the air, the October light has changed the quality of our days, and there is usually a breeze which makes Ava take notice. She squints and looks around, holds her face up, freezing for a moment at the way it feels on her eyes. I watch my granddaughters, Rebecca and Ava, three afternoons a week. Rebecca is turning 6 in one month and Ava is 7 months old. I stay for dinner and help out with dinner, bath time, and clean up.

We drift through these autumn afternoons by being quiet, but we sing, too. I’ve been teaching them Zippity Doo Dah. Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder. It’s the truth, my oh my, what a wonderful day! Rebecca and I sing. Ava listens.

Ava is sitting up, then overnight she has learned how to crawl. She does something like a pushup and stiffens her legs trying to stand. Her baby neck is thinner; she is beginning to look like a little girl rather than a baby. She has chubby sturdy legs to kiss and blow on. Ava’s head is covered with white blond hair that looks red in the sun. I have to stop myself from rubbing it all the time it is so soft.

On these warm afternoons, I take the girls out to the front yard. Rebecca either climbs the small elm or swings from the knotted rope suspended from a limb, while I sit on the grass with the baby. Ava loves the feel and sound of dried leaves, crinkly, rubbing them between her hands, she goes to eat them, and in one swift motion I uncurl her little hands, brushing the leaves back to the earth. We both watch Rebecca swing from her rope like Tarzan. I try to teach her the yell, but I can’t do it right.

I hold Ava under her arms and bounce her up and down while she does a little baby dance, feet doing a jig. Rebecca and I let her join us in a game of kickball. I swing the baby brushing her feet against the ball so she actually kicks it to her older sister. Ava takes it all in seriously like she wants to do a good job. Her eyes are dark blue marbles, her cheeks pink, her mouth holds two bottom teeth that are barely visible.

I marvel at Rebecca’s strength. Her hands are covered with healed over blisters from mastering the rings at school. Her big top teeth have come in. Her face is sweaty from the exertion, making her look like a Renaissance painting with blond curls that encircle her face, dark blue eyes, pink tiny mouth. Sometimes she climbs too high and it scares me. I love that she climbs trees and appears fearless. I wish she would come down, too, but I don’t say that. I just urge her to come down a little bit.

We have serious bath time discussions. Rebecca tells me that she doesn’t want me to spend any time with anyone but her. I tell her I understand and still, “Would she like it if I didn’t like her little sister?” Just something to think about, I tell her. I understand about jealousy I say. Then I tell her how when I read something someone has written that is very popular sometimes I feel a little jealous. I want my writing to be liked a whole lot, too. Love me best. Please.

I try to tell her how love doesn’t run out, there’s always enough, how you love people in different ways. I search for the words in a continuous inner dialog, something to put into print and illustrate how deep my love for her runs. “I’ve known you for almost 6 years. I’ve only known Ava for 7 months. Do you see how that might be different?” She is not convinced.
I try to take a mental snapshot of the soft light, Rebecca’s strong arms holding herself swinging in the air, the baby pulling grass, then smiling up at me to show me her hands full of green tufts and I wish it to go on forever.