Move Over Julia Child. There’s A New Kid In Town

The Levine Girls in the Kitchen

This is a picture of a kitchen. My kitchen.  And the little girl with the funny-looking white puffy hat on, the one sitting in the mixing bowl, well…that’s me.  Meghan.  Not as uncomfortable as I look, I promise, but the hat was a definite no-no.  It made my head feel weird.  But my grandmother, who for some strange reason, all her own, insists I call her “Lolo” and by the way is the lady standing next to me in the photo holding me up so I don’t drop to the floor, made me wear it.  That and the string of beads obviously not from Tiffany’s.  But since she does all kinds of good things for me that I can’t yet quite manage by myself such as:  feed me, burp me, dress me and scoop the stinky yucky stuff from my pants, I go along with whatever she wants.  Which most times is fun stuff.   Other times things get a little hairy around our house, even though I don’t get out much.

Mind you, I’ve got no complaints. If I did, well…all I need do is open my mouth and let out a scream and the next thing I know my Mother and Lolo come running.  Yeah, it’s pretty funny to watch them in action do whatever I want without saying a single word.  I might just be a baby, but I was not born yesterday.

Anyway, here we are in the kitchen. Lolo’s “sacred room” as she calls it.  The heart and soul of the house where no matter what kind of day she says she’s having, she knows she can park those troubles at the door and all sorts of wonderful things happen.  I can also tell this is where she’s the happiest. She lights up in such a way that I can’t help but imagine is joyful, almost as joyful as sucking on my fingers while I normally just sit there and watch propped in my chair with my favorite kitty socks on that jingle while she zips around the room doing her thing like a ballerina or crazy woman, depending upon who you ask, to the sound of pots clattering, cupboards slamming and utensils clinking.

Yes, normally I don’t participate in this dance of hers. But today it seemed Lolo had different plans for me.

“Alright Meghan Fagan (the old lady’s into rhyming), I think it’s about time to see what kind of stuff you’re really made of?”

Umm, say what? I blinked back wide-eyed with confusion, vaguely aware that this big gooey blob of drool was clinging to my lower lip for dear life.

There her tired, but always happy expression broke into a smile.  “Don’t look so nervous my Little Cupcake,” she said wiping my face. “I’m not asking you to run a marathon here. I’m only talking about baking.  Something I learned to do at an early age watching my mother and her mother create the most delicious deserts for those holidays, those birthdays that otherwise would have just been another day for us.  But what I also learned early on is that the wanting to do something and actually being good at it…are oceans apart.  Without the passion and above all else knowing how to infuse that sense of love, that one magical ingredient you either have or don’t, into each and every dish, then you might as well dream another dream as far as I’m concerned.”

 Lolo, I do hope there’s a point to all this and if so get there.  Because I really want this stupid thing off my head.  Please!

“Okay, lovey-dovey, patience, stop fussing.” She readjusted the hair pins holding the hat to my head.  “With today being your one-month birthday and the fact we’ve all survived to see it, I thought I’d whip up something extra nice to celebrate and in the process see whether or not my culinary skills perhaps merely skipped a generation onto you—because they sure as heck were lost on your Mother and Uncle Jared.  Their only interest in food I’m afraid is to eat it.”

At that her head knocked back in such a way with one of those great big old laughs that made the whole world seem funny and was the very thing about her I loved the most. Her ability to laugh at herself and make life interesting when I get the feeling the majority of the time it’s not.

“So whaddya say Baby Two Chins…want to learn how to bake some chocolate chip banana bread today?”

Hello? Does a bear poop in the woods?

I like when grownups ask me questions even though they don’t really want an answer. But it does give me a chance to think about my world.  More than that I was finding this conversation fascinating because Lolo was talking to me like another grownup.  None of that baby talk they all feel the need to do.  Why? I don’t know.  I guess it’s just another one of those things I’m going to have to figure out for myself.

The time seemed to fly by.  And even though I didn’t know what I was  doing for most of it—I am after all just a little girl with limited skills—I pretended I did.  Then after plopping back down into my chair exhausted, baking’s hard work, I continued to sit there quietly, watching, learning, listening, until this lip-smacking smell, oh yes that wonderful, wonderful smell filled the room and out of the oven popped this rather unusual-looking brown hunk of stuff which made me think: yippee, all for me. 

Well, needless to say I didn’t get a slice of bread. I didn’t even get a crumb.  What I did get though was a lick.  And you know what?  After living on formula 24/7, I loved it!  It was sweet, it was wet and tingly on my tongue and absolutely wonderful, like having a party in your mouth.

But hey, don’t listen to me. I’m just a baby…remember?  Why don’t you try out the recipe for yourself and let me know what you think because I’m always looking for more friends who also like to eat. Better still, tell Lolo instead because I don’t know how to work the computer yet.

Anyway, it was a fun day. And while I might not be the next foodinista sensation, I learned a lot about myself and that I already have lots of good qualities and the best part of all was realizing that with each new day comes new opportunities, new challenges and that anything can happen.  Especially if it has something to do with bread.

Bon appetite!

 

chocolate chip banana bread 2

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

An easy recipe that tastes even better the next day. And if you’re looking to cut out a few calories, skip the nuts and chips—or not.

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1-1/2 cup mashed bananas (3 medium)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven 350 °, grease and dust 9” x 5” loaf pan with flour
  2. In large mixing bowl with fork, mix first five ingredients
  3. With pastry blender or two knives used in scissor-fashion cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  4. With fork stir in bananas, eggs, chocolate pieces and nuts, just until blended
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  6. Wait five minutes then remove from pan and cool on rack

Oh yeah, don’t forget the milk. Everything always tastes better with milk!

 

 

 

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Mama-ji: Servantless Grandmother Living Dangerously On the Edge of Sanity. Year One Begins.

And so it does.   On the outskirts of Ft. Lauderdale in a very cramped one-bedroom apartment where by day I am a newly-anointed grandmother-in-residence helping my single daughter and by night, on weekends and in between those fogged out naps and rounds of poop patrol, I’m a writer.

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Sounds a little daunting I suppose. Well, you’re right!  It is.  And even though for me this is new ground I’m about to cover, I’m aware to others it’s not new at all.  According to the 2010 Census there were over 2.9 million (yes million) children just in the United States alone being raised by their grandparents and that number was a 60% increase over the 2005 Census. 60%! Can you imagine? That’s an incredible number.  And given the current state of our economy, one where the middle class no longer truly exists, I don’t suppose the 2015 numbers will fare any better.

So before I get into anything else here, I’d like to say right off the bat to all those other Grammies, Nanas and Bubbies (Gramps and Pops too!) out there whose empty nests are no longer empty…I salute you!  I salute you!  I salute you!

Some of you might be asking yourselves: why the hell am I doing this?  That I must be nuts!  I didn’t think it through.  Well, the truth is I might be absolutely insane for signing up for this gig, but I most certainly did think it through.  Yes, I might’ve forgotten what those late-night feedings felt like the next morning or the smell of formula as it sticks to your shirt, your hair, and the oh-so distinctive odor coming from a diaper reminding you within seconds what it was all about and why you were never so happy as you were when your own children finally graduated college.  I think this falls in line with why we have more than one child. You go through the painful process of birth and afterwards vow you’ll never do it again.  Yet you do!

I also think that after raising two children of my own, on my own, not only are there no surprises coming down the pike, but I’m fearless like some sixty-something gladiator in apron and sneakers able to withstand what my daughter cannot. Not yet anyway.

Take for instance Meghan’s umbilical cord and how the heck are we going to clean it. The new rule of thumb is just let it alone.  It’ll heal then fall off fine on its own.  But this alongside getting the baby into a sleeping routine was a subject Carly and I had discussed ahead of time and agreed Q-tip and rubbing alcohol would be applied 3-4 times daily and religiously.  Carly being a bit on the squeamish side, you can imagine those very tentative pokes with which she dabbled away.  That and those God-awful faces she offered up when I suggested using a rectal thermometer when poor cupcake was running a slight fever.

I smile at my daughter. All the time actually because I know I was there once.  And I believe with all my heart what a terrific mom she’s going to be.  She, like the rest of us, just has to get past that feeling her baby will break, that and those bloody shins and dangling umbilical scab will eventually heal and learn how to tune out those demanding “pick-me-up-all-the-time-or-else” squeals and everything, I mean everything else after that is cake.

Well that’s what I keep telling her. Now I only hope she believes me. Because if not Lord help us all…this is going to be one helluva bumpy fucking ride.

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Newest Member of The ‘Hood

When they say life couldn’t get any better than this, I think “they” were referring to grandparenthood. In fact I’m certain of it. And as far as I’m concerned it’s the best club in town to which I am now a bona fide member. It does seem incredulous. The whole thing actually. But almost two weeks have gone by since I joined and here I am still on cloud nine and still kvelling (that’s Yiddish-speak for bursting at the seams with pride and joy) over this beautiful six-pound bundle of pure energy wrapped snugly in my arms with no intention of ever letting her go.

Yes, I’m bone-tired. And forget that my legs haven’t seen a razor in weeks. But oddly as I rock Meghan in my arms, all those things seem completely irrelevant to the bigger picture. This lovely little girl. What I want to share with her, what I want to tell her and above all else what I hope to teach her.

As a young mother when my children were born it seemed natural for me to have these same thoughts, same desires. But now from a grandmother’s perspective, someone who’s been there, done that and survived the good, the bad and the ugly to tell the tale, I can honestly say these essential life lessons take on a whole new meaning for me. A sort of legacy that I hope will guide her along in this wonderful journey she’s about to embark on.

And so I say to you my dear sweet girl….

     You are a woman first and last proud. Equal to all those around you in every way.

     Love who you are, exactly as you are, and others will too. If not—screw them!

     Be present. Live each day in the moment. And hold yourself accountable.

     Please yourself first before others.

     Don’t waste your time on those things that don’t make sense or people who do not love you or want the best for you.

     Look beyond the worst in others—the hypocrisy, the arrogance, the dishonesty, the petty gossiping—because not all hearts and minds are small.

     Be kind to animals.

     Help those that cannot help themselves.

     Know life isn’t a box of chocolates. But it’s your box. Own it. And what really matters most in the end has nothing whatsoever to do with what’s inside but what you do with it.

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