Thirteen years ago today a baby was born named, Marea. She was our third grandchild and the first girl. Resembling her mother so much, my psyche was flooded with memories of my first-born. It was hard to believe so much time had passed. Now this baby is a teenager and we have just concluded a two-week visit with her. Her first solo sojourn from California to Wisconsin, we could hardly wait to have her to ourselves. Our excitement led to a laundry list of things to do, many more than time would allow. We did, however, manage many adventures and the sharing of a precious family tradition. Today I would like to bring you along as I relive the joy.
Shopping is almost always on the agenda when we are together so we headed to Madison and boarded the new “water taxi” transporting us across Lake Mendota to the University Memorial Union. After quenching our thirst lakeside among the throng of college students, we ventured on foot to the famed State Street. Heading toward the capital, stopping frequently to view the wares of the merchants, we made a few purchases. I must say grandpa was very tolerant of the time spent deciding which items were worthy of ownership. She shared she would like to be a vegetarian but had to settle on being a pescatarian because the idea of not eating her favorite food, sushi, was an unacceptable choice. That said we began our first of four visits to Japanese restaurants. She is an adventurous eater but when we convinced her to try deep-fried shrimp heads she had to draw the line.
No visit would be complete without spending time with the cousins. A day at beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park for boating, swimming and fishing is always a hit. Sitting under the big top at Circus World Museum and checking out the new arctic passage at The Henry Vilas Zoo, allowed for more shared experiences. Judging from the giggles, however, splashing in our pool might qualify as the most fun of all.
For a young teenage girl, the idea of beauty treatments can be quite appealing. Having discussed it in advance, I made an appointment with my stylist for a “new doo” and eyebrow shaping as requested. Our next stop was lunch at a Laotian restaurant and then on to the nail salon for manicure and pedicure. Dare I say the need to share with those at home led to many selfies in the days that followed.
A special request from the girl herself to make homemade ravioli (link to recipe) was especially heart warming for me. It marked the passing on of a tradition that has been alive in my family for many generations. There were many occasions where I spent time with my grandmother, mother and sisters around the kitchen table making these little pillows. It never occurred to me that one day I would be the “Nonna.” My families filling had meat so we broke with tradition a bit and developed a vegetarian option. This was always special occasion fare at my house so we cooked them up for dinner, dressed them in my red sauce and made it an early birthday celebration. Complete with decorations and candles from my “party drawer” we had a cake made by Marea herself and homemade ice cream making it a proper birthday meal.
The final day before the return home was spent making butter at Five Green Acres owned and managed by my good friends. The milk was provided by their cow, Rosasharn, and the process taught by, Mary Jo. The end product was this delicious spread that any toast would be proud to wear. After butter making came an afternoon with Aunt Megan, the art teacher who had just come home from a week at “clay camp.” Marea had taken advantage of the paints and canvasses in my studio but working on the pottery wheel was a special treat, albeit messy. Practice throwing is needed before a perfect pot is made but the experience was a great introduction. After washing her hands, more cousin fun was had around the ping-pong table. To quote her, “those boys have skills.” Perhaps more practice is also needed in that arena.
It was both and honor and a privilege to spend one on one with this special girl who is beautiful both inside and out. She is multi- talented with a zest for life and learning that knows no limits. As you can tell we were spreading the love many times over. I hope you enjoyed reading about these precious memories. I urge you to spend some time with your loved ones. Give them the gift of family traditions and keep spreading the love, one dish and one experience at a time. I have an abundance of love in my heart so I send some out to you. Until next time, Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!