Family time should always be about teaching lessons that will sustain us through life and creating memories and cherished traditions. I fondly recall the summertime visits I spent at my grandparents house, inquiring about times past, learning family recipes that I still make today and often making mischief with my cousins. These experiences are the highlight of my youth so when I assumed the role of “Nonna,”it became my mission to provide this for my grandchildren. When they were babies they were accompanied by their parents, but as they grew old enough to fly unaccompanied, independent visits have found their place in the scenario. This year was a combination of the two as my teenage granddaughter arrived alone and then was joined a week later by her mother and younger brother. The first arrival came by plane while the following travelers braved the two-day train ride from California to Illinois reporting it was an exciting adventure they would repeat if given the chance.
Let me first share the time alone with our granddaughter. This was the second summer she embarked on a solo sojourn and she arrived with a desired to-do list that included a revisit to the local Amish community, a beauty treatment day, complete with an appointment at the salon, lunch and a pedicure, time at the lake with cousins, shopping and of course doing some cooking. Since clam chowder is one of her favorites, we made that her first full day. She does not eat pork or beef so my recipe, which includes bacon, was not an option. After researching we decided on a recipe by Dave Lieberman that turned out very satisfying.
The week went by quickly and soon it was time for our Amtrak station pick-up. Looking no worse for the wear, Mom and son arrived with stories of the people they met on the train, the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the activities they shared to pass the time. Also with a to-do list which included fishing with grandpa, celebrating big sister’s birthday, time with cousins, swimming in the pool and movies. He was delighted to see we own a ukulele as he had taken lessons at school this year and this interest resulted in a duet with him on strings and grandpa on the trumpet playing “Over the Rainbow”. Quite adorable to see this 9-year-old playing with his gramps and both of them really digging the scene. My daughter requested an appointment with my hair stylist, Marie at Love+Light salon, as well and decided to coordinate with our neighbor for some horse riding lessons for the kids. Since July is festival season here we followed the beauty treatment with lunch and a visit to a local festival happening in Madison.
Also on the agenda was baking a cake for her girl’s birthday and a family sit-down for a traditional Italian meal that would not be complete without a family favorite, Homemade Tomato Sauce. Paired with pasta and other sides, it did not disappoint and was followed by a dessert of, made from scratch, Root Beer Float Cake topped with icing made from vanilla ice cream and bearing 14 candles. The recipe is featured in this months Cuisine at Home magazine. Fortunately the timing was such that we got to dine al fresco before getting slammed by the current massive heat wave.
Our neighbor, Cailyn Schave, is an accomplished equestrian and operates a horse training business called Orchard View Training. She agreed to lessons for the kids and they were thrilled. We are so fortunate to know her and be able to tap her as a resource. Thanks, Cailyn for fitting us in.
We tearfully said farewell at the airport as the time passed with great speed and we quickly ran out of time for some of the things we thought we might be able to squeeze in. I guess we will have a carry over list for next year. They all went home together hopefully holding these shared memories in the hearts forever. Hearing comments about how much fun they had and how Wisconsin is so “cool” made me think I had accomplished my goals. We spent the time together spreading the love, one dish and one experience at a time. I hope all of you are enjoying your summer and finding your way to spread the love and make those lifelong connections with those you hold dear. Sending my love and wishes for peace to you. Jeanne