Recipes

Although I’ve never liked any kind of meringue pie, I adore meringues — those crunchy bits of pillowy slow-baked egg-white goodness. Maybe it’s because my maternal grandmother always had a reused (I don’t think we would use the word “recycled” 40 years ago) coffee can full of them when we’d drive up from Tennessee to visit her and my grandpa in southern Illinois. I assume that with her Depression-honed frugalness, she made them from leftover egg whites — although I don’t remember her making anything especially yolk-centric. Anyway, to keep me from embarrassing her by buying four containers of store-made meringues at once, Younger Daughter has perfected her recipe and technique for homemade meringues. They’re so much better and better-for-you than store-bought. Her great-grandmother would be proud.

First, separate three eggs. The easiest way is to let the whites drip through your fingers into a bowl. Discard yolks or save for another recipe.

Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to whites and beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while beating until  stiff peaks form and it’s glossy.

 Then fold in 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and some grated vanilla bean. Put half egg-white mixture into a plastic gallon food-storage bag and cut one of the corners off. Squeeze dollops of the mixture onto a parchment- or wax-paper covered baking sheet. For chocolate meringues, add 1 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips to remaining egg-white batter and repeat. Bake at a low temperature — 225 degrees — for about one hour. They’ll be yummy but still a bit chewy. Then turn oven off and let sit overnight or for several more hours to dry out. Just remember to take them out of the oven before turning the oven on for something else. I’m just saying. Anyway, I could eat a whole pan of these at one sitting. They’re really easy and fun and have no fat in them whatsoever. And I still can taste the grandmother-love in them, along with daughter-love. That is one powerful combination.

Pumpkin Patch

I got to go to a pumpkin farm for the first time ever this past week — and I loved it! When my now 20-something daughters were little, Tate Farms pumpkin patchTate Farms pumpkin patchagri-tourism had not yet made the news and farms were something you wanted to get away from, not pay money to spend an afternoon there. But at 18 months, grandson Capt. Adorable is ready this fall for his first pumpkin experience and I was lucky enough to go along with him and his mom and dad. We visited Tate Farms in Meridianville, Alabama (on the east side of Huntsville) and as soon as we stepped out of the car, the Captain was wriggling with delight. It was like the wide open running spaces, inviting playground equipment, oh-so-cute baby animals and piles of brightly colored pumpkins and gourds had been created just for him. In fact, he was in such constant motion, I had a hard time getting photos — he hasn’t quite grasped the notion of photo ops yet. At the Pumpkin Shack that was set up for proud-parent and -grandparent photos, he was more interested in dismantling the rows of pumpkins than in posing for the camera. But Grandma snapped away, anyway! Find out more about Tate Farms at http://www.tatefarmspumpkins.com/

Family

Backyard poolIs there anything better on a hot summer day than Capt. Adorablecooling off in your backyard pool? Especially when the pool is a family heirloom? My mom had this inflatable pool at her house more than 20 years ago for her granddaughters and now her great-grandson thinks it’s the best thing ever. Honestly, I didn’t remember the pool, but my mom kept saying, “I have the pool the girls played in and it would be perfect for Capt. Adorable.”  And she was right! It fits just exactly on the patio, which is in the afternoon shade, and 17-months-old Capt. Adorable and his mommy get out and have fun in it almost every day (although that’s the Captain’s aunt in the photo). Say the word “pool” and the Captain’s at the patio door, ready to go. It took him awhile, but now he’s fully conversant in the arts of splashing, pouring and dumping cupfuls of water on anyone brave enough to get close.

Books

My mom reads to my grandson, Capt. Adorable. I love that they both are holding their mouths the exact same way.

My mom, "Grommy," reads to my almost 14-month-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. I love that they both are holding their mouths the exact same way.

Arrggghhhh! No, it’s not Talk Like A Pirate Day. That is me being aggravated at myself for forgetting things. Like today. I was hanging out with family all day — including grandson Capt. Adorable, my parents and both daughters — and then came home to more computer problems so I spent an hour on the phone getting my wireless router reconfigured and then completely forgot I had an AAUW book-club meeting tonight. I love my American Association of University Women group because those ladies are so dang smart — I just sort of soak up wisdom whenever I’m around them — and it aggravated the bookbejebbers out of me for forgetting it was meeting tonight. Also: I was looking forward to hearing more about our book. “The Golden Child” by Penelope Fitzgerald. Written in 1977, this novel is a delightful poke at pretentious high-museum politics as a world-famous archaeological exhibit opens in London — and murder and mayhem ensues. With proper English decorum, of course. I had never heard of this book or this author, who wrote her first book at 69 so that means there is hope for the rest of us, and I wanted to learn more. Oh, well. Plus, this week I also have forgotten three water bottles and left them at various places: 1) My parents’ refrigerator, 2) the local library board room (which doesn’t sound as impressive when you know I was there only for a Harry Potter book-club meeting) and 3) well … I now have forgotten the third place where I left a water bottle. I think it’s time to go to bed.

Grandparenting

You know how people say, “Oh, you’ll love (fill in the blank)” and you just nod and smile and agree politely because how do you know you’ll love (fill in the blank) until you actually do/are/try (fill in the blank)? That’s how I was when people told me, “Oh, you’ll love being a grandma” — but after 53 weeks and some days of being one now, I can tell you: Those people were right! Read more at my weekly newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090403/ARTICLES/904035000