Category Archives: family

Pippin’s Dutch Baby

When I first became acquainted with this dish it was a version called Hootenanny. A simple snack or breakfast or anytime food that my children could make themselves with few ingredients, and I always would be pleased with their independence and nourishment.

After Pathfinder married and we were treated by my new daughter-in-law to a more upscale version named Dutch Baby, I didn’t really want to go back to the humble Hootenanny. I haven’t eaten Iris’s Dutch Baby lately, and perhaps it’s identical to this one. When Pippin was here I decided to make this “popover pancake” for her and the children Sunday evening, and I was surprised that I could locate her own version of the recipe in my messy files.

I doubled the recipe and baked it in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Also I put the lemon zest in the batter and served the wedges with maple syrup. As long as you keep eggs and milk at a suitable ratio, the recipe is wonderfully adaptable as to ingredients and baking pans. It’s fun if you can bring it to the table when still puffed up from the oven, but it deflates quickly!

Pippin’s Dutch Baby

1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
2/3 cup whole milk at room temperature
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 stick salted butter, cut into pieces

Put 10-in cast-iron skillet on middle rack of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Stir together sugar and zest in a small bowl.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and frothy, then beat in milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and continue to beat until smooth, about 1 minute more. (I just mixed everything at once in the blender.) Add butter to hot skillet and melt, swirling to coat. Add batter and immediately return skillet to oven. Bake until puffed and golden-brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

Serve immediately, topped with lemon sugar. Lemon wedges on side.

Walking in the wetlands.

Here in the Land of Perpetual Drought, we still have wetlands! On Sunday Pippin and I found ourselves with a few hours for just the two of us, and we walked in a wetlands wildlife preserve. We saw snowy egrets, ducks, red-winged blackbirds and a few other birds we didn’t know the names of, as we walked a 2-mile loop in the afternoon.

I noticed that the docent-led tours of the site only go through June; is it because the birds aren’t as plentiful after that? Or is it the schoolchildren who are scarce then? In any case, the plants were easier for us to get close to than the birds, although they were also flying around in the wind, so I don’t have many good pictures, but I wanted to share a bit of what I did come home with.

These tall and long-stemmed plants were covered with little overlapping seed pods, in varying stages of maturity and color, from purple like this one to tan and near white. One of them was covered with black and green bugs who seemed to be close relations.

I got one focused profile picture of a green one, and my entomological identification skills are practically non-existent, so I am putting a blurry picture here, too, in case someone who knows things happens by and wants to instruct me.

It’s always a bit sad when one meets a fellow-creature and can’t greet them by name, or learn the name in anticipation of a next meeting. [Tipped off by a commenter below, I will call this fellow “Green Stink Bug” if I meet him again.] But I must prioritize, and probably should care more about that sadness as it pertains to the humans I meet…. Let’s see, what was the name of that woman I met at church Sunday?

The flowers above I had been walking briskly by, thinking unconsciously of Queen Anne’s Lace, and then suddenly I thought, No, they are most likely Parsley Family members, but the flower head is not the same, and they are so short… When I came home I looked up various hemlocks, etc, and didn’t come to any conclusions. 😦

In the process, though, I read on Wikipedia: “Apiaceae or Umbelliferae, is a family of mostly aromatic flowering plants named after the type genus Apium and commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family, or simply as umbellifers.” The word umbellifer made me laugh out loud; somehow it sounds like a group who would resist domination by naming and categorizing, and from now on I will just be happy if I can be on terms with them all friendly enough to say, “Hello, Umbellifer!”

Another mystery plant is this one:

…which did not always grow in a mound shape. It has long draping stems with bead-like buds:

At least, they appear to be about to open into flowers. I have to be content to remain ignorant and unknowing about more and more things, it seems, the longer I live.

Pippin is the perfect companion on a walk like this. She doesn’t mind my dullness or my stopping and staring; actually she encourages the latter, as she is always drawing my attention to something I was oblivious to. She had never been to this place before, and it had been years since I went with my husband. We were so glad to be together on a gorgeous and mild summer day in a natural oasis of sorts hidden away from most people — but the birds know!

Popsicles and pastimes of summer.

“Grandma, look at that wasp!” This colorful insect was resting near us on a geranium leaf.

“I’m impressed that you know that is a wasp, Ivy. Lots of people call all bees and wasps ‘bees.'”

“Bees have hair,” she informed me, “and wasps don’t.” The supposed wasp had floated away to a lamb’s ear flower, but not before I’d snapped its picture, wondering why it was so lazy and unthreatening, unlike our ubiquitous yellow jackets who seem only to rest when they perch on the rim of my fountain for a drink. We zoomed in on my picture to see that indeed, it was pretty bald — but maybe not entirely. After looking at more pictures of wasps online, I’ve decided this is very likely not a wasp after all, but a syrphid or hover fly. It’s more like a fly in its shape and wings, and pictures of syrphid flies came up as “yellow jacket look-alikes.” On the other hand, this insect approaching the salvia has more the look of a wasp, with its legs dangling down:

But as an example of hairy bees, I showed Ivy a picture of my favorite bee of all, which you might have seen here recently in a slightly different pose. She definitely has the darling fuzzy hairs:

It’s always fun for me if the grandchildren are visiting during hot weather. Popsicles and water play and the play house keep them happy outdoors, where I can play also, doing little garden tasks and walking back and forth to the clothesline with the towels and swimsuits. And many pairs of shorts, because Jamie was too tidy a boy to endure having popsicle drips drying, as I thought harmlessly, on his clothes. Eventually I gave him a bib, a largish bowl for his lap, and a spoon, so he could enjoy the treat to the fullest.

When the sun is baking all the air and sucking up moisture, I think it the most fun ever to wash a little shirt or whatever in the kitchen sink and hang it on the line. One shirt didn’t get that far, but dried in no time draped over a pomegranate bush.

I clipped my fast-growing butternut vines to the trellis, and swept the patio while the children sat in the old galvanized trough we call the Duck Pond, named for its use in another time and place, keeping three ducks happy in what was mainly a chicken pen.

Ivy played in the “pond” by herself one afternoon while Jamie napped, and I sat nearby rereading passages in Middlemarch. She found the tiniest spider floating in the water and held it on her finger, wondering if it were dead. “Why don’t you put it on a hydrangea leaf, and maybe it will revive,” I suggested. Of course, I took a picture of it on the leaf, because neither of us could see the minute creature very well with our eyes only.

When I zoomed in on my photo, it revealed a flower with eight petals. 🙂

At the patio table a few feet away I trimmed my six Indigo Spires salvia starts that I had propagated from a branch I accidentally broke off several months ago; I’m reluctant to transplant them to 4″ pots during this hot month, but that’s probably what they need…

Having gained confidence about African violets from a Martha Stewart video that I watched a few weeks ago, I tackled my plant that had grown two baby plants, one of which was already blooming. The babies I managed to cut off with roots attached, and potted them up snugly.

 

We thought to walk to the library, but the tires on the Bob stroller were too flat and I didn’t feel like pumping them up, so we drove. It happened to be a craft day there, and Ivy wanted to do all the things — but first, to design a Loch Ness monster from clay, because she said she had recently watched a video about that creature. Jamie patiently held the monster and observed, while she went on to make a jeweled crown and a flag.

 

The children actually looked up unprompted into the dome of the kids’ room at the library, and we talked about the stories pictured. I picked out some books to borrow but wasn’t thrilled with the three we read later at home. What I did love was a book someone gave me recently — was it one of you? — titled Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback. I read it twice to the children, because they liked it, too.

Joseph seems to be a Jewish man, and his overcoat gets tattered, so he cuts it down to a jacket, and when that gets overpatched, into a scarf, and so on. When he ends up with nothing at the end, it seems he doesn’t exactly have nothing after all. Good-natured resourcefulness and humor make for a charming story. I loved the ending, and the proverbs and sayings, and the many unique outfits and beard styles and colorful details. Joseph looks like this every time he realizes that his garment needs altering>>

Some of the artwork includes photographs in collage. I think if I were Jewish I might enjoy the book even more because I suspect that the photographs might be of famous people pertinent to Jewish history and culture.

A typical proverb quoted in a frame on the wall of Joseph’s house,
showing barely over an inch square on the page:

Over four days I read lots more books, like In Grandma’s Attic, The Ugly Duckling, Finn Family Moomintroll, a Thomas the Tank Engine collection (not my favorite, but a chance for Jamie to share with me his vast knowledge about that series), and one that I’ve read more than once to them via FaceTime, How Pizza Came to Queens. I got out my collection of costume jewelry, much of which used to be my grandma’s, and which I keep in her broken down jewelry box; and my small group of Moomin figures, and puzzles that are many decades old, but The Best and treasured.

One morning we cleaned in and around the playhouse
before eating a breakfast of sourdough pancakes in the garden:

With more washing up afterward…

As I was showing Ivy some rosemary and oregano she might pick for pretend cooking in the playhouse, I glanced up and gasped so that she started. “My milkweed bloomed!” She looked on admiringly and I told her that I had seen the same species of milkweed growing wild near her house up north.

Ivy and Jamie departed with their mama this morning, and I’ve been transitioning back into my quieter life. They all were the best company for kicking off summer.

A boy and his loves.

Liam was with me for a couple of days last week. He is almost six and suddenly reads with astonishing fluency. Reading is downright fun for him, I guess that’s why, and the more you do something you love, the better you get at it. I was pleased to realize that he would be just the person at just the stage to appreciate The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur, so I searched through my bookshelves to find it. We read it together with many giggles.

The artwork, by David Diaz, is much more pleasing to me than that in The Pig in the Spigot, another of Wilbur’s books for children which I wrote about here once. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet, with a short verse musing on what would happen to our beloved world if that letter were no more.

After reading the book, then eating dinner, we went on one of my creek walk loops. Immediately we began to practice our mutual love of plants and their names. My grandson is starting to understand that I don’t know every plant, and our nature study is more of a joint effort now, with him not saying, “What is this?” so much, and saying, “Grandma, look!” more.

But he brought up the subject of the alphabet also, as we walked along, saying, out of the blue, “If there were no letter N, we wouldn’t have pain! or lanes! — or extensions!”

Our walk took longer than I planned, because I had forgotten about how it’s our habit to meander and pick things, as I had started out with Liam in Flowery Town years ago.

FT P1090307

We ate quite a few new-green wild fennel fronds on this walk, and even some slightly older ones, comparing the flavor. And several times he reminded me that we must take the route home that passes by the pineapple guava hedge, because he was eager to taste the flowers I’d mentioned.

We ate flower petals, and got to bed late, and the next morning the boy picked more right next to my garden dining spot, which he added to our breakfast feast. Rarely is it truly the right weather to eat breakfast outdoors here in my city, and this may have been my first time to do it with company so agreeable.

The middle of this second day was spent at my church, where the end of the children’s week-long summer program featured a long session of water play, and Liam was delighted to get all wet and to eat a popsicle.

Even here, he drew my attention to a tree blooming right above, which I’m sure I’d never noticed before. Our rector said he planted it himself “way back.”

Australian Silver Oak or silky oak, Grevillea robusta

While children were settling down for the Bible lesson that morning, another boy showed me this fly that he was admiring on his hand. I think Liam was already waiting patiently on the other side of the circle so he didn’t see it.

Later that afternoon I had planned to have him help me clean the greenhouse, but then realized he’d like better to pick sweet peas to take home to his mother. I have only a little patch that I didn’t pull out yet. He was diligent about that task for nearly an hour, and collected a large jarful. I made headway on the greenhouse, and we took breaks to study the bumblebees that only recently decided to mob those flowers.

One day we had read Monarch and Milkweed, and the other, I showed him my milkweed plants; the Showy Milkweed is in a jungle behind the fig tree, where I hope, if Monarch caterpillars hatch out, the birds might not notice them…?

Liam helped me to see my flowers without a magnifying glass. As we were looking at some tiny succulent flowers, and I was trying to get a good picture of them, I began to notice little black dots on them. “Are those holes in the petals, can you see?” I asked him. He squatted down and looked hard, and told me that they were things on the ends of hairs coming out of the middle of the flower. Ah, stamens! When I enlarged the photo, I could see, too:

We washed rocks! Liam had been examining and organizing one of my collections of pebbles and cones and such in the house, and out here I had him put these larger stones from the Sierras and from the Sacramento River through some sudsy water and a rinse, so they could wait presentably until I find a use for them.

What other things did we both like to do while he was visiting? Eat ice cream cones, and judge matchbox car races, and read Winnie-the-Pooh. Many times during his last hours with me, lines from Pooh or The Disappearing Alphabet would come to his mind and he would say them again, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, knowing I liked them, too. He especially liked these from the page about the letter L:

“Any self-respecting duck
would rather be extinct
than be an uck.”

I was so grateful to Liam’s parents for making this intimate visit work out. Next time I see him, he will be more grown up, and a different boy. But probably not all that different. I hope we can always find a way to share our love for words and plants and many more details and gifts of this vast world in which our loving Father has placed the two of us as grandma and grandson.