I love summer squash and zucchini. To my great fortune, this year my garden is plentiful of it! Thankfully, both of these vegetables can be cooked and eaten so many different ways. I love to sauté some zucchini on the stove top with olive oil, chopped garlic and a little salt and pepper. I also love roasting it in the oven tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and some parmesan cheese. Currently, my kids two favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes are squash fritters and zucchini bread- no surprise there! We’ve added our personal touch to some pretty basic recipes that we thought we’d share with our fellow gardeners who are also trying to figure out what to do with all that squash! Enjoy!
Summer Squash Fritters (We use the yellow squash for these)
My kids love these served hot with ketchup and fresh sliced tomatoes!
Lemon Zucchini Cake
Mix juice of one lemon with enough confectioners sugar to make an icing consistency to pour over cake when cool
This Zucchini Cake Recipe is adapted form a Wonderful Italian Cook that the kids and I like watching on Youtube. She reminds me very much of my own Nonna and has some authentic Italian dishes you might enjoy checking out.
About six months ago after our first family adventure in our camper and gaining a new appreciation for living in a simpler way, I wished for a slower pace to life. Fast forward a couple months and I got it! Never could I have imagined that it would be forced upon us! And never would I have wished for a global pandemic to bring this slower pace. But, with a slower pace and more time on our hands we were able to pursue another wish of mine, a big garden with lots and lots of tomatoes! Thankfully to a very hearty compost delivered by our local dairy farm and to the hard working hands of my husband, kids and myself, the tomato dream has come to us in bucket loads!
We planted numerous varieties of tomatoes this year; Brandywine heirlooms, Early girls, Sun Gold cherries, Fourth of July, Big Boy Brandywines, Plum tomatoes and lots of cherry tomatoes. Little did we know how prolific the plants would be and how good a growing season we would have. The kids and I are out there every day inspecting the tomatoes and gambling on which ones are ok to leave for tomorrow hoping the slugs and other small hungry visitors won’t eat them before we get to them. It’s a risk we’re not always willing to take, but Our tomato storage capabilities are reaching their max. I feel more and more like my Italian Nonna everyday as I care for my tomatoes with the tenderness I do my children and trays fill my house with upside down tomatoes spaced apart and covered with linens in order to prolong their lifespan. Like us, the tomatoes are also better off social distancing to insure their health and longevity.
I Have been making sauce, canning, jarring, freezing, sun drying and roasting tomatoes daily. We’re eating many tomato sandwiches with fresh pesto and mayo. There is nothing quite like the amazing taste of a vine ripened tomato. It’s a simple thing that can bring so much joy. The tomatoes seem never ending and the garden is beginning to feel a bit like Big Anthony’s garden from the Strega Nonna storybook! For those not familiar, his garden is a bit out of control, but the unwieldy magic of a garden continues to be truly delightful and exciting! We keep finding new surprise plants that have sprung from our dirt and are now bearing fruit. We have butternut squash trellising across our fence, an unknown squash growing in the pumpkin patch and compost bin, cucumbers growing in our pot of Canna’s and a giant gourd plant taking over a flower bed!
Every meal seems to be a new creative adventure. We have roasted some of Leo’s giant pumpkins and made lasagna size pumpkin pies! With plenty pumpkin purée leftover to fill our freezer for later use. We can’t get enough squash fritters, zucchini bread, fresh garden salsa and cucumber salads! We’ve even gotten pretty creative with our pesto recipes and made beet green, kale and basil pesto with almonds and walnuts. We’ve gone Greek and made home made Tzatziki along with feta, tomato, cucumber wraps. The magic of the garden keeps on giving and continues to renew and recharge our mind, body and soul!
We have harvested all the carrots, beets and lettuce and have started new plantings for an early fall harvest. There are so many great vegetables you can plant in August for most planting zones that will allow for a crop before winter. We have put in bush bean plants, arugula, spinach, mesclun salad mix, kale and broccoli rabe (a bitter green similar to broccoli). Some other vegetables that you can plant now are radishes, carrots, beets (for beet greens and small beets), Swiss chard, and garlic.
The kids are drying out seeds from the tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, banana peppers and pumpkins to save for next year.
To Plant a Garden is to Believe in tomorrow.Audrey Hepburn
There is something so therapeutic about working the earth, growing your own food and cooking and eating together. It is a tradition I hold dear to my heart that I am grateful to pass down to my children. Sunday dinners at my Nonna’s house packed into her tiny kitchen with my Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, cousins and friends eating a home cooked meal from the garden while listening to them debate over who found the cheapest grapes and broccoli rabe – are some of my dearest childhood memories. As a young girl I didn’t quite understand why my grandparents worked so hard when you could buy everything at the food store? Yet, there was something special about what they did that struck me even at an early age. Both my grandparents have since passed, but I feel their presence shining over me each time I set foot in my garden and get lost in the rows of tomato plants. They were two very hardworking people who lived very simple and always shared the fruits of their labor with those they loved. They were the original ‘Farm to Table’ farmers. The way they have shaped my life to appreciate the simple things, to know where my food comes from and to respect the earth that feeds me, is profound. They have gifted me with the secrets to the true riches in life, good food, family and friends- and for that I am ever grateful.
If I am so lucky to be granted a third wish, It would be that – All who have tasted the pleasures of the earth work together to preserve it. Be that in the garden and in life.
Buon Apetito Tutti!
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed- Let it be that great strong land of love / Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme / That any man be crushed by one above. – Langston Hughes
On this anniversary of our great Nations’ Independence we wish you all freedom and happiness. Thankful for the life, liberty and path to all that we hold dear. Take the day as yours and reflect on the joys that make life worth living. Let’s all pledge to pursue them together for a better tomorrow. Peace, Love and Joy be yours today and always.
Eat pops, Play games, blow bubbles, splash in the sprinkler, have a bar-b-cue, roast marshmallows – Have some good old-fashioned fun and spread the LOVE!
From our Home to Yours – Have a Wonderful Weekend!
Adriana, Mike, Ava, Lily, Leo & Vivienne
The garden keeps on growing! Each day we walk through the garden weeding, watering, and pruning the suckers off the tomatoes, we are amazed by the growth that seems to happen overnight. Gardening is truly a labor of love. If you’ve ever weeded a carrot bed, I’m sure you’d very much agree! Weeding aside, tending to a garden is therapeutic for me and I think it’s contagious! The kids along with Mike are always out there checking on their plants, pulling weeds, picking bugs off the bok choy and the eggplant, making sure the ground isn’t too dry, counting tomatoes and flowers in the pumpkin patch and dreaming of what the next couple months will bring like tomato sandwiches and homemade pickles!
Leo has been my right hand man in the garden this year. He seems to be pretty much in charge of the whole production, but like any good boss, he is always asking questions and learning himself! He is always out there first thing in the morning to check on things, especially his two bean plants that he sprouted from seeds in a jar and then transplanted into the garden. He is a seed saver. Everything he eats, he usually asks where is the seed and how did this grow on a plant and can he grow it in the garden. We are both learning something new everyday. We have researched corn, how many ears one stalk can grow, how to help your pumpkins grow bigger, where are banana seeds and why flowers turn into plants. We also have been studying bees; how they survive and thrive and how they pollinate plants.
People who love to eat are always the best people.
Spending time in the garden has always brought me great joy and I feel so honored to be able to share this gift with my family. I have so many beautiful childhood memories of my Italian grandparents garden in New Jersey. My Nonno and Nonna taught me so much about working the earth and making good food. They were the original “organic” farmers growing up in a little mountain village in Italy. They valued everything they put on the table because it truly was in every word, “the fruits of their labor.” So much of what I know about gardening I learned watching and helping them. They taught me at an early age to respect the earth and to take care of it because our existence depends on it. They weren’t environmental activists, they were Italian farmers who knew the importance of respecting the earth that feeds you. They taught me where food comes from, how to compost and create healthy dirt, how to save seeds for next year, how to can and cook what you grow and best of all, they taught me the great joy of sitting down to a meal together with those you love.
Gardening and food have a way of connecting us all
Planting a garden isn’t just about experimentation, it is about hope. It is about believing in the magic and beauty of the earth and the gift of tomorrow. When planting a garden there are so many things that are out of our control that can effect our plants. To believe in a garden is to have hope. Hope that the tiny little seed you planted will be nourished by the earth and weather the storms and be resilient. It is having trust in the unknown, which is something I hold very near to my heart during these uncertain times. Hope is something that like a garden needs to be nurtured and encouraged to grow. There is no time better than the present to harvest hope. To believe in tomorrow. So I encourage you to dig deep into the earth and plant some seeds of hope. Your garden will do more than grow plants, it will give you a harvest of plenty; one that will nourish the mind, body and soul.
Having a garden and believing in new beginnings is a Victory for us all!
Frustration is good. Some of the worlds best inventions and discoveries come from frustrations, boredom and nothing to do. We don’t need to constantly entertain our children. We don’t need to guide their play or explain everything they see or are doing – in many ways it is a disservice to kids. It takes away from their own curiosity and learning experience. Kids learn through figuring things out, through trial and error, through exploring their interests. Not from someone telling them how to do things. Telling and teaching are two totally different things.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.Maimonides
Over the past fifty years “parenting” -especially in the United States- has shifted from a very hands off approach to a new kind of parent controlled direct explaining of the child to the child of their own life experiences from the parents point of view. For example, we observe a parent at the playground: “Ok Sally, go up the slide. Down this way, whee! Wasn’t that fun? Didn’t you love that! No Sally, not the see-saw, you go ow. Danger!” There seems to be a renewed focus on telling a child how to think and how to feel –in a sense– pre-filtering and pre-digesting the child’s reality. This spoon-feeding denies children the creative learning experience that is so important for growth and development.
Parents have the best intentions and yes, it is important to guide your child up the ladder to slide down the slide, but you show them once, step back and observe next or a couple times and then back away and let them enjoy their new found freedom and their autonomy. This builds a self-confidence that becomes a model throughout life. If you don’t show your children that you trust them in early on experiences, then you are setting them up for your approval and needing you to do so much more for them through-out life because they lack self-confidence and are afraid they will fail. They won’t be able to go to the food store or college without mom and dad. It’s true and it’s really happening. Just ask your friends who have college age students.
Author Janet Hibbs, calls this a mental health epidemic stating in her book, The Stressed Years of Their Lives, that what we are seeing is very smart kids, which some researchers call brainiacs, that suffer from “destructive perfectionism; they cannot tolerate not excelling at everything. And no one typically excels at everything. We all have times when we both make mistakes or fail. And kids don’t have as much practice at that today, because they’re protected from having those experiences, and also it freaks their parents out, which makes then the kids feel more responsible.”
This is a very new phenomenon over the past 30 or 40 years and it’s something we have the ability to change for the better of our children; for their self confidence and encouraging resilience for life. Ask some earlier generation parents what they did as a kid. If they were born in the USA during the 60’s and earlier they say things like: work on the farm, tend to the animals, cook meals for the family, take care of their siblings (and most grew up in a household where only one parent was working). They did things like mowing the lawn, took their siblings to the local lake or pool to swim or ice skate (unsupervised by adults). They probably played outside a lot more than you and your own children, they may have walked to school (by themselves or with their friends or siblings), they may have had a job at the young age of 12…they may have ridden public transit by themselves. My mom often tells me the story of how she would, at the ripe old age of 12, take the public transit bus from her suburb town in New Jersey into New York City to meet her dad at work for lunch. Most of you reading this can probably remember your own freedoms as a child. It was an independence that helped teach you great skills like problem-solving, self-reliance and confidence.
Today, parent’s are nervous to leave their kids unattended in their own backyards to play. What has happened to us over the past 50 years as a society, that we now have more anxiety and fear about raising our kids and we have more children filled with fear and anxiety. In her book”i Gen: Why Today’s Super Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, author Jean Twenge explains that most teens today aren’t even interested in getting their license to drive, a privilege that most youth would be counting down the days until. It used to be a symbol of true freedom. Yet, todays youth are too anxious to get behind the wheel and are waiting longer and longer to learn to drive and get their licenses. This generation of youth is the first to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. With social media and texting replacing other activities. They spend less time with their friends in person and are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
In the book Free Range Kids: Giving Children the Freedom we had without going nuts with worry, a fantastic read for any parent with kids of any age, the author, Lenore Skenazy, decides to let her 9 year old son ride the subway alone. She builds her son up to this, first riding with him for years and then riding with him from their home to the desired subway stop to be sure he knows what to do. When she decided to write a column about her child’s adventure and new found independence, she was chastised by the media and parent’s for being called careless and “the worst mom ever.” I do understand parents’ concern. It is so outside the box for us to feel comfortable with actions like this, but Skenazy knew her child. She knew his capabilities and maturity; she set safe guards to make sure he would be ok.
I have struggled with giving my children these same types of freedoms because we don’t live in a society that totally supports it. Instead, people attack the parent as being negligent. Children have fewer and fewer spaces to grow, to explore, to be trusted to their own activities. They need space to build confidence and competence. I firmly believe that it is safer to allow your child to walk around the block in your neighborhood or up the street to the playground with a friend than it is to leave them unsupervised in their rooms all day on an electronic device! Here they are alone and engaging in material and media that may be more of a threat to their well being. This isolated media diet can be more harmful than a walk around the block without mom and dad. Yet, today, many parents believe that their children are safer on the couch in their home, safer at scheduled organized activities, playdates or even in their bedrooms– than in their own backyard! How sad is that?
It isn’t easy to give your children the freedom and space they need to foster their wellbeing. Showing them you believe they are ready to do things on their own encourages confidence and responsibility. It is the best lesson for children. When you don’t allow them to cross the street on their own and tell them it is because you don’t trust the drivers of the cars, all your child hears is that you don’t trust them. Instead, find a common ground that makes you feel comfortable and also allows them some freedom while being safe. We live on a very busy street where cars drive over 40mph. I haven’t felt comfortable with the kids crossing the street by themselves, but when Ava turned 9, she kept asking me why I didn’t trust her to cross the street on her own? I realized that this was the message she was getting and that I wasn’t giving her the autonomy she needed as she was growing. So, we made an agreement that she could cross the road and bike down the quiet dead-end street across from us during the less busy hours of the day. I have always taught the kids from an early age to look both ways before they cross – so, our next step was for them to tell me when it was safe to cross and to cross me across the street (this is what I started doing with the kids from an early age, maybe 4 or 5). So, the natural thing to do, was to now let Ava cross on her own. I watched her from the window as she looked both ways, looked again, waited, waited more and then finally she and her bike were off! The smile on her face and confidence that shined through her is a picture I have in my mind that I will hold onto forever – it was a gift to give her that independence and show her that I trust her.
So, what are the next steps when we live in a society that reports parent’s to the police if their kids are in the yard alone or walking their dogs around the neighborhood by themselves. Well, we couldn’t stop there – what I did next was try and think of a space or place that the kids and I both knew well and felt safe in and could let them go to by themselves. We visit the local library often and we know all the librarians that work there, so naturally, I started to let Ava and Lily at the age of 6 and 4 go into the library to check-out books on their own while Leo and I waited in the car outside. I first checked with the librarians to make sure they were okay with this and told them why I wanted the girls to have this type of opportunity and they were very encouraging. Ava and Lily both felt so responsible to go into the library, pick out their books (we always agreed on a number before they went in) and walk back out to meet me at the car. When Leo turned 4, I let him join them. I told Ava and Lily that they were in charge and told Leo that this was a privilege that would be taken away if he didn’t behave the way I expected him to and listen to his sisters. He was very excited for this freedom and now I even send him in alone (age 6) to pick up books. So many parent’s say, “oh I could never let my child do that,” but have they ever let their child do anything? If this idea sounds so foreign to you, take baby steps and build both you and your child up to it. There are so many ways to give your child freedoms that will instill confidence for their lifetime.
When I go food shopping with the kids, I give them each a list of things they need to get for me. They sometimes do this together or individually. I never send them off in a large packed store, only in the local food store that we know and the grocers have gotten to know them over the years. Ava always orders our meat and cheese at the deli counter – long before she could see over it! I have sent Ava and Lily into our local mom and pop farm store to buy milk or ice cream, especially helpful when Vivi was very young and napping in the car. I have always told the kids that if an adult questions you as to where you parent is, you can let them know that I am right outside waiting for you and if they don’t approve then they can come and get me. I have also taught my children that it is ok to respond and say hello to “strangers,” but you never, ever go anywhere with a stranger. I want my children to know that if they were ever in trouble that they could go to someone they didn’t know for help and to not be afraid of strangers. I think there is a difference that is important for them to understand.
I also let my kids walk trails that we all have walked together and that they know well. My girls have walked the sidewalk to the library with friends on their own. My husband had many freedoms growing up and so did I, we both rode our bikes far from home and were left at a young age to babysit our younger siblings. My husband even had a paper route throughout his town and biked many busy roads. I don’t know entirely why or how we have shifted to this model of fear and over concern for allowing our children to have similar freedoms. Some argue that the world is less safe yet, all news reports and honest statistics point differently. Is it because most of us don’t even know our neighbors? My father-in-law said he couldn’t get down to the end of his street without saying hello to most of his neighbors and having at least one of them call his mom to let her know if he was up to no good. Maybe that’s something we don’t have today in our communities. My own father grew up in a small mountain village in Italy and at the age of 5 was in charge of the garden, planting and watering the plants that were grown in a plot of land a 1/4 mile from his home. He also had to collect the beans in the summer and bring them to the market to sell (all of this was unsupervised and to help his family survive).
It takes a Village to Raise a Child – an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.African Proverb
I write about this topic because I see in my own children how they get along better and have less frustrations when I give them more responsibilities and trust. Finding balance isn’t easy for ourselves or our children. Yes, there are dangers out there in our world. Yes, there are things fully out of our control, but we have options – we can shelter our children out of fear and pass on that fear and anxiety to our children from a very early age OR you can choose to empower your child. To foster independence, self confidence and encourage unsupervised moments that allow them to grow, build skills that prepare them for the adventures of adult life. These are the tools that they will truly need to grow into a healthy well balanced individual that is able to handle life’s ups and downs with a resilience that can only be taught through life experience. Don’t be afraid – the rewards far out way the dangers.
We’re all in this together,
If you’re interested in doing any more reading or research on this topic check out these resources:
It’s easy to miss it if you look quick, but yes that is a spring asparagus Spear popping up in the garden! This is the third year since I planted three asparagus crowns in my garden and it usually takes that long for it to establish itself and yield some fruit. So as you can imagine, I was super excited to see this beauty break on through and say hello. Although, when I planted it, I didn’t know much about asparagus yields and just recently read an article that recommended planting 25 asparagus crowns to feed a family of four! Guess I can’t count on my asparagus to feed us through this pandemic!
Luckily, our area of Western Mass is very well known for it’s asparagus – around here it grows like grass. The soil along the Connecticut River is very fertile and great for growing asparagus. If you’d like to try adding it to your vegetable garden it is very easy to maintain. Unlike tomatoes and other garden annuals, asparagus are perennials. Once established, the crowns will continue to provide a crop for up to 20 years or more. No matter how fresh you find it in the store, there really isn’t anything like tender asparagus spears from the garden.
My family’s favorite way to eat asparagus is broiled in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s super easy and cooks quick. If you’d like to give it a try, first snap off any woody ends of the asparagus, place your asparagus spears on a baking sheet, pour about two tablespoons or enough to coat your asparagus onto the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix it with your hands. Be sure to coat all of the asparagus in olive oil. Once you can pierce it easy with a fork, it’s done. Usually takes 10 minutes in the broiler on high.
Mother’s Day is a special time to reflect on the very significant beauty of the Moms in our lives. No amount of thanks seems to be enough to let these heroines of our lives know how treasured they are and how much we depend on them. Mothers know how to give; let’s give them back some of the love they share so freely.
So, thank you to all the Amazing Moms out there that never think twice about getting up in the middle of the night to comfort the cries of the baby, about driving to take their beloved to another lesson, or about all the duties that wear them down. Today –and every day,– let’s lift the Moms up, thank them, and help them fill the tall order of providing life and nourishment to all us kids.
I speak for myself, a Dad, a Son, a Husband, a guy who doesn’t always remember to wipe his feet, or clean-up after himself, or do the laundry, cook dinners, clean the house, bake fresh bread, change the diapers, do bath time, story time, school time, listen and console, be there for others, have a constant happy attitude, love selflessly, write thank you cards, buy special lovely birthday presents, write great blog content, food shop, develop a daily, weekly, and monthly mealtime strategy, make cakes, plan birthday parties, organize weddings, baptisms, and major events, the list goes on, and on.
My wife, Adriana, fills in these areas. I try to step it up to follow her lead as she cares for the kids and do the things she does with an endless supply of love and strength to carry on. She manages this no matter how much Leo fights her to take off his dirty clothes, or Vivienne climbs onto the table after the cat and bumps her cheek, or Lily and Ava duel it out over whose turn it is to pick the next Andy Griffith Show. Despite all the ebb and flow of daily challenges, my amazing wife carries on. She puts herself aside and forgoes personal time for the sake of each one of us: the kids and myself, also her own mother too, and her grandmother, her sisters, and for her father. My dear Adriana has a place in her heart and a moment in her day to listen and console, help, and give love to so many loved ones. She is an inspiration and a lesson. She shows me how love is in action: to do for others as you would want done for you–and to carry on even if it is not done for you! Thank you Adriana, I love you!
Adriana teaches me to try to act in this way, to think of others, to act with love, to smile and shine despite the odds. She paints a picture of motherhood on my heart that calls to mind my own mother, –another amazing lady. My mom– Nanna to the kids– also lives this way. My mother raised us 12 children (I have 4 brothers and 7 sisters) in a similar selfless and enduring way. No matter how many of us were crying or fighting or hungry or needed attention, Nanna was there, spreading herself out to cover us. She showed us how a mother’s love can be endless. She is still there for all the grandchildren now, watching over them, carrying on the love to the next generation, helping and guiding them as they grow. That love has inspired and lifted, sustained and nurtured all of us Powell children, and grandchildren, but also the selfless love my mom shares warms the lives of all those she meets. Thanks Mom for bringing me into the world, and giving me so much! I love you.
Adriana’s Mother, Mema, also is a lesson of love in action. Mema has been there for us countless times, pitching in, cooking for parties, setting up, cleaning, watching the kids, lending a hand, bringing lovely thoughtful gifts, helping at births, and always opening her arms to welcome me into her home, her heart, and her kitchen. Mema will drop everything and come straight to help when needed. If Adriana is sick, or one of the kids has some kind of emergency, Mema does not hesitate. In a flash she has packed her things and is driving hours to come to our side. Mema pitches in and carries on with an unsinkable spirit. She never lets the odds keep her down but always bounces back, rolls up her sleeves, and gets things done. Thats her love in action. Thanks Kathy! Love you too.
There is so much to say for Mothers. I only scratch the surface. The love that grows out of birthing a child, that pain that no man can ever truly understand, is a great love. Mothers love us –despite the pain– and I think that is the remarkable thing. May the Mothers out there know we are inspired by you. And let’s give some love back to Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Amazing Moms out there. Thanks for giving us Life. Love you.
Having tea together is a sacred custom among many cultures for centuries. The Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, British, Indian and American cultures all have a history with tea. I am a big tea drinker and pretty much always have the kettle on in our house. I usually start the day with Earl Grey and share an evening cup of honey and chamomile tea with my hubby. It is a tradition we share from when we first met and would go out for tea together.
Research shows there are many health benefits to drinking tea. Tea drinkers benefit from antioxidants that help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases and certain teas are proven to lower the risk of developing heart disease. Drinking tea together as a family or with friends is not only calming, but fun!
Tea parties are a common occurrence at our house. The kids love to pick out a special tablecloth, fabric napkins, fancy dishes and tea cups to decorate the table. We usually have a seasonal centerpiece. Sometimes it’s fresh flowers from the yard or hand made paper flowers or even a large branch in which we hang festive seasonal decorations. Sometimes we have a theme, which could be a country we are learning about – we may dress up and eat treats from that country or culture and play music from that area. We also have poetry tea parties in which we each bring a favorite poem to the table. The verse can be one you’ve written or one from a book or even a story you’ve written or would like to tell. We sometimes dress up in fancy clothes or costumes! All our tea parties usually include a sweet treat or snack we’ve made. We don’t always have tea. At first we drank apple cider, lemonade or hot cocoa, now the kids are really into hibiscus, elderberry, pomegranate, peach, apple cinnamon, peppermint, chamomile even earl grey teas.
It really doesn’t matter what you have to eat or drink – the true gift is spending time together. Something magical always happens in our house as our dining table transforms into a beautiful tea room. We have tea parties with friends, share treats together and make crafts. We have tea parties with family when they visit and we have tea parties together.
You don’t need fancy china to have a tea party, anything that is fun and different will make the whole experience exciting. I have been collecting old china from the flea markets since before I had children. Who knew that they would take such pleasure in sipping tea from our flea market finds? They love picking out their own tea cups and dessert plates (all different and found at local tag sales). Nothing matches, but no one cares because that’s what makes it all the more fun!
In the summer months we love to make our own tea. We grow chocolate mint and peppermint in the garden and the kids will fill a pitcher with water and add the leaves to steep in the sun. We then chill it in the fridge and have an outdoor picnic with our tea. If you don’t have your own garden you can of course throw some tea bags in a pitcher and let them steep in the warm sun too. There’s just something about filling a pitcher with water and letting tea leaves steep in the sun that feels so cool and exciting!
We sometimes play games at our tea parties. Recently Leo suggested we play “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing an…. Apple. Then we go around the table and have to repeat what each person says and add to it with a word that starts with the next letter of the alphabet. This is a favorite game of Leo’s right now – although for the letter N he insisted on saying “gnarly farts,” but that is a lesson for another day.
Only recently before this pandemic, my neighbor who is originally from South Africa and speaks with a British accent, was stopping over for tea. It was a sweet time for us to connect, laugh and since she’s a seasoned homeschool mom with 3 grown kids, she is a wealth of knowledge and advice. Leo loves to listen to her speak and since our conversation was about gardening, when she left he was so curious as to why she says tomato different than we do. I explained that she has a British accent and some words are pronounced differently. Well, kids do say the darnedest things because Leo now thinks that he speaks with a British accent and keeps asking me if I understood what he was just talking about because he was speaking “British!” He asked me, “Mom, how do you say I need to use the bathroom in British?” I try very hard not to laugh as he continues to ask me how to say different things in British. So, maybe, as we have, you may find it fun to speak a different “language” at your next tea party. We had a fun time at ours recently, speaking “British!”
This Mother’s Day the kids are planning a tea party – it’s a surprise for me, but word is, they are going to bake brownies! Although we are all practicing social distancing –if you can– have a Mother’s Day Tea Party and invite a special someone in your life who may be alone right now for tea via “zoom.” We also have been having some family and friends for tea that way too! I encourage you all, young and old to make time for tea. It is a special time to pause, enjoy each other’s company and make this special time at home together something to remember and treasure.
Wishing you all a Very Special Mother’s Day.
“Cheers” (-Lets clink our tea cups together): Time for Tea!
Have you ever foraged for wild edibles? It’s something I used to do with my dad when I was young. We would hike through the forest looking for his prized “Hen of the Woods,” mushroom that he ate since he was a boy in Italy. He used to collect the mushrooms in a basket so that the spores would be able to fall to the ground and reproduce. I used to be so sceptic of collecting food from the woods and cooking it for dinner! Foraging for mushrooms is still something my dad loves to do and if the season is right and he’s up for a visit he always takes the kids into the woods hunting for mushrooms.
Garlic Mustard is new to me. It is an invasive species that is easy to find, and especially tasty in the spring. Ava took a “Wild Edibles” class at an Environmental Center near us last year and learned a lot about edible plants in our area. I have put my trust in her and with the arrival of the warm weather she took Leo on a nature walk in search of garlic mustard so that she could make us all some delicious pesto. It’s funny, when children feel empowered and given some autonomy to be trusted and do things on their own – they really shine. Ava and Leo were so excited to find the mother load of garlic mustard in the woods on our trail. They picked it, cleaned it and are now busy making it into a pesto to add to tonight’s dinner.
We like using the leaves to make pesto, but they also taste great added to a salad. The leaves, roots and flowers are all edible – the stalks are tasty sautéed if you get to them before they flower. Leaves in any season can be eaten, but they do taste bitter once the weather gets hot. The name’s no lie. Garlic mustard is filled with a fresh garlic character and a fiery mustard bite. The pesto it makes is great on pasta, toast, and as a meat rub. We also love to mix it with some mayo and add it to sandwiches or a cold pasta salad.
These plants are hard to misidentify, but I would recommend looking them up online or getting a good field guide to be sure you are picking the right thing. A telltale sign that you’ve found the right plant is if you crush the leaves or stems they will smell unmistakably of garlic.
Here’s our Garlic Mustard Recipe: