Tag Archives: 70s

First day of school brings a whole set of “news”

There’s something so exciting about the first day of school…all those new things. New shoes that hurt, new teachers, new friends, new surroundings, new pencils. Wait…do they even use pencils anymore? Okay, new computers, new. Just new.

I don’t remember my first day of kindergarten, but then I hated kindergarten so I’ve probably blocked it from my mind. I didn’t especially like the first days of school until about fourth grade when I kind of accepted that summer had to end and I had to go back to school. I do remember what I wore on my first day of high school, but we won’t go there. Suffice to say that was the 70s and skirts were short.

My little cousin, Seth, starts his first day of first grade today. I’m pretty sure he’s excited and I’m pretty sure his little sisters are pretty envious. His big cousin, Lindsay, starts her first day of the second year of her PhD program today. Heck, she’s probably just as excited as Seth…if only because there are now only three years to go.

Seth and his dad bike to the first day of school

Heading into a brave new world

Seth’s parents are probably just as excited as he is. Wow. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see your child head off to school for a whole day. Seems like such a long time for such a little kid to sit. All day long, they’ll think of him. When they’re eating lunch, they’ll think of him eating his lunch. Will he eat? Will he trade his sandwich for the next guy’s?

Not everyone loves the first day. It signals the end of summer, the end of freedom. Not just for kids, but for parents. Our friends, Tim and JP, came over last night. Tim was not looking forward to the school year starting. Everyone has to be up at a specific time, the household has to run like clockwork. In a word…routine has to rule the household. Or it falls apart. But hey, Tim, you only have six more years of that before they’re all in or out of college…so enjoy it.

At the university where I work, the first day of school is just as exciting, nerve-wracking and challenging in so many new ways. College freshman have a whole slew of “news”. New home, new roommate, new foods, new fears, and for some, a whole new country.  Like those first-graders at the elementary school, college freshman have to learn to navigate a whole new system, create a new routine.

It’s not easy, this back-to-school business, especially the first day with all its firsts. But it gets easier…I think.

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Secret family recipe revealed

Whenever I see granola for sale in groceries, a very clear visual pops up in my mind. There is my dad, standing at the kitchen counter with a huge stainless steel bowl in front of him. He’s carefully measuring ingredients into the bowl. Oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds.

On the stove top, a mixture of honey, oil and vanilla are warming. He reaches for the pot, slowly swirls the mixture over the dry ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon, he carefully and methodically stirs the mixture, gently turning it over until each grain, nut and seed is coated.

For Dad, making granola was a welcome change from his usual days spent in the lab and classroom, teaching his students to blend the right ingredients for experiments. Yet, in many ways, his hours in the kitchen were very similar to those in the lab — the right ingredients, perfect measurements, temperature control, and most important — staying nearby throughout the process.

Because once he had the ingredients mixed and spread in baking pans, he knew timing was crucial. If he didn’t watch it carefully, at timed intervals removing the pans from the oven to stir them, he’d end up with a burnt batch. And on a college professor’s salary in the 70s, a batch of granola could be expensive. A burnt batch even more so.

Once the granola was done, he’d remove it from the oven, set it on racks to cool before spooning into old tins and coffee cans saved just for this purpose.

Thinking back, I must have taken that granola for granted. It was always there. Secretly, I’d filter through the cans for the big chunks. My favorite way to eat it was on top of ice cream.

My mom still makes granola regularly; probably some of my brothers do, too. Awhile back, my husband, daughters and I made a family cookbook to give to family members as a Christmas present. My parents’ granola recipe stands front and center, an icon of our family history.

Today I had a hankering for granola…the real thing. No coconut. I don’t think any of my family members (brothers, parents, children) has ever liked coconut so it’s not in the recipe. You could add it, but then it wouldn’t be our granola. It would be yours.

This is the original recipe, with notes about any changes I made. When making mine, I took poetic license and added some flax seed — the wheat germ of the 2000s. Dad would have understood. He was all for change as long as it was a healthy one. Mother, of course, has probably made more changes to her own versions over the years. Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried fruit.

If you decide to make your own, remember this caveat: Do not leave the kitchen. Sit at a nearby table with a cup of tea or coffee and set a timer. Unless, of course, you like your granola with a blackened quality.

Granola

1/4 c. safflower or canola oil
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. rolled oats
1 c. wheat germ
1 c. sliced almonds
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. whole wheat bran
1/4-1/2 c. flax seeds (OPTIONAL — this is my addition)

Heat first three ingredients. Add to remaining ingredients and stir (mix well). Spread on oiled cookie sheets or baking pans. Bake at 325 degrees (stir twice during baking) 20-25 min.
Store in tightly-closed containers.