Ten Things to do with Grand-girls on Summer Day

DSC02941Hello all– Do you have any grand-girls of our own?  Then you know how much exhilarating, exhausting fun they can be.  Just being with them makes me feel younger — when they’re around, I find myself singing silly songs and dancing and racing around the house in a way I would never do on my own.  There’s knock knock jokes that don’t quite make sense and Maryann’s “Food Experiment Club,” that impels us to try odd combinations of what’s on our plates at dinnertime.  It’s definitely energizing to have them around the house!

Here’s 10 Things we thought were good old summer fun together:

DSC02955     DSC02988     #1.  Start the day with a “wake up song”– our personal favorite is “Good morning to you!”
(we are still waiting for the wake up on this photo).  #2.  Drag out the paper, glue and scissors for a little kitchen cupboard art display.

#3.  Head to Great Grandma Lo’s pool for a splashing good afternoon.

DSC02992     DSC02973#4. Eat a Chinese Breakfast together– dumplings and bowls of rice soup with egg and sesame stuffed rice balls (thanks Jodi!!).  #5.  Dig up their auntie’s of doll houses and furniture for an afternoon of mini- interior-decorating.

#6.  Round up a couple of little farmers here to plant two tomato plants, a watermelon plant and rows of flower seeds back behind the garage.  (Last year we did sunflowers and zinnias and I would email them pics of the flowers as they grew.)

IMG_1794     DSC02947.
#7. An after dinner stop at Yogurtland.  It’s all about the colorful toppings.  #8.  Gather around the coffee table to a not too formal tea party (by tea, I mean peach juice) on Great-great Grandma Grace’s fancy China.

DSC02963#9.  Make a morning trek to the library to stock up on good reading for bedtime and long hot summer afternoons.

DSC02996#10.  And my personal favorite– Cooking with the grand-girls.  Here they’re helping me out by licking the whipped cream beaters nice and clean.

Here’s hugs to my girls for all the riotous fun together the last week.  You’re the best!


Before Summer’s Gone…

From a summer birthday walk a couple weeks ago with Jenon at Laguna Beach.

Hey there– It’s looming– the end of summer.  There’s just 2 weeks before school starts and I’ll be spending my days with a room of (hopefully) adorable 3rd graders.  So to wrest the last bits of summer fun out of the days left, I’ve made a list:


#1.  Take one last summer trip to San Francisco — to walk, to eat, to talk with our kids and, of course, get in all the books and cuddles we can with our Little Mae.–and a stop in Ojai to see the bigger grand-girls on the way home!

#2.  Bake a one more fruit cobbler — to be topped with generous scoops of ice cream.

#3.  Morning walk with old friends to eat outdoor breakfast and catch up our summer stories from near and far.

#4.  Spend one day lazing on the couch with a stack of library books.

#5.  Sit an evening in the jacuzzi laughing with my young moms group.

#6.  One more evening beach walk with Larry–kicking off those shoes to in wade a bit.

#7.  Pick the last summer tomatoes and make that recipe for a tomato tart on the cover of the August Food Channel magazine.

#8.  Bar-b-que some skewers and make a bright salad for dinner with friends out back under the maple trees on a warmish summer evening.

#9.  One last summer walk to Yogurtland (Larry figures the walk just about offsets the calories consumed in the cup of yogurt).

#10.  Spend a morning by the open back windows to think and plan and pray for the months ahead…  God is good.

Well, that should about do it.  It I can happily squeeze all this into the 2 weeks left, it will be a fine finish to our summer.   I do love a good list.  Do you have one you’re checking off?

Summer Reading for Kids

Hi all-  Summer vacation is for reading.  When I was 9 or 10 I would ride my bike to the library once a week, fill the basket up with books and pedal back home.  I’d lay under the pepper tree in the backyard or sprawled on the couch and read, read.  It was the best way I knew to while away a summer.

So in honor of all those kids who are just launching into their summer vacations, here’s a list of books that would wonderfully fill those long lazy summer afternoons.


I just finished reading this book to my 3rd graders at years end. Matilda is a precocious child with some of the craziest parents between two covers.  She uses her amazing gifts to turn out the villainous headmistress from her school with the help of her beloved teacher, Miss Honey.  It’s Roald Dahl at his best– full of fun and quirky characters, including the plucky heroine who keeps you cheering her on through the whole story.



The Penderwick sisters have a delicious summer ahead when they join their father on the beautiful grounds of the Adrundel Estate.  They explore the elaborate gardens, treasure filled attic and make a new friend, Jeffrey Tifton, the son of Arundel’s owner to join them on their adventures.  But they run up against Mrs. Tifton who is not so pleased to meet them.  It’s a charming, warm, old fashioned story, perfect for summer reading.



The Westing Game  by Ellen Raskin was family favorite when my kids were young readers.  Sixteen Heirs are brought to live in the Sunset Towers apartment building and when the will of deceased Samuel Westing is read, it is a puzzle.  They are given clues to solve the mystery of Sam Westing’s murder.  The winner inherits his $2 million dollar fortune.  It’s a convoluted mystery for kids that’s hard to put down, even for grown ups.  Just fun reading.



Four children happen into the magical land of Narnia, where animals talk and all are under the curse of the white witch who has made the land always be in winter, but never Christmas!  Through a set of adventures and with the sacrifice of the great lion, Aslan, the witch is conquered and the children come to reign as rulers in the castle by the sea.  It’s a marvelous, magical tale part of a set of 7 Narnia books, so there’s reading for all summer long here.  If a child owns just one set of books, these classics should be the one.


thumb_littlehouseontheprairieLittle House on the Prairie is the account of a real family who left the wilds of the Wisconsin woods to settle in Kansas.  Second daughter, Laura wrote the stories of their travels in a covered wagon across the prairie, the resourcefulness of Pa building their new log home, the way the family met numerous hardships head on.  I love that children today can know a time when people hunted and grew their own food, when entertainment was Pa and his fiddle or cutting dolls out of paper, when a sock with an orange, a peppermint stick and a penny made a fine Christmas gift.  This is also a book set, starting Little House in the Big Woods.  I think you’ll love this brave and endearing family.

Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

IMG_1517Hi friends– I don’t know about where you are– but with just one week of school left, we  are already living summertime here!  Last night Larry and I walked to our little “real Mexican food” place for canitas tacos and ended up at Yorgurtland next door for dessert.  Sitting outside with a cup full of mango yogurt– That’s summer!

So here’s a fruity ice cream cake to add to your list of summery things to enjoy.  Summer here we come!

2 cups crushed Oreos (about 20 cookies)
3 tab. butter, melted
1 1/2 cartons (1/2 gallon size) strawberry ice cream
1 pound box of strawberries
1 cup hot fudge sauce
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 tsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix

IMG_1485Set out the ice cream with the lids off so it will soften while you make the chocolate crust.  The smash those Oreos in a bag with a rolling pin. Mix the cookies with the melted butter and press them into a 9″ spring form pan (or any cake pan) sprayed with cooking spray.  Wash the berries and pick 4 or 5 of the prettiest ones to go on top of the cake.  Cut the rest of the berries into small bits.  Then cover the crust with half the ice cream.  Layer on the cut up strawberries.  And scoop on the rest of the ice cream over the berries.  Stick that in the freezer a couple hours to firm up.  Then heat the chocolate fudge sauce only 15 or 20 seconds (you don’t want it too hot!) and with an electric mixer, whip the cream along with the powdered sugar and pudding mix (to stabilize the cream).  Slice the remaining strawberries into pretty shapes.  To serve it all up, take the ice cream cake from the freezer and top it with the chocolate fudge sauce, whipped cream and strawberries.  Ready to eat!  Summer on a plate.

Chicken & Fruit Summer Salad

IMG_1260Hello you all– I know it’s not truly summer yet.  But we did have a day that hit 100 degrees this week!  And tonight we dragged the back yard old wooden table out of storage and had our first dinner under the maple trees with friends.  It was an easy pot-lucky kind of meal– everyone walking in the front door with a bottle of wine and something to add to the table.  We sat and ate and talked til well after dark.  So somehow it just feels like summer.

1 head of red leaf lettuce
1 roasted chicken, deboned and chopped to polite little bites
1 box of strawberries, sliced
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of blackberries
2 kiwis, peeled and cut to chunks
4 apricots, seeded and cut into little pieces
1/2 cup blue cheese
1/2 cup roasted almonds

Layer this all on the biggest platter you have and set it out to share with friends…

DRESSING– We had two choices on the side:

Tarragon Dressing– 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar, 1 tab. sugar, a few shakes of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Shake it all together in a jar with a tight lid until it is emulsified.

Cilantro Lime Dressing- 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup unflavored yogurt, 1 tab. lime juice, 1 tsp. grated lime peel, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tab. mild vinegar, leaves of 1 bunch of cilantro, 1/2 tsp. sea salt.  Just whip it all together in a blender or food processor for a pretty bright green dressing.


Here we are finishing p dinner before we tucked into Debbie’s cupcakes for dessert.  Good friends and worthwhile conversation…

Tinto de Verano

Hello Summer friends.  For three years we lived in Utrera, a pueblo near Seville, Spain.  The summers were parched…  Midday, with the sun overhead, the cobbled streets of our pueblo were empty.  But by 11:00 in the evening everyone was out, strolling on plazas, kids on tricycles, families lingering over tapas in cafes in the cool of the night time.  We’d gather with friends around a table in the park, our 4 kids racing around the playground.  Jose Maria would order round after round of  summer tapas.  And the perfect drink for sitting outdoors with little plates of shrimp and croquetas is a tall class of “tinto de verano”- summer wine.  It’s almost a sangria, cold and simple.

Citrus Soda (we like Fresca)*
Red wine
lemons, limes or oranges
lots of ice in a tall glass

That’s it.  Pour it all together with a squeeze of lemon or other citrus.  Add slices of fruit to the glass and lots of ice.  Sip on a hot day.

*In Andalusia the drink was Casera, lemon based soda.  It came in big glass bottles with a flip off cork when we first lived in Spain.  I’d like to relive one of those summers all over again.

Frozen Strawberry Cream Dessert

The last leftover slice just waiting for you on the plate…

Hi there–Is is summery at your house?  I know we have a month to wait, but we’re feeling the heat today and I’m glad we have some leftover Strawberry Dessert sitting in the freezer– sweet, light and summery, just waiting for me to scoop it up.


1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Mix it all up and spread it in a large springform or a 9″x 13″ pan sprayed with Pam.  Bake it at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until it’s firm.  Let it cool before you add the filling.

2 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 cups sliced strawberries
1  cup whipping cream
Beat the egg whites, sugar and strawberries at high speed until soft peaks form (about 10 minutes).  Then separately whip the cup of the whipping cream.  Finally,  fold the whipped cream gently into the strawberry mixture and spoon it into the cooled crust. Stash it all in the freezer for 6 hours or more.

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix
another nice strawberry, or two, to plop on top
Beat the whipping cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla pudding powder (it stabilizes the cream).  Spoon it on top of the dessert when you take it out of the freezer to serve it up.  Top it off with a berry.  Viola!