Back Home Weekend

It takes a few days for the bliss–and the jet lag–following a truly fabulous vacation to ease back into the normal. And when the week following that fabulous vacation involves actual work and duties, it’s like a one-step-at-a-time through an alternate reality.

But the weekend comes around again.

On this one I decided on at-home tribute to our Italian experience. My pal Jo’s gardens are producing pounds of tomatoes. Our couple of patio pots are chugging along, too, but my pal and her guy have a serious tomato garden, and she brought me bunches.

Tomatoes from Nora and Jo's gardens.
Tomatoes from Nora and Jo’s gardens.

Years ago, in another life before writing, I made my own red sauce, canned it every August for use all winter. Those days are done, but I still know how to make sauce, so why not? Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking pretty, fresh garden tomatoes down, getting out my food mill, adding my own fresh garden herbs to the sauce.

Fresh herbs.
Fresh herbs.

Since I’m doing that, why not try my hand at baking Italian bread? Never tried it, so again, why not. I found it easier, and more fun–I do love baking bread–than I’d imagined. No question this is now going into bread baking rotation.

And the results? Mmmm, tasty. Really nothing like sauce from fresh tomatoes and bread fresh baked. And since we’ve still got plenty of tomatoes why not slice some up, get more basil from the garden, add some olive oil.

Red sauce simmering.
Red sauce simmering.
Italian bread, fresh from the oven.
Italian bread, fresh from the oven.

It’s good–for me anyway–to have a homey kitchen day after a blurry transition week.

Sunday we had a foundation meeting here, which included our next generation volunteer, Kayla. She came up early enough to hang–and eat bread and pasta and declare both excellent. I mention to her she seems a little taller. Earlier in the week when I’d given Logan the first hug since I’d seen him nearly a month ago, I told him he’d grown. He said: Nah. Nana says: Uh-huh. I know where my boy’s head hits me in a hug.

We went down to our measuring station–the door jamb of the laundry room where Dan and Jason were measured as well–and I prove Nana knows best. He’d shot up a full inch.

This pleased him.

So I do the same with Kayla. She’s now a hair under 5’5″. I expect that bare eighth of an inch will be history before the leaves change this fall.

Jason and Kat arrive for the meeting, and it’s a good, productive one. It’s rewarding when our teenage volunteer proves she’s taking her position seriously. She has a proposal, and as we’d encouraged her to explore foundation opportunities through her school and interests, she’s found one in her first two weeks of high school. My girl’s in high school!

She pitches it well, and it’s just the sort of thing we look for. The vote’s unanimous yes–with a request for a few more details so we can make it so.

It’s a good, good feeling to watch a grandchild embrace giving, to begin to understand how certain advantages can be used to help others, even to change lives. I like seeing she’s even made her own binder, keeps foundation paperwork in it.

She may know she can tap an indulgent nana for new Nikes, but she also understands she’s part of a mechanism dedicated to supporting organizations that make sure kids without her advantages have shoes, and warm coats or the chance to go to a summer camp. It swells my heart to see so clearly she’s genuinely involved in continuing that legacy.

But then, meeting over, and there’s dinner. We have some of BW’s amazing flank steak left over from our fun, noisy, chaotic kids for dinner on Friday night, and grill some chicken to stretch it. Then there some remaining penne and red sauce, another loaf of Italian bread, some green peppers Kayla and I picked off the vine that afternoon. And how about some fresh local corn on the cob?

We eat like farm kings on the deck on a warm summer evening.

A lot of catching up this week, a lot of meetings, some toes dipped into a new book, lots of hugs from kids missed in August, fresh harvest cooking, a chance to see our most excellent traveling companions for an evening. Add in happy dogs, a couple walks around the garden, pretty flowers cut for a little vase.

Flowers from the garden.
Flowers from the garden.

Not a bad post-vacation week.

Now that the blur’s lifted, I think it’s time to get down to some serious writing.

Nora

21 thoughts on “Back Home Weekend”

  1. The bread and the sauce look absolutely amazing. Have been thinking about getting back into bread baking myself- as a matter of fact I just bought some yeast yesterday. Time to stop thinking and start doing. Your foundation work sounds rewarding and inspiring. It’s good to see the next generation get involved. I’m counting the days until September 6th…..

  2. Sounds like a perfect vacation and a perfect welcome home. Food looks delicious . Children’s charity work sounds good.

  3. I love to cook, but never made my own red sauce from scratch. Nor have I made homemade bread. I really need to try. Yours looked fabulous!
    So glad you are safely home and glad you’re back working(writing) I can’t wait for Apprentice!!!

  4. I just adore making my own bread. It’s one of my joys in life so I know that glory of sinking your fingers in and turning out that lovely yeasty fresh baked bread. And pared with fresh tomatoes! The very best stuff. Glad you’re getting back in the swing of it.

  5. You are blessed with your grandchildren! My grandson is a best buddy…started two years ago. He is also a high school freshman. I know how it makes you feel when you see them giving to those less fortunate. It swells my heart too. My husband is the bread maker in the family. He makes white and rye bread..the rye is my favorite. Never has tried Italian bread so maybe that should be next!

  6. You’re so right, Nora. Teaching our kids/grandkids philanthropy is a wonderful legacy to give them and I’m sure you’re granddaughter’s involvement in your foundation will be a joy to her through the years. No matter what age, they can always find ways to help others. Both our sons and now their kids have volunteered at housing for abused moms & their kids, served underprivileged guests at our church suppers & volunteered at summer camps for under-privileged kids. They take less for granted and their service is a gift to others.
    I’m sure you’re happy to be home in the arms of your family and getting back into your love of writing. Have a productive week. We will reap the benefits in due course!!

  7. Love to read about your adventures they are so interesting!! Can’t wait till September 6th!! Love your books so much!!

  8. I told my dd that the baby she read to at TTP when she was 12 is now in High School. She can’t believe it. Then made the remark about kids growing up too quickly. I looked at her and said yes they do. The 12yr old who read to the baby is now 23 and getting married next year.

  9. For far too many, a child of privilege is one who gets to eat regularly. Kudos to you for teaching yours a powerful lesson while also letting them be kids. That’s quite a balancing act! My one (and only) experience with baking bread was reminiscent of the old I Love Lucy episode. Have stuck with the quick breads ever since. Looks awesome and looking forward to pictures of your garden now that it’s in full swing.

  10. I enjoyed your vacation. I’m glad we were allowed to share. It’s nice to know your grands are learning to love and share their good fortune with others. Thank you for providing that inspiration. I also have a love of working in my yard and cooking/baking so I love hearing about yours. I enjoy your talent and reading about the part of your life you share with us. Thank you, glad you’re home safe.

  11. Nora, Your week sounds very fulfilling!! The foundation is a wonderful thing in helping others and sharing with the grandchildren!! Thank you for sharing with us!! We love to hear your beautiful quests and experiences!!

  12. We’ve been in the process of renovating & adding on to the kitchen of our 1748 center chimney colonial. One of the things we installed is a Miele convection/steam oven that is supposed to be amazing for baking. I can’t wait!! Added a 9’x5′ island for working, with seats for our 4 grandlittles too. Nana’s helpers…

  13. First of all, I must comment on how glad I am that you are home safely. Thank God you didn’t plan your Italian vacation for a week or so later. The effects of the earthquake were felt even in Rome.

    I love cooking, but I’ve never made my own red sauce, or baked bread. You are really a jill of all trades. As for grandkids, it’s so gratifying to see them following in your footsteps. Kudos!

  14. Sounds like a great reentry into reality! And who can resist such amazing produce this time of year!!! Eat, celebrate what the earth has shared with us!

    And YAY to the positive work the foundation does.

  15. This posts – the words and the feelings enticed – are an homage to Autumn. To the Autumn of Life and the Season itself.
    Lovely to read and be inspired,
    Teresa

  16. Thanks Nora, nice to know the “home again experience” grounds you too! I was just introduced to a “Summah Sauce” by my son’s fiance during a visit to her parent’s Lake Wally home. It is a cold sauce served over hot spaghetti:
    In large glass bowl combine:
    Fresh tomatoes ( any kind or combo), chopped
    Oil oil-1/2 cup
    cider vinegar 1/2 cup
    S & P
    1 cup Spanish or vidallia onions chopped
    Chopped basil
    Chopped cilantro leaves
    Stir and refridgerate in morning to marinate all day. Serve over hot pasta. YUM! Could also add some wine if you like!!

  17. In lieu of no vacation for MOI I enjoyed yours! So nice to hear about the foundation and the work being done. As a balcony/terrace gardener (under trying weather conditions) I envy you your garden. I am just re-reading the Garden series and your love of gardening comes through!

  18. Your granddaughter sounds like an amazing young lady! Glad you had a smooth reentry back to normal life. I bet your family was happy to have all of you home! ??

  19. Your back to work week sounds like mine! We went to San Antonio, TX for our oldest daughter’s graduation from Air Force boot camp. I am from the Houston area and have family that lives in the San Antonio and Austin areas so it was a visit with family as well. We are so proud of our Karleigh Girl in her decision to join our military and support our country! Our son, Gage, joined the Navy last year and we made it out for his boot camp graduation as well in Great Lakes, IL. And our youngest, who just started high school, surprised us by saying she wants to join the Navy as well when she graduates. We are very proud of our kids for their desire to support and defend our great nation. Thank you for your posts on your family…they sound like wonderful people! One of these days I am going to make it out for a book signing…when our lives allow me to, that is! Our friends had an abundance of tomatoes as well so I made bruschetta last night. First time and it turned out pretty well, I think. Hope you have a wonderful fall!

  20. Loved the post. Family is everything; enjoy. Looks like your hard work is paying off. Thanks for the new books.

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