By Donuts, Dresses and Dirt
This post is about parents, grandparents and Coke slushies. It's also about gratitude, traditions and date-nut bread.
I'm sitting in my kitchen, getting ready to pack and prepare as we leave for what will be our 8th trip to Disney World. And when I say "we" I mean Mike, Chelsea, Conor and me. Noah stays back with my parents and this will likely be the last year he does so.
Back in 2004, Mike and I had just gotten married and the 4 of us were living together in our new home. What started out that October as the kids and I joining Mike in Orlando at the tail end of his annual business trip there soon turned into a yearly tradition. It was a short trip – 3 or 4 days at most – but created some of the most fun and memorable moments our newly formed family have had.
The arrival of Noah at the end of 2008 was not the only harbinger of changes to come in the following year. Chelsea would be leaving for college in the fall. Conor was going to start going to sleep away camp for the summer. And now we had baby Noah – who would certainly change the scope of "our" trip, if we could even consider taking it any more.
And then my parents graciously agreed to stay with Noah so that we could go away, just the 4 of us. It was tricky planning, as we had just a small window between Conor coming home from camp and Chels leaving for school, but we did it (albeit on very little sleep and through what seemed to be endless hours of laundry, packing and unpacking).
And I am so eternally grateful to my parents for giving us this gift of time together, like we used to have. The past 3 years have brought so many changes to our family, and this week away allows us to re-charge and re-connect.
We get our last, precious moments in with Chelsea before she heads back to college.
We get uninterrupted time with our 15-year-old boy (who, being a 15-year-old boy, we don't see very much of these days).
We watch a brother and sister laugh at inside jokes, tackle water slides and genuinely (for the most part) enjoy each other – something that doesn't occur often as it seems that one is always coming home as the other is leaving.
We listen, and engage, and actually complete whole sentences – activities that, with a bright, engaging and very willful 2 1/2 year old, don't happen nearly enough at home.
I drink Coke slushies – pure, icy-corn-syrup-laden-artificially-colored-heaven.
I am quiet. And still. And hold a book in my hands earlier than 11:00 p.m., when the chances of my getting through more than a page at a time are slim to none.
And finally, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have the family that I do, to have gotten the second chance in life that I did, and that when I DO go home, my little guy and wonderful parents are waiting for me.
My parents. This trip (and much of my life) would not be possible without them. I used to wonder how I could ever pay them back for all they've done for me. And as my mother so succinctly puts it, "you can't". So true. But now that I am a parent I realize that it's not what parenting is about. As a mother now for over 20 years I know that I have – and always will – sacrificed endlessly, consistently and happily – to be there for my children, always. My parents see this and I can only hope they are proud of the parent that I've become. That is how I "pay them back".
Well, that, and making this bread for them to enjoy while we're away. This is not a fancy, complicated bread. It takes all of 10 minutes to assemble and is somewhat "plain Jane" in appearance. Which is why I rarely make it – a shame, because there is something incredibly warm and comforting about it. Sliced thinly and spread with cream cheese (Temp Tee whipped, preferably), it is so satisfying and delicious. My parents both love it and I love leaving them with a special treat, to say "thank you".
Thank you, Mom and Dad – for everything.
1 ½ cup 1 ½ c. flour (7 oz.)
1 cup 1 c. packed light brown sugar (7 oz.)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup 1 c. (generous) chopped pitted dates (if buying whole, you'll need about 5 oz.)
1 cup 1 c. chopped walnuts (4 oz.)
¾ cup milk
2 Tbsp oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Prepare a 9 x 5 loaf pan (click here for how to do it).
In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, dates and walnuts.
In a small bowl whisk remaining ingredients. Stir liquid into flour mixture and mix just till evenly moist.
Pour into pan and bake 1 hour, or till a toothpick tests clean. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack completely.
Recipe adapted from Glamour Magazine's Gourmet on the Run.
Notes: This was the very first cookbook I bought for myself. I loved that it was published by my favorite magazine, Glamour, and envisioned becoming a polished, sophisticated cook in no time flat. I have no idea where that book is today but I'm so glad that I saved this recipe from it.
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