Monday, October 10, 2011

Old World to New

It seems we barely experience the cool temperatures of fall before we've rounded the corner and find ourselves sailing into mid-October and Columbus Day. This holiday always brings to mind the quote from elementary school, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.” Learning the names of the infamous three ships, the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria, was my official introduction to the Spanish language. As a teacher, my fondest memories of this holiday rest in my experiences of introducing five year olds to the famous explorer and his mode of transportation. Unlike today's crafts, many times “necessity truly was the mother of invention.” We often found things in nature suitable to completing a meaningful project in kindergarten. “Simple is best,” might have served as one of our mottos quite easily.

While walking through a local park recently, I found some hickory nut hulls that I once used for tiny replicas of Columbus's three ocean vessels. Using a small amount of clay, or in today's world perhaps chewing gum might be more readily available, we anchored a toothpick mast holding a tiny triangle sail. Since the years I was a teacher were marked by the logic that children “learn best through play,” every class had a water table. It was great fun to watch several heads leaning into the table, blowing these simply constructed sailing ships across the imaginary ocean. Wrecks occurred and sails were torn or doused with water, but the spirit of adventure was alive in our classroom.

Someone asked me once when I learned I was creative. I feel sure I was born with a spirit of adventure and creativity, but it was in the classroom I found expression of these two traits. There is something about living amongst small children daily that can ignite a spark within you and give you the impetus you need to plumb the depths of who you are as a person. I have found that being a grandparent can also help you re-light the pilot light in your life. Children are indeed born with a sense of adventure. If we follow their lead, we can find ourselves embarking on a voyage to places unknown and experiences rich with promise and fulfillment.

Like Columbus in search of new spices, children seem to find a way to spice up our lives and lead us into brand new territory. Like them, we just have to get in the boat and set sail to find new ground. Sometimes “simple will be best” and we will need to use the familiar route to save time and effort. But sometimes we need to kick life up a notch. Let's mix it up and remember there's a time for the old family favorite and there's a time for something new and unusual, strikingly different from what we've known. Let me try out a new Spanish expression.  'La sal de la vida!” Variety is the spice of life. If something is the 'spice of life,' it makes it better and more interesting. Let's find some adventure in our relationships and some variety in our activites and at the family table.

Old Family Favorite

Green Rice Casserole

Boil one package frozen broccoli (10 oz) in 1 cup water for 5 min.

Do NOT drain

Combine the following:

1 medium onion sauteed in 1 stick of butter

1 can cream of celery soup

2 cups cooked rice

1 (8 oz) jar of Cheez Whiz

Mix well and bake uncovered in greased dish for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

New Spicy Rice Dish

Marco Polo Casserole

1 lb. Lean ground beef

½ cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 clove garlic chopped

1 (16 oz.) can Chinese vegetables, drained

1 can cream mushroom soup

3 cups cooked rice

2 TBS soy sauce

1/8 tsp. Pepper

1 ½ cup Chinese noodles

Brown meat with onion and garlic in lightly greased skillet.

Add celery, green pepper, Chinese veggies, and soup. Stir in rice and seasoning.

Turn into casserole.

Bake covered for 20-25 minutes

Uncover and top with Chinese noodles and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

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