Letter From Granma

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Fan Favs…Orange Chicken

I have now been living in close proximity to the grandgirls for nearly 6 months.  We have developed a schedule so that we maintain our separate family units as well as enjoying our combined time together.  After a few weeks of trial and error, we developed an eating arrangement during the week, which can be easily adapted.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I cook the evening meal and we all eat together in the main house around the big family dining table.  Monday and Wednesday have become my “cooking” days and I have attempted to try a new recipe at each and every meal.  It is more creative for me and it has lead to some interesting and flavorful creations.  Some of the creations have been hits, some have been misses.  It takes a lot of research and pre-planning to have all of the ingredients and the time to make the meal.

I realized on Tuesday, when I do not cook for the family, that it does not take a “chef” to take the third and fifth grader to gastronomic heaven.  A last minute text from their mom asked that I preheat the oven and prepare Orange Chicken for the girls.  It could bake while she was on her drive home.

Trader Joe's ming_chicken_jpg_728x520_q85

For those of you unfamiliar with Trader Joes’s frozen orange chicken, you are missing out.  Trader Joe’s or Trader Ming’s Mandarin Orange Chicken features battered chicken pieces with a mandarin orange chicken sauce.  There is a reason the Mandarin Orange Chicken is Trader Joe’s number one selling product, and that is because it’s like a Chinese restaurant has set up shop in your kitchen. Just pour the coated nuggets onto a baking sheet, cook in the oven and then toss with the enclosed orange sauce. Serve with rice, and it’s cheaper (and tastier) than ordering out.  I must admit that I nearly always have a bag of this delightful dinner in my freezer for emergencies, but I had no idea until we moved to Norfolk, that this might be the all time favorite dinner of the grandgirls.

Because I am a culinary adventurer and would prefer to “do it yourself”, I did research an orange chicken recipe a few weeks ago.  Since I was experimenting and did not want to make enough for 6, I elected to make this on a Thursday for just the 2 of us.  I am a total fan of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, and have made a number of her recipes quite successfully.  If you haven’t tried her cooking section, I suggest you do.  With Orange Chicken on my mind,  I decided to try


rees orange chicken

Now, I am not saying that this wasn’t a great rendition of this dish.  It was very good.  However, the time that it took to prepare and the condition of the kitchen upon completion, with it’s grease spattered stove and batter slopped countertop, were definitely not worth the effort.

I have come to realize, that the girls are right.  Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken is Delish.  The third and fifth grader do have discerning tongues.

Here’s to Trader Ming!

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Am I Smarter than a Third Grader?

Fine.  I have already admitted that I am not as smart as the 5th grader, but now I am reduced to a third grade level.  Last night we were finally reading the assignment for Monday (the reading book was conveniently forgotten on Monday and left at school yet again yesterday).  Luckily it could be pulled up online…by the third grader. (Most likely, I would have had difficulty).

The reading assignment is taken from the book A Tree Is Growing by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by S. D. Schindler.  The illustrations are captivating.


I find it refreshing that the 3rd grade reading assignments are not just entertaining, but the homework is educational as well.  Some weeks the story is fun, some weeks the story teaches a message, and other weeks the story is full of interesting information about a specific subject.  This week’s assignment….Trees.  I know about trees.  I have planted them, climbed in them, pruned them, and picnicked under them.  I know about rings, sap, leaves, and seeds.

But…a Bristlecone Pine?  What is that?

Bristlecone Pine

Well, it appears that the Bristlecone Pine is the oldest tree on earth, the oldest being over 5000 years in age.  In fact the Bristlecone Pine is the oldest known individual of any species..the oldest living matter on earth.  The oldest known tree is in the White Mountains of California and is estimated to be 5064 years old.

Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  So once again I am being educated by the girls.  It just goes to show that we are never, never to old to learn, and that we always, always have something to teach.


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Basketball….3rd Grade Style

Okay, I must admit that when I was in elementary school (way back when), we did not have a basketball team until the 4th grade and did not play competitively until the 5th…and that was the boys…never the girls.  Girls could cheer or if they didn’t make the cheerleading squad, they would spectate and giggle together while watching their favorite player.

Well, not anymore.  There is basketball for girls and boys beginning in the 3rd grade.  Of course I assumed, mistakenly, that the 3rd graders would learn the basics and become familiar with the game, never dreaming that they would compete with other teams and other schools.  Boy was I wrong!  (It amazes me how “wrong” the 3rd and 5th grader continue to prove me.)

At the beginning of the season the Saint Gregory the Great Saints 3rd grade girls team was just learning to dribble and now they are playing the game.  After several weeks of competition, the girls played the Searays from St John the Apostle at 8 AM yesterday morning.  (Yes, you read it correctly, 8 AM on Saturday.)  It was the first game that I had the opportunity to see.  It was definitely an experience I will not soon forget.  The most exciting part of the game…the girls scored their very first basket!  Yes, the girls were excited, but OH MY, you should have watched the parents in the bleachers!  They were more animated than a Disney cartoon.  For the remainder of the game, I found that I watched the parents almost as much as I watched the girls.   I listened to the parents as well.  This team definitely had a 6th player…the fans!

3rd grade bb jan 31 3rd grade bb jan 31 3 3rd grade bb jan 31 7 3rd grade bb jan 31 4 3rd grade bb jan 31 8

The final score…2 all.  It was a tie.  The opposing team scored in the final seconds.

Later in the day, the 3rd grader complained,  Why didn’t we have “Overtime”?  I assume that the rules for 3rd graders allow regulation play time only.   She did not like that rule.

One other observation.  The referee.  He was up and down the floor all game long and heard the cheers and jeers from the stands.  You could tell he was thoroughly enjoying himself.  My biggest regret of the morning…I did not ask how long he has been a basketball fan.  You see, he looked to be in his 70’s and was definitely keeping up with the girls and the game.  I am guessing he is someone’s very special Grandpa.

Post Script…

Did you know that AAU Basketball teams begin with the 2nd grade?  There are AAU Basketball National Championships and the opening division begins with the 3rd grade?  The championship game was held in Orlando last year and the date for 2015 is July 23rd.  The game is even covered by ESPN.


Wow, how sports have changed!

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