Letter From Granma

Just another WordPress.com weblog

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!

Leave a comment »

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.


Leave a comment »

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!

Leave a comment »

Am I Smarter than a 5th Grader? Resolutions

The assignment…write a paragraph about resolutions that you have made for the year.
noun: a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Why is it the we correlate resolutions with the first of the year?  Over the years the New Year’s resolution has gained more and more popularity.  In fact one of the many questions asked at the beginning of the year is “What is your New Year’s resolution? ”  What have you promised to do as an act of self improvement?
Where did this traditon begin?
As with so very many customs or traditions we can go back to ancient times to find the origins.
The Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year.  The Romans made promises to their god Janus for whom the month of January is named.
Some of the more popular resolutions made by adults include loosing weight, getting organized, improving finances, and improving social skills.  A comprehensive study, however, showed that nearly 88% failed to keep their resolutions.  The reasons given were that the goals were unrealistic, they forgot about their goals, or they simply made too many resolutions to begin with.
resolutions 10
For the 5th grader…it took a great deal of concentration for the paragraph to be written.  I could tell that there were numerous ideas for resolutions which were discarded because the commitment of keeping that particular resolution would  not be worth the effort.  It occurred to me that to resolve to do something requiring a full year is biting off something many of us are not prepared to do.
So why not resolve to do something each day?    The dedication or “staying power” is much easier to handle and the task of commitment not so overwhelming.  In this way, we can strive to make positive changes without risking defeat by dedicating ourselves to an unrealistic time table.  We can concentrate on a positive action for a day.  We can resolve to do less of the negative things and more of the positive things.
resolutions less and more
We can start with very small things and work toward bigger ones.  This is something that everyone can do no matter how old they are.  Some ideas might include simply offering a positive compliment to someone, doing a task without being asked, or taking chances by doing something outside our comfort zone.   Some resolutions might simply be to change a negative behavior like mistreating the dog or a family member, or crying at bedtime.  Little changes handled one at a time on a daily basis can directly impact our lives.   People will take notice.  As we see how one day can make a difference, we will find that we do each of these little things more often and we no longer need to “resolve” to do them at all, because they have become a positive part of our life.
I say…No more New Year’s Resolutions.  Resolve to take one day at a time and make one small change for the better.
Leave a comment »

More than a mere football game…

Traveling to Baltimore to see the Ohio State Buckeye game opener against Navy proved to be a great 3 day weekend.  The game itself was the highlight, but not for the reasons you might think.  Taking place in the M & T Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, the venue was perfect for an exciting game of football.

Since Baltimore is so close to Annapolis and a home game for Navy, I expected the stadium to be filled with navy.  Wrong…the stadium was filled with scarlet and gray.  The thing that struck me was how many “bi-fans” there were.  Starting with us…while my husband graduated from OSU and we have been lifelong fans, my son is in the navy.  I was amazed at how many others shared our feelings…but many of them were much more demonstrative.  Navy shirts, OSU hats worn by the same spectator;  OSU shirt, Navy socks and visor on another.  I don’t know the proper term for this phenomenon, but I loved it.

By far my favorite part of the day took place before the game even started.  I was totally unaware of a Naval Academy tradition and was unprepared for what I was about to experience.  Just before the opening kick off at every Navy home game, what seems like an endless steam of white takes to the field, company by company, until the entire field is covered.

navy 1


This tradition is called the March On and is one of the Navy’s most honored traditions.

navy 3

4400 midshipmen dressed in their summer whites on the field.

navy 5

Truly an inspiring sight to behold.  Each company and their commander introduced and the colors presented.

There are no words.

When the midshipmen filed off of the field, they all sat (stood) in the stands at the Navy end zone.  The teams took the field, the coin was tossed and the game was played.  A good game on a warm summer day.  Punctuating the game the Navy cannon was fired at each kick off and each Navy score.

The Ohio State marching band’s halftime celebrated the military and the Navy as well.

At the end of the game the entirety of both teams and coaches took to the end zone in front of the mass of white created by the mid shipman and stood together respectfully for the Navy alma mater  “Navy Blue and Gold”.  All of the teams and coaches then proceeded to the opposite end zone and stood with the Ohio fans to sing “Carmen Ohio”.  When does this ever happen in competitive sports?  Amazing.

Such tradition and class.  It gives us hope and pride that these fine young men and women will lead in the future.

Final score Ohio State 34, Navy 17.  A much closer game than the score reflects.

Final thought…Respect, Tradition and Class are what we remember long past the outcome of a contest.

Life is a transition.  Embrace it.



Leave a comment »

Lessons Learned as I study with a 5th Grader

Last weekend over the Labor day holiday, we embarked on a trip to Baltimore.  The main reason for the trip was to watch the Ohio State/Navy football game, but we decided to make the trip into a 3 day adventure.  Our daughter, Amy, has had several conferences recently in Baltimore and sings the city’s praises.  We became tourists for the weekend.

We left Friday morning from Norfolk and traveled the route along the Eastern Shore to avoid Washington DC holiday traffic.  The route took us away from the expressways and through the more agricultural part of coastal Virginia which I have not seen.  It wasn’t the fastest travel to Baltimore, but it was scenic and informative.

eastern shore  chincoteague

We stopped at an Eastern Shore tourist information center soon after we crossed the bridge, and had a lesson on the area from a delightful senior citizen who worked there.  She was so thorough in her presentation of the highlights of the shore, that we have already decided to take a weekend trip back to visit her recommendations.  We are especially intrigued with seeing Chincoteague.

So what is the point of this blog?   I learned something last week when I was studying with the 5th grader;  knowledge that I applied on the trip.  As we drove we saw fields and fields of stakes.  What in the world was growing in those fields?  Tomatoes!  Had I not learned last week that the tomato has taken over the  soy bean as the most profitable crop grown in Virginia, it would never have occurred to me that these huge agricultural fields were crops of tomatoes.

A side note…for those of you who may not know, the tomato is a fruit.  Hummmm, watermelon a vegetable and the tomato a fruit, both incredibly healthy.

tomato fields

Life is a transition.  Embrace it.

Leave a comment »