Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sharing Stinky Gifts and Granola

Remember when I asked for suggestions for greener gift giving for the holidays? Well, one member of the community responded and shared her ideas with me. I asked her to blog for me and she graciously agreed.

Our guest blogger today is part of my Writers at Work group. Recently, Jane published an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review about another WAW friend and novelist, Sharon Donovan, who many of you have been praying for following her massive heart attack and stroke several months ago. It is a fascinating article and can be accessed here.

Jane Miller, along with her dog, Sadie, has a website and blog that all you parents and grandparents of young children should check out. I especially like Jane's tagline: Put a leash on Technology: Read, SPEAK, Listen and Write. Go to The Ruff Writers site and order Rememberings, ($15, includes shipping) a kit to share with a special child to create your own book of memories connected to 9 library books. The kit includes jokes, recipes, and cutting and pasting the old-fashioned way -- just like Grandma and Grandpa remember! It’s a “paw-fect” gift for a grandparent--or special aunt or uncle--to help them stay closely connected with the remarkable children in their lives.

Thank you Jane, for willingly sharing the following Christmas gift recipe!

Sharing Stinky Gifts and Granola

One of the holiday foods that gave our family the greatest glee was a jar of much ripened limburger cheese. It was the least expensive gift ever, and it brought the greatest joy. Oh, we never ate it! We passed it back and forth, across the PA and Ohio state line, for 17 years in various disguises included a fishing pole (the cheese was the reel) and a super soaker squirt gun. It was always a much discussed and hands-on family project.

When my uncle died—on the same day as our youngest child was born on 11/11/97—I wrote a newspaper story about our beloved tradition. My Aunt Lou carried the aged clipping everywhere in her purse, and I realized the importance of stories that are gifts that give back for generations. And I have learned that stories inspire other stories, and this can be one of the most valuable gifts we give to each other.

One of our family’s gifts of stories happened during my father’s final year while he was living with us. For nearly a year, reading children’s books with my 83-year-old father and seven-year-old daughter, was a significant experience, as Pa shared story after story with us.

My favorite was Beatrice’s Goat.

“Oh, I’ve heard that one!” said our daughter.

Pa was listening with his eyes closed. I continued reading and then a delicious thing happened. My daughter lifted my arm and snuggled in as we read, and my father opened his eyes wide to see the beautiful illustrations on each page.

Jan West Schrock and Rosa
It was like a story we were creating in our own heads and hearts as we shared the true tale of a girl in Uganda who could only achieve her dream of going to school because of Heifer International’s gift of a goat.

Later I learned that Beatrice’s Goat, inspired Give a Goat by Jan West Schrock, who received the 2009 International School Librarian’s Award. Give a Goat is about a fifth grade class in Maine that read Beatrice’s Goat and decided to make a difference in their community by selling granola. Their small efforts transformed a school community.

Okay, so making granola isn’t as memorable as jazzing up a jar of limburger, but everyone who receives this granola absolutely loves it. It is similar to the granola Mrs. Rowell’s class made with lots of good-for-you ingredients that children can help measure. Children can also help by cutting the apricots with blunt scissors.

Happy holiday reading, ‘riting and remembering using facts and fiction. Or as Sadie would say, “RUFF!”

Our dog Sadie does not eat granola, but she helped give it this name:

Kibble for People

4 cups Quaker Old-fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup Carnation Nonfat Dry Milk
½ cup almonds
1 cup dried apricots (Cut with kitchen shears or sterilized blunt kids' scissors)
½ cup wheat germ (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup water (or a little less)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine oats, dry milk, apricots, wheat germ, almonds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Heat brown sugar and water to a full boil. Cool for 10 minutes. Stir in oil and vanilla. Pour mixture over dry ingredients. Mix with hands. Spread on an ungreased, large cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until dry, stirring every 45 minutes. Cool. Store in an airtight container.

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