On Family Visits and Zucchini Boats

First off, how is it possible we are near the end of December already? And that the year is 2022?

I still feel stuck somewhere back in 2019. If I were writing this as a SciFi thriller, it would turn into one of those altered reality loops, so we could all go back and have a long do-over without the corona virus and other poxy things.

The actual present isn’t bad at all, even though the feeling of being flung into a hyper-speed reality still floats in the background. This week brought our youngest son and his partner to stay with us for a week. It’s been really fun hanging out with them, and seeing a bit more of our oldest son and his wife as well. I like these older versions of our kids a lot. They’re lovely people.

They buy their own presents now, instead of needing me to take them shopping for others. I’ll admit to loving what they pick out now but miss the sweetness of holding their hands as we shop for Dad’s presents. Time has tumbled forward and now I take my 93-year-old Mom shopping for her presents at the mall. There were lots of kids visiting Santa and people enjoying the glitz at the Northpark Mall here in Dallas. The place is high on the glam scale. The decorations and displays are worth going to see if you’re in the neighborhood. I enjoyed the 12 Days of Christmas a lot, and there are puppeteers as well.

Shopping with Mom is a very slow process, a far remove from the normal way I execute my chores during the holiday time. She walks with a cane, so we stopped and rested often. But she knew what store she wanted to go to, and where she was going to find things. She had fun, which was the important thing for me. It was rather nice to slow down, and people watch, and listen to Mom comment on the latest styles. She was quite the fashionable lady in her day, and has a good eye to the balance of color and form. She was quite taken with a pink sequined outfit, but I couldn’t convince her to try one on.

Another great thing about having family here is that they bring their friends over, and we get to cook for large numbers of people. I miss doing that. We used to be one of the homes all the kids would congregate in back in the high school days and we’d make burgers and brownies for them. I just love listening to them chat with each other. I also like that the probability is high that my husband will make pasta from scratch on these occasions. Win/win.

These adult versions of our kids also bring along their own recipes and cook for us. We’re trying to balance our usual feasting and baking as we lead into the holiday with a few healthy meals that are heavy on the veggies. This one is for Zucchini Boats. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

ZUCCHINI BOATS (Taylor Willis, recipe)

Feeds 4-6 people

6-8 large zucchini – cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the middle with a spoon. Seasoned with salt and pepper. (Save the insides)
1 large onion chopped
1 box of mushrooms (optional)
Package of ground turkey
Pasta sauce – 1 jar or can
Oregano, Thyme, or Zaatar spice to taste.
Shredded Cheese mix, about a cup.

Bake the zucchini hollowed side up on a baking sheet. Spritz them with a bit of olive oil and bake at 400 for 15 minutes. They should look a bit crispy when they are done.

Meanwhile, saute mushrooms dry, or with a bit of olive oil, if you wish. Add chopped onion to your pan and cook until translucent. Then add in the ground turkey and brown. Add back in the zucchini insides, chopped. Cook until they are done, pour in the pasta sauce and use spice as you like it.

Stuff the boats with your mix, then top with the cheese and broil until cheese is melted. Serve with a side salad.

On 43, 9/11, and Northpark Mall

My dear friend was in town this weekend to see my play. It was a quick but delightful trip, eating and talking and exploring a little bit of Dallas.

The normal places I like to take first-time visitors—White Rock Lake, the spot where JFK was assassinated, Clyde Warren Park, and Bishop’s Art District—were all off the table this time. It was just too hot outside for walking.

Instead, we visited the Bush Library and had lunch at Café 43 on the grounds of the SMU campus. I highly recommend the café, and you don’t have to go into the library to eat there. The service is lovely, the space elegant but welcoming, and the food was mighty tasty.*

My friend and I did opt to tour the museum/library. It’s extremely well laid-out, with a special exhibit on humor in the White House that was quite funny. I enjoyed talking to the docents in the replica of the oval office, and revisiting some of the history I remember from President Bush’s two terms in office.

That time includes, of course, 9/11.

It was not pleasant per se to revisit that morning when the towers fell. The memory is still crystal clear. I’d been at home with my boys, the oldest of whom was five at the time. My husband called me on his way to work and told me to turn on the television. I did so right as the second plane flew into the south tower. My little boy turned to me, his brown eyes so wide and earnest. He said, “That’s not special effects.” You should know that I worked in the film industry, so my son’s comment was based in solid knowledge. I sent him to go play with his brother and sat glued to the television, the images we were seeing seemingly impossible.

The Bush Library has created a respectful, solemn memorial to that day and the days that followed. The featured image on this blog is chilling to see in person, that twisted metal looking almost like modern art, but so terribly, horribly real. I realized I’d not “forgotten” any of it, that the memories of that time in our history is etched deep. I knew a couple of folks who died in the towers that day, and while the anniversary of the date always makes me think of them, this was an impressive, immersive, resonant section of the museum that gave a bigger picture.

Can you be glad you saw something, yet saddened by it too? Evidently.

We had a few hours before my friend needed to catch her plane, so I suggested we stay in air conditioning and took her over to the always visually interesting Northpark Mall. I used my turn signal aggressively in the interior covered parking lot to get one of the hotly contested spaces.

The mall itself is a big 2-level square surrounding a large inner courtyard. Inside are some 250+ mostly upscale shops and restaurants, along with a food court and movie theatre. What makes it unique is that it houses a fantastic collection of Modern Art that has been bequeathed to the place by Nasher family.

It also has beautiful planters inside and out that boast different flowers seasonally. The mall and its art are run by Nancy Nasher, the daughter of Ray Nasher, who refused to put the collection in a museum. Instead, he put it here, scattered throughout the mall. His reasoning? “Maybe 90 percent of people will never go to a museum, but maybe they’ll be inspired to learn more about art and study art, just by coming here.” I like that and hope he’s right.

After wandering the mall and browsing in my favorite store, Sundance, we stopped at Eataly for a beverage. It’s also a fun place to people watch and goggle over all the food choices there. Both the museum and the mall got high marks from my friend, so if you’re looking for something to do while its nine million degrees here in Dallas, you might give them a try.

*You should make reservations, and you have to pay for parking in the lot across from the Cafe. It’s $5 for the first hour and $2 every hour after that. Or maybe just cruise around and find street parking, if you’re not worried about melting before you get inside.