Monday, June 29, 2015

The Dessert Factory

Take one six-quart Rival electric ice cream maker. Add two grandkids who are staying at your house for the week. Then, mix up a few choice ingredients to pack with layers of rock salt and crushed ice. If you follow this procedure carefully on the first night of the kids' visit, you will have your dessert menu planned for the week, and you will have happy kids that look something like this:

From the mixing to the packing, Sooby and Pooh completed all the steps of the ice-cream manufacturing themselves. They combined three 8-ounce packets of Rival Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream Mix, six cups of whole milk, six cups of Half & Half, and two generous tablespoons of vanilla. For the kids, the mix is easiest because it requires no egg-cracking or cooking, and trust me when I say that flavor and texture are in no way compromised.


Once the mix is prepared, move the metal canister to the plastic bucket and secure the motorized top piece. One side of a double sink is perfect for this as long as you are within an appliance cord's length from an electrical outlet. That way, you can use the other half of the sink for the bag of crushed ice and your rock salt.

Show the kids how to pack the freezer in layers of salt and ice. Use the opportunity, if you wish, to discuss the freezing and melting processes and explain how the freezer works. Once it is packed, plug it in and begin the approximately twenty-minute-long freezing process. Coach the kids to add salt and ice as needed until the thickened ice cream halts the motor.

Tell the kids they can "lick the dasher" as a preview, but cork the canister as soon as possible and set it in your freezer to harden overnight. The next night you can have the first of any desired litany of ice cream treats, all made with your special homemade ice cream.

During the course of the week we had root beer floats, hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, and a side of ice cream with a preview cupcake in honor of Sooby's fast-approaching eighth birthday.

This was the kids' first time to make homemade ice cream all by themselves. They loved both the process and the results. For me, it was nice to have dessert already prepared each night. Some nights, we saved the treat until right before bedtime.

There is nothing that says "summer" like a freezer of rich, creamy ice cream. I would be willing to bet that homemade ice cream becomes a Googie Camp staple. Next year, we may try a new flavor (strawberry was suggested), add some new toppings, and experiment with the fine art of malt- and shake-making.

I didn't tell the kids, but I saved just enough ice cream for Pa-pa and me to have a small dish apiece tonight. This way, the flavor of a great summer visit can last just a little bit longer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Want a wacky, off-the-wall art project to do with your kiddos? You may want to try the one Sooby, Pooh, and I have nicknamed "LIDZ!" We made it up ourselves.

All you need is a loaded glue gun, a medium-sized cardboard box, and about a year. By that, I mean you tuck your box in an out-of-the-way corner about a year before you want to do your project--and start saving plastic lids.

Yes, lids. All kinds. After about a year you will have a most colorful and eclectic collection that looks something like this:

You know you are ready for the construction phase of your project when you find yourself, as I did this past week, in the company of a couple grandkids with vivid imaginations.

The challenge is simple: Put the various lids together and design something. Then, Googie will wield her trusty glue gun to give your creation permanence. It was in this way that a unique line of original toys was born. Allow me to illustrate:

First, Pooh, who is fascinated by all things army, used fiber container lids and the top from a Bath and Body Works fragrance bulb to create a canteen, left. At right, a Tresemme hairspray lid and a top from a squeezable tube of toddler fruit combine to form a hand grenade. In just minutes, Pooh has upgraded his stash of GI Joe paraphernalia and found a way for the two of them to remain hydrated longer in desert terrain.

Demonstrating Pooh's softer side is this delicious-looking cupcake (lids from Extra detergent and Downy fabric softener) and its accompanying decorating tube (lids from Avon Sweet Honesty cologne and a mini yellow food coloring container).

Not to be outdone, Sooby adds a layer cake (assorted lids of different sizes) and a second decorating tube to the set.

And then, as only Sooby can, she comes up with this:

Give up? What you see here is a penguin (top center--see the white belly?) teaching her three chicks (right) to ice fish on a frozen lake (foreground--the red lid is the fish). At left is the penguin's nest containing one unhatched egg. I realize that, most likely, you had already figured those things out. (But just in case, I decided to include an explanation in the interest of completeness.)

Even I was able to get in on the fun by designing and constructing this Thomas-the-Train relative, which Beenie calls a "Moco-Lotive":

The body is made of two Static Guard lids topped with a Bath and Body Works shower gel lid (engineer's cabin) and Avon Sweet Honesty cologne lid (smokestack). On the front is another Bath and Body Works fragrance bulb top, while the wheels feature a combination of lids from milk jugs and, again, squeezable toddler fruit (Those make great spokes, don't you think?).

All in all, I have to pronounce our LIDZ! project a success. In a little over an hour we made some neat new toys and got a chance to exercise our creativity.

The only problem? I am in such a habit of saving lids that I may not be able to stop cold turkey. As it is, we still have enough leftover lids to stock the Art Department of Googie Camp for several summers to come.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The American Institution of Root Beer

The other day I was thinking about the A & W Root Beer stand that used to be located about half a mile from the house where I grew up. From the house, an easy walk of 15-20 minutes on a summer afternoon took me, car-hop apron in hand, to my first part-time job during the summers of 1967 and 1968.

Maybe it was the memory of those foamy mugs of root beer sloshing out on the trays I lugged across a gravel parking lot to hang on rolled-down car windows. Maybe it was the thought of amassing a whole ten dollars in tips on a weekend night.

Whatever the case, something told me last weekend that it was time for the grandkids to experience the divine taste sensation of a root beer float. It would be a tasty, easy dessert to greet us after the 60-mile drive home from our annual family reunion. With that in mind, I had the root beer and vanilla ice cream at the ready.

I don't think there is anything more fun than giving the kids the chance to try something new, and their root beer float initiation proved to be no exception. I had even frozen some almond milk to serve as an ice cream substitute for little Zoomie, who is allergic to dairy products.

The official results of the root beer test varied widely among the kids. Sooby, who doesn't care much for foods in the creamy/marshmallowy category, tolerated her float sample but opted out for ice cream and cake. But her brothers and sister loved their exquisite concoctions of texture and flavor and required seconds. Pooh required thirds and made me promise to save some root beer for his return trip next week, a request that I am happy to honor.

We used none other than A & W Root Beer, of course, and when one of the kids asked me what those initials stand for, I went to the official A & W website for the answer. There I learned that A & W stands for "Allen" and "Wright," who first marketed the beverage to the public on a wide scale in 1922.

Roy Allen, the site says, actually created the brew and first served it in Lodi, California, in 1919 to people attending a parade to honor soldiers returning home from World War I. It was also in Lodi that A & W pioneered drive-in accessibility and curbside service by carhops.

The stands became even more popular in the era of World War II and following, when more people began driving cars. Finally, in 1971, A & W Root Beer became available in cans and bottles at the corner grocery.

A little quick subtraction tells us that A & W Root Beer will have its ninety-sixth anniversary this summer. Now, that's a cause for celebration. I can think of no better way to commemorate this momentous occasion that with root beer foaming atop vanilla ice cream on a grand scale when Pooh comes to spend next week at Googie's.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

If I Could Be an Elephant

If I could be an elephant,
then I would have a trunk
(and, goodness knows, I'd need it just
to carry all my junk).
What's that you say? Wrong kind of trunk?
A trunk like mine's a nose?
Well then, okay, I'd have a way
to spray--just like a hose.

If I could be an elephant,
then with my ivories,
I'd play a happy tune all day
on my piano keys.
Oh, that's not right? My pearly white's
instead a pointy tusk?
(Then I can look quite sharp, I guess,
from morning until dusk.)

If I could be an elephant,
I'd make a trumpet sound,
and those who want to hear a band
could gather all around.
Oh no, you say? My trumpet's shrill?
Not musical a bit?
(Well, I will have to rethink all
the songs I play with it.)

Alas! I'm just an elephant
who shrieks with raucous noise.
Say what? You think I might bring fun
to worlds of girls and boys?
You think the circus tent's a place
where I might strut my stuff,
and it won't matter that my skin
is coarse and gray and rough?

Well then, okay, if what you say
is noble, good, and true,
then I can do some tricks and stunts
that might just tickle you.
Come see my trunk and mighty tusks
and hear my trumpet blow,
and I'll be glad to hear you cheer
me on--from the front row!