Jump Serve

The other day, my phone rang, indicating a call from our eldest granddaughter, Addie. Addie frequently texts me, but rarely calls. I of course immediately went to my “who died now” place, and answered the phone.

Nana, I left my gym bag at school after volleyball practice, she told me. Can you give me a ride back to school to pick it up? Mom had to go somewhere and can’t take me.

Thankfully, her school is a mere 10 minute drive from our house, so I told her I would be happy to give her a ride. We arrived only to find the doors locked up tight and so she was unable to get her bag.

As we drove home, she was uncharacteristically quiet and distracted. I asked her if she had much homework. She sighed and told me she was going to go home and grab some dinner and then spend the rest of the night doing homework. I asked about her classes this year, and she gave me a rundown that sounded much like the way I imagine the president of the United States spends his day. Only without Secret Service and Air Force One.

Don’t get me wrong; she wasn’t complaining a bit. I think that it’s just taking her a bit of time to get used to the pace of high school. No surprise there. It seemed like every class she told me about had the word honors in it.

So it was fun yesterday afternoon to watch her play volleyball for the Thomas Jefferson High School Spartans freshman volleyball team. Why? Because it looked like she was just having herself some fun. She had her own little cheering section – her mother Jll, her father Dave, her Aunt Julie, my sister Bec and me. Together, we could yell Go Addie! quite loudly. I’m sure she was thrilled to have us waving to her from the stands.

I used to change her diapers! I yelled. No, I didn’t really. Give me a bit of credit.

I don’t know a lot about volleyball, but I suspect I will learn quickly. But I do know about high school athletics, because I grew up in Nebraska where high school sports are king. Especially football. But, the last time I had been to our neighborhood Target, I noticed they had clothing for our favorite sports teams – the Denver Broncos, the CU Buffaloes, the CSU Rams, and – what?????? – the Thomas Jefferson Spartans. I kid you not. Thank you Target.

So about an hour before the game, I headed over to Target and got myself a Spartans shirt……

I believe I was the only one who knew about Target’s support of their local high school, because except for the volleyball team, I was the only one wearing TJ attire. And proud of it, I might add. Brown and yellow, fight fight.

By the way, I almost didn’t go to the game. It was tempting to think about sitting outside in the afternoon drinking gin and tonics. But, I kept looking over at Bec (who I believe hasn’t missed a single one of her two grandkids’ sporting events), and decided I wanted to go see my girl play volleyball. Not that Bec would judge….

This was only the second game of the season. Not only did Addie have an exceptionally good game, but the home team was victorious. What more could I ask?

Go Spartans. Go grandkids.

Burnt Sugar and Volleyball

When I was in middle school and high school, I was a tremendous athlete. I was the captain of our volleyball team. I was the starting pitcher for the girls’ softball team. I still hold the Nebraska girls’ record for pole vaulting.

I’m lying.

I didn’t play a single sport. Not a one. It wasn’t entirely my fault. At my high school in the 60s and 70s, there were no athletic options for girls. None. Zero. Zip. There are now, but in those days, if you weren’t a cheerleader, you got no school-sponsored exercise beyond gym class. And then most of the exercise in gym class came from attempting to outrun the gym teacher so that you didn’t have to take a shower which would require taking off your clothes in front of others.

In my case, it didn’t make a lick of difference because I likely wouldn’t have played any sports even if I’d had the option. I’m just not very athletic. Though my siblings and I all love many sports, and eagerly watched our kids and now watch our grandkids in all sorts of athletic activities, it’s safe to say that Mom and Dad weren’t troubled by too many letters of intent to any colleges for any of us.

Late last week, Addie texted me and asked if she could come over and do a test run on making crème brulee, something she wants to serve at her upcoming dinner party. Yes, you are recalling right. Addie is 13. But she has a yearly dinner party for which she prepares all of her food.

Anyway, I agreed to help her with the crème brulee test run on Saturday.

addie-putting-up-netAnd then she texted me a bit later and asked if it would be okay to set up the volleyball net in our back yard and invite two or three of her girlfriends over to play volleyball, as volleyball tryouts are being held Tuesday and Thursday.

Yep, I assured her. That would be just fine. And then, of course, Bill got to work making our backyard look like an Olympic volleyball court. He mowed an area the appropriate size. He laid down a rope to indicate boundaries. He trimmed the nearby tree. I was waiting for the truck to pull up and dump a load of sand. I love my husband.

Just before the girls were scheduled to arrive, I left for a quick trip to the grocery store. When I returned, my vision of some girls tossing a volleyball around and giggling was put to rest. Addie had set up a full-out volleyball clinic, including a coach. Now, to be fair, the coach is the mother of one of the girls, but she had played volleyball in school, and was very good and very knowledgeable. It was serious business, my friends. If those girls don’t make the team, it will be through no fault of either Addie, Bill, or me.

volleyball-clinic-2

Back to my area of expertise, which is certainly not volleyball. Crème Brulee.

Addie and I spent the morning making the crème brulee. And they turned out perfectly….

creme-brulee-2

 

Once the girls took a break from volleyball, they came inside and took a turn at using my rarely-used kitchen propane torch and burning the sugar on their individual desserts….

torching-creme-brulee

I will leave you with the recipe for crème brulee, but not the recipe for successful volleyball skills. You’ll have to ask Addie.

Crème Brulee
Makes six servings

Ingredients
1 qt. heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 c. white sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
Hot water

Process
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Once it reaches temperature, remove it immediately from the heat. Cover and let it sit 15 min. to cool. Remove the vanilla bean.

In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ c. sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture just starts to lighten in color. Then add the cream A LITTLE AT A TIME, stirring continually. If you add the hot mixture too quickly, the egg mixture will scramble. Once combined, pour the custard into 6 (7-8 oz.) ramekins. Place the ramekins onto a large sheet pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the custard is set but still shaky in the center, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and allow 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Using the remaining sugar, spread evenly over the custard. Then, using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy crust.

Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Nana’s Notes: I assure you, the crème brulee did not rest 5 minutes before the girls dug in. From the sounds of delight, they must have been good.

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