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All dolled up and on the road: A family adventure

We have recently returned from a family vacation to the Twin Cities, Rochester, and Stewartville, all in Minn. It is the first family vacation that all five young girls in our home motored with us. Jan and I were blessed to have Lydia and her four daughters Grase, Savannah and the identical twins Hope and Paige with us. As the last doll blanket, baby car seat and baby bottle were loaded into our Jeep, I stood back and soaked in the moment which emphatically proved the point once again: Five females and one male can co-exist beautifully on a trip – provided that the male takes limited luggage.

For those of you who know me, I have always had fashion finesse – however, on this trip I decided to leave my lavender slip-on shoes at home. It is honestly the first time that I have traveled for one week with a mere satchel, and I was reminded that my best fashion accessories are my sense of humor and my smile.

Grase was the very first doll given to Lydia. It was presented to her by her cousin, Tanner, when she was 3 days old. They have been a constant duo, and at one time, they were nearly the same size. Grase has made many trips to Underwood, Ray and Minot State University. She has also traveled to California and Nebraska.

Savannah was given to Lydia by Tanner’s brother, Tyler, at Christmas a couple of years ago. She is a 29-inch doll made by the Uneeda Doll Company which was founded in 1917 in New York City. They have produced thousands of cloth, composition, hard plastic and vinyl dolls that were well made and reasonably priced. Savannah has platinum rooted hair and striking teal-green eyes. She came with the quote, “Hold my hand and I will walk with you.” She has classic looks that are blended from a combination of Rita Hayworth, Martha Hyer and Grace Kelly. She actually wears life-size clothes.

Savannah also came with her own doll, which Lydia name Paige. For quite some, time Lydia felt that Paige needed a sister. Lo and behold while shopping at a secondhand store, she was discovered and named Hope. Since Paige and Hope were identical and Lydia wanted to be able tell them apart, she placed a small black dot behind Hope’s left ear.

Each night on our vacation, all the dolls were hauled into various motel rooms and their beds were made, often on luggage racks. One evening while going to sleep, I heard Lydia say, “Grase, mommy is right here beside you – now go back to sleep.” A girl and her play imagination is something to truly appreciate. On a busy street in Rochester, an elderly woman noticed Lydia at play and approached her on the arm of her daughter. They together smiled and the mother said, “I just love a girl with a doll, and I want you to know you are never too old to play with dolls. I am well over 60, and I still love dolls. Thank you for being here today!”

As they walked away, Lydia took Savannah’s hand and said, “Step to Mommy.” I was reminded that grace and caring of a child comes sometimes when we least expect it. This time, it was strangers who related and embodied an appreciation of a young girl and her doll. Lydia, at this moment, knew that both of these adult women had it – they knew that a doll can be a friend, a playmate, and that this is more than a toy – it’s a childhood bond.

Now after being on the road, one looks forward to a home-cooked meal. Being a fan of cabbage and cabbage rolls, this recipe puts a fine twist on cabbage rolls with a healthy and tasty vegetable filling.

Green Coats with Vegetable Filling

You can use regular cabbage leaves for these rolls, but I prefer to use Napa or savoy cabbage leaves. Select 4 or 6 medium-size white, Napa or savoy cabbage leaves which have been blanched for 2 to 3 minutes to wilt and then set aside.

Filling

1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup cooked brown or white rice

1/2 cup finely chopped carrot

1/4 cup finely chopped onions

1 medium tomato, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons red pepper

3 tablespoons celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt or herb salt

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

1 egg beaten

1 tablespoon wheat germ blended with 4 crushed saltine crackers.

Pepper to taste. If you desire a touch of fresh rosemary, add about 1/4 teaspoon or less.

Place a bit of filling on core end of cabbage leave, roll once, fold in sides and roll like a jelly roll. Repeat with remaining leaves. Set aside.

Sauce

1 1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup dry white wine (Serve the rest well chilled with the meal if you desire)

1/4 to 1/2 dried red chili pepper seeded and crushed

1 teaspoon chicken bullion

Heat the ingredients in a saucepan that is large enough to host the congregations of green coats. Place green coats seam side down in red sauce and enjoy the beauty of the complimentary colors of red and the pleasing shades of green medium pale to almost sunny sheer while spooning sauce over the tops of rolls. Remind yourself that the carrots and onions are socializing well and will greet your taste buds with bliss. Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

To serve

Layer platter or plates with buttered noodles or white or brown rice. Place green coats on top of this nutritious bed and spoon a bit of sauce over them while they coo! (Yes, you would be cooing, too, if you were treated so well.) Add a dollop of sour cream and for the finishing touch, add a bit of fresh parsley which looks as if it were plucked from the morning meadows and now takes rest upon a cloud of white. At our home, we enjoy this with homemade noodles, and I also like to serve a freshly slice avocado which has been sprinkled with lime juice and Kosher salt as a side. First on the fork slides a touch of avocado, then while slicing into the green coat, the sour creams snuggles in. Riding caboose is the flavorful cabbage roll. As you transport this to your taste buds, remind yourself that being imaginative in the kitchen can be a rewarding and healthy experience.