20 Years of Watermelon Gelato

St. Peter's Basilica

My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. This year’s celebration had to be very low-key as he suffers from leukemia and will be undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant soon. But one thing that has always remained a constant in our marking of the day has been homemade watermelon gelato. How that tradition came to be is a story that is very special to me, and I’d like to share it with you, along with the recipe.

Our honeymoon to France and Italy overflowed with art, history, culture, and culinary pleasures, and one of the latter was the watermelon gelato we ate, no, experienced, at a gelateria across from the Trevi Fountain in Rome. (I hope that place is still there.) As we sat on the steps of an ancient church, also across from Trevi Fountain, and ate our gelato, we decided, once we returned home, to try to re-create the recipe with our new ice cream maker. It took a lot of experimentation. For instance, you can’t put too much pureed watermelon in as that is essentially water and will make the gelato ice-cube hard. Now I can’t promise that what we came up with tastes exactly like the stuff at the Trevi Fountain gelateria, but it is yummy stuff and has stood the test of time at our house every August for 20 years.

2 cups 2% milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 T. cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs, separated

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 of a 3-oz. package of watermelon Jello

2 cups pureed watermelon

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan. Add milk and heat to very hot. Refrigerate egg whites for later. Beat egg yolks. Add one cup hot mixture to egg yolks, stirring constantly. Add all back into milk mixture and heat on medium, stirring constantly, to 160 degrees F. Cool two hours to overnight. Strain custard mixture. Beat egg whites till stiff peaks form. Whip cream, and add egg whites and cream to custard mixture. Add Jello and watermelon puree. Freeze in ice cream maker. Ripen in freezer. Enjoy a small taste of Italy!

End-of-Homeschool-Year Traditions: Game Day

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We are lovers of tradition at our house, and the end of our homeschool year is a time filled with beloved traditions that we’ve embraced over the years. In this three-part series I’ll describe our activities that really cap off the year for us and provide great future memories.

First is our last day of school which is our Game Day. I remember my own last days of school being filled with fun and no schoolwork, so we established our own tradition that we always look forward to. Our last day is always a Friday in early June, and the boys make out a list before that day of games that we will play. I said they had to be educational games, but truth be told, every game can have an educational angle if you look hard enough for it.

Some of the favorites we’ve enjoyed just about every year are: Travel (you have to know your math facts to take steps across the yard before your opponents), Monopoly, Yahtzee, Battleship, Mastermind, playing with Legos, Magnetix, and Brain Benders (those are science!), Boggle, Scrabble, the old standby Hangman, Borderline (that’s a card game we have where you have to know geography), and a world map puzzle. Then there’s carpet square challenge where the caller calls out two body parts which the players have to touch, at one time, to a small square. It’s funny watching them try to touch their nose and right toe, or left elbow and right ear, to the square (gotta be limber for that one. Oh, and that counts for P.E., in case you needed to know.)

The favorite game, by far, for all of us, has always been Balderdash, our own simplified version. We take turns choosing one of the hardest, unheard-of words we can find in the dictionary, and write down three definitions. One is the real definition, and the other two are made up, and the others have to guess which is the right one. The trick is to make up the most complex, convincing, dictionary-sounding definition you can.

Surprisingly, our last day of school is usually the longest school day of the year as the boys want to make sure they each get all their favorite games in. We throw in a pizza-and-pop party for lunch. What a great kickoff for summer!

“Remember to say ‘Rabbit'”

Easter candy

That’s what our family says on the last evening of every month. It’s a little-publicized tradition that seems to have English roots, but which has been passed down in my mother’s family. What happened was, on the first day of every month when we woke up, or anytime after midnight, the first word we spoke had to be the word “Rabbit”. If you remembered and did it, you were supposed to be able to expect a gift that month, from somewhere. You had to be able to creatively look for it and recognize it when you got it, a great exercise in practicing gratitude.

Now not everyone played along. My dad would purposely say, “Turkey,” “Squirrel,” or other various and sundry animals. It didn’t seem to affect his gift-getting one way or the other, but as a lover of staid traditions, I have carried it on in my own family. The kids and I make an honest effort to remind each other to say it each month. (My husband follows in the footsteps of my dad. What’s with you guys anyway?)

Don’t laugh, but this is what we do on New Year’s Eve. We count down, saying “Five, four, three, two, one, RABBIT, HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Who couldn’t use a gift in the long, cold month of January, y’know?

Well, whether you subscribe to help from bunnies or not, I wish all my fans, friends, and readers of the Eagle’s Quill a most healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year 2014. The Eagle’s Quill is now one year old and I appreciate all your support.I have some exciting posts planned for 2014 as we explore books, writing, and musings together.