Navajo Grandmother“Navajo Grandmother” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In the early days in the Southwest, I saw many Navajo grandmothers, many looking much like this lady, sitting comfortably in a large chair in the back of a son-in-law’s pickup truck. I was told by this lady that it was the custom, as she didn’t have a lot to do with her son-in-law. In fact, she did not speak with her son-in-law.

Women owned and cared for the flocks of sheep, and these sheep were owned by her daughter. After shearing, the fleece was taken to market in their pickup, with grandma in the back.

Sheep near Taos“Sheep Grazing on Reservation” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In our euphemistically imbued age of political politeness, the middle years are referred to as the youth of old age. We are urged to “get it while you can”. “The end is near.” “From now on it’s all downhill.” To a certain extent that is all true. But we still have energy, imagination and inclination to do great things. The middle years are a whirlwind of work, creativity and preparing for the inevitable.

When you leave middle age you bump into other unexpected adventures. Children leave and get married which brings lots of other experiences, that of becoming grandparents possibly being one of the most pleasant. You have been cautioned to do your traveling early because when old age strikes you may have the time and the money, but you no longer have the inclination. You become an appreciator rather than a participator. As an inveterate collector of other people’s art, I have become an admirer rather than an acquirer.

As you leave the middle years you realize that in the early days you fight because you don’t understand each other, but as you grow older, you fight because you do. Either way, marriage has a certain amount of misunderstanding and disagreement, some of which may cause you to wonder how you ever got into it. But you persevere and realize that if you were being graded on your performance, you probably flunked. Luckily, there is a do-over; it’s called apology.

The bright side of marriage, especially that of long standing, is that you understand that you are not alike and never have been. This person who attracted you at an early age may have done so precisely because he or she was different from you. Marriage can become a home schooling effort, each learning from the other.


Peanut butter and pickles, PB&P. It is an unlikely pairing which shouldn’t work, but it does. The vinegary snap of chilled pickle cuts like a dash of irony, against the stoic unctuousness of peanut butter. It is a thrifty and unacknowledged American classic. I’m sure a lot of people’s grandmothers ate them. Peanut butter has no cholesterol, and is a great source of protein if you eat enough of it. How can that be all bad?

They go along with all the other things people like to marry with peanut butter and place between two slices of bread, such as bananas, raisins, mayonnaise, olives, bacon, onion slices Hemingway’s favorite! (I shudder to think what that did to his breath!) Elvis preferred bananas and bacon on his peanut butter. However, remember what that did to his waistline?

One friend grimaced and said it was ‘sort of scary, but the bread and butter pickles weren’t too bad’. I have never tried dill, but who knows? As my late father-in-law used to say when I sneered as he put sugar on his scrambled eggs, ‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’. And when you think of it, egg souffles have sugar, don’t they?

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES (Without pickles, please!)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup salted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup roasted salted peanuts ground to resemble bread crumbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees, parchment covered cookie sheet
Mix first 4 ingredients and set aside
Cream sugars and butter just until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add peanut butter and mix until fully incorporated.
Add eggs one at a time and vanilla and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients.
Mix in ground nuts until incorporated.

Drop by 1 Tbs. balls onto cookie sheet and press each ball 2 times with a fork dipped in cold water. (The familiar criss-cross is traditional)
Bake 10-12 minutes.
Cool on cookie sheet 5 min. then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.