Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Times Square Tonight

I used to live in Times Square but always luckily managed to be away on New Year's Eve. I couldn't see the ball from my window, so why stay? There was enough of the mess leftover (both confetti waste and human) for days afterwards that I knew what I wasn't missing.

And when I tell people that I never wanted to ring in the new year wearing diapers, they just stare at me. You see, if you go to Times Square, you get roped into sections by the police. And aren't allowed to leave. For upwards of 9 hours or more. Smart partygoers depend on Depends to get through it.

This year, at least, Charmin is opening its public toilets near the Virgin Megastore to the partygoers. But those still don't open until after midnight.

Have fun!

Green Hour

Remember how earlier this year I said I wanted to spend more time with the kids outdoors? Well, I learned about a great site that encourages just that: Greenhour. Sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, whose My Big Backyard magazine we read, the website has a parents' guide with a useful list for an explorer's pack and adapting the outdoors to various learning styles, among other things. While we might not be old enough for the letterboxing featured on the homepage, some of the other ideas will no doubt prove useful. Especially if I find a forum for parents who aren't so comfortable in the outdoors . . . I guess you can add that to my list of new year's resolutions.

One More Interesting Article

Okay, so the kids are resting with Mama and I'm playing on the computer, catching up with my reading. No, as you've noticed, I don't like reading the news articles beyond the headlines (so I can understand what's going on with Madoff or Hamas), but prefer the "human interest"-type articles. I am a social art historian, after all.

So, just now, besides the artile on how much "Diamond Jim" Brady could eat, I read about 20 healthy foods under $1. I should've listed it in that other post that lowering our food bill is a top priority for 2009. Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog, the other one I read after Motherlode and The New Old Age, has the list plus several links to healthy and cheap eats.

I would've included lentils, but I don't know how much they come to in a serving. The NYTimes link and the original site, Divine Caroline, have links to recipes for each ingredient.

1. Oats
2. Eggs
3. Kale
4. Potatoes
5. Apples
6. Nuts
7. Bananas
8. Garbanzo Beans
9. Broccoli
10. Watermelon
11. Wild Rice
12. Beets
13. Butternut Squash
14. Whole Grain Pasta
15. Sardines
16. Spinach:
17. Tofu
18. Milk
19. Pumpkin Seeds
20. Coffee

How Fancy Foods Become Fast

Really intriguing article on the progress of salted caramel from the rarefied world of French chefs to the aisles of Mall-Wart in the NYTimes today. But even more interesting than the progression (and I should confess that I don't like Starbuck's salted caramel hot chocolate at all) is how analysts chart a food's "rise" (or popularization).

Stage 1: Appearance in small ethnic or fine dining establishments
Stage 2: high-end magazines and specialty food trade shows
Stage 3: in innovative chains or retail stores
Stage 4: in women's magazines (this is the step that surprised me), large chain, or supermarket
Stage 5: voila, the American mass market

I guess that's how chai made it mainstream. One of the experts thinks quinoa is next. McQuinoa?? We'll see . . .

Happy New Year's Resolutions, Part 2

Motherlode explores parenting resolutions today, with links to Parents.com's "50 Ways to Be a Fantastic Parent," a blog that asks for one-word resolutions, and another whose writer's trick is to pretend she is 20 years older.

As parents, Mama and I have chosen "get more sleep." And we're actually doing pretty well with that one already. I think getting more sleep--though not at 8:15 every night!--will make us better, more patient, more positive, more playful parents, as well as better partners (for pretty much the same reasons).

For me personally, well, there's always the obvious resolution about diet and exercise that most of the nation makes, or perhaps keeping in better touch with family and friends. I'm still a vegetarian and I'm cutting most sweets out of my diet except for celebrations. I also want to try to do something professional/academic this year but am not sure what form that will take, from teaching to writing (and hopefully publishing) an article to taking a class even, who knows. But something.

In the end, though, I imagine "get more sleep" will take be the best resolution of all of them. And maybe the hardest to keep.

New Year's Noon

It's 2009 here at my house. We just returned from a wonderful playdate where we noisily and joyfully welcomed the new year at 12:00 P.M. What's twelve hours to preschoolers? And now, we grownups can go to sleep without the need to stay up to celebrate. It was an inspired idea.

We're lucky to have gotten home though. Mama, who is still out sick with bronchitis, had dropped us off and had trouble getting us home. We couldn't get enough traction to leave. But eventually picked up enough traction to get moving. Glad I wasn't driving! I bet Mama Teacher was too, because we would've have just stayed over!!

There was enough food to stay, though. Yummy monkey bread, chocolate chip scones, baked brie, punch, and my favorite fruit dip (Mama Teacher--I found some of the recipes on the web; let me know if they're wrong). Plus Mr. Teacher's yummy omelets. We tried the juice concentrate slushies in the snow; they were the weakest link. Too sweet for most of us, but CJ and Bud sucked them down. I'm guessing plain juice would be better. And except that Mama returned home (and was supposed to be napping but instead rearranged our living room, in a good way) and didn't celebrate it with us, it was a perfect party.

I hope your celebrations are as fun and safe!

Happy 2009!

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Mama Teacher's Famous Fruit Dip

2-6 oz containers Yoplait Light Yogurt, Very Vanilla
2 tablespoons fat free cream cheese
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine all ingredients. Heat for 45 seconds in microwave. Stir an dmicrowave an additional 40 seconds. Serve with fruit for dipping.

-=-=-=-=-

Miss K's Baked Brie

1 prepared pie crust
1 round of brie
slivered almonds
apricot preserves
egg wash

Roll out a boxed pie crust ( I use the Pillsbury pie crust found in the cold section near the orange juice - 2 in a box) with a little flour into a large circle. Spray the baking dish with Pam (or whatever) and put the pie crust in the dish. Place the large brie in the middle (I use the President brand), top with a layer of preserves (for the party I used apricot but I've used others like orange, etc.) then top with sliced almonds (if you use cranberry then walnuts are good). Fold up the pie crust around the brie, pinch closed and tear off extra crust. Put a light egg wash all over and then if desired, put another thin layer of preserves and nuts on top. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

I love this recipe because it is so quick and easy and you don't have to be at all neat about how you put the ingredients on. You can also make it the day before and then bake it the next day - if I do that then I put the egg wash on just before I bake it.

Enjoy!

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Mama Teacher's Chocolate Chip Scones

2 cups Original Bisquick mix
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup whipping (heavy) cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Additional whipping (heavy) cream
Additional sugar

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray or grease with shortening. Stir Bisquick mix, chocolate chips, 1/3 cup whipping cream, 3 tablespoons sugar, the egg and vanilla in medium bowl until soft dough forms. 2. Pat into 8-inch circle on cookie sheet (if dough is sticky, dip fingers in Bisquick mix). Brush circle with additional whipping cream; sprinkle with additional sugar. Cut into 8 wedges, but do not separate. 3. Bake about 12 minutes or until golden brown; carefully separate. Serve warm.

For easier cleanup, line the cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Look for it in either the baking aisle or storage-wrap aisle of your grocery store.

Raisin Scones: Omit chocolate chips and vanilla; add 1/2 cup raisins. Drizzle warm scones with mixture of 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon whipping (heavy) cream.

Drop Scones: Heat oven to 400°F. Drop dough into 8 mounds onto cookie sheet; pat to slightly flatten. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Bisquick website

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Mama Teacher's Monkey Bread

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans (16.3 oz each) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube pan. 2. In large plastic food-storage bag, mix sugar and cinnamon. Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Shake in bag to coat. Arrange in pan, adding walnuts and raisins among the biscuit pieces. 3. Mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces. 4. Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.

Pillsbury website

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Our Mama's Favorite Punch Recipe

1 quart pineapple juice
1 quart orange juice
1.5 quart cranberry cocktail
2 liter gingerale
1-2 containers rainbow sherbet

Combine and serve immediately. Buddy likes it with frozen blueberries thrown in. Both kiddos drink it just for the sherbet.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year's Resolutions

It's almost 2009 and we're already successfully accomplishing one of our traditional New Year's resolutions: getting more sleep.

On Sunday, we went to bed at 8:15. No, I'm not kidding.

Last night, it was 9.

Tonight, we were upstairs before 9, with Mama asleep soon after, but I started blogging and will get to bed closer to 10:30.

Still, that's much earlier than our usual 11.

We even decided to celebrate tomorrow night by going to bed super-early.

I wonder if that means we'll go to sleep with the kids at 6:30?

Don't call us to find out!

In the Papers

Another compendium of what I've been reading in the papers:

On Religion: It looks like two recent studies have interesting things to say about religion in our lives. The first, a Pew study, indicates that despite the general dictates of Christianity, most Christians surveyed in the U.S. believe pretty much any person can go to heaven, as long as he or she is good (that would be, except Rick Warren, Obama's awful choice for leader of the invocation at the inauguration, who compares GLBTs to pedophiles. But then, Obama isn't a supporter of gay marriage himself). The second study says that religious people tend to exhibit more self-control (not that self-disciplined people become religious, but that religion creates more self-discipline through rules etc). Maybe I need to pray more before I step on that scale at Weight Watchers!

On Books: No matter how you buy that book (and chances are you got it from a reseller and are contributing to the demise of both bookstores and publishing houses), you'll end up fighting with your book club before you can discuss it!

On Money: Herbert talks about how we got into this financial mess, to borrow Madoff's words, by paying for stuff with money that wasn't there. Judith Flanders examines one small way we can break the cycle, by reconsidering Boxing Day and making it a day of charity and good works.

And, as always, on parenting: I always read Motherlode. And was tickled to see that the lady taking the airplane flight used several of my (and others') suggestions! Though, the anti-child/anti-parent comments about her trip--and there are a ton of them--were quite shocking. I had to quit reading them. Sometimes, it's amusing, but not this time.

Snow Time

We're expecting snow all day tomorrow, with totals reaching between 2-5 inches. Sorry, Gommie and Pop, you just missed it.

So I made a quick run to the grocery store this evening, even though we are fully stocked with marshmallows for hot chocolate, popcorn, sweetened condensed milk for snow ice cream, and grilled cheese makings. But I didn't have tomato soup for me or chicken ABCs for the kids. And I wanted to try a new snow food idea: the snow slushie. Take a bowl full of snow and add a few tablespoons of thawed but cold frozen juice concentrate. I bought berry and . . . pina colada! Should be fun. I'll let you know.

On "Being Dead is No Excuse"

I got a new book for Christmas, Being Dead is No Excuse by two Southerners from the Mississippi Delta who are interested in the particularities and peculiarities of post-bellum funerary practices, specifically the food. In a light and amusing style, the authors catalogue the traditions of Greenville, MS, including the different cooking styles of Episcopalian ladies and Methodist ladies. I must admit that, as a Texan--not a Deep Southerner--and as an urbanite--not a small town girl--and as a member of a non-churchgoing family, several of the customs were foreign to me. I don't recall any funerals besides that of my grandmother when I was a little girl. There was hardly a regular funeral scene among our young families; perhaps if I'd grown up Catholic in my mom's small town, it would have been different.

But I can certainly imagine several of the incidents described. And I know the food. My grandmother even had her own favorite tomato aspic recipe! And I've eaten any number of (Methodist lady) casseroles with cream of ___ soup, corn flakes or Ritz crackers or fried onions, and some vegetable or meat in them. They say if you have any of those three, you have a funeral casserole! There were several pimento cheese recipes, fancier than my mom's tasty version with just cheese, a drained can of pimentos, and some mayonnaise (now she also adds chunky salsa). And lots of different deviled, I mean stuffed, eggs. And in all of these, an obsession with homemade mayonnaise and a snobbery about Miracle Whip. Also the love of Lea and Perrins and something called Durkee's Famous Sauce (which I almost bought in my store yesterday just to try it out).

Of course, now that I am on my own church's pastoral care committee and live up here amid a network of Yankee friends, I will say that the obsession with food during funerals is not limited to the South. Perhaps there isn't the same adherence to a traditional menu, but there are a lot of "dump casseroles" and sweets that appear at times of crisis. Though, most of this is delivered for the funeral reception at the church or given to the family privately; I have not been to a post-funeral reception at the home of the bereaved.

The book also contained the usual Southern tidbits about "Coke" being generic for soda and not a specific brand, the obsession with geneaology and names, and the assertion that Southerners are obsessed with manners because during and after the war they had nothing else. My favorite part was about how no one is more Southern than when he or she is in New York City. To that, at least, I can personally attest. So I'm going to take myself down to my kitchen and whip up some homemade mayonnaise and pimento cheese sandwiches. No need to wait for someone to die.

-=-=-=-=-

Mom's Deviled Eggs

4 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon powdered dry mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 to 4 drops bottled liquid hot pepper sauce or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon paprika
salt and white pepper to taste
pickles, onions (optional)

Cut eggs lengthwise and gently remove yolks. Mash yolks with a fork, but do not pack. Add mayonnaise, dry mustard, Worcestershire, pepper sauce, paprika, salt, and white pepper. Also, add finely chopped pickles and onions, if desirable. Garnish with paprika, pimiento strips, or sliced olives.

Mom

Holiday Withdrawl

I'm having January blahs, even though January hasn't started yet.

Christmas--the holiday we've been preparing for practically since school started in September--has come and gone, quickly, but with major disruptions to everything. From food to finances, sleep to schedules, all of our family systems and strategies are out of whack. And we are all having withdrawl, wanting the food, fun, friends, and family to continue even though we know we'll be better off getting back to normal.

Come on, February! I'm starting to plan our Groundhog's Day party already . . .

Sunday, December 28, 2008

State Quarters

Can you believe they've issued the last of the state quarters? It's been going on for 10 years! I remember when we started putting them in our special map holder. We couldn't fathom 10 years of collecting quarters. We were in Chicago then. I hadn't finished my dissertation, was barely working on it, but had found my calling in museum work. Mama was at her first post-college job, in a giant company that is gone now. Our move to NYC was still 2+ years off, much less Connecticut and kids. Our first cat, Morgan, hadn't come into our lives yet, though he must have been alive somewhere in NYC by then. And now it's over.

Though, we don't have all of them yet. We're missing four. But there won't be any new ones.

How time flies, how we spend it!

Sickness

Well, we've sent Gommie and Pop home. And in typical fashion, Gommie is sick with the sniffles (she always picks up something here, though that is better than the stomach flu she managed last time).

And Mama went to the doc-in-the-box this morning. Diagnosis: bronchitis. I've even started taking OTC cold meds.

The kids are slowly recovering, though with ears that the pediatrician, whom we saw yesterday (about 45 minutes before Mama Teacher and her son were there for the same reason) wants us to watch. We have garlic mullen drops to make sure no infections set in.

But the most harrowing part of the whole sickness here was our run to the hospital Friday night. Mama and I had just returned from a lovely meal of Indian food (mmmm, malai kofta and mango lassis and peshwari nan!!) when Sis started coughing her lungs out on the monitor--she hadn't even been sick when we left, though Bud had been sick about a week. Gommie came up to help as Sis struggled to breathe. It was irregular and difficult (with those awful striations when they breathe in so hard their clavicles show). Mama brought saline. And Sis promptly threw up dinner and snot all over me. Then she was really hysterical and coughing and having trouble catching her breath through sobs. So we went to the hospital.

She calmed down on the way over. The Christmas lights were beautiful. And she's not out often at night. She really enjoyed looking for nativities, which have been an obsession this holiday season (she was the only child who could identify the baby Jesus in a story that referred to the nativity but didn't mention Jesus by name. Those of you who know us may appreciate that irony). I think it's because of all the babies she knows in playgroup and her interest in her own babyhood.

Anyway, her pulse ox on check-in was 100, which is perfect. And she was breathing more normally, if somewhat croupy. We got to our exam room and the young attending doctor spoke of pneumonia and chest x-rays but the other doctor (her supervisor, a resident, maybe?? I don't know the exact hierarchies of doctors) said it was a mucous plug (no, not that kind!) that must have blocked her little airway. He reassured us that pneumonia just didn't come and go while you waited and her chest sounded clear.

It was a relatively short ER trip and Sis was very brave, curious even (a lot like Aunt Banana who loved her ER trip to Lenox Hill when she sliced open her finger on a NY trip. And now she's an RN).

The worst part? Sis had thrown up on Shirt, which then needed a good washing. And she refused to sleep without him so we all waited up while he washed and dried. But by 2 a.m. we were all asleep in bed.

Only to be up at 6.

No wonder we're all sick.

Tidbits

On the way home from the dinosaur museum yesterday, Bud fell fast asleep and Sis should have because she was way behind in the sleep department (I'll post in a minute on why that was). But she did everything possible to stay awake. At one point, she was pulling her own hair and kicking the back of the driver's seat, all while singing to herself. And when that failed, she switched to lasso-ing Shirt instead of pulling her hair. It worked, though. An hour in the car on the way home and she never closed her eyes. That's strength of will. Heaven help us.

-=-=-=-=-

Bud is in love with letters. He "reads" them everywhere. Stop signs are his favorite: "S-T-O-P" he recites. He likes my college sweatshirts because there are big, bold letters. And he loves to spell his name. He's even written it a few times, albeit out of order; he starts at the beginning but somehow wraps to the front before he is done. Of course, at this age writing is not linear so it doesn't much matter. But he is now hyper-aware of words and the letters that make them. I'm not sure I'm so ready for him to be able to read, really. True, it opens up a whole new world. Maybe that's the challenge.

Of Mamas and Snowmen

There was a snowman in the front yard of a house in our town.

I saw it, two snowballs with a red bandana on the head. Some kind of hip snowguy.

Mama saw it and commented that the poor snowman had been decapitated--ball #3 must have fallen off leaving the scarf and the body.

And thus two people can see the same thing totally differently. We laughed about it--the optimist and the pessimist, half-full and half-empty. And I said it would make a funny post. And then we talked about how I almost never write about her.

I realize that the casual reader of this blog would not receive from it a well-defined or even fuzzy picture of Mama, who is always in the background of my posts but never their subject. Why don't I blog about the other people in my life whom I love? My friends make rare appearances, my parents and sister even fewer. And Mama is like an apparition hovering around the stories. Of course, those of you who know us realize that I love her dearly and that she is central to my life and our family.

But not to this blog, which is about me and my experiences mothering, which is why the children appear more frequently than anyone but me. Sure, Mama is also a key component in how I parent because we discuss all aspects of parenting and work out strategies together, and I do write about that sometimes. I think her absence--and the absence of the other family and friends--must be the private streak in this otherwise public but personal, narcissistic blog.

However, when something as funny as two opinions on a snowman happen, I have to share.

What would you have said?

Friday, December 26, 2008

In the Details

The Day Before
Waiting for Gommie and Pop to arrive near to killed us all. Sis was beside herself with excitement, to the point of confusion. "I'm so embarrassed!" she exclaimed, meaning excited. We tried to distract ourselves but at best of times the ruses were transparent; at the worst, frustrating in themselves. And then I saw on the computer that their plane was going to be late! ERGGGHHHHH. They'd miss their train and be about an hour later than we expected. Except Gommie works miracles when it comes to getting to Connecticut, because not 50 minutes after merely landing at La Guardia, she was calling me from GCT to say they had plently of time and would make their train. Hallelujah!

The kids and I had been planning the day meticulously. We'd even made a timeline of Gommie and Pop's travels on the plane, taxi, and train, complete with picture of the phone she would call me from to say what train they were on; below this was a timeline of our day--eat, play, cook, lunch, rest time, errands, pick up Gommie and Pop at the train. So, donning our clothes, we ran off to deliver three tins of treats to the pediatrician, vet, and physical therapy office, with the kids smiling shyly as they handed over the gifts. But they were in such a hurry and we got done so fast, that we sat at Starbucks' for about 30 minutes biding our time (and getting G & P coffee).

But there they were, right on time, on the train platform. Five very happy people united for the holidays. Let the fun begin!

Christmas Eve
We played and played on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning: tussle, "the old horse," "airplane," "I see you!" and other fun, oftentimes rough, games. We also made jello for Christmas dinner and gingerbread for the trifle we would have. There were stories to read, dances to do, and lots of pretend meals. In other words, the usual.

Ma, Gong, and Goo showed up mid-morning to join the fun and we all had a big lunch of meats, cheeses, rolls, pickles, and condiments. Yummy! I especially liked the smoked mozzarella. With lots of balsamic vinegar on the bread. Bud and Sis like ham roll-ups. After lunch, the kids rested and all the grandparents ran errands. I made cranberry sauces. Mama did a thousand little things. Goo kept the kids company upstairs while they watched tv.

And then it was time to get married. The joyful chaos began around 3 when everyone returned. We shepherded kids into clothes, necessities into "the tub" to go with us, and all of us into 3 cars to head to the church around 3:45. I rode with Pop ("fitting" Gommie said) and he sang "Get Me to the Church on Time". Which he did. Where it was so icy, I would've liked to be carried over that threshold. But we al got inside safely with kids, tub, clothes, and cake.

Mama looked fine (that's like handsome, not like okay) in her dark gray suit, with flower boutannier in the holder I'd bought. I eventually dressed in my purple/lavender gown with purple shawl (Gommie and Bud helped me get dressed in the little bathroom)--and white tennis shoes! A congregant asked afterwards if I'd worn those shoes during the ceremony. "You bet," I said. "As a parent, you need all the support you can get!" Besides, they were comfortable. Bud told me I was beautiful, which was right up there with being his favorite grown-up. Sis had wanted to do her hair like mine, also a big compliment (because I wore a silver flowered hair clip Mama had given me from Thailand years ago--and Sis doesn't usually like things in my hair!). Sis wore a black velvety jumper with small pink floral embroidery that twirled really well; she was partial to the pink shirt that went with it. Bud insisted on wearing his Yankees Halloween costume shirt instead of the train sweater we bought. Who cares?! See, that's what I meant by casual, homey, playful wedding.

So in addition to the wedding family, there were my parents, Mama's parents and brother, two ladies from church, Mama Teacher and family (thanks again for helping me choose a dress. I think we got it right!), and the minister and her son. An even 12 guests. My favorite number. We headed to the sanctuary, mainly because Bud and Sis's little hands were getting too friendly with the two-tiered wedding cake with white icing and deep purple flowers and dark green leaves (which Pop had had in the trunk of the rental car all day--it was cool enough, and better than trying to cram it in our holiday-laden fridge.)

We got everyone setted into seats, put the wedding CD Mama had made on the system (with "Lover's Waltz," "Appalachian Spring," a tune from Fried Green Tomatoes and one from Little Women), and headed to the back of the church. We processed/meandered/walked/marched up the aisle at an uneven pace in an irregular grouping, with Sis holding her bouquet and the ring pillow (which Bud had surrendered) and Bud carrying a bouquet too (as he'd wanted one at Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer's wedding). The bouquets were designed by Mama, made of silk flowers with some traditional Christmas greenery and holly berries but also deep red miniature roses and pink antique tea roses. Gorgeous. And, oddly, mine felt good in my hand.

Once at the front of the church, the kiddos went to sit with Gommie and Pop. Until they didn't. A few minutes into the minister's very personal and personalized ceremony (she's known us for quite awhile and did our last ceremony), Bud decided he wanted to be with us and came forward, standing between us and taking our hands in his. Sis joined pretty soon after. So, we got married as a family with all of us holding hands (eventually, Mama and I managed to reach across them to hold each other's hands). We said the vows I had written the night before, pledging to take each other "to be no other than yourself, loving you today from all of our yesterdays and through all of our tomorrows." I liked that it incorporated that we had a history of being a couple and that this marriage wasn't the start of something new, but it's continuation with the recognition and approval of the state of Connecticut (and, as the minister said, the blessing of all UUs). We kissed and then all left together. Only to come back to hug all assembled and thank everyone and head together to the hall for some cake.

For the first wedding I was a bridesmaid--Lambeth, you were there--(I have been a bridesmaid/maid of honor three times: in Dallas, in Nashville, and in Austin), the bride had Victorian wedding pulls on ribbons that each attendant pulled from underneath the cake; she gave us a bracelet to wear them with. I still have mine: I got the wedding ring. The next to marry. Would you believe I had met Mama just a few weeks before? Anyway, I loved that touch but, not having attendants, had decided very last minute to purchase some for the family that would be there. I got a traditional wedding set and a kid's birthday set, making sure that Sis would pull the bunny (which we switched to a red ribbon, more attractive to her because red is "pink-ish.") I had 12 total, which was the total number of guests. So they picked a ribbon, pulled it out of the cake, and learned their fortune: fortune, contented life, happy home, luck, love, I forget all the others. I think everyone liked that part--it was one of my favorites--and they got to take something home. Then we cut the cake (eschewing the "share the first piece" face smooshing) and distributed yummy chocolate with strawberry filling cake to everyone. Bud ate the filling of 4 pieces. Mr. Teacher noted that the yummy chocolate cake was, however, not traditional. But then, as we laughed, not much was.

And then it was time for Christmas Eve service. Quickly as that, the wedding was over and we turned our attention to the holiday at hand. Though, it was fun, when people commented on how dressed up I was (Mama was dressed up too but I guess a suit isn't as unusual as a ball gown-type thing), I told them it was because I'd just gotten married. Such looks of surprise! Not because of the lesbian thing (congregants are all very used to lesbians in general and us in particular) but because of the timing of it (same look, though with less excitement and enthusiasm, that I got from the cake people and the wedding dress people! Does that grammar make sense? Or is it "though with more excitement?" I'm getting my antecedents and therefore my adjectives confused). Anyway, people were happy.

Service was beautiful with lots of singing and touching stories, even if the kids did get a litte chatty during the stories. And the Christmas tree we'd helped decorate. And the candles everyone lit to hold during "Silent Night." I had my second revelation wearing my wedding dress, which had boning in the stays: it's hard to sit comfortably in a pew for any length of time (the first was "you can't step backwards if your dress has a train!"). After service and potluck, where we shared the remaining tier of the cake, we headed home. The work of Christmas was about to start.

But, like most work, it's better just to enjoy the fruits of the labor (as my dad has been known to say, "don't tell me about the labor, just show me the baby). Let's just say, we got ready for Christmas. The kids helped, too, by sprinkling oatmeal and baby carrots in the yard to feed Santa's reindeer (an inspired idea from Mama Teacher, whose CJ had gotten a baggie of glittered oatmeal as a present from a teacher) and by putting out a plate of cookies for Santa. And, eventually, we were all asleep.

Oh, there was one more wedding item: we opened two gifts, a gorgeous crystal punch bowl service from my sis and her hubby and a wonderful handmade perpetual calendar with our family name and "Est. 1997" etched in it. It almost made us giggle aloud to have wedding presents to open. Thank you.

Christmas
True to form, I was up first. A gust of wind shook the house at 5:56 a.m. and I made a mental note that I didn't think I'd heard any trees hit anything. But the kids refused to wake up, despite the wind, their own coughing and sighing, Mama going downstairs to meditate, my parents arriving early at 6:45 so as not to miss the initial Christmas surprise, and even my going to the bathroom. Wake up, already! And they did, sometime around 7 ish.

And surprised they were! With the white lights glowing on the tree we'd all decorated with cookie cutters, preschool glittery wreaths, stuffed ornaments, and salt dough ornaments, the array of presents below seemed to shine. Including a large three-story dollhouse and a drum kit with cymbal. Wow!

The next two hours of present-opening is a happy blur. Sis and Bud were neither greedy nor ravenous in their consumption of the gifts, but actually took turns and even passed some out to others. They were very proud of their ability to spot their own names, even though they couldn't differentiate between the "to" and the "send" lines on the tags. Mind you, I don't think any of the adults actually got to unwrap their own presents, but that was okay. Sis kept saying it was the "best Christmas ever." And they both kept saying, "it's what I've always wanted!" But then they'd tire of opening new presents and return to playing with the few that were already open. Bud did several solos on the drum kit, either stationed on the floor or on our coffee table "stage." Sis distributed her little Pet Shop critters around the dollhouse. They both raved about pez candy to eat from "repressors" (to be confused with "dispensors"). Mama had fun "playing" with putting all the new Thomas destinations on the train table (because she'd already spent the last month "playing" with our new iPod and uploading about 10,000 songs). I enjoyed glancing at all the great books I received (and will be posting about here eventually, including Being Dead is No Excuse a relatively light book about Southern funerary foods and customs--I'm almost done reading it). Pop snuggled up in the plaid fleece blanket I made him. Gommie watched the kids and took pictures. All in all, lots of great presents and even more fun just being all together.

The rest of the day was filled with playing, rearranging the house to make room for the new toys (which we had started the night before), napping, eating, talking on the phone to relatives, and repeating most of those activities. We forgot to wish the baby Jesus a "happy birthday" but remembered to draw and write on our holiday tablecoth. Everyone was zonked by 6:30, when we got the kids safely in bed and Gommie and Pop went back to their hotel for the night.

But Mama and I didn't go right to sleep. After finishing up the kitchen and the living room, we sat and processed everything in the last 48 hours. It had been a very momentous, very chaotic, and very wonderful two days.

Merry Christmas!

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Jello Salad--Cranberry Jello Salad

2 (6 oz.) boxes raspberry Jello
2 cans whole berry cranberry sauce
1 c. mandarin oranges
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 lg. apples, chopped
4 c. hot water
1 c. pecans, chopped (optional)

Place the Jello and hot water into a large bowl and whip until dissolved. Into another bowl put the chopped apples, cranberry sauce, oranges and pineapples which have been drained. Combine with the dissolved Jello and pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Chill until set. A cup of pecans can be used if desired. This is very good with ham or turkey.

cooks.com


Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle

2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
2 (5.1-ounce) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix (and milk)
2 cans pumpkin
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
1/2 box gingersnaps, crushed

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to thicken. Stir the pumpkin into the pudding.

Layer 1/2 of the gingerbread on bottom of trifle dish or big bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping.

Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl.

originally Paula Deen, but with several simplifications

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Card for You

1, 2, 3 . . . We Count Up 2008:

1—number of “snow kitties” we’ve made in the front yard this season (so far)
2—days we spent in a hotel when a tree hit our house and cars during a storm
3—the age Sis and Bud turned this year
4—trips to the beach with Ma, Gong, and Goo
5—different times we rode horse-drawn carriages at Mystic Seaport, Old Sturbridge Village, and Lyman Orchards
6—number of outs we saw of the baseball game at historic Yankee Stadium
7—the number of stuffed critters Sis and Bud each have in their beds
8—months Mama and I have been vegetarians
9—of September: Bud and Sis's first day of preschool!
10—the number we can count to in Chinese (we take classes every week)
11— number of years Mama and I have been together (and we got married last night!)
12—number of craft projects I seem to have going at once!
13—number of dozens of cookies we must have made this year!
14—times we’ve seen our cats Albus and Hermione scale the curtains in our living room
15— average number of hits per day on this blog
16—weeks the kids have been out of diapers!!!!
17—total number of days Gommie has visited us so far (and she and Pop are here now)
18—months Mama has been at her job (and loves it!)
19—of July: Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer’s wedding! Sis was flower girl and Bud was “ringer”
20—dollars: what everything costs when Sis and Bud are playing store

Happy Holidays and a Happy 2009 to you and your family!


Holiday Recipes (we always send at least one)
We made candy this year for Bud and Sis's teachers. These recipes were the most fun to make!

“Christmas Pretzels”
mini pretzels (or whatever pretzel you like; big sticks are pretty but the chocolate ratio isn't always good)
chocolate chipssprinkles/jimmies

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave (1 minute; stir; 30 seconds; stir; and the last two steps until almost melted--they will melt when stirred. Don't over microwave. It usually takes 1-1 ½ minutes).

Dip pretzels in chocolate. Dip in sprinkles. Let dry on rack or aluminum foil. Store in airtight container.Or just eat them all right then.


Peppermint Bark
Makes about 32 pieces
12 oz. white baking chips
½ cup crushed peppermint candies or candy cane (approximately 6 candy canes)

Microwave white baking chips 1 minute and then in additional increments of 20 seconds, stirring after each, until almost melted. Stir until completely melted.

Add crushed peppermint candies, stirring until mixed. Spread mixture thinly onto aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet.

Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces. Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We're Married!

We did it! We're married!

It was a wonderful little ceremony--small, homey, playful, just what we had in mind. I'm too tired to do it justice tonight but will write soon, about: all of us walking down the aisle togther, Bud joining Mama and I during the ceremony to hold hands with both of us; Sis being both the "ringer" and "flowerer" at one point; me forgetting to repeat the vows and Mama getting all choked up during hers; the Victorian ring pull "party favors" for the people who were there, which was one of my favorite parts; Bud eating the middles out of 4 pieces of chocolate-strawberry wedding cake; and people arriving at church for evening services who were surprised to see me so dressed up and even more surprised when they found out why. There's more but it's late and tomorrow is, after all, Christmas.

Thanks for all of your well wishes. It really was a wonderful event.

A Mom's Letter to Santa

[from a recent email]


Dear Santa, I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the pediatrician's office more than my own doctor, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out -- over several Christmases.

Since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles; and who knows when I'll find any more free time in the next 18 years, so now - -
*** Here are my Christmas wishes ***

* I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (-in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.
* I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.
* If you're hauling big-ticket items this year, I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.
* On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, 'Yes, Mommy' to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.
* I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting, 'Don't eat in the living room' and 'Take your hands off your brother,' because my voice seems to bejust out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.
* If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.
*If you don't mind, I could also use a few miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely.

*It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.
Well, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing, and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his red crayon back. Have a safe trip Santa, and remember to leave your wet boots by the door, and come in and dry off, so you don't catch cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table, but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet. Yours always with love and appreciation, A Mom
P.S. One more thing . . You can cancel all my requests, if you can keep my children 'young' enough to believe in Santa.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Hiatus

My parents arrive tomorrow afternoon (whoops, it's after midnight, so that's this afternoon), so don't be surprised (or disappointed) if there is a dearth of posts for a few days. I promise to detail the wedding and Christmas soon.

And I still have 2 more Advent posts: one for Christmas Eve and my wrap-up on Christmas itself.

Perusing the Paper

I have read many interesting articles in the NYTimes over the last few days but have no time to devote a whole post to any of them, thought-provoking as they might be. And so, a compendium, with links, so you can check them out yourself:
  • A Tough Cookie--read about this woman who makes 600 dozen cookies a year. And knits dog sweaters for her daughter's pets. She's wonderfully grumpy, reminding me of some of my favorite church ladies.
  • "Mommy, is Santa real?"--read an article about what to say (and all the Santa-hating commentors arguing about it).
  • What's a luxury you couldn't give up? I liked the mom of the new baby who writes about her diet coke addiction and the sense of community that it brings her. I feel the same way about my broadband connection.

  • Ideas for de-stressing the holidays (come on, folks, we spend almost a quarter of our year getting ready for one morning! This is out of control. And I'm guilty too, but my sweet little Sis had a complete breakdown today from all the overwhelming excitement of grandparents visiting, Santa coming, and presents. It's too much).

  • Just in time: an article about multi-cultural weddings. Maybe we should add a handfasting to ours?

  • Check out this article on an exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center on women in Classical Greek art. Makes me yearn for my Gender and Identity in the Ancient World class from undergrad. Athena and Artemis kick ass, even if their human counterparts had "no citizenship, no vote, little or no control over the use made of your time or your body. But the show is not making that argument. Instead it is using art to survey where, within a system of institutionalized restriction, areas of freedom for women lay." And Cotter quotes Sappho twice!
  • Check out this year's list of "Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe"--on sugar, poinsettias, and hangovers. Also, a link to last year's list!
  • Did you know that driving while multitasking decreases your driving performance to the same level as if you were legally drunk?
  • Two posts from the "New Old Age" blog: one on dealing with end-of-life choices with parents and the three ways Americans generally die.
  • Dana Jennings's continued examination of his experiences of prostate cancer have been inspiring and informative reading. Today, "10 Lessons of Prostate Cancer." My favorite? Don't sneeze after surgery. Been there, done that. Don't.
  • A list of Lisa Belkin's (of Motherlode) favorite blogs. The ones at the end are heartwrenching. Oddly, besides the blogs of my friends and the NYTimes, I'm not much of a blog reader, though I followed about 10 of them when we were trying to get and then became pregnant (I'll post about those someday).
  • Two pieces on mixing religions and cultures around the holidays, a challenge for many families: one from Motherlode and another article from LI (with links to 3 other articles, including a great one on a grandmother's take on Hanukkah). For us, it's what Unitarian Universalism is for!

Whew, I think that's it for tonight!

Advent: Christmas Shows

What television shows or movies must you watch to make the holidays feel complete?

When I was a child, I had to watch all those claymation/stop-animation/whatever-you-call-it Rudolphs and Santa tv shows, plus the Grinch and Frosty. (These seem very scary to me now and we haven't watched them with the kids.)

Then there was "Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas," my all-time favorite holiday show. There are cute furry puppets, lovely songs, a sweet story. And I can just fast forward through the appearances of the River Bottom Band. If the kids were older, we'd be heading to the live stage show of it that's at the Goodspeed Opera House this year. Hopefully they'll do that again. Until then, I have it on DVD.

There was also Little Women, particularly the Wynona Ryder version, that always says "Christmas" to me. Maybe it's all the wonderful scenic shots of Concord in the snow or the dance that Jo and Meg go to or Christmas in the background of several of the scenes.

And for awhile, I enjoyed It's a Wonderful Life, but haven't sat through that recently (should, though--Mama didn't know what the sound of a bell signifies!)

Now, I love Love Actually, with my favorites Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman and that great "All I Want for Christmas" song--it's not the happiest of movies but I like the ensemble cast--Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley--what's not to like?

Mama loves the Peanuts and so there is "Charlie Brown's Christmas," which always makes me feel sad for Christmas trees. It's why we always have a fake one!

Of course, my sister is a devotee of "The Christmas Story," which is hilarious and commands at least one viewing (or a whole disjointed day-long marathon on TBS).

As for tv, we don't watch much anymore, but I would turn on the gingerbread competitions on Food Network or any of their holiday cooking shows. And Mama is now a big fan of "Olive the Other Reindeer."

I wonder what my kids will insist on watching every year? For now, it's the Christmas episodes of "Caillou," "Little Bear," "Dora," "Diego," "Wonder Pets," and the like. But will they add Emmett or Snoopy? Let's hope so.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent: Gingerbread House

I should have read the instructions before I even got the children involved.

I totally forgot that it takes almost 3 hours to construct a pre-baked gingerbread house before you can decorate it with candy.

Ugh.

That made for a long morning as they sat expectantly unwrapping Tootsie Rolls as I tried to explain that we had to glue the house together first. Then, as we waited for it to dry, they wouldn't go play; they wanted to keep the house "company."

But all things considered they were marvelously patient which paid off in the end because they loved decorating the house. Each took a side--a roof panel, a wall, and a part of the yard--and decorated it with the gum drops and such provided plus leftover Tootsie Rolls in various colors, Dots, and M&Ms from my birthday pinata. Oh, and a ton of rainbow sprinkles.

My job was to pipe on the snow, icicles, doors, windows, and other curlicue decorations, all while they continued to add candy to the rooftop and "garden."

We made one fine looking house.

Even if the kit was a year old, purchased to decorate last year and forgotten. No problem.

Which is why I'm going to buy two kits at the after-Christmas sale this year to be ready for next year. Buy yours too--you can come over to my house and we'll have a decorating party.

(Finally, my apologies to Gommie: I know we were going to do this when you were here but I ran out of ideas this morning and was desperate).

Safe Travels

Planes, trains, and automobiles. Gommie and Pop head north to see us tomorrow. Be careful lugging those bags, Pop!

And I can't remember the exact day, whether it is today or tomorrow, that Miss T and son head home from their adventures in Korea. I hope the trip home is as good as the trip out seems to have been.

Hope the skies are friendly for you all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent: Wrapping Presents

We wrapped presents with the kids tonight. Tape, paper, sticky labels--what could be better? Oh, yes, ribbon would be better but with two cats who eat anything we aren't risking ribbons and bows.

Sis loved choosing the paper and affixing labels, which I wrote in large letters so she could discriminate whose was whose. Bud liked putting them under the tree.

Mama was in charge of the actual wrapping because a). I don't really like wrapping presents (those gift bags were invented with me in mind) and b). she does a much neater, faster job of it (even if she uses a knife instead of scissors to cut the paper).

My sister is the consummate wrapper, with pretty papers and ribbons and bows. I think she even chooses the paper, or used to, based on the weight of it (I have this odd memory of her learning about wrapping from a department store, but not because she worked there. Where did I get this, Banana?). My mom is firmly in Aunt Banana's court with her interest in pretty packages, while my dad is in mine--he used to coax (pay?) Banana to wrap all the presents for him. Nice work, if you can get it.

And you can get it from me.

But I think Sis is going to follow in Mama and Banana's footsteps and be a wrapper. Bud, well, like me, he's an unwrapper.

Happy Celebrations

Happy Hanukkah tonight.

As well as Solstice.

Both holidays about light in the darkness and the darkness almost overpowering the light.

Wishing you light . . .

Raising the Bars

We've been hurriedly making new batches of treats for the last people on our gift delivery list (who were supposed to get candy. Except now they could, because we didn't have church today and so I have those 3 teachers' candy, but it wouldn't be enough for 3 offices. So we go on . . . ).

Sis begged to make the oatmeal chocolate bars from her Sesame Street cookie book, which she covets. And they turned out rather well. Better than the chocolate chip pan cookie, sans oatmeal, we were going to make. But the brownie recipe that I have cherished for years seems to sweet and not chocolatey enough to me now. The butterscotch bars are loved by people who like butterscotch, which doesn't include me.

=-=-=-=-=-

Chocolate Chunk Oat Bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips, divided

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 9” square baking pan.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, water, and vanilla; beat until well blended.

Stir in the flour mixture and oats; mix well. Stir in ½ cup chocolate chunks. Spread the dough in the pan with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle wit the remaining ½ cup chocolate chunks.

Bake for about 30 minutes or just until the center feels firm. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sesame Street Yummy Cookies: Baking with Kids

Birthday Wishes

Happy birthday to Miss T's "baby" A, who turns 1 today.

And to "Church Miss L"!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advent: Presents under the Tree

We have presents under the tree, from a box from Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer. Bud and Sis promised not to unwrap them, under penalty of not being able to keep them. But they can shake all they want. And identify which one is whose. This occasioned great fun as we handled them all and put them under the tree.

My dad never likes presents under the tree before the big day. I think he wants the great impact of going from empty to completely full. Sure, sometimes we put out gifts that came from the couple of aunts who sent them, and my birthday presents until it was time to open those (our tree was always up by my birthday), but for the most part the tree skirt was the only thing under there.

I don't mind gifts under the tree. I like to enjoy the different wrappings, shapes, and sizes. And I'm an incorrigible gift-shaker. Love, love, love to handle the presents and try to guess what they are, even if I don't really ever want to know (I'm guessing there are a few books under there right now!! And maybe some clothes--matching??--for the kids. Aunt Banana, are those twin gifts???!!!! ). The fun is in the guessing (Mama won't show me any presents beforehand anymore, but does let me play 20 questions, though she lies if I get too close. It's just a game we play). As it is, we are usually wrapping presents right up to showtime and so it's a moot point. Though, the kids' excitement at the few presents there might be an enticement to get wrapping earlier.

Well, that is if they manage not to open them for the next few days!

Licensed to . . . Love?

We have our marriage license.

Yep. Two women. One license. A wedding. A marriage.

And, as you know, we're keeping the wedding ceremony really small. The kids, my parents, my dress, some flowers in a basket, a ring pillow, some cake, the church friends. That's pretty much it. Just the way we like it.

While Connecticut says we can get married, millions if not billions of people worldwide, and their governments (including our own and our new president-elect) disagree. In California, same-sex couples could get married for awhile. Now they can't, thanks to Prop 8 and their neighbors who voted for it, and the Mormons who funded the campaign for it. In a way, we're thrilled that we can have some of the state protection of marriage (but none of the federal), that our kids will know we are married. But as lesbians, we have long avoided letting others, especially governments, define our relationships. So, to jump on the marriage bandwagon just because the state says we can (for now, though CT doesn't seem to have any particular threats to our law. But there are always the Mormons), or to invest too much in a law that can be reversed here and ignored almost everywhere else . . . well, let's just say, we are aware of the irony, historical precedents, and monumentality of the occasion.

Lambeth's challenged one of my asides about having a casual wedding, admonishing me that weddings are always a big deal. I'd say that marriage is a big deal, especially for two women in this country where our supposedly secular government defines marriage in religiously-derived terms and only a very few states have overcome that (while 36 states have taken their religious fervor and prejudice to an extreme and outlawed same sex unions). The wedding--the private celebration of the legal union--is just the proverbial icing on the cake and, as they are usually celebrated in this country, not our style or values. I like rituals and traditions myself, but as weddings are a blank slate, have decided to define ours as casual and comfortable, homey even, our minister called it "family-oriented."

Because of course, we were a family, a loving and committed couple, long before the government of Connecticut said it was okay. We've even had ceremonies before--a small gathering of friends in NYC years ago to notarize the paperwork for our city-recognized domestic partnership; a civil union in front of congregation and parents (with 3 month old babes) complete with songs, vows, and cake. We embrace the open-mindedness of our neighbors and our ability to marry in this state against the opinions of the majority of people in this country and the world, and we greatly appreciate our friends and family's excitement, support, and love surrounding our special day, and with all of that in mind, and with the knowledge that we've celebrated our union several times before publicly, and everyday of our lives privately, we're keeping this wedding "homey." (I had said "simple" to our minister and she said a lesbian wedding was never simple. And of course she's right, even our little one has had its fair share of drama and confusion).

Who knows, when the federal government legalizes it, we can always have a different one. Again.

Advent: Missed a Day

Well, just like with real advent calendars, I missed a day posting yesterday. And, in fact, when we went to do the real calendars with the kids this morning, we had to do three days! But with marriage license pick-up on Thursday and teacher gift delivery and then Mama leaving early Friday before both kids were awake (Mama is in charge of the calendars--I usually brush my teeth! Such are the funny arrangments that arise to make your day work), we had to do three days this morning.

And, similarly, I'll be doing two posts today. Not sure what the next one will be but since we decorated our tree yesterday, that's a good candidate.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Snow Cream" Part 2

So, I'd had Mama pick up ingredients for two different snow ice cream recipes. Tonight after the children went to bed, we celebrated trimming the tree by trying the second recipe, or an adaptation of it (see below).

It wasn't as sweet, which was refreshing but it was also more icy and grainy. So while it tasted more like vanilla ice cream, the texture wasn't as good. We wonder if you could use 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (for the creamier texture) with 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk (and probably no additional sugar, just the vanilla). Maybe we'll try that tomorrow!

-=-=-=-=-=

"Snow Cream" 2.2

5 cups of snow (or a big bowl)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix ingredients. Eat.

Snow Babies

We've had our first foray outside in what is a pretty heavy, dry snow. And we spent most of our play time setting up our bowls for snow ice cream and cookie sheet for maple syrup candy and checking on how much they'd gathered.

After taking a nature walk to see our waterfall, visiting our neighbor's inflatable decorations, making snow angels, drawing shapes on my car, writing letters in the snow, and plowing paths with our "lawn mowers," we came inside for lunch. Soon, Mama arrived home with our special ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.

By then, our bowls were full of snow and we made "snow cream," which I'd first heard about on "Little Bear" (which the kids are watching right now as we get ready for the afternoon maple syrup candy and tree trimming marathon). You basically add vanilla to a can of sweetened condensed milk and pour it on a big bowl of snow. Stir and presto! You have something that is the consistency and color of ice cream, and sweeter than anything you can fathom. We all dug in and polished the whole thing off.

And then Sis recalled that there were two more bowls of snow outside! Maybe tomorrow, we'll try recipe #2 or the chocolate ones on the website I got these from.

-=-=-=-=-

Snow Cream
1 gallon or big bowl of clean snow (if you like, you can put the bowl outdoors to collect it as it falls)
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the ingredients together and eat the snow ice cream. Yummy!


Snow Cream #2
1 gallon or big bowl full of snow
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cream or milk

Again, just mix the ingredients together. You get the idea.

about.chemistry.com

It's Snowing!

It has just started. Let the fun begin!!!!

Snowfriends, snowball fights, snow angels, snow candy, hot chocolate, popcorn.

Fun, fun, fun.

Snow Day

School's closed across the region. We didn't have school today anyway but it's fun to think that it is a free day for (almost) everyone. Mama is even trying to arrange to come home midday. Otherwise, the kids and I have a lot of activities we can do and, since Mama stopped at the grocery last night, lots of food for the weekend (since another storm is coming in Sunday).

Of course, right now, there is no snow predicted for my parents' visit. But I'd be surprised if some of this didn't hang around on the ground.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sending Love Around

  • to the family of playgroup friend J. D. whose brother died unexpectedly yesterday;
  • to Mama Teacher and family who are so sick with colds that they've cancelled their holiday party;
  • to my cousin whose mother passed away unexpectedly this week;
  • to my mom's friend B. whose family has had so much loss and suffering these last few weeks.

Advent: School's Out

It's the last day of preschool this year, with classes not resuming until January. The kids don't quite understand, either the meaning of vacation or the length of time. They probably won't realize they haven't been to school until they go back in a few weeks.

They'll understand in a few years. Oh, the last day of school before Christmas break! I think it was more exciting than the last day of the whole year, if only because I enjoyed delivering gifts to my teachers and exchanging treats with some friends. Oftentimes, I even wore my Santa hat with pins all day long. In high school, it was quite an affair--with a bagfull of presents for friends and acquaintences, including extras in case I forgot anyone. Oh, the loot, the love. I can't remember classes those days--maybe Christmas crosswords? Or a movie of the book we'd been reading? Or just a free period of talking? Iced sugar cookies at lunch (oh, those cute, awful cookies have a place in my heart). Besides the excitement of the last day of school was the fact that school was out for 2 weeks (and 4 in college, but then, we had finals that last week and it wasn't nearly as exciting; not that I liked having finals in January in h.s. and having to do some work over the vacation, like evil science fair--the reason I dropped out of honors science) and it was going to be Christmas very soon.

And now I'm on the other end of the holiday vacation, one of the parents who count down until school starts again. Actually, I'm not counting, yet, if only because I don't want to know how few days I have left to pull off a clean house for my parents (ok, clean is out of the question; presentable is the standard), gifts for everyone (bought and wrapped!), a meal on Christmas and everyday before and after, Christmas cards to about 100 people, AND entertaining the kiddos while I do it. Oh, and the wedding. Except that's done (and as I've said repeatedly, it's a small, casual affair, Mom, nothing to get worked up about, despite my new dress and a cake. That's it, see? Dad can wear khakis and doesn't need a tie. And Aunt H, gift or no gift, your choice, no worries).

I love the holidays and so today, with the kids delivering gifts to their teachers, I was transported back to my last days of school before Christmas, and so we went to celebrate with lunch, even if they didn't really understand why. They will.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Problem Solved

I have Plan B for our candy gift shortage: we're going to make brownies, oatmeal scotchies, and chocolate chip bars to give to the last of our three friends. They'll each get a sample. With three batches, for three gifts, there should be enough.



Whew. Sure, I still have to do the baking, but at least I have a plan.



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Brownies



Makes 24 brownies

One 12 oz. package (2 cups) Semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
½ cup butter
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

In large, heavy saucepan over low heat, melt 1 cup chocolate chips and butter (for best results, melt butter then add chocolate chips and melt—prevents chocolate sticking to saucepan); stir until smooth. Remove from heat. Add eggs; stir well. Add flour sugar, baking soda, and vanilla; stir well. Stir in remaining (unmelted) chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Spread into greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 18-22 minutes or until set. Cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Nestle Chocolate Chip bag





Oatmeal Scotchies



1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened (used 3/4 cup vegan "butter" sticks)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange (used the vanilla)

3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats

1 2/3 cups (11-ounce package) butterscotch chips



PREHEAT oven to 375° F.COMBINE flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.BAKE for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.PAN COOKIE VARIATION: GREASE 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.



Nestle Butterscotch Chips bag





Chocolate Chip Pan Cookie Recipe



2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

12 oz chocolate chips



COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.



Nestle Chocolate Chip bag

Bah Humbug

ERRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

We ran out of candy.

Three tins short.

I thought for sure that 7 batches of candy, including such high-yields as Christmas pretzels and chocolate-dipped apricots, would be more than enough. But I was wrong. True, I remembered three people after we started, and I bought tins that were probably too big (who wants little cookie tins??), but I had planned for extra.

I've got enough for all the teachers, but am empty-handed now for PT, the pediatrician, and the vet. And we always give treats to them. So, as Sis sagely remarked, we're just going to have to do it again.

I thought we were done.

Live and learn.

Cookie Swaps

My planned cookie swap didn't work out this year, mainly because we all decided too late that we wanted one and then couldn't find enough people willing to bake or able to come.

But today's article in the NYTimes on butter made me wish we managed to pull it all together. I had great fun playing in butter last night to make my butter mints, and I know I would just love the Orange Butter Cookies included in the paper. But I'm pretty much done making sweets this year, except maybe one more batch of sugar cookies to decorate with Gommie and Pop next week. Even as I type, the kids are inhaling the last of last week's sugar cookies. Sis likes this with "sugar inside, not on the outside" (meaning, "Mommy, don't put colored sugars on my cookies before you bake them, like you did for the bake sale!").

The best part of the article was the link to The Cookie Exchange website. Robin Olson, the woman behind the site, has been organizing cookie swaps since I was in high school and lists a series of successful rules and tips, which I've seen in numerous other articles and resources. I'm going to sign up for her cookie exchange newsletter so maybe next year I can organize a successful swap. And I'm going to make these cookies.

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Orange Butter Cookies
Adapted from “The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread” by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley, 2008)
Time: 1 hour
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups cake flour or more all-purpose flour (cake flour gives a finer texture)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 packed teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
FOR THE ICING (SEE NOTE):
1 orange
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
2 drops almond or vanilla extract
Pinch fine salt.
1. Position two oven racks in top and bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt together. In a mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and orange zest at medium speed until light and smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl frequently. Add egg and mix. Add one egg yolk and mix. Add remaining egg yolk and mix. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined.
3. Scoop tablespoons of dough onto parchment, leaving more than 1 inch between cookies. Press each one down lightly with 2 fingers to flatten to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Leave any ridges and valleys on top of cookie intact, but smooth the edges.
4. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cookies should be pale but baked all the way through. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack and cool before storing in airtight containers up to 1 week.
5. When ready to serve, make icing: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Peel orange, being careful to remove only outer orange zest, and cut into thin strips. Blanch in boiling water 1 minute; drain. Sift confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons milk. Whisk in more milk if needed to make mixture thin enough to spread. Add extract, salt and zest, and whisk to combine.
6. Place cookies on a rack and drizzle icing over each one (make sure there is some orange zest in each spoonful). Icing will settle into cookie crevices; let harden.
Yield: About 4 dozen cookies.
Note: Instead of icing, cookies can be sprinkled with coarse crystal sugar before baking.

Advent: Snowflakes

It started sometime on Monday, this obsession with paper snowflakes. I'm not even sure really how. But when I came home from errands, the babysitter and the kiddos were up to their eyeballs in paper snippies, finished snowflakes, and smiles. Even after she left, we continued to make snowflakes: I was in charge of squaring the colored construction paper and then folding/cutting it into a triangle/square/circle and then they would make little snips in the paper, open them up, and tape them on the back window.

Then Tuesday at school they must have asked to make more snowflakes and came home with a whole new pile of white ones, plus two marble-painted evergreens, which were all added to our back deck door in a winter wonderland scene. Then I pulled out the square origami paper and they went to town cutting more snowflakes. I even contributed a few lines of paper dolls. The cats loved it, as they chased bits of paper all over the kitchen.

There must have been some magic in those snowflakes that we made--we're supposed to get 1-3" snow!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mommy's Candy Castle

We did it! We finished our teacher gift candy-making marathon. Two sessions of Christmas pretzels (where the kids would name each teacher who got each pretzel. "This one is for Mrs. Director. And Mrs. Teacher . . . "), plus chocolate dipped apricots, rocky road with cherries instead of nuts, and two batches of peppermint bark (their favorite because of the smashing of the candy, even if Bud said it was too spicy to eat). And then, in the evening I made toffee (too dangerous with boiling sugar in butter. And, as always, fond memories of the deceased coworker whose recipe it was) and double-decker fudge (ditto, plus it has off-limits peanut butter) and butter mints (which I just thought the kids would think were boring). The butter mints were the new candy for me and I loved kneading the crumbly mess into this light yellow, soft dough with this incredible smell. But it made 200+ mints, which took up a lot of time this evening. Still, they came out wonderfully and I'll definitely make them again. Thank goodness for Google though, because, when my oil wouldn't "drop," I managed to discover that 20 drops of peppermint oil equals 1/5th of a teaspoon! Now, we just have to assemble the tins and finish the cards for everyone. The kids are really looking forward to delivering them. And that was the goal, to share a little of our holiday joy with everyone.

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I. B.'s Easy English Toffee

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar

Cook in saucepan. Stir until mixture changes color; it’s done when mixture turns caramel color (the butter will separate out; stir until it is reabsorbed).
Pour on greased cookie sheet. Spread out as best you can.
Sprinkle on about ¼- ½ cup chocolate chips. Sprinkle on ¼- ½ cup nuts.
Refrigerate.
Break into pieces.


Easy Rocky Road

2 cups (12 oz. package) chocolate chips
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons shortening
3 cups miniature marshmallows
½ cup coarsely chopped nuts—we used 10 maraschino cherries instead!

Butter 8 inch square pan. In large microwave-safe bowl place chocolate chips, butter, and shortening; microwave at medium for 5 to 7 minutes or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Add marshmallows and nuts; blend well. spread evenly into prepared pan. Cover; cill until firm. Cut into 2 inch squares. About 25 squares.


Double-Decker Fudge
About 2 pounds fudge.

1 cup Reese’s Peanut Butter chips
1 cup chocolate chips
2 ¼ cups sugar
7 oz. (1 jar) marshmallow crème
¾ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup (1/2 stick butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line 8 inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. In medium bowl, place peanut butter chips. In second medium bowl, place chocolate chips. In heavy 3-quart saucepan, combine sugar, marshmallow crème, evaporated milk, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Immediately stir half of the hot mixture (1 ½ cups) into peanut butter chips until chips are completely melted; quickly spread into prepared pan. Stir remaining hot mixture into chocolate chips until chips are completely melted. Quickly spread over top of peanut butter layer. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate until firm. Use foil to lift fudge out of pan; peel off foil. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.


Peppermint Bark
Makes about 32 pieces

12 oz. white baking chips
½ cup crushed peppermint candies or candy cane

Microwave white baking chips 1 minute and then in additional increments of 20 seconds, stirring after each, until almost melted. Stir until completely melted.
Add crushed peppermint candies, stirring until mixed. Spread mixture thinly onto aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces.


Miss B's Butter Mints

1 pound confectioners sugar
1 stick butter plus 2 tablespoons
20 drops oil of peppermint (get at pharmacy)

Cream together sugar and butter. Add peppermint oil. Mix together with hands. When together, knead for 5 minutes. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired to any portion of mixture. Snip off size of mint desire (I like the size of a marble). Place on a cookie sheet or flat surface and press down with a fork. These will keep for weeks in the refrigerator, or they may be frozen.


Our “Christmas Pretzels”
mini pretzels (or whatever pretzel you like; big sticks are pretty but the chocolate ratio isn't always good)chocolate chipssprinkles/jimmiesMelt the chocolate chips in the microwave (1 minute; stir; 30 seconds; stir; and the last two steps until almost melted--they will melt when stirred. Don't over microwave.) Dip pretzels in chocolate. Roll in sprinkles. Let dry on rack or aluminum foil. Store in airtight container.Or just eat them all right then.


Chocolate-Dipped Apricots

See above recipe, but use dried apricots instead of pretzels, without the sprinkles or jimmies.

Catching Up

Lots to tell from our busy weekend, only about an hour left to tell it in (Mama's at yet another office party tonight):

Friday--My birthday playgroup, pinatas, and purple frosting

I had a great birthday playgroup, even though lots of people cancelled at the last minute. The remaining few fit perfectly in my house and made the day very happy. Sis had decided minutes before the party that we could indeed use the pinata instead of keeping it as a pet and so we stuffed it full of M&Ms and Tootsie candies (including, Aunt H, the fruit kind, since you had asked). We had fun knocking its head off, literally, with everyone getting a turn and my delivery the final blow (with lots of help from the other moms--this was one stubborn pinata). We then enjoyed chocolate cake with deep purple frosting and rainbow sprinkles, with all the kids helping me blow out the candles (it's a wonder the next plague didn't get its start that day)--one candle for each guest (instead of one for each of my 38 years). Oh, and did I mention that we decorated sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles? Yep, it was sugar overload at my house. With sherbet punch too! No wonder I've sworn off the stuff now.


Friday--Kids' party at Mama's office and Frosty's sneakers

That afternoon, we headed to Mama's office for the company party, also with cookie decorating (but with brushes to put on the Royal Icing--I'm going to try this at our next groundhog party!). Plus foamie ornament making. And face painting. And Santa, of whom Sis is still deathly afraid (she said all week that she didn't even want to go to the party because he'd be there, but Mama was her protector and Santa was kind enough to steer clear when he saw her cowering). And Frosty, whom Bud befriended right away. He showed Frosty his Thomas the Train "tattoo" and the cookie he decorated and his own picture with Santa. He thought Frosty was cool. Sis, clever Sis, was suspicious--why would a snowman wear shoes? Maybe there was a person in there. She didn't make friends with Frosty, but nor did she cry. He intrigued her, from a distance. And she even braved the clowns to have a white bunny painted on her arm. They both loved the fiber optic wands they took home, waving them in the dark car all the way.

Saturday--see "Christmas in the City, Expanded"

Sunday--Decorating the church for the holidays
This was the final touch of our jam-packed, festivity-filled weekend. We participated in the pageant at church and then attended the soup potluck (I liked the cheesy corn chowder. Didn't realize there was bacon til I got the recipe, below. But yummy!) and tree trimming. Oh what fun the kids had helping with that! We'll be putting up our tree this weekend.

-=-=-=-=-

CHEDDAR CORN CHOWDER (this serves 10 to 12)

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions
4 tblsps unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups med.diced white boiling potatoes(about 2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels (fresh 10 ears) or (frozen 3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese grated.

In large stockpot over med.high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 6 min.. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to med. add the onions and butter to pot, and cookfor 15 min, untill onions are translucent.
Stir in the flour, salt....... pepper and turmeric and cook 3 min. Add the checken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 min, until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn to the soup, then add the 1/2&1/2 and cheddar, Cook for 8 more minutes, until the cheese is melted, season to taste with salt and pepper.
serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Enjoy

Good Morning, Korea!

Miss T and son J have been in Seoul, I'm figuring, about 12 hours now, after what must have been a grueling 14+ hour flight. She's there for her brother's wedding, which is in the next day or so. I hope you are having a wonderful time in your old home and can't wait to hear all about it.

Christmas in the City, Expanded

Here are some notes and observations on what is now our annual trip to the city for the holiday season. The kids have proudly told everyone about their trip to New York City, which means we'll be going again, both for the holidays but also sooner. I guess we're all New Yorkers at heart now (even if Sis said she wouldn't want to live there because of the noise and the number of people).

This year's tree at Rockefeller Center
It didn't seem as tall as in years past but it was just as brightly lit and welcoming. And crowded as time passed. The kids were amazed to see it but, once they had acknowledged that it was the largest Christmas tree they'd ever seen, they were more interested in the . . .

The Zamboni
As Bud has told everyone who asked, he didn't see the skaters because they were making ice with the Zamboni. I think it was his favorite part. Sis's was . . .

Teuscher chocolates
"The chocolate store" is what she's said was her favorite part of the day, when asked. She got a chocolate cat. Bud got a chocolate-dipped apricot. I walked away with a bag full of dark chocolate orange peels/wedges/slices, marzipan, Grand Marnier truffles, and the like. Plus the champagne truffles which are the reason for this annual pilgrimmage. Bud missed half of the visit to the chocolate store because he wanted to see the . . .

Salvation Army tuba player
He loves music. And gave the man a few dollars for his pot. Then I ducked off to visit . . .

Metropolitan Museum of Art bookstore
We couldn't squeeze in a visit to the museum and it's Neapolitan creche, so this was the next best thing. I tootled around looking at various things, until I was late to . . .

St. Patrick's Cathedral nativity and pipe organ
Not as crowded as previous years, and with children old enough to enjoy it, we spent some time admiring the architecture. When we pointed out the rose window to Bud, he noticed the grand pipe organ instead (but wasn't that intersted in hearing it when it started to play later). Sis loved the nativity, even if the baby was missing (I understand that this is a Catholic tradition of not bringing out Jesus until Christmas), and marveled at the size of it and all the animals and the angel. Bud was, however, impatient to get to the . . .

Train at Citigroup Cener--its final year
Our third year to visit with the kids, the train is a highlight of our holiday season and unfortunately is now a victim of the failing economy. Ailing Citigroup says it can't afford to put on the $1 million/year extravaganza next year (I say, charge a small fee and donate any profits to charity and you'll create a lot of goodwill). So this was our last visit. The kids didn't understand that, really, and so just enjoyed looking at the 30+ trains zooming along the 4 different areas, with their different time periods, geographical locations, seasons, and times of day. I tried to soak it all in, remember all the little details. Luckily, we have the DVD and can watch it, because I won't be able to remember all the bits that make it so marvelous. TV can be a great tool, especially when it's . . .

"Mippy" statues
(okay, so that was an inelegant transition) We saw giant white welded metal statues of Miffy the bunny from the TV show Sis likes as we walked to the train. There were also metal sculpture of Hello Kitty and My Melody (i.e. Hello Bunny). Sis and Bud were fascinated. It was our little bit of lagniappe for the day as we had no idea they were there (at the Lever Building on Park). If that was the best unplanned part, the most frustrating was . . .

The bus
On the whole, the bus is a great way to see the city especially when it's freezing outside and the sidewalks are crowded. But we missed a bus as we walked up to the stop, the next one was a limited and didn't stop, and it was then a long time til the next one. We could've walked the 5+ blocks but the kids were tired and cranky. And we thought it would be fun. Which it was when we finally got on, but then we overshot our stop on the way to . . .

FAO Schwartz--bears, hippos, and penguins. Oh, my!
Yes, I did confiscate Mama's credit card as we stood in what seemed a long line (around the building, to the next block!) but actually took no more than 7-10 minutes. I didn't take her parents' cards though and they ended up buying a hippo for Sis and a penguin for Bud. Sis tried to buy me one of the big furry $120 FAO Schwartz bears we saw in the window--she ran inside, told me to wait right there, and then tried to pick it up (I imagine it was 2x as tall as she was and weighed more too) and hand it to me so I could have it. I almost paid for it myself (because, of course, I had all the credit cards!), so sweet was that gesture. But I settled for a momento of the occasion, a small FAO Schwartz bear-in-a-bag for $7 (Sis has since named it Amy the bear and takes care of it for me). On our much more successful bus ride to lunch we saw . . .

5th Avenue--parade of Santas??
That's right, 100s of young men and women (i.e. not professional working Santas) dressed as Santas, plus some elves and even a Grinch. I bet there were 300-500 of them on the sidewalks. Was it a lark? Some kind of charity walkathon? I googled but can't find it. Sis and Bud were fascinated. We all were. And hungry for . . .

lunch at Virgil's
I know, I know, what does a vegetarian eat at her favorite BBQ restaurant 3 buildings down from where she used to live? Lots of french fries with blue cheese dressing and hush puppies with maple butter and sweet tea and some of a shrimp po'boy (because under diress, I did order some seafood. Even I can't order a grilled veggie sandwich at a BBQ joint). Sis devoured her crunchy chicken. Bud loved the pickles, onion rings, flat dogs and bun (which he ate from the side!!), but not the spicy coleslaw (which he otherwise loves). Then we wandered around . . .

Times Square, my old neighborhood
The lights are much brighter there . . . and Bud and Sis were amazed at all the flashing neon signs and tall buildings. I enjoyed seeing what had changed (my old crappy dorm is now a hotel), what was the same (Red Flame diner!). Weirdly, Times Square will always be one of my "homes." But when I was there, it didn't have . . .

Crumbs cupcakes
I finally got to go. And Miss T would've loved it (the cupcakes, anyway. It was just counter service, with not quite enough space for that). We ordered 6 giant gourmet cupcakes, including eggnog (my favorite), hostess (just like those cupcakes, my 2nd favorite; for Sis but she decided not to eat it), mint (kinda creme de menthe-y, my 3rd favorite and Mama's first), M&Ms for Bud, and blackout (for me, but it was mediocre). There were other flavors, but they mostly had nuts, which we weren't getting cos of the kiddos. Across the street was . . .

NYPL--Beedle the Bard, the original manuscript
Oddly, the lions weren't wreathed this year, one of my favorite holiday traditions, but the kids still enjoyed seeing them. Budget cuts? Damage to the lions? We left the kids eating cupcakes outside with Ma and Gong (or so we thought, turns out they waited to eat them at home with us) and ran upstairs to see J.K. Rowling's handwritten and illustrated original manuscript in the catalog room (which still gives us both palpitations from diss time). It was small, beautifully bound, and drawn in . . . blue ink! The page we saw doesn't exist in the mass reprint, and included a bridge over water, a shield, and other details. Just a little treat for us, from our pre-kid selves. Can't wait to share Harry Potter with them. But until then, we shared a . . .

Taxi cab
Yep, after visiting the children's room in the library (a new addition and a welcome one!), where we read Lionni's Tico and the Golden Wings, we knew it was time to head home so we hailed a cab on 42nd and headed back to our car uptown. Bud and Sis loved riding in the cab, with Bud saying "I've never ridden in a cab before." I love riding in cabs, too, Bud. We piled in our own car, parked across from the MoMA and headed out of town, past . . .

Horse-drawn carriages in Central Park
We must have seen 50 of these clip-clopping along CPS, much to Sis's delight as she squealed with each new horse, "a white one! a brown one! another brown one! hey, that one's brown and white!" I think we'll have to add that to our list of things to do next year. And so, with Bud sound asleep and Sis chattering away in the backseat, we watched the rise of . . .

The BIGGEST moon ever
The perfect end to a wonderful day.