Sunday, May 31, 2009

Opa! Redux

I thought I would have something new to say about the Greek festival we went to on Saturday, but, in reading over last year's post on the fest, I realize nothing really changed for us in the experience.  Bud still liked the cherry tomatoes.  Sis still liked the phyllo.  We all had a favorite dessert.

Only difference:  Bud noticed and danced to the music more this time and so we bought a CD entitled the Best of Bouzouki, complete with Theodrakis's theme from Zorba.  We've been listening to it ever since.

And you can bet we'll look forward to repeating the experience next year!

Easy as Cake

After Class #1 Practice:  My Mother's Day Cake (with help from the kids)

Class #2:  My rainbow cake.

Class #3:  One of my clown cupcakes.

Class #4:  My "graduation" cake

After a four-week cake-deocorating class that finished today, I have learned a few things from my instructor and the course materials, as well as a little experience and a few early lessons from Miss T:
  • Want to keep your cake moist?  A simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled and cooled) does the trick.  Just poke some holes in the bottom layer of cake and drizzle it on.  Continue as planned.
  • One jar of jelly is a bit too much for the filling layer, even though it's tempting to use the whole jar.
  • Is your cake slipping off your turntable or cake carrier?  Place a rubber jar opener under the foil-covered cardboard disc your cake is sitting on.
  • Technique is important, but frosting consistency is key and can make or break your decorating efforts.  If it's too stiff in the bag, just add a bit of water or knead it with your hands a bit.
  • When cutting the opening for the tip or coupler, put the tip or coupler in the bag and mark it with your fingernail (on the coupler, where the smooth part meets the treads), and then always cut closer to the tip of the bag than your mark--you can always cut more but if you make the hole too big, your tip will pop out under pressure and you'll have to start all over again.
  • Keep a tall glass or heavy cup nearby to place your bags in while filling them (you can even fold the bag over the cup to help hold it open).
  • Too many crumbs while icing the cake?  Make sure the consistency of the frosting is thin--spreading stiff icing too hard pulls up crumbs.  Remedy?  Just do a crumb layer and make the second frosting layer thinner than the first.
  • To smooth out the frosting on a cake, let it first form a crust (about 20 minutes) and then put a sheet of wax paper on it.  Rub with your hand or a spatula to smooth.
  • How do you keep the fillings inside your cake?  Place a border of buttercream around the edge of the lower cake before spreading the filling or more buttercream.
  • Trouble frosting the edge of your cake where the top meets the sides?  I love using the 789 tip to apply the frosting on top while spinning my turntable.  Then just overhang the last round, frost the edges, and gently merge the two.
  • Canned frosting out of the ready-made Wilton can is perfect for roses (and tastes better than class buttercream!).
  • Want to add letters or shapes to your cake design?  Use cookie cutters to impress an outline.  It's easier than piping gel transfers!
  • Your rose nail is easier to manage in a paper/styrofoam cup, which frees up your hands to change tips, tighten the icing bag, etc.
  • Dipping your finger in cornstarch allows you to flatten peaks on dots, buttons, and other designs.
  • Writing on a cake is not like writing with pen and paper: do not retrace parts of your letters as you form them.
  • Finally, something I saw at a birthday party just today:  make your royal icing roses on dum-dum sized lollipops and then just stick them in the cake with the stick!  Kids will love to eat them!  Think it would work with buttercream?
I've got lots of cakes in my head now, to make over the next few weeks (including Mama's birthday cake and a 4th of July cake), as preparation for my raison d'etre:  the kiddos' birthday cakes!  (Yep, plural:  one will have bunnies and the other will have dinosaurs.  Because combining them is like some Monty Python or Japanese Godzilla movie).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Joys and Concerns

First, thinking of a friend going in for a biopsy and hoping for the best possible outcome.

Secondly, wishing a friend congratulations and best wishes for graduation with her Masters in Education.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Talking about the End of Life

There is an engaging (and not at all morbid) article (and a related blog post.  And this on hospice.) about the importance of discussing death and dying with patients over at the NYTimes.  Even if you have no one "actively dying" or even ill in your life, it's a good read, perhaps even easier if you aren't in the middle of such an experience.  It's not that I'm actually preparing for my loved ones to die, just that I am intrigued with what seems a paradigm shift among care providers in dealing with end-of-life issues (I'm not in the medical professions, obviously, but I read them in the paper from time to time as part of my pastoral care).  And while I hope that my dying and death are a long way off, as well as that of my loved ones, I want to understand the issues involved, just as, for example, I'm trying to keep up with trends in early childhood education. You need the alpha and the omega, after all.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Project: Drip Like Jackson Pollock

As summer approaches, I'm going to include some simple art-and museum-based projects you can do with your children at home.  Today's is inspired by Jackson Pollock's drippy, splatter-filled paintings--fun and messy at the same time.  Great for all ages!

First, a bit about Jackson Pollock. He was born in Wyoming and went to art school in New York. Pollock didn't want to paint like other artists who applied paint to canvases on easels with brushes.  Nor did he want to paint pictures of recognizable or identifiable people, places, or things. In fact, he was so interested in abstraction that he would even title his paintings with numbers to avoid any suggestion of representation!  And so, he developed a kind of painting style, known as "action painting" or "drip painting" where he would lay the large canvas on the ground of his studio and work from all sides of it throwing, pouring, and splattering thin paint to create his art.  In 1949, he was featured in Life magazine, which asked, "Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?"   He died in a car crash in 1956, but his art hangs in many museums and has been featured in several exhibitions. See the Museum of Modern Art website for several examples of his art (which is copyrighted).

1. Now get out your art supplies:
  • washable paints in separate containers
  • brushes, sponges, balls in socks, chopsticks, whatever you have, ideally one for each color
  • very large sheet of paper, posterboard, or even a white sheet (kids can work together or separately, your choice)
2.  Set up everything outside.  Doing it on the grass is ideal but a driveway, sidewalk, or deck/porch will work.  If you hang the paper on a fence, the paint will drip down creating a nice effect, but Pollock often worked with the paper flat on the ground.  Be sure to anchor it against any wind until the artwork is dry.

3.  Start slinging paint.  Throw, drip, splatter, pour.  Experiment with different arm and body movements--fast, slow, high, low.  No wonder this is called "action painting."  Cover the whole paper in different colors.

4.  Leave out to dry.  

5.  Exhibit your art--put it on the wall, cut it into pieces and laminate for placemats, use as a tablecloth (if fabric).  Create a wall label describing how you made it and when.  

6.  If possible, on your next rainy day, head to a museum or your internet connection to see examples of the paintings of Pollock and other Abstract Expressionist artists.  

Life Lessons from the First Year of School

Today, I drove away from dropping my kids off at the last day of preschool with tears in my eyes, just as I had nine months ago when I dropped them off on the first day of school.  Except, instead of spending the ensuing two hours (which felt so long then) worrying about them, today I will rush to finish a few things and enjoy some quiet time, wondering where the time has gone, both the two hours and the nine months.  Some things change, some things don't, and in between are the lessons I've learned, including:

  • At least in these early years, though maybe later (I'll have to wait and see), milestones like the first day of school or the first school picture are so much more important to me than to them.  Maybe that's because they live very much in the present, and I'm either looking back or ahead.
  • Old patterns die hard:  even though I know I should phrase it differently, perhaps more enticingly, I still ask, "what did you do at school today?"  And they, of course, respond, "nothing."  But it's still good to ask.
  • Other parents are only as judgmental as I imagine they are.  Did the other parents look askance when I had mine over- or under-dressed for the weather?  When the kids' hair wasn't brushed?  When I had forgotten the lunchbox?  Nope.  And I certainly didn't notice when they had similiar challenges or oversights.  We're all too busy with our own kids and lives to notice the mistakes in others'.  (And, in the event that I'm wrong and they are talking about us behind our backs, I find that imagining that everyone is live-and-let-live helps me get through my day.  No sense stressing about what you can't fix.).
  • Yep, you'll forget the lunchbox.  And the book order money.  And the health form.  And the coat.  And you'll have to go home for it, or do without, and either way, it's okay.
  • The teachers have seen it all before.  Yep, they've had twins there.  And lesbians.  And potty accidents.  And late health forms.  They aren't surprised or disturbed.  And they can be a great resource for advice, information, and support.  They might not spend as much time with my kids as I do, but they see them more clearly, see them with less guilt and more objectivity, see their public personae which I don't often witness.  And they've seen it all before . . . 
  • Loveys make the school day easier.  Sis had Shirt, with all its new patches, in hand this morning, though Bud is less in need of his loveys these days (though he is more stressful about "drop-off" than he was).  
  • Learn the names of the teachers immediately.  Then work on the other kids' names.  And their drop-off parent (even if you recognize them only as "so-and-so's mom."  That's your new name anyway.  I actually got good at recognizing cars too, well, only if they had bumperstickers).  You'll be seeing and hearing a lot about these people, who are new and important in all of your lives.
  • Participate as much as possible in school activities--go to parent meetings, volunteer your time at school, attend extracurricular activities, buy the school t-shirt.  You're helping to build a new community for you and your kids.  And depending on your town (and it's how it was where I grew up) or life path (we never moved out of district), they could be with you for the next 12+ years.  
  • Birthdays suddenly become a huge deal.  At our school, the kids are feted on their special day or half-day (go if invited, it's a huge deal).  And there is so much more talk about birthdays and parties and how old you are.  It's good to invite the whole class to the party and even better to go if invited, even if we never managed to be free for other birthday parties.  I'm going to work on this next year.
  • Another thing I need to work on:  we didn't have playdates with any of our new friends, if only because we have such a large coterie of "old" friends (one of whom is in their class).  Over the summer, I'm going to try to arrange for us to see at least some of our school friends.  
  • I loved visiting the kids' school (I think I went 3 times, not including the picnic--for half-birthday, Lunar New Year, and just this week to do a painting project a la Jackson Pollock, more on that later), both because I wanted to help out and because I loved seeing how their day was (even if it was never "normal" if I were there).  And it was so heart-warming for them to be proud of me, to want to show me things, to want to sit next to me at snack.  
  • Paintings never dry during the course of the school day.  And even if you get paint or glue or glitter all over your hands and jacket and carseat, it's still the best art you've ever seen (the challenge, however, will be what to do with it all!  I haven't learned this yet).
  • Half-eaten food is nasty and best cleaned out of lunchboxes immediately.  But, you'll forget that too and have to clean it out in a morning rush the next time.  And you'll hold your nose.  But you'll forget again.
  • Weather matters more now than it used to (with less time to remember to check the report) for what clothes to wear, for whether they'll play outside.  On rainy days, like today, I pick up a little early as everyone gets stir-crazy inside.  And I never developed a good rule of thumb for if they needed a heavy coat, light coat, no coat, mittens/hat or not.  Especially because they never thought they needed any of it.  And yes, at least once each, they were the only kids without coats and the only kids in coats!
  • Your kids see and hear everything at home.  And they talk.  And you won't know what they'll say until the teacher tells you.  Best not to say or do in front of the kids what you don't want those teachers to know about.  
  • But the teachers won't know certain things unless you tell them.  Keep them abreast of seemingly insignificant as well as significant family events.  
  • "That's not how we do it at school" will become a phrase in their repertoire.  
  • There will be new songs and new stories and new games that you won't fully understand or comprehend.  For the first time (at least in my house), they will have experiences that you're not privvy to.  It's a good thing, really.  Especially because you can google most stories and songs to be ready when they ask you to sing it or tell it to them.  Which they will, not realizing that you don't know everything.  I know that perception is fleeting so I'm enjoying it now.  Even though I know I don't know everything.
  • Your child will hit or be hit, misbehave and be talked to, and the teachers will have to talk to you too.  And you will be mortified and dwell on it.  And the kids will forget.
  • Sickness spreads like wildfire and comes at the most inopportune times.  And you'll all miss their going to school.
  • Those five minutes of dropping off and picking up your kids is chaotic--lunchboxes in cubbies, sign-in sheet to fill out, bulletin board to read, artworks and notices to gather, parents and kids and teachers to greet and talk to.  But the transition is hugely important. We have a beep-beep goodbye ritual for leaving and a hug-hello at pickup.  Most of what you know about their life at school will come to you in these small bursts.  And the information is crucial.
  • A year ago, they couldn't recognize or spell or write even parts of their names, put on their coats by themselves, cut with scissors, ride a tricycle.  Now they can.  And so much more.  
And really, it's just the beginning.  For all of us.  Especially because I've noticed that most little school memory books and picture frames don't even count these first years of preschool.  Kindergarten is the real beginning.  I'm glad that's a ways off.  I still have more to learn.  But I'm going to take a lesson from the kids and try to be in the present today.  And all the long, unfilled days of summer . . . 

(I've been adding to this all morning!  The lessons learned and not learned yet go on and on).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thinking of Her

A church friend of mine coincidentally had a similar ovarian cyst problem when I did last week.  Except hers abcessed and she has been hospitalized since mid-last week.  Now it is a blood-born infection that might require major surgery.  Please keep her and her family in your thoughts these next few critical days.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All in One Day

First, gay marriage.  Now evolution.

Check out this fascinating review of a new book, Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire:  How Cooking Made Us Human, about cooking as a major part of human evolution.  Here's just a snippet (from the NYTimes from the book):

“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”

He continues: “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology and society.”

Answering Lambeth

My friend  Lambeth writes in a comment on my blog,
"What name would you like for the sexual, mental and spiritual union between a male and female which is undertaken for life? I understand from 'Roots' that at one time it was called 'Jumping the broom'."  

And, before my mom tears him apart in a separate comment, I want to answer him, because I think it speaks to the difficulty of discussing the love that dares not speak its name.

Lambeth, I would like the name for a sexual and mental union between a male and a female which is undertaken for life to be called marriage.  Just as I would like the same union between two men or two women to be called marriage.  You will certainly notice that I took the word "spiritual" out of it.  I don't believe the state, in this case California, but more generally, the United States, has any place in defining, naming, granting privileges or rights, to a spiritual matter.  We have separation of church and state here (my dear Lambeth is across the ocean in England) and I expect it to stay separate.  Just as the U.S. does not recognize, for example, a bar or bat mitzvah as the legal coming-of-age of a Jewish child, who like his or her Christian or Muslim or UU or atheist counterparts, must wait til 18 to be a legal adult.  I don't want the government basing its legal definitions on religious ones.  Historically, marriage has been the realm of the church, sanctified in church ceremonies.  But with the secularization of government and the use of marriage as a state of being with legal rights (tax exemptions, inheritance, etc etc.  You will all remember I am not a lawyer, just a lesbian), it has become necessary to secularize our definition of marriage.  Which means dropping all the talk of gender.  

Does this mean the Catholic Church will be forced to wed women to one another?  No.  No more than it has made Jewish congregations hold bat and bar mitzvahs for 18-year olds only.  Or forced the St Patrick's Day Parade in NYC to permit GLBT groups.  Or the Boy Scouts not to discriminate against gays (and atheists).  The separation of church and state works both ways--the state cannot tell the church what or what not to accept, including gay marriage.  It reminds me of that pro-choice bumper sticker:  Don't like gay marriage?  Don't have one!  

I'm sure I could go on:  about poll numbers showing an increase in people's acceptance of gay marriage, but our president's stance against it (because of his Christian values); about gay rights groups focusing very heavily on this issue without doing a good job at really defining it (trust me, my liberal and sympathetic straight friends couldn't  tell you what the issues are, and they support us!).  What I think makes me sad about California is that people's legal rights were voted on, much like a terrible high school popularity contest.  When did rights become a popularity contest?  Imagine if we had let Americans vote outright on the rights of, say, African Americans or Catholics or Jews or Native Americans at other points in our history, or even, in some places in this country, now (I'm not a legal scholar, so if we did have those kinds of votes, let me know).  Justice Carlos Moreno, the one dissenting vote and the only Democrat, referred to gays and lesbians as one of the "disfavored minorities."  There are others:  should we start voting on their rights?  

Which leads me to my trouble with states' rights, and the obvious arbitrariness of it, where I can get married in one state and not in another. This becomes even more ridiculous when you consider transgendered rights and marriage, as pointed out by a lawyer in a Texas case for a transgendered plaintiff (see "Is My Marriage Gay?" for a great op-ed on the issue)

“Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

Easy enough for me, of course, because I'm in a state that has legalized gay marriage and granted me rights and protections therein.  Even if those rights don't exist when I leave the confines of my state or when the matter is federal.  Even though I'm safe here in Connecticut, it's a kind of second-class citizenship.  And when the rights of some of us are diminished, or as they were today in California, completely taken away, we are all diminished.

That's not marriage, it's travesty.

California . . . Is Bust.

The CA Supreme Court upheld the legality of Proposition 8, the contentious voter-approved ballot measure that restricted marriage to a man and a woman.  However, all 18,0000 gay marriages made while it was legal stand.  Talk about a state in confusion.  Won't be going there anytime soon.  Just one more state with prejudiced laws.  At least the states with gay marriage are increasing.  Iowa is probably beautiful this time of year!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Send in the Clowns

My cake-decorating class is not for coulrophobics, that's for sure.  I don't like clowns too much myself and so only made two of the six clown cupcakes (there was a red one, too.  Note to Wilton:  you need to make little plastic teddy bearl heads--they would be much cuter!)  Mind you, the body was better proportioned when I made it but had to be squished to fit in my carrier to take home to the eagerly waiting kiddos.  Who promptly had me scrape all the icing off so they could eat the cupcakes.  Upside down.  That'll show the clowns who's boss.

My New Banner

Like my new rainbow spiral tie dye banner?  I thought we needed a little color up there.  You know how I love rainbow colors.  And I love tie dye.  It's my favorite camp craft.  And I can't wait for the kids to get older so we can really have fun making some.  Indeed, I wore my tie-dyed summer dress and floppy hat (but alas my socks were in the wash) to the parade today.

Memorial Day

If Memorial Day is the unofficial first day of summer (the official one, of course, being the summer solstice in June), then we have kicked off the season in high style.  It was a glorious, mild, clear day, most of which we spent outside.  

First thing in the morning, we transferred our pupae from their plastic container to their new tent, where they will emerge from their chrysalids as butterflies in 3-5 days.  Then as Mama prepped our new deck canopy on the front porch (thanks to Ma and Gong, for the Mother's Day present), the kids played butterflies in their new sleeping bags (we'll be having our first sleepover at Ma and Gong's one weekend in June).  They would crawl into the half-size nylon bags (hers pink and green, his red and gray-blue), wriggle around a bit--"Mommy, look what's growing in your backyard!--and then emerge as butterflies and fly with arms outstretched and flapping around the porch.  "Tell us to 'go, butterfly, go' and 'faster, butterfly, faster.'  Then say 'butterfly, my friend, it's time to end.'"  At which point, they'd climb back into their cocoons and start all over.  

We headed to the back deck, having put the cats in "their room" while we went in and out of the  back door.  There, Mama put up the canopy, Bud played basketball on the newly-raised plastic basketball hoop, Sis narrated a story with various toys on boats in the water table, and I planted strawberry seeds (with some help from the kids).  We all played bubbles.  Sis went back to her story play and Bud grew increasingly frustrated trying to make various "machines" to shoot or flip toys using plastic buckets and shovels (big dreams, bad materials). Then, we paused for a snack--homemade vanilla ice cream!

Mama and I had prepped the custard the night before, realizing the kids would not be able to delay ice-cream gratification, and had frozen the core of our ice cream maker.  We plugged it in outside and all stood around watching the miracle of custard become ice cream.  The kids were fascinated.  Sure, it's not the old wooden bucket with ice and rock salt and drip spout (and loud motor, we didn't even have a hand crank back in the "good ol' days."), but it makes great thick ice cream right in front of your eyes.  The stuff of childhood summers! 

After a picnic of cheese sandwiches under our new canopy (and on newly-cleaned table, thanks to Sis and Mama, some vinegar and baking soda) and a generous rest time, we headed to our local Memorial Day parade.  We  immediately ran into friends and neighbors and found a good spot to watch all the happenings.  Bud and Sis stood glued--no need to put down the blanket or pull out the snacks--watching the police cars, firetrucks, local groups, and, most excitedly for Bud, marching bands!  Sis's favorite part?  Candy.  Yep, it's Memorial Day-cum-Mardi Gras, where we throw caution to the wind and encourage children to:
  1. Rush out into the street.
  2. Take candy from strangers.
  3. Eat off the ground.
But, as a neighbor pointed out, we then confuse them by insisting that they not litter with those same wrappers, having allowed the breaking of all other ordinary rules! 

And what did we do when we came home?  Played parade, of course.  Focusing on the music and the candy.

What more could you want from summer?


Vanilla Ice Cream #1 (Pure and Simple)

2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.  Slowly beat the hot milk into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight (my note:  don't forget to put the core of your ice cream maker in a plastic bag in the freezer, if that's the kind you have).

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1-2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions (ours takes about 20-30 minutes).  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe contanier and freeze at least 2 hours.

(Final note:  I think my Penzey's vanilla extract overpowered this recipe, which was probably designed with your average vanilla in mind.  I almost think this would be good as a sweet cream recipe, no vanilla, since the book must have come out before that was a trendy flavor, and one of my favorites).
Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book (one of our favorites!)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that Id like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
Ive looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go

through time with

Jim Croce, "Time in a Bottle"

I've discovered our second summer project:  a time capsule.  In about two weeks, we will begin renovations on half of our basement to create additional finished space.  There will be a tile floor and new walls.  And behind one of those new framed and sheetrocked walls, we are going to place a family time capsule.  The idea came to me over dinner tonight, as the kids were talking about the "Handy Manny" episode featuring a time capsule.  I suggested we make one.  

You could see the cogs turning faster and faster in their little heads.  Sis wants to include a page of her favorite farm stickers, something with a bunny on it, a drawing.  BUT NOT SHIRT.  Bud wants to put in lemonade (what he was drinking at the time).  But nothing else he really likes; he wants to keep those things.  So we started brainstorming and came up with these initial ideas:  a M&Ms wrapper (the favorite candy of me and Sis); an Annie's organic mac-n-cheese box sans contents (Bud's favorite food); a photograph of the family; the local paper; a letter from all of us (including relevant blog posts--it would all be recorded on the web, with photos, because this would be a capsule for someone else to find, not us).  

I'll have to do some research into time capsule creation--make sure we do our best to ensure its survival (i.e. no lemonade).  There are several websites with suggestions (including eHow, iVillage, and a tutorial), even a site that lets you do the whole thing online, without an actual capsule.  We want a real capsule, though.  Otherwise, we need to work out the details.  A fun thing to do this summer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

We Have Chrysalids!!

Yep, our five caterpillars are continuing their transformation into butterflies by hanging from the lid of their container and starting to develop irridescent cocoons.  It's the pupal stage.  We're going to move them to their transitional net home tomorrow, and add oranges and such in a few days.  We should have butterflies (though not necessarily 5; apparently 3-5 is considered normal) within 7-10 days.   Let's just hope it warms up some more--they need it to be 55F to survive (and there have been a few chillier nights).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thanks, Mommy Goose!

  • for cominig over to play this morning and keeping us company;
  • for the magazine (which has some great recipes in it);
  • for dinner (which we inhaled--you won't be surprised that I'm asking for the recipe, right?)
  • for witnessing our financial documents this evening;
  • for continuing to be a great friend.
Now, how am I going to pay you back?  :)

The Only Thing I Have to Fear

 . . . is fear itself, to paraphrase FDR.  I realized this most clearly when I was in the ER on Monday night:  I was more scared of being ill that night than on other occasions, such as my c-section or hernia repair, when I knew what was wrong.  Just not knowing increased my fear and pain (as did being alone--I had a palpable change in pain and disposition as soon as my minister appeared).  

And apparently, I'm not alone.  I wonder if knowing that the unknown increases fear and pain and unhappiness would have made the unknown more manageable, if only to make it more bearable?  Next time I don't know something, in a specific situation, I'm going to try to remember not to compound the fear and pain and unhappiness with concerns of the unknown.   Can it work like that?

I don't know.


I'm so glad it's Friday.  When I was in the hospital on Monday night, I kept thinking, "why did it have to be Monday?  Why couldn't it be Wednesday?"  But we've gotten through the week (well, there's still today but I have friends coming morning and probably afternoon, so I've got backup and company) and it's a three-day weekend.  We have nothing tomorrow, cake decorating on Sunday, and a parade (to view, not to march in) on Monday.  I was going to make special Memorial Day red-white-and-blue cupcakes for Monday but I think I'll just let that one go.  There's always 4th of July.

Have a wonderful weekend!

(*Push Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mama's Not Home

Mama is out tonight at a mandatory office thing; she'll be home in a couple of hours, which means I put the kids to bed myself (no problem, even with my slowdown) and now have even more time alone.  I spent the three hours this afternoon that the babysitter was here just lolling around reading magazines and catnapping.  And now I can keep doing that, with "Seinfeld" on.  Haven't watched that in years, mercy, haven't watched much tv at all in at least 10 months.  And, after perusing all the offerings tonight, I'm not really sure I've missed much.  Anyway, it'll be another restful few hours, I hope.  Well, not for Mama, I guess.  But it's a three-day weekend for her, for all of us.  And that will be good.

Butterfly Boy and Girl

We've been reading Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis a lot recently, a wonderful story about a girl's imaginative adventures in her big backyard.  And we've been trying to have our own backyard adventures.  We planted some squash and sunflowers and I picked up a strawberry kit today, just to watch some food grow (not that I think we can beat the squirrels to the sunflower seeds or strawberries).  And we also are growing our own Painted Lady butterflies.  We received the tiny caterpillars in the mail from Insectlore and have been watching them eat, grow, and molt for about a week, waiting for them to spin pupae and hang from the lid of the jar.  Then we'll move them to our butterfly net and watch the metamorphoses continue.  Sis, Bud, and I have read all about it in our Fly, Monarchs, Fly! book by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (who wrote our favorite Apples! book) and are excited about watching each one emerge from its chrysalis and eat oranges with its proboscis.  We're even looking at getting a butterfly bush for the yard.   Which might help us with our summer project to be certified as a national wildlife habitat.  Now that's a great backyard adventure.

Let's Play

The kids have been having some really imaginative and creative playtimes that I hope I remember for a long time:
  • Prairie dog pop-up:  we laced sheets and towels through their toddler bed bars, making a lattice, through which they would pop up and pretend to be prairie dogs a la the zoo.
  • Vet--I was the vet and they were the pet owners of bunnies and penguins.  Their pets, similar to our own trips to the pediatrician, had ear infections, fevers, vomiting, and splinters.  But I was able to fix them all, no problem.
  • Handy Manny:  I think this is our only pop-culture inspired play.  One or the other of them is Handy Manny and I am either Kelly who provides them with needed parts or the client who has a a broken oven/chair/table, or both.  They fix it and we start over again.  Sometimes with the soundtrack playing in the background.  
  • Mommy as seamonster (indoors) or shark (outdoors):  Yep, I'm a monster.  A tickle/kissing/hugging monster that routinely attacks preschoolers who must then run to their beds/swingsets for safety.  Usually, Bud tells me not to be a "tickle monster" and instead wants hugs.  
  • Bake sale:  Sis spreads out her wares on the piano bench and sells them to us, checking us out at the cash register.
  • Zookeeper:  They're the animals (sometimes prairie dogs, see above, or sloths or bunnies or bats, see below) and I'm the zookeeper.  Then I'm the visitor admiring them and taking pictures.  But then they escape from their cages.  And I'm the zookeeper again, rounding them up, usually enticing them with carrots and broccoli.  And we start all over again.
  • World of Darkness:  we make caves in the covers and their bats in our own version of the Bronx Zoo exhibit.
  • Penguin Family:  We have an embarrassingly large collection of stuffed penguins, starting with an oversized penguin from the movie Happy Feet that we call "Mr. Big Penguin" (it's almost 3') that charmed Bud and Sis when they were smaller.  Now there are others, from Mystic Seaworld, FAO Schwartz, and other stores.  Anyway, Sis makes a penguin family with two parents and a baby, which one of the big penguins hatches while the other looks for food.  Sis always comments on how cute the baby is.  
  • Restaurant:  This is one of their all-time favorite dramatic plays.  I guess maybe we eat out a lot!  It's very sophisticated now, with menus and placemats, waiters and chefs.  Recently, this has evolved into hibachi, since we had dinner there last week.  
  • Library:  Stamp books, put them in book drop, start again.  Sis has a collection of bunny books, while Bud has his dinosaur books all in a pile.

Taking Care of Mommy

The kids have been wonderful at taking care of me as I get back on my feet.  While I can't say it makes being ill worth it, it's been wonderful to see their compassionate sides come forward.   On Tuesday, they went to the drugstore and picked out presents for me, while waiting for our takeout pizza to be ready.  Sis bought me Diego bubble bath and Bud brought home dominoes to play and we used both of them by the end of the day.  Bud, however, didn't like seeing me just laze around on the couch and stayed nearby me, saying he had a tummyache too.  He brought blankets so we could cuddle up together under them.  The next day, Sis brought breakfast to me in bed, "marmayade" sandwiches (with butter on white bread, just like Paddington bear)--yum--but didn't want to wait for the tea to steep to bring that too.  And today, they've adapted games so that I can play without moving around too much--lots of playing restaurant with them delivering menus and serving food (pizza and pie).  Each day, I feel better--and I know it's because they've been such good little caretakers.

Music and Meaning

Just as Sis never misses any visual change or cue in her world (recently she spied the crayons I'd bought for myself and hidden away behind a book on a shelf!), Bud focuses on sound.  Recently, he heard a version of "O Waly Waly" at church and realized it was our nighttime family singalong of "Water is Wide."  Later, he recognized the song "All that Jazz" from the Hugh Jackman medley during the "movie prizes."  

Joy, Fun, and a Day in the Sun

Today was the kiddos' school picnic to celebrate the end of the year.  First, I can't believe the school year is over--how has it been 9 months since we first dropped them off and worried for 2 1/2 hours, having worried all summer, that we would all be okay?  But that's another post.

When I was in the hospital on Monday night, I worried about just a few things:  what was wrong with me?  would I be able to teach painting at the kids' school on Tuesday?  and would I be ready for the picnic on Thursday?   Ruptured ovarian cyst.  Nope.  And yes, with a lot of help from a friend.

This post is about that last one.  I had volunteered to bring 2 dozen finger-food desserts and had decided to make mini-cupcakes decorated with variously-colored smiley faces.  Only, I was too doped up Tuesday night and too achy Wednesday night to do anything.  Mama Teacher to the rescue!!  She came over, not with dinner in hand as offered, but ready to bake and decorate cupcakes while also entertaining her son and my kiddos.  And she did it with aplomb!  Don't those cupcakes look great?!  (I decorated three of them, maybe, just to try my hand at it; hopefully, you can't tell which three!  I'm not sure I can; it might be those three blue ones in the middle.)  There were some big ones too, 4 of which she decorated for the teachers and three of which were decorated and eaten by our kids.  And everyone at the picnic loved them!  Kids grabbed them before taking fruit or sandwiches, carefully choosing their colors (along predictable gender lines, with kids settling for yellow when blue and pink were gone).  And the plate was emptied before anything else.   Well done, Mama Teacher!  And thanks so much!!

Of course, there was other food.  I inhaled cream cheese-and-jelly sandwiches on white bread--oh, what a sweet, ooey treat.  Bud loved the strawberries and punch; Sis loved the watermelon and cantaloupe.  Mama had a little bit of all of it.  When we were all full, we sang some songs (on seeds popping up into flowers to the tune of "Pop! Goes the Weasel" and a song about opposites) and then all did the chicken dance (Sis apparently had refused to practice--she and Mama are two peas in a pod!  But they both gave it some effort when the finale was here).  We took pictures with our teachers and also as a family and continually remarked how much everyone had grown and how fast the year had gone.  Just a summer until they're 4 and only a year away from kindergarten!
We'll have time to make lots of cupcakes over the summer but I think these will still be my favorites, the ones that friendship made.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I'm feeling less pain, more exhaustion.  I have some good painkillers, the same ones I had post c-section.  And I think this was worse, if only because it took 12 hours to figure out what was wrong.  But I'm getting more sleep than then!

Thank you all for your email and calls, expressions of care and support, offers of brownies, meals, and magazines.  It helps so much and I'm very touched.

Good night.


Mom:  it all ends okay.

I spent 10 hours in the hospital last night with severe abdominal pain.  After a cat scan and 4 shots of morphine, the doctors ruled out appendicitis in favor of a ruptured ovarian cyst, the fluid of which caused a lot of irritation and could be seen approximately 10 hours after the rupture.  I'm home, with painkillers, and not doing much today.  But it could have been worse.  Anyone want to keep me company later this week (Mama is home today)?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm Over the Rainbow

Ignoring my Mother's Day cake, which I made before official decorating instruction began in class, I present here my first fully decorated cake:

I've already learned several valuable lessons about cake decorating.  Here are a few:

  1. Don't try to master new cake and frosting recipes on top of learning new cake decorating techniques.  It's just too many dishes.  And no one cares if it's a mediocre box mix if it's pretty.
  2. Sometimes, even the recipes in Joy of Cooking don't come out the way you expect, like when your 9" white cake seems half the height it should be.
  3. You need a lot of frosting to cover a two-layer 9" cake.  And you can't really fake it. 
  4. Half a jar of jelly isn't quite enough for a good layer of filling.
  5. When you use a turntable, put a rubber jar opener under the cake circle for friction.  Or your cake WILL SLIDE OFF AND FALL ON THE FLOOR.
  6. You can save a cake that has landed facedown on the floor by scraping up all the icing and starting over again (once you stop sobbing in the living room).  With new icing.  Call it a "crumb layer."
  7. It takes two spatulas (spatulae?) to masterfully lift said cake off the floor (according to Mama, who did the triage and treatment--see above).
  8. No one will know.
  9. Unless you tell them.
  10. And then your kids and partner will eat it anyway.  Saying all the while that it is "great, just like you, Mommy" and tastes yummy.
  11. Because they like cake.
  12. And love you.

Much Better, Thank You

After a rough start to the evening, which had me leaving a party early to comfort a sleepless Sis and restless Bud, they slept through the night.  And no fever this morning!  I think she's on the mend, without Bud catching it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

No Sleep

Not much sleep in the Hungry house last night.  Sis up several times.  At 3:30 with 104F.  That certainly causes panic in the middle of the night.  Morning came at 7 a.m.  Sis's fever is down and she seems okay, for the sleep deprived.  Like the rest of us.  We're just gonna get through the day.  

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Same, But Different

It's not an ear infection.  Yet.  "Just" fever (back at 103 again) and swollen tonsils.  So Sis is back on antibiotics because her ears are "vulnerable," having been infected about a month ago.  We won't be going anywhere this weekend, I think, because she's pretty much miserable right now.  It didn't help that she got nervous about having a throat culture, was told she probably wouldn't need one, and then had one anyway--and she gagged several times and wept afterwards.  Not a fun day.  Especially because I bought her a treat at the store and now she wants the one her brother chose and he won't exchange.  And I knew that I shouldn't buy a reward when I did it because I don't think kids should always get rewards for doing what they need to do and I wimped out and did it anyway.  And see, I was right, it's backfired on me and made it all worse. 

Here We Go Again?

We're headed back to the pediatrician this morning since Sis spiked 103.2F last night.  Could this be another ear infection?  There aren't any other symptoms.  Except a headache.  She woke up remarkably jovial and has been playing "Hibachi Palace Restaurant" a la our dinner out and the book Dinner at the Panda Palace all morning with Bud.  More later . . . 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our Summer Project

Believing in "no child left inside," I have found our summer project:  we are going to work on registering our yard as a certified wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation (you know, the people behind those great magazines for kids and the Green Hour!).  We'll need to create and provide:
  • Food sources, such as native plants, seeds, berries
  • Water sources, such as a birdbath, pond, water garden
  • Places for cover, such as a thicket, rock pile, birdhouse
  • Places to raise young, such as dense shrubs, nesting box
  • Sustainable gardening, such as mulch, compost, chem free fertilizer
The kids love animals and birds, insects and reptiles and will gladly help out with making them a home at our home.   In fact, our "butterflies" arrived yesterday, five caterpillars in a jar that we will observe and assist go from caterpillars to pupae to Painted Lady butterflies over the course of the next few weeks (look for updates soon).  And you've seen our yard--we already meet so many of the habitat criteria.  We've been chem free for 6 years!  We'd just have to work on the food and water sources, already having some dense shrubs and a rock pile.  Then we could apply for certification and receive a nifty sign announcing our habitat.

Then the neighbors could just stop offering to "help out" our garden with Round-up!

Cake Talk

This weekend is my second cake-decorating class.  But I'm already have delusions of grandeur for the birthday cake I'll make for the kids this summer.  The theme is animals (yes, again) and I have several possibilities.  Here they are:

  • circle cake with 3-D icing-piped animal figures
  • shaped cake of animal face(s)
  • circle cake with iced sugar cookie animal figures in habitat (green grass?)
  • circle cake with flat piped animal figures (based on cookie cutter shapes) in grass
  • circle cake with plastic animal figures in grass
I guess it'll depend on how well my meager skills progress in the next few weeks.  You saw the last cake, for my mother's day post, a sad, melting, overly sweet confection that I had lots of "help" with.  I didn't like the cake; I loved the cake.  But I'm doing the next one by myself, with different recipes.

A Delightful Dinner

We went for hibachi last night, as Mama was home a bit early from work.  It was a last-minute idea, the choice of restaurant, and it was enormously successful.  The kids were fascinated by the "table with the stove" and the hoods for the smoke.  And they loved watching the chef-cum-toque work his knives and ingredients.  That is, until he lit an oil smiley-face on the hot surface, igniting a huge fire.  Though they had been warned it was coming, the kids were somewhat taken aback by the "crack-crack-fire!"  It is an impressive whoosh.  And it's over quickly enough.  Then Bud noticed the chef making an onion tower, which he identified immediately as a volcano.  And then there was lava!  

They loved the food, keeping their eyes glued on the cooking and then on their plates after we were served.  They both slurped down the mushroom soup, something I'm not sure Sis, at any rate, would have done at home.  Then, with chopsticks fitted with a special children's holder, they devoured noodles, rice, steak, chicken, and vegetables.  It was good.  We actually ran out of vegetables because Bud ate all of his and some of Mama's, leaving her with less to eat, especially because Sis was carefully but assuredly eating all of her food with her chopsticks.  Bud went back and forth with his fork, choosing whatever seemed most fun and most expedient.  
We finished the meal with tempura-battered fried ice cream and bananas.  But left because other people were starting to arrive and the kids were nervous about more "crack-crack-fire!"  Good food, entertainment.  I think we'll definitely be going back soon.  And often.  Particularly because they woke up this morning and insisted on playing "hibachi restuarant"--they brought food to the coffee table in buckets, "cooked" it all on the table (decked out with a plastic box lid for the grill), and then served it to me, complete with tea, packing up afterwards and taking it all away in the buckets.

Big Girls Won't Cry

I was so glad to see an article about yoga for the larger practitioner in the NYTimes, which mentions classes just for the heavyset crowd (so no shame in front of the lithe and fit) and modifications for body weight.  Kelly McGonigal, of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, is quoted in the article and seemed surprised that such classes were necessary.  The most humiliating episode of my life came in a yoga class--and one purportedly for all sizes and levels, geared specifically for and supportive of women (often post-partum at that)--when the instructor repeatedly called out across the room asking why I couldn't do poses, what was keeping me from being like the other students, and then loudly said they had to change the practice because I couldn't keep up.  I eventually left the room--filled with friends, not even strangers, as this was a private group--in tears, unable to return.  I had been so excited, so hopeful about the class, having relied on yoga to help me through pregnancy, doing the breathing when I could no longer do the poses; it was such a disappointment to feel rejected.  I didn't know then, but know now, why I couldn't do those poses.  And it wasn't body fat.  It was a diastasis recti, slight scoliosis, leg-length differential, and symphysis separation wreaking all sorts of havoc on my musco-skeletal system.  It will be a long time before I do yoga again, and not for those reasons, but the pain of being the fat person in what is clearly a practice, as it has developed in this country, only for the skinny.  Unless of course, one of these big yoga classes migrates from NYC to CT.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Belated Mother's Day Hat Trick

These three readings were included in the Mother's Day service at church on Sunday.  I was touched by all of them and wanted to share them with you.  I include the originally writers and sources where I could find them.


This is for all the mothers who didn't win Mother of the Year in [2009].

All the runners-up and all the wannabes. The mothers too tired to enter or too busy to bother.

This is for all the mothers who froze their buns on metal bleachers at soccer games Friday night instead of watching from cars, so that when their kids asked, "Did you see my goal?" they could say "Of course, wouldn't have missed it for the world," and mean it.

This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf laced with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, "It's OK, honey, Mommy's here."

This is for all the mothers of Kosovo who fled in the night and can't find their children.

This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and made them homes.

For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew Halloween costumes.

And all the mothers who don't.

What makes a good mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips?

The ability to nurse a baby, fry a chicken and sew a button on a shirt all at the same time?

Or is it heart?

Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time?

The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 a.m. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby?

The need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a school shooting, a fire, a car accident, a baby dying?

I think so.

So, this is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn't.

This is for reading "Goodnight Moon" twice a night for a year. And then reading it again. "Just one more time."

This is for all the mothers who mess up. Who yell at their kids in the grocery store and swat them in despair and stomp their feet like a tired 2-year-old who wants ice cream before dinner.

This is for all the mothers who taught their daughters to tie their shoes before they started preschool.

And for all the mothers who chose Velcro instead.

For all the mothers who bite their lips -- sometimes until they bleed -- when their 14-year-olds dye their hair green. Who lock themselves in the bathroom when babies keep crying and won't stop.

This is for mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purses.

This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot.

This is for all the mothers whose heads turn automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home.

This is for mothers who put pinwheels and Teddy bears on their children's graves.

This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can't find the words to reach them.

This is for all the mothers who sent their sons to school with stomachaches, assuring them they'd be just fine once they got there, only to get calls from the school nurses an hour later asking them to please pick them up. Right away.

This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers learning to let go. For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. Single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.

This is for you all. So hang in there.

And better luck next year, I'll be rooting for you.

Originally published by Cindy Lange-Kubick in the Lincoln Journal-Star, April 11, 1999.

When I came drenched in the rain, 
My brother told why dont you take an umbrella with you. 
My sister said why not you waited till it stopped. 
My Dad angrily said only after getting cold, you will realize. 
But my MOTHER, 
as she was drying my hair with her saree, 
was shouting 
not at me

…………………….. But at the RAIN.

from a poem originally written in Tamil (found here)


I offer a prayer for mother’s day today.

This is who it is for:

It is for all the mothers in this room, in this city, across this continent, and in every land around this planet.

It is for the mothers whose homes resound with children’s laughter, screeching toys, loud music, or the sullen teenage shrug.

It is for the mothers who gave birth in joy or in agony or in grief.

It is for the mothers who have adopted the motherless and discovered how wide love can reach; and it is for the mothers who have given over their children to others.

This prayer is for all the women who have wished to be mothers and are not.

It is for all the mothers whose children have ever gone off to war, for the worry they endure and the tension they carry through every hour of absence. It is for the mothers whose children return whole and unscathed, or who return wounded in mind or body, or who do not return at all.

It is for all the mothers who grieve – lost pregnancies, lost children, lost hopes, lost futures.

And this is my prayer:

May peace come to you.

Peace amid the noise and chaos of active children

Peace amid the silence and the absence.

Peace with the choices you have made, the paths taken and the ones not taken.

Peace with the grief you have endured.

May peace come to you, and may you greet it and welcome it, and make a place for it to live within you. May peace find a home in you, and from that home, may peace venture widely over this earth.

a prayer from Jill Ann Terwilliger, UU Minister in Kalamazoo, MI

Monday, May 11, 2009


And job well done to Mommy Goose for RUNNING a 5K yesterday.

You set your mind and body to a goal and you did it.  I'm so proud of and impressed and inspired by you!

You rock! 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mother's Day

Buttermilk Biscuits
The day actually started with a prolonged session of playing "World of Darkness," the exhibit of bats and other nocturnal creatures at the Bronx Zoo that has unfortunately been slated for closure because of budget issues.  Bud and Sis just loved it--the bats, the sand cat (who was sound asleep, head on paws), the cloud rat, the porcupine we never could see.  And so we played bats under the covers for about an hour, then moved downstairs to a coffee-table-cum-couch setup with more blankets.  For breakfast later, we had mangoes and strawberries--get it?  we were fruit bats!!--but then I remembered that I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that was set to expire soon (which had been purchased to make Scott Peacock's poundcake in BH&G to take to church for Mother's Day but was used instead to make whole wheat bread earlier in the week).  Biscuits, anyone?  But of course.  What a treat!  And I'd never made them for the kids, who loved playing in the liberally-floured roll-out surface and with the squishy dough.  Then they loved eating the hot-from-the-oven, flaky and tender biscuits with honey.  "Mommy, you never made this before," Sis noted.  "We should do it next week, too."  Luckily, buttermilk is not a usual staple in my fridge, because I could easily be talked into making these all the time!  But the best part was that Bud dubbed them "butterfly biscuits." 

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup Crisco

1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk)


            Preheat oven to 450°F.  If using soured milk, combine vinegar and milk now and let stand, while continuing.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Add Crisco and blend well until like fine meal.  Add buttermilk and mix delicately until it comes together.  Dump out on floured surface and knead gently 5 times.  Roll out about ½” thick and cut into desired size.  Bake in greased pan, with sides touching, until golden brown, 15-18 minutes.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café


We had pizza for lunch after church.  Not just any pizza.  But pizza from a special pizzeria--world famous--that we rarely get to visit (we didn't visit this time--Mama got take out while we were finishing up at church.  It was so cute--I was supposed to help out in the classroom today but was summarily excused so they could make surprise presents for moms--handpainted pots with real petunias!  And Sis's was red, Bud's blue, each with their names carefully written by them.  For family members present that one Christmas, it was the pizza we'd ordered on the day before Christmas Eve but never enjoyed because we ended up taking Bud to the ER for a disjointed elbow.  He was fine afterwards; the pizza wasn't).  And it was so good, so worthy of its fame.  A nice treat.  No dishes.

But I don't have a recipe for you.  Instead, I give you the homemade pizza dough we made on Tuesday with the kiddos and Mama Teacher and CJ--fun to play with but it needs more salt, or something, I think.  I used half of it to make rolls too, a la Bertucci's, but again, must need more salt.

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 3/8 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil



1 cup prepared pizza sauce

mozzarella cheese

other toppings (ham, artichokes, mushrooms, black olives, whatever)

            Combine all ingredients, at room temperature, into bread pan (wet, then dry, then yeast).  Select dough setting.  Press “start/stop” and remove when dough is ready.  Pat dough into 12 x 15 “ cookie sheet or 14” pizza sheet.

            Preheat oven to 400°F.

            Spread pizza sauce over dough.  Sprinkle toppings over sauce.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown

Oster Bread Machine book

Mango Lassi

After rest, we spent a long time playing outside in the yard.  "Handy Mama" (Sis's appellation) put new batteries in the playhouse and the kids "helped," since they've garnered so much fix-it knowledge from their current tv favorite, "Handy Manny" (they used "Phillipe" today).   So now the fountain and doorbell work and the kids had a field day using the fountain to water the yard (and new plants we picked up at a plant sale yesterday, including zucchini, squash, and a sunflower for each) and clean their "lawn mowers."  Meanwhile, Mama and I mainly sat and marveled at the strong winds, which kept the windchimes ringing the whole time.  The fun only stopped for dinner a few hours later, during which time Bud put away huge amounts of zucchini, onions, and orange peppers with some garlic and Penzey's Mural of Flavor seasoning.  Mama and I had that with polenta and leftover lentils with chili con carne seasonings.  Sis had chicken fingers leftover from Mexican food yesterday (and, hey, Mommy Goose, I asked and they said they're not closing. But who knows).  Afterwards, we all had watermelon, grapes, and mangoes.  These are amazing mangoes.  Not the red/green/yellow mangoes you find in most grocery stores but the all-yellow-orange ones that Ma and Gong get in Flushing's Chinatown.  They are much sweeter, less stringy, richer flavor, creamier.  Divine.  Which is why I had secreted one away for a Mango Lassi after we got them to bed (during which we were both most of the happy thoughts of the day).  Mama and I shared it.  A perfect ending to a pretty perfect Mother's Day. 

1 ripe mango (or approximately 1 cup pulp)

1 cup whole or lowfat plain yogurt

3 tablespoons sugar

½ cup cold water

ice for serving


            Peel, pit, and coarsely chop 1 ripe mango (to yield about 1 cup fruit).  In a blender, purée mango with yogurt, sugar, and cold water until smooth.  Pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove pulp, if desired.  Serve immediately over ice.

Everyday Food 

Happy Mother's Day!!

Sending love, thanks, and a slice of our special pink-strawberry-jelly-with-decorative-"wormies"-and-rainbow-jimmies-confetti cake to the moms and mothering people in my life, specifically:

  • my mom, Gommie, whose love and support I cherish
  • Mama, my soulmate and mothering-partner-in-crime
  • Aunt P, who encourages the quirky me
  • Rev. Minister, who laughs and listens
  • my local moms, for always being there and for helping me take nothing too seriously

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Suffering and Unfulfillment

I learned in my introduction to Asian Art class that Buddhists believe in the Four Noble Truths (and this is paraphrased from the original Sanskrit, I believe):

 I took it very literally, meaning that life is pain, misery, grief.  And I couldn't embrace these teachings, being more optimistic about life than to define it this way.

But recently I read, and heaven help me (oops, that's mixing faiths, no?) but I can't recall where--Momma Zen, was it you?  I didn't see it when I just searched your blog--that another translation for "suffering" is unfulfillment.  And suddenly it all clicked--life is about nothing being completed or done, nothing being satisfying, nothing being as you expect it, nothing as you plan it, about longing, hoping, striving, ambition, pursuing.  And this resonates with me.  

Up to parenthood, my life was very much about beginnings, middles, and ends--mainly, school, from the academic year to projects for classes, even to my degrees and getting that terminal Ph.D. ("terminal" as in end, not as in deadly).  My chosen career in museum education also often includes projects with completion dates so that there is a sensation of completion and fulfillment.  But not in parenthood.  In the best of circumstances, which is exactly what I'm hoping for, I will not see the completion of my parenting project--the children will outlive me and have full lives after I am gone (though, let's not have that be too soon).  Even in the "short" run, I won't know for years if my mothering will  have contributed to healthy, happy, loving children.  And even then I won't know if it's me, them, nature, nurture, circumstance, experience, or a combination of it all.  

I am also aware, though it is perception and not reality (though, of course, perception is reality, no?), that there is less time, less space, less money to do, to experience, to learn what is on my ever-growing list of 14 zillion things to do in my life (and those books just don't help me keep the list short).  Even at the ripe old age of 38, I know in a way that I never knew before, that I am going to have to choose, prioritize, and even face what I will and will not get to do, learn, experience (see Judith Warner on this at Domestic Disturbances).  Like, as a younger person, I wanted to go to Macchu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza and Chichen Itza, Easter Island, the Great Wall of China, you know the expanded wonders of the world.  I know I won't get to all of those now.  And I'm fine with that (as long as I can see China!).  I realize that those dreams are either a).  no longer really dreams or that b). I'm fine living with those dreams unfulfilled.  Of course, this is unfulfillment on a very minor, superficial level (in the sense that I won't even be devastated if I never get to China), but it is easiest and most concrete example to express here.

Also, suddenly, with children, I see more real suffering (not my unfulfilled dreams of travel and the like) of other people, both now (think Darfur, really almost anywhere) and in the past (the Holocaust seems everywhere for me these days, perhaps because of coverage over Holocaust Rememberance Day).  I am keenly aware of tragedy and sadness and grief.  It was always there, of course, always has been, but I was more insular, more isolated, more myopic.  The children, however, have connected me to the larger world, even to humanity, more keenly, more strongly.

Maybe this is why people seem to become more spiritual or religious when children come.  And certainly the pews at church are beginning to fill with other people with preschoolers and young children these days.  I started my personal spiritual quest just a few years before our kids were born, perhaps subconsciously in preparation for children or perhaps because there is something at this age that encourages me to look beyond myself.  Though, you might even say that my spiritual quest led to my wanting children.  But my spiritual quest, or travels, or journeys (why is it always about moving from one place to another?  I guess it's psychical.) are not just about being able to address (but not answer) the "big questions" of the children or to provide them with the proverbial moral compass, but to do that for myself, as well as for them.

But as that first Noble Truth reminds me, I will ever be unfulfilled.