Thursday, July 30, 2009

Congrats!

. . . go out to Miss T for her new job! You go, baker girl! Very proud of you.

Only wishing I lived in Georgia so I could stop by and get some free samples!!

Date Night

Mama and I had a date tonight, to go see the new Harry Potter movie. It was wonderful! More later . . . but probably not until Saturday. Tomorrow is busy with a playdate, our CSA pick up, a birthday party, and my bridal shower!!! Have a good one . . .

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tidbits (of Cooking)

Sis and the Strawberry-Mixed Berry Pie
The other day, when Bud fell sound asleep during rest time, surprisingly, Sis and I headed downstairs to have some time together. First, we painted garden pots to give to their swim teacher (the last lesson was today and they are sad both to end swimming and to say goodbye to her). Then we made pie. Sis called it "strawberry-mixed berry pie," (a phrase they actually came up with after reading Berries for Sal and playing "bear family") which is exactly what it was--two bags of frozen mixed berries, including strawberries. She helped measure sugar and flour, mash berries, lay out pie crust (store bought) on the bottom and the top, helping with the sugar sprinkles, butter pats, and fork pricks. Mmmm, mmmm good. A nice treat after dinner.

Mud Pies
Well, sans the pie part, but it would be good that way, too. We went to Mama Teacher's house last week for lunch and, after marvelous grilled cheeses (which I've been begged to replicated twice since then!), she served mud. My kids were skeptical, to say the least, and couldn't get past the name to try some. I could and it was good. But then, how can you go wrong with pudding, whipped cream, and crushed oreos? She says she tries different flavors, including vanilla with wafers.

One Batter, Three Foods
Well, not exactly. But we did seem to pan fry a lot of things during our unplanned homage to Southern cooking. First were the fried green tomatoes, which were delicious--crisps and acidic--especially with a batch of Green Goddess seasoning in sour cream (I prefer Ranch but this will do). The next night, Mama made fried fish for the kiddos, using frozen flounder from the T.J.'s and a recipe off the internet. The kids loved it! Then, drawing on the idea, Mama fried up some onion rings, from our CSA onion, in another batch of the flounder batter. And she loved that! Now, if we can only figure out how they fried pickles at our favorite BBQ joint in Chicago. And those were good with Ranch dressing, too . . . .

Potato-Kale Soup
Using up the last of our CSA ingredients, I made this soup today and was amazed that such a simple recipe could result in such a yummy soup. Or maybe I was just glad it didn't have beans or tomatoes!

Uses of Marmalade
I love marmalade, though I have yet to make it myself (even though I think Lambeth has told me how, at some point). And I've found one that isn't too American-sweet, though, gasp, it is French: Bonne Marie, with the red gingham-lidded jar (the British stuff at our store--Chivers--is just too bitter for me). I've been eating it mixed in Greek yogurt, from a dessert I had at the National Gallery and Royal Academy cafeterias in London; on top of our favorite Oatmeal Scones recipe; and tonight, because I was out of yogurt, mixed with a little ricotta--so much easier than cannelloni!

Thai Cucumber Salad
We had lots of CSA cucumbers and so Mama decided to pickle them. But not traditional dill pickles in processed jars, but Thai Cucumber Salad, which is a quick pickle. She loves it, but the kids haven't touched it. Yet.

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Fruit Pie (adapted from Aunt T's Dewberry Cobbler recipe)

Crust*:

2 frozen pie crusts

Filling:

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour, to thicken

2-10 oz. bags frozen mixed berries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove both crusts from plastic bag. Place one on a cookie sheet. Cut the edge off the other so as to leave a circle of dough.

Mix sugar and flour together and then toss into frozen berries, mixing well (there is no need to defrost; the flour absorbs the extra liquid). Crush berries to extract juice.

Fill the pie crust with the berries. Remove the second pie crust (sans edge) and place it on top of the filled crust; it will overlap the edge of the filled crust. Pinch edges together and the impress with fork. Puncture the center to allow steam release, dab with pats of butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Cover edges with foil and bake 1-1 ½ hours, with cookie sheet below to catch spills, or until bubbling.

*Grammy and Aunt T's Original Oil Crust:

2 cups flour

½ cup oil

¼ cup milk

Mix flour, oil, and milk until it is the consistency of store-bought pie crust. Take 1/3 of dough and put aside for crust. Roll out remainder until the size of the pie plate, about ¼ inch thin. Place in ungreased plate (we used bread tin). . . . Later, roll out other crust and cover plate. Puncture to allow steam release, dab with pats of butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Mama and Mommy Hungry

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Mama Teacher's Mud

1 package chocolate instant pudding
1 tub whipped topping (small, I believe)
crushed Oreos
1 1/2 cups milk

Make pudding with milk. Stir in whipped topping and crushed oreos. Chill and serve.

Can be used with a variety of pudding and cookie combinations.

Mama Teacher

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Fried Green Tomatoes
3/4 cup self-rising flour (to make 1 cup self-rising flour: 1 cup all purpose + 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder + 1 pinch salt)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup milk
3-4 green tomatoes, cut into 1/4" slices
vegetable oil

Combine first 5 ingredients; mix until smooth. Add additional milk to thin, if necessary; batter should resemble pancake batter. Working in batches, dip tomato slices into batter, allowing excess batter to drip back into bowl. Fry in 2" hot oil (my note: can do less)--375F--in a large heavy skillet until browned, turning once carefully with tongs. Transfer to a colander to drain.
Fanny Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook

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Pan-Fried Flounder
Recipe courtesy Martha Nesbit

4 skinless flounder-fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
Flour, for dredging fish
2 tablespoons
vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 lemon, juiced
1 small bottle capers

Wash fillets in cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt
and pepper
. Dredge fillets in flour. Place oil and 2 tablespoons butter in flat, heavy-bottomed skillet and
heat on medium-high until butter melts. Keeping heat at medium-high,
cook fish on 1 side about 3 minutes (more
or less, depending on size of fillets), until deep brown and crispy. Turn fish and cook on second side, about
3 minutes. Turn fish only once.

Remove fish to serving platter. Turn off heat. Into hot skillet, whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
Add lemon juice. Pour in capers, liquid and all.
Whisk. Pour thin sauce over fish fillets. serve at once. (We didn't make the sauce).

Food Network

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Potato-Kale Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I didn't use this)

2 cups chopped onions

2 leeks, white and light green part only, washed and thinly sliced (I didn't have this)

6 cups water

4 medium potatoes, cut into 3/4" cubes (about 4 cups--I had Yukon golds)

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

3 carrots, peeled (I didn't have these either)

3 celery stalks

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 lb kale (about 4 cups chopped)

[And I added minced garlic]

Heat oil and butter in soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions and leeks for 10-15 minutes, until golden, soft, and sweet. [Add garlic and saute for a few more minutes.]

Add the water, potatoes, parsley, whole carrots, whole celery stalks, bay leaves, salt, and peper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

While soup is cooking, wash kale and strip the leaves off the stalks. Discard stalks and chop leaves into bite-size pieces. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Add the kale and cook, covered, over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Remove and drain.

Remove the carrot and celery pieces and bay leaves from the soup. Puree half. Stir in cooked kale and heat through. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers, Greens Glorious Greens

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Miss B (in PA)'s Oatmeal Scones

1 ½ cups flour

1 ¼ cups quick cooking rolled oats

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder (slightly less than)

1 teaspoon cream of tartar (slightly less than)

½ teaspoon salt (slightly less than)

2/3 cup butter, melted (1 stick butter also works well)

1/3 cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten (Eggbeaters also work)

½ cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

In large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add butter, milk, and egg, stirring until just moistened. Shape into a ball, flatten into 8” circle, score into wedges. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes.

Note: we have also made chocolate chip scones, which are very good.

B.S.
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Ar-Ma's Thai Cucumber Salad

cucumbers
water
vinegar
sugar
garlic
red pepper flakes

Peel stripes into outside skin of cucumber. Cut into spears, removing some of the seeds. Place cucumbers in jars.

In separate container, mix vinegar and water (more vinegar than water, in approximately a 2:1 ratio). Add sugar ("a couple of tablespoons"), a sliced and peeled clove of garlic (or more), and red pepper flakes, if desired. Make sure sugar is dissolved.

Pour liquid into cucumber jars to cover. Eat immediately or store in refrigerator (not sure how long it is good).

Ar-Ma, via Mama Hungry


J & Julia & Julie

Julie Powell's blog, The Julie/Julia Project, on cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking volumes 1 and 2 by Julia Child in her small NY kitchen post-September 11th was one of the first blogs I ever really followed. I loved her persistence, her bravery, in cooking those complicated recipes, including the hunt to find all the ingredients, cursing all the while. The book was good too but not in the immediate, hilarious way of the blog. And now there's a movie, already being heavily featured in the paper (cooking like Julie like Julia and styling food for the movie and even cooking for the director, so far), though the release is more than a week away. But I love Meryl Streep and am coming to appreciate Amy Adams (weren't they just in a movie together??). I liked Julie's blog. I've cooked a few of Julia's recipe. I like food. It's good times.

Things That Make Me Happy

Inspired by the Happy Days blog post about the importance of naming that which makes you happy, I'm making a list. It's not all-inclusive, in any kind of order, or in any way permanent. This is what makes me smile right now:

  • the theme song of "Toot and Puddle"--"a boomerang flies but always returns, home where it belongs!"
  • pictures of cupcakes
  • Bud's Yankees shirt
  • Sis asleep in her big bed, completely dwarfed by her fluffy comforter
  • Mama's snoring
  • watching the kids during their swim lessons--Sis is a very serene and graceful swimmer and Bud's face radiates with prides as he kicks and paddles
  • the tissue-paper collaged picture frames we all made at church last year, now filled with pictures of Gommie's recent visit
  • the Imagination Movers' song "Have Some Fun Today"
  • our growing squash plant
  • the way Sis ran to me when I got home yesterday
  • oatmeal scones with butter and marmalade
  • Greek yogurt with marmalade
  • diet Dr. Pepper (caffeine free)
  • our cat Hermione curled up on my rainbow fleece blanket
  • accumulated rain in our rain gauge
  • blogs by my friends
  • my lemon verbena soap
  • the mug I painted with acrylics last night
  • my playgroup
  • penguins
  • the garden Sis has "planted" on couch pillows in the living room, complete with bugs
  • Bud's Green Day rock concert drum kit "house" of couch pillows
  • thunder and lightning
  • homemade pillowcases
(the list keeps changing, even in just the last hour)


"Where Has Religion Gone?"

A couple of weeks ago, when I was at the bookstore looking for The Three Pillars of Zen, I noticed that the religion section had been moved to accomodate a new educational toys and teacher materials section (don't get me started on capitalists capitalizing on parental fear and competitiveness by marketing textbooks and toys to make kids smarter faster. I will not be buying this stuff).

"Where has religion gone?" I asked the staff member, not meaning to sound so philosophical.

But it did get me thinking. Certainly, religion and spirituality are very present in my life for me now, though they had been mostly absent for the first 30+ years. But I'm one of the only ones in my circle actively, obviously pursuing this, as far as I can tell. Several friends say they have a religion or say they are church shopping, but I don't think anyone else goes. Which strikes me as odd (more for me, than for them). I'm not judging--go/don't go, believe/don't believe/don't know--I've been there. But I've never ever been the "church-goer" in any group (and some people would say that, as a Unitarian Universalist, my church doesn't count as a religion. It even lost its non-profit religious status in Texas for awhile!). Though, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since American church/temple/synagogue attendance has decreased every year for a long time, if I remember correctly.

And then there is my cousin John, who takes his official, final solemn vows as a Trappist monk at his monastery in France this week, finishing a process he began over 10 years. When he wasn't even Catholic yet. To say the least, the whole family was surprised. But by now, we're used to it, though still a little curious.

Does religion skip a generation? My cousin's parents aren't religious at all and have struggled to understand his vocation. My parents aren't either and, while they understand my interest in church community, I wonder if they wonder about my faith. We haven't discussed it (though Mom sent me an email today asking about zazen, yoga-devotee that she is). We take the kids to our UU church every Sunday, and have since they were born (Mama and I have been members for about 5+ years), where they attend Sunday School (or Religious Education), and we all participate in community activities (I'll even be teaching in the fall, though not their class). This is the exact opposite of how I was raised, without church community or faith, which I've seen variously as isolating and freeing over the years. But it has given me the opportunity to take my journey, find my path on my own (though like all people changing from a childhood faith, I still had to reject what came before, even if it was nothing).

I wonder if my kids will be more religious than I am or less?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Fresh Start

Bud slept an extra 1 1/2 last night. And for the first time, when he woke up, he went straight to the bathroom by himself before coming to say good morning to us (which in Budspeak these days is "may I have my Yankees shirt?").

Sis, who had a rough beginning to her night waking twice with leg cramps caused no doubt by the 3x around the cul-de-sac on her tricycle plus swimming lessons plus running around the backyard, is actually still asleep. This means she will get at least 13 hours of sleep, which is two more than the night before.

I feel like I have newborns again, so obsessed am I with quantity and quality of sleep.

But a good night's sleep will give us all the fresh start we need.

Monday, July 27, 2009

E.O.D.*

The day has been as trying as it was long.

Which is why the kids are now tucked in.

I hope they get some sleep and tomorrow is better.

(* End of day)

Ennui and Inertia

I'm not sure what to write, really. But I feel like I should. Like maybe it would help. Though I'm not sure what the "it" that would be helped is. I'm sad about the woman who died this weekend, variously feeling for her, her partner, and her mother (it's odd because though I've been aware of her for decades, we only corresponded off and on, but I instinctively liked her and am sorry that she is gone). I'm frustrated with the kiddos, who continue to get just a little less sleep at night than they need and have been amazingly whiny and grumpy in these amazing spurts and outbursts only to turn around and be sweet and fun and creative. I'm annoyed at the weather, of all things, which is predicted to have thunderstorms everyday but then is just hot and humid, which leaves me even more annoyed. Obviously, I'm up and down, though I guess I haven't described any "ups." An up would be all the good cooking we did this weekend--green beans, black-eyed peas, fried green tomatoes, onion rings, oatmeal scones, peach crisp. And getting the kids' new beds all arranged. And all the great thunderstorms passing through in the last week--I love a good thunder and lightning show and there have been several! And the luxury of reading three good books at once (Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Interpreter of Maladies, and . . . ) And learning more about zazen by reading The Three Pillars of Zen and even getting to practice some, which was exhilerating because I managed to count my breaths to 10 more times than I have before and was less distracted by other things. And going to church yesterday, during which I lit a candle for the woman who died and her family and then wept through the entire service about Standing on the Side of Love, having a catharsis akin to going to her funeral and feeling supported by my church friends. Looking forward, I'm glad to be going to PT this afternoon, excited about going to the museum tomorrow, even more excited about going to see the Harry Potter movie on Thursday, and thrilled about my bridal shower on Friday! And I know there were other things but I'm forgetting them now.

Just typing those last few, however, has lifted me up again.

Which is (one of the reasons) why I blog.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Three Sisters

The three sisters--corn, squash, and beans--who live together in the fields inseparably in Iroquois legend are together again on our dinner table tonight, just as they helped feed the little boy and his family in the story. The kiddos, our "little farmers," helped shuck corn and snap green beans, really excited to be using food from "our" farm and helping with dinner. The squash comes from a generous neighbor, while we wait for our slow squash plant which is just beginning to bear fruit.

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Baked Squash

1-2 yellow squash
olive oil
salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F. Slice squash in strips and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Layer in baking dish and bake approximately 30 minutes or until tender.

Gommie Hungry

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Corn on the Cob

4-6 ears of corn

Bring water (NOT salted) to a boil. Add corn. Cook until desired tenderness.

(Hopefully, my cousin S will check in with the way she makes the corn fresh from their farm. I'm sure this isn't exactly right).

-=-=-=-=-=-

Green Beans

green beans
1 onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic (I smash a clove and just toss it in)
salt, pepper
ham, if desired

Snap ends off greens and snap in half if long.

Boil water. Add green beans, onion, garlic, and ham (if desired; bone, cubed, salt pork, whatever). Season to taste. Cook til they reach desired tenderness. Serve with vinegar.

Mommy Hungry

In Memoriam

Our family friend who has been battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma died last night surrounded by her partner and family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who loved her and were loved in return.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Lectures 4 and 5

Bompu Zen, being free from any philosophic or religious content, is for anybody and everybody. It is a Zen practiced purely in the belief that it can improve both physical and mental health. Since it can almost certainly have no ill effects, anyone can undertake it, whatever religious beliefs they happen to hold or if they hold none at all. . . . Through the practice of bompu Zen you learn to concentrate and control your mind.
As Yasutani-roshi describes the five kinds of Zen in The Three Pillars of Zen, I realized that I am a practicioner of "bompu" or ordinary Zen. The fact that there is even a category for non-Buddhists surprised me, being used to more doctrinal faiths that declare one way, one truth, one lord. Sure, bompu is the first, though he doesn't quite say "lowest," form of Zen, but I think it must relate to my in-laws' Buddhists belief that there are many names for the same path.

Yasutani also outlines the three aims of Zazen, namely the development of concentration (joriki), the awakening of self-realization (as I think I understand, Enlightenment or kensho-gedo), and the actualization of the way in daily life (mujodo no taigen). My aim, thus far, is joriki: "how to restrain our thoughts and concentrate our minds. . . . an enrichment of personality and a strengthening of character follow since the three basic elements of mind--that is, intellect, feeling, and will--develop harmoniously."

A Bed Raising

We're dismantling the kiddos' toddler beds today, after 4 years of nightly service. And before we started to take the beds apart, Mama raised the mattress to baby-crib level, at Sis's request. She had wanted to see what her bed looked like when she was a baby.

A baby.

Two babies. In one crib, in the beginning.

I remember the night my mom, not yet Gommie, and Mama, not yet Mama, had built those cribs. I was incredibly pregnant and uncomfortable and propped myself up in a corner taking pictures and even napping while they built the two cribs. Seeing them completed was unreal, but certainly forced a kind of recognition of the reality that there would eventually be two babies in those cribs, if all went well.

And then, there they were. Two babies, in one crib, at that time in our room for easier feedings. So small that there was still lots of crib leftover. The sun would shine in on them, swaddled in their striped hospital blankets. For fun (for us!), we'd put stuffed critters in there with them during awake times and they would just stare and reach. And attached to the crib was their nighttime "sleep sheep" that would make a variety of sounds that were necessary, for us, for them to sleep. Mobiles and other things came and went but "sleep sheep" and later the starry turtle were nighttime necessities. Again, more a ritual for us than for them, but whatever works, right?

Pretty soon they learned to roll some and, on the day we woke to find Sis kicking Bud in the head and him unable to roll away, we moved the crib into their room and separated them into their own beds. Where there was still more crib than baby. And again, we put a few toys in their cribs and we'd know they were awake when we could hear the aquarium toy in Bud's bed or the rattle of the dragon in Sis's crib. Later, as they could roll and then sit up, we lowered the mattresses to the lowest point. And the day they crawled over the rail, took off all their clothes, and danced in the middle of the room, we took the rail off to make big kid toddler beds.

Now, there is more kiddo than bed and it's time to move to big kid twin beds. The awareness that it was time for a change has been slower in coming than the epiphanies of the head-kicking or rail-crawling incidents. We noticed that they just didn't seem comfortable, seem to fit, in their beds anymore, which is partly because their number of critter companions has grown, but also because they've grown. And so, we bought new beds. Over and over again this morning, the kids have asked questions, obviously concerned about the change (despite lots of prep, with the choosing of new sheets and comforters and looking at the boxes of the new beds on the porch). "Why are you taking my bed apart?" "But I only like my old sheets." "I can't sleep if I don't see Sis." "Are you going to give away my critters too?" "You're not going to bunk them, right?" (right.)

And Mama and I are anxious too, for other reasons: are the new beds sturdy enough? should we have kept shopping around? how will we arrange them in the room? will the kids sleep?

And how did our little babies get to be so big?

Holiday Planning

Let preparations for the next holiday begin.

Sis is going to be a "pizzeria guy" for Halloween.

Bud is going to be a rock star.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: This Week's Plan

Sis was so excited to be at the farm today, mainly because Bud was asleep and she got to pick up our CSA box and shop in the farmstand alone with me. A treat for both of us, since Bud is not usually very far from my side when he is awake. We picked up our box and Sis counseled me to be very quiet as I opened the car so as not to wake her brother. Then we headed to the farmstand because she wanted more peaches. There, I let her select a bunch of fragrant peaches, plus some plums and nectarines--one of each for each of us--all on her own from the big basket. She then spied the tomatoes and said we needed those, too. I saw the green ones and had visions of Idgie, Ruth, Evelyn, and Mrs. Threadgoode. So, I asked the teenager at the till if he would sell them to me. He seemed unsure and so asked the older teenager in back. She came out and said, very seriously and concerned, when I asked if I could buy some green tomatoes, "You know, those aren't ready yet." I just said they were ready for what I needed them for. Poor Yankee kids, haven't heard of fried green tomatoes. Or that wonderful movie. But they sold them to me and we'll be having those tomorrow, along with a big Southern meal.

We got home and Sis excitedly helped me unload the CSA box. "Mommy, can we make another vegetable soup? I want to make vegetable soup!" Of course, and this time I'll let her choose ingredients so I don't mess it up with tomatoes again (funny, I'm usually the tomato-phobic one, though I'll eat them as long as they aren't raw or in big chunks. And of course, I'll eat the green ones dipped in cornmeal and buttermilk and fried, with a side of ranch dressing). She was then very excited about the corn on the cob--"Let's shuck it right now." There were green beans to snap and even curly kale, which she excitedly waved around, totally unsure what it was for. Mind you, I don't think she's eaten much from our CSA box, but I'm thrilled that she is excited about it.

Finally, she carefully placed all the fruit in the bowl and selected a peach for herself, which she gingerly washed and sat down to eat, exclaiming, "wow, Mom, I didn't think they were this sweet last time. This peach is sweet." And she ate it all the way down to the "seed."

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Our Menu for This Week (Approximately)
*denotes CSA ingredient (recipes will follow later)

Saturday: fried green tomatoes*, collard greens* and black eyed peas, cornbread, and peach cobbler*

Sunday: fried fish, corn on the cob*, and green beans*; make pickles from cucumbers

Monday: spaghetti with sauteed squash* and onion*, and salad mix* with radish* and kohlrabi*

Tuesday: kale* and potato soup; roasted garlic* on bread

Wednesday: cabbage* and ground turkey stir fry

Thursday: vegetable soup*

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Girls Like Those

We were at the library yesterday when several tweens showed up in a group. Wanting to play with the pipe cleaners and styrofoam, we joined them at the arts and crafts table, though both Bud and Sis were intimidated by them. So I said the girls wouldn't eat them.

Except that one girl said she would. For dinner.

And it went downhill from there, though no longer addressed directly to us.

They did what preteen girls sometimes do, were mean to each other in order to impress other each others. There was even a gay joke, with a girl bringing a book with the word gay in it (about a place called Gay-Neck?) and saying another girl needed it. And them all tittering and being offended. I didn't even know what to say. Though if it had been outloud or obvious, I know I would have said something. But since all my kids could do was sit and stared wide eyed and mouths agape, as if staring at strangely scary and gross animals in a zoo, I didn't want to draw any more attention to them than necessary. Especially since Sis had written her whole name on her project and Bud had commenced a special project on a styrofoam block.

More specifically, I was chicken. These were the groups of girls that made me nervous all through school. I might be 38+ years old, but I'm still not about to take on a pack of popular kids when I'm outnumbered.

Yet.

Because, if they'd done anything to harm or upset my kiddos, I could've squished them like the little preadolescent bugs they were.

I just dread the day my kids become those kids.

Which I know will come.


Cake-tantastic!

Yesterday at the library, Sis said, "Mommy, you make great cakes and so I'm going to make a cake great like you."

And she did.

With pink, blue, yellow, and green frosting, chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles, candles and novelty toys.

More than once.

On the Bob the Builder computer game, "Cake-tastic."

And I was so happy and proud.

Midsummer Vacation

Three people responded to my recent post about the current challenges with my restless and unhappy kiddos. All were teachers. All said I could blame it on midsummer, when kids begin to miss the routine of school.

Miss school?

They only went 2 times a week for nine months, their very first real experience of school. How can it have become so ingrained in them already?

But I think my friends are correct.

Because of course, during the inertia, malaise, and discontent of the last few days (which has, thankfully, at least partially abated), one of the kiddos asked me, "When are we going back to school?"

I guess we all got pretty used to our school routine. I know I miss the 6 hours a week I'm alone in the house doing whatever needs doing (or not doing anything that needs doing). In fact, they think of school, particularly their teachers, quite often and have been making lists of experiences they want to record in their "What I Did This Summer" books we're making specifically to share with their teachers. They have no concept of summer, really, and keep hoping to go back and see everyone soon. And as much as I can overlay schedule and routine on our summer days--field trips, playdates, "Pajama Friday"--it still isn't school.

I know that soon, probably sooner than I wish, my kids will think of summer as a wonderful break from school which they will likely come to detest (not preschool, I think, but my teacher-friend says it is observable in her first graders, which seems earlier than when I was a kid--but then I loved school. Just makes me sad, especially because it is where kids spend the majority of their time). I know others want to get rid of summer break (to solve low test scores, childcare problems, summer "slippage," and to compete internationally), and I would be all for it, if schools in this country were in general worth being at year-round (and I don't, for the record, lay the fault at the feet of teachers, for the most part, but a combination of them, government, school administration, and even parental expectations. In a pessimistic mood, I favor homeschooling; when I'm optimistic, I'm going to be an involved parent who changes the world one school at a time!). But the American school epxerience isn't structured like European or Asian schools; American students get less creative time and freeplay (especially recess), with all the emphasis on tests and scores, which, ironically, is probably the real reason our kids score so low and so desperately need a summer break.

So for now, I'm thrilled that all my kids can think of during these not-quite-dog-days of summer (it's not quite 75 here today) is school. And I hope their love of school lasts a long time . . . even despite school itself.

Happiness Is . . .

. . . it seems, very similar for the Danes and the Dalai Lama.
Expectations, outlook, point of view. Not actual circumstances or experiences. Pico Iyer notes, in writing on the Dalai Lama,
Happiness is not pleasure, [Benedictine monks] know, and unhappiness, as the Buddhists say, is not the same as suffering. Suffering — in the sense of old age, sickness and death — is the law of life; unhappiness is just the position we choose — or can not choose — to bring to it.
In fact, Eric Weiner suggests in "Lowered Expectations" on the Happy Days blog, such Buddhism might come naturally to the Danes:
About once a year, some new study confirms Denmark’s status as a happiness superpower. Danes receive this news warily, with newspaper headlines that invariably read: “We’re the happiest lige nu.” Lige nu is a Danish phrase that means literally “just now” but strongly connotes a sense of “for the time being but probably not for long.” Danes, in other words, harbor low expectations about everything, including their own happiness. Though not an especially religious people, Danes would make good Buddhists. They live their lives as the Buddha advised: in the present tense, not grasping at some future happiness jackpot.
And how do you do that? The Dalai Lama teaches, as Iyer notes,
We can’t change the world except insofar as we change the way we look at the world — and, in fact, any one of us can make that change, in any direction, at any moment. The point of life, in the view of the Dalai Lama, is happiness, and that lies within our grasp, our untapped potential, with every breath.
And that's why I'm counting my breaths.


Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Collards, Glorious Collards

I grew up eating greens but couldn't distinguish between turnip, mustard, or collard if my life depended on it. And I'm not sure my mom cooked or served them differently: they all were long-simmered, sometimes with a ham bone, and then served with hot pepper vinegar (for Pop) and sometimes sliced boiled egg. I didn't love them; I didn't hate them. They just were.

And today, I have a pot of collard greens on my stove, sans ham bone and egg, though there will probably be vinegar. The recipe comes from Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers's Greens Glorious Greens and is a low-fat, even vegetarian, almost anti-Southern version of the dish. But I'm in love with liquid smoke these days, the vegetarian's answer to ham bones and bacon, and have included it liberally in my pot.

I just might have to make cornbread tonight. Too bad we're out of peaches for crisp!

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Southern-Style (but Low-Fat) Collard Greens

3/4 lb collard greens (about 6 cups chopped)
4 cups lightly salted stock
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
apple cider or herbal vinegar
hot sauce

Wash collards, remove stalks, and stack 4-5 leaves. Roll like a cigar and slice into strips, approximately 1/2" wide (actually, I just tore them into pieces).

Bring the stock to a boil in a 3-4 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the liquid smoke.

Add the greens to the stock, pushing the greens down to submerge. Return to the boil, reduce heat to a slower bubble, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. (I'll actually cook mine a lot longer, it's just what you do).

Lift greens from stock with slotted spoon. Season to taste and serve with cornbread.

NOTE: I made some late additions, mainly a chopped onion and a cup of lentils, plus some vegetarian bacon salt for more flavor. Delicious.

Greens Glorious Greens

On Lectures 2 and 3

It's only been about 24 hours or so since I wrote on Lecture 1 of Yasutani-roshi's introductory lectures in The Three Pillars of Zen, so I have not had time adequately to practice repeatedly what he instructs on zazen in that first lecture. I'm reading a lecture a day, which isn't really how they were meant to be read, instead of spacing them with adequate practice in between. As he notes, "Modern students, however, being intellecturally more sophisticated than their predecessors in Zen, will not follow instructions unreservedly; they must first know the reasons behind them" (it is noted elsewhere, too, that modern students aren't as devoted or passionate. Probably in the editor's intro!). Being a typical modern student, I want to see where I'm going as I get there, kind of like have a Zen GPS, so I'm reading ahead without long practice in between. I'm hoping to read once through the lectures, practicing as I go, and then go back and incorporate the counting changes, etc., as I practice.

Lecture 2 is very nuts and bolts: where to sit in what kind of room during what time of day after or before such and such a meal (and of what kind) and for how long. Though, it seems that for each instruction or suggestion, he says to make it work for you and do what needs to be done, always noting that as your practice deepens these details won't matter much.

Lecture 3 focuses on mayko, or hallucinations, that come during the practice of zazen as the still surface of your mind is fuffled by deep thoughts, memories, or experiences. I'm not nearly to this point but it is interesting to read. Mama's transcendental meditation instructor had also told her about old or buried emotions and the like that would well up out of the quiet of her practice. I think it must be like a cleanse or a purge. But I have a ways to go before that happens.

Right now, I'm still counting inhalations and exhalations separately. Within about a week, I'll move to counting exhalations only, though just for a week (I wonder why longer is not "advisable.") Then you count inhalations. Which I tried, just briefly, while reading Lecture 3--it is very different. As he notes, most activities happen on the exhale so to count on the inhale seems off somehow. Just like it feels funny to do my PT exercises on the inhale, which I've never gotten the hang of. But I'm not there yet.

And since I don't want blogging or reading about zazen to take the place of practice, I'm going to go sit (though not in a clear, quiet room as suggested; there isn't one in my house and it's raining outside) in the last few minutes that my babysitter is here.

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Growing Sis's Vegetable Soup

With zucchini and yellow squash from our neighbor's garden, plus cabbage and curly kale and green beans from our CSA (there would've been carrots too but we ate all those on Friday, so we just used baby carrots from the store), we made vegetable soup this week. And Sis washed every vegetable that went into the big pot, quite capable of doing it all by herself and proud to be able to help. So we called it "Sis's Vegetable Soup." Bud wasn't interested at all, until eating time rolled around, at which he excels. Sis, however, wouldn't touch the soup, ostensibly because of the tomatoes but mainly because she shies away from the majority of the vegetables she washed, even the green beans that she snapped herself. She was, however, excited to take some of the soup, plus other dishes, to a neighbor whose husband recently had emergency back surgery.

And she didn't turn away from the peach crisp we made, inhaling both juicy peaches and the crispy oatmeal part, the latter which didn't surprise me nearly as much as the former did. I'd only bought 3 peaches from our CSA's farm stand, not nearly enough to make a big crisp for everyone. I'll buy double this week. For crisp, or better yet, fresh peach ice cream.

We ended the day, as usual, with storytime before bedtime. Sis's selection? Lois Ehlert's Growing Vegetable Soup! "And we can grow it again next year . . . "

Or, in our case, next week . . . .


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Sis's Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, minced
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups slow cooked)
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, left undrained
1 medium-size zucchini or yellow summer squash, diced (or both)

any additional vegetables, in this case 1/4-1/2 head of cabbage and a bunch of curly kale (sauteed on stove before adding to the soup)

6 cups stock
sat and black pepper

Pour the oil in the bottom of the 4-6 quart slow cooked. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic, cover, and cook on High while you assemble the remaining ingredients.

After they've been prepped, add the green beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, zucchini, and stock to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 7-8 hours.

adapted from "All-Day Minestrone" in Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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Our Fruit Crisp

This is the first recipe Mama and I really invented together and it is one of our favorites.

4-5 apples (or any other fruits)

lemon juice

½ cup flour

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup oatmeal

¼ teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

¼ cup butter

salt

cranberries (optional)

chopped pecans (optional)

Mix and bake in greased pan at 375°F for approximately 30 minutes.

Alternates: We don’t even measure anymore, just make enough mixture to cover apples. Also, this can be made with other fruits, including pitted cherries, raspberries, and blackberries. Or peaches.

Mommy and Mama Hungry

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Lecture 1

As I've mentioned, I'm reading Three Pillars of Zen, which contains the lectures of Yasutani-roshi, an important contemporary Zen monk, in order to clarify my understanding of the process of zazen. And the first thing I learned (though from the editor's introduction, which I eventually abandonned) is that zazen and meditation are not really the same thing.
Meditation involves putting something into the mind, either an image or a sacred word that is visualized or a concept that is thought about or reflected on, or both. . . . The uniqueness of zazen lies in this: that the mind is freed from bondage to all thought-forms, visions, objects, and imaginings, however sacred or elevating, and brought to a state of absolute emptiness form which alone it may one day perceive its own true nature, or the nature of the universe.
Initially, zazen practictioners do this by counting the breath, which is what I've been doing. Yasutani-roshi goes into detail about how to sit, how to breathe, even how to think:
Since your brain likewise is not asleep, various thoughtforms will dart about in your mind. Now, they will not hamper or diminish the effectiveness of zazen unless, evaluating them as "good," you cling to them or, deciding they are "bad," you try to check or eliminate them. . . . Let random thoughts arise and vanish as they will, do not dally with them and do not try to expel them, but merely concentrate all your energy on counting the inhalations and exhalations of your breath.
I get lost counting and will continue to try to focus on counting and breathing (though, my physical therapist will tell you I'm awful at both, since I never can keep track when I'm working out). But then today, when I was so worked up about the kids, I considered practicing zazen but wondered then if I should only go to it with a quieter mind or if it is exactly an upset mind that most needs to practice. So I blogged instead.

And then, I wondered, is practicing zazen as a non-Buddhist somehow inappropriate? Certainly, much of the first lecture reminds me of my Unitarian Universalist principles of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the interconnected web of life (which of course are drawn from a variety of sources, including Buddhism), particularly
that all human beings, whether clever or stupid, male or female, ugly or beautiful, are whole and complete just as they are. That is to say, the nature of every being is inherently without a flaw, perfect, no different from that of Amida or any other Buddha.
It's just that I don't privilege Buddha above any other and, while I am looking for enlightenment, I don't think of it with a capital "E." I am cautious of co-opting bits of a religion or culture. The editor's introduction mentions Yasutani-roshi's "emphasis on the religious aspect of Zen Buddhism--that is, on faith as a prerequisite to enlightenment." But it is not my faith. Perhaps I am putting the cart before the horse and should just practice counting my breaths. My Buddhist in-laws intentionally raised their children Catholic, as it was the dominant religion in NYC (and had the best schools) and they felt that there was not one but many paths and that it didn't matter what you called it (which I imagine would have driven the priests and nuns to distraction if they'd ever known). And, wouldn't you know, Mama at least has found her way back to Buddhism, in her own way?

What is Going On?

She had 4 pieces of toast for snack. He had two cups of yogurt--not containers, actual measured cups. And they are crabby, whiny, discontent--having trouble sharing and taking turns, unable to entertain themselves, tired of playing with me, getting frustrated--which leads to throwing things, family time-ins, and time-outs. Is it the letdown after Gommie's visit? The excitement of Mama's return? Disenchantment with our normal routine? A growth spurt? A virus? Sleep deprivations (though, they've been getting a relatively healthy 12 hours, with some interruptions; I haven't and am grumpy and tired)? I thought yesterday was bad. But today has started off even worse. I had even changed a few things today, thinking it might help: yesterday we had lots of family projects, today we've been doing freeplay; yesterday, we watched some music on tv first thing in the morning with Mama, today no tv right away; it was raining all day yesterday, today it's nice so we could go outside (but haven't. They don't want to get dressed and I'm not ready for that battle--if they want to go out, they can get dressed). They want computer games but but that's a Mama thing. They want Gommie but she's gone. They want to go to school but that's not for 6 weeks or so. They want to go somewhere but, in a relatively rare turn of events, I don't really want to take them anywhere because they are ill-tempered and not following directions. Though, I did say we could go to the library since they are so obviously unhappy with being home (I'm not too happy about it either but at least no one will see our meltdowns); they still won't get dressed, but are instead playing at the train table. Together. A recipe for disaster today. I've come upstairs to hide and regroup. Ugh, here they come. Wish me luck. It's going to be a long day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recipes 101

I love it when the Minimalist does a 101 list (like appetizers or picnic dishes or summer meals). Today it's simple salads. Can't wait to read it and try some!

Free Reading

TODAY is the 50th anniversary of the court ruling that overturned America’s obscenity laws, setting off an explosion of free speech — and also, in retrospect, splashing cold water on the idea, much discussed during Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, that judges are “umpires” rather than agents of social change.
In honor of this anniversary, I started reading Reading Lolita in Tehran today.

While it embraces a different meaning of free, I am also reading, though much more slowly, The Three Pillars of Zen.

Neither of these is this month's Hungry Book Club selection. Mama will be reading Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake, which I read last month, while I will be reading her short stories in Intrepreter of Maladies.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Twin Twins

We have bought the kids new beds, as they (and their critters) have outgrown the cribs-turned-toddler-beds they've had since birth. In the beginning, they actually slept in one bed together, only separating into two beds when they would roll and kick each other without being able to roll back! Then the cribs became toddler beds the day they both climbed out during nap time, stripped all their clothes off, and danced in the middle of the floor laughing. They were just shy of two years old and have never napped again. Now they are outgrowing their beds, stretching almost to the tip when sound asleep. So we've been keeping an eye on choices. We liked headboards with bookcase shelving and captain's beds with underneath storage but frankly our house is just too small for two of those to fit in one room and leave any floor space for playing. And, as much as we like bunk beds, we're not sure it's safe for them yet and want an option for when they move into separate rooms (which we don't plan on until later elementary school at least, both to save space and to promote sibling bonding). Today I saw these beds at the warehouse store. Yes, it's a bunk bed. But it can also be two separate twins. So, two beds now, bunk beds when they're older (the packaging says not before age 6), and then separate beds again if/when they have their own rooms. And there should still be space in their room to play. Problem solved. Well, except now they will need new sheets and blankets. And I'll have to get used to them in big kid beds. But the hardest part will be passing along their cribs to someone else.

Moon Landing

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the first walk on the moon, I want to tell you a family story: As my mom tells it, when I was a baby, she was so excited about the moon landing that she woke me up and put me in a bouncy seat in front of the television so I could later say I saw it.

Thing is, I wasn't born until two years later.

And Mom can't figure out which poor baby--was it a cousin? a friend?--she did wake up, or if she imagined it at all!

So, even though I didn't actually see it, Mom, I do have a special fondness for that first moonwalk!

Come and Get It

With Mama home and Gommie back in Texas, life is back to normal, in theory. We even had swim lessons today, after a week's hiatus while the teacher was away. And the weather actually feels like summer! So, as I try to get everything back on track after almost two weeks of excitement, change, and new experiences (and don't get me wrong, that was all fun but the kids are ready for some predictability, I think), I made dinner, basing it on something they both loved at the MA cabin: chicken sausages. But it didn't work. Nope, couldn't have convinced them to eat the sausages, though Sis inhaled the New England-styled hot dog bun it came on and Bud licked off all the green relish.

But they ate both the steamed broccoli and roasted cauliflower. Go figure. My kids pass up perfectly good sausages for vegetables! I'd be proud if I weren't frustrated.

As I was almost done cooking, I realized I didn't have a main course for me (though chicken sausage pasta was one of our old dinner favorites). So, inspired by a recipe from a friend for Arroz con Gandaules, I made a cheater's version. And I must say, it was pretty good.

Though, I might have to go back to our regular menus and serve meatloaf or fettucine carbonara tomorrow.

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Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
olive oil
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Toss florets in olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast approximately 15 minutes. Serve with cheese, any dipping sauces, or plain.

inspired by cousin C's recipe

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Chicken Sausage Pasta

1 package chicken sausages (we used Aidell's Chicken and Apple usually), sliced
onion, chopped
bell pepper, seeded and chopped
garlic, minced
1 lb thin spaghetti
salt, pepper

Brown sausages in skillet. Meanwhile cook spaghetti and drain. Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic to sausage and cook until tender, adding olive oil if necessary. Toss sausage mixture with spaghetti in skillet. Serve hot.

Mommy and Mama Hungry

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Arroz con Gandules a la My Friend

Rice... here's the idea,, but I am pretty inconsistent with how moist or dry it ends up,... first 4 cups water, add 2 packets on Sazon con Afaran, 1 packet of Jamon, 2 ice cubes maybe 3 of sofrito (green, can buy it in the produce section S&S, in a little plastic tub--divide up into a tray and freeze). let it simmer a bit get all the flavours meshing then add the rice 2 cups I think, let it cook with the cover off boil then simmer, like regular rice... when the water is mostly absorbed / rice is cooked put cover on towards the end. You can add whatever you want to this rice... peas and/or corn, gandules (pidgen peas) or serve with beans

Church friend Miss D

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Arroz con Gandules from Goya Label

2 slices bacon or 1/2 cup ham, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-15 oz can Goya Green Pigeon Peas, undrained
1 packet Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote (Coriander and Annatto)
1/2 cup Goya tomato sauce
3 cups water
2 cups rice

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon, onions, and peppers; cook 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients except rice. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice; cover. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Goya Gandules Verdes label (Goya website has a different recipe completely)

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My Cheater's Version of Arroz con Gandules

leftover rice from the Tex-Mex place
1 can Green Pigeon Peas (Gandules Verdes) by Goya, drained and rinsed
1 package Goya Sazon with Azafran
1 can diced tomatoes

Heat peas in some water with diced tomatoes (though, I wish I'd had plain tomato sauce or even paste) and seasoning packet. Serve over rice (though I scooped it with a slotted spoon). Pretty good in a pinch.

Mommy Hungry

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rest Time Ruminations

Just some things from the last few days:
  • Bud's experience wearing a Yankees hat in MA (which I forgot to post): Bud wore his Yankees hat up to our minister's cabin in MA and even before we crossed the state line, he was getting grief. Three people at the doughnut shop in Winsted commented on his hat. And not in a good way. "Don't you know you're in Red Sox territory?" they asked. Such is the rivalry, I guess, except he doesn't know there is one. Or, for that matter, any other baseball teams. Luckily, we were only visiting!
  • Revisiting the scene of Bud's accident: We went to the park with Gommie and Mama yesterday, THE park, where Bud fell. He actually asked to go, though he said he wasn't going to go on the crooked steps. That was pretty much his only issue. Fine. For him. I was traumatized and ended up crying on the playground (though, I think only Gommie and Mama noticed). Hopefully, we're all cleansed of the incident now and can enjoy that park again. But I was glad to have Mama and Gommie there for our first trip back, even though I didn't expect to get that upset.
  • Meeting my first hedgehog: We went to another birthday party yesterday (by my count, we have 2 more summer birthdays to go). And there were lots of animals: an angora rabbit, a tortoise, a bald python, a bearded dragon, a chinchilla, and, best of all, a hedgehog! I had never seen a real hedgehog in person before, though I'm quite the fan of stuffed, animated, or otherwise cute renditions of hedgehogs, dating back at least to my 1999 trip to England but specifically my 2002 trip, when I visited York and bought a crossstitch pattern of a hedgehog at the cathedral (that also started me on crossstitch. Ironically, I haven't done the pattern yet, waiting . . . not sure what for, though. Maybe to be really good?). Anyway, real hedgehogs don't really look like cartoon ones but are still cute and move faster than I expected. And did you know that their spines feel like uncooked rice? I was really surprised.
  • 7-11s as a male domain: Ever noticed that there rarely seem to be any woman at convenience stores? Why is that? Mama and I were there last night getting ice cream and in two trips (don't ask) we were the only women, out of more than 15-20 people there and about. Is the reason a safety thing? Is it that women will just go to the grocery store? I mean, what women do you know who will eat convenience store hot dogs, much less the accompanying chili and cheese out of a mechanical pumping machine? It's man food. Huge slurpies, beef jerky, weird power drinks. If women consume most of the food at 7-11, my guess is they buy it surreptiously so as not to seem gluttonous (whether they are or not, I'd say we all often like to give the appearance of eating healthy. But there seems like something macho about eating pure crap food). Yes, I'm stereotyping and essentializing, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong about it being a man store.
  • My changing taste in ice cream: okay, about the ice cream, I bought Ben and Jerry's "Marzipan Madness," with almond cookies and marzipan, two of my favorite flavors, but I didn't like the busy, gritty, overly sweet ice cream. I think I'm becoming an ice cream purist. I used to love chunky, busy ice cream like NY Super Fudge Chunk or Chocolate Fudgie Brownie, but now I just like something simple: coffee (they were out), dulce de leche (with just the hint of caramel in the vanilla), Black and Tan (a B&J's flavor you never see anymore but Mama and I loved it), and last night's pineapple coconut. Is my ice cream palate maturing?
  • How I want to make a pillowcase like Granny Q's: Gommie's mah jong friend Granny Q makes the kiddos wonderful, colorful holiday-themed pillowcases. They just got rainbow birthday ones. And I want to be able to make pillowcases like hers myself. They'd make perfect gifts for (all the birthdays of) our little friends. I don't know Granny Q's actual pattern but this looks similar; definitely worth trying, even with my minimal sewing skills.
  • Bud and the urinal: at the birthday party yesterday, we had to wash our hands after touching the animals and Bud and I ended up in the men's room (it was a privately-rented space so no problem there). He desperately wanted to use the urinals--something I had been warned would become of increasing interest to him--since he never gets to use them with me. But these were too high and he couldn't reach by himself (and wouldn't accept any help). He was very disappointed.
  • Children's books that can't be read aloud well: I don't like those little floppy tv- and movie-based books for kids, you know the ones that are sold from the round about racks. I'm not particularly against reading tv shows but the books are so poorly written. Not just that there's almost no plot coherence and it only makes sense if you've seen the show. The sentence structure, interactive questions, requests for motion and movement (like, whose kids get up and move around when they're reading a book . . . or watching tv?) make the books almost impossible to read well outloud. It's like an affront to English. To reading. To children's literature. Ugh. And yet, the books are easy to pick out at the store (with covers visible, instead of tucked away on a shelf), familiar in subject, a good fit for a lap, and light enough to carry/hold easily, so my kids always choose them. And so I read them. Grudgingly.
  • "Book performance": And so today, before even asking me to read those books, my kids read them themselves. And to us. They sat on the "stage" and said it was a "book performance." Each with a copy, they flipped through the pages, telling us the stories (which they knew from the show and guessed from the pictures). They even started with the covers and asked "what do you think this book is about? can you tell from the picture?" Just like at story time at the Eric Carle. Then they'd read through and bow at the end. Brava! Bravo!
  • The Three Pillars of Zen: Upon Momma Zen's recommendation, in a comment on my blog, I purchased this book, which is an introduction to Zen Buddhism. I'm looking forward to reading it. Mama would like a book on Theravadan Buddhism, the kind based on the Pali Canon and practiced by her family, so she can better understand her family's approach, but it's a start (especially since, as I understand it, Theravada isn't that popular in the US, while Zen and Tibetan are).
  • Gommie's name posters: Gommie had made fantastical drawings made for the kids which incorporate their names. Sis's is a pink "love house" in which the word love is spelled out andhas a shower, a swing, a hammock, etc. Bud's is "guitar house" with musical notes as the grass. They liked imagining how they could live in their houses. We bought frames for them and will put them up on the wall.
  • Being "-less": Have I mentioned this before? My kids like to add "-less" to words when they want to indicate lack. Like when they are lacking rest, they say they are "rest-less" (or, more specifically, "I'm not rest-less," aka "I don't want rest time!") When they are lacking play, they say they are "play-less." They add it to lots of things trying to explain what they want or don't want.
  • NYTimes articles: assisted suicide (if your longtime life partner were dying and you could, would you choose to commit suicide with your partner, as a British conductor did with his wife of 54 years); cancer screening (how sometimes PSA do more to create panic and less to help patients by pushing sometimes unncessary or ineffective screenings). I think I'll do "being a baby bulimic" and the meaning of life (R Cohen) separately some other time.
Oops, rest time is over and it's time to go swimming. I'll get to these later:
  • Going to see the train museum
  • Unloading Mama's suitcases, with costumes, food, and Japanese toys
  • Praying, eating, or driving--more details of Mama's trip to Thailand

Happy 1st Anniverary!

A year ago this evening, we were all in Texas celebrating the marriage of Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer. Congratulations on your first year of wedded bliss! May you have a lifetime more . . .

Gommie Will Leave the Building

Today is Gommie's departure day. In about2 1/2 hours, we'll take her to the train. We're all going, as Sis has asked to see the trains and Gommie said yes. I usually like to send Mama with her instead of waiting for goodbye at the station. But we'll try it this way.

And then we're going to do something distracting for a bit.

More later, on such diverse topics as:
  • Bud's experience wearing a Yankees hat in MA (which I forgot to post)
  • Revisiting the scene of Bud's accident
  • Going to see the train museum
  • Meeting my first hedgehog
  • 7-11s as a male domain
  • My changing taste in ice cream
  • Unloading Mama's suitcases, with costumes, food, and Japanese toys
  • Praying, eating, or driving--more details of Mama's trip to Thailand
  • How I want to make a pillowcase like Granny Q's
  • Bud and the urinal
  • Children's books that can't be read aloud well
  • "Book performance"
  • The Three Pillars of Zen
  • Gommie's name posters
  • Being "-less"
  • NYTimes articles on "being a baby bulimic," the meaning of life (R Cohen), assisted suicide, cancer screening