Monday, August 31, 2009

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Squash Overload

I think there are at least 8 squash, both yellow and green, in my fridge, plus 2-3 more almost ready on our squash plants. Time to figure out how to use up a lot of squash at once. Here's an idea from two years ago that everyone liked--Summer Squash Stew; not sure if they will still, but we'll see. I'll probably do it stovetop again, as it's too late in the day for the slow cooker (and, of course, I'll substitute crumbles for the sausage).

Send along any squash recipes you have and like . . .

(Note from dinnertime: I actually ended up making Tortilla Soup, as I started to crave Tex-Mex as I was cutting squash!)


Summer Squash Stew

2 lbs bulk Italian turkey sausage (we used 1.5 lb ground turkey and .5 lb sausage)
4-14.5 oz cans diced seasoned tomatoes, undrained
5 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
5 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped (we used yellow)
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried tomato, basil, and garlic salt-free spice seasoning (didn’t have this; used Lawry’s)
4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (optional)

Brown sausage in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, stirring to break up meat. Drain. Combine sausage, tomatoes with juice, squash, zucchini, onion, and seasonings in 5-quart slow cooker; mix well. Cover; cook on LOW 3-4 hours.

Sprinkle cheese over strew; cook, uncovered, 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

Note: I actually made this on the stove, not having enough time for 4 hours in the slow cooker. Worked fine.

Makes 6 servings

Slow Cooker Bible


Tortilla Soup

3-4 cans chicken broth (or homemade chicken stock)

onions, celery, garlic, carrots, zucchini

green chilies

1 can diced tomatoes (or ½ can Rotel)

corn tortillas in strips

Monterrey Jack cheese

Cook vegetables in chicken broth. Serve with tortilla strips and cheese.

(My note tonight: I used diced tomatoes instead of Rotel, added a can of Ranch Beans, and an orange bell pepper, but no celery. Plus no chicken!)


Happy Belated Birthday . . .

. . . to Mommy Goose! Please consider the celebration today in your honor, too . . .

What We Ate This Weekend

A Taste of Dim Sum in Flushing, with notes and pics from a variety of sources, courtesy of Mama.

If you've never been, dim sum is like Chinese brunch where tapas-like little servings of lots of foods are pushed around in carts and you stop them and choose what you want. The place we went, a huge banqueting hall in Flushing, is extremely popular and busy so we got there early so we could get a seat near the kitchen, providing the best variety and hottest selection.

Bud liked the shao mai best, plus the waterchestnut cake and steamed sponge cake (he even drank the tea, once it had cooled), while Sis preferred the char sia bao (the bbq pork buns), dan tat, steamed custard buns. Mama eats everything, but I preferred all the desserts (including coconut custard and almond dofu, not included here), since almost nothing else is vegetarian (though I got some great greens with oyster sauce, plus the turnip and taro cakes I really like). All in all, despite the funeral of Sen. Kennedy on every tv screen, we had a wonderful time on our first family dim sum outing. Bud even managed to eat a meatball with chopsticks all by himself! While Sis liked wandering to the food stations (you can order food there, in addition to all the food carts being pushed around) with Gong.

Shaomai (燒賣 siu mai): Small steamed dumplings with either pork, prawns or both inside a thin wheat flour wrapper. Usually topped off with crab roe and mushroom.

Shrimp Dumpling (蝦餃 har gau): A delicate steamed dumpling with whole or chopped-up shrimp filling and thin wheat starch skin.

Rice noodle rolls or cheong fun (腸粉 cheong fun): These are wide rice noodles that are steamed and then rolled. They are often filled with different types of meats or vegetables inside but can be served without any filling. Rice noodle rolls are fried after they are steamed and then sprinkled withsesame seeds. Popular fillings include beef, dough fritter, shrimp, and barbecued pork. Often topped with a sweetened soy sauce. (we had the shrimp one)

Steamed meatball (牛肉球 ngau4 juk6 kau4): Finely-ground beef is shaped into balls and then steamed with preserved orange peel and served on top of a thin bean-curd skin.

Taro dumpling (芋角 wu gok): This is made with mashed taro, stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and pork, deep-fried in crispy batter.

Steamed Lotus Paste Bun

The bamboo steamed version is generally known as (鮮竹捲, sin jyut gyun). It is wrapped with dried tofu skin (腐竹, fu zhu). During the cooking process, the tofu skin is hydrated. It makes the roll very soft and tender. This is the version most commonly served as a dim sum dish during yum cha sessions. The steamed tofu skin rolls often contain bamboo shoots.

Turnip cake
(蘿蔔糕 lo bak go): cakes are made from mashed daikon radish mixed with bits of dried shrimp and pork sausage that are steamed and then cut into slices and pan-fried.

Taro cake (芋頭糕): The pan fried square taro cake is semi-crunchy on the outside and medium-soft on the inside

Water chestnut cake (馬蹄 糕 maa tai gow): cakes made of water chestnut. It is mostly see-thru and clear

Egg tart (蛋撻 dan tat): composed of a base made from either a flaky puff pastry type dough or a type of non-flaky cookie dough with an egg custard filling, which is then baked. Some high class restaurants put bird's nest on top of the custard. In other places egg tarts can be made of a crust and a filling of egg whites and some where it is a crust with egg yolks. Some egg tarts now have flavors such as taro, coffee, and other flavors. There are also different kinds of crust. There is also a flaky crisp outer crust with layers and layers of crunchy crumbs.

Jin deui or Matuan (煎堆 or 麻糰): Especially popular at Chinese New Year, a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep fried.

Spring roll (春捲 cheun gyun): a roll consisting of various types of vegetables — such as sliced carrot, cabbage, mushroom, and wood ear fungus — and sometimes meat are rolled inside a thin flour skin and deep fried.

White sugar sponge cake (also called white sugar cake and white sugar pastry) is a type of Chinese pastry.

A New Skill

Yes, I've learned to pull the card out of the camera and view it from the computer so I can upload pictures to my blog, which is what I've been doing for the first half hour of rest time. No, I haven't figured out Shutterfly by myself; maybe that's next.

The Very Fuzzy Caterpillar

We found another of those green (trust me, it's green) fuzzy caterpillars with black projections today and put it in our new fairy garden. Can't identify it, have no idea what kind of butterfly or moth it will become. But it's fun to watch scoot around.

It was actually part of a bug hat trick that we found today, along with a cicada (not just the shell but the whole bug) and a slug.

Our New Garden

Happy Birthday, Pop!

We had a party for you today, complete with a giant strawberry-chocolate cupcake that the kiddos and their friends helped decorate and eat. Hope you had as much fun as we did!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

We're Back!

. . . but too tired to write much now. Except that we had a good time--at dim sum, in Chinatown, on the beach, with the ice cream truck, with a large-screen tv, and in the backyard pool.

Also, best wishes to Mama Teacher and son who have their first day of school tomorrow. We're rooting for you, CJ!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Weekend Away

Even with the rain coming (yep, more rain, the remnants of another hurricane, I think), we're heading to NYC for a "beach campout" at the grandparents', plus a trip to Chinatown for dim sum and grocery shopping. And we have lots to do today, including CSA box pickup and a haircut.

Which means there won't be many posts until Sunday . . .


"Little Einsteins" and "WordWorld" are back! We had watched them in the spring and quickly lost interest, but yesterday the kids asked for them both, I think, mainly because we'd seen lots of the tie-in merchandise at the store. I think maybe they can appreciate "WordWorld" more now, being much more interested in spelling and words. In fact, the other day, Sis noticed that my name--Mom--is on my bumper sticker in rainbow colors! And they love typing their names and ours (Mommy and Mama) in email.

And right now, they are watching "Sesame Street," which they had never taken to (well, besides "Elmo's World," which is the only part they would watch). But they saw it at the end of "WordWorld" and now they are watching, even though Bud keeps saying he doesn't like it. I loved Sesame Street! But then, we had fewer choices then--"Sesame Street," "Mr Rogers's Neighborhood," "Electric Company," "ZOOM!," and, my only favorite cartoon, "Speed Racer." I'm not sure why I'm so set on them liking and watching "Sesame Street"--because I liked it? because it is educational?

Or, because it's an hour long??!!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


After a fun morning of playing with church friends in the backyard, during which time the four kids, with help from the toddler, made a muddy fish pond and found a fuzzyy green caterpillar with black projections (not just antennae, but about 6 of them all over) that I can't identify or find on the web, my kiddos and I got a picnic lunch at the deli: the usual half-ham sandwiches on Portuguese rolls for them and a wrap for me (with feta, cranberries, avocado, and mesclun, in balsamic dressing), plus cookies and ice cream, and today, roasted corn soup (sometime we get the cream of broccoli or mushroom or black bean with mushroom. Note to self: Bud loved the one today, with corn, tomatoes, onion, celery, and broth). We ate on the blanket under the tree in our front yard, enjoying the cool breeze and blue sky. Sis even noticed, as she munched chips lying down on her back, that the leaves on the miniature Japanese maple were turning colors (I think it was the light, not autumn). Then after a rousing game of soccer (with one net and two balls!), we decided to draw on the driveway and sidewalk, making mazes and labyrinths. I made sure each had a path through it with several misleading turns and we had fun walking backwards and forwards through each several times. I used the pun in the title, calling our creations "amazing," but they just stared at me, laughing only because I laughed. And that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Rah, Rah, Ratatouille!

With eggplant, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and zucchini in our CSA boxes recently, I immediately thought of ratatouille. I'm surprised I haven't blogged about ratatouille before because I have really grown to enjoy it, when I never would have considered it a few years ago (not being a big eggplant or squash fan then). I tried a new version of the recipe today, from Robin Robertson (it's the first of the two below), in my new small slow cooker (thanks to Miss D for the wedding present!), and it is definitely quicker and easier; plus I like the pesto at the end. Jyl Steinbeck's ratatouille (the second recipe) requires salting the eggplant and letting it drain for an hour, which is a tedious step (especially because once I forgot to rinse all the salt off), but the tomato paste gives it a sweetness to counterbalance some of the acidity; plus it makes a whole bunch (probably double the Robertson), which can be good or bad. Oddly, neither recipe includes Herbes de Provence, which I'm told is standard to be a "real" ratatouille, so now I use it instead of the other herbs (I mean, who can pass up lavender with dinner?) Tonight, Bud inhaled the ratatouille, starting with the zucchini, then onions, then bell pepper, even though each time he said, "I don't eat that!" and then did--we just snuck in the eggplant by the end! I might try to combine these two recipes and see what I get, with pesto and tomato paste. Because I think we get all these ingredients again this week . . .

Half-Day Ratatouille

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, sedded and cut into 1/2" dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme (I used Herbes de Provence)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons pesto

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooker.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the onion to the slow cooker along with the bell pepper, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, and their juice, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours, until the vegetables are tender.

Just before serving, stir in the pesto.

Robin Robertson, Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker


1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1-2 teaspoons salt
2 cups frozen chopped onions, thawed, drained and patted dry (or, geez, real onions)
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 large green
bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces
2 medium zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
3 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons nonfat vegetable broth
1-6 oz can Italian
tomato paste with roasted garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray (wipe with canola oil for kiddos). Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand in colander 30-60 minutes to drain (we did about 45 min). Press out any excess moisture; rinse eggplant with water and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange eggplant in bottom of cooker. Top with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, and squash. Ad dried basil and minced garlic to broth; pour over vegetables and mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Stir in tomato paste and fresh basil before serving.

Jyl Steinbeck, The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Oh, Brother, Bear!

The kids have added a new movie to their repertoire along with Finding Nemo: Brother Bear, "the story of a boy who becomes a man by becoming a bear." Sure, most kids watch moralistic but lighthearted tales about cars or penguins or princesses; my kids watch a moralistic Native American tale about death, revenge, love, and redemption.

In short, there are three brothers: Sitka the oldest; Denahi the middle, and Kenai the youngest. On the day he is to get his spirit totem (which turns out to be the bear of love), Kenai doesn't tie up the fish they have all caught and a bear comes. When Kenai confronts the bear, tragedy ensues. Sitka dies when he intentionally knocks himself and the bear off the glacier to try to save his brothers from the bear. But the bear survives and Kenai goes after it in revenge, though Denahi counsels him not to (since he blames Keenai, not the bear). Kenai kills the bear in cold blood. And Sitka, who is now the embodiment of his totem of guidance, an eagle spirit, changes Kenai into a bear to teach him a lesson. Denahi thinks the bear, now Kenai, has killed Kenai and so sets off to kill the bear, picking up Kenai's quest. Confused yet? Anyway, Kenai meets up with a bear cub named Koda who has been separated from his mom and together the two trek to the place where the Northern Lights meet the earth, where Kenai can become a man again (not that he's told Koda that he's not really a bear). On the way, Kenai learns to appreciate bears, nature, love, family, etc, but has a particular revelation about these when he finds out that he had killed Koda's mom, the bear in the beginning who was only, we now learn, protecting her cub Koda. In the end, when Kenai meets Sitka on the mountain, followed by Denahi, he chooses to stay a bear and take care of Koda, who needs him (and who now knows that his "big brother" had killed his mom but stays with him anyway, a model of "brotherhood" and forgiveness in contrast to Kenai's earlier revenge of Sitka). Koda's mom even appears with Sitka and hugs Koda. And the new family of three brothers--Denahi, Kenai the bear, and Koda--go to the final ceremony where Kenai becomes a "man" and puts his paw print on the cave wall.

It makes me cry every time.

What were we thinking?

And as much as I can blame Mama for the pick (even after she checked parental reviews online! And mind you, we'd seen it years ago but had forgotten), I've actually been pretty amazed by the discussions the kids and I have had about the movie. Bud keeps going back to "why did Sitka die on the mountain" or "why did Kenai kill Koda's mom" and trying to understand. Sis is more concerned about the spirits, either the meaning of the totems or the actual spirits living in the Northern Lights. We've talked about death and afterlife, redemption (or "learning a lesson") and the golden rule and forgiveness, about what it means to be a family and what love is. And they have these amazing insights, like "Kenai decides to stay a bear so he can be Koda's new mommy." Or, "Koda's mom comes back because she is missing the fun and wants to say goodbye." We talked about all the "brothers" in the film, the original three, how Kenai becomes Koda's brother, and even the comic relief of the moose brothers. And I pointed out that even though there weren't any sisters (or many women at all), the movie is about all family. We also talked a little about why it makes me cry, since they've noticed both times (yes, we've watched it twice and they want to watch it again today. I figure we'll watch until we don't have any questions. But only once a day). And I talk about how I'm sad for Koda and for Kenai, for Sitka and Koda's mom, and that I even cry because in the end Kenai made the right choice. And followed his totem of love . . .

So, while I couldn't believe we were watching this movie the first time through (and the questions started at the very beginning), I'm so glad we did. Again and again . . .


With only a few weeks of summer left, I find myself nesting. It wasn't intentional and I hadn't realized it until yesterday, but I feel like I've hunkered down some. We're not really planning many playdates. And I'm not even on the computer or phone that much. It's not bad, i.e. I'm not upset or overly emotional or anything negative like that. Just trying to enjoy these last days of summer before the craziness of the school year, especially since I'm relieved that I made it through almost 3 1/2 months with the kids at home full time! So, if I don't blog much, or haven't yet answered your call or email, I'm sure I'm playing with the kids and I'll get back to you soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tennis, Anyone?

We went to the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven this evening, my very first attendance at a live tennis match. Mama and I have watched women's tennis on tv, randomly, over the years, rooting mainly for Lindsay Davenport (who is now retired. And we got into it way after Navratilova) but not really following the tour at all. But free tickets came our way to this and we said yay!

I must say, professional tennis is just different from other professional sports that I've attended (including basketball and baseball, but, oddly, never football that I recall) or watched on tv (lots of football; well, lots for us). Everything is different from the treatment of athletes to the decorum of the game, to the sponsors and the spectators, down to the food and where you can eat it. It's a completely different sports culture.

  • People who watch tennis actually play tennis, probably competitively or at least seriously, and not just pick-up games.
  • And from all levels of the sport--there seemed to be a lot of junior players and their families hanging about.
  • Many of the fans wear fancy garden party clothes to these tennis matches, just like in the movies. Lots of pastels and beige pants and button-down shirts and sweaters tied around the neck. Seriously, even in August. I even saw pearls.
  • It's a very diverse audience internationally, with lots of French and Russian, among other languages, spoken. It was a white audience, but not as white as I expected, actually (and Mama helped!).
  • And there were lots of women, making up at least 50% of the fans.
  • And so many lesbians! It was right up there with the WNBA and Dinah Shore Classic. And Mauresmo wasn't even playing tonight . . .
  • And I'd say several of the fans never even came to their seats, but milled around drinking and eating (okay, so that's not different from other sports, except maybe in what they were eating and drinking!)
  • The sponsors were upscale--it's not American beer and cars--but watches and insurance and the like.
  • And in the booths set up in the outside "fairway," there were people from several investment firms, luxury vacations, fancy handbags, etc.
  • Oh, and the food!! Sure, burgers and pizza. But Mama had fried clams (instead of lobster) and I polished off Crepes Suzette and crepes with strawberries and nutella. CREPES! And all the people at this both were French speakers! In chef whites!
  • And there were potted flowers everywhere, even on the court! And you know someone is responsible for watering those flowers til the end of the game.
  • It's a spectator sport, officially, but the spectator is very much suppressed and minimized: there is no cheering during the match, almost no eating, no moving around, no talking more than a whisper, and no returning to your seat except at every other set or so (so time those bathroom visits carefully). You can clap in the few seconds before the umpire yells "time!" Otherwise, the officials and players want to pretend you aren't there. (And when the umpire noticed people "misbehaving," she got on their case. And we saw it happen a few times).
  • Which means that you actually watch the match, because you can't do anything else, creating a high level of intimacy and attention.
  • And the players are quite catered to--Mama counted 14+ people staffing a match between the two players, who never had to get their own water or towels or anything. And the coaches sit still on the sidelines until the players call them! (I think it's a rule). But in the end, the players seemed approachable, signing autographs, knocking autographed balls into the crowd, and gamefully talking to the announcer afterwards (well, Kuznetsova did; I think it's usually the winners).
  • In the end, the culture of tennis seems more like opera than sports (is this is what golf is like? is it because of tennis's relatively elite status? or is it just CT/Yale? Which seems odd, in a way, because the tickets would have been cheaper than the cheapest Yankees' seats, actually). There was even a polite standing ovation at the end.

And so I was completely uncomfortable in the beginning, unsure of the rules, which seemed to be numerous and unfamiliar. Despite that (or maybe because of it because I spent as much time pondering the game and its culture as watching the ball fly over the net, while Mama was into strokes and percentages and strategies. But then I'm the big-picture thinker and she's detail-girl), we had a great time and saw a strong match between Kuznetsova and Zheng (6-1, 6-7, 6-4). I'd go again, for sure, especially to practice the culture before heading to the "big leagues" of the US Open in Queens sometime . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Birth" Announcement

Please welcome our new arrival!

Name: Purrington Table Loom, nickname "Miss Selma"
Birth Place: Storrs, CT (perhaps originating in WV and brough to CT by "The Norrises" on the label)
Date: sometime in the last 60 years, but arrived at our home today

16 shafts
18" wide
35 lbs
collapsible wings

We look forward to a wonderful life together!

Whale Riders

It was, unexpectedly, a perfect summer day yesterday, despite a hurricane roaring past us on its way to Newfoundland and unstable thunderstorms threatening but never materializing. That, and the party we had planned to go to but were a bit nervous about attending cum children went splendidly.

It started immediately upon arrival at the lakefront house on several acres of pine-tree dense land: the kids and I spotted a fairy house at the base of one of the trees, complete with paperdoll fairy. We felt right at home immediately. There was also a children's playhouse in the woods, with little wagons that we used to gather materials for our own fairy house: acorns, bark, big pine cones, pine needles, and lots of things we don't have in our yard with which to build. And so, while Mama mingled with her co-workers (for it was a non-work party hosted by a colleague), the kids and I played in the woods.

And then, after eating some, we headed down to the lake, which is a beautiful, private lake surrounded by such dense forest that only docks are visible to indicate that other houses were nearby. Some of the party guests were sunbathing, others were paddle-boating, and some were swimming.

Which is when my kiddos, who'd tested the water by dipping their toes off the floating dock, decided that they too wanted to swim. And not just wade at the shore (which we tried first) where it was rocky and sandy. No, they wanted to swim off the end of the dock like all the big people. Except we weren't prepared for that. Never in a million years had we expected that they'd want to swim so we hadn't brought a thing. After some ascertaining that they were indeed serious and set on swimming, Mama raced home to get our things, and came back (though Mama doesn't have a swimsuit so it was only me in the water with the kids).

And we swam. I was in the water astride a noodle, which is a magical, buoyant foam thing that would hold me upright out of the water so I wasn't purely treading (the lake was 40' deep not far from shore and even before the end of the dock). The kids took turns, in the only small life preserver there. Bud "swam" facing me, astride what he called "the french fry," hugging my neck and beaming with pride and happiness. Sis "swam" facing outwards, grasping the noodle to "steer" us where she wanted to go; I never really saw her face but pictures show her exuberant. Neither really liked when I would spin us in circles, though Sis liked bobbing up and down. She also liked to go farther out in the water, asking to swim all the way across, which I patently refused. On one of her turns, Sis begged to use the inflatable whale toy, which had been one of the enticements into the water in the first place--so she climbed on top and bobbed up and down for a bit, looking every bit in command of that whale and the whole lake! Between children, while Mama was switching out the life preserver, I would float and relax, practically meditating in the still, cool (though all these Yankees said it was warm. Compared to the icy Atlantic perhaps, but not the bathtub warm Gulf) water. We did this for about an hour, the last ones swimming. Then I floated while they got dressed and they brought me a towel so we could all grab something to eat together.

It was something I thought we'd never do, something I never would have done on my own (in a swimsuit! in front of people! ones I didn't know! in a lake! where I couldn't see! much less touch!). But it was perfect. Really made the whole day. And was an experience I will always remember. Kids certainly pull you outside of your comfort zone. And that can be a really great thing.

Home Alone, 2

"B-U-U-U-R-R-R-R-P-P-P-P-P!" Bud let loose a burp.

"Remember that's a 'home alone' rule, Bud," I remind him, invoking our rule that some behaviors are only for at home when no one but the family is here. Otherwise, I'm fine with burping and other body humor (like our almost constant discussion of "toots," at which both children excel. Consider my way of injecting a little male locker room behavior into the household! Or what I imagine it to be, at any rate.)

He starts to wonder who "family" might be. And we laugh as we wonder who would mind him joyfully burping at the table and who would burp along with him. We decide, really, only Goo would be added to our list for burping, that anyone else might not appreciate it.

But then Sis gets jealous because she can't burp on command like Bud and I can. "Bud, how do you do that."

And so he actually walks her through the steps of gulping water, taking a deep breath, and letting it roar. But she still can't manage, mainly we think because she sips and gets no air when she drinks. Can't seem to break her of the dainty habit. Which is fine, actually good, in general, but not conducive to burping.

She'll keep practicing. Home alone, of course.


"Mooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, don't leave me here!"

For the record, I have not once left the children behind. Nor am I even one of those parents who threatens to leave the children behind. So I don't know why there is this constant refrain of not being left behind (but I blame Bush), usually as we are transitioning from house to porch but trying to keep the door closed so the cats don't get out.

But this time we were still smack dab in the middle of the living room, trying to get ready to go to the library and I'd set a timer by which time they needed to be ready to go. They hate that and think it's a race, with losers, and that the loser will be left behind. Which is theoretically tempting. But ridiculous.

So, this time when the refrain started, I stopped in my tracks and explained, "Bud, I'm not going to leave you here. In fact, I can't. It's against the law in Connecticut to leave children home alone."

His face lit up at this bit of news.

I continued, "I could try to leave you here but the police would find out and put me in jail. So, I'm not going to leave you."

Sis, our lawyer -in-training because of her quick, precise, and inquisitive mind (not to mention argumentative, rule-bound, and loophole-seeking), said, "So, there has to be an adult here all the time? Who is an adult? Is our babysitter an adult?"

"Yes, the babysitter counts as an adult. So do Mama and I and your grandparents and the parents of your friends."

"So one of you has to be here? Or, I can go with Mama and you can stay with Bud?"

"Right. Okay, are we ready to go?"

And they were, with no more choruses about being home alone.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

August 23, 1997.

It's been 12 years.

That's a good number for me.

And 13 is for Mama.

May we have a great 13th year!

I love you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Déjà Vu

It's a little more than a year after THE storm hit our house and, while I haven't given the anniversary too much thought (especially since the basement has been redone if we ever needed to take refuge in there again), I have had a few of my classic tornado dreams. In fact I had one tonight, no doubt inspired by the very dramatic sky and short burst of storm right at dinnertime. In this one, the kids were, oddly, asleep during the day and so Mama and I, plus a visisting friend, were watching the storm gather outside the window. When it turned green, I sent Mama and the friend to carry the kids to the basement but the tornado hit as they were doing that. It's never a rip-the-house-off-the-foundations kind of tornado, more like what we had (plus), with trees falling, wind, breaking glass, etc. Anyway, we all made it to the basement, which wasn't finished but cleared in preparation to be finished. Safe, but scary.

So, when I woke just after 4 a.m. to the sound of approaching thunder, I was sensitized by the nightmare to the storm. And promptly woke up Mama looking for the computer to check for any new storm warnings. Just a few flash flood alerts, which really isn't a problem near our house. No wind or tornado warnings (though, there was a warning north of here earlier tonight and a tornado touched down nearby a few weeks ago, the night of my bridal shower). The storm hit loud, bright, and strong, for about 20 minutes, without even waking the kids but seems to be passing now. We need the rain and I like storms, as long as there isn't any strong wind. Or hail. Or green sky.

Maybe with the storm's departure, sleep will return. But no more bad dreams.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me!

It's been two years ago yesterday since I started blogging. And I totally forgot to celebrate. I guess we're just an old couple by now . . .

Who Baked the Doughnuts?

There's an article in this month's Vegetarian Times about vegan doughnuts that has my mind planning and mouth watering. I didn't know you could bake doughnuts. Or that there were special pans to do so. I'm so excited about trying this. I'm hoping to get a pan soon and to start experimenting this fall, in time for Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts for Applepalooza. I just love fall. And doughnuts, I've come to realize since living in the Midwest and now the Northeast are such a fall treat.

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: From Our Own Garden

We have officially harvested crops from our own little garden. After a slow start in pots, with trouble locating a spot in the yard that gets enough sun, we finally set up a box in the front yard next to the mailbox. The squash seemed to grow so slowly, not even having blossoms before squash was available at our farmer's market. But then there was squash! Yellow and green (though it's not really zucchini; we can't remember what it is). First, very small and then, boom!, overnight almost too big. So on Wednesday, we took a knife out to the yard and harvested three squash, two yellow and one huge green one. The stems were softer than I thought so we didn't need the knife; the leaves and stems were more prickly than I expected.

And so we've made a few things with our small bounty, mainly sauteed yellow squash in olive oil, garlic, and salt/pepper, which we ate straight up and then baked on whole wheat pizza dough with sauce and cheese, and baked squash sticks, rolled in flour, then milk, then bread crumbs and baked at 350F until golden. YUM! Bud especially liked the squash sticks, eating them with marinara sauce leftover from the pizza. Tonight, I'll probably bake the last squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, supplementing our last little one with a few we got from the CSA farmstand today (along with some eggplant and peppers and onions; mmmm, I'm thinking ratatouille)

There are lots of other blossoms on our squash plants, which have so overgrown the container that their companion basil and parsley and chives are now hidden and suffering. I can't imagine what we'll do if it all becomes squash. Though, there don't seem to be any other squash growing right now--am I supposed to prune some of those blossoms so as not to over-stress the plant? I really am a novice gardener without a reliable source of beginner information.

But if our yummy squash is my reward, I just know I'll be a more experienced gardener in the years to come!

Reading Reading Lolita

I was sitting at my coffee shop, my favorite place to read (only because the library doesn't a). have good cell-phone coverage or b). make a nice frappuccino), reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, a book I have long meant to read but am only now getting to, when I realized that if I lived in Tehran I wouldn't be able to
  • read Reading Lolita
  • read Lolita
  • be in a t-shirt and skirt in public
  • talk to the man who gave me my frappuccino
  • feel the breeze in my hair and sun on my neck when I walked to the coffee shop from my car
  • own my own car without permission from a male in my family
  • have a car with a UU bumper sticker
  • or attend my UU church
  • have a car with a rainbow bumper sticker
  • be an out lesbian
  • with children (without a husband)
  • own my own house
  • choose advanced education or a professional career without permission
  • choose whether I wanted to be a mom at home (in other words, it seems like it's not a choice, it's a given)
  • live without fear of official harrassment, physical danger, jail without trial, death by stoning
  • live with choice, freedom, safety
It's overwhelming, once I started considering how much I take for granted everyday.

School Countdown

With humidity high and condensation all over the windows, it's not hard to feel like this is summer, but summer for all intents and purposes ends with the first day of school in about three weeks. Still a long time away but definitely the beginning of the window to get ready.

And so yesterday, Mama hit some stores to pick up clothes and shoes before Tax-Free week ends here in CT. And I was at another store finding things to put in the kids' Schultute, or school cones (apologies for the lack of an umlaut, can't find it), mainly stickers, post-its, pencils, and calculators (just for fun and only a dollar). We have lunch kits (new--Hello Kitty for her, dinosaurs for him), plus all the cloth napkins and food containers from last year. We still need some more healthy snacks and more index cards to write all the notes we put in their lunchboxes each day. And I am sure there are other things I'm forgetting (though, at least this year, I have left the emotional anguish off my list!).

But besides the list of things to do to get ready for school--like haircuts, labelling everything, completing our school health forms--there is another list of things we want to do before summer is over, including:
  • make ice cream in our ball one more time
  • plant grass in our painted chia pet containers
  • complete our t-shirt painting project
  • make our time capsule
  • make little photo books for them to take to school about what they did this summer
  • make fruit pizza
  • go to the train museum one more time
  • go to the aquarium one more time
  • go to Ma and Gong's for a sleepover
And so, between those two lists, I can't decide if school is coming too quickly or too slowly. Regardless, of course, it is coming. And to my friends whose kids are starting this year, either first year of preschool or kindergarten, I'll be thinking of you these next few weeks and hoping you get your lists done, too. And without much emotional anguish . . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Do Ordinary People Become Vegetarians, Mom?

One of my kids' favorite mealtime stories is how I became a vegetarian. "Tell us again, Mom," Sis will plead, "about when you were a kid and ate meat and then decided not to."

And so today, when the refrain returned over snack at the bookstore, I asked why they liked hearing that story (which mainly starts with how I loved meat--ham, chicken fried steak, hot dogs, chicken fingers, pork chops, meatloaf, meatballs, turkey, London broil, fried shrimp, whatever--as a kid but decided not to eat it after they were born. That I still like it but don't like that it's dead animals. And that I think everyone can choose what they eat and that it's okay if they eat meat.) And Sis said, "I want to know how ordinary people become vegetarians, Mom."

Huh. Is that like ordinary people becoming werewolves or sprouting an extra head?

So, I went through the story once again, to the usual responses that Sis likes meat and that Bud wants to be a vegetarian when he grows up. And I added a part today about how many people of different religions refuse to eat certain foods--mainly the prohibition against pork for Jews and Muslims. I even said there were people called vegans who didn't eat any animal products. And the woman putting sugar in her coffee behind us turned around and introduced herself as a vegan. We talked briefly about raising carnivore kids and also how important it was to think about what you put in your body--laughing that my kids were inhaling rice krispy treats (but did you know that the ancient Egyptians invented the marshmallow?)--while the kids stared and stared. Only after she left did Sis ask why people were vegans. Mercy, I wished she'd asked the vegan. But I said that it had to do with respecting animals and wanting to take care of them.

Nonplussed, they finished their treats and we headed to the kids' book section.

Where Sis promptly chose to read a Berenstain Bears book about junk food.

So much for all my stories.

Things to Think About, or In the Papers

My mind is full these days, considering:

"that older people tend to take bad news better than younger people.

"That patients with advanced cancer generally go into a sharp decline three months before death, but those with dementia, heart disease ordiabetes may have a bad month and then get better, making their prognosis trickier.

"That people who do not have family or friends, or are alienated from them, are more likely to want to hasten death than those with more social support.

"That patients who are agreeable by nature may not admit that they are in pain.

"That people who blame their self-destructive behavior for their illness are less likely to ask for help, and that hard-charging professionals sometimes would rather not manage their own illness.

"That people can know in their darker moments that the prognosis is grim, yet at other moments imagine they will go back to being their old selves."

"that the poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent). If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries.

“More than 100 million women are missing,” Sen wrote in a classic essay in 1990 in The New York Review of Books, spurring a new field of research. Sen noted that in normal circumstances, women live longer than men, and so there are more females than males in much of the world. Yet in places where girls have a deeply unequal status, they vanish. China has 107 males for every 100 females in its overall population (and an even greater disproportion among newborns), and India has 108. The implication of the sex ratios, Sen later found, is that about 107 million females are missing from the globe today. Follow-up studies have calculated the number slightly differently, deriving alternative figures for “missing women” of between 60 million and 107 million.

"Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room. That’s in part why the Joint Chiefs of Staff and international security specialists are puzzling over how to increase girls’ education in countries like Afghanistan — and why generals have gotten briefings from Greg Mortenson, who wrote about building girls’ schools in his best seller, “Three Cups of Tea.” Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.

"The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine “gendercide” far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.

"For those women who live, mistreatment is sometimes shockingly brutal. If you’re reading this article, the phrase “gender discrimination” might conjure thoughts of unequal pay, underfinanced sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In the developing world, meanwhile, millions of women and girls are actually enslaved. While a precise number is hard to pin down, the International Labor Organization, a, estimates that at any one time there are 12.3 million people engaged in forced labor of all kinds, including sexual servitude. In Asia alone about one million children working in the sex trade are held in conditions indistinguishable from slavery, according to a U.N. report. Girls and women are locked in brothels and beaten if they resist, fed just enough to be kept alive and often sedated with drugs — to pacify them and often to cultivate addiction. India probably has more modern slaves than any other country."

"chronically stressed rats lost their elastic rat cunning and instead fell back on familiar routines and rote responses, like compulsively pressing a bar for food pellets they had no intention of eating.

"Moreover, the rats’ behavioral perturbations were reflected by a pair of complementary changes in their underlying neural circuitry. On the one hand, regions of the brain associated with executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviors had shriveled, while, conversely, brain sectors linked to habit formation had bloomed.In other words, the rodents were now cognitively predisposed to keep doing the same things over and over, to run laps in the same dead-ended rat race rather than seek a pipeline to greener sewers. “Behaviors become habitual faster in stressed animals than in the controls, and worse, the stressed animals can’t shift back to goal-directed behaviors when that would be the better approach,” Dr. Sousa said. “I call this a vicious circle.”

  • And lastly, lightly, how people share food, or reminiscences of the NYTimes departing restaurant reviewer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Talk Softly and Carry No Stick

Motherlode has recently run a list and a link to things you want to teach your children before they leave home. The one that struck me the most (and I suppose that's not an apt metaphor) was one put forth by a commenter, "If you have to raise your voice, you are probably wrong; truths are loud enough even contained in a whisper."

Mainly because on Monday I found myself yelling at the kids that they shouldn't yell.

Uh, right.

I'm not usually much of a yeller. But I've discovered newly that summer doesn't bring out the best of my parenting. Previously, before they started preschool, summer was really no different than the rest of the year (though I'm not implying I was therefore a great parent all year round). But even though they were only in school 2 days a week, the lack of that routine has changed things in the Hungry household. Mind you, in the beginning, I tried to implement a schedule--playdates on Monday, library on Tuesday, outside in the morning, art in the afternoon, field trips somewhere new every week. It sounded good but took the relaxation and spontaneity out of the summer and was, in the end, too artificial to maintain.

Not that all of our summer habits need changing: some are good; some are not so good. We spend more time just playing around. We wreck the house more building forts and penguin enclosures and then don't clean it up for days. We forget to brush our teeth more than we used to. And spend more days completely in our pajamas. We've eaten more vegetables but also more ice cream; we've eaten more homemade meals but also more homemade treats.

And there have been more agruments and fights, more time-ins and time-outs, less non-violent communication on my part with more threats and ultimatums to get undesirable things, like cleaning up toys or getting ready to leave the house, done. Probably because we are together more with fewer distractions--no school, no extracurricular activities, fewer playdates, less times the babysitter comes to give me a few hours off. Which means our house is a 1300 square foot pressure cooker in this 90F weather. And we're in a holding pattern until school starts in a month, which seems too far off to coast. That would be too much yelling. It's not how I like to parent.
I'm not sure how exactly I'm going to change paths midway--especially because a recent article in the NYTimes talks about how stressed rats don't use effective tools but instead fall into rote paths, I guess indicating that stressed adults don't make the decisions they otherwise would but instead continue to make a circle of poor choices, like yelling--though, the last few days have been better. I'm not sure why, especially with illness and injury. Perhaps with those, I've been trying to focus on the positive aspects of summer, the fun, play, and relaxation, while trying (out of pity and more patience) to downplay the negative.

Though, we still didn't brush our teeth yet today. I guess I have 4 weeks to get us up to speed again . . . . and if I get it in before bedtime, I think it still counts. Right?


On the first night she was fever free, Sis still woke up in the middle of the night and, when I tucked her into bed after a trip to the bathroom, she said, "Mommy, plan something fun for tomorrow." Um, okay. So, when I was out grocery shopping the next day, remembering an earlier request to bake, I bought a bag of chocolate chips. When I got home and the babysitter left, she turned to me and said, "Mommy, we haven't done anything fun today. I said to plan something fun. What can we do for fun?" Geez. She wanted to go to the library but it was too late in the day, so I whipped out the bag of chocolate chips and held it up. She squealed, "That's fun!" and we made chocolate oatmeal bars. Fun, indeed.


In an interesting twist, Bud spent last weekend pretending that all of his stuffed critters had batteries and could talk. His shark, when the fin was touched, said, "Let's all be friends." But on Saturday morning, as we all cuddled in bed, I rubbed the fin and nothing happened. Out of batteries. So I pretended to be the shark and said, "Let's all be friends."


Mama and I laughed all day; we're not even sure why. But it still makes us giggle.

The shark's batteries are working again, by the way.


Yesterday when Mama and Bud went to the new toy store to pick up another marble run set, Sis was happily splashing in the tub and didn't want to go when Mama asked. Instead she said, "Just get me one of whatever you buy him."

We're definitely in trouble.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Better, Or No Longer a Pain in the Neck

Bud is in a neck brace, feeling much better than he did before, because his neck doesn't hurt as much, because he's on ibuprofen and because he's distracted by his marble run. I'm so glad he ended the day on a high note, as it was tough going earlier. Ever time he moved in the wrong direction and began to cry, I literally could feel the pain in my own neck (having experienced the same as a kid, plus all those back strains). It was really hard. But he calmed down in the neck brace and felt more secure with it on, to the point that we could leave for a bit (it was the babysitter's day and she does wonders with distracting him, which I don't sometimes--he was milking me like a cow, as far as pity goes), to pick up lunch for me (I sat in the car with him sleeping while Mama and Sis got lunch) and more marble run sets for him. I've never seen him so thoroughly engrossed for a toy for so long--trains, tinker toys, lincoln logs, even drums are great until the gets frustrated or distracted, but he can watch those marbles go down different paths for hours. And he's getting better at building complex towers. Let's just hope it wasn't all that bending over marble runs that caused the strain in the first place!

Sis did really well today, in part because Mama stayed home (I couldn't carry Bud, fully supported, into the doctor's appointment by myself) and in part because she got a lot of indpendent parent time--at the library while Bud and Mama were at the doctor's, at lunch with Mama, at home with me while Mama and Bud went to fetch more marble run pieces (they had been out when we had stopped by after lunch). And she is really empathetic and compassionate. She searched the library shelves for DVDs for Bud to watch, choosing penguins, sharks, insects, and instruments of the orchestra. But my favorite part was watching her play in the tub--we were playing diner, with her serving me bean soup and lemonade, then ice cream, then tea--and at one point she started to swish back and forth, practically swimming in the tub, with the water swirling--and again I could just feel all that splashing and swirling, having been quite a tub swimmer in my day (now I just like to sit in the tub, instead of splash). And trust me, I'd much rather experience that joy vicariously than the pain in the neck.

No Rest

Just as we got Sis well--she hasn't had a fever since Sunday night--Bud woke up this morning at 4:45 a.m. screaming that his head hurt. As best we can tell, he has a crick in his neck from sleeping funny. He's only comfortable in a few positions and hasn't been able to sit up without crying. A 7 a.m. call to the pediatrician had us continuing ibuprofen, warm compresses, and rest, with an appointment to schedule as soon as the office opens at 9 a.m. So, Bud is lying on our bed, eating potato pancakes and applesauce on his side, watching a BBC documentary on polar bears (having already seen one on penguins, plus "Yo Gabba Gabba," "Ni Hao, Kai Lan," and "Imagination Movers"). I vividly remember having a strained neck a few times as a child (once was the day before Girl Scout camp), waking up in pain and not being able to lift my head--it was scary. Let's hope this is temporary and infrequent. Poor Bud.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Subdued Sunday

Warning: Mom and Aunt Banana, this is about the kids' handling of the news of puggy's death.


Sis's self-portrait

Gommie by Bud

It's been kinda quiet around the Hungry household, proverbially, at least. Sis still has a low-grade fever so we stayed home and inside, not doing much beyond tv, computer games, books, and crafts.

Oh, and talking about the death of my folks' dog, Teddy.

We had told them this morning that he had been "special sick," not to be confused with Sis being sick with a cold, as a warm-up for telling them that he died yesterday. Which we told them this afternoon. It's the third death we've discussed with them, after our cat Morgan and our friend Miss M in Chicago. And, just like those two times, they had lots of questions: How did he die? Where do you go when you die? Didn't they take care of him? Will they get another dog? Is Gommie sad? Are our cats going to die? When am I going to die? We answered and reassured as best we can (such as, yes on that day they were taking the best care of him ever, which is true in the hardest way--Teddy was euthanized).

And then they jumped into action. Sis wanted to make Gommie something to make her feel better, a picture of puggy, a picture of Sis and Bud, whatever. Bud did too. So we headed downstairs and got out the markers and paint and spent the better part of a half hour, which is long for them, making pictures (and I promise to send them along, Gommie).

Including one of Bud, all in blue, with teary lines coming out of his eyes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rest Peacefully, Puggy Puppy

"Many people will walk in and out of your life but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart." --Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday Morning

Ma and Gong are on their way, thank goodness, because

  • Sis was hysterical in the middle of the night that she was sick and wouldn't get to see them;
  • Yes, Sis was up in the middle of the night, and about every other half hour there was;
  • And Mama didn't get home until 2:30 a.m.;
  • And I didn't realize it was late until after midnight;
  • Even Bud got into the act and was up at 4 a.m.;
  • And the kids woke up at 5 a.m. with Sis telling Bud that Ma and Gong were coming and that they needed to clean the house (luckily, I managed to convince them to go back to sleep, though Mama didn't settle much after that);
  • there was some good news, though: she woke with no fever (I think it broke after the 4 a.m. wake-up with Bud. Ooops, I typed too soon. At 10:30, the fever was back);
  • But this morning, word from Texas is that Teddy the puggy puppy is not showing much improvement and my parents might have to decide to euthanize him today (update at noon: this is changing by the hour and he has rallied some, much to the surprise of the emergency vet who thought it was over last night. Up and down is so hard).
Yep, we need reinforcements.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On the Remaining Lectures

While my blogging on my new meditation practice as well as on my reading of The Three Pillars of Zen had ceased completely, my practice had not quite. I have finished reading the twelve lectures of Yasutani-roshi and practiced meditation, though not everyday. Indeed, as Momma Zen, I believe, has noted, it is harder to find 5 minutes a day to meditate than it is to actually meditate. I try to meditate at night but have found that, while the house is relatively quiet, it is not a distraction-less time: Mama moves around the house, the cats come awake, there are things to do before tomorrow that were not done today, tiredness from the day seeps in, etc. But mornings aren't an option, as they start when the kids wake up. But I've been trying, and find that I am better at counting my breaths and can get further along but am still easily pulled out of meditation by the sounds around me (and then cannot get started back again easily once the "mood," so to speak has been broken).

Of the second half of the lectures, I found several of them beyond my current practice needs but informational. For instance, Lecture 6 discusses individual instruction, or dokusan, with a teacher, its purposes, even its rituals. As I am not yet prepared for individual instruction, while I found it interesting to read, it didn't help in my meditating. I'm also still counting breaths the original way, starting on the exhale, counting in and out, and haven't yet progressed to the other techniques of counting only exhalations, and then only inhalations. No rush, though.

However, the parable of Enyadatta (who one day believes she has discovered that she doesn't have a head and must be convinced by friends and her own experience that she does until she comes to realize her head was always there and how happy that makes her) in lecture 8 really clarified for me the faith of Buddhism, specifically the existence of the true Buddha nature in everyone even before it is realized and the then the process of realization through zazen. Of course, it is an article of faith--one of the three essentials of Zen practice described in lecture 11--that enlightenment, Buddha nature, and the perfection of the world even exist. I'm not sure if I believe in a Buddha nature or in enlightenment, which is why I fall on the lower part of the aspirational scale of lecture 12, where people are either ignorant or uninterested in the religion of Buddhism or only pursuing Buddhism for health; I'm one of those "between the first and second classes" that Yasutani-roshi labels curious. I'm exploring Buddhism while beginning the practice without faith. This had concerned me, as I don't want to treat it as just another technique to be consumed by a curious colonialist "other," but I am reassured that the Buddha and I "stand on the same ground. Zazen is the practice of realizing it."

Finally, while reading lecture 10--on cause and effect, one-ness and differentiation (that's actually lectures 9 and 10, which I found the richest for me right now but also the hardest to pinpoint; they bear re-reading several times and so I won't say much about them here now)--I just kept singing Donovan's "There is a Mountain" song, as I read, "all of nature, mountains and rivers, are seen as oneself." Of course, singing the chorus "first there is a mountain, then there is no moutain, then there is" over and over again is not quite conducive to my practice. Which is why I'm still practicing.