Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thanks A Lot, "Dinosaur Train"

Scat.
Feces.
Stool.
Poop.

Today's new episode of "Dinosaur Train," currently their favorite show, was all about how everyone poops and when you gotta go, you gotta go.

And so what did my kids do? Spent the whole afternoon making all their plastic dinosaur toys literally shit bricks, which came from another toy set.


Barbecue Bonanza

Yep, lots of food and recipe posts recently. Cooking and meal planning had fallen by the wayside in the last few weeks of summer and the first week of school with illnesses, but now with more time on my hands to plan, shop, and cook, I'm back in the swing of things. Besides, cool-weather cooking--with soups and breads and casseroles, squashes, root vegetables, apples, and the like--is my favorite kind.

Tonight was Barbecued Chicken. Which you might recall, at least I think I mentioned, that I had made a week or so ago and Bud hated it. The sauce--Honey K.C. Masterpiece--was too "spicy." Mama recommended plain ol' Kraft Honey BBQ. Which is what we tried today. I let Bud sniff it first and, when he approved, let him pour it over the chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces in the crockpot. He didn't get that it had to cook on LOW for 7-8 hours and kept asking throughout the day when it would be ready (because it smelled good all day). And he ate the whole thing for dinner.

What about Sis, you wonder? She is suspicious of sauce, of course, and so got some thighs sauteed in thin soy sauce and Maggi, with rice and veggies, like Bud. Me? I had leftover veggie soup with rice tossed in. And Mama . . . well, it's 7 p.m. and she's not home yet.

A Marmalade Mistake

So, the kids and I made our first quick bread for the Bake Sale yesterday, adapting the A to Z Bread to make Orange Marmalade Bread. And it was a qualified disaster: mainly the flavor was good, but the appearance and texture were lacking. See, with A to Z bread you start with a basic quick bread recipe--the versatility of the recipe being key to its attractiveness--and then add 2 cups of whatever. For the marmalade version, you add 2 cups of marmalade--we used 1 1/2 cups of Smucker's Sweet Orange Marmalade and 1/2 cup of the much more bitter and strong Bonne Marie variety--and reduce the sugar content from 2 cups to 1. Except, in retrospect, I realized this still means you're basically up 1 whole cup of sugar. Which is probably why the bread completely collapsed in the center and was chewy to the point of candied. (I never considered oven temperature or mismeasuring as the culprits; my oven has been checked recently and I always double check measurements when I bake with the kids). Tasted good--in fact the family inhaled the small test-loaf I had saved out of the bake sale batch--but is barely sell-able.

But I love the idea so, instead of fiddling with the A to Z recipe for a marmalade version, realizing that adding marmalade, essentially altering the chemistry of the bread, isn't the same as adding, say, raisins, which are just a mix-in, I have found another Orange Marmalade Quick Bread and will be trying that tomorrow, when the kids are at school. Because if this bread works and is good, we need to sell the loaves, not eat them!

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Orange Marmalade Bread

from That's My Home

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup coarsely broken walnuts
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cup orange marmalade
2 eggs
1 cup orange juice or milk
2 tablespoons melted butter or oil

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Add walnuts and orange rind; stir to coat evenly.

In a separate bowl, beat marmalade, eggs, orange juice and melted butter until blended. Add to dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly moistened.

Bake in a well-greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 1 hour or until cake tests done.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Cool thoroughly before cutting.

Serve in thin slices with cream cheese whipped with additional orange marmalade.

Taking the Pledge

"I pledge allegiance to the . . . chalice of the Unitarian Universalists . . . the republic of the loving hearts and helping hands . . . with liberty and justice for all."

--what happens when preschoolers learn the Pledge of Allegiance and UU chalice lighting at the same time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Messing With Perfection

I've fiddle with my perfect Pot Pie recipe, changing some of the proportions. I'm not sure how much it matters, but I wanted to include the changes because they loved eating this last week. Another recipe to add to my arsenal, I mean, repertoire.

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My Pot Pie, Version 2 (The Easy One)

2 refrigerated pie crusts, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (approx.; no need to defrost)
1 small can mushrooms, drained
2 cups cooked chicken thigh meat (approx.)
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
4 cups stock (I used vegetable)
salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Then add flour. Cook until brown (i.e. brown but not burnt--if it burns, toss it out and start roux again. You can't get rid of that bitter burnt roux taste). Allow to boil so "gravy" will thicken. Add frozen vegetables, mushrooms, and cooked chicken to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spray inside of 9" pie plate with cooking spray. Roll out and lay down bottom pie crust. Fill with vegetables, chicken, and "gravy." Top with remaining pie crust. Vent. Put pie plate on cookie sheet to prevent spillover. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until crust is brown and filling is bubbly.
Mommy Hungry, via Miss L and Martha Stewart's Everyday Living

Applepalooza '09!

Applepalooza '09 found our family and friends eating a ton of scrumptious apple treats in our backyard under a beautiful clear blue fall sky. There were apple crafts (rolling a paint-covered marble over a cut-out paper apple in a box) and apple games (the ever popular "pin the worm on the apple"!). And just lots of free play and conversation. Bud and Sis were a big help with all the baking and preparations, and then had lots of fun with their friends. And with the food! Bud inhaled the doughnuts, while Sis ate half the Swedish Apple Pie (because in my hurry, I forgot to make lunch for us all). Only downside? Mama, who had to go into work around 4:30 a.m., didn't get home until 3 ish, much later than expected, meaning it was an extra-long day for her and she missed some of the party (special thanks to Mama Teacher for coming over early to help set up!). But there was plenty of food leftover!

Several recipes are below; the rest might be coming (I made the first three, plus our favorite Swedish Apple Pie).

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Applesauce Cake

2 ounces dried apple -- cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup unsweetened applesauce -- at room temperature
1 large egg -- at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter -- melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

***For Streusel Topping:
Following recipe for cake through step 2. In step 3, measure 2 tablespoons sugar-spice mixture into medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, and 1/3 cup old-fashioned or quick oats. Work in 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until fully incorporated. Pinch mixture into hazelnut-sized clumps and sprinkle evenly over batter before baking.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

2. Bring dried apples and cider to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat; cook until liquid evaporates and mixture appears dry, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

3. Whisk flour and baking soda in medium bowl to combine; set aside. In second medium bowl, whisk sugar, ginger, and cardamom. Measure 2 tablespoons sugar-spice mixture into small bowl, add crystallized ginger, and set aside for topping.

4. In food processor, process cooled dried-apple mixture and applesauce until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed; set aside. Whisk egg and salt in large bowl to combine. Add sugar-spice mixture and whisk continuously until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds. Add butter in three additions, whisking after each. Add applesauce mixture and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients; using rubber spatula, fold gently until just combined and evenly moistened.

5. Turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula. Sprinkle reserved 2 tablespoons topping evenly over batter. Bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Run knife along cake edges without parchment to release. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut cake and serve.

from Cooks Illustrated

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Apple Cider Doughnuts
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: You will need a mini bundt baking pan with 6 or 12 cavities or a 6 or 12 cavity doughnut baking pan.

approximately 3 tbsp sugar for baking pans
hazelnut oil* for baking pans (or vegetable oil)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup apple puree (that's applesauce)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp hazelnut oil* or vegetable oil

ICING (optional)--I just used superfine sugar.
1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk

*Hazelnut oil is basically oil that is pressed from hazelnuts that possesses a delicate nutty and buttery flavour. If hazelnut oil is not available, you can substitute with macadamia oil or vegetable oil.

Preheat oven to 190ÂșC or 375F.
Brush cavities of a mini bundt pan or doughnut pan with hazelnut oil.
Sprinkle with sugar, shaking out excess. (MY NOTE: This didn't oil-sugar step didn't work well for me--the first batch of doughnuts didn't release so I just started spraying the pan with cooking spray and skipped the sugar; worked perfectly).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, apple puree, maple syrup, cider, yoghurt and hazelnut oil.
Add dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.
Divide the batter among the prepared mini bundt pan or doughnut pans, filling only about halfway up the pans.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched lightly.
Loosen edges and turn the doughnuts out onto a rack to cool.
MY NOTE: When still warm, roll in superfine sugar instead of icing them.
If required, clean the pans then re-coat it with oil and sugar.
Repeat with remaining batter.

TO MAKE THE ICING
Combine the icing sugar, vanilla and 1 tbsp of milk in a small bowl.
Mix until the icing is of a drizzling consistency. If not, add more milk.
Turn over the doughnuts into the bowl of icing and dip for about 5 seconds until the tops are completely covered.
Return to wire rack to allow icing to set.
from ilovemilkandcookies
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Caramel Apples

2 bags or 100 pieces wrapped square caramels
1/4 cup water

Melt caramels in water in medium saucepan over medium heat. Transfer to crockpot. Serve with apples on a stick or apple slices. Can also top with rice krispies, nuts, coconut, jimmies, or whatever you like. Careful, it hardens quickly. You can also add half and half (1 1/3 cups) to make a creamier caramel dip.

paraphrased from the Kraft caramel bag

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Mystery Apple Cake

2 cups chopped apples
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Sift dry ingredients over nuts and apples in a bowl. Mix 1 egg, 2/3 cup mazola oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla together. Pour over and mix well with dry ingredients. Mixture will be stiff. Spread in a greased 8 or 9" pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 325F.

Frosting: combine 1 cup powdered sugar, a half stick of butter (softened) and a 3 oz. package of cream cheese (at room temperature). Mix until smooth and spread on cake.

NOTE: The mysterious thing about the cake is the fact that it is delicious despite unorthodox method of preparation.

Mama Teacher

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Apple Bars by Miss J
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c butter or margarine
  • 2 egg yolks -- beaten
  • 4 med apples, pared, cored and sliced -- (4 c)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white-- slightly beaten

Directions

  1. Combine the 2 c flour, the 1/2 c sugar, the baking powder, and salt; Cut in butter till crumbs are the size of small peas.
  2. Stir in egg yolks.
  3. Divide mixture in 1/2.
  4. Press 1 1/2 over bottom of 15x10x1" Baking pan.
  5. Combine apples, remaining sugar and flour and cinnamon.
  6. Arrange over bottom crust.
  7. Crumble remaining dough over apples.
  8. Brush egg white over all.
  9. Bake @ 350°F for 40 min.
  10. Cool.
  11. Drizzle with thin powdered sugar icing if desired.
  12. Cut in bars.
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Miss L's Quick Stovetop Apple Crisp

15 medium apples
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups quick oats

Core and slice apples. Melt butter in pan. Add sugar and spices. Cook with apples until soft. Add oats and cook until soft. Serve warm.

Variations: Pear; apple-Chinese pear; add cranberries; substitute granola for oats; add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or nuts; sprinkle with crystallized ginger to serve.

Miss L
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Let the Baking Begin!

It's Bake Sale time again and we're getting ready to make it a week of quick-bread baking. I bought several tin loaf pans and have several varieties of quick breads in mind, including our standard Pumpkin Bread, Strawberry Bread, and Apricot Bread plus new recipes for Chocolate Bread and Orange Marmalade Bread, both originating with a basic quick-bread recipe called A to Z Quick Bread. This recipe is all over the web, though I first found it in a community cookbook. No telling where it originates. I'm hoping I can use it as an easy version of Amish Friendship Bread, the versatility of which was one of my favorite parts. I'll let you know how it goes.

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Strawberry Bread

Makes 2 loaves

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, well beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup chopped pecans

1 ½ pints strawberries, washed and stemmed (Note: 2-10 oz. packages frozen

strawberries, thawed, may be substituted for fresh.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar; mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs and oil; add to dry ingredients. Stir in pecans. Fold in strawberries until moistened. Pour into 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3 in. loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Gommie

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Apricot Bread

Bread:

2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all purpose plus 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder and 2 pinches of salt)

2 cups sugar

1 cup oil

1 cup pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

2 small jars baby apricots

3 eggs

Glaze:

juice of ½ lemon

2 cup powdered sugar

add water to liquify and then heat

Combine sugar, oil, spices. Add eggs 1 at a time. Add flour and apricots. Stir in nuts. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Bake in greased loaf pan at 325 for 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Turn out and glaze.

Gommie

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A to Z Quick Bread


3 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking soda
3 teaspoon Cinnamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
3 ea Eggs
1 cup Oil
2 cups Sugar
2 cups A to Z (see below)
3 teaspoons Vanilla
1 cup Chopped nuts
Sift dry ingredients; set aside. Beat eggs in a large
bowl; add oil and sugar; cream well.
Add A to Z and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix
well. Add nuts. Spoon into 2 well-greased loaf pans.
Bake in a preheated oven at 325 for 1 hour.
A to Z: Use one of the following or a mixture of the
following, to equal 2 cups except as indicated. (My Note: Eggplant? Really?)
Apples, grated
Applesauce
Apricots, chopped
Bananas, mashed
Carrots, grated
Cherries, pitted and chopped
Coconut, fresh ground
Dates, pitted and finely chopped
Eggplant, ground up
Figs, finely chopped
Grapes, seedless
Honey - omit sugar above
Lemons, use only 1/2 cup juice
Marmalade - omit 1 cup sugar
Mincemeat - some sites say to omit 1 cup sugar
Oranges, chopped
Peaches, fresh of canned, chopped
Peppermint - use only 1/2 cup
Pears, chopped
Pineapple, crushed and well drained
Prunes, chopped (use only 1 cup)
Pumpkin canned
Raisins
Raspberries
Rhubarb, finely chopped
Strawberries, fresh or well drained frozen
Sweet potato, grated coarsely
Tapioca, cooked
Tomatoes, use only 1/2 cup sugar in the above recipe
Yams, cooked and mashed
Yogurt, plain or flavored
Zucchini, ground or grated, well drained

My Own Ideas:
Chocolate, 1 cup melted and 1 cup not melted
Jam, any flavor, but use only 1 cup sugar (because you have to have a "J" recipe!)

Bowllin' Bud

The kiddos went to a bowling birthday party yesterday, one of their favorite party destinations. And Bud was intent on knocking down all of the pins. It took a few balls, like 9 or 10, but he did it. And was so proud!

It's a Girl Thang

I don't usually blog about other people's kids, but I couldn't resist passing along two jewels from a friend's little girl (and yes, I warned/asked her mom in advance! And if I got the wording wrong, it's my sketchy memory.).

Several of the kiddos were at a bowling birthday party yesterday, one of their favorite birthday activities (Bud was so proud to knock down all 10 pins, but that's a "Bud thang."). When the little girl walked in and saw the special bowling shoes she was supposed to wear, she asked, "Are those girls' shoes?"

Apparently, the girl-boy distinction is very important to her. As are clothes! Recently, her mom told me, meeting a new little friend and her brother, the little girl noted and approved of the other little girl's outfit. Looking at the little boy, she said, "I don't like boy things."

Mercy, it's starting already!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Knit Me a Miracle

I'm thrilled to tell you that my weaving teacher's knitting bag was located!! After an article appeared in the paper and an interview on the news, someone who was fishing pulled her bag out of Long Island Sound!! Sure, several of the items had floated away with the tides but some of her items were still intact. And the handwoven bag itself was salvageable. It helps the healing, for sure.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Never Fear

I skip almost two full days of blogging and I'm getting email asking where I am! No worries, folks. Nothing bad--no emergency, recurring illness, or the like. In fact, it's good: tomorrow is our second annual fall family festival, Applepalooza, for which there has been much planning, prepping, shopping, cleaning, and baking. More on it all after the fact!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hunting Vegetarians

Is it hypocritical of me, as a vegetarian, to pretend to eat meat when my kids play "feast"?

How about playing "buffalo hunt" and helping them pretend to kill imaginary animals to make bison burgers like the Native Americans might have done?

See, we have their cool igloos (hee hee hee) set up in the living room, one for each at opposite ends, so that they can play Brother Bear without actually recreating the narrative of the movie. So, they ask me over and over again what it was like when the movie would have taken place (because I've gone to great lengths to explain that there are still Native Americans today and they don't live in wigwams and hunt bison any more than we drive covered wagons like our ancestors!) . They've drummed and danced to our collection of Native American songs; they've played "trade." But the thing that most fascinated them was that there weren't grocery stores hundreds of years ago, that people got food from gardens and from hunting, just like we saw at the Pequot Museum. So now we have to hunt bison. Bud uses a box for a trap and his pointy space rocket "spear" to kill the bison; Sis uses her "Handy Manny" tools to prepare the carcass like she saw in the diorama at the museum. They set up a fire, complete with pans and bowls for cooking--it's a community fire between the two igloos (let's not get into the historical confusion of igloos and wigwams and Pequots and Inuits; they are only 4). Sometimes, they even make clothes from the animal! We've talked about only killing one bison at a time, which is all we need, even for just pretend. They're fascinated and obsessed, so we play over and over again.

But, some days, as cute as it can be, it's just a bit much for me, and I long for a pretend veggie burger.

A Long, Long Day

"Mommy, I never want to go to school all day," Sis said after I told her for the umpteenth time that her friends weren't home from school yet.

We're finally figured out that our neighborhood kids go outside to play around 3:30, having arrived home half an hour earlier and done their homework. So, now, three days a week, we try to head down there to play, mainly on the very alluring trampoline. Today, we planned to take snacks, some of the frosted pumpkin cake we made yesterday.

But my kids are out of school by 11:30 and have no concept of time, except how long it always seems to take (except when it's fast, like when I set the timer to leave for school!). So for 4 hours, they kept asking when we could go down the street. Frustrated by 2 pm, Sis decided she didn't want to spend all day in school.

Who can blame her? It seemed long to me, too.

But we did get down there and jumped for more than an hour, sharing the snacks we'd brought. A great reward after a long wait.

Thank You

Thanks to those of you who called and emailed to check on me, especially you Aunt Banana. Tending towards high emotion and hyperbole, I always sounds a lot worse than I really am--it's a cathartic way for me to get it out of my system and work it all out. I'm much more even keel today, after some sleep and the arrival of a new day and all of your encouragement. I should've recognized the crisis for what it mainly was--underlying insecurities writ large by sickness, sleep deprivation, and (yes, here it comes, early, which is why I didn't recognize it) PMS, which routinely sends me for an emotional tailspin (though, usually about the state of my housekeeping). For I really have no desire to return to my career just yet but I am looking for some constructive and useful way to spend my time--not just at the coffee shop or on the computer--and the places I've approached are excited but don't quite know what to do with me. Even for free. Volunteering is never as easy as it sounds. Anyway, thanks again for checking in.

My Morning Koan, from a Mom at Drop-Off

"Are they really twins?"

Shambhala Moon, or Unable to Sleep

I sit in the dark, with my cat darting between me and the computer screen, listening to Mama snore. I can't sleep. Third night in a row. First night that it's started this early and so I've gotten out of bed instead of tossing and turning. The other two nights it was about my head cold; tonight, it's just my head.

Today, I read several articles in the new issue of Shambhala Sun. I can't remember which articles and it's too dark to fetch the copy to check. I remember Pico Iyer writing on a famous haiku that said, and I paraphrase, "the world of dew/is a world of dew/and yet, and yet." Norman Fischer wrote on mindfulness now and how life is empty if all we do is live to please ourselves.

I came across an article this evening (in a different periodical) about a grad school colleague of mine who has gone on to do some interesting and important things in museums. And I was impressed. And inspired. And jealous. The last of which then embarrassed and upset and angered me, especially because I had (vainly) though I'd made some internal progress about not judging SAHM-ness as "less" and working as "more." We were at the same place a decade or so ago, similiar fields of study, similiar career interests. Now, totally different places. My feelings weren't so much about the colleague as about my choices. What do I want to be doing? The MacArthur "Genius" Grants were announced this week. My first response? Hmmm, recipients between the ages of 32 and 60 something. I'm not too old to do something! But what is that? For me, academia and career were often about my own pleasure--professional and intellectual masturbation, if you will (though to be fair, much of what I did in museum education brought pleasure, and other benefits, to many; but that realization doesn't fit well with my current mood). But in becoming a mother, I intentionally left all that behind--or did I? Obviously not quite. I thought academia and career weren't enough for me; maybe motherhood isn't enough for me. What is "enough"? I had thought motherhood had changed everything about me--my identity, my values, my goals, my desires. Maybe "changed" isn't the right word. Maybe motherhood has just added new layers, these new, richer, more complicated layers. Or revealed them. And so I am the same that I ever was but new too? And motherhood has allowed me to embrace aspects of myself that were left unfulfilled by career, but with career languishing I still feel incomplete somehow? It's dumb, and I'd sound like the bad answer to a college application or job interview, but if you asked me what I want to do right now, I'd say "help people" or "give something back." I feel so blessed and lucky, am so grateful. Does it matter that right now I do that on a very small scale? Even if I dream of a grand one? A genius-inspired one? Even if I don't really know what that is? Or if I don't realize I'm already doing it? And doesn't this still return to what gives me pleasure?

Yes, a minor midnight midlife crisis. Which reminds me of a cartoon that used to make me laugh which showed a professor in an academic midlife crisis despairing, "I've never been quoted in the New York Times!" I lived that moment tonight. And I'm not laughing.

And I'm not sleeping, either.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Books


Bud is obsessed with letters and spelling. Not an hour goes by when he doesn't spell out a word on some label or sign or book he can see. And he and Sis both can spot and read the word "zoo" all over the place--short, distinct, familiar--they've seen it on books, a t-shirt, and even their dinnertime panda bowls (from our visit to the National Zoo when they were just babes). So I asked the director of their school what I should be doing. She said just to keep up what we were doing--noticing words, spelling them, sounding them out--but also suggested labelling things like they do around school.

So, this morning we had a big spelling game. I would write a word in pink or blue on a card and the respective child (can you guess?) would help sound it out and then tape it to the appropriate object. Chair, table, wall, floor, curtains, door, dresser, drawer, and piano. As I wrote the letters of "piano," Bud actually said, "piano!" I asked him how in the world he knew that. Had he sounded it out quickly? No, he remembered it from "Word World." I guess that's why the Department of Education supports that show!

We had fun with the cards for awhile but then started reading books off our shelves, including a first read of Library Lion, which is an endearing picture book about a lion trying to follow the rules at the local library. Next, they were asking me when we could read more Magic Tree House books. So, this afternoon, when the babysitter was here (and after I had to go get my glasses fixed, after only two weeks! They replaced the whole frame), I went to the bookstore and picked up two more in the series, namely Knights at Dawn and Mummies in the Morning. I also talked to my favorite clerk about other series--Nate the Great, Ivy and Bean, The Secrets of Droon--but she thought most of those would be too old for 4 year olds. Maybe after we read the 45-odd books in the Magic Tree House series!

Merry Mabon, or Happy Autumnal Equinox!

It's the first day of fall! An overcast but not chilly day here in CT. And to mark this changing of the seasons--the continued shortening of days, the turning of the leaves, the harvest, a time for thanks and family--we made Easy Pumpkin Cake from my new cookbook, The Classic Zucchini Cookbook by Nancy C. Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman (which I bought, along with Greens Glorious Greens! to experiment with our CSA take). As decadent as my pumpkin bread (a cup of canola oil AND 4 eggs???!!!), it has a lighter, less sticky consistency but not as much spice. And I like it without the suggested cream cheese frosting. The kids inhaled both the leftover batter and two (small) pieces of cake. We also cut out colored leaves and decorated them with colored scraps. And we read "The Autumn Story" in my treasured rare edition of The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem (a UK import not well known here in the States), with its beautiful and detailed illustrations of Primrose mouse exploring the area around her hedge at harvest-time.

Indeed, the last several days have been leading up to fall here. On Sunday, in a rare burst of energy, we uprooted the remnants of our dying squash plants and planted 4 new pink mums for the fall. There were three tiny squash left on the plant, which were in yesterday's ratatouille. We also enjoyed a small celebration of Chinese Harvest Festival, all tuckered out from a garden work; we ate dumplings and moon cakes, but didn't manage to stay up to watch the moon rise. Next year. Then, Saturday is (hopefully, it doesn't rain) our annual fall family festival, Applepalooza! We're having some friends over to eat apple treats, make crafts, play games (the ever popular "pin the worm on the apple"!). I'll be making our new favorite, Swedish apple pie, as well as a new applesauce cake recipe, caramel apples, and some kind of apple cider punch (mabye with chai tea, a la Starbucks). Last but not least, we'll probably go apple-picking and pumpkin-choosing in the next several weeks, as we lead up to the two huge fall holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving! But more on those, and our fall trip to Texas, later. Until then, happy fall!

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Easy Pumpkin Cake

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 3/4 cup pumpkin (cooked or from a 15 oz can)

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13" pan..

Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a mediu-sized mixing bowl. Mix well.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and oil. Beat until light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin. Add the flour mixture and beat just until thoroughly blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched.

Cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1-8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In medium mixing bowwl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add 2 cups of the sugar and beat until smooth. If the frosting is too thin, add the additional 1/2 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Sperad evenly over the cooled cake.

Nancy C. Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman, The Classic Zucchini Cookbook

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Extra Eggplant

I have eggplant coming out of my ears! And am on my fourth batch of ratatouille in recent weeks, so much so that I can do it without consulting a recipe, which is rare for me. And so, I was glad to see The Minimalist's post on Baba Ganoush, the Middle Eastern, smoky eggplant dip often paired with hummus and tabbouleh. I think I'll pull out the indoor grill and use up some eggplant this way.

Otherwise, I have lots of peppers, which are too spicy for me, and yet more kale. I'm going to be trying crispy or roasted kale, the recipe for which I've seen now in a few places. Thanks for Rev. M for the recipe below!

And I'm behind with using this week's box, so, if you read this and live near me, give a holler and I'll give you some vegetables!

-=-=-=-

Crispy Kale

Roasted Kale with Sea Salt

  • 4 cups firmly-packed kale
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. good-quality salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the stems off the kale and discard; rinse and shake the leaves dry. Stack the leaves and cut them crosswise into strips about 1 inch wide. Put the kale in a big bowl and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat well (about 2 tablespoons). Toss the leaves. Spread the kale on a large rimmed baking sheet and pop it in the oven. Set the bowl aside without washing it.

Roast kale until some of the leaves are tinged with brown, about 7 minutes. Remove baking sheet and stir kale around (tongs are the best tool for this), then put it back in the oven for up to another 5-15 minutes, stirring every five or so, until all the leaves are crisp. Immediately put the leaves back in the bowl you first tossed them in, then drizzle with another tablespoon of oil and a few splashes of vinegar. Toss kale with the tongs, taste, and add more oil, vinegar, or salt as needed. Toss again and serve right away.

Do Over

The kids are going to school for the first time since last Monday.

Let's just try this again, shall we?

And, because I didn't sleep half the night as my cold progresses through the coughing/sore throat stage, I'm going to come home and rest.

Rest, perchance to blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Warp Speed

Today's weaving class found us winding the warp on a large pegged warp board with the color of thread that would form the warp of our scarves (this means the color that becomes the tassles/fringe at the end, not the weft, which is on your spindle during weaving). Wrapping 120" of warp in each pass from the top of the board, around numerous pegs, to the bottom, changing my pattern slightly every 20 passes (or "inch" because my SETT is 20), to create 10 inches for Mama's 8 inch wide scarf (taking into account 2" of draw) meant that I did 100+ squats.

That's the important part (and I don't even fully comprehend why I do what I'm doing).

Yep, weaving is good exercise.

Next week, dressing the loom--sleying reeds, threading heddles, tying onto lease sticks.

Then, weaving!


Light a Candle

Please, for my weaving teacher, whose restaurant was held up last week and who, in defending herself and her employees, was injured. She's physically fine now but upset about the lost cash box, and devastated by the theft of her cherished knitting bag with all her treasured tools, patterns, supplies, projects, and notebook of information from decades of crafting, business, and friendship, which she values more than the money. I'm hoping someone will find it in a dumpster or bush and return it to her.

Let's Hear It for the Girl!

Her name is Dame Vera Lynn. And she is at the top of the British Pop Charts. For an anthology of songs such as "The White Cliffs of Dover" from World War II.

Yep, she's 92 years old.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Update from Brother Bear Country

Gommie and Pop have called a few times now from their trip to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons, which I think they've wanted to take since they went through their Lewis and Clark phase twelve years ago inspired by the Ken Burns film (we're a family who like phases, as I'm sure you've gathered about me through this blog.). The kids have been thrilled to hear about what it's like where Kenai, Denahi, and Sitka might have lived. Today, Gommie and Pop saw a little bear eating huckleberries on the side of the road. Sis was thrilled to hear they got lots of pictures. There have been elk and bison (not just in the burgers, either, I think) and some kind of goat. They've also seen several tipi/teepees, including one listed for sale for about $800 in the local paper. Apparently, Blackfoot and Crow families often erect tipi next to their houses. Cell phone service isn't great but I gather that they went into Canada and came back, love driving through the mountains, and were heading to a few museums on Lewis and Clark as well as the artist Charles Russell.

Work Widow

It's not often that Mama has to work off-hours, thankfully, nor does she ever travel. In this day and age, we count ourselves very lucky that we can do well on her salary alone without the complications of late hours or work trips.

But today, and for the next two Saturdays, Mama is working at the office, doing off-hour IT stuff. And truly, though we're all at home sick (Mama, Sis has a temp of 102 this morning, if you get to read this) today and she'll even perhaps miss part of Applepalooza next weekend, I don't resent her job. Far from it, I'm glad she's so necessary.

Of course, she is necessary at home too. Not just for all the household chores she does but also as companion to and caretaker of the family. Though, often, we take her, all she does, for granted. Last night, I went to bed early, not feeling well, and not only did she clean the post-dinner kitchen, which is usually my job, but she made a fresh pitcher of iced tea for me today. And because she left so early today--she was already up at 5:45 when the kids needed a bathroom run--I haven't gotten to thank her for the iced tea. For everything. Hope you have a good day at work, hon. We love you. We'll see you when you come home.

Day 4

Still fever.
Still congestion.
And coughing.
And aches.
And tired.
But, oddly, somehow better.

The kids seem to have more energy and enthusiasm today and are playing happily together for the first time since Tuesday.

I'm sitting with a cup of herbal tea and honey, watching them, not much energy or enthusiasm to do anything else.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Cure, Part 2

I am often reminded of Momma Zen's post on life's lemons:

When life gives you lemons, let the lemons be. Sour has a sweetness all its own, and a season, like all seasons, that doesn't last.

Trying to remember this today, as we all curl up together in bed watching their favorite shows, passing around the tissues and trying not to cough on each other. But we're together . . . so I'm going back to bed now.

Acculturation

It took three of us to hold her down.

Twice.

Sis has had throat cultures before and knew what was coming, becoming hysterical at the thought of the scratchy stick down her throat.

And she's really strong.

Torture for her; not much fun for me and the nurses either.

No strep on the quick test.

But ear infection. Chest congestion. Nose congestion. Swollen tonsils. 103F fever, on Tylenol.

So, she's now on a Motrin-Tylenol 3-4 hour regimen, plus antibiotics.

She can't see anyone for 48 hours.

Plus, Bud and I are sick.

Keep your fingers crossed for our speedy recovery.

A Cure

For the ills in the Hungry Household this week, Momma Zen's prescription on her website is timely:

For fatigue: Be tired.
For impatience: Be still
For inflammation: Chill.
For despair: Empty completely.
For fear of getting nothing done: Get nothing done.
For having no time: Take time.
For lack of love: Love.
For disappointment: Dance.
For inadequacy: Give.
For no reason: Be unreasonable.

For these and all other symptoms, exhale.

--Karen Mazen Miller, author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood

This One's For Bud


It's an ancestor of the T. Rex, Bud's favorite dinosaur.

Not great that the only existing fossils were illegally smuggled out of China but good that they are being returned.

Can't wait to see this on the "Dinosaur Train"!

L'Shana Tova

Rosh Hashanah starts tonight--happy new year!

To celebrate, even if you're not Jewish,
  • learn about the historic "Aachen Service," the first Jewish service in Germany after Hitler during WWII
  • virtually visit a living history museum in NH that includes a recreation of Jewish life in 1919
  • and, as always, whet your appetite with my favorite: Joan Nathan, cookbook author and Jewish culinary historian, answers questions about food for the High Holidays

Third's a Charm

Let's hope, anyway.

Sis woke up at 101.4.

We'd already decided there would be no school today when she was so exhausted at dinner that she nearly fell off her chair. She cried when she realized that she would miss yellow day at school. And Bud's nose just keeps dripping. We've been practicing "cough pockets" and Purell, but preschoolers are just walking germs, intent on spreading the love. Heaven help us when H1N1 gets here! So, we'll be at the doctor sometime today. Then we're probably missing a great birthday party tomorrow and maybe church on Sunday, though I'll go to teach.

Except, I think I'm getting it too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Recovery Time

So far--knock on wood--the kiddos are fever free over here at the Hungry house. Bud's nose is super drippy and Sis is still coughing, but neither is as bad as it was or could be. Not to say this is the end of it. No promises of school tomorrow; we're just taking one tv show at a time. Though, they have had more energy and played for about 2 hours before needing some more downtime. We're thinking deli for lunch, if only to get out of the house without really risking infecting anyone. The babysitter may or may not come, as I gave her a heads-up about the colds (there is no flu in the area yet, seasonal or H1N1). I'll know later. So, until then, we're hanging out and hanging in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sick Day Menu

Breakfast
  • Medium iced decaf with extra milk and a shot of mocha, while I ran to the grocery store for supplies
  • 12 glazed doughnut holes for Sis, mainly left uneaten, along with an undrunk Yoohoo kindly brought by Mama; instead 4 sips of water
  • 1 jelly doughnut, cut in half, with only the jelly eaten out of the middle with a fork, by Bud
Mid-morning snack
  • Trying to entice Sis to eat or drink, I mention sherbet (rainbow, part of the morning's grocery run) and popsicles. She declines; Bud, whose nose is drippy now too, takes a strawberry popsicle.
  • We made pumpkin pie, which is baking in the oven right now, at Sis's request. She loves pumpkin (thanks, Mama, for fetching evaporated milk after I forgot that during the morning run).
  • A can of frozen lychees is on the counter, defrosting into slushiness for later.
Lunch
  • I have homemade chicken soup on the stove, with carrots and celery but no onions, and will add either egg noodles or alphabet pasta. Sis says she wants Dora soup, from a can, instead.
  • While looking for enticing morsels this morning, I find a new brand of vegetable dumplings for me (some of the others are too "green" tasting), to eat when they have their chicken dumplings. Which might be a back-up lunch. Whatever they want.
Afternoon Snack
  • Probably pumpkin pie
  • Whatever else strikes our fancy
Dinner
  • I have barbecued chicken thighs in the crockpot for Bud, since he liked the ones at church on Sunday.
  • I have no idea what Sis will eat tonight.
  • I'll probably defrost some lentils and greens for the adults.

Hubris, Thy Name is Mommy

I have been so excited about school starting, giddy even.

And the kids, mainly Sis, woke up with a horrible cough this morning, with a fever no doubt on its way.

They will both be home today.

And probably Friday, if the fever starts later.

I can't say how disappointed I am.

Some for them, since she's already cried about missing school.

But mostly for me.

Being sick sucks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And Again And Again And Again!

Well, chapter books have taken off over here. With the possibility of reading the first half of Sunset of the Sabertooth, in the Magic Tree House series, since Mama was running a little late, my kids were brushed, dressed, and in bed thirty minutes early. They knew they got 5 chapters and eagerly announced each one.

They seemed only slightly disturbed that we had skipped from #1 to #7, mainly because those were the two topics that Mama and I thought most likely to interest them. Lucky, there was a prologue that caught us all up on everything--it will probably be best to read them in order from now on though. So, I'll get my hands on #2-6.

Sis was so excited and intrigued that she barely noticed Mama come home, only stopping to fill Mama in on the plot. Which she explained rather succinctly. Then she took the book to her bed and studied the pictures in the last five chapters just to see what's coming up (and because in her book the pictures are still extremely important). I could just see her, not too many years from now, curled up with a flashlight under her covers! Meanwhile, Bud recounted the story in the dinosaur book to Mama.

Only problem with all this: after 5 more chapters, were out of books!

Read It Again, Mom!

One chapter book down, thousands to go . . .

We just finished reading The Magic Tree House Series: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne, our first intentional foray into chapter books. We looked at the cover and guessed what it could be about based on the pictures, we studied how the book was set up with a table of contents listing 10 chapters, and then started reading.

And read straight through to the end, 60-some odd pages later, a very few of them illustrated. There were a few questions, a few stops to summarize, but mostly we just plowed right through, with Bud announcing each chapter's number. I tried to make it interesting with different voices and such. They guessed each dinosaur based on the clues before it was named. The T-Rex was Bud's favorite part. I think Sis liked how the tree house would spin to travel back in time, which they found fascinating.

And so, we'll keep going. Though I'm not sure if we should read them in order or choose our favorite subjects. I'm going to have to check (there seems to be a continuation to the next book but I don't know how important it is). Was it better than picture books? Actually, the narrative was compelling but there was no moral--just pure fun with lots of facts, which is just fine. And it was long. Like, I wouldn't "read it again" today. But I'd read another tomorrow . . .

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thanks, Granny Q!

There was a package addressed to Bud and Sis on the porch today when we got home from school and lunch. They were so excited and ripped right into the box, excited to find a wrapped present for each of them.

Thank you so much, Granny Q, for the cheerful back-to-school pillowcases! They are dreaming on them as I type . . .

Read All About It, NOT!

I told Sis and Bud about my chapter book plan, describing the story of The Magic Tree House--a brother and a sister travel through time and space, including to the dinosaurs!--and about chapter books in general.

Sis said immediately, "I only like picture books."

And they decided to stay in the tub extra long, not at all interested in hearing a few chapters from their new story, even with dinosaurs.

Oh, well.

Isn't there a story about leading a horse to water?

(And thanks to Mama Teacher, who still uses picture books in her first grade classroom, for telling me it's okay if we don't get into chapter books for years to come!)

Read All About It

At first focusing solely on their own names, Sis and Bud are currently obsessed with spelling, making up combos of letters to see if I know the "word" (i.e. "what does E-O-R-R-T spell?") and asking how to spell words they already know, like "drum," "pancake," and "Shirt." I guess we're officially pre-readers now.

Which is a subject under discussion in my playgroup now. One mom sent a link about reading chapter books to pre-readers, which argues "The traditional time kids start chapter books is when they learn how to read them by themselves. The trouble with this is that it goes against that fact that a child's listening level is higher than the reading level until the teenage years." The website's author, DaddyRead advocates to begin reading chapter books, at least 50% of the time, with children as young as 3, who will gain from the use of their imaginations (vs. relying on pictures), the real-life stories, and the continuous chapter structure (to loosely paraphrase). Of course, as an art historian, it's important to me that there are still picture books especially after children have learned to read chapter books in order to foster visual thinking skills. But we're gonig to try the chapter books, just for fun, after several moms reported positive responses. Today at the bookstore, we purchased two books in the recommended Mary Pope Osborne series, The Magic Tree House about siblings who travel through time, in our two books, to meet a saber-tooth tiger and also the dinosaurs. There are other books on China, the Revolutionary War, knights, mummies, and pirates. Truly, Mama and I were excited to choose several titles and had to restrict ourselves to one for each kid (well, and the historical study guides with the facts behind the novels.) We'll see how it goes.

But I'm not trying to push the reading thing, even if people at the table next to us this morning must have thought I was an overly ambitious mother as I stressed the sounds in "drum" and tried to get them to guess the letters, which they did (though that "u" is tricky). It's not scientific. I'm not even sure I'm "supposed" to be doing this. I'm just trying to respond to their questions. Which are constant, including Sis's extraordinary, "Mommy, does that say 'zoo'" when spotting the word on the restaurant placemat on Saturday. I think she read that. They're also both memorizing more books and songs right now, even the notecard I put in Sis's lunch which she had me read at breakfast and then repeated over and over again.

I'm all for keeping summer "academic-free" in the homework sense of the word and found myself overreacting at the library earlier this summer when I came across the school district's required summer reading program, complete with specified time amounts and book reports. Required, my butt. Try and make me. The whole tone of the letter, trumpeting the "joy of reading," belied what the program will really do: fail. Kids who would read for fun will be turned off by all the work; kids who wouldn't have read for fun won't and then be penalized at school, just what you want for at-risk students. I suddenly had visions of homeschooling just to avoid such misguided programs! Or visions of mom-against-the-school when I adamantly refused to have them participate. Or finally, visions of compromise as I realized that school is often (in good training for life) about learning how to jump through silly hoops successfully so you can move along to what you like better (i.e. how I define doing math homework and science fair).

But I did like reading about programs that now let children choose their reading material. My favorite English class in high school was a yearlong self-directed study: we designed a theme for each grading period and reported on our books creatively at the end. I can't remember most of what I read, specifically, if you were to ask for titles, though I did a section on American classics (Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway--stuff I wasn't getting in my American lit class), mythology, Phantom of the Opera. One student did all year on Edith Wharton. Looking back, I'd love to have done a year on women writers like Austen or Eliot. And Wharton. But it was having the power to decide for myself and following through with my choices that I most valued.

Which is why, just like my mom, I have trouble saying "no" when my kids express an interest in a book, at the bookstore, yard sales, even the library. I don't (really) care if they want Dora or the Bearnstain Bears or yet another book on dinos, even if those wouldn't be my choices for them, as long as they want to read. And so, on the ride to and from the restaurant, and even while we were there, we all poured over the book orders they got today, very excited about the chance to choose our next books, discussing and debating and changing choices several times (I think Sis is going with Clifford, Bud with Skippyjon Jones finds Bones, and I'm thinking about The House in the Night, the 2009 Caldecott). Reading them will come soon enough.

Details, Details

Saturday
Cloudy, cooler.
Breakfast in Union, Ct at the Traveler's Resturant--get 3 free books with every meal.
Bread and Jam for Frances, a book on the solar system, Where's the Me in Museum?
Extra sweet pancakes unliked; carrot Glorious Morning muffin devoured.
Sis really reads the word "zoo" on her coloring placemat!
Fifes and drums at Old Sturbridge Village.
"Simple Gifts."
One Civil War corps, playing "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
Scary loud musket.
Two new calves.
Gingerbread.
A little wooden fife. And a little plastic pig.
Learn about baking bread in old ovens.
And weaving wool into yarn.
Head home late, sleep all the way.

Sunday
Homecoming Sunday at church.
Bake Swedish Apple Pie and heat 3 boxes of macaroni and cheese for potluck lunch.
Sharing of Water & Earth from all over Ceremony.
Kids head to class; I head to class, with the 2nd-5th graders, to discuss important questions.
New game, 2 Falses and 1 True. Can you guess? I was a competitive ice skater in high school, an archaeologist in Tunisia in college, or a Disneyland cast member after college.
Garlicky pasta with broccoli, curried broccoli cheese soup, salads, our apple pie.
Sis likes chicken and rice; Bud likes barbecued drum sticks. Note to self about new meal ideas.
Home for rest--more "Dinosaur Train."
I go to weaving class, excited about my new loom.
Indigo and plum Jaggerspun for Mama's scarf.
Home in time for dinner (noodles, eggs, soybean stir fry)--the kids love the 2 False and 1 True game--and tuck-in (after playing "Rocks-Paper-Scissors" to see who gets a ride usptairs first!)
Make first day of school poster, notecards for the whole year; stuff "school cones" with pencils, calculator, sticky notes, stickers, and stuffed critter.
Go to bed really late.
And nobody really sleeps.

Monday
Kids up early, so excited.
Open schultute, eat breakfast, wear matching school shirts, pack new lunch boxes with grapes and pretzels/cereal (dino for Bud; Hello Kitty for Sis, who wrote her name on it by herself!), pose for pictures, leave so we can be there first, at Sis's request.
Kids excited and hardly notice we leave.
Sign up for parents committee.
Repeatedly browse book orders!
Mama and I go to bookstore for coffee and browsing--chapter books for the kids, squash cookbook for me; home store for mattress cover and pillows; library to return books and get new books (Lahiri's new collection Unaccustomed Earth) and a few CDs--Madame Butterfly with Freni and Carreras for $1!! And the new Zoe Lewis.
Kids on playground with yellow paintings hanging from the fence--Bud wrote his whole name on his, a first!
Ready for lunch at the sticky pancake place. Pancakes and bacon. BACON!
Spell, spell, spell. We spend the whole lunch sounding out and spelling words.
Mama has gone back to work; kids are resting to "Clifford."
Afternoon plans to play, play, play.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Catching Up

Yesterday, a wonderful day at Old Sturbridge, which was hosting the amazing first annual "Drummer's Call" of fife and drum corps from around New England (including the amazing Lancraft, which played a beautiful version of "Simple Gifts" and a medly of Southern tunes including "Dixie," "Camptown Races," and "Sewanee River.")
Today, the first day back at church, where I am teaching Sunday School, plus a homecoming potluck, with some yummy foods, including the Swedish Apple Pie we took. This afternoon, I start weaving class.
Tomorrow, the kids' first full day back at school, for which I have a few things left to prepare--schultute to stuff with little school-related gifts, first day of school poster to make to use in the pictures in the morning, notecards to make for their snack boxes for everyday.

-=-=-=-=-

Miss B's Swedish Apple Pie

3-5 apples, peeled and sliced (any kind or a mix)
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 cup works, too)
1 cup flour (AP or whole wheat; haven't tried with GF but think it could work)
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional; we've also added Craisins or raisins)

Fill a greased 9' pie plate 2/3 full of apple slices. Sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.


Combine remaining ingredients into batter and pour over apples.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

N.B.  We have also added 1/2 cup or more of oats to the batter, to make it more like a crisp; use the full amount of butter in that case.

Miss B from playgroup

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Little Brain

(Note: Lambeth, this is absolutely not going to fulfill your request for smart-ass sayings from Bud.)

Tonight, when we were reviewing our fun-filled and exciting day, Bud turned to me and said, "Where did we go again?"

"Old Sturbridge Village."

"Oh, I forgot." The name, I believe, not the event itself which was to attend the Drummer's Call of Fife and Drum Corps. More on this later. Probably tomorrow.

Sis piped up, "That's because he has a little brain."

"Yeah," he said, recalling the discussion of brain sizes on their new favorite show, "Dinosaur Train," "I don't have a big brain like a Troodon."

So, I guess I can now introduce my twins as "Smart Heart" and "Little Brain"!

Bon Voyage!

Gommie and Pop are heading out tomorrow for a two-week vacation to Glacier National Park and other sites. Or, as we refer to it in the Hungry household, the place where Kenai, Sitka, and Denahi of Brother Bear would've lived.

Have a wonderful trip to wear the lights touch the earth, Gommie and Pop!

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Day of School

Yes, with cool temperatures and constant drizzle, summer is truly over and school started today, at least for an hour. Visiting day. The kids took to the people, space, routine like ducks to water and were happy to be there. First to the dramatic play area decked out as a kitchen, then to the sand table, finally to the blocks and tools. Plus some painting in yellow, a portrait of me by Bud, Sis writing her name all by herself. The quick parents' meeting (and thank you for mentioning mommies and mamas, Mrs Director!) informed us of H1N1 precautions, pumpkin field trips, and Mother's Day celebrations. It's going to be a fun and busy year. Plus, I'm helping out with some art lessons and the new school blog, which will be a pleasure.

Afterwards, we all went to the coffee shop--it's pumpkin spice latte season!!!!--and had a snack. Or, well, the kids ate my snack, a piece of pumpkin bread. Soon, Sis was planning our afternoon activity--making Pumpkin Bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies. She has always liked pumpkin. But, of course, I don't just keep pumpkin around the house, so after picking up our CSA box, we got a few cans of pumpkin. And made the bread. Which we shared with Goose and Mommy Goose during our afternoon playdate.

Because kids can't live on bread alone, there's meatloaf in the oven for dinner. But for now, we are chilling in front of a new episode of our new favorite show, "Dinosaur Train." The school year is off to a good start.

-=-=-=-=-

Pumpkin Bread

Delicious!!! And it freezes. I have made it without the nuts and raisins and it is just fine.

Makes 2 loaves

3 cups sugar

3 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons each nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon

4 eggs

2 cups fresh or canned cooked pumpkin

1 cup oil

½ cup water plus ½ cup apricot or peach brandy (or another ½ cup water)

1 cup each chopped pecans and raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine sugar, flour, soda, salt, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon in large electric mixer bowl. Mix eggs pumpkin, oil, water (or brandy) and combine with dry ingredients; beat until well mixed. Fold in pecans and raisins. Bake in large greased Bundt pan until cake tests done, about 1 hours and 30-45 minutes.

Gommie