Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mindful

I've become aware of a convergence in my little universe:  I seem to be bumping up against Buddhism, particularly Zen, everywhere.  First, I read and absorbed Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller, who is a Zen Buddhist priest and mom; I also read her excellent blog Cheerio Road.  Then Mama and went to the bookstore, where I picked up a book on bread making, The Tassajara Bread Book, by a baker/Zen priest and, unbeknownst to me, Mama bought me a mandala coloring book. Then I bought a book by Natalie Goldberg, a book on memoir writing seemingly unconnected to Buddhism.  Except that she is a Buddhist.  And was highlighted in a Kripalu Center catalog I unexpectedly received.  I read through the catalog of course offerings and understood it like I understand Mandarin, which is to say very little (though there was a special retreat for yoga for people with back pain.  Hmmm, and it's "close," being in Massachusetts).  Zen Buddhism, meditation, yoga, etc etc etc, has its own esoteric language, culture, practice that I do not understand--thank heavens I can look up "dharma transmission" on Google.  Then, this morning, sitting at the dentist's office waiting to talk about my ear-jaw pain, I came across the magazine Shambala Sun, which I had just heard of because Miller has written for them and will soon have a blog on their website (and their press published that bread book and that coloring book!).  Inside were references to all of the above (which was a good reminder to me to practice the yogic breathing I had learned through prenatal yoga while the dentist took impressions for my new nightguard--I'm grinding and clinching causing the ear pain).  The magazine also mentioned Theravada Buddhism, which is more like the Buddhism of Mama's family (and I'm still learning the basic differences of Zen, Theravada, and Mahayana Buddhism, having been introduced to the various art forms in my favorite undergrad art history class on an intro to Asian art.  We looked up intros to Buddhism on that trip to the bookstore when we bought Goldberg's book because Mama is interested in the literary and religious roots of her family's practice--mercy, there are as many books as practicioners).  Finally, of course, Mama spent weeks at her Transcendental Meditation class.  But that kind of meditation isn't Zen, as I've come to discover.  It's all curious to me, not only because I seem to keep crossing paths with Buddhism, but mainly because I find myself aligned with Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and compassion, such as I understand them, having learned similiar ideas through NVC.  Though I've long seen my practice of UU principles in a pagan light (nature, cycles, duality, the threefold law, feminism), I haven't really identified a philosophy that I can practice daily in that spirituality; Buddhism, however, contains elements I already embrace.   So, remaining open to these convergences, I'm absorbing more information about it all.  I wonder where it will take me.

Welcome!

I have a new cousin, born yesterday down in Texas to my mom's cousin's daughter.  Welcome little Jax!  You're joining a great family. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getting Ready for Our Day

You'd think that Mother's Day would be a really big deal in a household with two mothers.  Actually, we haven't quite settled on how to celebrate, mainly because much of the coordination of the celebration still falls to the moms, as the kids are kinda young to grasp the concept.  I think last year, we ostensibly agreed that Saturday was one of our days and Sunday the other.  But I don't remember how that worked out.  I think we didn't make a huge deal of it (gosh, that's true, right?  I'm not totally forgetting something, am I?).

As for this year, I think we might all go out to lunch on Saturday, if we aren't on a family field trip somewhere.  Sunday will be too nuts for eating out together.  Regardless of what we do, I will keep in mind this post on mothering yourself from one of my favorite bloggers, author Karen Maezen Miller.  Because in the end, at my house and perhaps at others, everyday should be mother's day.

They're Playing My Song

What would your soundtrack look like if you were an Alzheimer's patient receiving music therapy?

Working backwards, mine would be:

Laurie Berkner, Raffi, and other children's music
Traditional, folk music, sea shanties, world music (from all of our travels to historic places)
Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, and "women's music" of our pre-parenthood/Chicago days
Broadway musicals of the 1970s-2000 (up to and including Rent, but not much more recently than that)
Pop of the 1980s, particularly Wham!, George Michael, and Culture Club
Broadway musicals of my parents' era, esp Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe




Burdensome Inheritance

I don't ever want our kids to have to go through the crap we have in the basement.  And, while I don't think my demise is imminent, I worry about what they'll do with their mothers' stuff.  So, Mama and I have been cleaning out the basement.  Our big reward?  We're finishing it!  Yep, we're going to empty and remodel half of it as a workshop.  Call it the creative zone, with their easel, all of our hobby and craft stuff, plus some dramatic play stuff (kitchen, doll stuff, train table, dollhouse, workbench??) and a couch.  The playroom on the main floor will stay a playroom; we're just not sure what it will include.  And the "office" on the second floor will be our library, with all the books brought up from the basement and the 1st floor.  We talked about relegating all kids' stuff to the basement but it isn't in our family style to segregate kid from adult like that and so we are organizing the rooms based on use not family members.  It's all in the planning stages, probably won't get it started until the beginning of June.  But, hopefully, it will accomplish two things at once:  provide us a little more living space and eliminate a little more stuff.

Doing Our Part for Bees

We were going to vaccuum our living room with our little "shark" that the kids can use.  But as Bud went to retrieve it, he began to yell.  

"A bee!!  A bee!!"  

And sure enough, there was a huge bumblebee sitting, or more exactly comatose, on top of the vaccuum.  My first thoughts were about explaining death again, for the umpteenth time this week, but the bee fluttered, though did not fly.  Exhausted or injured by one of our resident cats?  Probably.

The bee fell off the vaccuum onto the floor.  

"MOM!  Save it!"

Al rescate, amigos!  Insect rescue.  I picked up a plastic Chinese take-out container an a piece of paper.  The kids just stared at me.  From a distance.  But I had seen Mama rescue bats like this and knew it would work.  I covered the bee with the container and then slipped the paper underneath, effectively trapping the bee.  We carried it outside with ceremony and haste.

As I released it, it merely stayed on the ground.  Oh, goodness.  We didn't help.  Stunned, perhaps?  

"Mom, it's not moving!" 

"Let's leave and give it some time."  So we did.  And what do you know, it wasn't there when we came back.  And we spotted several bees in our yard as we played outside.  Who's to say whether it was the one we had rescued?  I'd like to think so.  So would they.

Mission complida.

Playing Mystic

"You sit in your house," Sis directs me towards a chair on our deck, before rushing back to the water table.  There, she fills a little cooler with water and plastic sea animals.  On the other side of the table, Bud is similarly filling a bucket.  

"Close your eyes," she continues.  I hear the scraping of our outside toy bins on the wooden slats.

"Okay.  Hi!  We're from Mystic Aquarium.  And we're going to show you animals that live in the wild water."  And they both procede to tell me about the fish, frogs, octupus, and sharks in their containers, spreading them out on the lids of their impromptu tables.  Bud notes that his fish like to swim, frogs like to hop ("I've got to love one person til I stop . . . ").  Sis introduces her whale shark as the "gentlest shark in the ocean" who gives kisses to people instead of eating them.

I get to ask questions about where the animals live and am told I can visit Mystic Aquarium on another day.  Then they pack up and leave, dumping the animals and water back into the water table.  I'm beckoned over to visit and admire the animals in their marine habitats.

But soon, it starts all over again.  "Sit in your house and close your eyes."

Who would have thought that months after the docent from the Aquarium visited their school that they would channel the experience into a spring afternoon play session? 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sound Familiar?

Am I an internet addict just because I have gotten the kids settled with a snack downstairs and ran up here ostensibly to get outside clothes for us all then got distracted by adding something to a blog post and reading Motherlode thereby totally forgetting what I'd come up here for? For me, the web is worse than tv.  Which is why both the television and computer are upstairs in our room and not easily accessible during the day.

Except when I sneak upstairs . . . 

Seasonings

The smell of sunscreen.
Chilled watermelon.
Wild violets to pick and give away.
Splinters and blisters.
The sound of lawnmowers.
Reading cloud shapes.
Green pollen all over my windshield.
Homemade popsicles.  
Filling the pool with cold water from the hose.
Lost balls.
Ice cream rings around little mouths.
Making fairy houses.
Backyard games--hide-and-go-seek, red light/green light, tag.
Wading barefoot in plastic swimming pools.
Pink faces and new tan lines.
Frisbees and hula hoops.
Big wheels all over the driveway.
Sand between little toes.
Chasing bubbles.
Ladybugs, worms, butterflies, bumblebees.
Late bedtimes.
Waving at neighbors.
Yellow dandelions all over the yard.
The smell of charcoal and lighter fluid.
Skinned knees.
Running through the sprinkler.
Humming window fans.
Short sleeves and no more jackets.
Kites.
The search for shade.
Picnics.
Sweaty hair.
Sidewalk chalk.
Sleeping  . . . like a child.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Household Blotter

Who:  One black and white cat, doesn't answer to Hermione.

What:  Couldn't find her after we noticed she wasn't around and had skipped breakfast.

When:  This morning.  Last sighting, late last night.

Where:  Somewhere in the house.  We were pretty sure she couldn't have gotten outside or in the basement.

Why:  I thought I heard quiet meowing and realized that I hadn't seen her.  Was she stuck somewhere?  Her brother cat Albus seemed unconcerned.  He was the one meowing to play.

How:  She must have hopped into the bathroom cabinet unnoticed at some point during the wake-up rituals, for she was curled up perfectly contented when we found her about 1 1/2 hours later.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Amazing Grace

The circle of life continues, with a trip to the "big zoo" in the Bronx yesterday.

We saw baby prairie dogs and a baby wallaby.

We saw butterfly cocoons, butterflies floating and flittering among the flowers, and butterflies gently expiring after their short lives.

And we saw the pygmy marmosets, so small at a quarter of a pound (in contrast to the nearby 400 lb gorillas).  Sis was gladdened by seeing them and kept shouting "marmoset!  marmoset!" as she watched them frolic happily in their enclosure.  Lively.  Alive.  And so that was healing.  Even if the shop didn't have any stuffed toy marmosets or postcards or any other paraphanelia.  But that's okay, we saw the real ones.  Alive.  

We saw other animals, visiting the bats and other nocturnal creatures of the World of Darkness for the first time, which turned out to be Bud's favorite.  We also visited the reptile house--what was I thinking?  way too many snakes for my taste--and it was popular too.  The kids are intrigued that I'm actually scared of something and like to test the boundaries of that fear--am I scared if I see them in person?  in a book?  if they just mention the word "snake"?  (sometimes, depending on how close and how contained they are; no; no, so quit trying).  

Speaking of fears, Sis was miraculously self-possessed about the peacocks, which seemed to be everywhere and crying all the time. 

But there were chickens, her other phobia, in the petting area of the children's zoo.  She ignored them and went straight to the goats, which she loved feeding.  Or, well, loved watching Gong feed.  

Okapi.  Giraffe.  Grizzly bear.  Colubus monkeys.  Koi.  Sand cat.  Otters.  Turtles.  Sand fox.  Llamas.  Red River hogs.  Flamingos.  Caiman.

Add to all of that two rides on the bug carousel, with Sis on the ladybug and grasshopper and Bud on the praying mantis and jewel beetle (it's important, you know, to ride the one you like!); dishes of ice cream that melted quickly in the kiddie picnic area near the bears (Sis didn't like the sprinkles on hers and made Mama eat them all off first.  Darn.); a trip to the shop that resulted in a stuffed tree frog for Sis and a "snip-snip lizard head on a stick" for Bud (you know, you can open and close the big plastic mouth and grab things or people); and a long nap on the way home.  A pretty good day in the circle of life.

Hotter than Hell, or Houston

It is 80 something degrees outside, almost 90 in the city.  Spring has skipped New England and we’ve gone straight to summer.  I’m not at all happy about this, not liking heat, but we made the most of it by making our own “fresh” ice cream today (probably really sorbet or sherbet, whichever has dairy), in three flavors:  mango, mixed berry, and strawberry.  The former was the best, if only because it was sweeter, or perhaps because it was the only one without seeds.  Sis liked her mango best, Bud his mixed berry.  Everyone was happy.  Especially the cats, who think 80 is great sleeping weather.  They are the only ones.   

-=-=-=-=

“Fresh” Ice Cream

1-16oz bag of fruit (whatever you like)

½ cup yogurt

¼ cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

Blend together until smooth.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cue Music From the Lion King




It really tainted our visit to the "little" zoo today:  Sis found out that the two Pygmy marmosets whom she liked so well had died.  We had noticed the exhibit had been closed awhile but it wasn't
 until today that we learned that the little animals had died and not just been transferred to another zoo.  Apparently, they were very old for captive marmosets, older even than the zoo keepers had first thought.  Oh, well.  It did occasion yet another discussion of everything that lives dies, just like it eats, poops, pees, and toots.  Dying just isn't as entertaining, and is actually quite perplexing to an almost-4 year old.   And then she wanted to see them, to see a picture of them, which meant a trip to the shop to look for a postcard or something.  But no Pygmy Marmosets there.  Finally, I called Mama, who is bringing home a printout from the internet of one so that Sis can see it.  We'll also look for other marmosets when we go to the "big" zoo tomorrow.


She's too young to grasp the "circle of life", but we also saw an octuplet set of Guinea Hogs born 8 days or so ago, very cute little black pigs who were running around and then nursing.  The kids enjoyed these quite a bit.  We tried to see the new baby ocelot, who has been named Milagri (not the name we voted for), but it was catnapping with its mom.  



Otherwise, the kiddos liked the prairie dog colony, the bison scratching its head on a tree trunk, the napping otters all curled up together, the ducks who just would not get in the pond, and, of course, the carousel, as well as a picnic lunch sharing food with all our friends.

Lastly, we send out hopes that our little friend L, who scraped her face in a tumble by the lynx, is feeling fine tonight.  We enjoyed walking around with you (but left faster than we expected because they were getting so tired).  

And the Winner Is . . .

No bangs.

It was pretty much unanimous--is that because the people I asked don't have bangs either?  Apparently--and I didn't know this sacred haircut rule--bangs are either for people with straight hair (not me) or people who are willing to "do" them everyday with a hairdryer and "product" (by the way, the use of that word in that way strikes me as so gauche).  Again, not me.

But not wanting to commit a hair faux pas and offend the hair people in the know, I opted to stay the same.  I'm aiming for long, frizzy/wavy/curly, granola hair that I can eventually braid again.  I'm actually hoping it turns a little gray sometime soon to give it body and character!!

Either way, Bud was none to happy with my haircut, because I came home with it blown dry straight.  And he hated it.  "It's not you, Mommy."  And he then tussled and fluffed it up as best he could to make it my usually out-of-control "Laurie Berkner"-like hair (his analogy, not mine).

Sis liked it straight.  She said I looked like the babysitter.  Don't tell the babysitter.  I think she'd be none too flattered.  Even if she liked it straight too.

And Mama? I'm not sure she noticed one way or the other, except that at bathtime, she reminded me that I should wash it!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quick Readers' Poll

I have a last-minute appointment to get my hair cut today.  So, I want your opinion, because I'm just not sure:

Bangs or No Bangs?

Vote now.

Majority doesn't necessarily win; this blog is not a democracy.

Updates later.

Back in that Proverbial Saddle

I DID IT!!!! I contacted a local art institution about volunteering my art historical and museum educational experience and skills and was warmly and enthusiastically encouraged to help out.  I'll be meeting with the director soon to work out how I can help on those times in the week when I have childcare.   And it's not just grunt stuff but real museum education and curatorial work. I am very excited about embracing this former aspect of my intellectual life.  

More soon--just got off the phone with her and am now almost late picking up the kids!

Hmmm, "work"-life balance already not, right?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Isn't this Yummy?

I love the photos from Martha Stewart.  And can't wait to try the recipes.  

But even more exciting, perhaps, and useful are Martha Stewart's 50 vegetarian dishes.  Yay!

Breaking New Ground

Hee hee hee.   The fun just continues.  And this doesn't even have anything to do with the dentist anymore.  (If you haven't been following, go back and read all the posts with "break" in the title!)

But I've invented my own recipe for whole wheat bread and am eagerly waiting for it to finish baking.  See, I didn't have all the ingredients in my other recipes for wheat bread--no dry skim milk powder, no buttermilk, etc etc etc--so I made up my own.  It's an adaptation of the loaf I made yesterday, but this time with whole wheat flour, using the 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour ratios (approximately) of the other recipes.

I'll let you know how it goes. . . . just as I typed that the machine beeped.  Now I just have to wait 10 minutes for it to cool.  And . . . .

I liked it, though the texture was a little soft, maybe because it was still really warm?  Mama likes white bread better and can't recall the wheat loaf I made earlier, so she was no help.  But, I say it's a do-again, if only because it doesn't require any quirky ingredients that I don't keep on hand.

-=-=-=-=-

Wheat Bread for the Bread Machine

1 cup lukewarm milk

2 tablespoons lukewarm water

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ½ tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups unbleached white flour

1 1/2 cups wheat  flour

2 ¼ teaspoons yeast

 

            Mix wet ingredients and place in pan first.  Add sugar, flour, and then yeast in that order.

            Bake.

Me!

I'll Think about that Tomorrow

. . . because tomorrow is another day.

Yep, if I'm not channeling the Star Wars triology (the first one, not that awful second set), it's Gone with the Wind, Mama says.

The kids are in school tomorrow.  For 2 hours.  And I don't have anything to do.  No doctors' appointments.  No physical therapy.  No errands to run.  No coffee dates with friends.  No drop-offs at the libary. And so I can catch up on my blog posts, including an "in the papers" post that I've wanted to finish for so long.  Really looking forward to it.  

Glad I Didn't Know about This


when I was finishing my dissertation.  I would have spent so much time reading and laughing that I never would have finished!

Break-fast

Okay, "break"-sayings related to my dental experience getting tired?

Couldn't resist a last one.

I don't know what caused it--the novacaine, my period, stress, hunger--but I'm not that interested in eating right now.  Which, of course, is odd.   Chewing solid food hurt the first day and then an upset stomach kept me from returning to regular food the second day.  Now, here on the third day, I'm not quite back to normal.

So, I'm eating bread.  Homemade bread.  From our first bread machine experiments.  And it's divine.  The kids even had some with me this morning:  Sis had hers as a toasted cheese sandwich; Bud's was a jelly sandwich.  Mine had a tiny smear (is that an oxymoron?) of marmalade, to go with my tea.  I might just be like Frances and eat bread and jam all day long.

-=-=-=-=-
Traditional White Bread for Bread Machine
Our favorite (and only) from scratch bread recipe.  Just remember to put the paddle in before you start, Mama!

1 cup lukewarm milk

2 tablespoons lukewarm water

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ½ tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoon salt

3 ¼ cup King Arthur Flour

2 ¼ teaspoons yeast

 

            Mix wet ingredients and place in pan first.  Add sugar, flour, and then yeast in that order.

            Bake.

 

bread machine instruction book

Twitter This

I should say right off that I'm not on Twitter.  No objections, just no use yet, especially as I don't text message at all (or is it IM, or is that unrelated entirely?  I'm not quite a luddite but I don't comprehend all social media).   And I'm wordy and can't imagine stating something in 140 characters when I could use 140 sentences!

But I'm fascinated by Twittering recipes.  Could you make this:

Biscotti: mix 1/3c sug/3T oil/egg/t anise flavr; +c flour/t bkgpwdr. Roll log to fit bkgpan; pat down. 30m@375/190C. Slice~14; brwn+6m/side.

More importantly, could you write it?

Check out the article on Maureen Evans who is at the forefront of "tweeting" (the act of sending a tweet, or 140-character message via Twitter) whole, real, reproducible recipes or take the Twitter Recipe Challenge.
 
(Or see Maureen Dowd make fun of the whole thing).  

Here's my attempt (w/ 88 characters w/o spaces; 111 with)

Mousse:  Add 1/2c cream to 1 1/2c melt choc.  Whip 1 1/2c cream/2T sug; fold in choc mix.  Refrig.  Serve w/choc shavings.

For the original recipe (the above includes doubled amounts), see here.  Character count?  736/882.

Remember Earth Day

From our church's Earth day singalong:

This Old World
(Words by Steve Blunt.  Tune is "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.")

This old world is a beautiful place,
Sunny skies and rainy days.
For good clean water, earth and air,
This old world needs love and care.
This old world is a beautiful place,
Sunny skies and rainy days.

Birds need to fly in air that is clean,
Fish need to swim in water that's clear.
Plants and animals need their own land,
You and I can lend a hand.
This old world is a beautiful place,
Sunny skies and rainy days.

We won't litter upon the land,
We'll recycle bottles and cans.
We'll remember to turn off the light,
To keep this old world shining bright.
This old world is a beautiful place,
Sunny skies and rainy days.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breakthrough

Ah, the "chip" was a filling I'd forgotten that must have been shaken loose during the other repairs.  It's all fixed now, even sans novacaine (and didn't hurt.  Much).  So, while that was not a break, and PT kicked my butt again this morning (and TMI: I started my period and am cramping awfully), and I still am not really chewing much (too much jaw soreness), I did get a drink from my coffee place this morning.  Which was, indeed, the only break I've had and the one I was looking for.

Vertigo of the Soul

I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.

Read Bono on soul-searching in modern times, because

Not all soul music comes from the church.

Breakdown

Oh, blah.  One of the teeth I had fixed yesterday has a chip--not sure if it was damaged during the procedure, or if it was weakened and flaked later, but it means I'm calling the dentist this morning, going back in soon, and probably having another "break."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who Needs Enemies?

Check out the article on how important friends are, as discovered in several medical studies.

Visiting an Art Museum with Children: Scavenger Hunt

Who doesn't like a scavenger hunt?  A list of things to find, a sense of surprise and excitement, learning something perhaps you didn't know before.  Scavenger hunts are a great way to explore a museum without getting bogged down in seeing everything.  Many museums offer scavenger hunts in their children's materials or as special programs, just check their online listings (for example, The Cloisters is hosting a self-guided art hunt May 23-24, 2009).  Similarly, many companies offer scavenger hunts, such as Watson Adventures, while Wikipedia Loves Art has teamed up with the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their own thematic photograph scavenger hunt.

But you can also design your own, even if you have never visited that particular museum before.  And, by designing it yourself, you can tailor it to your own child's interests.  Start with the museum's website and map.  Clues need not only be about the art on the walls and pedestals, but can incorporate architectural features and amenities (such as shops or cafes), especially because these elements are unlikely to change, unlike works on view.  Pick a theme--from introduction to animals, portraits to history--and choose your questions based on it.  Decide on the goal of your hunt. Is it a fact-finding scavenger hunt, i.e. "find an artist who liked to paint water-lilies," or an exploratory, open-ended hunt with almost no wrong answers, i.e. "find a painting with food in it"?   Your child's interests and your knowledge of the museum will help determine your choice.  Is it a cooperative effort, with the whole family working together on one hunt, or a competitive effort with different individuals (except the hunt designer, of course) racing against one another (oh, but please don't run!!)?  Knowing your family will help you decide.  A few other things to consider:  does the hunt have to be done in the order it's written?  will you give hints (like playing "hotter-colder")?  is there a time-limit?  a prize?  For some good ideas and examples, see TimeOut New York's animal scavenger hunt at the Met, complete with parent's cheat sheet, a variety of age-appropriate hunts specific to the National Gallery of Art.

Happy hunting!

Gimme a Break

Incident #1:  When Mama suggested that going to the dentist would be some kind of break, I nearly bit her head off (of course, this was while I could still bite).

Incident #2:  When the dentist suggested that the visit would be some kind of break, I suggested he knock me out completely.  He didn't.  Instead, he realized that I'm the kind of patient not totally deadened by Novacaine because I could feel him hit nerves several times.  And this is work that will probably have to be repeated every 3-5 years (the filling of abfraction lesions, for those interested).  My kind of break.  If I were into S&M.

Incident #3:  When the kids heard me talk and try to smile, they looked at me, frightened.  It's the same look I get from Bud when I get my hair trimmed (or even washed).  "You're not Mommy.  I want you to be Mommy!"

Hell, with breaks like these, I'll stay at work, thank you very much.  

And I couldn't even go get coffee to make myself feel better.  But I did buy 3 pints of Haagen-Dazs.  For "dinner."  

Washing Your Car Causes Rain

We spent much of yesterday getting ready for spring, this time inside, just as we had prepared the yard on Saturday.  Mama and I switched out the clothing stores, bringing out spring and starting to put away winter.  We found that Bud has a lot of hand-me-downs that will be perfect (thanks, Mama Teacher!) but that Sis's wardrobe is a bit sparse.  We also made 4 bags to giveaway, mainly of winter clothes that won't make it another season or spring clothes that just aren't the right fit.   I was excited to find all my skirts and am totally ready to put away pants for the next 6 months!  But it's going to rain today.  And be cool, only in the mid-40s.  And that's most of the week.  So, I guess both the spring clothes and all the yard cleaning will just have to wait to be enjoyed a few more days.  At least spring break was beautiful. 


Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm Gonna Wash that Mildew off of My Duck

With  the air warming and summer temperatures just around the corner (but not this corner--it's going to be chilly and wet most of the week), we spent the better part of the afternoon in the yard, with Mama distributing some composted dirt to various sections of the yard and the kiddos helping me wash all the oudoor toys in the little swimming pool.

Oh, the siren song of a wading pool on a sunny day!   Sis played with a particular rubber frog, making him his own pool, while Bud recreated Easter dinner by making and unmolding Jello salad over and over again (each time genuinely disappointed that water doesn't "mold.")Soon they were stripped of clothes and running around the backyard bucknaked, dipping their delicate little footsies in the frigid waters more than once and then running around until they  were ready to do it again.  I bet they stayed that way for an hour or so.  Too cold for me, but a great way to usher in the warmer days of spring ahead.  


"Touch-A-Duck"

Sis was so excited about today's touch-a-truck outing that the giggling began at breakfast as she played with the words and rhyme schemes--touch a duck, duck in a truck (a favorite book), lucky duck, etc.  By the time we actually made it to the fairgrounds, she was in quite an elevated state of happiness.  And Bud was just along for the ride.

She loved the firetrucks; he preferred the ambulance that looked "just like a doctor's office."  She was petrified of the costumed mascots, who nevertheless seemed to like to try to befriend her; he posed for pictures with a few of them.  She climbed in every vehicle, even pulling the airhorns on more than one occasion; he was more reticient towards the end, but climbed in several of them.  She inhaled the salty-sweet kettle corn; he preferred his apple and some pretzels.  But they both wore all the buttons ("I heart trucks") and stickers (junior police officer) they were given.  They both treasured the coloring books and frisbees they collected.  They both were too shy to talk to any of the adults in uniform much (cops, firefighters, army soldiers, UPS guys, 99 restaurant staff, you name it).  Neither liked the airhorns much.  Neither wanted to go back and do any truck twice.  Neither seemed to care that we spotted numerous friends or a former teacher from the community center.  

But everyone had a lucky-duck-truck time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is this Me?




Apparently, my canine personality might be that of a Schipperke.  What do you think?

The Schipperke are quick, energetic little dogs. High-spirited, alert, and self-confidentVery devoted and loyal, especially with children. It really bonds to its master. Pet cats will be happily accepted and they are usually good with other dogs. They are very smart, curious and mischievous. These dogs do exceptionally well on boats. Among the Schipperke's best qualities are the ability to defend its home against intruders - backing down from nobody, and being an excellent friend to children. Some can be difficult to housebreak. Socialize well to prevent them from becoming wary and aloof with strangers. Easy to train as it is intelligent and eager to learn. Often times small dogs such as the Schipperke developed what is known as Small Dog Syndrome, varying degrees of human induced behaviors, where the dog believes he ispack leader to humans. When a dog is allowed to rule the home, they can develop behavior problems, such as, but not limited to guarding, obsessive barking, separation anxiety, growling, snapping and even biting. 

It's a Small, Small World

Tonight I had dinner at my favorite feminist/lesbian/vegetarian restaurant (gosh, really, how many of those are there??) with my minister and another minister whom I'd met through those pastoral care and NVC workshops I've raved about.  It was a wonderful evening, even if we were all yawning by the end of it.

But get this:  the minister--the same who gave me the great pimiento cheese recipe--used to live in Chicago, where Mama and I once lived in Lesbianville, er, I mean, Andersonville.  And she attended the last performance at Mountain Moving Coffeehouse, where Mama and I spent so many nights with our friends (and Mama worked sound with L for all the acts).  Which means my new friend saw so many of our old Chicago friends.  She must have heard our dear friend M sing in the chorus that performed.  She might have gotten a rock from P.  She would have seen K get an award for service.  

It's strange, but it is very touching, even healing, to me to have met someone else, someone here, who knew MMCH, had been in that space.  So many of our ties with Chicago have grown slack over time and with the dispersal of certain segments of the community, like MMCH and the gentrification of Andersonville.  And of course, the death of M.  I have some sadness tonight for those good times.  

But also a real sense of happiness to have a new friend.

It's Raining . . . Blueberries!

Today at playgroup there were not one but two blueberry breakfast treats.  And this is the really yummy one that the kids and I made:

TJ's Multigrain Blueberry Coffeecake

1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (lowfat)
3 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 cups Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking Mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (do not need to thaw)
additional sugar for topping (this is my addition.  I used turbinado)


In a large bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk and oil. 
Stir in multigrain baking mix and sugar until moistened.
Fold in blueberries.
Spread batter into an 8x8x8-inch pan coated with cooking spray. 
(My addition:  dust with a few teaspoons of sugar to add a crunchy top).
Bake 45-50 mins in preheated 350 F oven or until top is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for 10 mins.
Cut into squares and serve warm.
Makes 16, 2-inch servings.

back of the box of Trader Joe's multigrain baking mix

Greatest Show on Earth

We all went to an opening last night.  Yes, an art exhibition.  With newly hung works, refreshments, meet-and-greets.  It's been a long time since I've brushed shoulders with artsy folks.

Even if these were only 3 feet tall!

Yep, children's art.

My kids' artistic creations are on public exhibition, and not just the walls of my refrigerator, bathroom door, basement door, kitchen, living room, and Mama's cubicle, or the school.

Nope, a painting each by Bud and Sis hangs alongside works of other 3' foot tall, 3 and 4 year old artists.  And so we admired them all, but Bud and Sis's most, of course.  Though, truth be told, I'm not sure they could actually have picked their own works out of the line-up (and my mommy shame, I thought Bud's was Sis's because he put her initial on it!).  Then we had cookies and fruit (guess who had what), wandered the gallery with several paintings and sculptures, and then went to a special evening family dinner.

If I were Michael Kimmelman or Roberta Smith, the exhibition would get a glowing review in the NYTimes.  As it is, I'll just be a proud mommy here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Let the American Flag Hit Your Butt on the Way Out of the Union, Rick Perry

God help Texas.

She Dreamed a Dream

I'm definitely one of the crybabies who shed tears watching Susan Boyle on YouTube (it's genetic--my mom would cry at touching Coke or Hallmark commercials!).  And so now I'm humming that tune from Les Mis and hoping that (and I'm not sure how "Britain's Got Talent" works) she wins the contest and gets to be her own kind of Elaine Paige (for you non-Broadway babies, she was the original London Grizabella in Cats).    It's a nice reminder not to be judgmental or cynical, to those judges and to all of us in the audience.  

Dream the dream, Susan!

I Want to Be a Boy

Sis decided today that our family needs another boy.

No, she wasn't talking about a daddy.

Mama doesn't want me to go into exactly what Sis wanted, so I'll just say that she has decided that she wants to be a boy.  They're cool.  Which is exactly what Bud keeps telling her.

I tried to explain that girls were pretty neat too.  And then, even though we've stressed equality for the genders, I had to come up with why.  Biologically speaking, which was her main concern at the time.  Since they beat us with the peeing-standing-up thing, what could I say?  

"Um, girls can have babies.  If they want to."

Ohmygod, did I really say that?  I have just taken a turn into a parenting (and feminist) nightmare.

"Really?" she asked, suddenly curious.  Help me, help me, help me.

"Right, boys can't have babies by themselves.  They can't be pregnant.  You don't have to either.  If you don't want to."  CHANGE THE SUBJECT!!

And then she seemed to decided that girls were okay, because she said, "I will have a baby and give it to Bud, since he can't."  Awh.

I can't tell if I dodged that bullet or not.

New Recipe

Spring Morning

2 moms, marinated in coffee
3 children, crusted in cookie crumbs
1 spring break
sun, warmth

Combine all ingredients in a backyard.  Add balls and a playset.  Temper with a picnic lunch from the deli.  Season with a fascinating shed-building project in the backyard next door.  Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Lentil Stew

I needed dinner last night and didn't know what to cook or even what I wanted.  Lentils are a good start so I threw some in a pot and worked on the kids' dinner while I figured out what to do.  It's a North-African/Italian fusion, based on my favorite recipes for Moroccan-Inspired Chickpea Stew and also for Pasta e Lenticchie.  And if I do say so myself, it came out rather well.

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My Lentil-Chickpea Stew

3/4 cup brown lentils
5 cups water
garlic, 2-3 cloves minced (approximately)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon Penzey's Sweet curry
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cook lentils in water for about 20 minutes.  Add other ingredients and warm through, about 10 minutes.  Serve with couscous.

Me!

Baptism by Bread

I have the first stain in my new cookbook, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger.  I was making a recipe with maple syrup and dripped it on the page I was using.  Oh, well.  I don't like staining books, even cookbooks, so next time I'll have to be more careful.  But there will be a next time because I've liked the two loaves I've made.  

Yep, I've been a little obsessed with baking bread in my bread machine recently-rolls, cinnamon raisin bread, honey white, and Easter cardamom bread.  It all started with Miss B's dinner rolls.  It's easy, fun, and tastes better, even if it doesn't last as long, which really is okay--who needs all those preservatives, anyway?  I only wish the kids were more interested--they don't care about putting the ingredients in the pan but do sometimes like to peek in the window.  It's a start.

Here's today's recipe, which I made because a). we are out of bread for grilled cheese sandwiches, which is the requested dinner for tonight and b). I had buttermilk in the fridge from an Easter recipe and want to use it, not throw it out.

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Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons gluten
2 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 bread machine yeast

Place all the ingredients in the pan accordng to the order in the manufacturer's instructions.  Set crust on medium and program for the Basic or Whole Wheat cycle; press Start.

When the baking cycle ends, immediately remove the bread from the pan and place iton a rack.  Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Beth Hensperger, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

Easter Recipes

I realized that I hadn't posted my Easter menu recipes.  Here you go!  My favorites were the bread, pimiento cheese sandwiches, the noodle souffle, and the ambrosia gelatin mold.  I guess that's everything but the ham.

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Noodle Souffle

Preheat oven to 325F.  Remove 1/2 pound sweet butter and 1/2 pound cream cheese from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

Cook 1 pound wide egg noodles in boiling salted water until just done. Drain.  Meanwhile, set out a 3 quart Pyrex or other baking dish.

In mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together with 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar.  Mix well.  Add 9 eggs, one at a time, beating well.  Add 4 cups sour cream, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon salt.  Taste for sour, sweet, and salt.  All flavors should be strong.  

Turn noodles into pan; pour cream cheese batter over noodles.  Stir lightly.

About an hour before serving, preheat oven to 325F and bake noodle souffle until puffed and browned.  Leftover portions may be reheated, uncovered, in oven or toaster oven. 

The Best of Bloodroot, Volume 1, Vegetarian Recipes

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Pimiento Cheese
Makes 4 cups
Prep: 15 min.
11/2 cups mayonnaise
1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
1 tsp. 
Worcestershire sauce (Margie added a bit more)
1 tsp. finely grated onion (Margie added a bit more)
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 (8-oz.) block extra-sharp 
Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 (8-o.z) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in cheeses. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Jalapeño Pimiento Cheese: Add 2 seeded and minced jalapeño peppers.

Cream Cheese-Olive Pimiento Cheese: Reduce mayonnaise to 3/4 cup. Stir together first 5 ingredients, 1 (8-oz.) package softened cream cheese, and 1 (53/4-oz.) jar sliced salad olives, drained. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Pecan Pimiento Cheese: Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted.
  
Rev. M

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Cardamom Easter Braid

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom or 8 cardamom pods, crushed
2 3/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 1/4 cups golden raisins or chopped glaceed dried fruit
egg white mixed with 1 teaspoon water for glaze
raw or decorating sugar, for sprinkling

Place the dough ingredients, except the raisins or fruit, in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer's instructions.  Program for the Dough cycle; press Start.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  When the machine beeps at the end of the cycle, press Stop and unplug the machine.  Immediately turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Pat into a fat rectangle and sprinkle with raisins or fruit.  Fold the dough over in thirds and knead gently to distribute evenly.  Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest on the work surface for 15 minutes to relax the dough.

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.  Using your palms, roll each section into a fat rope about 15 inches long and tapered at each end.  Be sure the ropes are of equal size and shape.  Place the 3 ropes parallel to each other and braid like you are braiding hair.  Adjust or press the braid to make it look even.  Transfer to the baking sheet.  Tuck the ends under, pinching the ends into tapered points.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Twenty minutes before baking, set the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375F.

Beat the egg white and water for the glaze with a fork until foamy.  Using a pastry brush, brush the tops fo the loaves with the egg glaze and sprinkle liberally with the sugar.  Bake for 40-45 mintues, or until the loaves are golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with your finger.  Cool on the baking sheet on a rack.  Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Beth Hensperger, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

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Ham
Always ham for Easter and we’d pick off the chewy dark bits as soon as it was out of the oven.  Very good the next day cut up into macaroni and cheese.
To make red eye gravy, merely boil ham drippings and add water.  Some people add coffee.

Bake uncovered at 325°F for 1 1/2-2 hours.
Mom
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Green Bean Casserole
The old standby.  Everybody has this for the holidays.  Though, it is hard to remember where they keep those onions in the stores.  Mama had a devil of a time finding them the first year we made Thanksgiving.  She’d never had it before and now loves it.

2-16 oz. cans whole green beans, drained (can also use frozen)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
½ cup milk
Dash pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1-2.8 oz. can of French-Fried Onions

            Combine soup, milk, soy sauce and pepper.  Stir in green beans and ½ can of onions.  Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until hot; stir.  Top with remaining onions.  Bake 5 minutes.
                                                                                                                                                               
Mom
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Miss B's Dinner Rolls

1 1/4 cup water (less 1 tablespoon if you use liquid milk)
1 tablespoon skim milk powder (Miss B just uses milk)
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Combine ingredients in container of bread machine. Use on dough setting.

Remove dough from machine. Punch down. Roll into dough log and pinch into 12 balls. Place in greased muffin tin. Brush with melted butter. Cover with towel and set in warm place to rise 20-25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown (can partially bake, 7-11 minutes and then freeze and/or reheat/finish off later).

Miss B

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Ambrosia Gelatin Mold

1-8 oz. box lemon jello
1 ½ cups boiling water
1-17 ¼ oz pineapple tidbits
2-11 oz. cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

            Place gelatin in a large metal bowl.  Add boiling water and stir until dissolved.  Drain pineapple in a strainer set over 2- to 4-cup measure.  Add enough cold water to pineapple juice to bring liquid to 1 ¾ cups.  Add to gelatin.  Half fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water.  Set bowl with gelatin in ice bath and stir occassionally with a rubber spatula until mixture is as thick as unbeaten egg whites.  Remove bowl of gelatin and fold in remaining ingredients.  Pour into mold.
            Refrigerate at least 4 hours until very firm, or up to three days.  After 20-30 minutes, and if marshmallows are sticking up, push them down.  To unmold, dip mold up to rim in warm water about 10 seconds.                                                                                                                                                               
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Marion's Carrot Cake 

2 cups flour
2 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1-8 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
3 oz. flaked coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional: I've never used it)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Set aside.
Combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, vanilla. Beat until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture, raisins, chocolate chips, pineapple, carrots, coconuts, and walnuts.
Pour into two greased and floured 9' round pans.  Bake at

Cream cheese frosting

3/4 cup of softened butter
4-3 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
Combine butter and cream cheese, beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar and beat until smooth.
Goo
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