Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lost Recipe

It's either Google search or me.

I thought I had posted a recipe for "hamburger macaroni soup" but I can't find it, either through a Blogspot or Google site search.

And while only Bud liked it when I originally made it a few months back, they both inhaled the frozen leftovers tonight.

I know it had ground beef, carrots, onion, celery, corn, and some kind of stock, plus macaroni. I think it has ketchup, maybe Maggi or Worcestershire sauce. Something that gives it a slightly reddish-orange tinge, but sweet, too. No telling.

Except, having thought I would never make it again, now I must because they are asking for it. Again and again. Which is a breakthrough because they usually don't like tomato-based soups or soups with beef.

Nothing irks me like losing a recipe.

I Love Their School

I love my kids' school.
  • They had a special Jump-a-thon today in P.E. for the American Heart Association. I like how the school encourages the kids to think of others (same with the fundraiser for Japan via the Red Cross).
  • Tonight is a special math night, where the kids will play age-appropriate math games with their friends and family.
  • Tomorrow, I'm teaching a Junior Achievement lesson, the first of five, for Bud's class. Get this: on money! It's just one of the extra programs the school does.
  • Next week, there is the school-wide book fair.
  • And--SHHH! don't tell--Gommie is going to be Mystery Reader in Sis's class.
  • Sis's teacher has been reading Charlotte's Web to them, which Sis is really enjoying. She feels so grown up to be hearing a novel at school.
  • The principal, school administrator, consultants and specialists, permanent substitutes, even the school nurse, recognize all the parents and are so friendly.
  • Parents are encouraged (but not pressured) to help out: I'll be back in a few weeks to do literacy groups and library work.
  • Oh, and to attend my parent reading group, where we're discussing Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook.
  • The PTSA is very active, hosting a program last night on school community, among other things (like sponsoring and subsidizing field trips, school supplies, etc etc etc)
  • There is going to be an in-house field trip soon, with a Mad Science group coming to do experiments with the kids.
  • And then an author is visiting for a talk and book signing.
  • I'm beginning to get to know the other parents and children (the ones beyond the Girl Scout troop)--I know, it's April so that took awhile--and just picked up Sis and Bud from a playdate at new friend's (Little L) house. They've also played with Little I and will be at a birthday party for Little E soon.
  • Bud's kindergarten teacher, joking with me today about coming home with us for snack, saw that Bud believed her and said we could hangout sometime when school was over. So I invited her to their big, all-morning kindergarten summer Lego birthday bash. And she said she'd come if she is in town!
  • All of that is in addition to the engaging and inspiring instruction in reading, math, science, social skills, self-discipline, music, art, library, P.E. Spanish, that they do everyday.
  • And they haven't even geared up for the end-of-the-year yet!

The Last of It

Okay, I'm hoping this is the last post for a long time about my health, by way of explaining why I'm not posting, returning calls or email, etc., because I'm sick of it. And if I am, you must be . . . . I went to an Ear/Nose/Throat doctor today and do have an infection for which I will be taking steroids and another antibiotic, since it's lasted so long. He says I should feel better as early as tomorrow. (Of course, I'm well aware that it could all be a lot worse, but it has been enough to get me down, especially because all of the coughing has been affecting my back.)

YIPPEE!

If that doesn't work, the navy bean soup I have in the slow cooker should.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Other Side of the Coin

I just posted about baker's mistakes, food gone to waste (sometimes) in the name of practice, experience, product testing.

And then I read Mark Bittman's piece on why he is fasting, along with numerous clergy and other activists, to protest the enormous and egregious cuts in the current H.R. 1, including to such programs as:
  • WIC (aid for Women, Infants, and Children)
  • international food aid that reaches 18 million people worldwide
  • international health aid that reaches 4 million people worldwide
  • Food Stamps
While I'm not sure I am up for a fast just now, I will be reading more about the issues at Bread for the World (the religious organization behind the fast) and Share Our Strength (fighting childhood hunger in the U.S., though not involved in the fast).

Baker's Dozen

. . . of mistakes, that is. Check out this hilarious (and oddly comforting) photos of mistakes from the professional kitchen of King Arthur Flour.

What Do You Call Someone From Connecticut?

Connecticutter? Connecticutan? Connecticutite?

No, as the joke goes: a commuter.

I'm learning why there isn't a name for people from or who live in Connecticut. No one thinks of it that way. You're from Stamford or Greenwich, Ridgefield or New Canaan, Milford or New Haven, Guildford or Branford. Town pride is central. Town history is paramount. Town divisions are clear.

As a Texan, I find it all rather strange. I come from a state that is all about the state identity. Sure, East Texas vs. West, the Valley vs. the Panhandle, and then there's Austin . . . . but everyone is a Texan. Sure, there are Houstonians and Dallasites, but you don't hear that a lot (what's a person from Austin? A Longhorn.) We fly the flag, we know the song. We remember the Alamo (each in his or her own way, of course). Don't mess with us.

I'm not sure I could pick the state flag of Connecticut out of a lineup. And is there even a song? I do know we're the Nutmeg State and that there was a Liberty Tree somewhere. That about sums up my state knowledge (though, granted, I wasn't raised here. But, unlike in Texas, kids do not take a year of their state's history here so they're not indoctrinated with state pride or info in the same way). But I do know my town's seal. And I now know my town's extensive history, as offered through the lens of its local historical society (every town has one), with all the local characters and important locales. But the next town up? or over? That was them.

Of course, I'm not an "us." I'm a new resident foreigner compared to people whose families have been here, quite literally, for almost 400 years. Seriously, a famous Revolutionary War hero is pictured in the historical society and one of his (albeit indirect, by marriage) descendants was the kiddos' preschool teacher. Sure, one of my relatives was a Yankee (if I remember correctly, Gommie's grandfather was born in Fall River, MA, which is pretty Yankee), but not from this town, so it doesn't count. Besides, I believe his parents were Canadians and he later hightailed it to Texas.

Anyway, I'm wondering, now, if this is somehow connected to secession, the Civil War, and states' rights. Are southern states more proud of themselves as states than northern states? My experiences living elsewhere skews my perspective--New Yorkers in the city think of themselves in burrough or city terms, if not racial or ethnic ones, often because most of them are not natives (I consider myself an honorary New Yorker); Chicago residents are "Chicagoans," not really Illinois . . . what's a person from Illinois called? Do you have any insights?

So, quirky as it is here in Connecticut, it's rather endearing to be so local. And I'm enjoying my local sense of history, which really connects me to this place and its people, as I learn that our house stands where the sheep once grazed and the peach trees (I know, seems wrong up here) grew, with the Tories having congregated just up the road.

Egg Shortage

There are no more Cadbury mini eggs.

And I've checked.

Apparently, this happens every year. People buy them as soon as they see them. Stores run out. There are no second shipments.

Not to the department store, the grocery stores, or the drugstore I visited.

Maybe I'm what you called addicted? obsessed? with those little eggs. I like them, for sure, but I can usually do without them. I've noticed, however, that in my current not-feeling-so-great state, I like them more than usual. And have been looking for them.

I lucked out this morning: I found two small purple bags at the drugstore, the last of their yearly stock. Someone had hidden them among the jellybeans, perhaps in hopes of coming back for them! But I know that purple when I see it . . . . It might not take me to Easter, but it'll take me through the week. Because, Lambeth, I don't crave the red meat you think would do me good, I want those little, pastel-colored, candy-coated chocolate eggs.

Thank heavens the kids don't like them, because this Easter Bunny is not sure she could share.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the Other Side: Report Cards

I've been the receiver of report cards.

I've read Mama Teacher's posts on filling them out.

But until Friday, I had not been the parent responsible for signing one.

Or two.

And it wasn't what I expected.

First, I totally forgot. Even after I'd been told by a friend that the reports were in backpacks that very afternoon.

Then, the kids couldn't have cared less, even when I waved the cards at them. "Is that the school news?" Bud wondered. "Oh, don't forget to sign that. You have to return the envelope but you can keep the white sheet."

"I won't forget. It's about how you're doing in school. Would you like to hear more?"

"No thanks," they said in unison.

Of course, I looked long before they did. Nothing unexpected; all good. I mean, they're in kindergarten, so it's not like high school GPAs.

I practically had to strong arm them on Monday morning to hear about it before turning in the signed cards. So I sat them down and read the kind and encouraging teacher comments. The kids looked vaguely pleased but mostly nonplussed. Even when they heard that they were doing pretty much everything they were supposed to. Then they went off to play.

If only report cards could always be that easy.

I just need to quit trying to make it hard . . . .

Diagnosis: Mommy

Bronchial asthma.

From a cold that went viral, so to speak.

I'll be fine.

In awhile. . . .

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Secret Weapon

"Gommie, it's Bud. I just wanted to call and say that I want you to come so I can see you. Because I haven't seen you."

That's a paraphrase, because in reality, he went on much longer on her answering machine. And then in person later in the day.

Result: she'll be here in 10 days.

Defying Gravity

Okay, laugh, I've mentioned "Glee" a lot recently. But get this: even Mama likes it and she almost never likes tv. I think it's because we were both raised on showtunes and pop music in the 1970s and 1980s, both of which are featured in the show.

And now she's walking around with her own "broken internal DJ," singing "Defying Gravity" from Wicked over and over and over. I love it when she serenades me (her voice being much prettier than mine, and higher so that she can sing the soprano parts). We've never seen Wicked (though she tried to read the book) and hadn't heard it before it was featured on the "diva-off" on last season's "Glee," which we're following on DVD (don't be shocked, Mde Director, even though you've seen it 8 times!). And we both love it.

While these lyrics aren't her favorite part of the song, or the ones most stuck in her head, I like them:

"Unlimited
Together we're unlimited
Together we'll be the greatest team
There's ever been
Glinda -
Dreams, the way we planned 'em

GLINDA
If we work in tandem:

BOTH
There's no fight we cannot win
Just you and I
Defying gravity
With you and I
Defying gravity

Green Night

Last night between 8:30-9:30 p.m. was the Earth Hour, a one-hour period of eschewing modern technologies like phones, televisions, computers, and even lights in order to appreciate simplicity and recognize our toll on the earth.

And I almost forgot. Until I read Sew and Sow's reminder. At 8:11 p.m. The kids were in bed but not asleep. Mama and I were still cleaning up downstairs. And we had 19 minutes to get ready.

We were late. We finished cleaning up, remembered to shut down the automatic outside lights, and managed to get ready for bed. But the kids were still awake. And were going to notice if I shut off their night light for an hour. So I told them what we were doing and they voluntarily shut off the light and--lo, and behold!--almost immediately fell asleep!

What did we do? We sat in the dark and talked instead of watching the "Glee" DVD that had arrived that afternoon. What did we talk about? Broadway musicals!

All in all, a good evening.

I wonder if the kids could do without the night lights again?

Or us without the video?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pip Pip Hooray!

The kids are heading to a drop-off, movie playdate/party all about Pippi Longstocking, with a couple of friends from kindergarten. They are so excited, even though they think Pippi is the hostess's hamster! Pippi wasn't really on my radar as a kid, but if they like the movie today, perhaps we'll find some of the books (currently, they're reading William Steig's Dominic with Mama, one of her childhood favorites).

Until then, I'm making chocolate chunk bars (with half whole wheat flour) for the kids to take to share, even if Pippi preferred pancakes. (And it's "I'm" because the kids are at the grocery getting the chocolate after their kung fu class this morning).

To finish, Mama and I have the afternoon to ourselves, a rarity in daylight hours and with the house empty. Maybe we'll engage in one of our favorite Chicago activities . . . . napping to baseball!

Sending Love

To Mama Teacher, who is sick this morning, after a very long week.

Hope you are better and in better spirits soon!

-=-=-=-=-=
And when you feel better, this is great Rice Pudding in a Crockette

2 cups milk
1/3 cup rice
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I had vanilla sugar)
1 egg (it's better without the egg)
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (I had cardamom)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg

Grease crockette.

Dissolve sugar in milk and mix all ingredients together in crockette. Cook for about 3 to 4 hours on LOW (or 2 hours on HIGH), stirring occasionally.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Power Suit

Docents. Lecturing. Tours. Student-centered. Post-visit. Gallery activity. Interactive questions.

It had been a long time since those words were part of my vocabulary.

And some, like minkisi, privateer, cubby hole, and summer beam, never were.

So I found myself rather nervous about training a group of docents on an 18th-century house tour on Wednesday. It's been more than six years since I left the professional arena, save a few art-related sermons at church and a couple of conference appearances. And I haven't given a real tour since then. And never in a house museum. And here I was, acting the "expert."

I didn't even bother trying to eat (something I hadn't forgotten after several years' hiatus). But I was a bit unsure about what to wear, of all things. I guess when your notes are written and your transitions practiced, there isn't much left to worry about but your shoes, right?

I had thought of wearing my colonial costume, but much as I like it, I wasn't going to a). wear it out in the snow or b). risk my concentration with two petticoats. My other clothes are pretty careless, frumpy, suburban, and too big (but I haven't wanted to buy new here at the end of the season).

Mama came up with the solution, no surprise: my favorite suit, a long black vest over black pants, to wear with whatever shirt I have. As I put it on, comfort returned. I had defended my dissertation in this suit, interviewed in it, given papers at the field's big conference twice, spoken to 1000 educators in it (and I'll admit one of my most embarrassing moment--having dressed early in the dark, I put on the shell I wore with it that day inside out and didn't notice until after!), and worn it to openings. Remembering all that, I immediately felt more confident and less nervous.

But I still didn't eat.

Some things just don't change.

(And I double-checked the tag on the shirt!)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hi

Just a quick hi.

We had snow last night but thankfully school this morning.

The kiddos will be home any minute and I'm told it's Star Wars day. Yesterday was "Robin Hood" day, and I was both Guy of Gisborn and Maid Marion.

I did have a great day yesterday morning at a docent training that I led. It was odd to step into my professional shoes and revive that old life. Felt good. And exhausting--I had two naps and not much else the rest of the day. I'll tell you more about it soon. I've even titled the post . . . "Power Suit." I'm not posting much these days, kinda lying around in bed, watching "Glee" when I'm not up playing or out learning about colonial life. This bronchitis is kicking my butt and will last 3-4 more weeks the doctor says.

Until then, I'm catching up on "Glee" season one and social histories of 18th-century life in New England.

And, of course, Star Wars and "Robin Hood."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Own Curry-in-a-Hurry

Trying something new tonight to combat a sense of sadness and ennui--friends are sad (death in the family, work, family, etc.), church is in an uproar to the point that our minister will probably leave, my bronchitis lingers, I'm going to miss tomorrow's anniversary dinner at the restaurant because we are without a babysitter, I shoveled a dead squirrel off the road in front of our house before the kids got home and knew it was one of "our squirrels," plus wider concerns about Japan and Libya--so I'm making a very simple Coconut Curried Lentils. It won't win me any awards for complexity, but it will for speed and novelty. I'm hoping that it, ladled over some steaming rice, will do the trick nicely tonight.

Wishing my friends who read this a big heaping and steaming bowl of comfort!

-=-=-=-=-=-

My Coconut Curried Lentils

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
salt to taste

Simmer lentils in water for 15 minutes, until almost tender. Add curry powder and coconut milk and simmer another 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

Mommy Hungry

Monday, March 21, 2011

24-Hours Later, or a "Lion Day"


It might be spring, but this is still New England!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cooking Up Tours

With tours of the historic houses where I volunteer coming up fast, I am busy finalizing my research and preparing my notes on life here:




Happy First Day of Spring!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Waiting for SuperMoon

The kids could barely contain themselves when they learned the moon was going to be extra big this evening. They repeatedly confirmed that we would come get them when we spotted the orb over the neighboring house and trees.

And we did. The moon was big, though not as big as some harvest moons we've seen, but it was probably the brightest moon, bar none. So bright even that our neighbor couldn't see the craters because of the strong light. If there had been snow, it would've just glowed outside.

As it was, all the glowing took place on the face of two kids allowed to stay up to see it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Blessing

"A Blessing for When You Get Up"

May I arise today under the strength of heaven,
under the light of sun,
under the radiance of moon.

May I arise with splendor of fire,
with the speed of lightning,
with the swiftness of wind.

May I arise supported by the depth of sea,
by the stability of earth,
by the firmness of rock.

May the nine fold powers
surround and encircle me
above, below and about.

--traditional Irish blessing, from Celtic Memories by Caitlin Matthews and Olwyn Whelan (Barefoot Books)

Jump Rope For Heart, Etc.

Sis and Bud are raising money at school via a jump-a-thon (with hula hoops!) for the American Heart Association. If you'd like to make a donation, just drop me an email.

Thanks for helping out, Gommie and Pop!

Also, tomorrow, it's a fundraiser for Japan via the American Red Cross. I like how the school fundraises for these causes, not just for itself (which they have to do a lot, too). And we're glad to participate.

Going Viral

No, not a post from my blog.

I have bronchitis, probably viral (thankfully not the pneumonia they suspected!).

Taking it easy for a few days . . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Beautiful Crockette

First day out, I invented a new recipe for my crockette which is delicious: Apple Crisp. Not exactly fruit cobbler or pie or an Apple Brown Betty, this is a crockpot version of the baked oven apple-and-oatmeal combo we've been making for years.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Apple Crisp for the Crockette

2-3 small apples, peeled and sliced
6 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon butter, unmelted
3/4 cup oatmeal (I am using up my awful quick-cooking oats)
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
nuts, dried fruit such as craisins or raisins, optional (I'd only add about 1/4 cup or so)

Rub inside of small slow cooker (Crockette) with 1 tablespoon unmelted butter.

Mix melted butter, oatmeal, brown sugar, and spices. Layer alternately with sliced apples and any nuts or dried fruit.

Cook on HIGH for 2 hours or LOW for 3 hours.

Serve warm with cream, ice cream, whatever you like.

Mommy Hungry

Monday, March 14, 2011

Plants vs. Animals

This one's for you, Lambeth: an article about how plants aren't necessarily more deserving of being eaten than animals.

Posts for Thought

There have been a few posts recently that have really touched me. Check out:

Crockette

Let's play dictionary:

Is a crockette
1. The WNBA team in Houston?
2. A NY-based spoof on the Rockettes?
3. A small slow cooker?

Yep, the last one. And I bought one for under $8 on clearance today.

See, we have a small dinner challenge here. Even though there are four of us, no meal really serves more than two. Which means that most of my slow cooker recipes are just way too big. Especially if it's a new food and the kids end up not wanting any. And then I won't eat the meat, which leaves Mama with 6 quarts of rejected chicken. Or, if it's beans, I have 24 cups of beans to eat.

Not good.

I'd seen listings for Beth Hensperger's Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook for Two and it dawned on me that I really should conceive of my cooking as cooking for two. I haven't bought the cookbook yet, though no doubt I will because Hensperger, author of Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook.

And so I surfed the web looking for recipes for 1.5 to 3 quart slow-cookers, learning that the Rival one is called a Crockette (my other crock pots--yep, two, 4 qt and 6 qt--are official Crock Pots; my new one is a generic Chef Mate). It seems like the same 20-odd recipes are reprinted, with a few variations and additions, everywhere: official Rival Crock-Pot site, Taste of Home community boards, and other random sites (and here). Lots of those recipes are very "fix it and forget it" with canned, condensed, cream soup and the like, not my favorite. But I think I can also halve my usual fresh and vegetarian (a la Robin Robertson) slow cooker recipes.

If it helps out with dinner, it'll be $8 well spent.

Beans, Beans

One of my favorite foods is Ranch Style Beans, a Texas pinto-beans-in-chili-sauce staple in a black can. They aren't sold up here, though, so I often get a dozen for Christmas. I squirrel them away, distributing them in a miserly way so as to spread out my stock.

And even with all my legume experience, I haven't been able to replicate them, didn't have a clue about the "natural spices" listed on the back.

Until this weekend, when I had baked beans at The Cookhouse. The reddish-brown bean gravy closely resembled Ranch Style Beans, though the beans were traditional small white Northern beans and not pintos. And the flavor was very, very similar, but a little more pronounced. I could clearly identify cumin and brown sugar.

When I got home, I googled "Ranch Style Beans" and found a recipe right away. I should've known: Homesick Texan, who posted the recipe just last week! And it has the cumin and brown sugar. I doubt I'll include the whole amount of ancho peppers, but otherwise I'm going to give it a go very soon.

Before my stash runs low.

Some Practices

I have been overwhelmed by emotion in reading about and contemplating the catastrophe in Japan. It seems like the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haitian earthquake somehow rolled into one. I haven't even read too much about it, fearing the kids would see the images on the computer. But I did tell them about it, since I knew they would eventually hear. They took it in stride, as young children with little grasp of death or suffering would.

And so yesterday I sat down to make paper cranes, needing something creative, active, positive. The kids helped me fold and crease. Mama provided key technical support because I had actually never made an origami crane before (I've done lots of much simpler swans, but that was 8+ years ago when we did origami at one of my museums). In fact, if you look at the previous picture, you can see how we vastly improved from red to purple. But in folding the cranes, we spoke of what we knew about Japan--sushi, ninjas, origami--and talked about sending them prayers right now. I finished stringing them together and we all hung them up outside on our enclosed porch, where they will greet everyone who visits.

I also found another practice at Shambhala Sun, a meditation called tonglen. I hadn't done it before but found the focused concentration on not only the sadness and fear but also hope and compassion to be cathartic and cleansing. I can see now why people can become emotional, even cry, during some kinds of meditation. That doesn't happen to me when I count my breaths, my usual practice.

Yesterday, we received an email from Mama's friend who is from Japan. Her mother is okay, but several friends and their families are lost, some irradiated. I know the paper cranes and tonglen were for me, but here are links on how to help the people in Japan.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Soup Experiment

Usually, I follow recipes rather religiously when I cook, being none too confident in my own abilities to create a dish. But recently I've been experimenting with my own soups. Last week, Mama brought home a potato-mushroom-tomato soup in a clear broth that had lots of flavor. So, drawing upon Mark Bittman's bit on mushrooms in vegetable stock, I made a similar soup, sans tomatoes, adding some lentils to bulk it up. Delicious, especially with homemade dinner rolls, on those rainy, blustery days we had.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Mushroom and Potato Soup

oil, butter
1 container baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and diced
1 onion, chopped
2-3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1-3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups water
salt, pepper
1/2 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed

Saute mushrooms in approximately 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion, celery, garlic, and carrots, cook until onions are translucent. Add water, potatoes, and lentils. Salt and pepper to taste; add other herbs as desired. Simmer until lentils are tender.

Mommy Hungry


A Tale of Two Meals: Opposites Attract

Date Night at Bloodroot
  • Peanut and greens soup
  • Roasted beet and orange salad
  • Kasha with bowties and mushroom ragout, tzimmes, and latkes
  • Ethiopian injera with collards, squash stew, potatoes and cabbage, and lentils
  • oatmeal bread
  • yogurt cheesecake
  • spicy bitter orange sauce over vanilla ice cream
  • hot tea
Lunch at The Cookhouse
  • Fried sweet corn puffs
  • Vidalia onion soup with cornbread and pepper jack cheese
  • Baby-back ribs
  • Brisket
  • "Burnt Ends"
  • Fruit and Nut salad (greens, apples, craisins, candied nuts, poppyseed dressing)
  • Baked beans (so much like Ranch Style!!)
  • sauteed collards with bacon (very Asian stir-fry, and barely cooked, not Southern greens at all)
  • coleslaw
  • sweet potato fries
  • chocolate cake
  • mixed-berry cobbler
  • iced tea

Wings of a Prayer

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wearing O' the Green

We started celebrating St. Patrick's Day early with our usual corned beef dinner and soda bread, adding colcannon to the list (we've had the recipe a long time but had never made it). Sis and Bud practically ate their weights in boiled dinner and then ate a chunk of their little loaves of soda bread too!

We also played a Lego shear-the-sheep game--sheep being oh-so-Irish--and then read some Irish tales before bed, including Tomie de Paolo's version of Fin M'Coul. Mama knew the story from childhood, when she was Oonagh in her third-grade play. I did my best to give my reading a bit o' a lilt.

But, then, despite all the trappings, I'm not actually Irish.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers for Japan

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan today.

We'll construct a rainbow paper crane mobile of hope tomorrow.

Last Bit of Snow

Our last patch of snow melted today. Which means that for the first time since December 26, 2010, there is no snow on our yard.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gleefully I Roll Along

As usual, I'm coming late to a trend: I watched my first episode of "Glee" a few weeks ago. And I love it! I'm simultaneously watching the beginning of the first season and the current new episodes, more for the music than the plot. Though, in its almost surreal wackiness (the musical numbers, of course) and humor it reminds me of "Northern Exposure," which I liked a lot too.

Last night's "Sexy" episode particularly caught my attention for its deft handling of sex. Straddling (tee hee) between the over-the-top (and in relationship to high school students) over-the-hill sexuality of Gwyneth Paltrow and the geeky, daresay (and they did) frigid Chastity Club, the episode delivered both some important PSAs on STDs (To paraphrase, "When you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they've slept with. And everyone has a random.") and illegality of sex tapes of minors, and two very touching scenes, both involving same-sex love, but really so much more than that. The most talked about sex-talk scene was between gay crooner Kurt and his supportive dad, who told him:
You’ve got to know that it means something. It’s doing something to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem, even though it feels like you’re just having fun…. When you’re ready, I want you to be able to do everything, but when you’re ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter. Because you matter, Kurt.
I have a few years to memorize that because I think it's perfect. Which is why this Glee episode was so powerful: amid all the usual songs and humor were these real jewels. Sure, both ends of the sex spectrum were exaggerated, with the "do-it" end receiving more attention and less ridicule, but any student--gay or straight or questioning--and their parents, could find something in it. And since most Gleeks will watch it over and over again, the message will hopefully sink in.

Okay, back to the other scene, between Santana and Brittany, who are exploring each other and themselves. Santana realizes why she's angry and bitchy all the time. It's because she's scared to realize her feelings for another woman and even more scared of the labels. "I can't go to an Indigo Girls concert. I just can't." (I love that the IG are still a current pop culture reference some 20 odd years on.) And Brittany turns her down--she loves her, but she loves her boyfriend, too. If you've ever had your heart broken, as all teenagers have . . . . Mama would say straight girls will break your heart every time (I did. But I fixed it. Maybe Brittany will come around, too.)

All this musical watching (and I caught both High School Musical 1 and 2, neither of which have the depth of "Glee," but have talented casts and peppy songs. Yes, I like pop.) had me remembering the high school musical of my own era (the genre seems to have a long pedigree. Think West Side Story)--the movie version of Grease (I saw the stage show as a young girl and remember being asked after by an older woman if I'd learned any new words, since it was quite graphic. I lied and said yes. My mom thanked me later!). Talk about a completely different show. I was listening to it, gulp, with the kids, as I realized the lyrics of the songs I was singing out loud--"you are supreme, the chicks'll cream"--mercy. How did I not notice that for 30 years? Sure, it's got the sex continuum from Sandra Dee to the T-Birds, and even an unwanted pregnancy, just like on "Glee", but I won't be quoting it to the kids as advice.

We'll just dance around the living room to it. And all the other high school musicals . . . .

Movie Magic

Since Sis's home-from-school/fever days through winter break and the first week of school to weekends and now today, we've been watching more movies than ever before. The kids have always had a midday rest time with television, having not napped since they were about 18 months old. But movies have never really been their speed, either because they were too long or not interesting to them.

That has all changed. We're speedily working our way through the catalogs of Pixar, Disney (new and classic), and Dreamworks (having almost exhausted Studio Ghibli): How to Train Your Dragon, Ratatouille, FernGully, Peter Pan, Mulan, Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure, Little Mermaid, Lion King, Wall-E, Toy Story 1 . . 2 . . . 3, Beauty and the Beast, Madagascar, Aladdin, to name the ones I can think of. Plus Star Wars, of course. Over and over. Oddly, they won't watch Brother Bear or Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc again and refuse outright to watch Cars or Happy Feet at all.

And some fascinating things have arisen. They have been comparing the narrative arcs of the films, particularly focusing on Good vs. Evil, heroes, and journeys/quests. Seems like most kids' movies (and I daresay adults' too) explore these themes. They keep asking me why. Why are there always bad guys? Why is there always a big fight at the end? Does good always win? I try to remember everything I've read about the importance of superheroes to children as well as the importance of stories, often fairy tales, about children going out into the big, bad, world to meet challenges and winning with the help of friends. Instead of scaring them (think Brothers Grimm, most obviously--the originals with the cutting off of bits of Cinderella's sisters' feet, etc.), these stories apparently give children hope that they too can go out into the world and survive, even thrive. Just like in most of the movies above. (And I'm reading in NurtureShock that violence in movies like Star Wars is actually less detrimental to children than bullying and insults on shows and in books like Sponge Bob Square Pants and Arthur! More on that, the whole book even, when I finish it.) So I try to draw out those themes and draw parallels to their lives.

The kids, though, prove their age by having trouble distinguishing between real and pretend. They take Star Wars very literally, as if it were a documentary of a real world and not a science-fiction fantasy, asking all manner of technical questions about lightsabers and X-Wings and the Force. Though, at the same time, they circumvent the reality of the films so that Obi-Wan Kenobi never dies and Darth Vader turns good and helps out. Similarly, they don't always recognize that CGI animation is still animation, like with How to Train Your Dragon or Wall-E. And they often believe animation is just as real (as in not pretend) as "actor movies." I guess I would've thought, after years of picture books, they would recognize animation as fiction immediately. Perhaps the reverse is true.

Which all means that I'm always sitting there watching these movies with them, to answer questions, allay concerns, provide that teachable moment, while also enjoying the sheer entertainment of it (plus, I need to bone up on the plot because we inevitably play it later). So I'm watching these films much more than I otherwise would have. And I've learned some things myself:
  • If you watch carefully during the Dreamworks' logo of How to Train Your Dragon, you can see Toothless fly by, from right to left, after the cloud balloons. This film is multivalent, not only about a hero's quest but also about the difficulty of differences in families, particularly between parent and child. It's touching.
  • Aladdin is even worse than I remember. Blatant sexism, outdated pop culture references, confusing plot with the Jafar, the cave, the lamp, that big snake, which only leaves the "Whole New World" sequence to redeem the entire film. We won't ever watch that again.
  • I cry at the end of Return of the Jedi every time. Luckily, the kids don't notice.
  • Peter Pan is problematic on a few fronts (women, Native Americans) but gets the imagination going like almost none of the others. And Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure, which I suspected I wouldn't like, is enjoyable. As veteran faerie-house builders, the kids liked seeing them. I also like that Tinkerbell has a temper and has to make amends. And how many female leads are there in children's movies even now?
  • I thought they'd hate Lion King because of the death of Mufasa and how Scar manipulates Simba. But that doesn't seem to bother them at all. And they love the songs. I'm still not watching Bambi or Dumbo, though.
  • Object all I want to the Disney merchandising machine, they certainly made beautiful films. With incredible music.
  • Several older films--Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon (Mama's all-time favorite--truthfully, she fell in love with me because I could sing all the songs. In Elliot's voice!), even the relatively recent "Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater," to name three we've tried--are paced at such a slower speed than children are used to nowadays. It takes a strong plot to compensate. And we haven't gotten through a whole one yet.
So, we're updating our Netflix list. Any suggestions?

Another Mess

Lest you think I only pick on Texas, I will say how disappointed I am about the developments in Wisconsin (though I laughed to think that it took Republican politicians three whole weeks to figure out how to get around the quorum rule. Unfortunately, it seems, just as the governor was thinking of compromising . . . .)

And then, in my pissiest of moods, about both Wisconsin and Texas, I say: you deserve it. The majority of people in those states voted for those politicians who promised no new taxes, fiscal responsibility, cutting "big government" (Have you ever noticed that "big government" usually only includes progressive programs like Medicaid, public education, public media, environmental protection), blah blah blah. Those states vote for the politicians who continue to undermine workers, children, the most vulnerable people in the lowest socio-economic groups. And some people in those groups (well, not the children, obviously, but the parents) vote that way too.

And then they blame Obama.

Of course, I realize that's just angry hyperbole on my part, especially because people who don't vote for the winners do suffer under majority rule. I know because I had that experience--as a lesbian, a woman, a mom, a progressive--for 8 years under Bush Jr. (though thankfully with the buffers of money, an education, and life in liberal states. See today's NYTimes editorial about how CT's new DEMOCRATIC governor is creating a "better budget.").

And really, even if they vote for them, no one really deserves the leaders of Texas and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Disappointments

I don't really like the word "disappointment," much less the feeling, and I never use it against my children. But we've had some little bits of it this week:
  • Sis missed school on Monday and, when Bud got home, he said he had something for her from school. She was so excited. What could it be? The books from the book order? A get-well note? "No. Your homework packet."
  • I have some kind of stomach ick and have been rather lazy for 24 hours, missing a dinner tonight and coffee tomorrow (in case it's contagious, which I rather doubt), plus numerous phone calls (Hi Mama Teacher!) and emails (Hi Mrs. S! aka Mde Director). (But at least I made rice pudding!) And I was grumpy and not much fun today. After rest time when I apologized for said grumpiness, Bud demanded a do-over, "I want to go back to lunch and start all over again because you didn't play today."
  • The phone rang: we all knew the babysitter wasn't coming. She didn't.
  • The doorbell rang: it wasn't Mama but the UPS guy. Not for them.
  • On cookie-distribution night, we put the kids to bed before the moms came over for their cases. But at some point, we heard a noise upstairs. When Mama got upstairs to check on them, Bud was cuddled up in his bed like an angel. And then Sis ratted him out: "He snuck down to the landing to watch but said it was only adults only talking."
  • I've been so excited about my colonial costume and must have been saying as much, repeatedly. Sis responded, "Mom, you've told us that before. You talk about it too much." To which Bud added, "Did you get mine?" No. "How am I going to teach with you if I don't have one?"
  • On the beautiful sunny Monday, Bud carefully climbed one-handed up into the play fort with his lunch. Which he then promptly knocked over once he got there.
  • Even Hermione the cat had one. At least twice, I sat down and she crawled into my lap, only to have me get up again pretty much right away.
As Bud said, parroting but misunderstanding Madagascar, "it shucks."

(Sis corrected him, but also censored, "It stinks, Bud, it stinks.")

-=-=-=-=-=-

Rice Pudding

3 cups milk
1/3 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup raisin (optional here)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a heavy medium saucepan, bring milk to boiling; stir in uncooked rice and raisins. Cover; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes or until most of the milk is absorbed (might have a curdled look to it). Stir in sugar and vanilla. Spoon into dessert dishes. Sprinkle with nutmeg (or spritz with rosewater! Or sprinkle with cardamom). Serve warm or chilled. Serves 5-6.

Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook
Rice Pudding

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thoughts for Food, Again

More ideas:

Vegan Recipes for Lent, with fava bean stew and lentils and carrots

Whole-grain baking, including carrot cake muffins

Choose-Your-Own Matrix: "creamy, brothy, earthy, hearty" soups, plus more, by Mark Bittman

Monday, March 7, 2011

Colonial Dame


This is the costume, with different fabrics, all from Jas. Townsend and Son. The bodice will be rose, with two skirts, one of burgundy and the other of a muted burgundy stripe. There will be a cap, a chemise, and even an apron (not pictured), all of off-white cotton.

Think it will look good with my sneakers?

Monday

Sis is home sick with cough and imminent fever (you know how you can just tell it's coming?). So it'll be chicken and dumpling day. And Empire Strikes Back.

Bud was unhappy that he didn't get to stay home. Resignedly, he declared, "Then I need to get all the love I can before I go." Of course.

We'll see how the week evolves, for docent training, kung fu, school, and the like.

But on the very up-side: I ordered my colonial outfit!!!!!! So excited. I'll post about it later.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Two Poems

"Rain, rain, go away.
Let the snow stay today."
--Bud

"Rain, rain come today.
Help the snow melt away."
--Sis

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Whimsical Weekend

A week ago, Sis and I spent the afternoon with flour up to our elbows. We were making Whimsy Bread at a Girl Scout event. What is Whimsy Bread? Whatever you want it to be! Sis formed her ball of dough into a bunny. I made mine into a teddy bear. We handed them over to the Scouts in the kitchen, who gave the dough an egg wash and a dusting of kosher salt before baking.

Meanwhile, we sang a few songs ("Baby Shark" and "I Said a Boom Chicka Boom" anyone?) and then made a SWAP (described as "Something With A Pin," a craft which you sometime trade at SWAP meets)--a braided rope looped as a pretzel, covered in glitter "salt," and, you guessed it, stuck with a pin.

By then, the dough was bread and we had a snack with lemonade. Sis was suspicious of the salt and probably would've preferred hers salt-free. But she seemed happy, even if the bunny shape, well, merged (morphed?) somewhat in the oven.

But they didn't give us the recipe, saying it was a Girl Scout secret!!!! Harumphf. It was vaguely pretzel-like, given the salt. The allergen list merely said salt, yeast, flour, water, and egg. No oil or milk or butter or sugar. And so, starting from there, I researched shaped breads online. Frog bread. Teddy Bear bread. Turtle bread. Great shapes, but most of the recipes had milk in them. Until I found . . .

The Alligator.

The site says it's a straightforward Italian bread. And I'm guessing you could use any Italian bread recipe. I don't really have one of those yet, so I'll be trying The Alligator.

(Note to family: All I can hear is "alligator gets the baby!")

-=-=-=-=-=-
UPDATE:  A secret source tells me this is the recipe:


Whimsy Bread Recipe
4 c. flour
1.5 c. water
1 TBS yeast
1 TBS sugar

10 minutes - not sure the temp. I think 400

Waterlogged, Or Horsin' Around

We read The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith (author of Babe: The Gallant Pig) last week. And it was our best novel so far (better than Chocolate Fever, Stuart Little, a variety of Magic Tree House books, the first Junie B. Jones, and I don't remember what else. Maybe tied with The Boxcar Children.) . Imaginative, fun-to-read-aloud (great language and turns of phrase), gentle, suspenseful. There were no bad guys, no big scary moments. And the kids told the truth to, and included, their parents! I won't spoil it here, except to point to the photo at right. I recommend it highly for young readers and their parents. And I'm hoping it's the kind of book we can enjoy again and again, like when they can read it on their own.

A Lego Widow

Some women's spouses abandon them for various sports seasons.

Mine is now completely overrun, not by March Madness, but by Legos.

Because, in our house, they're not just for children anymore.

Mama, to put it mildly, is now obsessed with Legos. (I mean, she just emailed me this!) She is planning, in detail--down to the cake construction (Oreos on top of little loaves and then frosted in primary colors!), activities ("I'm going to build a racing ramp!" right after she orders about 5000 Lego bricks for the party guests to play with!!), and favors (bucket o' bricks for each child, from the aforementioned stockpile)--the Legomania birthday party for the kids. In July. And she's been researching the Lego birthday party scene, even calling the stores to see how they used to do it. Did you know there is a make-your-own-Lego-party kit? But she's gotten way beyond that. She's also signed Bud up for Lego camp (Sis was offered it but chose Girl Scouts), ordered them both the children's magazine, considering subscribing to the adult magazine, and reading the parent website. She picked up several sets on sale at the toy store and is now tracking future sales. And future releases, informing me what is coming: Vikings!! Pirates of the Caribbean!! A Lighthouse!! The three of them do Legos every time they are together, not only building sets but creating their own with generic bricks. Mama is rationing the sets to one a month. I think Harry Potter's Diagon Alley is next. Their dream set: the Death Star!

Of course, the kids are right there with her. Together, they've built several big sets, following instructions for 8 year olds. They concentrate, problem solve, create, imagine, and then play with the result. And then they daydream about more . . . . Both Bud and Sis chose Lego sets (the castle and X-Wing respectively) for their reward at Spring Break if their charts are complete, as well as mini-figures for their mini-rewards along the way. And they are doing everything on their chart almost everyday, even trying to earn bonus "stars." Bud even goes to bed with the Lego catalog each night.

Where does that leave me? Watching. Or relaxing somewhere else. Enjoying their joy together. Encouraging their shared hobby. Appreciating the skills involved. Marveling at what Lego has thought of next. I was never interested in Legos as a child, while Mama apparently built garages for her Barbies, and I'm still not great at following a set (I can make up my own little things, though).

Mama asked, perhaps concerned about her new addiction, how she knows what's too much? I said don't spend more on this year's birthday than we spent last year. And if she comes home with a set she normally wouldn't be interested in at all, say a police or construction set, I'll know shes just buying the Legos to smell the plastic. Otherwise, there are worse hobbies--have fun!

So far, so good.

Especially because there is no off-season.

Counting Cookies

There are something like 700 boxes of cookies in our house. And more than 240 of them are Sis's (she sold 301, but 60 are going to the troops overseas), with something like 20 boxes of them for us (including Gommie and Pop's cookies, which they've asked us to distribute elsewhere!). Because I bought one of each for the kids to try.

So, after we cracked open 4 boxes for tasting--the kiddos' very first Girl Scout cookies!!--I checked the new WW points. Just to keep me in check with all those cookies here. Because, at approximately 20 cookies a box, that is at least 400 cookies in our house for us. (No worries, we'll be sharing. And they freeze.)

Of course, Sis already ate almost a whole roll of Trefoils, which she loves. And Bud is working his way through the berry ones and the lemon ones simultaneously!

(And I should add that Mama has shifted, carried, rearranged, and counted all these cookies. Some twice. Thanks, Mama! You've definitely earned your Samoas.)

Here goes:

Lemon cremes: 3 cookies for 5 pts
Trefoils: 5 cookies for 5 pts, or 1 pt each
Do-si-dos: 2 cookies for 3 pts
Samoas: 2 cookies for 4 points (this is a bargain at 2 pts each, I think!)
Dulce de Leche: 4 cookies for 4 pts, or 1 pt each
Berry Munch: 2 cookies for 3 pts
Tagalongs: 2 cookies for 4 pts (yep, another bargain at 2 pts each)
Thin Mints: 4 cookies for 5 pts (which is 2 cookies for 2 pts--and who can eat just one??)

Unplugged Failure

No surprise: I didn't make it 24 hours without technology (which I define here as email and blogging, since text/phone and tv/movies, or even social networking, are not much of a challenge for me--I haven't done any of those in 24 hours). In fact, I only made it the 12 or so hours that I was settling down, heading to bed, asleep, and getting up in the morning. Though, to my (not very great) credit, I did only check email on my schedule, in other words, not like Pavlov's dog when the little chime alerted me to mail (I turned it off!).

And I learned a few things:
  • because of my various volunteer activities--Daisy Scout leader, church volunteer, docent/volunteer at two historic houses, library volunteer, and reading volunteer--I coordinate and keep track of many things via email, which I always recommend above the phone for reaching me. And since today was cookie pick up, I had a few things I needed to address via email. Perhaps if I had known about the day earlier, I could've better prepared; and on other days, it isn't quite so pressing.
  • I connect with many friends and family via email and blogging; to go unplugged means keeping them out of our loop or being out of their loop; perhaps 24 hours shouldn't matter, though.
  • Blogging for me and researching topics online for both Mama and me are recreational and relaxing; it's also something we share and discuss, much like reading or movies.
  • I also coordinate with Mama via email, timing things or checking in when we are separated (or updating our extremely useful calendar and grocery list apps); today it was kung fu and cookie pick up.
  • I do, however, turn to email and the web when I am bored or reluctant to do something else; this is the danger for me because then I become absorbed online to the exclusion of opportunities around me (even things I like, such as crocheting or reading or such), which I might explore or engage in if not, well, otherwise engaged. And yes, gulp, that means I have been known to ignore my family to "just let me finish this post" or "answer this email."
So, I think I might keep the chime turned off my 'droid so that checking email is not reactive but proactive. And I might try to cluster my online activities instead of sprinkling them across the hour, so that I don't step away from my other activities too much (and then I can just say, "I've played Star Wars for an hour, I need to get on the computer and coordinate the PTA cookbook for a bit.")--it's about being present in my family's presence while also not shirking my other (yes, lesser) responsibilities. While technology is here to stay and I am not a luddite meaning to change it, this attempt at being unplugged (much like my earlier off-line Thursdays) reminds me to use it more consciously and conscientiously.

Friday, March 4, 2011

National Day of Unplugging

I only learned about this 24-hour technology Sabbath today, but I'm on board and won't be online until tomorrow night. Hopefully. (Because suddenly 24 hours without my 'droid sounds like a really, really long time.)

Until then, check out the organization behind it here, and the 10 principles here:
  1. Avoid technology.
  2. Connect with loved ones.
  3. Nurture your health.
  4. Get outside.
  5. Avoid commerce.
  6. Light candles.
  7. Drink wine.
  8. Eat bread.
  9. Find silence.
  10. Give back.
I'll see you on Sunday, then, and tell you how it goes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"On My Honor": Dishonest and Unfair

The girls played games today at Daisy Scouts to earn their "Honest and Fair" petal. We spent a little time discussing the concepts of lying, cheating, honesty, and fairness. But, because I've been reading NurtureShock, which notes that something like 96% of four year olds lie about once an hour (!), I knew there would be some cheating and lying (and that parents are no better than chance at guessing if their own children are lying! Teachers do a bit better but only about 60%.)

For "Freeze Dance," I would play music so the girls could dance; when the music stopped, they were supposed to stop. If they kept going, they were supposed to sit out. My co-leader and I were not going to referee. The girls were self-policing.

Except they didn't. At the very first stop, my own Sis made a huge swirl after the music ended. But stayed in the game.

They all did it. More than once. Over the course of about 10 turns. Even when we said, "Are you sure no one moved?" They were sure.

Sure good at smiling and lying at the same time.

Just like I'd read they would.


Texas: The Mess Continues

Sigh, another op-ed, this time by Paul Krugman:

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average. . . .

But things are about to get much worse. . . .

Tax increases have been ruled out of consideration; the gap will be closed solely through spending cuts. Medicaid, a program that is crucial to many of the state’s children, will take the biggest hit, with the Legislature proposing a funding cut of no less than 29 percent, including a reduction in the state’s already low payments to providers — raising fears that doctors will start refusing to see Medicaid patients. And education will also face steep cuts, with school administrators talking about as many as 100,000 layoffs.

For Art's Sake

"Mom," Bud said to me as we headed to school yesterday, "I don't like art. The teacher tells us what to do and I don't get to choose what I make."

Sigh.

I've known since about the third week of school that the art teacher enforces the "do it exactly like the model" method of teaching art, if that's what you can call it. Sis and Bud kept bringing home projects exactly the same--in December, their snowmen had exactly the same colored stripes on their scarves. It's not at all creative and not really art. Even in coloring books, you get to choose the colors. But I didn't say anything because they seemed to like it (though not as much as P.E. and music).

At least they get a lot of chances to make art at home, right?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weapons on Wednesday

The kiddos got their broadswords at kung fu today! They are so excited. The swords are almost taller than the kids, with floppy blades that aren't so much sharp but would give a mean paper cut. Sis has a red ribbon on her handle, Bud has green. And there was a big bag, only one though, because Master Jack said they wouldn't each need one . . . until they have more weapons!

And since the bag drags on the ground when they carry it now, until they get a bit taller, too.

Blah on Boxtops

Yeah, sure, they're for education. 10 cents a top. And now there's a class contest at school. The kids are so excited.

Except our kitchen is almost box-top free. We try to be a processed-free kitchen for the most part. And stuff that comes in boxes is usually processed.

Our schools send such mixed messages about food. They study health in class and then have nuggets and fries, or pizza and fries, or sliders and fries for lunch. Snack at our school is, get this, either chips or a cookie. CHIPS OR A COOKIE!!!???? My kids will be brown-bagging it next year, for lunch and snack, except maybe on Mondays (because, really, who needs extra pick-me-ups on Friday??).

And then these box tops. Eat this food from a box. The school wants you to.

CRAP.

In more ways than one.

At least my butter has box tops . . . .

Thoughts for Food

On Popcorn
We've been making our own oil-popped, to everyone's delight, so I was interested to see this NYTimes blog post on using coconut oil to make it. Basically, 2 tablespoons oil (I bet you can use less) to 1/2 cup corn kernels. Delicious!
On that page, there was a link to homemade microwaved popcorn in a bag, definitely worth Mama trying at the office, instead of that store-bought stuff that causes cancer (it's the bag) in people at the factories.

On Coconut Oil
I've had a container of coconut oil in my cabinet since before my back injury, wanting to attempt some of Bloodroot's recipes, namely their pie crust and vegan ice creams. They use it in almost every dessert. And today, Melissa Clark wrote about her experiments with it in the NYTimes. I got the popcorn idea from her. And want to try her coconut oil poundcake with almonds and lime zest!

On Soup
A book I just read (Cherries in Winter; otherwise, eh) said when times were rough, it's "time to put up soup." I liked the phrase. And then that very week, Mark Bittman published an article on making great stock with mushrooms. Yum!

On Oatmeal
The kiddos love oatmeal, which I make using either old-fashioned Quaker or the bulk rolled oats from Whole Foods (because they don't like instant flakes). I decrease the liquid and omit the salt when I make it in the microwave. Bud has maple syrup; Sis likes brown sugar. But I hadn't considered eating it raw, as Mark Bittman describes--just add a pinch of salt, some sweetener, maybe dried fruit, and milk and let stand 1-10 minutes. And I won't now consider eating it from McD's.

On Real Fat
I've given up lowfat, for the most part, believing it to be, in the end, a poor health choice. So it's all full-fat here--butter, milk, yogurt, whatever. In smaller quantities. But of real food. Not "imitation food-like substances." Because who needs seaweed in sour cream anyway? And I've lost more than 3 lbs in two weeks.

She's a King!

Mama just came home with a big box colored in purple, yellow, and green.

Mardi Gras.

Inside was a King Cake, that purple-yellow-green extravaganza of icing, cinnamon, and pastry.

And a plastic Baby Jesus.

Laissez bon temps roulez!

Spring Training

In their Yankee t-shirts, the kids are running around the backyard training for their Big Game.

Which, in true 5-year old fashion, they played first, by batting and running around the bases on our deck. Though, in hindsight, they called it a practice game.

Now, having run around the whole house, played hopscotch in the grass patches amid the snow, slid down the slide, hung upside on the bar and on the rope stairs, and done tummy swings, they are ready.

Batter up!

Sam-We-Are

Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss!

The kids came home wearing Cat-in-the-Hat hats and talked of sitting at Thing 1 and Thing 2 tables in class. So, we celebrated the special occasion, now also Read Across America Day, by eating actual green scrambled eggs and ham, which the kids delighted in adding the food coloring to. While we ate, we took turns reading Green Eggs and Ham.

Yep. We took turns reading. The kids can read Dr. Seuss!!

And so we wrote an inscription in our book saying we'd read it together today.

A celebration, indeed!

(I know, I know, Pop, you read it to me all the time and it drove you nuts . . . well, now your grandkids can read it to you!)

Of Lions and Lambs

I was explaining the old adage about March . . . and I think the kids expected there to be a lion outside, like in the book Library Lion.

Sometimes I forget that they are five.