Friday, September 30, 2011

My Playdate

Mama Hungry wasn't picked for jury duty and is on her way home.  Which means we get a beautiful, sunny afternoon all to ourselves!

Dressed for Success

Sis and Bud have a new ritual:  they synch their clothes!  At night as part of their bedtime ritual, they figure out what color shirt and pants they're going to wear to school the next day.  Granted, they have very few choices because of the school uniform/dress code of whites, blues, and greens, with beige or navy bottoms.  I'm not sure exactly why, but matching is very important these days.  It's kinda cute to see them standing together, waiting for the bus, looking like the twins they are.

Doing Her Duty

Mama Hungry was called for jury duty today.  We're hoping, selfishly, that she isn't picked, especially because of my injection next Thursday.  But, I imagine, being a lesbian almost-separatist who sometimes rages against the patriarchy (despite working for the man!) and has serious questions about the workings of the criminal justice system, she probably wouldn't be in any lawyer's top 12 choices.  But if she is called, I know she would be very dedicated to fair and equal justice.

So a big shout-out to her over there in court . . . if she can even use her cellphone.

Experiments in the Kitchen

There's a lot going on in that room of our house as of late.  My menu-planning experiments have been incredibly successful in that I'm not wasting groceries because I forget what I'd wanted to do with them and forgot them in the fridge, we're not eating out as much because we know what's for dinner, and there isn't the same rush or panic because I now know what's for dinner.  Planning has also allowed me to experiment with new dishes (granola, a vegan version of this; curried chickpeas; and pork and apples for the kids) and focus on whole foods again (and in the week since we dumped that prepared-food diet, I've lost another 2+ lbs).  I've been eating vegan this week particularly because of the cortisone shot last week and the spinal injection next week.  I think it'll be nicer on my liver to take a break from dairy and eggs for a bit.  Though, I'm still nurturing my Amish Friendship Bread starter and will make more bread early next week!

-=-=-=-=-=-

Pork and Apples
coming soon

Confession

Yesterday, Sis and Bud had an evening playdate with Mama Teacher and CJ, for Legos  and an early dinner.  They also played a lot of games--Pictureka, checkers, and Creationary.  During Creationary, where  you pull a card and have to create the image out of Legos.  CJ created a little building but Mama Teacher couldn't identify it and so they began 20 questions (otherwise, they wouldn't have gotten very far with the game!).

"What do they do in this building?" she asked.

"I don't know."

Long pause.  

"CJ, do you know what this building is?"

"No."

It was a church.

Mama Teacher, married into an Irish Catholic family, buried her head in her hands mortified, in an amused kinda way.

To make her feel better, I asked my kids, "What do you do in church?" knowing they wouldn't give the standard answer of prayer.  

"Walk around," Bud said, remembering his Faith Formation class activities like the recent scavenger hunt as well as his coffee-hour perambulations.

"Eat," said Sis.

That's the kind of church for me!

Happy Trails!

After a trying month (or season) of health scares, Gommie and Pop are heading west to see the fall colors in Colorado.  Like two cowboys, they are saddling up today and heading into the sunset without a clear plan or itinerary, just a desire to be out and free on the open range.  

Brokeback House

Sis and Bud had a playdate with a classmate and friend yesterday, a fun way to spend the holiday morning.  At one point, seeing me lying on the bed resting, the girl asked Bud, "What's your mom doing?"  No doubt most kids' moms don't rest in the middle of the day quite the same way.  "She broke her back and has to lie down a lot."

Not technically true, but I appreciated how matter-of-fact he was.  

Kids can be remarkably empathetic, too, for example the Daisy Scout who, when learning of my inability to sit, came up to me later and said, "I'm really sorry that you hurt your back."

Not a cure, but it makes me feel better.

Foiled Again

First a blizzard sidetracked our annual Groundhog's Day party, and now rain is shutting down our annual fall festival, Applepalooza.  We briefly considered having it indoors but decided it just wasn't the same inside, since it's supposed to be a celebration of colors, leaves, bounty, autumn, and friends.  The kids are disappointed, as am I, especially because I'm not sure we have another good Saturday to do it in October.  If anything, we might through together a much smaller shindig later on the spur-of-the--sunny-moment.  Until then, eat an apple a day (it really is good for you).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two-in-One

We acknowledged, though did not quite outright celebrate, two separate holidays today:  Rosh Hashanah and Moon Festival (or Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, on Sept. 12 this year).  Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish New Year, often celebrated with apples and honey to bring sweetness in the new year.  We had yogurt sundaes to kick off dinner!  Then, after dinner, we had traditional Chinese moon cakes filled with white lotus seed paste.

The kids liked the yogurt better.

L'shanah tovah!
And see if you can spot the Moon Rabbit, because, while Westerners see the "man in the moon," Asians often see a hare. . . . (if it's not raining where you are tonight!)

Get Well Soon!

Sending best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to my second cousin once removed (my second cousin's daughter, if I read the chart correctly).  May she be back on her feet very soon!  (And good luck with soccer!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blog Comments

After a couple of reports that my blog wasn't allowing everyone to comment, I've fiddled with the permissions.  Give it a try, if you like, and let me know if it works better now.

Tidbits


Bud and Sis had fun making "salad people" a la Mollie Katzen, or, in their case, "fruit people."  Better yet, they ate 2-3 of them each!

-=-=-=-=-=-

Mama was explaining how Chinese characters are the same across the dialects but the pronunciations differ.  "Yes, I know," Bud professed, "there's Mandarin.  And . . Tangerine."

-=-=-=-=-=-

Apparently, they're studying famous artists in the kids' art class.  And this week it was Kandinsky.  Bless my Bud, he apparently told the art teacher (whom, as you might recall, I'm not impressed with at all) that Kandinsky was his favorite because of the stripping and veiling.  Yay!!

-=-=-=-=-=-

I'm sure there have been many other cute tidbits, but I've been forgetful with recording them.  More soon, I promise.

Keep On Movin' Forward

On Saturday evening, we said goodbye to our former church home, honoring the bittersweet occasion of the sale of our building and our removal to a rented space with a catered meal, a slideshow of memories, and a brief candlelight service in the sanctuary.

And I was miserable.  Physically, my back was acting up, it being evening and a hard floor and all.  Emotionally, I was mourning the space and our failure to keep it.  I paced and cried, in my usual spot behind the last pew on the right, absorbing the view of the tree at the pinnacle of the front wall for the last time, the whole space lit mainly by candles, reminiscent of my favorite services on Christmas Eve.   I finally took my damp, achy self outside, where the striking silhouette of our triangular-shaped sanctuary was lit from inside and glowed against the dark sky.  The kids were mainly enjoying the candles, though they too knew the significance of the event.

Of course, I recognize the necessity and even look forward with relief to being released from the burden of financial pressures.  Still, we've been attending church there for almost eight years and have many memories there.  But while we're leaving behind the crumbling infrastructure and monetary strain, we are taking the memories of friends and moments with us.

On a lighter note, I prayed twice in the sanctuary, calling on our Christian heritage as I haven't done there before:  first, when a kid in the balcony dropped a candle from above (it went out in the fall) on Mama's head accidentally and I cried out, "Oh, God!"  Second, when the lit candle in my holder fell out but didn't extinguish as it flared on the wooden pew--"Oh, Jesus," I cried out as I attempted to blow it out without being able to bend over and reach it.  

A memorable evening for many reasons . . . .

Swimmin'

Swimming was one of the themes that ran through our weekend, but not because we actually went swimming (though, they keep asking to).  Mama and I were following Diana Nyad's second attempt at an open-water swim across the Florida straits, reading updates to each other throughout the 40 hours.  We didn't tell the kids because they were so crushed last time when she didn't make it.  They caught on, though, and were impressed by her fortitude through jellyfish and such.  Even when they learned she had stopped short, they weren't as upset.  Just impressed.

Then we had a special swim visitor:  their swimming teacher, Mrs. M, saw us outside and stopped for a visit.  I must admit to not recognizing her at all when she appeared (yep, two surprise visitors on Sunday!). She just looked different dry (her hair was so much lighter!) and in clothes, without a hat or sunglasses.  In fact, I only realized who it was because I thought she sorta resembled Diana Nyad, but younger--toned and tanned body, short haircut, almost obviously a swimmer.  What swimmers do I know?  The swim teacher, of course!  She was sweet to chat with the kids about school and the like.  I had missed seeing her this summer because of my injury so it was good to chat briefly; we all like her a lot.

Which leaves two lessons from the weekend:  
1).  We'll have to arrange for the kids to swim before next summer.
2).  Opening the door to surprises can be a good thing.


Our Special Visitor

The doorbell rang.

And there, through the window, I could see a shock of wavy black and white hair that I recognized:  my uncle T.

Except he lives in Austin!

We were the lucky and surprised recipients of an unannounced visit on Sunday afternoon.  Uncle had been researching family genealogy in nearby MA (Yep, Yankees in the family!  Gasp.) and the library he was supposed to visit was closed.  So . . . he drove to see us!

The kids were nonplussed, as if random relatives always show up on our doorstep, but also a bit confused, "Was he your uncle when you were little?"  They hadn't remembered his previous visit or meeting him at Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer's wedding.  So they played Legos while we talked, later going with us for our favorite deli lunch.

And then he was off again.  

Strange and unexpected but a nice treat on a quiet day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The night song

Arriving home from our last service at our church's now-former building on Saturday night, Bud hopped out of the car and stopped in his tracks.  "Listen to the night song," he encouraged us.  Sure enough, all manner of creatures were singing their song.  Being (sub)urbanites Mama and I couldn't identify them, beyond suggesting crickets, locust, maybe frogs.  But there sure were a lot of them.  And loud.

I guess we're just not outside after dark much.

There wasn't, however, the one critter Sis hoped to hear:  the leader of the night song in her book, Quiet Bunny, is of course a rabbit.

Fourth and Long

Continuing the football metaphors, I went to my fourth doctor's appointment today (following a pretty rough weekend of tightness), another physiatrist.  He listened and thought, declaring my symptoms "weird," and managed to eliminate mechanical issues as the source of my pain (i.e. not tailbone like coccydynia or SI joint like sacroilitis), by way of a Novacaine injection to my tailbone.  He thinks its nerve pain in my sacrum related to the disc leaking its toxic fluid when I sit.

Or something.

Anyway, I go for another injection, this time a transforaminal epidural, next Thursday.  It might be a long shot (hee hee), but I don't have too much to lose (especially with two Atavan to get me to the appointment!).  And it sounds like the way to go (instead of nerve meds like Lyrica) . . . my naturopath/acupuncturist even seems to think so.

By the way, I postponed tomorrow's ultrasound.  I'm benching myself.  There'll be another game . . . .

To change sports, I keep thinking of Diana Nyad swimming for 40+ hours through sharks and jellyfish.  If she can do that, I can do this . . . .

A Little Sign of Fall


Still a Hero

After sharks, barracudas, and Portugeuse Man O'Wars, Diana Nyad was forced to stop her swim due to health concerns.  Addressing her crew, she said, "But for each of us, isn’t life about determining your own finish line? This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues.”


Earlier, she gave her strategy for attempting her dream:  "The mental approach has to be to parcel it out. No one could swim the whole thing while thinking about the whole thing. Till I get a glimpse of the final shore I can’t start obsessing on it—it’s too far away, too nebulous—I don’t know where it is. So I’m going to take it night by day: first get through the nighttime and then get through the daytime, and then the nighttime again, and so on. . . . And I’ll just do that till I get news that the shore is near."


Her shore just wasn't at the Florida coastline . . . but she made attempting dreams, even with the possibility that you don't reach them, seem like the best kind of life.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

You Go!

Diana Nyad is in the water, attempting her swim from Cuba to Florida again.  Already, she's survived an entanglement with a Portuguese Man O' War, with its poisonous sting.

We're rooting for her and have the t-shirts to prove it.

Make it or not, she's a hero to us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Fixed it Myself!

Look!  I fixed my blog trouble myself, by changing the HTML code!

I think Mama Hungry will be the most impressed with that accomplishment.

Blog Troubles

I do not know why my gadgets keep appearing at the bottom of the page. I've fiddled and fixed and nothing will move them.

I'll keep working on it so expect some changes over the next few days.

Until then, my welcome, archive, blogroll, etc, are down there at the very bottom.

My Monologues

I've been pondering recently my need to post lengthy diatribes, explanations, and explorations on my various beliefs or opinions on education, politics, spirituality, books, parenting, child development, food, you name it.

And I have realized something:  I miss conversation, specifically, an exchange of ideas or a discussion of current events.

That's not to say I don't like my social, interpersonal conversations where friends and I exchanged anecdotes and compassion.  Those are central.  And often more important to me than waxing intellectual.

But sometimes I like to talk about things beyond me, say the death penalty or the debate about single-sex schools.  Because, of course, nothing is really beyond us, as we are all part of this world.  And so I think I use my blog to consider these things, to exercise my mental faculties, test my views, and see if anyone wants to discuss.  Thankfully, I do get some responses, usually privately, via email or telephone call.

And so I keep posting.

Because I keep thinking.

(Though, you'll notice I have been completely silent on the current Republican presidential field.  THAT just doesn't bear thinking about.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Second Down and Three

Not exactly a football reference.

I've seen two doctors today and have three more appointments in the same number of days.

Today, my ENT doctor said my reflux is not better, no worse, and that I'll probably be on Prilosec a long time, even with changes in diet.  Personally, I'm convinced once I'm vertical after meals more, it will recede.

My acupuncturist/naturopath offered me some turmeric for inflammation, some licorice (conveniently chocolate-flavored!) for the reflux, and, after about an hour's conversation and examination, believes that my inability to sit  is due to my sacrum and not just my L5 SI 1.  She's suggested osteopath/PT/cranial-sacral therapy.  At least she listened to how the pain is not the same as herniated disc pain (which is burning and intense, while this is achy and throbbing) and is specifically located on my tailbone (and disappears when I rise), not my disc spot.  It's a start, anyway.

Tomorrow is the dermatologist for a second opinion on my still inflamed, itchy, and hive-y skin.

Monday is another spine specialist for a fourth opinion (fifth?  I forget these days).  Maybe he'll have some more insight on the sacrum.

Tuesday is an ultrasound to check for any other inflammation.

Football would have been more fun.



Rest in Peace

My heart goes out to the family of Troy Davis, who was executed in Georgia yesterday despite the complete lack of physical evidence and only questionable witnesses who have since recanted, as well as worldwide protests from such luminaries as former President Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

And while they sought the execution, my heart is also with the family of murdered Officer McPhail, who didn't really receive justice last night.

There is no justice in killing.

I'm with Crunchy Corner (Sew and Sow's daughter) in feeling shame as an American today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

True to Myself, Part 2

As I mentioned earlier, I'm dropping my provided-food diet in favor of my prior mostly vegan lifestyle.  And it doesn't seem that anyone is surprised that I quit.  Probably because most people were surprised I'd try it to begin with.

Let's call it an act of desperation.  And while losing 8 lbs is great, it didn't enable me suddenly to sit, which really was my ulterior motive.

Still, I realized I learned a few things during this momentary lapse:  mercy, appropriate portion sizes are just so much smaller than what you see everywhere.  And there was almost no gluten.  But fruits and vegetables all the time.  So, I'll take that awareness and apply it to my preferred, homemade, whole food yada yada yada foods.

And I'm not the only one committing to a whole foods life at this bountiful time of harvest.  My folks are investigating it too--in fact, Pop is veering vegan!  And Mom is mostly along for the ride with him.  Mama Hungry and I are revamping the way we shop and cook, to better feed ourselves and the kids.  And Aunt Banana is even making all of her own baby food.

And that's all something I can be thankful for a few months early.

O Happy Day!

I got out and about this morning, going to the school book fair, with my new Driver.  It was great to leave the house and spend some time at school--Sis and Bud were so thrilled to see me.  And not just because I had the money!  They each chose a few books--Star Wars, bunnies, and some Harry Potter stickers--but mostly enjoyed shopping with all of their little friends.  I bought a few books, too--on September 11, Diary of a Spider, some Jack Prelutsky poetry, and a healthy kids' cookbook.  I chatted with friends--half my old playgroup was there! And three of them were working very hard to pull of the event (thanks Mommy Goose, Miss L, and Miss K)--and with teachers, past and present.    It was an all-around great morning.

I am so grateful for Driver, who also helped me purchase a basket of flowers for my neighbor whose mother died (Neighbor Boy's grandmother) and went with me for coffee (mmmm, it's pumpkin spice latte season!).  Having her help really brightens my day.  She's taking me to a doctor's appointment on Friday and on Tuesday (just follow-ups to all those appointments with my ENT and dermatologist from the summer).

Just like today, this school year is already looking much better (for me) than last.

Glee-Less

After summer hiatus, "Glee" is back.

And I didn't like it.  The first episode, that is.

From the 20 minutes it took to get to the first song to the myriad character adjustments (Quinn is a "skank?"), I just didn't think it was strong (I did like the Rachel-Kurt scenes).  And don't get me started on the pitiful Asperger's bit, "self-diagnosed" or not, which was insensitive and heartless.  And stupid and incorrect.  (yeah, yeah, I know this is biting comedy, but "Glee" is usually sensitive to GLBT, people with Downs, a person in a wheelchair, even when there are jokes--why such a misunderstood portrayal of Asperger's?  I know six kids on the spectrum and don't think this is funny.  Or in any way meaningful.)

I hope it gets better.

But until then, I'm thankful for my seasons 1 and 2 dvds.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

True to Myself

I've lost about eight pounds on my diet in the last six weeks or so, but I'm giving it up.  Eating prepared, processed, fake food just doesn't appeal to me anymore.  And even though one of my major goals is weight loss, it's not my only health goal . . . and the diet is not in line with my beliefs and values.  There's too much soy, too many chemicals, too many fake sugars.  I've had an upset stomach.  It's not a model I want to project for my kids.  And so, in talking to Mama Hungry, we're going back to our vegan, whole foods diet, especially now that I am better able to cook.  It's more work but also more "us."  And I imagine the weight will follow (I lost five in two weeks the last time).  And that will be the bonus to feeling good about what I'm eating.

It's September, So It Must Be School

September is a good month for thinking about school and education, as it all starts up again for the next nine months.  Appropriately, the NYTimes published the education issue of its magazine, with the lead article "What if the Secret to Success is Failure?"  (see discussion here). If you've read  Nurture Shock, with a focus on the section about self-control, the premise of the article that character is as important to future success as information and knowledge will not be a surprise.  If you've seen the movie Race to Nowhere, you probably won't be surprised that upper middle-class, high-achieving kids are floundering and faltering.  But if you haven't, or want to read how two schools are approaching character education with this in mind, the article is a fascinating read, if only for the discussion of "moral character" and "performance character" (i.e. behaviors that are ethical and those that will help you succeed), and the list of 24 character traits found in all cultures (according to a leading researcher) and the seven being focused on at one school (zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity).  One researcher has developed a three-minute, 12-question "Grit Test," but I think my favorite might still be the "marshmallow test"--does your child have the self-control to wait to get two marshmallows or will your child eat the one sitting on the table?  Apparently, this is an accurate predictor of success.


Of course, what kind of success?  Material?  Academic?  Professional?  Given that this is the NYTimes, the entire magazine issue is geared towards a particular kind of parent--in fact, the kind of competitive, achieving, highly-involved, middle class parent that the first article thinks is messing up kids (the kind of parent I am trying not to be but inherently am).  The aforementioned article, which focuses on two selective private schools, talks a lot about achievement in the future--Ivy League admission, high grades, well-paying stable careers--but never addresses that perhaps our cultural definitions of success are skewed.   And completely unavailable to most people, even those with the 24 character traits.  Is the "character report card" one school issues just another way for kids to compete and parents to stress on the road to yet more high achievement?  Is now character something they will study for, just another tool in their sophisticated tool kits?  Or is it, as one teacher states, a way to even the playing field: "learning these strengths is partly about trying to demystify what makes other people successful — kind of like, ‘We’re letting you in on the secret of what successful people are like.’"  Not that I don't want Bud and Sis to have all those kinds of successes, but I also want to value the other character traits and experiences that don't necessarily lead to monetary achievement.  And I'm not sure quantifying and commodifying character is the way to get anywhere. 


It reminded me of a conversation with Sis yesterday who, while finishing dinner, wanted to play one of my question games.  The question was, "What five things do you most like about yourself?"


Her answer:  pride, caring, considerate, helpful, and loving.  


It's a wonderful list and I'm so proud of her.  But would she fail on her "character report card?"  And isn't that awful?


Another article in the paper, "Autistic and Seeking a Place in the Adult World," recently was about the efforts one family in NJ is going through to secure a future for their son with Autism after he leaves school, with the help of an amazing transitioning program headed by an impressive and hardworking administrator.  After reading about school-community relations, on the job mentoring, individual aides, transportation,  etc etc etc, I was actually sad for a variety of reasons:  sad that most children on the spectrum and indeed most children with any kind of special needs will not get the kind of amazing preparation and care that this young man is receiving in this affluent suburb; sad that even with all this assistance, it is likely that there just aren't enough societal structures in place to support this young man in his search for independence, most noticeably envisioned as "the apartment;" even sad that the approximately $1 million spent on his education alone (not including any monies his parents spent on outside therapies, etc) will not have achieved anyone's goals for him.


A final article, "My Family's Experiment in Extreme Schooling"--the third that really only addresses the experiences of an elite group of students and their families (where are the regular public schools in this magazine??)--discusses one family's move to Russia and the children's immersion in an unusual private school, all in Russian, which they did not speak.  I marveled at the parents' risking of their children's happiness, academic success, and the like but knew, despite initial difficulties, it would turn out well or the parents would pick up the pieces (as the first article assures us that upper middle class parents do).  And of course, the children are soon fluent and exemplars of character and successful in their studies.  And I envied the parents' chutzpah and their family's opportunity.


Which brings me to a conversation at church on Sunday.  A friend of mine who homeschooled her boys asked what kind of schooling my kiddos were doing this year.  Public, I said, but never saying no to homeschooling if we aren't all satisfied.  She mentioned that a friend of hers sent her kids to public elementary school and then homeschooled for middle school before sending them to private or magnet high schools.  And I loved the idea.  What if we homeschooled or unschooled for three or four years in the middle, those awful middle years in junior high?  We could travel locally, nationally, and internationally.  We could focus on subjects and projects and skills that interested the kids.  We could take a break from academic competition and standardized tests and grades and all the ridiculousness that attends modern American education.  And with five years until they'd be in middle school, we have time to plan and save.  The possibilities are endless.


And just think of how character-building it would be!


(and of course, how typical, again, of upper middle class parents.)


-=-=-=-=-
This just in.

Raccoons

After the kids climbed aboard the bus yesterday, the bus driver motioned for me to step forward.  "Two huge raccoons just went in your backyard.  Be careful."

I was taken aback.  Not by the raccoons but by his need to warn me about them.  Sure, raccoons can startle you, hiss and get aggressive, and, sure, it was daylight, and most raccoons shouldn't be out and about, but I don't know if they attack people.  Is suburbia so tame that we need a warning about raccoons?

Still, I was glad for the information, and curious, and so I walked the yard.   Alas, no sign of them.

Until about an hour later when I walked around the block a few times.  There in front of me in a neighbor's yard were indeed two raccoons:  a big giant mama raccoon and a much smaller child raccoon.  Cute.  I had the sensation that they were looking for a place to go, ambling along.  And then I remembered, for two days now, a neighbor has been clearing the back of his property of trees and undergrowth, felling about seven huge trees and all the stuff in between.  Was this raccoon family homeless because of the clearing?  Were they looking for a new place to live?

They left before I got a picture of them for the kids.  I hope they find a place to live.  And in the end, I'm more scared of my neighbor's maniacal felling of nature than of two raccoons.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fantasia

We live in Fantasy Land here.

Sometimes, the stories come from movies, as when the kids play Jedis with their lightsabers or Ewoks outside in their large stick hut (complete with fire circle and swings-as-gliders).

Sometimes, the stories come from books, such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and playing wizards or building with Legos; Secrets of Droon and battling the evil Lord Spar; even the Disney fairy stories and imagining which talent they would have as they flit in and out of the Faerie Hut (previously the Ewok hut).

Sometimes, they just make up their own stories using elements from all of the above or none.

And there are so many other worlds they'll visit in books--Middle Earth, Redwall, Narnia, Oz, Wonderland, to name a few--plus any number of their own imaginings.

It's, well, fantastic!

Green-Letter Day

As in the green ink of the official Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry acceptance letter.

Because today we all watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

(After our friends from Philly visited, no mean feat for two very eager kids.  But they enjoyed talking about HP and Legos in the meantime.)

Covering the bed with a tablecloth, we camped out with all manner of sugary and crunchy snacks, from popcorn and animal cookies to fruit jellies and chocolate bars.  We saved the jelly beans for the Hogwarts Express scene when Harry and Ron ate Bertie Bott's beans.  They'd even brought their Gryffindor cloaks to wear but decided to eat instead (and there is a no-eating-in-costumes rule).

And we loved every minute of it.  Bud gleefully called out everything he recognized, from Prof. McGonagall as a cat to the acceptance letter, from the Leaky Cauldron to Ollivander's, from the Sorting Hat to the Mirror of Erised, and everything in between.  Sis sat much more quietly, taking it all in.

They marveled at the glimmering enchanted Great Hall, at the fast-paced Quidditch Game, at the magic of the Cloak of Invisibility.  Even the scary bits--the screaming book, the bloodied unicorn, and of course He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named--didn't phase them too much.  Though, Bud later admitted he was surprised by all the explosions in the giant wizards' chess game.

So thrilled were they with the film that they raced straight downstairs to build all the sets in Legos, happily planning the cupboard under the stairs of the Dursleys' house and then helping Mama with the Diagon Alley set.

It was indeed a magical movie experience.


(Though, they were glad to have read the book first, they said.)

News Sources

If you're a regular reader here, you know that I do all my news gathering online, including, first and foremost, The New York TimesHuffington Post, Salon, Slate (sometimes, because their mobile site stinks; same with Daily Beast), and for fun, Jezebel.  Plus BBC, my local Patch, the Connecticut Post, and sometimes NPR online.

And now I'm adding a few others to my daily list:

Where do you go for news?

I was thinking of adding The Economist or the Guardian to go with the BBC for a non-American slant.  (What do you think, Lambeth?)  Though, maybe I should read the WSJ or National Review for the conservative take . . . 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just Like My Mom

I'd like to be like my mom (the incomplete list):
  • because she stood up and said racism isn't funny;
  • because she is practical and efficient;
  • because she never really blinked about having a lesbian for a daughter and has always been my (and our) biggest supporter (not easy considering the conservative, homophobic, did I say racist? tendencies of many of her fellow Texans);
  • because she has a curious and questioning mind and is a lifelong learner;
  • because she loves to read (and there was no limit on books when I was growing up!);
  • because she loves to travel;
  • because she cares about making a difference, for example with volunteer work with abused women and the education of girls;
  • because she is a feminist and raised us to do or be anything;
  • because she's not obsessed with shopping or fashion or style or decorating;
  • because she's a great cook;
  • because she took me to Broadway musicals and historic houses a lot when I was little;
  • because she took me out of school on the opening day of Return of the Jedi;
  • because she never once said she was disappointed in me;
  • because all my friends like her (especially my lesbian friend in high school, who needed a caring adult); 
  • because she protected and promoted the fun and innocence of childhood (and still does);
  • because she's trying to keep track of Star Wars and Harry Potter for her grandkids;
  • because she'll try almost anything once;
  • because grades were never a big deal to her, even if she was proud;
  • because she's a great listener;
  • because she "fights fair" and uses "I-messages" and "active listening";
  • because she dropped everything, more than once, to take care of us;
  • because she can drive a boat and fix a toilet and mow a lawn, which none of the other moms did;
  • because she's not embarrassed to cry;
  • because she's open-minded and accepting;
  • because when I was a new mom (and even still) she followed our rules, even when she thought they were silly (though she never said so!);
  • because her sex talk to me was fantastic (who else's mom told them that masturbation was okay??);
  • because she really does forgive and forget; 
  • because she's (usually) pretty relaxed;
  • because she can appreciate "the nicest time of the day";
  • because she has "creative" hearing;
  • because her jokes are most funny when she gets them mixed up;
  • because she can laugh at herself;
  • because she's a great person and I'm lucky she's my mom!

Breakfast with Champions

 We had a little playgroup reunion yesterday in the form of morning coffee with a few of the friends I don't see often. It was delightful to hang out chatting and eating--just like old times!--as if no time had passed.  I wouldn't even say much has changed, beyond kids growing up, a few more experiences under our belts--we don't even look older!  Not bad after six years of motherhood together (and four years of blogging about it!)

-=-=-=-=-
Paula Deen's Zucchini Bread

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

Paula Deen

-=-=-=-=-=-
Ina Garten's Banana Crunch Muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
1 cup small-diced walnuts
1 cup granola
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut, optional
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each 1 to the top. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

Ina Garten

Breakthrough

Contemplating the whole "when does an injury become a disability," we are continuing to make adaptions to our world.  And one is really exciting:  I now have a daytime driver!  She's a friend of mine, a LCSW who has been looking for work as a home health aide, and now I'll pay her to take me to doctor's appointments, school functions, and whatever else I need.  I'm thrilled about the possibility of increased activity and freedom.  I think she's looking forward to it to.  (And I write a killer reference letter!)  I still have to find someone to transport the kids a few times a month (she has a child in school and so isn't available then), but we're making progress.

Of course, I do and will always be grateful for the others who have ferried me around, particularly Mrs. S.  Thanks for taking me to the tag sale today; it was good to get out.  We'll save our future outings for fun things like coffee!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Autumn's Calling Card

A cool, northerly breeze, overcast, going down to 49F tonight, the first red leaf ...

What's in a Name?

And apparently my pet's name is Herman.

The Day of Three Breakfasts

The kids thought yesterday was wild:  they had breakfast three times!

First, breakfast for breakfast.  Scrambled eggs, this time.

Secondly, breakfast for lunch.  They get to choose two times a month to eat the school's hot lunch and yesterday they both chose to eat the pancakes.  Which apparently were good, just not as good as Mama's.  But maple syrup makes everything better.

Thirdly, breakfast for dinner.  We made Dutch Baby Pancakes in our new convection microwave, my first solo baking (i.e. without another adult) in a year or so.  Sis and I had a fabulous time cooking together.  We both missed it.

We might repeat it later this month . . . because they want to try school's French toast sticks too.

Quidditch, Anyone?

Last night, two red-lined, velvet Gryffindor robes, two pairs of glasses, and two striped maroon and gold ties arrived at the house.

Yep, Harry Potter is in the house.

So with reminders not to take the costumes outside or eat in them, the kids ran around the house on their broomsticks and cast spells at each other and us.

Yep, they're riding the Hogwarts Express to Halloween.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My New Friend

Baking Dutch Baby Pancakes....


My New Pet


New Arrival!

I'm so excited:  I finally have an oven I can use!  It's a convection microwave oven that sits on the counter and can be either a regular oven or a regular microwave or a combination of both.  No bending or stooping to pull things in and out.  I can bake again on my own.  And I think Sis is even more thrilled than I am!

Now we just have to choose what's first!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Almost Chowdah Weather

The temperatures are getting cooler later this week, with the first day of fall ten days away.  So I'm practicing....that, and the kids asked for corn chowder, surprisingly.  I've never made it ...and so I faked it (without a recipe I knew they'd eat or any fresh corn at the store). Kinda sweet but a good start.  Spying the potatoes yet hoping they were apples (??), Bud grew wary.  He picked around them and Sis was delighted; they each had a bowl and a half.

Mommy Hungry's Quick Corn Chowder

3 small red potatoes, diced
Boil in salted water.
Drain and reserve.
Add 2 cans cream corn, 1 1/2 cup frozen corn, 1 1/2 water, 1 cup half and half, salt and pepper.  Heat through.

Mommy Hungry

Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android

Farewell But Not Goodbye

It is the end of the 30 Day Vegan workshop (hosted by Beauty That Moves) a bittersweet ending to an enriching personal retreat.  While I was not completely vegan, I have continued as a vegetarian and whole foods advocate.  But with what I have learned and experienced during this month, I can continue on the journey, more informed and more inspired, with more insight.  At the end of the month,
  • My kitchen, or "food studio," is more organized and peaceful.  We have purged and rearranged and adapted to my inability to bend.  I can do so much more in the kitchen than I've been able to do in almost a year.  This new aesthetic of useful and beautiful (I would add meaningful) is expanding beyond the kitchen to the whole house.
  • My day is more planned.  As I focused on the personal care aspect of the workshop, I realized that a little advanced planning (and here)--meal charts for lunch and dinner (like this), to-do list, a home management notebook, even chore charts--would make things smoother,  not just for me but for everyone.  So, using resources referenced by the workshop leader, Heather Bruggeman, and the other participants, I am adapting materials to fit us.  And I can already see the benefits.  (Though, I'm not a printed-grocery list girl but a Grocery IQ devotee.)
  • I know more about food, health, and nutrition.  I learned about pressure cookers.  I read about phytic acid in foods.  I read about the dangers of too much soy.  I learned how to make my own almond milk and natural soda.  I learned about other sweeteners like brown rice syrup and succanat.  I know more about vitamins, especially B12.  I have dozens of new recipes to try when I'm cooking more.  I've experienced "crowding out" of less healthy foods. 
  •  I found inspiration and community.  In my so-called "real life," I  know only one other vegetarian (and now, one vegan!  You go!  Interestingly, I know several ex-vegetarians.).  Some friends are interested in local and organic and unprocessed.  But for the most part, it's SAD (Standard American Diet.)  Online and in links, I communicated with others who valued whole foods, who were learning and experimenting with me.  To paraphrase Julia Child (and Julie Powell), it was just us meatless home cooks here.  And it was good.
  • Mama and I have reconfigured how we think of meals at home.  We realized we'd pretty much been running Mothers' Restaurant.  Not so much because we'd act as short order cooks, but because we'd let the kids vote in advance from a few options; healthy options, often, with vegetables, but still, not a sustainable approach, especially with fickle kids who change their minds or want their favorites everyday.  Not feasible.  And so we're becoming more traditional (not this traditional, but inspired nonetheless) in our approach:  one meal, no substitutes, have a "no thank you" bite.  Mind you, I don't go out of my way to make beans!  There has been resistance but we're making progress.  And I'm working on lunches too, as I've mentioned here and here.
  • Books, links, and more.  From the movie Forks Over Knives to the book Simplicity Parenting, from Pinterest to Simple Mom, from Feeding the Whole Family to Simply Natural Cooking,  I am finding more resources for me to do my day job.  Really, there were too many to list here.
So, that's my month in a nutshell.  Thanks so much, Heather, guest blogger Renee Tougas, and all the other participants!

(And I'll be back for the spring workshop!)

My Today

FOR TODAY
Outside my window...it's hazy and humid.

I am thinking...about grandparents, having just read this on the grandparents of September 11.  My kids have the best grandparents in the world!  (Except of course, your kids' grandparents.)

I am thankful...for the grandparents, my parents!  The kiddos who made them grandparents.  The Mama who mothers them with me.

From the learning rooms... isn't everywhere a learning room?

In the kitchen...a new convection-microwave oven arrives today so that I can bake again!!! (since I can't currently bend to reach my current oven, much less pull things in and out.  When does an injury become a disability?  I haven't used my oven myself in more than a year.)

I am wearing...my denim-skirt with super-handy pockets and my Chicago cat rescue t-shirt.

I am creating...an invitation to our upcoming apple festival!

I am going...on my treadmill walk when I'm done posting.

I am wondering...what the kids are doing in school right now.

I am reading...nothing seriously, though I'm dabbling in Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and Dianna Hales's La Bella Lingua.  I had started Nancy Cott's  Bonds of Womanhood, a history of women in the early 19th-century, but it wasn't quite what I wanted right now.

I am hoping...that there are no surprises in the next 48 hours plus.

I am looking forward to...the weekend, when our "family" friends from Philly whom we haven't seen in years are dropping by for a visit.

I am hearing...the window fan working hard to make the room comfortable in this humidity.

Around the house...the rainbows from my various prisms are dancing.

I am pondering...how my exploration of Buddhism has helped me to weather recent ups and downs in a more even keel way than I might have before.

One of my favorite things...is this laptop, my main company from 8-3:45.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  friends are coming for morning coffee on Thursday; I'm going to the church moving sale on Friday; and then our Philly friends on Saturday.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...of the star jasmine that has just appeared in our yard this year, an unexpected gift . . . 



(Thanks to the simple woman's daybook!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Check This Out

Kids home.  Check.
Bags unpacked.  Check.
Lunch things washed.  Check.
Play clothes changed into.  Check.
Snack eaten.  Check.
Folders emptied.  Check.
Library books put away.  Check.
Forms filled out.  Check.
Homework done.  Hallelujah!

Church Beginnings and Endings

The last few weeks (or months, or even year . . . which makes it a constant, not a new thing) have been a bit chaotic.  From hurricane to delayed school, from school to September 11, we've been riding the usual rollercoaster of life's offerings.  Trying to do so with togetherness, patience, compassion, good cheer, and practicality.

But lurking behind all of this is something I haven't discussed in awhile:  the enormous changes at my church.  After losing our full-time minister in February or so, and then losing our interim minister to a permanent job, our church has continued to struggle financially (and by extension politically and spiritually).

And so a few weeks ago, not at all unexpectedly, we learned that the church building was being sold.  Our last service there will be in a few weeks.  Our beloved church family will continue, in rented spaces, somewhere, as we all try to remember that the building was just a shell and that the important thing is the congregation.  But even without a home, our church must continue to put its house in order, so to speak:  to heal from the deep wounds of a divisive ministry, the strains of financial duress, the loss of members.  It's been a difficult journey.

I'm conflicted about the sale of the building.  I've been attending services there for almost 8 years.  We were "civilized" there and then married; our children were dedicated there.  We've celebrated, mourned, learned, taught, and eaten (a lot) there in that time.  It's my first church.  Architecturally, I never liked the building, even the sanctuary.  It was unattractive and inadequate.  And it was never in really great shape.  But I overlooked its flaws like you would that of a loved one.  Because I loved the people and the principles.

I fully understand the need to sell. (Though I'm shocked there was a buyer.  Denial?)  Otherwise, we'd go bankrupt and have to sell anyway.  Better to get out ahead.  But then I'm angry that the congregation, now and for decades previous, has squandered its inheritance, having opened this space in the 1950s (the congregation itself dates to the first decades of the 19th century). Of course, we're culpable too, supporting church financially in some years less generously than others, never being at the forefront of (the endless) fundraising attempts (though we always supported them!).  

I guess I'm experiencing the traditional stages of grief.  Maybe acceptance will come after the last service, when I see the same faces in our new place.  Because really, there is nothing in my church's covenant about the building . . . . 

Love is the spirit of this church
And service its law.
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love,
and to help one another.
--James Vila Blake


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Peace






For Today, Forever


"The Names"
by Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States, Sept. 2002

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Swarm

Apparently, it takes 2-3 weeks for mosquitos to go from egg to larva to full adult.

And Hurricane Irene was just about two weeks ago.

Which explains why there are tornadic swarms of bugs in our area, so thick they almost look like snow or confetti in the late afternoon sun.  Pretty.  Miserable.

And apparently, while males live 10-20 days, the female can live up to about 150 days (laying 250 eggs every 15 days.  250 x 10 = ARGH!).

At least the first frost will be here by then!

(Though, any eggs in water will just hatch when it warms up, which is why there are still mosquitoes every year.)

Reading Up on September 11

A lot has been published for the 10th anniversary of that tragic day.  Here are just some of the ones that touched, informed, inspired, or otherwise, interested me (I'm sure there will be even more tomorrow):

My Ultimate Guide To Beans


A Quick Intro
In four years of blogging, most of it as a vegetarian, I can't believe I've actually never written a post totally devoted to beans.  I love beans!  I eat them 4-5 times a week easy, probably everyday.  Soups, salads, pastas, with Mexican, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian accents.  They're easy to cook, hard to mess up, versatile, and extremely healthy.  So, perhaps because the topic is too big to post about, or because it's been written about exhaustively in many other places (and I have the bean cookbooks to prove it!), but I'm going to try.

Let's Make a Pot O'Beans

  • While you can buy your beans from great heirloom or organic seed purveyors like Rancho Gordo or Seed Savers (I'm like a kid in a candy bean store!), if you're just starting, I recommend picking up a bag of Goya beans at the supermarket (NOT the store brand, as the quality of these aren't usually as good and old beans don't cook up as well).  Black or red beans are the easiest place to start.  Lentils are a totally different area (more on them later).
  • Rinse and sort half the bag of beans (approximately 1 1/2 cups dried), saving the other half for another day (or make them all, just double the water . . .but that's a lot of beans!).  Throw away any funny or misshapen ones.  Look for rocks, especially in bags of smaller beans.  
  • Dump the beans into a pot or bowl and cover with approximately 5-8 cups (preferably filtered) water (depending on if you're just making basic beans or bean soup).  
  • Salt the beans!  Yes, salt the beans.  Sprinkle some table or kosher salt in the pot to help beans absorb water.  Trust me.  I know it's against popular belief, but Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated says so.  And it works.
  • Leave overnight, or about 8-12 hours. Some people say you have to refrigerate or keep them cool so they don't ferment.  I've never had a problem with that.  
  • In the morning, before you cook, look at the beans and toss the floaters.  They aren't good.
  • Cook. (I even cook them in the soaking water, but you can get fresh.  Some say changing the water reduces gas; I say eating more beans reduces gas). Okay, there are a few ways to do this, mainly stovetop or slow cooker (I'm not a pressure-cooker girl so can't help you there).  For stovetop, bring to gentle boil and then simmer until beans are cooked.   In the crockpot, cook beans for 8-10 hours on Low or 6-8 on high.  
  • That's the basic beans.  You can then drain and then use them in other recipes.  Or, if you like bean soup, which is my favorite, I start adding ingredients midway through cooking, once beans are almost tender.  If you add acids, like tomatoes, too early, the beans will toughen.  When I'm first trying a new bean, I simply saute carrots, onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil and then add it to the pot halfway through cooking so the flavor of the bean really comes out.  Once you know the beans, you can add lots of things.  Sometimes to thicken a bean soup, I'll puree up to half with my immersion blender, great for vegan "cream" soups.
  • Oops, I forgot to soak!  No worries, just put the rinsed and sorted beans in a big pot of water, boil and simmer until done; it'll just take longer.  And don't bother with the "boil for 5 minutes, turn off for an hour, and then simmer."  It's just not necessary to turn them off.  
  • Storage of Cooked Beans:  some people drain beans to store; since I usually make soup, I leave them in the liquid.  Beans stay good in the fridge for a few days--just reboil and serve.  They freeze well, too (though sometimes they are a bit mealy, depending on the type).
  • Storage of Dried Beans:  so you have 1 1/2 cups of beans left in that bag?  Remove them from the bag and store in a labeled jar; keep in cabinet or another shaded place.  Sometimes I combine all of my bean remnants into one soup, called beanbag soup.
  • A note about canned beans:  they'll do in a pinch, of course, just be sure to rinse really well.  But once you become accustomed to your own cooked beans, you won't go back (especially for chickpeas/garbanzos!)


I Love Lentils!

  • The rules for lentils are different because they never need to be soaked.  
  • There are lots of different kinds of lentils, from the standard brown to the French green and black beluga (which are firmer) to the yellow and orange ones (which are much softer).  I'm talking here about brown.
  • Rinse and sort 3/4 cup to 1 cup of lentils.  And definitely watch for those little rocks.
  • Boil then simmer in approximately 5 cups of water, either to al dente (about 12-15 minutes, for salads) or until tender (20 minutes plus).
  • Make soup, make salads, make pasta, use as meat substitute.  There are as many options as there are lentils in that pot.


My Other Bean Posts


About a Baker's Dozen of My Favorite Bean Recipes
(for others, search my blog for "beans")



Pasta e Lenticchie

This is my all-time favorite go-to recipe (without the hot pepper flakes).  I sometimes use pasta (even spaghetti) but other times couscous or bulgur.  I've used curry or masala instead of parsley or Italian seasonings.  Any tomatoes, from sauce to crushed to diced to chopped, work.  I've added kale, spinach, a variety of other greens, raw or previously cooked. You really just do your own thing, starting with lentils, water, and garlic.  


5 cups water
3/4 cups lentils
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 pound vermicelli, or small tubular pasta, or pasta mista
2 rounded tablespoons finely cut or snipped parsley
Optional: extra-virgin olive oil and hot red pepper flakes or hot pepper oil, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils are fully tender.
If using capellini, break it into 2 to 4-inch pieces and add them to the lentils. Cook, coveredat a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to the point of being cooked. If using a small tubular pasta or pasta mista, cook the pasta at least halfway in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta, add it to the lentils and simmer to finish cooking the pasta.
When pasta is cooked to taste, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the parsley cover the pot, and let stand about 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot, passing hot pepper oil or the best-quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top.

“Molto Mario”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-
J D's Black Bean Soup

1/2 lb dried black beans, rinsed and sorted
olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
4 cups water
1-2 bay leaves (depending on size)
salt, pepper to taste

Prep black beans in your favorite way (either overnight soak, or 5 minute boil and then 1 hour soak). Drain.
Saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add beans, bay leaves, water, salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Adjust seasonings.
DO NOT DRAIN. Puree using immersion or regular blender.
Serve.
My note: I think you could probably drain the beans and then puree them to make a good black bean dip. Also, this would probably be good with a chopped green pepper, too.

J.D.

-=-=-=-=-

Frijoles Borrachos, or Pinto Beans Stewed in Beer


1 cup chopped tomatoes or lightly drained canned diced tomatoes
2-16 oz cans pinto or pink beans drained and rinsed, or 4 cups cooked pinto or pink beans (about 1 1/2 cups raw. I just used 16 oz).
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (NOT in my beans!)
4 oz can mild green chilies
3 tablespoons pinto bean seasoning (I picked this up in Texas; not sure what goes in it but will look)

Combine all ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

adapted from Nava Atlas's The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

-=-=-=-=-

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 lb red kidney beans (Camellia band recommended), rinsed and sorted
8-10 cups water
1-2 bay leaves
1-3 tablespoons Creole Seasoning (I use Tony's)
1/2-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Saute onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add beans, water, and bay leaves. Note: I do not pre-soak or quick soak the beans, just simmer all day--you can pre-soak or quick soak, drain, and then start this recipe if you choose. Boil for 5 minutes and reduce to a simmer for 3-4 hours, or until beans are tender.
When beans are almost at desired consistency, add creole seasoning. Before serving, add liquid smoke. Serve with steamed rice (brown or white, your preference).

Mommy Hungry

-=-=-=-=-=-
Curried Apple Lentil Soup
Update: I added 2 cups of water and probably 1+ teaspoon more salt. I thought it was delicious.

5 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup red lentils
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

Combine in 3-4 quart slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.
-=-=-=-=-=-

Greek Big Beans

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups slow cooked beans or two 15.5 oz cans lima or butter beans, drained and rinsed (or actual Greek gigante beans. I wonder if you could use fava?)
28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
salt and pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Heat oil and cook onion, covered, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another minute or so.

Transfer the onion and garlic to a 3 1/2 to 4-quart slow cooker. Add beans, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley.

Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Or, an alternate "fabulous faux fassolia":   I sauteed onions in olive oil, added some garlic when the onions were translucent, then poured in half a can (or less) of tomato sauce, and added the other half of my cooked limas. This was incredible. Both hot and then later in the weekend cold, just like it had been in DC. Mmmmmmm

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Red, White, and Greens with Beans Soup



1/2 lb cranberry beans, soaked in salted water overnight

14.5 oz diced tomatoes

1 head garlic, peeled
half bunch of kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place beans and their brine in slow cooker. Set on HIGH and cook for 2-3 hours.

Add diced tomatoes, garlic, and kale. Season as necessary. Continue to cook on LOW for 4-6+ more hours.

Mommy Hungry
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Risotto e Fagioli
Mama made this for a change of taste. Really yummy, with the surprise pumpkin seeds. This was, I believe, one of our first risottos and soon one of our standbys.

¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
4 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked, drained, small white beans (can use canned but heat in chicken stock)
½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds (roast at 350 for 5-10 minutes)
½ tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

 Cook onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup rice and toss with oil. Add wine, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, cooking over moderate heat until wine has been absorbed. Add 4 ¼ cups broth to the rice, ½ cup at a time. Wait for each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is al dente and a creamy sauce develops. Stir in beans, seeds, sesame oil, and cheese.

Fifty Ways to Cook Most Everything
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Winter Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot (about 2 carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-14.5 oz cans Great Northern beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 cups cubed Yukon Gold potato (about 10 oz)
2 1/2 cups water
2-14.5 oz cans vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry (she left this out--the right decision, I think)

Heat oil in Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add spinach; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Weight Watchers Annual Recipes for Success 2003 (3 pts a cup)
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Lentil and Red Pepper Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, to your taste, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika or pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 large or 2 medium-size red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red or white wine vinegar, to your taste

In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring a few times, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat if they begin to brown. Stir in the paprika and allow it to cook for about a minute more. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times, until it jus tbegins to soften. Use a heat-resistant rubber spatula to scrape the vegetables and oil into the slow cooker. Add the lentils and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW until the lentils are completely soft, 7-9 hours.

Season the soup with salt and pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, ading more if needed. Serve hot ladled into soup bowls.

Beth Hensperger, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

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What a Dal

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into pieces
2 garlic coves, peeled
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (I used my zester)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (nope)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (probably 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (nope)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (nope)
[2 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's sweet curry spice, to make up for missing spices]
1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed (I had 1 cup brown lentils and 1/2 cup red)
1 1/2 cups kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the oil into a 4-quart slow cookier and set it on High.

In a food processor, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger and add it to the cooker (I just used my Pampered Chef chopper to mince it all). Cover and cook to mellow the flavor and remove the raw taste while you assemble the other ingredients. Stir in spices and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.

Turn the setting to Low. Add the lentils, kidney beans, and water; cover, and cook for 8 hours. Before serving, season with salt and pper and adjust the other seasonings if necessary.

Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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No Hurry Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon peanut oil (I used canola)
2 large carrots, sliced on a diagonal
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander (see above)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (nope, I never add the spicy stuff)
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups homecooked)
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (I had crushed)
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
salt

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne, stirring to coat.

Transfer to 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooked. Add potatoes, green bearns, chickpeas, tomatoes, and stock; cover, and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in peas and coconut milk and season with salt.

from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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Ethiopian-Inspired Yellow Split Pea Stew

3 cups water plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1 inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled,
finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Place 3 cups of the water and the peas in large saucepan. Heat over high heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium; cook until almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric; cook 1 minute.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons water; cover. Cook on low heat 3 minutes. Add mixture to cooked peas; stir in salt. Simmer until peas are very soft, about 30 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings.

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Lentil-Brown Rice Salad

1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup feta
8 oz can black olives
salt, pepper to taste

Cook lentils in boiling water (unsalted) for approximately 10 minutes or until al dente (or to your liking. I like mine with just a little resistance). Drain and rinse. Add rice, feta, and olives while still warm so that feta partially melts. Season with salt and pepper.

Suggestions have been made for a squeeze of lemon and some fresh herbs like parsley but I haven't tried that yet. I had also considered a splash of balsamic vinegar, next time.

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My Adaptation of Seed Savers's Heritage Bean Salad
(for original recipe, see here. I would've used the red onion if I'd had one. I think barley would be good in it, too)

1 1/2 cups dried beans (I used a mixture of heirloom beans from Laurel Hill; Seed Savers calls for Lena Cisco's Birds Egg)

Vinaigrette -
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. Dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Cook dried beans (I soaked them overnight in salt water) by bringing to a boil for five minutes and then simmering for about 1 1/2 hours. Prepare vinaigrette. Add dressing ingredients while beans are still warm. Chill for several hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Mommy Hungry via Seed Savers

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Mommy Hungry's Rice-Cooker Mujdara


2 cups white rice
2 cups cooked lentils (brown or whatever)
1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt, divided
pepper
2-4 onions
1-2 tablespoon oil (grapeseed, olive, whatever)

Place rice, lentils, cumin, cinnamon stick, garlic, pepper, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt in rice cooker.  Add water according to machine temperament (my takes about 2 cups for this; Ar-Ma Hungry's hint is to add enough water to cover the rice plus the thickness of one finger horizontal on top of the rice--it works!).  Set to cook white rice.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet.  Add onions, sprinkling 1 teaspoon of salt on top, and cook on medium-low to medium heat.  Watch onions and only stir occasionally in order to let them brown.  If they get to dry, add water.  Cook til brown and sweet, about 45-60 minutes. 

When lentil-rice and onions are done, stir together and season to taste.

Mommy Hungry

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Jamie’s Beanbag Soup Recipe


2 cups mixed dried beans
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak dried beans in 6 cups lightly salted water overnight OR boil beans in 6 cups water for 2 minutes and simmer on low for an hour. DO NOT DRAIN.  In olive oil, sauté onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.  Add beans with their liquid to pot with sauteed vegetables and also bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 ½-2 hours. 

Optional:  To bulk up the bean soup, you can: 
                    add spinach or kale (or other greens), fresh or frozen, along with carrots, celery, and onions
                    add ¾ cup dried macaroni (or orzo) when beans are almost done
                    make the soup with ½ the beans (1 cup or so) and add a variety of vegetables like green beans, corn, and potatoes for a vegetable soup

Italian version:  Add 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning with the salt and pepper.  Later, when beans are almost done, add 1 can diced tomatoes.   

French version:  Use Herbes de Provence with salt and pepper.

Slow Cooker directions:  Place presoaked beans and soaking liquid in 6-quart slow cooker.  Sauté  onions, carrots, celery, seasonings, and garlic in olive oil.  Add these, plus bay leaf and optional vegetables except tomatoes, to slow cooker.  Cook on LOW 6-8 hours, adding tomatoes or other acids and/or pasta in last hour.