Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Leap

Trying to embrace today as something unique, I tried to go about my day as a mini-retreat, combining healthy activities, relaxation and rejuvenation, and pleasure.  Sure, I'm home everyday, but that doesn't mean everyday is like a spa day here.  But I tried to make today one.  I ate delicious, nourishing whole foods (all vegan so far), including museli and coffee with cardamom, a portabello/kale/potato saute, celery sticks with dip, an apple with sunflower butter, and some nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, with lots of water, tea, and a homemade elderflower soda.  I walked on my treadmill for 45 minutes while listening to my current audiobook, Tracey Chevalier's tale of Regency lady-fossil hunters in Lyme Regis, Remarkable Creatures.  I did my PT exercises, including a "mandala" of lunges in different directions, some wall push-ups, and other strengthening movements.  I followed along to my lovingkindness meditation CD.  I read a chapter from Ellen Galinsky's wordy but enlightening discussion of life skills for children, Mind in the Making, for my school book club.  The book talked about studies that showed it was never too late to learn a language, so I started up my neglected Italian lessons again. I baked a lovely and fragrant gingerbread bread (aka Hodge-Podge Yeasted Gingerbread from King Arthur Flour's Baking Sheet.  Alas, not vegan.)  I crocheted a tiny bit, for the first time in a long while, inspired by the prayer shawls at church on Sunday, and wrote a letter.  I did a refreshing mid-afternoon teeth-brushing, face-washing, hair-combing perk-me-up routine.

And now I'm ready for the second part of my day, when the kiddos come home on the bus in about 20 minutes.  I don't know what our leap day will look like together--it's rainy outside which prohibits yesterday's activities of fairy-house building and pretend-mixing-"chocolate"-mud-on-a-metate-grindstone-like-the-colonists-did.  But I hope it's as wonderful as the first part of my day was.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Your One Wild and Precious Day

To paraphrase Mary Oliver, "tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious" Leap Day?

Sure, it's not really an "extra" day, in the sense of being an empty, unassigned day in limbo between Tuesday and Wednesday--it has a whole Wednesday to itself, which means it becomes just another ordinary work day.

But still, in the spirit of the date, it is special, a once-every-four-year occurrence.  And so, for the occasion, I'm trying to think of something unique or at least out-of-the-routine to do tomorrow.

I just don't know what that is yet.  Any ideas?

First Fairy House of the Season



Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter-Break Wrap Up

Life has resumed its usual schedule today, with Mama at work and the kids back at school.  We sat around the table last night reviewing the break and came up with several of our favorite memories.  When we realized the first several started with "P," we kept it going:

  • Paul Revere's house
  • Penguins
  • Parker House rolls
  • Park with the pond for the ducks (Make Way for Ducklings)
  • Palazzo a la Isabella (Stewart Gardner)
  • Precipitation, frozen
  • Pizza playdate
  • Painting playdate
  • Perfect bunk beds
  • Peruse Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • "Phineas and Ferb"
  • Pretend to be Ninjago
  • Play DS
  • Practice nunchucks
  • Party, Wildtree
  • Prayer Shawl blessing at church
  • Preparing for the Tooth Fairy (again)
  • Pot pies, chicken
  • Pork and apples
That pretty much sums of the break, which despite the jam-packed trip to Boston, was as unstructured a holiday as we've ever had.  And I think it worked for us, this time at least.  They got to fill their days as they wished, doing everything they don't get to do during the school year.  First grade is hard that way, I think as they still adjust to not having enough playtime.  As Sis told us she wrote in her diary, "I don't like going to school, but I go anyway."  While that saddens me, I'm glad she and her brother got a week of fun away from school.  I think I had almost as much fun as they did.

But I'm back to "work" now, too, with dinner in the slow cooker--Sweet Potato and Chard Dal--plus Daisy, historic house, and cookbook bits to finish.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Sweet Potato and Chard Dal


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of chili powder (I used pepper)
salt to taste
1 large sweet potato, diced (I used two!)
1 1/2 cups yellow split peas
4 cups water
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed, chopped, and spun dry

Saute onions in olive oil and cook until translucent.  Add spices and cook until fragrant.  Place onion mixture,   sweet potatoes, yellow split peas, and water in slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.  Add Swiss chard about 20-30 minutes before end of cooking and cook until tender.  Adjust seasonings.

Kathy Hester, The Vegan Slow Cooker

Another One Bites the . . . Chicken Wing?

Yep, Sis lost another tooth (lower left side), this time at lunch with Mama and Bud.

We love that Tooth Fairy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Not Live Blogging the Oscars

In fact, not sure we'll even watch, except maybe the opening, on DVR later.  Deathly Hallows was the only film we saw, and it wasn't even nominated. :P""""

The Bunk that Mama Built

Last night, from IKEA:


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Links to Meditate Upon


Recently, a friend asked me to compile some links and resources about meditation and mindfulness.  And so I thought I'd share them with you.  There are so many more books and resources that I haven't listed here.  Below you'll find some of my favorites (from a variety of Buddhist traditions such as Zen, Tibetan, and Theravadan as well as secular sources):
  • My first exposure to the meditation of counting breaths was through Zen priest and author Karen Maezen Miller; her blog includes instructions.  
  • Theravadan practitioner Toni Bernhard's book How to be Sick (and my post on her book) has many mindfulness practices (often short practices for in-the-moment usage) for addressing pain, panic, anxiety, etc. based on her own Buddhist practice and decade-long struggle with chronic illness.  She has also recently posted, on her Psychology Today blog, about metta meditation (lovingkindness), which is my current practice.  Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness is another guide to meditation (I just got this one--it has a CD with several guided meditations).  there's also Salzberg's book, Lovingkindness.
  • The body scan is a mindfulness practice often used  to address pain (from Bernhard's website or NPR's piece with Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full-Catastrophe Living); an unintentional consequence, it's also great for falling asleep!  I have this scan on CD.  While I believe Kabat-Zinn might be a Buddhist, his approach to meditation is secular and has been studied extensively through his famous center at UMass School of Medicine.
  • American Tibetan-Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart:  Heart Advice for Difficult Times talks about how (and why) to embrace uncomfortable, painful situations.  She advocates tonglen meditation and I have a recording of her guiding the meditation (an overview here at Shambhala Sun).
  • On mindful eating, which is an intriguing practice, I posted after reading an article in the NYTimes.  There is also a book by Zen master Jan Chozen Bays entitled Mindful Eating.  (I've also posted on "mindful baking," inspired by Edward Espe Brown.)
  • Shambhala Sun, a magazine for Buddhists, had a special "how to meditate" issue.  There's also "Sit Every Day" and an article on walking meditation (something I've tried to adapt to my gait with limited success).
  • There is also a new website, Mindful.org, with many meditation and mindfulness resources.
  • These are the ones I rely on now, but I am constantly finding others to read, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama's How to Practice, Thich Nhat Hanh's The Miracle of Mindfulness, Jan Chozen Bays's How To Train a Wild Elephant, Jack Kornfield's After the Ecstasy, The Laundry, and Sylvia Boorstein's Pay Attention, For Goodness' Sake.  I'm also looking for books for children, both fiction (like Moody Cow or Anh's Anger) or non-fiction (such as Thich Nhat Hanh's Planting Seeds and David Fontana's Teaching Meditation to Children.)

A Colorful Playdate

Snow and a visiting friend--a great way to close out the week!


Favor Jars

Getting ready for my Wildtree party on Sunday!


Surprise

Record highs near 60F yesterday with kids outside coatless and now, unexpectedly, this...with coats, hats, mittens, and boots:


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tea Party of Five

The neighbors who cared for our cats while we were in Boston came over for a tea party today.  The kids spent the morning cleaning the living room, setting the table, and creating place cards. There were even places for Mr. Big (the stuffed penguin) and Felicity, Sis's American Girl doll.  And Bud decorated the table with nesting penguin figurines.  Sis places the gifts we'd gotten them at their spots--a penguin mug for Miss K and a bracelet and some chocolate for M.  We'd made brown-sugar shortbread the day before.  But we added some chewy pralines, jam thumbprints (from the store), and freshly-popped popcorn.

We had a delightful time chowing down--few people can say no to popcorn!  We talked about our trip to Boston and M's new school.  And the young people took turns telling jokes.

  • What's black and white and red all over?  A sun-burned penguin!  (If you said newspaper, you are behind the times 'cos papers are in color now!)
  • What do you call a baby martial artist?  Young Fu Fighter.
  • Why did the chicken cross the playground?  To get to the other slide!
  • Imagine you are in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff--what do you do?  [Refute all guesses about backing up, jumping out, etc.]  Stop imagining!
  • You are a school bus driver.   You pick up six kids.  You let off three.  You pick up five.  You let off four.  What is the bus driver's name?  Yep, your name.
  • You are in a mansion and the power has gone out.  You can go through four doors--pink, blue, yellow, green.  Choose one.  Now you see a hallway with two doors--in one is a monster that might kill you and in the other is an electric chair that will kill you.  Which do you choose?  Yep, electric chair--because the power is out!
And those were the good ones!  The rest were some made-up ones.  But I think those might have made us laugh harder (but since they made so little sense, I can't relay them here!).  We all cleared the table and then the kids went out to play while Miss K and I talked a bit, so nice to get that chance.  

Only the cats were no shows, to our surprise, considering how much they liked our neighbors.  I guess they were upstairs recovering from having us home again!

A Huge Birthday

Today is beloved Babysitter's 20th birthday!!!!!  She came to us when she was just 13 and we have watched her grow into an amazing, talented, smart, perceptive, kind, humorous, caring, beautiful woman.  There really aren't enough adjectives.  The kids would use a noun, though:  big sister.   We are so lucky to have her in our lives, though we don't get to see her every week as we once did.  Still, she remains special in our hearts and we wish her a glorious day and year and many, many more!

A Beautiful Gift

I awoke to find this in my inbox and published on our local Patch this morning, by writer, blogger, poet Elizabeth G. Howard.  What a delightful surprise!  Thank you, Elizabeth.



This poem is dedicated to my lovely friend Jamie, who lives here, though we hardly see each other. 
-- 
Bread
Bread is as
Simple to
Make
As a friendship.
Isn't it
Just those few
Common ingredients?
Salt
Flour
Water
Yeast 
Just as easy as

Attention
Patience
Time
Room to grow. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter Break

It might be February, but, at 55F today, it feels like spring!  A great week to be out of school...which also means less blogging.

Happy Birthday!

To Ma....have a great day and a wonderful year!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Weekend in Beantown

We just got back from a three-day weekend in Boston, a wonderful getaway for the whole family.  We're trying to take regular little family trips--the overnight in Times Square, the overnight in Hartford, and now two nights in Boston--to test my my abilities and, more importantly, to engage in new, fun, memorable family activities.  Beyond colonial history, marine biology, and Yankee cooking, we discovered a few things on this trip:
  • Two nights and three days is, for now, our family limit for vacations, both because of my endurance but also because of the kids', too.  We discovered that I got tired right before they did (generally, after about 3 hours of sightseeing.)
  • We realized that, in future, we should do our biggest, most involved activities the first day, because, regardless, we'll all be more tired the second day.  The second day is really a half day--the kids collapsed Sunday afternoon, which we weren't quite prepared for.
  • Centrally-located hotels in cities are the ideal vacation because lots of activities are in walking distance and I can come and go from the room to rest as needed.  It also gives me quite a sense of accomplishment--for the first time in a year, I could actually go get a coffee  at Starbuck's when I wanted one!  And for me now, that's freedom.  (So, Boston, NYC, Hartford, Providence--3 hours is about my limit in the car for now, so maybe Philly later)
  • Snacks are key.  We get hungry on different schedules and hunger really effects mood and behavior.  Especially because Sis is a much more particular eater and didn't like what we got for meals sometimes.  We should have carried more snacks.
  • Breakfast in the hotel is so much easier.  And, in fact, the buffet at our hotel was actually a real high-point for the kids.  They woke up Monday morning and immediately began planning their breakfast choices, even before they got out of bed!
  • I can take cabs and subways for short distances with little problem (about 5-10 minute rides)!  But this did give me the ability to go further and get back quickly and easily.  
  • We should seek out the UU congregation wherever we go.  I went to church on Sunday and it was an eye-opening experience to be with another congregation.  Especially because this one was Unitarian Christian, a rare bird (esp. for me) indeed.
  • Mama and I enjoy used bookstores, like the Brattle Book Shop, more than the kids do, but we still go--and have heavy bags to carry home afterwards!  We all like gift shops and end up with postcards, magnets, pin, patches, books, and t-shirts.  We also like picking up pamphlets for our scrapbook.  We try not to spend more time in the shop than the attraction, sometimes easier said than done!  And our usual allotment of spending money based on ticket price goes out the window on vacation sometimes.  
  • Wherever we go, we seem to attract mild attention.  Of course, Sis had on an adorable fuzzy panda hat.  And Bud had on a knit penguin hat.  So, they're awfully cute, if I do say so myself.  But, even in same-sex-marriage-approving Massachusetts people--particularly bored people in restaurants--look at us repeatedly and talk about us and sometimes even gesture and think we don't notice.  But I do.  I know.  I can hear.  I can see.  Sometimes, I can read lips.  I know they are trying to guess if Mama is a man or a woman, usually deciding that she's my son (it happened twice on this trip alone.  That I know about directly because I was asked).  I know they wonder if these are "my" children, whatever that means (and never "ours," because they never guess that Mama is a parent, sometimes even after I've explained it).  I know they talk about the race of our kids, wondering how they became biracial (really, people, this is a question in 2012?  The president is biracial, for heaven's sake!).   I know they rarely realize that we are two lesbians with children.  I know because they aren't as subtle as they think they are.  If they had a real question, I'd be glad to answer it direcly--I'm all for teachable moments and I'm good at lesbian/biracial outreach, but usually they're just gossipy and can't think of anything else to discuss (Really, people?  In this day and age?  Luckily, with the ubiquity of cellphones at meals, perhaps this will become a thing of the past.  If I had a dollar for every table where no one talked and everyone surfed, I could've paid for all those meals!)  And the waitresses usually ask, or apologize awkwardly after they get it wrong.  And so we teach our kids not to comment, hypothesize, discuss, stare, talk about, or point at people, especially when we're bored in restaurants, unless they have a genuine question (kids do, sometimes, about wheelchairs or yarmulkes and such). Everyone has inherent worth and dignity; we don't need to talk about them.  Because we don't like it when they talk about us.
We loved our trip and the kids are already asking to go back.  I must admit to some prior prejudice against Boston, being more NYC-oriented.  But who, besides my kids, wouldn't love a place called Beantown?  I'd been there three times before, but none of them counted:  an overnight on a trip to Canada with Gommie and Uncle T when I was in high school (we arrived around 9 p.m. and left before 8 a.m.  We took a late-night driving tour of some of the sights, in a rush to get to the outlet malls in Freeport, ME and onto the family reunion in Trois Pistoles on the St. Lawrence!); a college trip for a fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, conference, which included for me visits to the Boston MFA, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Fogg but nothing colonial; and finally, a trip to lead a panel at the annual art historians' conference when the kids were just 6-months old, when we did follow the red line for just a bit, taking some pictures, and eating at Durgin Park, the kids' first restaurant meal--of oyster crackers!

This time, we did so much more:

Paul Revere:  Bud was very intent on Paul Revere this trip and I was interested in seeing his 17th-century house myself.  So, the first day, we walked to the North End, which is Boston's Little Italy or Arthur Avenue.  I heard more Italian there than anywhere else outside of Italy.  And there, nestled amid the gelaterias, pizzerias, and salumerias, was this preserved example of English medieval urban architecture, complete with overhanging second floor, casement windows, and shingled exterior.  Of course, it's an imagined version of the house, having been incorrectly restored in the early 20th-century, but it was wonderful to wander the four remnant rooms where Revere and his large family lived.  It was packed with tourists and a couple of indifferent (read: awful) guides.  But we still enjoyed seeing the starting point of the midnight ride.

From there we wandered to the Old North Church, where two lanterns hung signaling an approach by sea.  The lanterns are no longer there (supposedly one is in Concord).  It's a lovely Georgian church with enclosed pews, raised pulpit, and tower with bells that a modern bell guild was practicing on that day.  Bud enjoyed asking about the whereabouts of the lanterns and how exactly the signaler got inside the church at night (he was a verger, I believe) and how he got to the tower (through doors in the organ!).  And then we perused the book shop where th American Heritage chocolate people were given a demo and samples.  I like the historic chocolate blend even if my chocolate buddy Sis didn't.  

Bud finished his explorations of Revere by sitting in Revere's pew at King's Chapel and seeing where he was buried in the Granary Burying Ground.  Oh, and he posed for a picture near the iconic statue of the midnight ride.

Freedom Trail:  The red-brick line connecting historic sites has to be one of the best things any tourist district has ever done.  It makes navigating the narrow, winding streets of a confusing town so much easier.  And the kids took it quietly literally--Sis and Bud actually stuck to the red line as they led us around.  We saw most of the stops, if only for a bit, including
  • Paul Revere's House
  • Old North Church
  • Fanueil Hall (closed for renovation--the NPS Visitor Center is moving; the NPS has a great shop and very knowledgeable Rangers) and Quincy Market (but really just to look at from the outside; we're not mall goers).
  • King's Chapel and Burying Ground--now a Unitarian (Christian!) church, this chapel has a Revere bell and his pew, too.  Bud and Sis got to sit in it!  
  • Granary Burying Ground--with Paul Revere's grave, as well as those of James Otis, the first woman off the Mayflower, and victims of the Massacre.
  • Old South Meetinghouse
  • Old State House--this was a delightful discovery, with numerous galleries geared to children's exploration of colonial history (a puzzle of the building, a timeline of history that you can mark with dates relevant to your own family, sniff bottles of the scents of Boston, a clock like the one in the tower that you can wind, life-size versions of the Unicorn and Lion on the exterior) and a special heraldry activity the day we visited.
  • Sites of the Old Corner Bookstore and Boston Latin School

Omni Parker House:  The centrally-located home of Boston Cream Pie and Parker House rolls was our base for the trip.  I could get very used to staying in historic hotels!  I loved the grand lobby, all the history (Dickens stayed there often--the mirror he practiced his characters in for his dramatic readings was outside the restrooms!), and the attentive service.  The kids even got cookies and milk the first night!  The location was grand, too.  The kids liked our corner suite, named after Boston Massacre victim, Crispus Attucks.  And the breakfast buffet!  Sis got Parker House rolls both days and Bud had salmon.  Both wolfed down bacon and sausage.  On our last morning there, I spotted a couple of kids with hot chocolates in tall mugs with mountains of whipped cream, reminding me of a childhood trip to the Marriott in New Orleans when I was about their age--I got hot chocolate in a tall mug with a mountain of whipped cream several times on that trip. And it tasted just the same in Boston!  Sometimes you can go back. 

Eating Out:  Mercy, we love eating out.  And we did quite a bit of it this trip, including:
  • Galeria Umberto--incredible Sicilian pizza in a nondescript building in the North End, where they serve big squares, plus arancini and a few other things, only until the dough runs out; we made it just in time!
  • Mike's Pastry--another North End stop, this time for cannoli, biscotti, a little gelato, and oddly a huge pasty called a lobster, with a deep fried layered shell surrounding a mix of ricotta, yellow cream, and whipped cream.  We munched on these for a few days.
  • Wagamama--Mama and I had eaten at a branch of this Japanese noodle shop in Covent Garden, London, of all places.  The kids loved it--ramen, soba, gyoza, rice--yum.  
  • Durgin Park--"Yankee cooking" and incredibly indifferent service, but Bud helped Mama crack a lobster, shuck clams, and devour clam chowder, too.  We also had chicken pot pie, pot roast, fish and chips, baked beans, Indian  pudding, and apple pandowdy.  But, the food is traditional and now it's a family tradition, too--we looked at pictures of Sis and Bud's first trip to Boston here.  They were such chub-a-lubs.  
  • Union Oyster House--more historic "Yankee cooking" in an even more historic building (a la Daniel Webster and later JFK).  We had pretty much the same foods--clam chowder, fish and chips, baked beans, Indian pudding, but also oyster stew, "lazy man's lobster," and chicken fingers.  Yep, poor girl had suffered through enough food she didn't like and devoured her usual favorites.  While we were there, the "Ancient and Honorables," America's oldest milita, were meeting in their full dress uniforms (I thought they might be the fire department brass!).  And the kids got to touch a lobster, too.

The Aquarium:  Penguins!  Rockhopper.  African.  Little Blue Fairy.  I'm not sure there's much else to say. Sis and Bud spent four hours exploring marine life with Mama (and me for the first two hours)--there were sea dragons (literally, they look like little dragons), fur seals, jelly fish, turtles, sharks, a sting-ray tank, touch-tanks with horseshoe crabs and hermits, a tidal pool with programmable crashing wave, a tank where you can change the current and watch the fish turn around.  And an IMAX (with "cuddle fish").  But really, the best part was the penguins.

King's Chapel:  Sunday morning found me, quite unexpectedly, arriving back from a few hours at the aquarium just as service started.  Who could resist the opportunity to worship at a 17th-century church that holds Unitarian services (because all the good Church of England parishioners died or left during the war!)?  It was like no service I've ever been to, even the mainline Protestant and also Catholic services of my childhood.  But it was grand!  The ushers were friendly when they learned I was a UU, too, finding a nice enclosed pew for me in back.  But I was like a fish out of water. Where was the Living Traditions hymnal?  What was with the Bible and Book of Common Prayer (specifically for King's Chapel) and a different hymnal?  And the service had more Latin in it than I heard at the Vatican!  Magnificat.  Jubilate Deo. Plus readings from the Old and New Testaments and prayers said while kneeling.  And  the reciting of the Our Father, which, believe it or not, I actually know from my days at the Southern Baptist church (though I never know if we're gonna have sins or   trespasses.)  The sermon--remarkably, the church is led by a woman--combined the readings, references to smartphones, a short story about her family's connection to the Underground Railway, and the quote about Naomi and Ruth "whither thou goest, I will go"--thoroughly enjoyable (though way too biblical for me--the connections to the readings were forced and not fleshed out).  The most marvelous part was the music--the organ and the angelic choir in the loft.  I could just imagine Paul Revere and his compatriots, Louisa May Alcott and hers, praying, listening, singing there.  And I didn't mind the formal prayers so much, enjoying the wordy structure, finding even one of them quite touching.  I'm not nearly a UU Christian, but I'd go to services there again.  Even if they teased me about being "mainstream UU."  Now, isn't that an oxymoron?

The Ducks:  I didn't make it on the journey through Boston Common, with stops at the Robert Gould Shaw memorial (the Unitarian who led the African American troops in the Civil War; you know, from Glory) and another Civil War memorial.  And of course, the Make Way for Ducklings statue of Mama duck and ducklings and the nearby island in the pond.  No water in the pond, no ducks, no floating swan boats, but the kids were thrilled anyway.  Someone had even dressed the ducks up, tying red ribbons on their necks!

Transportation:  Bud kept asking us if he could ride a city bus or the "T."  Such a suburban kid!  So we took the subway to the aquarium, though it was close enough to walk.  And then later we took a cab home from lunch.  The bonus?  I could get places without walking, thereby extending the circle of my explorations.  Yep, I SAT in a cab, on one side, for about five minutes.  

Isabella Stewart Gardner:  Our last Boston stop was at the art museum.  I chose the Gardner over the Boston MFA because the ornate palazzo chock-full of objets c'art is such a memorable place.  Especially with the empty frames indicating the Vermeer and Rembrandts and Degas and Manets stolen in 1990.  The kids got to do two art activities here--one crown- and shield-making craft while we waited a bit to get in (they recently reopened after a renovation and the place was packed!  They were also completely unprepared with only two ticket sellers.  And even with the timed tickets, which no one told you about until you reached the front, they were letting way too many people in for it to be entirely enjoyable.  Plus the bathroom arrangement is ridiculous--one stall on the main floor with no indication of the much larger bathrooms downstairs.  A silly oversight in a brand new building, which was all glass with pretty gardens outside but not enough space inside.) and then an engraved foil square that they made in the famed courtyard.  We walked through all the rooms, perfect examples of horror vacui, with Italian, Spanish, Chinese, French, and other paintings, sculpture, furniture, drawings, engravings, dec arts, architectural fragments, stained glass.  Plus a few paintings of Gardner herself.  We didn't bother with the new wing and the shop was an utter disappointment with extremely overpriced handmade knick knacks unrelated to the collection.  And only a few postcards.  Still, the kids won't soon forget it--the place has amazing art and ambiance.   

So now we have clothes to wash, postcards to write, souvenirs to put and give away.  And almost a whole week of winter break to rest, relax, and enjoy.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Right Now

Home from a wonderful weekend in Boston.

More tomorrow....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

LovetheKindness

May I be comforted.


May I be at ease.

I've been working on my metta, or lovingkindness, meditation resolves, the phrases I repeat for myself and others, trying to find three or four that really fit for me.  This meditation, more than counting my breath or the body scan or the similar tonglen, speaks to me now, as do the words of the metta sutta, or Buddha's instructions on lovingkindness (particularly the part about loving everyone as a mother loves her only child).  I first read about it in Toni Bernhard's How to Be Sick and have since then read several books by Sylvie Boorstein which include her own metta practice.  Just yesterday, I received Sharon Salzberg's Lovingkindness, which delves deeply into the practice, and Real Happiness, which includes a CD with a guided meditation.  And today, I've just read a wonderful explanatory post by Bernhard over at her blog, "Turning Straw into Gold," on Psychology Today--this is a great place to start if you'd like to learn more and give it a try.  (I'd love to study meditation more formally, with a sangha or on a retreat, such as the Insight Meditation Society in MA co-founded by Salzberg, but current circumstance dictate I do it mostly on my own right now.  Thankfully, there are so many wonderful resources, such as the above, to study.)

I find myself repeating my resolves, and others that I'm trying out, not only during formal meditation periods but almost as prayers, when I hear an ambulance go by ("May they be at ease") or hear about an illness or death ("May they be comforted") or even when I panic or feel discomfort ("May I be at ease.")  I've even led the children through the phrases as we wish health and ease and comfort through expanding concentric circles from ourselves through our friends and family to teachers and doctors and on through people (and penguins and bunnies) we don't know, ending with wishing things for the whole world.  They like it so much that they request it.  I know that's not the formal practice, but I've been trying to integrate my meditation practices and my study of Buddhism into our family life.  We've read Moody Cow Meditates and have our swirling glitter jar to help us quiet our minds when anger arises.  But I wanted something . . . more connected, more kind, more loving.

I think I've found it.


The Cookbook is Done!

We submitted the school cookbook this week!  I'm so excited.  For two months and more, we've discussed and debated doing a cookbook, then solicited and finally begged for recipes, finally editing and designing the final book, with has 239 recipes!  Thanks, Mommy Goose, for hanging in there as my cookbook buddy.

And I submitted 17 (which wasn't the most)! Including many family favorites already featured on this blog:


Twin Time

After a week of having a sick child--same child, poor Sis, with a stomach virus and then a cold virus--we are all glad it is Friday and that they are both in school.

They are usually so inseparable that illness is always a trial.  Now that Bud is older, he totally understood "stay away from your sister unless you want to throw up, too."  But he did not quite fathom why Mama and I were busy taking care of her, though.  And was desperate for his own time, or better yet, to stay home, too.

And then, when she was home with me on Tuesday and Wednesday, she kept asking when he would be home from school.  "Is that the bus?" she was asking by 9:30 a.m.

He even got off the bus the first day practically in tears, "It was so lonely."

Last night was they first time they'd played together in almost a week and they had such fun with their Ninjago Legos, thirstily drinking up time together as if they'd been separate for months.

Perhaps a day or two apart is longer to twins (just like sometimes a few grumpy minutes together feels like "always" to them).  Twin time.

(For more on the experience of twins, in this case in infancy--something I never got around to blogging--see the blog "Double the Trouble, Double the Fun.")


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Right Now

Raining...and kids inside happily watching "Ninjago" tv show together.  Sis, who was home all day but feels ever so much better, waited to watch it with Bud, who was excited and grateful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ups and Downs

Sis lost a lower tooth this morning! That's two this week and four so far.

But she has a 103F fever and will be home today and tomorrow.  The ped says it's neither flu nor strep, probably a virus, and is unrelated to the weekend's stomach flu.  So we have ginger and rosehip tea, oscillicoccinum, homemade chicken soup (with extra garlic) on the stove, and French bread in the machine (recipe soon).

And she's perfectly happy playing Angry Birds.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Chuck Williams's Country French Bread


1 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturer's instructions.  Set crust on dark and program for French bread.

Remove from machine immediately upon completion of the cycle.

Beth Hensperger, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting Ready

for Valentine's Day.

for tomorrow's docent training.

for Wednesday's cookbook meeting.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Teachable Moment

We had one of those iconic talks with the kids today.  No, not sex.  Not God.

Drugs.

See, we had been listening to Whitney Houston music all afternoon, without our actually telling them that she died.  Mama and I mentioned the Grammys and the kids asked if Houston was getting an award.  So, we had to tell them that she had died.

And I decided to tell them why.

Of course, we don't know how or why she died or even if her illegal drug use was a contributing factor.  So I said we knew that she had been sick a long time, that she used drugs and they had hurt her body and her mind. That drugs--illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine, as opposed to medicines that make you healthy--are not healthy nor safe (let's ignore for now the healing properties of pot, the trouble with the drug wars, whether gateway drugs always are).  However, that doesn't mean she was "bad."  People sometimes don't make healthy or safe decisions, but they still have inherent worth.  And we can love them and respect their talent without liking their addictions but have compassion for them.  Like we did with Whitney.  (I hope.)

And as I spoke, with Mama nodding nearby, I realized I knew nothing about talking to kids about drugs.  And honestly, not that much about drugs because I never did them or even tried; I wasn't ever even much of a drinker.  And I know very little about contemporary drug culture or issues (beyond what makes the front pages of the NYTimes  with regards to laws and violence in Mexico).  I know we're supposed to talk to them, often and early, like about sex, but how early?  How?  After my rudimentary teachable moment was over I googled it.  D.A.R.E.  Partnership for a Drug-Free America.  Parents. The Anti-Drug.  Talk and listen to your kids regularly.  Be involved in their lives.  Clearly state you are against their using.  But most of it is for teens.  Really, if 35% of wine coolers are drunk by jr high kids, isn't adolescence a little late to start talking?  Partnership for a Drug-Free America did have age-related resources, with numerous ideas for the K-3 set-- focus, not on long term effects, but on immediate ones like bad breath, throwing up, and stinky clothes; set clear rules about drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; role-play ideas for how they can deal with problems they have or escape situations that make them uncomfortable.

It was good to start the conversation, I suppose; I'm going to need more practice.  I'm just sorry about the impetus.

-=-=-=-=-=-
UPDATE:  Pointers from Sis and Bud's teacher:


  • A drug is something that changes the way you feel.
  • Medicine from a doctor or a parent is given when something feels bad-to make you feel better-  this an example of a good use of a drug.
  • Some people abuse drugs-take them without being sick, take too many, without permission, etc.
  • Children should never take any type of medicine unless it is given to them by a parent or a caregiver that was instructed by a parent.  Do not take anything from an older child or even another adult without your parents'direction.
  • Some medicines look like candy or juice.  Never taste anything if you do not know what it is.  Always ask a trusted adult first.

Right Now

A surprise flurry is so much better than predicted accumulation....especially, as with yesterday, it doesn't happen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Today

More low-key than we thought, with Sis sick for most of the morning and early afternoon.  She slept the afternoon away and awoke happy and revived.  And hungry.

Bud built Legos.  Mama did, too.  I finished Sylvia Boorstein's That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist.  When Sis woke up, she made some Legos with Mama.  Then, she and Bud signed all of their school valentines (his are Ninjago; hers are "etch art."  No, we didn't do handmade this time.  And that's okay.)  Then Mama and I made Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce.

And now we're listening to Whitney Houston music . . . .

-=-=-=-=-=-

Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce


1 lb. pasta, such as spaghetti, vermicelli, angel hair.
4 tablespoons Asian sesame oil (probably 3 T. would be fine)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, all-natural or otherwise (we used sunflower butter, so probably any nut butter would work)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons sugar (can add extra 1/2 T. if use natural)
pinch of sea salt, if using natural
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons. red vinegar (we had rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (didn't have that tonight)
2 small cloves garlic, minced

Cook noodles.  Shock pasta with cold water.  Blend the other ingredients together.  Mix into noodles.

Garnish with sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, julienned cucumbers, and/or fried tofu.

Mama Hungry

Right Now

Whitney Houston dead?

A sad loss.

Her beautiful voice accompanies the soundtrack of my adolescence:   "How Will I Know," "Saving All My Love For You," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional," "Where to Broken Hearts Go," "I'm Every Woman," "Run to You," "I Have Nothing," "I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)," "Greatest Love of All," "One Moment in Time," "I Will Always Love You."

May her loved ones be comforted.

The "Epizootus"

As Pop would say, we have the "epizootus" over here:  Sis has a stomach bug.  She's both uncomfortable and upset.  Upset because she'll miss a friend's special Valentine's party tomorrow.  But we're watching Tangled now, after some Empire Strikes Back and several "Phineas and Ferb" episodes, though even tv is tiring (we tried books--I read the first chapter of Anne of Green Gables--but that reading wasn't what she had in mind.  Poor dear, it stinks to be sick.  For all of us.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kernel of Tooth

During meatloaf-and-corn dinner tonight, Sis found a hard bit.  But it wasn't corn!  Yep, she lost a top tooth (having lost the bottom two what seems like ages ago).

That's four teeth from two kids this week.  The Tooth Fairy is gonna need a loan.

WFK: The Spirituality of Cooking

This week started the three-month workshop, Whole Food Kitchen (WFK), taught by Heather, of Beauty that Moves. Many of you will recall that I enjoyed and was inspired by her previous 30 Day Vegan workshop.  And so I'm excited about this new exploration of cooking, natural foods, and something intangible that I'll call the spirituality of cooking.

But because we do our shopping on the weekends and this workshop started on Monday, I haven't actually made any of the recipes--the colorful smoothies, the promising Honey Miso Tofu, the sweet Raspberry Oat Bars.  Instead, I'm mining my cabinets and cooking what I intended for the week, which mainly involves an exploration of recipes from our new church's new cookbook, tastings from which had been featured during fellowship hour.  This was ideal:  the kids could sample and reject without any work or disappointment on my part!  (I'll write another post soon on the difference between my church cookbook and our school cookbook; it's night and day.)

Earlier this week, I made Sumi Salad, a variation of a Ramen coleslaw (and so hardly qualifying as whole food, though I bought the vegetarian noodles at Whole Foods!).  Bud had liked the purple cabbage slaw on Sunday but of course didn't touch it this week.  Mama and I put away most of the batch ourselves and I'd make it again.

And today I'm making two more recipes (besides Gommie's regular meatloaf, because neither of the kids liked these dishes):  Curried Corn Soup and Nutted Wild Rice Salad.  Both are in the final stages of ready and promise to be delicious.  I'm thinking I could make the soup totally vegan with some coconut milk next time, which would complement the curry.  Yum!

Anyway, it feels so good to be in the kitchen, chopping, measuring, stirring, sampling, particularly because I couldn't do any of those things during the last go-round.  I'm so aware now, with the long hiatus, of all my movements in the kitchen, their being natural but unfamiliar at the same time.  And I am so grateful to be up and about more.  Knowing I'm putting some effort and creativity and love into dinner, for myself, my family, makes it all that much more meaningful.  Heather, in one of her posts, compared cooking food, especially working with fruits and vegetables, to a prayer.  As the Shakers would say, "hands to work, hearts to God."  And for me, the spiritual work in the kitchen is definitely mindfulness and gratitude.  

-=-=-=-=-=-

Sumi Salad


3-6 oz. packages shredded red cabbage, or 1/2 head of firm cabbage, chopped
1 package Ramen noodles, crushed while in package (save the seasoning packet)
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
6 tablespoons rice vinegar, plain, not seasonred
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

In small pan, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add sesame seeds and almonds.  Brown, stirring constantly.  don't let burn.  Set aside.  Chop scallion, using tops as well.  Combine crushed Ramen, scallion, and cabbage in a large bowl.  Mix together. In another bowl, whisk the vegetable oil, 1/2 cup of sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, seasoning packet, salt, and pepper.  Combine all, stirring well.  Store covered in refrigerator overnight.  Stir a few times during the day before serving.  (*I'm working on using less oil and substituting olive oil in this recipe).

Church cookbook

-=-=-=-=-

Nutted Wild Rice Salad


2 cups wild rice mix (I had brown basmati and wild rice)
4 cups stock (I used 3 cups vegetable, because I made this in my rice cooker)
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (I used almonds)
1 cup yellow raisins (dried cranberries!)
rind of one orange, grated
1/4 cup fresh mint (didn't have this)
4 scallions, sliced, or 1 small onion, sliced
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook rice in broth.  When cooked, add nuts, fruit, orange rind, mint, scallion, orange juice, and olive oil.  Mix well, letting stand 2 hours before serving at room temperature.

Church cookbook

-=-=-=-=-=-

Curried Corn Soup


1/4 cup butter (I used 1 tablespoon butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil; could also just use coconut oil)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon shallots, minced
2-15 1/4 oz. can cream-style corn (I had 1 can and another cup of frozen kernels)
1-15 1/4 oz. can whole corn
2 cups milk (this is where I'll try substituting some coconut milk next time!)
1/8 teaspoon rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Heat/melt butter/oil.  Add curry and stir until smooth.  Add shallots, then corn, stirring slowly.  Add milk and rosemary.  Simmer slowly.  Garnish with chives when ready to serve.

Church cookbook

Right Now

12 hours til snow....


Minding My Ps* and Tea

There was an article in Wednesday's Dining Section of the NYTimes on mindful eating which included an introduction to the topic and a few practices to try at home.

And so I made today's lunch a mindfulness practice, having done it before a few times with the kids.  It was a deli lunch for me, a treat I allow myself now and then when I am tired of bean soup or longing for a quick midday chat.  So I walked to the deli in the warming sunlight, watching the squirrels and birds flit about, no doubt preparing for snow tomorrow.

I ordered one of my usuals:  a wrap with potato chips and an iced tea.  To be exact:  a whole-wheat wrap containing a spring lettuce mix, avocado chunks, dried and sweetened cranberries, goat cheese (sure, not vegan--it's my 20%), shredded (or specifically julienned) carrots, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  I always have them hold the tomatoes and cucumbers, which I don't like; 40% reduced fat Cape Cod kettle potato chips; and a Nantucket Nectar Half and Half lemonade iced tea.

I walked back to the house and settled in on the couch downstairs, determining to sit through the whole meal.  No music, no tv, no book, no email, no smartphone.  Usually, I have one or more of those during lunch, fighting away the long silences and absences with noise and stimulation.  That's two mindful eating techniques at once:  eat in silence and, when you eat, only eat.

And so I did.  The first thing I noticed was how much packaging there was--the glass bottle with its pop cap, the plastic bag to tear open, the sandwich not only in its own separate bag in the bigger bag but also in parchment paper and on a plate.  Lots of waste.

I think I always start with my drink, sweet and acidic and cold but an ugly brown color, and then a chip, salty and crunchy, but not too salty, and thin with blistered bubbles on the fried surface.  Then the wrap, with its chewy mottled brown doughy wrap encasing a burst of color--dark red rounds of cranberry, bright orange sticks of carrot, crumbly white goat cheese sticking to chunks of lovely green avocado, against the maroon-tinged dark green leaves of lettuce, all sticky with ribbons of glistening dressing.  Oh, the crunch from the carrots and lettuce which contrasts with the chew of the wrap and the creaminess of the cheese and avocado.  Sometimes, if there isn't enough crunch, I add a potato chip midway; otherwise, I alternate wrap, chips, and tea.  The scent is green with the tang of the vinegar; otherwise, I can't really smell the wrap or the cheese or the cranberries.  In fact, there isn't much scent to any of it, neither the tea or chips.  Not one of my more fragrant meals.  And yep, I chewed it all patiently, another technique (though, I bet it wasn't 25-30 chews a bite).

Remembering one of the practices, I thought of where everything came from (that one"s mentioned in the article but not listed at the end).  Potato chips--easy, potatoes from Idaho and the like, this brand marketed from MA.  The iced tea is based there too, though no doubt the tea, even if it probably isn't much more than dust, is from far away India or China with the lemons probably from one of the citrus states.  Carrots and lettuce, in season in the spring, probably from some industrialized farm, packaged and delivered to, I'm guessing, the commissary of the deli (the family owns more than one and this one is too small for much prep work), where they are washed and the lettuce is torn.  I don't know if a machine or a person julienned the carrots.  Probably the former.  Cranberries, in season in bogs in the fall, but once dried and sweetened available all year; probably not name-brand Craisins, as they aren't quite as dehydrated, but are rounder and larger.  The goat cheese probably came from a large supplier, arriving in big plastic containers.  They make the vinaigrette by hand.

Avocados.  I was stumped by avocados.  I know they are native to Mexico.  But do they grow on bushes or trees?  When are they actually in season?  I know they are picked and transported all over, where they are eventually skinned and pitted, with the delicate green flesh turning brown in the air once cut.  They are creamy, wonderful with a little salt, perfect as guacamole on corn chips, wonderful in a salad.  My friend Miss Bead likes them on bagels.  I don't think they are often cooked.  They are a "good" monosaturated fat and are now used to add creaminess to vegan offerings like chocolate pudding.  I contemplated this lacuna and have since Googled them (they are a tree, with a summer season, though the fruit ripens after it is off the tree).

I don't often like the last bites of my wrap, which collects a disproportionate amount of dressing and has too much folded over wrap and not enough stuffing.  I usually don't finish it.  A few more chips and a last cleansing sip of tea.  Having gone so slowly and deliberately today, I didn't even eat half of the chips, which I'll give to Sis as they are her favorite.  I always have about half a bottle of tea left to enjoy later. The whole lunch took me about 15 minutes, though it felt longer.  But for a change, I noticed it all. And liked it more than I even usually do (I had wondered if, with such concentration, I wouldn't like it as much.) And I also noticed the light streaming in the windows and the silence punctured by my crunching.

I'll do it again, perhaps as the article suggests, making a weekly, or even daily, mindful lunch date with myself.

Bon appetit!

-=-=-=-=-
* Potato chips.

Smash!

Being a fan of "Glee," I was interested to hear about the new behind-the-scenes-of-a-Broadway-musical tv show.  So I just caught it and it does look very promising.  I like all the singing, though it doesn't have the immediacy of "Glee."  And I definitely like the behind-the-scenes vantage point, true or exaggerated (because aren't workplace tv shows always "off," like "ER" or "Law and Order?").

Shall we take bets that there will be an actual version of the tv show's musical on the boards one day?

Coming and Going

We had two conflicting bird sightings this morning:  a huge flock of geese, numbering above 50, honked overhead while we waited for the bus and about twenty robins were roosting in a nearby maple.

So, if the geese were heading southeast, it's about to be winter, right?  But robins, the state bird of CT, usually mean spring.

It was in the high 40s a few days ago, but tomorrow we are expecting 2-4" of snow.

We can't tell which season is coming or going.  And the birds seem as confused as we are.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nunchucks

Yep, those heavy sticks connected by a chain that you can swing around and bash into people's heads.  Or strangle them. They're banned in a handful of states (NY and MA included) and even more countries, like Canada, German, Brazil.

And now my kids each have a set.

Sure, they have plastic cores and foam covers, but, still.

It's the new form in kung fu.  They both passed their Level Four test last night, earning blue belts and advancing to nunchucks (no, it's not numchucks.)  Sis seems to have a better grasp on these than the long staff form.  Bud is just plain excited; he's been playing with homemade Lego nunchucks all week while waiting for the test.

Wish us all luck (and safety!), because, perhaps irrationally, I think these are much more dangerous than long staffs and aluminum swords.

Conflict. Resolution.

Conflict.

There has been some of this recently, as of course there always is.

The biggest problem right now comes at the beginning and end of each day, when the kids go to brush their teeth.  They like to brush simultaneously, syncing up their electric toothbrush beeps.  Except sometimes one does not wait for the other to get out of bed or climb up the stairs.  And so fighting and crying ensues, here at the time of day when you really want calm and kindness. We've talked it out and tried compromises, but it hasn't worked. My Little Chickadees blogger Shelley told me she's had similar problems and eventually made a one-kid-in-the-bathroom at the same time.  So we started that last night, though they resisted being separated.  Twins are funny that way:  best friends, worst enemies, but always wanting to be together regardless.

Conflict isn't just at home.  And it's not always as clear cut as who brushes first.  Neighbor Boy is inadvertently causing some conflict these days.  He gets home from school first and waits for the kids to get off their bus, watching from his bedroom to come over as soon as they're home.  They don't always want to play with him, though, but have trouble saying so.  We've been practicing some ideas, like "I want to play by myself right now."  But Neighbor Boy is persistent.  "Can I just watch?" he says coming into the yard.  The kids try "no, thanks" a few times, with my coaching, but it doesn't work and Neighbor Boy doesn't leave(.  And there we are, all three of us, stymied by a second grader.

Because, you see, I'm terrible at conflict and conflict resolution.  Sure, I know about listening and using "I" messages, but I actually rarely ever get to that point.  Because I give up, give in, or, in the worse cases, just stay silent. And that's when I  notice that I'm upset or angry or frustrated or annoyed or sad; often, I'm moving to fix it before I know what it is.  I've always thought I was just the type of person who didn't get angry or upset, or that it was "nice," Southern etiquette to be agreeable (and not honest or direct), but I think the truth is that I'm very uncomfortable with painful emotions and so avoid them almost at whatever cost.  As I look back, this is a very entrenched habit, which, on reflection, has not served me or my friends and loved ones well (even or especially because I tend to have low or no-conflict people around me, weeding out the high-conflict ones quickly)

Now, Mama and I have been together for 18 years this summer and, in true lesbian stereotypical fashion, we process everything.  And I think I can manage our conflicts--and we don't have many (which might be because I avoid them)--because I feel safe and know she loves me and isn't going anywhere; besides, we practice talking things out a lot.  But otherwise, with everyone else, whom I don't practice with or feel that comfortable around, I might be something of a doormat, trying to never say anything that will directly cause me or the other person to be upset, or by not reacting or responding when they upset me (I guess because I would choose upsetting myself than someone else, almost every time). Sometimes by apologizing to them.  Oftentimes by being silent.  Sometimes permanently, of which I am ashamed.

Except, that is, when I reach my boiling point, and emotion spills over uncontrollably.  And that's not good or pretty either.

So, how do I teach conflict resolution if I avoid conflict and never have real resolution?  Yes, I have non-violent communication, or NVC, and I have probably been drawn to that by its model for expressing needs and understanding feelings.  But I'm not sure how often I model that in my own behavior, even if I talk a good game.  I mean, I've been confounded by a second grader, whom I didn't want to upset by asking him to leave. And so I disappointed the kids and upset myself.  (That particular incident ended on a high note, as the kids all decided to play together and created a circus performance on the playset, which was fun.)

But I'll be thinking about how to do that better next time, probably by studying some more NVC and consciously responding in the moment instead of avoiding, repressing, or glossing over it.  So the kids will do better than I do every time.

Resolution.

Full-Moon Soup

A month or so ago we just happened to have soup on the night of a very visible full moon.  Bud suggested we always have soup for full moons because, well, bowls are round.

We did it again this week, having beef noodle soup before going outside to marvel at the rising moon.  We also saw Venus glowing bright, a few satellites in their orbits, the belt of Orion, and other stars.  The kids' favorite part?  Using the Google SkyMap app on Mama's smartphone to identify the different celestial bodies, including pointing it to the ground and "seeing" Mars on the other side of the Earth!

Their excitement reminded me of how infrequently they are outside at night.  We'll have to spend more weekend and summer evenings outside.

And eat soup on March 8.

-=-=-=-=-=-=

Full-Moon Beef Noodle Soup


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
leftover beef roast or other cut, cubed
6 cups leftover drippings, plus stock to supplement
3/4 cup frozen corn
1/3-1/2 lb. rotini pasta

Saute onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a pot until soft, adding garlic at the end.  Add beef and drippings/stock.  Simmer, adding pasta and increasing temperature about 15 minutes before you are ready to eat.  Add corn and flavor to taste.

Mommy Hungry

Bird Brains

We have birds on the brain over here.

It started a few weeks ago, I think, when the Daisies and siblings went to the Audubon Center and saw some birds of prey--a peregrine falcon, a red-tailed hawk, plus a barn owl and a turkey vulture.  Sis bought a bird log in the shop, a kid's journal with spaces for drawings and details about bird encounters.  When she got home, she began to fill it out with the birds at the center.

The following Sunday at church, the RE classes went on a nature walk with a naturalist/bird expert.  They saw a mourning dove, a starling, and a cooper's hawk.  The hawk was eating and flew off with its bit of squirrel, to the kids' delight.  They also learned some bird calls (including the "nose" bird call, which is sounded through a pinched nose) and when certain birds begin waking (different ones at different hours between 4-8 a.m.).  Of course, all of this went in the bird log.  And then, after church, we played a new game:  hawk-and-squirrel tag.  I think you can imagine.

Sis now sees birds everywhere and dutifully puts them in her book:  Canadian geese, red-winged blackbird, seagull, swan, cardinal.  And she's talking birds with Gommie and Pop, who always have a bird story. like their recent spotting of a Ross's goose.

Of course, Mama and I have one other kind of winged creature on our mind, which is of course not a bird:  the bat in our belfry.  It has not resurfaced or reemerged, but there is proof in the attic that it wasn't a solitary visit.  So, the bat people will be coming to do an exclusion, which involves sealing up our roof anywhere there is a crevice wider than a pencil tip, and then the renovation people will come clean and restore the attic.  I guess that's our house project for 2012.

I think I like bird-watching better.

Lull

Everything is almost done.  The fact sheet will be finished with a few changes I'm waiting on and the cookbook will be done when some text is approved.  So, I can't quite celebrate completion but the end is in sight.  Until then, I think I'll blog a bit!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Right Now.

Nunchuks.

Saints preserve us!

Almost Done

With 240 recipes proofed (yay, Mommy Goose, for doing much of the editing!) and just the design decisions to go as well as all but one fact sheet written for the next three weeks of historic house docent training, I'm almost done with everything that has been keeping me busy.  I'll be back soon . . . .

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Right Now

MADONNA DANCE PARTY!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Busy

Still too busy to blog because I'm editing, with Mommy Goose, 240 recipes for the school cookbook to be done and then designed ASAP (meaning hopefully by Wednesday.  Get well soon, Mommy Goose).  Also, docent training starts tomorrow at the historic house, so I'm up to my eyeballs in 18th-century colonial Connecticut.  Because guess who is leading training?  Yep.

But there will be lots to tell, such as:

  • the beginning of Whole Food Kitchen today
  • "Full Moon Soup"
  • 3-for-1 meals
  • "Bird brain"--Audubon trip, bird log, nature walk at church, geese, and our own bat (ok, technically not a bird)
  • community cookbooks
  • twin troubles:  toothbrushing at the same time
  • role playing something better than "I don't want to play with you anymore."
  • and, if I remember them, the things I've forgotten

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: Exciting Ending

Sit-down touchdown mistake.  Two incomplete passes.  Sack.  1st down.  Hail Mary for a flag.  12 men?  Good grief.  5 seconds.  Yet another Hail Mary ----

GIANTS!!!!!

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: Winding Down

Still watching, with 3:39 to go, but losing interest.  I guess that's what comes with not really favoring either team.  I could be happy either way.

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: Cat TV

Albus our cat is watching the game.  The players must look like little bugs to him.

Not sure he cared about the interception or the fumble.  But he likes the game.

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: MADONNA

She's FABULOUS!

Love the Romans and her as Cleopatra!

Was that LMFAO?  Some of the Daisies sing that song.

And I don't know the "Gimme" cheerleader song . . . but I know "Express Yourself," "Like a Prayer," and Cee Lo!

Great . . .but did it seem short to anyone else?


 . .. YAY Betty White!

-=-=-=-=-
UPDATE:  WOW, in the 10 minutes it took me to clean the kitchen and for the Patriots to score again, this post has gotten 22 hits.  That doesn't happen ever.

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: Waiting

Kids went to bed rather willingly, especially because Bud is expecting his THIRD visit from the Tooth Fairy this week (his wiggly bottom tooth came out on a cupcake after he was bumped on the dance floor at a birthday dance party)--yep, he now is missing all front teeth, top and bottom!

I'm glad they missed the Patriots scoring.

And we wanted to screen the halftime show first because, well, it is Madonna!  

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: Goodnight

Sending the kids to bed . . . .

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: Favorite Commercial

So far:  exercising St. Bernard, Mos Eisley, and Darth Vader!!

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: I Saw That!

Whoo-who!  I saw that touchdown and field goal after that 12th man problem (see, 12th man--that's never a good idea).  The kids are learning when to yell.

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: I Missed It

Thought it was safe to go take a bathroom break and I missed the first score, that funny touchback/intentional grounding in the endzone thingie.  But the kids are thrilled that the Giants are winning.

But I did come back to hear Kevin Gilbride's name.  The connection?  He stayed in what became my dorm room one year during Oiler camp.  Funny what you remember.

Eh Elton commercial.  Like the pissed cheetah better.

Live Blogging the Super Bowl: There is Crying in Football

Oh, hell.  How come I can't watch a championship game without crying?  The teams coming out, the roll call of the players (lots of Texas players--UT, UNT, SMU, etc.--this year), the pictures of the troops watching the game, the National Anthem, kids choirs, the flyover (not this time, though, with the closed stadium).  Sniff.

Double sniff:  for the kid-with-cancer McDonald ad that followed.

Live Blogging Super Bowl XLVI: Sorta

We are setting up our Super Bowl party as I type.  We made Dutch Oven Roast to eat on rolls like French dip sandwiches, purple Sumi slaw from the "new" church's new cookbook, and reheated a great batch of black-eyed peas.  There's even ice cream and root beer floats for later.  All to be eaten on tablecloths spread on our bed in front of our only tv.

The kids are so excited.  Even if they're relatively clueless--"Why do they even have a Super Bowl, Mom?"   They're rooting for the Giants because a good school friend, S., is a Giants fan and because we like New York more than Boston (at least in baseball).  Otherwise, they (and we) didn't really care.  In fact, a visiting minister at church asked who Connecticut roots for.  Half yelled out for the Giants, the other for the Patriots.  And some for the Jets and Packers (the visitor's home team)!  We're nothing if not divided up here (and it's the same with  baseball).

And so we're ready to watch the pregame and as much of the game as they can before bedtime at 7:30, explaining the rules and the commercials the whole time.  We'll tape Madonna to show them tomorrow.  And they've made sure we'll stay up to find out who wins.  And I'm sure we will, even if I always say I could miss the end.  I do like any kind of championship game, almost regardless of who plays.

Enjoy your party!  I'll be back soon with our updates . . . .

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Good Times were Rollin'


We celebrated the Groundhog today, even if he predicted six more weeks of winter (though, to be fair, that was the PA groundhog; local Connecticut Chuckles bid adieu to winter. . . and the Giants!), because if this is winter, it's okay.  Though, we did mostly agree that at least one more big snow would make the kids happy. (Send some our way, Lambeth!  I hope you aren't snowed in there in the UK.)

There were lots of friends--from "old" church, from playgroup, from our circle--young, older, and in between.  I like the mixing of the generations and the groups.  There was a vital, if crowded, energy.  I always, enthusiastically if mistakenly, invite more people than the house can hold, but this was one of the first times almost everyone came.  We hadn't managed a party in at least a year and a half, canceling last Groundhog Day because of snow and the fall Applepalooza because of rain.  Today, the weather agreed with us and, by the end of the party, several kids were running around in the sunny yard (and I didn't even need a jacket).

Before that, though, we talked--about school, the Komen Foundation mistake, housecleaning, food, Legos, travels, our bat and terrible tv shows about infestations, Glee's MJ episode, kung fu and num chuks, Madonna's half-time show tomorrow, the fact that I could sit for short 10-minute stretches, among other topics--and ate and ate and ate.  Oh, the food!  There were our usual sherried eggs and hashbrown casserole, plus Gommie's Cheese Bites (which are a heart attack on an English muffin) and punch.  (I noticed this week that my party foods are often childhood cheesy favorites and not in line with my current food practices, but they are tasty--and the cheese bites disappeared first!  Still, I should experiment with slightly healthier, less processed party fare.) We also had King Cake and a praline "Cajun Kringle" to add a little Mardi Gras to the proceedings and Chinese candies leftover from New Year.  It was a multi-purpose celebration today.  And our friends brought such delicious things:  date nut cookies, Swedish apple pie, apple crumb bars, vanilla cake, cornbread with jam, monkey bread, and Florida oranges.  And you know what?  We ate most of it!

Sis and Bud had been up since before their usual time, so excited that the party was today.  I remember being that excited about gatherings when I was a kid, though most of our neighborhood "hurricane parties" and crawfish boils seemed a bit more spontaneous; they were fun though, with good food and energy.  Our kids started looking out the window an hour beforehand to spot the first guest!  Then they made signs for the door and windows (which Bud made by tracing the first one once it was hanging!) and then party hats for all the kids, plus me and Mama--Groundhog Crowns!  I wore mine the whole time, with my earrings (yes, we are rather devoted to our celebration and flew our flag proudly).  Later, when the guests were here, all the kids could make paper-bag groundhogs to take home.  Sis decorated hers with bunny ears; Bud's became a penguin.

Some of our dear friends couldn't be with us and we thought of them today.  There'll be another party, though.  In about six months, when the warm that isn't quite here yet is changing back to cold, and the groundhog goes to bed.




 Cheese Bites


½ stick melted butter
1-5 oz. jar Kraft Old English Cheese Spread (or, since that is seasonal, any spreadable potted cheddar cheese in the refrigerated section like WisPride; I think Cheese Whiz would be too runny)
1 jar real bacon bits (like Hormel)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 package 6 English Muffins

Mix together first four ingredients. Split muffin and spread on mixture. Quarter each half (easiest with scissors, esp. if you let them set a bit in the freezer first). Freeze. When ready to serve broil 5 minutes.

Gommie Hungry

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flashback

Books.  Post-its.  Copies.

Oh, my!

Still Busy

I'm up to my eyeballs in writing and typing for the historic house curriculum and the school cookbook.  Things will definitely calm down mid next week, but until then I won't be blogging much.

Seeing Red about Pink

I've been reading this week about the Susan G. Komen Foundation's abrupt, politically-motivated decision to defund Planned Parenthood ostensibly to protect their grant reputations but really to cave to right-wing pressure.  In the past, more than 170,000 women have benefited directly from Komen's support of Planned Parenthood's breast-cancer screenings, a vital part of Planned Parenthood's support of women's health in general and not just abortions.   And so I am disappointed and angry at Komen.  Thus, not only have I signed a petition to tell the Komen board to reinstate the funding (and you can too, here), I've decided to forego pink fundraising--no buying any of the myriad Komen pink fundraising tie-ins and no supporting walkathons or other drives.  There are other places to send money to fight cancer and to support women.  And those, plus Planned Parenthood, will get my support and my dollars instead of Komen.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The King is in the Building


From Manny Randazzo's in Metairie, we have our now-annual spring King Cake tradition.  Yum!

The Groundhog Says...

WINTER!
That would be a nice change.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Right Now

There's a bat in our belfry.  Or, more specifically, some critter flying around in the return vent of our air-conditioning system where it appeared awhile ago, flapping, and then left again.  The cats are on guard in case it comes back.  Don't tell the kids...they'll never sleep.  The adults might not either.

Super Wednesday

The polls are closed and the results are in:  the extended Hungry clan believes the Groundhog will see his shadow tomorrow!

Yep, Sis and Bud had a fun homework assignment to poll family members about what they thought would happen tomorrow with the groundhog.  While Mama, Sis, Bud, Ma, Gommie, Goo, and I believe there will be six more weeks of winter, Pop and Gong and Aunt Banana are optimists that spring is on the way.

Thanks for helping with their homework!  Stay tuned tomorrow to see what happens.

By the way, Bud doesn't believe the groundhog can predict the weather because the prediction seems backwards (sun + shadow = winter vs. cloud - shadow = spring).  Sis, however, believes the groundhog does actually foretell the future with his shadow.  At some point, the groundhog is as accurate as our local meteorologists, so who's to say?

Slow-Cooker Solution

As I have mentioned, I can't move anything out of my oven on my own (yet, my PT thinks it's imminent).  This is not much of a problem anymore because I have a countertop convection oven/microwave combo.  Except it's just not right for baking chicken, one of the kids' favorite dishes.  And so yesterday, the little roaster went in the slow cooker with about 1 cup of water, some salt, and some garlic.  And it worked perfectly, well, except if you need golden color and crispy skin, which we don't.  In fact, it made excellent broth for even better gravy and soup.  I wonder if I'll go back to the oven once I can . . . .

En Garde

It was so beautiful this afternoon that we spent hours outside after school, eating popcorn and sword fighting.

Excuse me, lightsaber fighting.

Yep, we each had our long, colorful lightsabers.  Sis is always Luke Skywalker and Bud is Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Today, I was Qui Gon.  (Or Ventress, depending.)

And so I gave Bud (Sis "flew" on the swingset, not so interested) some saber-fighting tips, drawn from, of all things, my college fencing class.  Yep, I can wield a foil with aplomb.  Or at least in the eyes of a six-year-old.

We practiced our stance, how to parry, how to block an attack, and how to lunge.  I'm not very good, but it was a lot of fun.  Especially because Bud thought it was so cool.


Right Now

It's 62F as I wait for the bus.  That has to be a record.
I might actually hope the groundhog sees is shadow!