Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Frankenstorm: Monday Night

No doubt about it, Monday evening was scary.  We stayed away from the windows as best we could as little foot-long branches intermittently slammed against the windows, especially the back patio door plate glass, so we eventually closed the curtains to offer what flimsy resistance to any broken glass they could; nothing broke.  The wind would howl and shake the house sometimes so loudly that you couldn't hear yourself think.  And the lights would flicker.  What trees we did look at shook and bent in contortions you would have thought impossible.  But there was hardly any rain, with our gauge measuring less than an inch for the entire storm.

For the whole day as we waited for the storm to kick up, we used power like we would never see it again, knowing any second it could blink out, for a long time--running the dishwasher and washing machine trying to stay ahead and prevent a backlog in case we did lose power, playing the radio loud enough not to hear the wind sometimes, having all the lights on for a sense of security.  The kids actually wanted the power to go out, especially because Mama gave them night vision goggles to play with.  So we eventually just turned off the lights.  I was still glad of hot meals and hot water.  I think I had 10 cups of tea that evening, as if each one could be my last.  I found them very comforting and reassuring.  I also made hot chocolate to use up the milk and we ate a lot of perishables out of the fridge--eggs in scramble and in pancakes, chickenless nuggets, soymilk and frozen fruit in smoothies, homemade chicken soup staying warm in the crockpot, roasted chickpeas from a batch I'd cooked earlier in the week, pinto beans turned into chili to save if the power went out, bangers and peirogi for dinner.  It was one of the oddest eating days I've ever had (which is why we went to the store today).

We were shocked to see people out in what I would've called the height of the storm.  A couple was walking their dog.  Neighbor Boy was outside with his dad, both of them being pushed backwards by the wind.  People drove around in their cars despite the threat of falling trees and powerlines.

Occasionally the phone would ring as Gommie and Pop checked in or Goo called with updates from NYC.  It was an odd connection with the outside world during relative isolation.  Though, we were both checking our phones throughout.  I found comfort in hearing from others via FB and email.

Early on we decided that we'd sleep on the ground floor, but not the basement, to be safer from falling trees. Our 75' silver maple is well within striking range of our house.  And the tree guy hadn't been able to come out to cable it before the storm; he had said it was a strong, healthy tree but cabling would just make it more secure.  I worried about that tree the whole time, especially about it falling on the neighbor's house.  So when I saw their flashlights in the darkness of their yard, I actually went out into the wind and yelled to them to see if they were okay.  They were; nothing had hit the house, but it wasn't until morning that I realized it was another neighbor's tree and not part of our own.  Ours only lost small branches.  We were so lucky.  Everyone we know was.

At some point, at the height of the wind and noise, the kids became scared and overwhelmed.  We let them each gather a bag of things from their room to keep with them, as reassurance, but they were upset, even though we tried to explain everything we'd done to make us as safe as possible and told them that the storm was probably half over.   So I turned the radio on as loud as we could bear and we danced to Katy Perry's "Firework."  I'd never heard the line, "after the hurricane comes the rainbow," before, but it was oddly apropos.  We also danced to "Friday" and other perky songs covered on "Glee."  Then,as I mentioned earlier, Mama produced a surprise from her "magic trunk" that she'd been saving for a year:  kids' night vision goggles (from Spynet).  The kids were thrilled and ran around the artificially darkened house spying things they couldn't see otherwise.  It made the dark less scary.  Then we turned the lights back on.  They were mostly okay after that, their confidence and bravery restored.

The cats, however, fretted about most of the day and night, jumping up into places, like the top of the kitchen cabinets, that they'd never ventured before.  Treats and cat grass and cat nip didn't help.  Albus especially kept meowing, I'm sure he was trying to warn us about the storm.  They've pretty much been asleep, exhausted, since late Monday night!

After a hot dinner, we finally settled down in our spots, forgoing baths and even brushing.  By then, the wind had changed direction and was less thunderous but still strong. The enclosed porch on our south side protects the house and so things didn't rattle as hard.  We all read and then turned out the lights.  It took a long time for them to fall asleep.  Mama and I read the paper and talked to family but eventually went to bed ourselves.  Sometime in the night I became aware that the deafening gusts had stopped.

And we still had power!

Frankenstorm: Afterwards

We are still definitely in storm mode here.  The sound of chainsaws can be heard up and down the street, as well as the duller groan of construction vehicles dealing with downed trees and powerlines.  No street was spared, though as a town we seem luckier than many, as far as power outages go.  Most of my friends have power, save a few, and I've heard from most of them; even the ones without power have been active on FB, no doubt from their smartphones.  How did we handle the hurricanes of my youth without smartphones?  I guess you were friends with your immediate neighbors mostly.  I haven't heard from Shellley and hope they are safe--how are you?  You are welcome here if you need power, etc.  I also haven't heard from my friend on the Lower East Side or my friend in NJ.  I hope both are safe.

We still have power and telephone.  But no school for the rest of the week!  And no trick or treating until next week.  The kids are loving my lifting of the no-screentime-on-weekdays rule, because, of course, these aren't school days!  They've watched Pokemon, Ninjago, and the Lego spoof, "The Empire Strikes Out," and are now playing DS.  I haven't been watching tv, though understand my parents were glued to it to keep tabs on us.  I've been getting my news from the NYTimes--the devastation is overwhelming.  CT's own news source, the CTPost, is disappointing in its coverage and not really even worth checking.  My local Patch has better news and even the NYTimes has CT updates.

We went on an adventure earlier today, to the local stores, realizing that if shipments don't get through the stores could run out of staples.  Of course, we also ate, in advance, all of our perishables and needed eggs, milk, and soymilk.  The first store was on generator power and pretty dark, but still open; however, they had to toss all of their perishables.  The kids got some Pokemon cards and I picked up extra pasta, sauce, macaroni and cheese, and canned soup.  Then we headed to another store, also on generator--but their generator must have been stronger because their perishables were still cold and okay.  We got milk, soymilk, eggs, cheese, ground turkey, and a few other things.  We delivered some eggs to a friend afterwards and were able to see how so many trees and powerlines were down.  No wonder there's no school or trick or treating.

I'll post later about our experience of the storm and some new tips I've picked up, also about my in-laws, whose neighborhood in the Rockaways was hit hard.  Their house was spared the fires but not the water, which has completely decimated the basement and their cars, as far as we can tell.  Still they were lucky--the house at the end of the street, just eight houses away, was washed out to sea.  It must have been terrifying.  I know Mama and her brother Goo were worried sick about them. They left the area last night to stay with Goo and went back today temporarily.  It'll be a long recovery, I think.

We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by the storm.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm : The Trick is No Treat

Halloween is postponed until next Wednesday.

Frankenstorm : The Tree

The downed tree in our neighbor's yard is not part if ours, about which I am oddly happy.  It didn't hit their house thankfully.

Frankenstorm : Early

Awake to news of fire in the Rockaways.  Thankfully not in Mama's parents section.  Prayers for Breezy Point residents and firefighters.
We still have power.  The wind gusts are lighter.  Mama's parents are flooded in the basement.  I still can't see what part of the tree fell.
We'll know more as the day progresses.
If you are in our area and need power, you are welcome here.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Phone deleted long post which essentially said we're okay and still have power.

Frankenstorm : Near Miss

We think a large limb from our huge silver maple went down in the neighbors' yard.  We saw them out with lights... they are all okay.  I don't think it hit them.  Thank heavens.

Frankenstorm : Mama's Magic Trunk

Mama's trunk is magic even in a hurricane!
Three magic words :  Night vision goggles.

Frankenstorm : Dance Party

Kids scared so I turned up music very loud.
Katy Perry words of wisdom:  "After the hurricane comes a rainbow. "
Using power like we're headed into the Dark Ages.

Frankenstorm : Still Waiting

Sound of Music, a hot lunch, another load of dishes, a hot cuppa, a puzzle, a nap for me, a few flickers of the power, not too much looking at news, a 6' branch down by the hydrant.  It's darker, windier, and rainier.  I think we'll sleep downstairs.
People wanting to read about our area, go to our town on

Frankenstorm : Waiting

Rumor has it they're shutting our power sub station down soon.  So we're heating food, running the last load, and getting ready.
Also, it might actually have started to rain a bit.  The wind has been increasingly gusty.  It's going to be an interesting 24 hours.
Good luck, all!

Frankenstorm: Waking Up

Strong gusts woke us up early today, combined with worries for my in-laws who refused to comply with mandatory evacuation orders in the low-lying, oceanfront Rockaways.  Our cats are even a bit twitchy.  We're planning a big cooked breakfast when the blissfully asleep kids awaken. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frankenstorm: The Night Before

It hasn't started raining yet, and the wind is only an intermittently insistent breeze, both belying what is to come.

We're now home, after a wonderful evening celebration of Dia de los Muertos at church.  We colored in pictures of skulls and skeletons with bright markers and crayons while snacking on chips and delicious Mexican hot chocolate.  We learned about the offerendas, or altars filled with items evoking the memories of those gone ahead, who are believed to visit on All Souls' and All Saints' Days.  There were candles, pan de muertos (bread), water (sometimes it's tequila, or whatever the deceased liked), incense, an overhead archway, marigolds, sugar skulls, paper cut-outs, and personal belongings--the altars are very specifically for an individual.  We heard a wonderful local youth mariachi band, who preformed several songs about love and loss.  Then we ate authentic Mexican and Guatemalan food, including a Guatemalan stew, black bean and sweet potato burritos, rice and beans, pineapple, pan de muertos, and white chocolate skulls.  Sis even wrote "Morgan" on a memorial card, which we put on the offerenda.

And now we wait.  We figure the brunt of the storm won't hit until midday at the earliest, with winds sustained in the 40s and 50s, gusts up to 85 mph possible.  But I don't think we're supposed to get much rain, comparatively, only 1-3".   I fully expect us to lose power . . . for several days.

Which means we'll have plenty of time to make an offerenda of our own!

I'll post if I can, while trying to conserve phone battery.  We have a corded phone on our land line, so as long as that works, we can use the phone . . . . which the kids couldn't recognize when we took it out of the emergency box!

For all of our friends in the path of this storm, be safe and take care!

Storm Prep

They've canceled school for Monday and Tuesday.
We just bought a new grill (our other got squished) in case we lose power so long we get tired of cereal and apples--estimates are 7-9 days without power possible for most of the state.  We're making lots of ice.
Our yard is clear, except of leaves.
Our cell phones are charged; the cars, gassed up.
Ready as we'll ever be.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


For two weeks or so, since Sis said, "I want to have a bake sale," I've lived, breathed, dreamt, and even eaten "bake sale!"  I talked to experienced bake sale organizers, read numerous website tips and tricks, worried about the location and the weather (first rain, then the hurricane), and discussed our plans with Mama and my co-organizer Miss R.Z.  And every chance Sis and I got, we baked cookies--Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Snickerdoodles, Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip, and S'mores Sandwiches--more than 20+ dozen!  We'd sample them, let them cool, and then freeze them.  Today, we defrosted them, stuffed them all 2 or 3 to a special goodie bag, twist-tied them, and stuck pre-printed labels on them.   Sis made signs; her friend "I" made the donation jar.  We had almost 20 people donating baked goods; if I had to guess, I would say we had 1,300+ baked goods!  And for just over four hours, we sold cookies in front of a grocery store extra-busy with customers getting ready for Hurricane Sandy.  The kids helped sell and then played together off to the side.  And the classmate even came to visit, with his family.  He played with our kids, helped staff the cash box, and posed for pictures with his friends and family.  Lots of his extended family baked, helped out, and purchased treats.  Then they texted all their friends to come.

We made over $1000!

It was such an inspiring, touching, supportive day.  Actually, the entire event has been that way, with people who don't even know the boy offering to bake, bring water, make flyers, whatever was necessary.  Baked goods poured into my house yesterday, from 15+ people, and more to come today at the sale.  This compassion gathered strength today, just like the oncoming storm.  The community was extremely generous, giving donations (a third of the money was flat-out donations!), giving us more than they owed for the baked goods, offering encouragement and prayers.  Several people shared their own stories about cancer--everyone seemed to know someone with the disease.  Friends from school, and best of all the teachers and staff, came out especially to support the sale, making a point to buy extras; several of my friends who don't even know him both baked AND bought!  People who didn't have much still found a way to buy a dollar or two of cookies.  In fact, if I had to guess, the majority of our customers were as far from the 1% as you can get in Connecticut . . . and they tended to give extra or just pure donations, even here at the end of the month (the timing of which hadn't occurred to me until someone mentioned it, the tight time of the month when people don't have much to spare).  It was very humbling.  I don't think the kids noticed any of this, of course, but they did feel the happiness and love around the table, the sense of community and compassion, the warmth and connection of being able to help someone.  We often talk the talk, but today we actually walked it, together, all because a little girl said, "I want to have a bake sale," and the adults all around her got together to make it happen.  We know we can't fix everything for their classmate, who we learned today has Stage 4 cancer, but for today at least and in the times to come with the extra money, we hope we brought some happiness, ease, comfort, and support.  

And, just in case we ever do it again (and more than one person has asked, heaven help us!), here are some things I learned from my very first bake sale.

To Do (in advance)
  • Book location:  Choose somewhere with lots of foot traffic--the grocery store or the soccer fields.  We were hampered by not being an official organization with a tax exempt i.d. number.  But a store took a chance on us and let us host the sale, even donating $50 gift card!  We got lucky, but it often takes a month or more of advanced notice to book a spot.
  • Contact Health Department:  In our town, bake sales are exempt from the usual rules about commercial kitchens, etc, but they still advised us about pre-packaging, no nuts, no refrigerated goods (cream pies, cheesecakes, pudding), etc.
  • Recruit bakers:  I emailed friends, classmates, and our Brownie troop to solicit baked goods.  The letter stated our needs up front, including no nuts, packaging at home based on our price points, notifying us of major ingredients (esp allergens like wheat, dairy, eggs), and drop-off information.
  • Donations:  My co-organizer solicited donations from a local bakery, receiving an urn of coffee and dozens of pastries for free.  She also got a gift card from the grocery store.  With more time, we might have been able to organize a raffle or other donations.
  • Publicity:  A volunteer made the flyer, had it approved by the Superintendent, and distributed through school.  We also contacted the local papers.  And, of course, posted repeatedly about it on FB and my blog.  Sis also made posters for the table and two yard signs for the parking lots.
  • Leftovers:  We didn't have any, but a few people offered to buy them to give them to teachers or churches; I also considered calling the local senior living center to donate them.

What to Sell
  • Favorites at Our Sale:  chocolate chip cookies, brownies, plain sugar cookies, cute cupcakes in cups with lollipops, peanut butter blossom cookies (yes, a nut cookies showed up!).  People were either looking for chocolate or looking for items that were not chocolate!  We had few special dietary requests, but a few did look for dairy-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free.
  • Cutely-packaged items sold faster than plain.  Bigger items sold faster than multiple-smaller items together.
  • Cupcakes were safely packaged in clear wide-mouthed cups.
  • We mostly had cookies, some quick breads, cupcakes, and pastries like muffins.  We had no cakes or pies, no candies or novelties (like cake pops), but we didn't really suffer from their absence.  No one, as far as I could tell, walked away empty handed.
  • We ended up pricing everything $1, with the rare exceptions of loaves of bread ($6) and popcorn hands (2 for $1).  This really simplified totaling orders and customers' decision-making process--and we didn't need price tags.  And they often gave us the change as a donation!
  • Add-ons:  We had water bottles and coffee for sale, probably selling $20-30 of beverages.

  • lunch bags for purchases
  • colored stickers for pricing (if have lots of different prices; we didn't use these in the end)
  • masking tape (for signs)
  • extra baggies, in case a bag breaks or you need to sub-divide items
  • baskets, bowls, platters for display
  • Sharpie/markers for extra signs
  • index cards, cardboard for signs
  • donation jar
  • signs for the table and the parking lot entrances (Home Depot sells blank yard signs).
  • cash box (ours had a steel cable so we could attach it to the table!)
  • dollar bills (started with 30 $1, 4 $5s)
  • tables (one plastic 8 x 3')
  • tablecloth
  • chairs
  • trash can and bags
  • Because everything was pre-packaged, we didn't need gloves for serving or even napkins or plates for eating.

Day Of

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before start time.
  • Confirm location with property owner (today we set up in one spot and then had to move--to an even better spot!)
  • Expect sales or donations while you are setting up and be ready to start early!
  • We practiced greeting and talking to customers before we arrived, also how to handle the money or questions.  The girls were good at counting out change.  We had them bring some toys for when there was a lull or they lost interest; we also fetched lunch midway through.  Best of all, I had one of my babysitters on hand for part of the day, to watch them, take them to the restroom, etc.
  • Send FB/Twitter post when you open--ours included a picture of the overstuffed table!
  • We couldn't put all of our items out together because there were just too many, so we periodically consolidated and rotated new ones in.
  • We had a few unusual or challenging visitors.  One complained about our prices, especially the bottled water for $1. I told him we were trying to raise money, not to give bargains.  Another wanted to lecture us on money, the stock market, and how to make a million dollars.  I had to ask him to move away from the front of the table to finish his lecture and he got mad when we all ignored him.  Otherwise, that's it.  I tried to be polite but firm about our goal for the day.  Though, we did see two near-miss car accidents.
  • We never had to discount our items--we gave the last few doughnuts to the family and were done pretty much on time, after four hours.
  • We cleaned up, packed our cars, counted the money, and handed all of it, in the donation jar, over to the family on the spot.  Hugs all around, and some tears.

Useful Resources

yields 6-7 dozen

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening (or coconut oil)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

cinnamon-sugar:  1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar till smooth, then beat in the eggs, again beating till smooth.

Beat in the vanilla, baking powder, then add the flour, mixing slowly till combined.

Place about 1/2 cup cinnamon-sugar in an 8" or 9" round cake pan or in a zippered bag.

Drop the soft dough by teaspoonfuls into the pan with the sugar, about 6 to 8 balls at a time. Gently shake the pan to coat the dough balls with sugar. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie till it's about 1/2-inch thick. Repeat till you've used up all the dough.

Bake the snickerdoodles in a preheated 400°F oven for 8-11 minutes.  They'll be set and just starting to turn golden. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them on a rack.

adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion 

Chocolate Snickerdoodles, my version
**Same recipe as above, but instead of 2 3/4 cups flour, use 2 1/4 cups flour and 1/2 cup cocoa.


Mom’s Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ½ cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
¾ cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (Eggbeaters also work)
1 teaspoon hot water
1 cup nuts
2 cups oatmeal (quick or regular; uncooked—old fashioned regular are best)
1 teaspoon vanilla
14 oz. chocolate chips
Cream shortening until soft. Add sugars gradually, cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs (1 at a time), beating after each. Add vanilla and hot water. Sift in dry ingredients. Add nuts, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. Bake at 375°F for 8 minutes.


Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2  cup granulated sugar
2  eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon salt (optional)
3  cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1  cup raisins

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Quaker Oats


S'mores Sandwiches

graham crackers
large marshmallows ("Stackers" are great)
chocolate chips
Wilton cocoa melting pieces or other chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 400F.  Arrange graham crackers, broken in half, on cookie sheet.  Put marshmallows on half of the crackers; place 9 chocolate chips on the other half.  Bake until marshmallow puffs and begins to brown and chips soften.  Remove from oven and pair each marshmallow half with a chocolate half.  Cool in freezer for 5 minutes.  Dip cool(er) s'mores halfway in chocolate.  Allow to cool completely.  


THANK YOU!!! A big hug of gratitude for all of our bakers, helpers, customers, and supporters today at the bake sale for Sis and Bud's classmate who has cancer.  We raised over $1000!  THANK YOU!!!  THANK YOU!!!  It was a wonderful, touching, inspiring day.  And it was great to have their classmate come by and help out at the cash box alongside us.  THANK YOU!!!!  It was a special day.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Yes, they're calling it "Frankenstorm."

You know it's odd when CT is preparing for its second hurricane in 14 months and my family in TX hasn't had any.  Pop has even called to check in about the "perfect storm."

Last year at this time, we had snow.

And no one is talking climate change this election cycle!

So, I'm heading out to the store for batteries, bread, and peanut butter (for us; the kids won't touch it.)  We have water, a corded phone, and gas in the cars.

The kids just want to know what will happen to Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Worst of Tours, Best of Tours

I had one of those tours today that make me love talking to kids in historic houses and museums.  Though it started out very poorly--they were early, but the teachers insisted that each child go to the (single-toilet-with-old-plumbing!) bathroom before we could begin and so we started 45 minutes late!  And they had to be on the bus with less than 45 minutes for the tour.  With two docents trying to steer 45 kids total through everything without bumping into each other.  

But it was wonderful, even though I rushed through topics and skipped certain activities like stringing apples and playing charades.  They were engaged and curious, asking questions and giving answers.

I knew a boy with visual impairments would be on my tour so I had practiced how to describe the house, the big fireplace, and my costume with vivid words and references to placement and size (thanks, AIC and Met for that training!).  To evoke the period for him through touch, we passed around ceramics, let everyone play in the big fireplace, and all felt the difference between the new floorboards and the 18th-century ones.n It took extra time to describe the wallpaper and clothing that everyone else could see, but I didn't want him to miss out (or to bore the other kids, so I tried to deftly weave it all in).  As he left, he said to his aide, "That was a great house!" 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happy Birthday!

To our own Uncle Soccer! May the year be full wins for Chelsea!

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Official!

Our bake sale is on!  We have an official location at a grocery store in town (no, not the S&S  :P"""") for our bake sale to benefit Sis and Bud's classmate with cancer.  My new partner-in-cookies Miss R.Z. arranged it and the store pitched in a grocery gift card for the family!  If you are in the area and would like to contribute baked goods, please let me know.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our Autumn Adventure

Sis said she wanted to do something with a fall theme today--apple-picking, pumpkins, corn maze, hay ride, something.  And so we decided to head to Middletown to pick apples at our favorite orchard Lyman Orchards, recently featured in Family Fun magazine.  Instead of eating lunch there, however, we opted to go for Tibetan food at the Tibetan Kitchen, a first for us (which is amazing, because Mama's had almost every type of food!  Here is a great blog on Tibetan culture).

And it was amazing!  First, the restaurant was charming, with about 10 tables, an altar to the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan screen painting of Buddha's encounter with Mara and his enlightement, as well as posters for various movies about Tibet, including Seven Years in Tibet, The Cup,  and Cry of the Snow Lion.  The kids were very adventuresome and enthusiastic about trying new dishes.  We had mango dhara, like a lassi, and the best chai I've ever had, so cardamom-filled and creamy with milk.  I started with Thang, a soup with tofu, spinach and sweet potato noodles that the kids enjoyed, too.  Mama liked the Thukpa Dhrang-mo, a spicy cold noodle with sesame dressing.  For our main courses, I had the Shogo-ngopa, a Tibetan curry of potatoes and spinach--so wonderful and flavorful!  It was served with delicious flaky fried flat bread.   Mama enjoyed the Tibetan equivalent of hash browns, Shogo sip-si, of shredded potatoes sauteed with dried chili, garlic, and red onion.  It was served with a dense steamed bread we all liked.  Sis liked her Thukpa, rice noodle soup with vegetables and chicken (and maybe mint, as it reminded me of Vietnamese soups), while Bud liked his Sha-momo, steamed dumplings with chicken (read about momos here).  This was served with Dhang-tsel salad, rather like our "Sumi" sesame Ramen coleslaw.  And we even managed dessert, Tibetan Kheer rice pudding with cardamom, pistachios, and almonds and Drey-sil, which was sweetened rice with a side of yogurt all flavored with a sugar syrup.  Bud wasn't so interested, but Sis liked the latter.  And throughout it all, we talked about Tibet:  who the Dalai Lama was, the relationship of Tibet to China (starting with the Silk Road), Buddha's birth and childhood and then Nirvana.  It was an absolutely delightful experience for all of us; we can't wait to go back and try more new dishes.

Then we headed for the apples . . . .we loved the colorful foliage and tromping through the trees of Mutsu and Empire.  We picked three bags full, with plans for pie, pork and apples, and school snacks.  We have been going to Lyman since the kids were 1 1/2 (if not before, just the two of us) and this must have been the warmest apple-picking outing ever.

After picking apples, we went to the market store, which was so packed we almost couldn't get inside.  But we wanted cider doughnuts, cider, apple turnovers, and pot pies and so braved the crowds.  I found an absolutely delightful Apple Cider herbal tea from Republic of Tea.

And duck food.  Because you always have to feed the geese and ducks.  And pigeons.  And seagulls.  Just like when the kids were too little to see over the bottom fence post!  We called to do them and finally called Pop and Gommie to help us out!

And then we headed home, with the late-day sun illuminating the golden leaves.  A beautiful day.


Miss V's Homemade Chai
The family recipe of my neighbor from New Delhi.  We had been talking about my addiction to chai and so she made some.  I won’t have the right teas so I write it up as I can replicate it.

darjeeling tea
green cardamom pods

            Place tea and crushed green cardamom pods in water and boil gently on the stove.  When well heated, add sugar and milk to taste.  Serve.

Miss V

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bake for a Good Cause

Calling all local bakers! We're doing the bake sale for Sis and Bud's classmate, on Saturday, Oct. 27. If you would like to help out, either by baking or helping with sales, please let me know and I'll send you some information. It seems late, but another mom and I are pulling it together. All the kids are excited! Thanks so much!

RIP, Big Tex

I remember Big Tex saying "Howdy, Folks!" as we entered the Texas State Fair, the one time I recall going, when I was probably about 6 year old.

This morning, perhaps due to an electrical fire, 60-year old Big Tex burned down.

Raining on my Parage

First, my car windows were left open accidentally last night . . . and we got 2 inches of rain.  Mind you, we'd just had it detailed and it was wonderfully clean.  f*********k.

Now, the neighborhood grocery store (I'm talking about you, Stop and Shop!) refused our request to have our bake sale there because we're not an official tax exempt organization.  Which I had explained clearly to the manager on Monday, realizing that could be the hiccup, and he said it was ok.  Well, apparently it's not.  What a waste of time.

So now, I'm between a rock and a hard place.  The goal was to help Sis have her bake sale to help her friend.  And to make a little money for his family.  Perhaps I had delusions of grandeur.  But I realized I didn't want to advertise it at my house if I was going to spread the word, especially on FB.  So somewhere public.

That's the hard part.  Friends have come up with great ideas--like the soccer fields on Saturday--but it's all very heavily dependent on the weather, in a way the f****king grocery store wouldn't have been.  And we're having such constant, crazy rainy damp weather.  Who knows.

So I'm thinking of scaling back some and doing it on our corner if the weather is good and not having too many other bakers so that we don't have all this food waiting.  Not what I envisioned.


But still what Sis had in mind.

And that's it . . . .

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mums the Word


On Monday night, Sis came to us with some concerns, namely what she should do in the event of an earthquake, of all things.  After telling her that people often stand in doorways, we assured her that earthquakes are relatively rare in Connecticut.  Mama even pulled out a map of fault lines so we could compare California to Connecticut.

And then we had an earthquake here on the East Coast, centered in Maine, the very next evening.  At 7:15 to be precise, while we were reading our bedtime story, Mouse in the Motorcycle.  But we didn't feel a thing.  I only heard about it later on FB, though it noted that they did feel it in other parts of CT.

After we tucked in the kids, and learned of the earthquake, Mama said, "Do you think she's going to start predicting natural disasters now?!"

I'll tell you the next time she mentions them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Bud came home with a "I Voted!" sticker today and so I asked him about the Junior Achievement program he had attended.  He said they'd voted for president.  And Obama won!  17-4.  He was so happy.

And in my mind, I was composing this post, proudly.  And was titling it, "I believe the children are our future."  Vainly.

"Just kidding, Mom.  We voted on animals."

Trap-her Keep-her

"Binders full of women."

Oh, it really is too rich to pass up.  But my sarcasm might not be up to the task.  Check out Binders Full of Women on FB and other places for all the fun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Last-Minute Activities

With Mama's last days of disability finally winding down, we're completing her to-do list.  We've had lunch and/or coffee with a few friends.  We've run errands for clothes and a new bookcase.  We've eaten out at a few places we rarely get to go, like delicious Ethiopian.  And today we're heading to have lunch at school with the kiddos.  Whew.

Of course, we're also gearing up for 3 Halloween parties plus actual trick-or-treating, the start of my touring seasoning with the historic house (I'm giving 9 tours in 2 1/2 weeks or so!), a couple of birthday parties, and all the usual things like kung fu, gymnastics, and Brownies.

Plus the big bake sale!

And it's all good.

Soup Weather

Except the two warm-for-October days, we've had a lot of overcast and chilly weather this fall.  Which always reminds me of soup.

And so I made this incredible soup that Mama and I devoured (of course, with the beans, the kids didn't.)

If I could figure out how do a jar mix of it, I'd give it away as Christmas gifts (I should note that the original inspiration comes from a packaged mix of Peddler's Vegetarian Soup.)


My Version of Peddler's Vegetarian Soup

1 1/2 cups dried beans (combination of Navy, Great Northern, pink, pinto, red kidney, or whatever you have on hand), rinsed and sorted
1 onion, chopped
olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cabbage, shredded
1 bay leaf
1/4-1/2 cup marinara (we had a bit of Rao's leftover)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Soak beans overnight in salted water.  In the morning, drain.

Saute onion, carrots, celery, and cabbage in olive oil until tender.  Add 8 cups of water, soaked beans, and bay leaf to sauteed vegetables.  Simmer until beans are soft (about 2 hours).  Add marinara and Italian seasoning.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add cheese and lemon juice before serving.

Mommy Hungry via Savory Fare (website on package isn't working; their version uses 28 oz of tomatoes and small pasta plus a variety of seasonings)


We're having a bake sale in a couple of weeks to benefit Sis and Bud's classmate who has cancer.  It started off as Sis's simple idea for a small, on-the-corner kinda thing but has blossomed into more bakers and an as-yet-to-be-determined location (either the local soccer fields or grocery store, so that we have foot traffic and don't use our home address).  I'm excited but also nervous, having never organized a big sale like this (so of course I looked online for tips about location, pricing, etc).  But I'm getting wonderful volunteer bakers and people to assist with the sale, so there is help.  And it's a great cause.  Sis is excited (not bothered by the changes).

And we can always do it again in the spring if it's successful, learning from our first experience!

So we're baking almost everyday to stockpile for the event, starting with Snickerdoodles and then Chocolate Snickerdoodles!  Mmmmm.  I actually thought of chocolate ones while making the first batch, but of course many others had come up with the idea before me.  So, we have about 150 squirreled away.  Next we'll do oatmeal raisin (the classmate's favorite) and some chocolate chip cookies.  And who knows what else from there.

I'll keep you posted.  And if you're local, I'll let you know when it is.


Snickerdoodles (with cinnamon on outside of cookie)
yields 6-7 dozen

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening (or coconut oil)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

cinnamon-sugar:  1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar till smooth, then beat in the eggs, again beating till smooth.

Beat in the vanilla, baking powder, then add the flour, mixing slowly till combined.

Place about 1/2 cup cinnamon-sugar in an 8" or 9" round cake pan or in a zippered bag.

Drop the soft dough by teaspoonfuls into the pan with the sugar, about 6 to 8 balls at a time. Gently shake the pan to coat the dough balls with sugar. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie till it's about 1/2-inch thick. Repeat till you've used up all the dough.

Bake the snickerdoodles in a preheated 400°F oven for 8-11 minutes.  They'll be set and just starting to turn golden. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them on a rack.

adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion 

Chocolate Snickerdoodles, my version
**Same recipe as above, but instead of 2 3/4 cups flour, use 2 1/4 cups flour and 1/2 cup cocoa.

Alternate:  Snickerdoodles (with cinnamon in the cookie)
Makes 4 dozen

1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
assorted colored sugars optional (or use cinnamon-sugar mixture)

 Heat oven to 400°F. Mix 1 ½ cups sugar, butter, shortening, and eggs. Stir in flour, cram of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

 Shape dough into 1 ¼” balls. Dip one side of ball in colored sugar (note: if you roll the whole ball in sugar, the sugar on the bottom will burn and stick to the pan). Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Gold Medal’s Cookies from the Heart or Extra Special Holiday Baking

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hugs to My Friend

 . . . who needs some TLC especially this week.

A Funny Thing Happened . . .

 . . . at the doctor's office today (no worries, just my annual gyn.)

I was a new patient and therefore being asked all these questions.

Level of education?  Ph.D.

Working or homemaker?  Homemaker

I whispered to Mama that I should just call myself "Dr. Homemaker!"  Really, I can't believe that term is still in use officially.

(At least I'm no longer a "spinster" because I'm legally married in CT.)

Besides, I think of myself as more of a professional volunteer, between Girl Scouts, the historical house, and now hospice.

Think "professional volunteer" is a category on LinkedIn?!



Yep, tonight we might get our first freeze.  I love this weather and have pulled all our quilts and fleece blankets out of the closet.  I even have a new tea--Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Rooiboos.  Yum!  Sis and Bud asked if it would snow.  Well, last year it snowed just two weeks from now (see pics here), but I'll be really surprised if it does that again, especially as it's supposed to get back up to almost 70 in the next few days!

(Is that light enough compared to yesterday?)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Wow, posts addressing sex, religion, health, and even death all in one day--the linchpins of interesting, but not polite, conversation!

I promise to have something a little lighter tomorrow.

Sickbed Confessions

Inspired by How to Be Sick author Toni Bernhard's post, "Confessions of a Sick Person," I'm making a list of my own injury/chronic pain-related confessions.  Many of these were more relevant at the height (or depths?) of my injury, not as much now.
  • It doesn't always hurt.  Yep, a lot of the time it does.  And that stinks.  But sometimes it doesn't hurt.  And the pain isn't always the deciding factor in whether I'm up and about or not.  Meditation, medication, motivation, mood all play a part.
  • I like my bed better than almost anywhere.  It's a comfortable, handy place to be.  I've managed systems for working on the computer, eating, reading, watching tv, crocheting, almost anything you can think of.  And when the physical stresses of the day get to me, nothing is as calming and reassuring as being back in my bed.  Which is ironic, given that one of my major pain episodes occurred in the bed, waking me up in the middle of the night unexpectedly!
  • I'm grateful for my injury in many ways because it has allowed me to explore new personal and spiritual paths that I don't think I would have found if I were still distracted by "normal" life.  I think it was a wake-up call, even a blessing.  As much as it has been a burden to me and my entire family, I'm not exactly sure I would go back and do it differently (well, I might actually take pain medication that second time!).  I think it has taught us all something.  Compassion, mindfulness, mortality, priorities, gratitude, appreciation, flexibility.
  • I like not working for pay outside the home.  For now.  And injury/pain is a more socially-acceptable reason than stay-at-home mom.  No one argues with me about my unemployment or rolls their eyes anymore.  That I know of.
  • I don't like how narcissistic I am sometimes, always thinking of how I'm doing, how I'm feeling, how I can or can't do things.  It's so easy to become self-absorbed in isolation.  Kids are a really good remedy for this.  
  • Having an injury can be a great excuse for many things--baggy, comfortable clothes and a perpetually messy house and not living up to social/societal expectations.  I like that.
  • I haven't  had a professional haircut or been to the dentist in two years.  Both have very uncomfortable chairs that you have to sit in for the whole thing.  Can't do it.  Even though I know I should.  (To make up for the dentist, I've become meticulous about flossing and mouthwash.)
  • While I'm not glad for her own recent injury and illnesses, it has been nice to have Mama as a sickbed buddy at times.  Even though it was true before, I know she understand me better than anyone else could because she's been there.  On the reverse side, it's made me a better caregiver (sometimes!).  On the downside, she takes up half the bed AND wants a say in the tv shows!  But there's only a week left.

The Sinner and the Sin, Or National Coming Out Day

I don't often post about being a lesbian.  It's no secret, of course, and I'm not ashamed or uncomfortable.  It just doesn't come up as a subject in ways that make interesting posts, at least compared with life with twins or the craziness that was our summer.  I can only tell you for the umpteenth time that Mama was mistaken for my son--happened at the Ren Faire on Monday when a booth staffer tried to get my young fella to try his hand at a tomato-throwing game--or that I had to correct someone about the kids having two moms and not a dad--happened recently when a cashier remarked that the kids should tell their dad.

And I can only rage about the homophobia of the Boy Scouts so many times.  (Though, I could tell you about the young man who realized he was gay and came out, only to be denied his earned Eagle Scout award!  Or about the Greenwich, CT den mom who was kicked out when news got out of her den that she was a lesbian!  It's a discriminatory organization--if you support it, you support and encourage its discrimination against me. Period.  Don't tell me it's convenient or a tradition or your den isn't like that.  Because that doesn't change that the Boy Scouts have fought all the way to the Supreme Court to be able to discriminate against me.)

But I've recently been confronted with a new kind of challenge:  love the sinner, not the sin.

Yep, I have a Mormon friend.

I don't want to go into it too much, as we have a delicate friendship built on mutual interests and tolerance, but will say that  my friend absolutely believes and agrees with her church's stance against same-sex relationships and also practices the LDS stance of tolerating--but not condoning, accepting, or approving--LGBTQ people--you know, that whole love the sinner, not the sin teaching.  I guess I do something of the same--tolerate her faith while recognizing her own inherent worth and dignity (UU principle #1)--just like I love my friends even though their sons are Scouts.   I should say that, while I knew she was a Latter Day Saint, until recently I figured she might be like my Catholic friends who are fairly "cafeteria" in their selection of the Vatican's (happy 50th anniversary, Vatican II, by the way!) teachings, supporting women priests, married priests, same-sex marriage, birth control, and abortion while still taking communion and sending their kids to CCD.   Or like the liberal Mormon feminist Joanna Brooks, author of the Book of Mormon Girl, which I am reading for insight into the faith and its followers and those who have trouble following some of it (see her blog here.)

It all reminds me of the recent NYTimes Op-Ed, "We're Here, We're Queer, Y'all!, which made me mad, or sad, or a combo of the two.  Essentially, the author, Karen L. Cox, said that being LGBTQ in the rural South was okay . . . because  they don't beat you or burn your house down.

They only call adults by silly terms like "Uncle Poodle" to denote their "light in the loafer"-ness.

And refuse to openly or publicly acknowledge your relationships by calling your long-time partner just your "friend."

And disagree vehemently with the concept of same-sex marriage.

And think your homosexuality is an abomination.

I'm pretty sure I could not live somewhere (read Texas) that the majority of people felt like that about me.  It's challenging enough to have one person in my life that I know feels like that (my in-laws are a complicated, different story), though I can't articulate why or why I do it.  And I think I feel guilty, hypocritical, surprised, upset, incredulous.  It's very personal.  Which, as we all know, is very political.

Maybe, beyond the ordinary pleasures of friendship, I had hoped that I could facilitate some kind of teachable moment.

Is that how LGBTQ people in the South feel, how they get through it?  There just aren't many easy answers.

Sometimes, coming out is the easy part.

A Wing and a Prayer

You know how they say kids will ask the difficult questions in the car?

Sis got me today, "What does my classmate have?"

Her classmate who is in the hospital receiving chemotherapy for cancer. 

Thankfully, I had spent some of last night searching for books and discussion tips, Googling "books for children, classmate has cancer."  Many of the resources are actually for children with cancer, or children whose parents or siblings have cancer.  But I did come across some things*, which was good because Sis, and then Bud after her, hit upon them all.  I tried to answer them directly and then add to it.  

"What did he do to get this?"  Nothing.  He did absolutely nothing.  His cells just changed.  

And you can't catch it.  Not like the flu or a cold or the chicken pox.

"Will he lose his hair?"  Maybe.  Chemotherapy can make you feel awful and some people lose their hair.  

But even if he loses his hair, he'll still be the same kid who loves the things he always has.  And so you can treat him just like you used to.  Even if his looks surprise you at first.  

"Will he come back to school?"  Probably.  If he feels well enough.  He might be in and out of school for awhile.

He'd rather be at school than in the hospital, I'm sure.  It can be scary with all the doctors and needles and such.  But they are all doing their best to take good care of him so he can come back to school.  We are all sorry he has to go through this because we know it's going to be rough for him and his family for awhile.

"Will he die?"  

Words fail me.  

I don't know.  I hope not.  They're doing everything they can.  I can't quite say anything more. What else is there to say?  

But you can ask me anything, anything else and I'll try to answer it.  And if you feel helpless (we all feel helpless), you can meditate and pray.

Sis immediately proposes a bake sale--snickerdoodles and oatmeal raisin--to raise money for his treatment.  Later over dinner, Bud excuses himself to go ring our singing meditation bowls and to pray.

And I somehow managed not to cry.  



*A few helpful websites:

I also purchased some books, including Why, Charlie Brown, Why? A Story About What Happens When a Friend is Very Ill; What is Cancer Anyway? Explaining Cancer to Children of All Ages; and Imagine a Rainbow:  A Child's Guide for Soothing Pain.  For an elementary-school-aged bibliography, see Alex's Lemonade Stand and this document (can't get a link that doesn't automatically download; my apologies.)

I dearly hope we won't need Freddie the Leaf, The Purple Balloon, or Badger's Parting Gifts, on death and dying for children.

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday, to Granny Q!   We hope you have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Healing Across the Ocean

Sending best wishes to Mrs. Lambeth for a speedy and easy recovery from surgery and good results!

Sending Love and Hope

A classmate of Sis and Bud's has cancer and is in treatment.  We send our love and hope for successful treatment.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ren Faires R Us

Bud defeating the Swordmaster
 Another year, another day at a Renaissance Festival!  Yep, we spent the day at the Connecticut Ren Faire.  Bud even wore a costume, complete with cloak and dagger!  We wandered around for six hours--yes, amazing on several counts!--in the increasingly overcast and chilly weather, which definitely beats the hot summer fairs we've been to elsewhere.  We took in a great birds of prey show; Mama especially loves to see the Peregrine falcons and American kestrels and various owls.  We also watched an archery show, which included demos with the long bow at more than 140 yards--really amazing (and chilling) to hear the whizzing of the arrow and the thud as it struck.  They also fired a trebuchet, which sent a boulder hurtling into the field 100+ yards away.   There were also belly dancers and various musicians.  And the German encampment of mercenaries:  a soldier took time to show Sis and Bud the various weapons and a hausfrau follower talked to us about making sausages (we checked back several times, but the pig entrails didn't get soft enough to stuff while we were there, much to Sis's disappointment).  As usual, one of our favorite areas was the one with all the games.  Sis played fling the frog and bean bag toss, as well as making it to the top of Jacob's Ladder!  Bud tried his hands at fencing, even challenging (and defeating by popping the balloons on the helmet of) the generous and patient master.  Both Sis and Bud made short work of the maze.  And Sis, Bud, and I all tried our hands at archery!  Of course.  We also enjoyed perusing the various booths--the lady who made art from gourds, the toymaker who specialized in ancient games (like King's Table, Nine Men's Morris, Fox and Geese) from whom Bud and Mama bought special tops, various clothiers (no, I didn't buy a new gown, though I'm tempted as my other is too heavy on my back!), and the "marshmallow" catapult people.  The only downside of this festival is the less than mediocre food.  The kids split a turkey leg.  And we tried a Scotch egg.  Otherwise, we subsisted on fresh-squeezed (sugary) lemonade and kettle corn.  But everything else--the shows, the vendors, the games, the always-interesting (and often costumed--this time with lots of Steampunks) crowds--were delightful on this fun fall day!
Beautiful Barred Owl

Sis climbing Jacob's Ladder

Bud learning about weapons from a German mercenary
Sis flinging a frog

Bud with a bow

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Magical Day

On Saturday, we cavorted among the faerie houses (again) at the Florence Griswold Museum.  If you're in Connecticut this month, definitely go visit!

We all liked the first house, a Japanese tea house.  Bud even sketched it.  Can you find the blue teapot?  Each house stop on the map had a seek-and-find question.  We found most of the items, going back again to the houses where we couldn't find the treasure immediately.

Another one that piqued our curiosity as this one, complete with burnished emblems on the stumps.  Can you find the reindeer?

I really liked the faerie houses that blended in with the trees or rocks or grasses.  This Autumnal Fortress is spread out through lots of nooks and crannies. 

This house was nestled next to the tree, with numerous ladders and doors all around.  I think the doors and ladders were my favorite detail of all the faerie houses.

This was one of the kids' favorite houses, the Dew Drop.

And just several random details I liked from other houses.

We walked through the grounds by the Lieutenant River at least twice, admiring all 30+ houses and finding five of the "fringe faeries," or faery houses not on the original map, which were hidden in plain sight.

One of the last houses was the Pearl Palace, nestled next to a stream, which was lined with houses in the bank, another of my favorite houses.

 After a wonderful lunch on the veranda of the museum (wild mushroom bisque, butternut squash and apple soup, spinach salad, mushroom ravioli, chicken pot pie, apple crisp, and a trio of ice creams--peach cobbler with gingersnap, hazelnut with milk chocolate and seville orange with basil, so yummy), the kiddos built their own faerie houses "beyond the beyond."

Bud's teepee-shaped house with a thatched pine needle roof.

Sis's lean-to with a pine roof and a table laid with "bread with honey" (a rock with sap) and other delicacies.

We ended the day with a visit with Tracy Kane, the author of several books on faerie houses.  She signed her new photographic compendium, Fairy Houses--Unbelievable!, and her new mystery novel, Forest Secrets, for us.

We headed home through the pouring rain and dried off at home while watching Fairytale, about the girls who took the Cottingley fairy pictures in 1917.  

Then today, after the yard dried out, Sis and Bud built 10 houses in a village in our yard, providing a map for us and a personally-guided tour, during which we were asked to spot the hidden treasures.  Just like at the museum.  That is why we go on these outings:  not just for the initial information and enjoyment, but for the inspiration and imagination that follow for days and weeks to come.   May the magic of the faeries be with us for a long time.