Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Activities: It's Advent Again

It's Advent again and I've been adjusting our list of activities to fit past favorites, changing preferences, and new ideas.  Here's the new list (and 2009, 2010, and 2011), in no particular order, which we'll be pulling everyday from the string of holiday socks soon to decorate our mantle, starting tomorrow:
  1. Make gingerbread houses
  2. Bake sugar cookies
  3. Make teacher gifts/cards
  4. Deliver treats to doctor/vet/etc
  5. Do "Would you rather?" checklist
  6. Play Christmas bingo
  7. Buy and affix holiday stocking pin
  8. Gifts for others (via church)/Toys for Tots
  9. Donate savings jar to an organization
  10. Make natural wreath
  11. Write letters to Santa
  12. Have friends over for cookie decorating party after school
  13. Make latkes for Hanukkah
  14. Stay-up-late Solstice party/camp out under tree (12/21/12)
  15. Snowflake tortillas
  16. Make "my favorite things" ornament
  17. Make bird feeders
  18. Have a fondue party
  19. Field Trip:  NYC or OSV
  20. Make origami ornaments
  21. Go caroling to relatives via phone
  22. Decorate windows/chalkboard
  23. Make snowman fridge
  24. Make jar snow globes
If there is snow, substitute snow sledding, snow ice cream, snowball fight, etc.

(For other lists, see here, here, here.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another Nighttime Success

I'm working my way through some of my cookbooks again, trying to find new recipes to entice the kiddos.  Cabbage soup a la Mark Bittman was a success the other day; last night Katie Workman's The Mom 100 Cookbook's veggie stir-fry was a success.

Yes, I do see the irony in relying on some white woman's exact recipe for a Chinese stir fry, an art in itself, for my half-Chinese kids.

But they loved it.

I adapted the recipe somewhat based on what I had in the fridge and the kids' own preferences.  Really, saute any stir-fry-friendly vegetables in a little oil and garlic and then add her sauce.  She called for snap peas; I used yellow bell pepper and baby corn.  She advises tofu; I skipped that for a vegetarian meal but might add chicken next time.

Here's the sauce:

Veggie Stir-Fry Sauce
1 cup stock
1/4 cup tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
(you can add a little sugar if you like it on the sweet side)

Saute chosen vegetables in olive oil, adding garlic and ginger.  Then simmer them in the above sauce until tender.  Serve over rice or even noodles.

adapted from Katie Workman, The Mom 100 Cookbook

The Book Caught Me

I just finished reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, a journalistic investigation of the multicultural conflicts between Western doctors and the family of their Hmong patient, a girl name Lia Lee, who had severe epilepsy (which the Hmong know as "the spirit catches you and you fall down.")  I had first heard of the book when Aunt Banana had read it for nursing school and raved about the insights it provided her.  And then just a few weeks ago, I came across Lia Lee's obituary in the NYTimes.  Thinking it would be both interesting and helpful for my hospice work (specifically the discussion of how a very different culture reacts and interacts with Western medicine), I got a copy and devoured the book in just a few days.

It was everything I hoped and more.  I learned about the history of the Hmong people, from origins in China to cycles of conflict and immigration, most recently with the US war in Laos and escapes to the US.  I learned about Hmong culture--the dedication to family and clan and culture that provides their identity while rejecting assimilation, the animist religion that dominates their worldview and conflicts so with Western understanding of the body and medicine and science.  I gained more insight to Western medical culture, from training to daily experiences (33 hour shifts?!) to ethics and both the efficacy and blindness of rationalist, Cartesian thinking, and how different doctors work with or outside of all of those parameters, including the 8 questions for . . . ..  And I empathized with the parents, faced with the illness of their second-youngest child in a land where they couldn't tell the doctors what was wrong with her and what they could do.

But lastly, I think I gained some insight into my in-laws.  Of course, they are not Hmong or war refugees or animists.  But they are from a different culture, first Chinese, then Thai, first the children of immigrants in Bangkok and now immigrants themselves in the US.  And while they have been here almost 40 years, they are not really of here, nor really want to be. In one section of the book, ethics comes under discussion.  What is ethical?  Were Lia's parents unethical for not complying with doctors' instructions for Lia's treament or were they ethical for staying true to their personal spiritual and communal beliefs?  For them, ethics demanded loyalty to family, clan, and Hmong, not to Western doctors who patronized and even persecuted them (so to speak:  Lia was made a ward of the state for a period of time, at her doctor's insistence).  Weren't they then ethical by their own definition?  And perhaps my in-laws' dedication to their own culture's ethics and beliefs is what keeps them so apart here and causes such confusion/isolation, even with their own American children?  Can we really ever truly bridge such gaps?  Must the immigrating generation, as someone in Fadiman's book notes, always sacrifice their own happiness in the cultural conflict that immigration often creates?  At least, in my family's case, a girl's health and life were not devastated in the breech, which is in itself a Western bias--Lia's family long felt that her illness was in many ways a spiritual gift.

The book about her certainly was.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Inner Geekdom

For me, it began with Star Wars.
Early on, there was also "Battlestar Galactica" and "Buck Rogers and the 25th Century."
There was Sherlock Holmes in books, then in movies, and most recently on BBC.
Same with Excalibur, Mists of Avalon, and then "Merlin."  And with those, all the Renaissance fests.
I even played "Dungeons and Dragons" and have multi-sided dice.
And went to Gen Con once.
Then "Star Trek," specifically "The Next Generation."  But sometimes "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager."  (Rarely, the original.)
And one "Star Trek" convention.
And some Monty Python.
But only a little "Black Adder."
There was "Xena" and "Buffy" and even "Firefly."
But NEVER the "new" Star Wars.
And I was never huge into Narnia, but I've read the first one.
Of course, there was Lord of the Rings.  And, soon, The Hobbit.
And above all else, Harry Potter.
I even saw (but never read) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
But I really do think I've sealed my identity as a geek with my new-found love of "Doctor Who."
I've raced through the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, and started the Eleventh today.
I wonder where geekdom will take me next?

My First Hospice Visit

Nathan's hot dogs.
Coney Island.
Williamsburg.
Forest Hills.
The Catskills.

I traveled back in time to NYC circa Woody Allen's Radio Days this afternoon, talking with my new hospice friend (?  patient seems very clinical, and client too professional.  I'm a visitor.  Does that make the other person the visitee?).  It was actually much easier to have a conversation than I supposed it would be, even though it was punctuated by little naps and distractions.

Things I might have worried about--like not being able to hear or understand the person's speech, witnessing distressing symptoms, running out of things to say--didn't happen . . . this time.  I know there will be awkward and difficult moments, if not with this hospice friend, than with the next.

Then, of course, there will be this person's decline and eventual death; it is hospice, after all.  And I will write a card for the family and attend the funeral, if I can.

But today was a blessing and I'm looking forward to my weekly visits.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snow

After a day of waiting, we're finally getting a teensy bit of snow.  It stuck a bit to my cold car and the ground, but not much else.  A dusting.  Certainly not an inch as predicted, or a school cancellation.   Last night, friends told me that it's a New England custom to put your jammies on inside out or to put spoons under your pillow if you want enough snow for a cancellation.  Aren't these Yankees weird?

Anyway, Sis refused to wear hers inside out, telling Bud he had to wear his that way.  Which he willingly did.  She volunteered to wear her socks inside out and then she fetched spoons for under the pillows.

Well, of course, it didn't work and Bud says it's because Sis didn't comply!

I say, it's because the meterologists were off on this one, at least for our part of the state.  

A Trio of Recipes

Three versions of one recipe that I made tonight:

Cabbage Soup
1 small head green, Savoy, or Napa cabbage, about 1 1/2 lbs
4 tablespoons butter or 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I would reduce this to 1-1 1/2 tablespoons; too sweet)
1/4 teaspoon allspice
5 cups stock or water, preferably warmed
freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine or rice vinegar to taste

Core and shred cabbage.  Place butter or oil in large, deep, saucepan or casserole and turn the heat to medium.  When the butter melts or oil heats, add cabbage, onion, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until both onion and cabbage are tender but not brown (turn down heat if necessary) at least 20 minutes.

Stir in sugar and allspice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add stock or water and cook stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.

Add lemon juice and adjust seasoning.  Serve hot.

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything


French Version
All of the above plus a little tomatoes (sauce, diced, chopped would work), leftover cooked cannellini beans, and some Herbes de Provence.


"Unstuffed" Cabbage Version
The original recipe plus cooked rice and browned ground turkey (and while tomatoes would have been appropriate, one kid objects vociferously).

My First Visit

I've just been assigned my very first hospice visit tomorrow and I am so excited.  After several trainings and so much reading, I'll be going out with another (professional) member of the hospice team to meet the patient tomorrow afternoon.  And then I'll make weekly visits on my own.  I am excited, but also nervous and grateful and humbled, all at once.  But I won't be able to tell you too much about it, if I understand HIPAA correctly.  Though, I think I will be able to reflect on the experiences, free of details.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let's Go Ride a Bike!

Sis has learned how to ride a bicycle!  After weeks of coasting down the driveway practicing, she went into the cul de sac with Gong holding her seat and in just a few seconds was cruising all by herself!  She is so excited and so proud on her pink and white bike.  Now, every chance she gets, she heads by herself into the cul de sac and rides and rides and rides--do you recall that feeling?  The wind in your hair, the speed of the wheels, letting the bike coast without even pedalling?  The freedom, the joy, the pride!  She's even practiced standing to pedal!  And tonight, she even ran an errand on her bike, cruising down the block for a cup of milk, which she carried in her little handlebars tote in a clean jam jar I gave her!  "If you need any more errands, Mom, I'm your girl!"  Yes, you are.

Snow Time?

Wondering if we'll get snow tomorrow, with less than an inch in the forecast.  I can't ever really tell if it's going to snow.  I can guess, but the results are random; I'm much more adept at predicting rain, almost eerily so sometimes, perhaps owing to that East Texas childhood.  If anything, a bit of snow would mean a delay tomorrow; after this fall, I can't imagine they'd cancel school for anything less than a big blizzard.  Still, we have our electric snow shovel and other traditional shovels ready, but I don't think I'll bother putting out a bowl for snow ice cream tonight.

Trimming the Tree

Nope, not that tree.

The 75' silver maple in our backyard.

This morning a tree service came out and trimmed about 10-15' off the top, cut away branches overhanging our house and those of our neighbors', removed deadwood, and then cabled three of the large sections together.  The tree looks a little shorn, especially as it is bare of foliage, but it will be much safer the next time a storm hits.  Besides, it grows back fast enough--we had it trimmed about 10 years ago, which you wouldn't have known from looking at it recently.

We also decided, at the last minute, to keep the spruce, which is all cattywampus between the maple and the dogwood, but it's our only evergreen and the place the kids build fairy houses.  Yesterday, thinking we were going to have it removed, they actually saved pieces of it.  Well, that did it.  Can't have kids crying over a tree.  It's not immanently dangerous so we left it in place.  And they cheered and cheered!

They'll cheer again when we trim that other tree.

Friday, November 23, 2012

'Tis (Almost) the Season

Christmas lights were up around town a week before (an early!) Thanksgiving.  Target was full of holiday cheer before we even celebrated Halloween!

But Thanksgiving is (thankfully) over and we're moving on to the next holiday.  Mama brought up our Lego Christmas village set so Sis and Bud could set it up on our dining room/playroom table.  Then she brought out this year's holiday building, which they all had fun putting together.

And I picked up a crochet project that I haven't worked on in almost exactly four years:  Mama's Christmas stocking.  Thankfully, I'd made notes on the pattern, noting the size of the crochet hook and how I'd altered the pattern when I made Sis and Bud's stockings.  I loved working on the stocking while listening to Mama and the kids.

And to Christmas music!

Because the holidays have started in our house.

And we're all very happy and excited.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Live: Lessons Learned

Today is over.

And I'm glad.

It was a really tough day in many ways.

The kids were great.  And my brother-in-law is a light in all of our lives.  We were also glad to try to give my in-laws some respite from the difficulty that has been their life since the hurricane; I feel for them and want to help.  And I love Mama.

But today was frustrating, chaotic, and bittersweet.

First, making the food was so much more complicated than it should have been.  And then most of it turned out really mediocre.  I know I'm a better cook than that, but today was not my day.
  • Lesson 1:  You can't stick that many things in my oven at once.
  • Lesson 2:  Even though Thanksgiving is about food, we can cut back on our expectations so that the meal doesn't crush the holiday spirit.  
  • Lesson 3:  Ask others to bring dishes.
  • Lesson 4:  Have your goal in mind.  I thought my goal was a tasty meal--comfort food for the soul--but I think my real goal was comfort and I missed that one today.
I usually like to plan and cook and host.  But we all got caught up in the meal, probably as a distraction from other things (except Gong did take and make several phone calls with contractors and talk of the hurricane losses and struggles were always right there).  That's too many cooks in the kitchen, even though we were all trying to be helpful; no one knew what to do--Goo came closest, managing both kitchen help and playtime.  The only time I spoke to the kids before dinner was over was to snap when I thought that they got in the way.  I didn't like that at all.

Now that doesn't mean they weren't having fun.  They played with Goo and Gong--yo-yos, catch, Hackey sack, iPad games, Monopoly, Pokemon, DSi, among  other things.  
  • Lesson 5:  Make more time for rest and relaxation before lunch.
And then we finally ate.  I almost burst into tears several times during the meal, waves of sadness and such washing over me (along with hot flashes--I'm really not liking this peri-menopause; yes, it's official.).  Of course, it didn't help that the food wasn't distractingly good.  And there was little real conversation the first half.  Except when the kids pointed out what they didn't like.  I couldn't even muster the sentiment to have us go around to say what we're thankful for, as per tradition.  Even with all of our good fortune this year, for which we are grateful, it was just not the mood of the day.  So we toasted to "At least 2012 is almost over!"  Luckily, Goo did add that we were thankful for family.  About halfway through dinner, I was just too hot and went outside.  I've noticed that it doesn't really slow down the hot flashes, but there's not much else to do.  
  • Lesson 6:  Figure out better ways to deal with hot flashes.
And then the wave passed, both my inside tears and the personal summer.  I ate some more fresh cranberry sauce and remembered the "Would You Rather" questions game I'd printed out.  You know, things like "would you rather eat Thanksgiving dinner at the White House or get to lead the Thanksgiving parade?"  We chose the White House . . . especially for the next four years!  The question that was the most fun was "Would you rather eat with family or with three celebrities?"  I laughed and said I'd take the celebrities, and I'd tell them about it next year.  Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Emma Thompson!  Sis chose Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Pikachu.  Bud chose Obi Wan-Kenobi, Hermione Granger, and Ash Ketchum.  Typical twins--they chose people from the same three sources!  We laughed about washing our hair in mashed potatoes or bathing in gravy, or never celebrating either Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day again.  
  • Lesson 7:  Have a conversation starter or game on hand just in case.  
From there, we moved outside.  I played a little basketball with Bud, shot some Archery Tag arrows with Goo, and then Sis pulled out her bicycle.  Gong steadied her a bit and then, whadya know, Sis rode her bicycle all by herself!  And then we took her into the cul-de-sac for more space and she rode up and down the block unassisted without falling!!!  Bud gave it a try but didn't quite master it (much to his extreme disappointment.)
  • Lesson 8:  When all else fails, go outside.
Dessert was delightful, with pecan pie and pumpkin pie.  I didn't even mind when Sis reiterated that frozen was just not as good as scratch.  'Cos it's not.  
  • Lesson 9:  Eat dessert first.
Holidays are important; so is gratitude.  But people are more so.  We all tried today, as best we could, but in the end it was asking perhaps too much to pretend that things are okay when, for half our family, they just aren't.  We can't make it better with turkey and pie.

  • Lesson 10:  Be gentle with yourself and others.
Even though I'm glad today is over, I'm thankful for what I've learned.

Thanksgiving Live: Day is Done

The guests have headed home.  The kitchen is clean.  The leftovers are distributed and stored.  The cats have been liberated and are running around the house figuring out what happened today.

The kids are in pajamas, brushing their teeth.  We're about to settle down to watch some videos.  Maybe "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (or whatever it's called), or maybe just some Pokemon.  I know it'll be the first time Mama has gotten off her feet in almost 12 hours!  A good way to wind down the day.

Lessons learned later . . . .

Thanksgiving Live: 10 Minutes to Chaos

Gong is asleep on the couch; Ma is drinking coffee in the kitchen.  Goo is with the kids playing Pokemon cards.  And I'm lying down upstairs, getting a second wind.  Mama is . . . somewhere.

Because in about 10 minutes, it will be time to put dinner on the table!  There are currently 5 dishes in one oven, two needing their last-minute toppings soon, and one in the convection, roasting their little sprout hearts out.  The gravy is done; the cranberry sauce is done.

We're almost ready.

We run a pretty informal ship over here:  no elaborate place settings or centerpieces, no linen tablecloth or napkins, no fine china or crystal.  That's not a complaint; we're good that way--it's us.  We do have a fancy turkey cranberry dish (thanks, Aunt Banana), a turkey platter (both with a and for the turkey), as well as turkey plates (okay, confession:  I'm a vegetarian and I wonder about pictures of happy live turkeys on plates with hot dead turkey.  At least it's a pretty Victorian-esque cranberry-colored transfer).  But it's our everyday glasses and cutlery.  And so much food there won't be space for any pinecone pilgrims!

And here we go.  Dinner, a round of gratitudes (or not, I think those wounds might just be too tender right now), and lots of food.

Not a bad day.

Thanksgiving Live: Frustrations

The morning has seen a few frustrations.  First, Blogger has dropped several of my live posts without saving them.  And I can't be bothered to peck out the same thing three times on my phone.

Then, we realized we didn't have enough potatoes by half to make Sis's favorite mashed potatoes, so Mama and Ma went to the grocery (and we don't like shopping on Thanksgiving).

Then, I realized I didn't defrost the rolls last night.  I have 16 beautiful, homemade rolls that are totally frozen and don't have the 12 hours they need to defrost and rise.  So I'm making rolls again here in a little bit--and will send the frozen ones to Mama Teacher and home with Goo.

Except now that throws off our careful oven calculations, as does the addition of roasted Brussels sprouts to the menu, which have to be cooked 75F higher than everything else.  And I have, essentially, two ovens--a regular one and a convection one.

Sigh.

Add to that the general air of  overwhelming sadness and loss from the hurricane underlining several conversations (while innocuously carving the turkey, Mama just learned that all the Hallmark Eskimo ornaments her mother had bought and saved for her since she was a little girl were lost in the storm, among so many other things)--there's gratitude, but with a very bittersweet air--and, well, I'm looking forward to baked brie (and the crust ripped all the way around halfway through baking, which I can't understand at all) and apple cider in a bit, right after a few mental-health moments I'm taking alone upstairs.

The kids have been having fun playing with Goo.  They've practiced yo-yo moves, played catch with at first a crumpled-up piece of paper and then a Koosh ball, played Hackey-sack, played Dragonvale on the iPad, and are now playing Monopoly.  Ma is helping Mama.  Gong is in with the kids.  

And the cats are peacefully oblivious, alone in their room.

Thanksgiving Live: Beginnings

The kids hit the ground running, enticing Goo (who arrived last night for extra family time) into an early-morning Pokemon game.

Now Ma and Gong are here, hopefully for a day if respite from hurricane recovery. 

And I'm making the first round of coffee.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Month of Gratitude: The Little Things

I'm also thankful for the little things (and these aren't all of them but the ones that come to mind now):
  • my high school typing class
  • tea bags
  • apples and peanut butter
  • autumn leaves
  • yarn
  • quilts and afghans
  • beans
  • Bloodroot
  • mint
  • cats, penguins, bunnies, otters, pandas, koalas, hedgehogs, pugs
  • candles
  • chocolate
  • cheese and crackers
  • books
  • bookmarks
  • iPods
  • magazines
  • rainbows
  • prisms
  • handwritten letters
  • diaries
  • recipes
  • bread
  • purple
  • Star Wars, Harry Potter, Xena, Buffy, Doctor Who
  • Girl Scouts
  • boat rides
  • costumes
  • roses
  • s'mores
  • Fritos
  • pizza

Happy Birthday, Cousin Hungry!

Happy birthday to my niece, Cousin Hungry, who celebrates her second birthday today.  Special good wishes to her (and her parents) for terrific (not terrible) two!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thursday's Menu

Here we go, in one place for easier cooking (which starts tomorrow), all my recipes for this year's Thanksgiving (can't fix the funky formatting).  Time to get started!



Miss K's Baked Brie
Roll out a boxed pie crust ( I use the Pillsbury pie crust found in the cold section near the orange juice - 2 in a box) with a little flour into a large circle. Spray the baking dish with Pam (or whatever) and put the pie crust in the dish. Place the large brie in the middle (I use the President brand), top with a layer of preserves (for the party I used apricot but I've used others like orange, etc.) then top with sliced almonds (if you use cranberry then walnuts are good). Fold up the pie crust around the brie, pinch closed and tear off extra crust. Put a light egg wash all over and then if desired, put another thin layer of preserves and nuts on top. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
K.K.


Trash
3          cups Corn Chex® cereal
3          cups Rice Chex® cereal
3          cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1          cup mixed nuts
1          cup bite-size pretzels
1          cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
6          tablespoons butter or margarine
2          tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2    teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4       teaspoon garlic powder
1/2       teaspoon onion powder


1.         In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
2.         Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.
Oven Directions Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Chex website


Gravy
Be patient and really let that roux brown!
Heat 4 tablespoons grease. Add 4 tablespoons of flour. Brown til copper-colored. Stir in 4 cups drippings. Add chicken bouillon and salt and pepper to taste.

Mom



Dressing
½ cup margarine
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 bag of stuffing
2 cups dry bread (or 2 more cups of Pepperidge Farms)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon sage
1 cup chicken stock (double this amount!)

Saute onion and celery in margarine. In mixing bowl, crumble breads and add spices and onion/celery mix. Add chicken stock. Refrigerate over night. Bake at 350°F for 45 min.-1 hour.

Mom


Yams
29 oz. can yams, drained
4 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
orange juice

Bake at 375°F. Add marshmallows to brown.

Mom


Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish
2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," says Stamberg. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind -- not a puree.")
Add everything else and mix.
Put in a plastic container and freeze.
Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")
The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. It’s also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.")
Makes 1-1/2 pints.

NPR radio


Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray(r) Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 unpeeled orange, cut into eighths and seeded
3/4-1 cup sugar
Place half the cranberries and half the orange slices in food processor container or food grinder. Process until mixture is evenly chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining cranberries and orange slices. Stir in sugar. Store in refrigerator or freezer. Makes about 3 cups.

Oceanspray


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

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


Broccoli Rice Casserole 

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

½ stick (4 tablespoons) margarine

2 –10 oz packages frozen chopped broccoli, cooked

2 cups cooked rice (from about ¾ cup raw)

1-10 ¾ oz can condensed cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup

½  small jar (4 ounces) Cheez Whiz

1-5 oz can water chestnuts, sliced

Brown onion and celery in margarine until soft and golden.  Combine with broccoli, rice, soup, Cheez Whiz and drained water chestnuts in a greased 2-quart casserole.  Bake 25-30 minutes at 350°F.  Serves 8.  May be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to cook.  May be frozen.  Allow 45 minutes to 1 hour time if casserole is chilled or frozen.
Mom

Brussel Sprouts
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400* F.

Remove the ends and brown or damaged leaves of the Brussel sprouts. Rinse well in cold water. Dry the sprouts well. Cut in half lengthwise. In a bowl, gently mix the sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on foil-lined baking sheet for 30- 40 minutes, until crispy and on the outside and tender inside.


Mashed Potatoes
In a large slow cooker set on high heat, combine 4 pounds peeled potatoes with 1 smashed garlic clove, 1 teaspoon salt, and hot water just to cover. Cover and cook on high heat for 3 to 4 hours; the potatoes will slowly absorb the water and become soft. Scoop out of the cooker with a slotted spoon (save the cooking water) and into a bowl. Immediately mash with hot cream and soft butter, then salt and pepper to taste. If the potatoes seem dry, add some cooking water. Return to the cooker, cover and keep warm.

NYTimes


Big-Batch Quick Dinner Rolls
·                                 1/2 cup lukewarm water
·                                 2 cups warm milk ( 100 - 110°F)
·                                 3 tablespoons butter
·                                 2 tablespoons sugar
·                                 1 tablespoon salt
·                                 2 1/2 tablespoons yeast, instant preferred
·                                 6 to 7 cups KA all-purpose flour
I put everything in my bread machine (using 5 cups of flour and then adding 1 1/2 more as needed).  I let it knead and then rise about 30+ minutes (i.e. not the whole cycle).  And then removed the dough, made a 12 x 8" rectangle, divided it into 4 rows with 6 rolls each, rolled them into balls, and placed them into greased aluminum pie tins. Allow to rise 10 minutes.  Then I covered them tightly and put them in the freezer.  I'll defrost overnight.  In the morning, I'll preheat to 350F and bake 20-25 minutes until golden.  Yum!

adapted from King Arthur Flour


Pecan Pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1 cup Karo syrup (light or dark; I usually have light)

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cup whole pecans
1-9 inch unbaked or frozen pie crust
Preheat oven to 350°F.  In large bowl, stir the first five ingredients until well blended.  Stir in pecans.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between crust and center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.
 Karo syrup bottle



Better Now

I was not having a good morning.  The kids were crabby.  I bent funny picking up something and was tight (no, not that tight, just a temporary inconvenience.)  And I was getting stressful about the upcoming holiday--all the cooking, lots of cleaning to do, and attempting to have a happy dinner with family.

And then I had a nice phone conversation with Aunt Banana, who is readying not only for Thanksgiving with our folks but also Cousin Hungry's second birthday!

I also went to the store and got my morning coffee for free when the register was down!  I figured they'd just close the mini-SB, but they just gave away the coffee.  And I found my favorite sweaters on sale--and bought a size smaller than last year.

Now, I'm at home, watching "Doctor Who" with my purring cat, Hermione.

The day has gotten a lot better.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What a Weekend!

Friday
On Friday evening, we saw a performance of the Chinese kung fu troupe, the Shaolin Warriors, along with several of Bud's kung fu classmates and his kung fu master.  The kids, but especially Bud, were thrilled.  There were weapons demonstrations with staff, broadsword, whip, etc; group hand forms; tests of strength with with beds of nails, logs, breaking metal sticks, etc; and lots of acrobatics.  A few times, the performers even invited audience members up to help with the demonstration, including kids one time.  And Bud, hesitant at first, agreed to go up when a performer bowed to him from the aisle.  He went up on stage and followed along on a simple hand form with about 40 other kids.  And he did a great job!  We bought a video and a program.  It was a great dry run for Disney, with the late-night show and bedtime.  And we all passed with flying colors.

Saturday
After his usual kung fu class on Saturday morning, we all headed to the local Carpatho-Russian Christmas fair at the church of some of our friends.  We'd gone last year and had had a marvelous time.  This year was no different:  delicious food (halupki, halushki, pagachi, kielbasa, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, etc), fun gingerbread-house decorating, and good friends. I even got to see the beautiful sanctuary! It's one of my favorite fairs.  And just like last year, the friendly welcome of all the church members is unsurpassed!

One woman at the church, though, was very opinionated (she was the sister of someone who knew someone at the church and not anyone I knew).  When she heard Mama and I talking about Twinkies, she started to lecture me about how to buy better food for my children!  But instead of just saying this once and moving one, she kept going on and on and on.  I couldn't decide if it was a fat prejudice thing directed at me, thinking I must feed my kids Twinkies all the time.  Or I'm not sure what.  But without cutting her off, I turned to Mama and said now we had to find some Hostess treats!  And we did, a box of orange cupcakes, my favorites.  Mama preferred Sno Balls but couldn't find those.  And there are no Twinkies anywhere.  We'd really wanted to have them try a Twinkie, since they were such a 20th-century icon in popular culture--"Twinkie" to refer to lightweight (as in "Twinkie books"), the idea of indestructible food-like products, even fried Twinkies.  It's my childhood's zeitgeist.  So, we ate the Orange Cupcakes, which have the texture and filling of Twinkies, if not the same yellow flavor.  And the kids were nonplussed and didn't get why this is such a big deal.  No wonder Hostess is going out of business after a few bankruptcies!  Oh, well.  Mama and I remember Hostess, even if we probably hadn't had any in 30+ years, and that's enough.

Sunday
We continued our Disney film series, trying to expose the kiddos to the most famous and prevalent films before our trip.  We saw Bambi last weekend (ugh, but it's what they had at the library), then Alice in Wonderland and then The Incredibles.  So far, the kids haven't been overly interested, but we've enjoyed them enough.

And then we played outside.  Neighbors helped us clear the yard (well, we paid the kids to do the work and I chatted with the mom), while Mama worked on ideas for organizing the garage.  The kids helped some and ran around playing more.

Pretty much the perfect fall weekend.

Month of Gratitude: Catching Up

Saturday:  I am grateful for Mama.  Have I mentioned that before here?  Right now, I love how she's researching and organizing our trip to Disney World and Harry Potter World.  Her childlike excitement is infectious and her planning skills top notch.  It'll be a great trip.

Sunday:  I am grateful for my friend Vivian, who taught me how to crochet, a skill that has brought me great pleasure over the years and enabled me to make gifts for others.  Now I'm in the process of teaching Sis, who purchased two skeins of different weights of yarn, both pink, and a J hook and L hook--she thought the letters meant "gigantic" and "large."

Monday:  I am grateful for my friends, near and far, including the two I met with today, one for breakfast and one for lunch.  They are my inspiration, my support, my advisors, my confidants, my role models, my rest and relaxation.  And I hope I am theirs.

Thanksgiving: Preparations

I just finished the first run to the grocery store for Thanksgiving by going to the local big grocery store that I only visit a few times a year.  Mama will make the second run, to Whole Foods for the special happy turkey, tonight.  See, for whatever reason, we spend the whole year mostly seasonal, local, organic, non-processed, no cans even, but for Thanksgiving I revert to all the holiday foods of my youth--green bean casserole,  broccoli rice casserole, canned candied yams with marshmallows, strawberry jello--with cream of mushroom soup, fried onions, canned yams, Cheez Whiz, even Jello!   Which is why I have to go to the big local store because the Whole Foods doesn't carry such things.  Which should be clue number one that I need to make some changes.  However, I never try new recipes for the holidays--too much pressure for the day.  I like the old recipes and once a year isn't really a problem.  And I still make my cranberry sauce, gravy, dressing, rolls, pecan pie, brussel sprouts, and such from scratch . . .   But it seems ironic to celebrate the harvest with some of these dishes.  So my holiday vow is to convert my old recipes to healthier, more natural versions and to try some new recipes BEFORE the next holiday meal.  If you have any favorites, do send them along!

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Election Reflection

Okay, so I haven't really gloated about the election.  No high-fives, no I-told-you-so.

Well, except with other Democrats.  

But there are so many of us up here that we just all walked around smiling and nodding to strangers.  

Well, until about 12 hours later when the hurricane hit.

Besides, we're a kinder, gentler electorate and didn't want to pain the disappointed Republicans up here.  

All six of them.

But enough is enough. I've now read article after article about how Karl Rove was surprised, how Linda McMahon was surprised, how even Mitt Romney was surprised.

Don't they read Nate Silver??

No, it seems the GOP had their proverbial heads in the sand this year.  

Or glued to Fox News.

And still do.  Because everything I read tries to guess at why they lost--urban vote?  minorities?  young people?  gays?   Were they too conservative?  Or not conservative enough?  But they had all that red space on the map!  How come they still lost by 126 electoral college and approximately 2 million popular votes?  Apparently, Romney told his backers this week that Obama won because he bought the vote of special interest groups like gays and young people and minorities with his stances on same-sex marriage, college debt, and the Dream Act.  

Can 10% of the population be a niche special interest group?

Are white, conservative, Christians a single special interest group?  And wasn't the GOP trying to buy their votes?  With all of Sheldon Adelson's money?  

See, the thing is, the fact that the GOP doesn't understand how and why they lost is exactly how the Democrats won.  The Republicans are out of touch.  And apparently, based on all the reactions, more so than we Democrats could have possibly dreamt.

For some wonderful reflections on this, see (I'm sure there are more, but these are my recent faves):



Month of Gratitude: Extracurriculars

I'm grateful today for the chance to give our children after-school activities that expand and challenge them, particularly Bud's kung fu and piano lessons and Sis's Girl Scout troop and gymnastics classes.  They derive such pleasure from these, learning new skills, meeting new friends, exploring their own interests and talents.  And I get to watch--to see Bud do a tornado kick or to hear him play "Joy to the World," to be there when Sis sells 300+ boxes of cookies and takes pride in learning to do a back bend.  It's a gift to them and to me.

What's in a Name?

I have to admit upfront that I don't get "Mrs."

And probably because I'm a lesbian, even one with a wife, I'm very rarely called "Mrs."

That, and during my decade or so in academics, no one addressed a woman except by "Ms."  Unless it's "Dr." or "Professor."

So I was pretty surprised to be introduced to a school assembly as "Mrs. Hungry" the other day.

Now, officially, "Hungry" is my maiden name.  Mama and I didn't share names when we married--because same-sex people have to PAY for the name change, which can run in the thousands.  Also, I'm attached to my last name.  It's mine.  I've used it professionally and personally for my whole life. And I saw no reason to give it up, nor did Mama hers.   In fact, it always surprises me to learn that women have given up their names in this day and age.  Always.  I understand the whole "making a new family thing," but then, why not hyphenate?  Both of you?  A whole new family.  But only one person I know hyphenated . . . and her husband did too.  I like that and have even contemplated it.  The symbolism is powerful, as is that of keeping your own name.  Or giving up.  But just what does it symbolize?

But back to the "Mrs."  I didn't correct the principal in front of the whole school or even in private afterwards, mainly because I wanted to think on it.  I'm not "Mrs. Hungry," ever.  My mom is.  If "Mrs." signals married, I didn't marry a "Hungry."  So the name just sounds so silly.  I'm not offended, mainly confused and amused.

I was at the school this morning doing copies for the arts contest and was handed a list of the staff.  Complete with their titles.  "Mrs." carefully delineated all the way down, except for the one "Mr.", the two feminist "Ms.", and just one "Miss."  What an archaic practice, perhaps one that is only kept alive in schools and suburbs?  Why did the school list need to demarcate everyone's marital status?

In fact, why is that the first thing we choose to signal someone?

Are married women as mystified by being "Ms." or "Miss"?  Does it sound silly?  Is it offensive?  Why?  Is it a pride thing to be known as married?

And what in the world do men think?  Do they get off on a woman giving up her own name to take theirs?  Would they ever give up theirs and take hers?  Is it just some quaint tradition?  Of course, it used to be patriarchy that demanded the name change.  Now it is a woman's choice.  That's as it should be.

But, even thinking on it, I can't wrap my head around making it for myself.

Though, if you call me "Mrs. Hungry," I'll answer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crocheting in the Car Line


I'm rushing to finish this prayer shawl before the dedication in church on Sunday.  It's in three rows of double crochet with one row of single crochet, in a Lion Brand homespun color I can't recall (Pacifica? Tudor?  Quartz?  Update:  It's Tudor.), until it measures approximately 20 x 70" give or take.    I'll eventually add fringe, if there's time; if not, I'll give it some kind of scalloped edge.  So, getting off the blog now . . . .


Month of Gratitude: Insurance Again

Yesterday it was health insurance, today it's property insurance: I am thankful that, with the addition of a garage door today, our garage is back in working order after the accident in early September. Now we just have to fill it with the stuff in the POD!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Month of Gratitude: Health Insurance

Month of Gratitude:  Thankful for health insurance, which we've used so much in the last few years (and for Mama's job which provides it).

Helping Hands, Warm Hearts

Today, our hospice team made 60+ easy, colorful, fleece scarves for our patients.




Instructions:

  • Buy 3+ yards of fleece.
  • Fold in half, with selvage edges together.  
  • Cut in approximately 12" strips.
  • Remove selvage edge.
  • To make fringe, cut strips approximately the length of the shaft of the scissors (3 to 4").  Make a cut in the middle, then in the middle of that, halving each section until you've made 1/16ths (this is easier than measuring out fringe every 3/4" or so).  
  • Then you can be done or tie decorative beads on each fringe piece.

Month of Gratitude: Thanksgiving

I'm grateful for Thanksgiving, not only the chance to gather with family and to cook special foods, but also to contemplate gratitude itself (and compassion and generosity, especially with yearly food bank donations), as well as to reexamine the early history of European settlers and the Wampanoag who were here first.

I'm starting to work on our family menu for next week.  How is it already next week??  I think we'll have pretty much the same as always:

  • turkey
  • dressing (I've got leftover cornbread, homemade biscuits, and Italian bread in the freezer!)
  • gravy
  • homemade rolls
  • cranberry sauce(s)--jellied, homemade, fresh, horseradish varieties
  • sweet potatoes
  • green bean casserole
  • jello
  • pumpkin pie
  • pecan pie
The rest is up for discussion.  I'm considering broccoli rice casserole, roasted Brussel sprouts, something to snack on, and whatever Goo wants to make.  I haven't done the shopping for us yet, but I did fill a cart with sets of 10 for $10 deals at the store to donate to the food bank.  I usually get boxed stuffing, mainly because it is so much lighter to carry than canned green beans or cranberry sauce.  We'll take those to church this week.  

And I'm prepping to do a presentation on pilgrims at school for Sis and Bud's class.  I have my white pilgrim coif/cap and will wear my maroon colonial outfit (which can look 17th century for the occasion, especially with the cap.)  Of course, talking about Thanksgiving is fraught.  I don't want to whitewash the time period or present myths of a friendly "First Thanksgiving" with cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes, but it has to be appropriate for second graders.  I'm hoping to read the original account of the 1621 Harvest Feast adn talk about life for the settlers and also life for the Wampanoag, including the thanksgiving rites of both--European harvest festivals, the Strawberry Thanksgiving, and native traditions of gratitude for Mother Earth.  I might also mention what our own town looked like in 1621, which was essentially a summer village of the local tribe; Europeans only showed up 20+ years later.  I'm still conceiving of it, drawing ideas from Oyate, an organization for Native American/American Indian advocacy and education , and Plimoth Plantation, which has led the research on the original 1621 feast as well as a more accurate and responsible understanding of the Wampanoag and settlers.  

Lastly, I'm enjoying contemplating what I'm thankful for each day and posting it here.  This was yesterday's gratitude, actually.  When I reflect tonight, I wonder what I'll be grateful for today?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Play it Again, Mom

Yesterday, Bud had his first piano performance.  He and other students of his wonderful teacher entertained residents of a nursing home.  Bud played "Spoonful of Sugar" and "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain."  I hear it was great.  Mama recorded it on her phone but has had problems with the playback.  He'll have his bigger recital in early December, playing "Good King Wenceslas" and others.  We're very proud of him.

I actually didn't get to see him because I was taking Sis to a birthday party at the local kiddo club.  There, all the guests danced to current pop music, sang karaoke, and played games like "Coke and Pepsi," freeze dance, and balloon races.  Sis was dubbed "Little Rihanna," though I'm not sure of the similarities!  Anyway, Sis sang along to "Call Me Maybe" and danced to "Gangam Style," "What Makes You Beautiful," and "Never Getting Back Together."  None of which I knew; I'm not even sure Sis knew any but the first.  Which means either Glee is behind or I need to catch up!  Sis was wonderful, singing and dancing and playing with energy and excitement, even though she'd been a bit nervous about being there without her Buddy.  Now she wants to have their birthday party there!

I think there's going to be a lot of music in our house the next few weeks, between Sis singing the songs she learned and Bud practicing for his recital.  Music to my ears.

Pins

Same word, two meanings.

On Sunday night, I played on Pinterest, pinning recipes, funny cards, inspirational sayings, cute pictures of cats, and historical clothing.

Meanwhile, Mama was reading about pins, specifically collectible Disney pins.  She's starting to research and make plans for our spring trip to Disney World, the one idea that would bring a smile to her face when she was sick this summer.  Anyway, Mama likes pins and is excited about trading pins at WDW, but in researching them she found out all sorts of things about counterfeits, "scrappers," trading etiquette, etc.

So she'd read me about Disney pins and I'd read her funny cards and we passed two hours of odd yet delightful time with pins.

Month of Gratitude: Sunday and Monday

Sunday:  I am thankful for my Unitarian Universalist faith community, our second UU church, which we've been attending a little less than a year.  We're finally settling in and getting to know people, which took longer than we expected, with all the craziness of our spring . . . and summer . . . and fall.; the kids are very happy with their religious education class.

Monday:  Today, I am extra thankful for computers.  I'm working simultaneously on GS stuff and the school arts contest--emails, flyers, shopping, research.  All while watching "Doctor Who," first "Doomsday" and now "Runaway Bride."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Month of Gratitude: Arts Education

Today, as I start organizing our school arts contest, I am grateful for arts education (visual, music, dramatic, dance, literary) in our schools and educational programs in our museums. As the t-shirt reads, "Earth without art is just 'eh!'"

Friday, November 9, 2012

Month of Gratitude: Hospice

Today, I'm grateful for hospice.  I went to my hospice team meet-and-greet to met the other volunteers and staff (no, I haven't had my first patient yet due to logistics).  And I just finished a great book, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, a memoir about a mother-son relationship during her struggle with pancreatic cancer and their connection through books.  It was, oddly, like Mitch Albom meets Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Month of Gratitude: Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday:  I am grateful for snow.  I love snow.  I didn't have it as a child and I can't get enough of it as an adult.  SNOW!!!!!  It's the second thing I love best about Connecticut, right after the left-leaning citizenry.

Thursday:  I am very grateful for my physical therapist. Especially today, because I graduated from PT tonight!!!!  Surprisingly (and perhaps a bit frighteningly!), I realized she was right when she suggested I didn't need regular therapy anymore.  I hadn't seen her in a month, a month in which I'd done more things, including fall on my butt in the street, without needing immediate PT attention.   So I'll continue with Pilates and everything else, like walking everyday and limiting sitting and also being mindful. I'm so much better than where I was almost a year ago when I started with her.  I recognize that I will always have limitations and challenges, but I know better how to deal with them now, both physically and mentally.  She gave me my life back!

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas!

Sure, we haven't officially had Halloween yet and Thanksgiving is two weeks away, but today felt like Christmas to me:  snow all over the ground, the scent of wood burning, no school, a complete suspension of normal activities like meetings and classes, the whole family home doing things together.  Bud said he even awoke looking for Christmas presents!  The only thing missing was his practicing "Good King Wenceslas" on the piano over and over.

Good Morning!!

It's a beautiful day in our neighborhood!


Snow Day!

The kids will be home today, enjoying the snowfall.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First Snow

It is still snowing!  And sticking to everything. Mama picked up the kids on her way home and together they went to buy snow shovels since ours were crushed in the garage.  The kids played outside for awhile, making the first snowballs and attempting to make the first snow people of the year; they also shoveled the driveway for fun.

Then we had our traditional "snow snack" of popcorn and hot chocolate.  Yum!  I don't know for whom else that's a tradition, but I like it.  We didn't manage to put out bowls for snow ice cream, figuring they'd fill with leaves or blow away.

The kids did their homework (figuring there will be a delay tomorrow, not a cancellation, but who knows) and then traded Pokemon cards with Mama, while I inadvertently napped on the couch.  Eventually, dinner.

Mama just went outside to knock some snow off our small Japanese maple in front (the one in the pictures earlier) which branches were touching the ground.  That lifted the branches more than 5'+!  But we're still watching both the Japanese maple in front and the 75' silver maple in back because they are both in full foliage and now laden with snow.

Who can believe it?  The forecast started with flurries and no accumulation and yet it's been snowing for more than nine hours nonstop!  Now the forecast is saying 3-5" accumulation.  We'll see.  It's beautiful.  As long as the wind doesn't get up to the predicted gusts of 60 mph.

For now, the kids are camping out downstairs (away from the silver maple, which was supposed to be cabled for added stability the week Sandy hit!  It's a healthy tree; it's just really big.)  And we're playing school and our Brownie meeting by ear.

I just hope it isn't our turn to lose power.

My heart goes out to all of those, like my friend Rev. M on LI who has been without power since Sandy struck and who are now covered in snow.

Through the Kitchen Window


Outside Right Now


First Snow Picture of the Season

There's more snow on the ground now than when I snapped this but also a lot less light.


SNOW

It's accumulating, folks, and Accuweather now says it'll stick, between 1-4".

Mama's picking up the kids on her way to buy a snow shovel (ours was crushed in the garage) for a little Obama election/Nor'easter combo party!

Flurries

Yep, very light flurries.

Four More Years!

'Nuff said.

Dreamin'

I just woke up to check the stats.  Tell me it's not a dream?!?!?  And it's a beautiful one for me and especially our children.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Best. Halloween. Ever.

This morning, Sis and Bud, with the help of our young neighbor/babysitter M, distributed upwards of 60 pumpkin flyers to our three-block area announcing "Trick-Or-Treat Tuesday" in lieu of the town-appointed celebration day tomorrow, for which forecasters now predict a Nor'easter.  And tonight, their efforts paid off!  Sis and Bud went trick-or-treating with 16 neighborhood kids, some of whom they had just met for the first time (as we all shivered in the 34F!!!).  We just kept picking up kids as we went along.  Everyone was extra-thrilled to be out trick-or-treating after the storm last week and the postponement--it was like a bonus!  It was great to spend time with the neighbors, to talk to the ones I usually only see driving by and to meet a few new ones on the blocks further down (we don't all go to the same schools so we don't all know each other).  Best of all, almost half of the houses hung out their pumpkin flyers and welcomed our kids with candy!  Some bars were even regular sized, not mini!  (And there was the usual toothpaste/toothbrush house.)  There were even a few other groups who rang our bell after our kids started sorting their hauls at home, kids who got into the spirit after seeing that Halloween was really happening a day earlier than a week later!   I'm so proud of my kiddos for helping to make it happen for themselves and their new friends.  And I'm tickled with myself that it actually worked a thousand times better than I expected.   A great community-spirited night! 

Soup's On Again

Amid all the craziness of the day--voting, organizing an impromptu Halloween, trying to get to Pilates (traffic made me so late that we had to cancel), a playdate, "booing" some friends, going to a wake for a friend's mother, and then trick-or-treating (plus the unplanned fall passing out flyers!)--I'm in charge of dinner for Sis and Bud's ill classmate's family.  I'm taking my newly adapted recipe (from this vegetarian oneChicken and Vegetable Soup with Tortellini, bread, and homemade brownies.  We might stay for a bit, to chat with our classmate.  Just before we trick or treat.

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

Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Tortellini

1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
8-12 cups chicken stock
1-10 oz package frozen spinach, defrosted
1+ cup frozen corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1-2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 large package cheese tortellini

Saute onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil; add garlic and saute til fragrant.  Add chicken stock and simmer until vegetables almost tender.  Add spinach, corn, tomatoes, chicken, and Italian seasoning.  If serving immediately, bring soup to high simmer or boil and add tortellini.  Otherwise, cook tortellini separately and heat with soup when ready to serve.

Mommy Hungry

The Doctor is In

We were passing out flyers for our "Trick-or-Treat TUESDAY" earlier, walking door-to-door in our three-block area.  And I stepped in a hole off the street and fell down, not at all gracefully.  I'm fine--more embarrassed and scared than hurt, though my knee got all scraped up.  The kids heard and saw me go down and panicked.  Bud wanted to call 911!  "You said if you ever fell to call them!"  Of course, what I meant was if I were unconscious or somehow immobile.

I'm fine, just fine.  I'm home and the kids are at a playdate for a couple of  hours.  I took my meds and am watching "Doctor Who," my new favorite show.  I come to it very late, definitely a lacuna in my geek cred.  But it's the best medicine for my ego and knee.

SNOW??!!!

Depending on the forecast you consult, it's going to snow tomorrow!  No accumulations, just snow and ice and then rain--the famed "wintry mix."  A messy day to be sure.

And so we just wandered around our 3-block neighborhood passing out "Trick-or-Treat TUESDAY" signs, encouraging everyone to go out tonight instead of the rescheduled event tomorrow night--in 40+ mph winds and rain.  Hang a flyer on your door if you want trick-or-treaters; come out and join us if you have trick-or-treaters.  The neighbors I talked to thought it was a good idea.  Mama laughed that, with the bake sale, I was becoming a community organizer!

Some might say it's just time to let Halloween go this year.  But I know the kids are looking forward to it, a return to that normalcy everyone talks about--for them it's not the electricity and mass transit, it's school and Halloween.  And so I'm doing my best to give a little bit of that not only to my own kids but to our neighborhood (the town won't change it from tomorrow).

Besides, I've got almost 10 lbs of candy to get rid of!


Month of Gratitude: Voting


Election Day, November, 1884 

If I should need to name, O Western World, your 
   powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara--nor you, ye limitless 
   prairies--nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its 
   spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, 
   appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty 
   lakes--nor Mississippi's stream:
--This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, 
   I'd name--the still small voice vibrating--America's 
   choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen--the act itself the 
   main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd--sea-board 
   and inland--Texas to Maine--the Prairie States--
   Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West--the 
   paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling--(a swordless 
   conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern 
   Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity--welcoming the darker 
   odds, the dross:
--Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to 
   purify--while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.



I voted today, taking part in "America's choosing day" with Sis and Bud, who were as excited about the bake sale as the ballot!  They know we support President Obama, but they kept asking why.  And I tried to explain . . . .

I voted for President Obama and the Democratic Party because I am a woman, a mother, a mother of a girl, a mother of children who might be LGBTQ, a lesbian, a married lesbian, a lesbian with a Chinese wife, a member of a bi-racial family, a person with health problems, the wife of a person with health problems, the daughter of parents on Medicare, a sister to healthcare workers, a person outside of mainstream Christian  religion, a person who supports public schools and higher education, a person in the arts not corporate America, a person who believes in federal funding for the arts and museums, a vegetarian, a mother worried about the foods and medicines she gives her family, a person worried about the environment, a person who doesn't believe in the exceptionalism of the United States, a person who believes in the responsibility of government in supporting and protecting those least able to help themselves be it because of natural disaster/ age/illness/disability/hardship, a person who believes in the government's responsibility to regulate business including agribusiness/military-industrial complex/Wall Street/Big Pharma/etc, a person who believes in national healthcare and childcare subsidies and maternity leave, and for so many other reasons . . . .

Sis and Bud, one day you'll understand . . . and one day you'll vote, too.

And I am grateful for that right to vote, which didn't exist for women when my grandmother was born in 1902.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Month of Gratitude: School

As a public-school Democrat, I am grateful for our teachers and staff.
 

Frankenstorm: Worries

In the grand scheme of things, our family has been very lucky.

But I read the paper and hear the stories:  no power, no heat, no plumbing, no food, no water, no communication lines.

It has happened before, elsewhere, notably New Orleans after Katrina as well as Houston after Rita.  But now it is happening in one of the most densely-populated regions of the country:  NJ, NYC, the suburbs.   It has affected millions.

And it will happen again.

So, how do we prepare?  Most of us don't have enough room to plant gardens to sustain us, "volunteer" trees for possible firewood (or the tools to cut one down), space for a self-composting outhouse as Heather Bruggeman and Karen L R mention, the ability to dig a well for water.  We can't prepare to live off the grid.  We are the grid.

If I wanted to live on the land, I'd be there already.  I like semi-urban living.

Except when it breaks.

Even if we have generators, we need gasoline.   And we've seen how quickly and easily that supply can be interrupted. Even if we store a year's worth of meals, a la the Mormons, we can't actually cook them on our outdoor grills without fuel.  And if we don't have that supply of meals, what food will we eat?  The prep-for-three-days is woefully inadequate.  And what about water?

I don't have any answers.  I'm not sure anyone really does.  But I know I'll be thinking on it before next year.

And maybe buying a generator anyway.