Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pondering Halloween

The rain held off so that it was a dark but not stormy night.  In fact, it was quite temperate for a New England Halloween and the kids didn't even need jackets or long sleeves as they wandered out into the night.  They trick or treated alone this year, in that they didn't join any neighbor groups but went door to door together as we stood at the curb.  They did all the neighborhood houses--including the three near us that have been dark and candyless for the decade we've lived in Connecticut but are now inhabited by young families and Halloween participants--after first driving to a special chosen few.  Interestingly, few people tonight, or last night at Mama's office Halloween party for kids, recognized Sis's Quidditch robes or Bud's Camp Half-Blood shirt as belonging to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson respectively.  The few who did know, however, were appropriately excited.  Sis and Bud in turn were excited to see a colleague of Mama's in a T.A.R.D.I.S. shirt and Sis proudly told him that she was going to be the Doctor next year, the Tenth Doctor.  He approved.

Of course, their favorite part, both last night and tonight, isn't so much the gathering of candy, which is merely a means to an end, namely the eating of candy.  First, they sort their haul by type, then they engage in the all-important swap whereby one gives all of his Hershey bars in exchange for all of her Skittles and the other gives up all of  her mini-Crunch bars for all of his Whoppers.  It is a family ritual.  So is giving all of the nutty candies--Snickers, Almond Joys, peanut M&Ms, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups--to Mama and me.  We let them eat til they'd had their fill tonight and will be generous with the eating of candy for the next few days, until Mama does a candy buy-back program this weekend, another ritual.

I asked the kids about family rituals and traditions, as I was cutting out rounds of Soul Cakes this evening.  The spiced cookies were pretty good, actually, thicker and more tender than shortbread with a lot more spice (plus we used balsamic vinegar instead of white wine vinegar, which we didn't have.)  Anyway, I realized that oftentimes I don't repeat activities like Soul Cakes.  This year it's Soul Cakes (we played the song all afternoon); a few years ago it was roasted pumpkin seeds.  Next year, who knows?  Sis said she liked that we did new things each year as long as we kept some of the same traditions, like the great candy swap and drawing their costume for the year on their trick or treat bags and hanging up "Ghostie" in our tree.  For Thanksgiving, she said, we had to have turkey and gravy but she didn't feel like we had to do the same gratitude activity every year.  Christmas, among many other things, means the sock Advent calendar.  I'm glad we're all on the same page about holidays, with something old and something new.

Today during my (awful) school tour (I wasn't awful; the kids were crazed, as I expected them to be--my own Sis was, in her own words, "hysterically happy" about Halloween and Bud was dancing everywhere), I realized (again) how even a relatively widely celebrated holiday like Halloween can be controversial.  We were talking about fall and its holidays when a girl raised her hand and said, "Halloween is the Devil's birthday.  Christmas is God's birthday."  Gulp.  Of course, both personally and intellectually, I believe this is completely unfounded (see our research on Samhain here) and untrue.  But school tours are no place for theological discussions, especially with eight-year-olds, so I merely said that I understood that some people believe that but that the people who lived in the house in the colonial times wouldn't have believed that and nor would they have celebrated either one.  (No wonder our kids can't wear Halloween costumes to school!)  And then, true to form, I asked Sis and Bud what they thought of that later.  Sis said outright that she didn't believe in the Devil.  So I asked her how she would talk to a friend who said such things (and there are a few who would, as they are not allowed to celebrate Halloween because it's not in the Bible.)  "I have a different religion," she decided.  I told her that sometimes it was hard to disagree with friends, but she raised her hand for a high-five and said, "I'm a strong girl."  We also talked about how you can agree to disagree, how different people can believe different things.  And that belief and truth are not always the same thing, not by a long shot, regardless of how firmly someone (including us) believes something to be true.

On a lighter note, another girl on the tour asked if I would wear my colonial costume that night to trick or treat.  No, I said, these were my work clothes.  And she looked at me incredulously and asked, "This is your job?"  She was so shocked, so earnest, even though I'd already answered the question of how I'd learned all this stuff (years and years in school and then more studying afterwards!)  I do feel lucky to dress up in costumes for my day "job."  And in truth, my colonial outfit does make a great costume, but I leave the trick or treating to the kids.

Tomorrow is All Saints' Day and then All Souls' Day for some, Samhain for others.  And we'll be eating Soul Cakes and candy, singing a song used for both All Souls' and Christmas, planning our rituals and traditions (to express our beliefs, to overburden this wrap-up!) as we get ready for the trio of big winter holidays.  I love this time of year.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain, all!  May you have lots of candy and magic tonight.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Quiet on the Blogging Front

Yes, the blog is quiet, but life is not.  I've had appointments and visitors, meetings and programs, parties and now it's time for Halloween.  It's been non-stop for a few days.  And I promise to tell you about the most interesting bits after the last of the activities and programs, which continue non-stop until Friday afternoon.  At which point, I might be too tired to type!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A New Patient

I have a new hospice patient, starting next week.  I've been on hiatus because of summertime and then historic house tours, so I'm especially excited to getting back to this work.  The patient actually leaves nearby so I'm doubly happy to be of help and service to someone in my own community.  As usual, I won't be able to tell you much about her, but I'm sure I'll be sharing more of the ups and downs of illness, dying, and hospice.

Soulin'

Yesterday started our usual round of Halloween activities; we went to the school-sponsored trunk or treat.  Sis dressed up as Harry Potter, again, but this time in Quidditch robes; Bud was Percy Jackson, with Camp Half-Blood t-shirt, sword and shield.  They got a nice haul of nut-free candy, lots of lollipops and nerds and Jolly Ranchers and Twizzlers.  And that's just the beginning--we have mama's office party and then Halloween night.

As we sat around eating candy last night, we got to talking about the origins of Halloween, both pagan and Christian.  I talked about Samhain and the cycle of life and death here represented by the dying light and vegetation, also the thinning of the veil and the presence of spirits as in the celebration of Dios de la Muertos.  Mama mentioned All Saints and All Souls day.  And then we checked Wikipedia and several books like Circle Round for information, learning about guising and souling (kids dressing up--to trick the spirits?--on All Souls Day and asking for cakes representing souls released from Purgatory, the origin of trick or treating), jack o'lanterns made from turnips and only later pumpkins to light the way for souls.  And I remembered soul cakes from a song:
A soul, a soul, a soul-cake.Please good Missus, a soul-cake!An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,Any good thing to make us all merry.One for Peter, two for PaulThree for Him who made us all.
We heard it first at Old Sturbridge Village and also know the Peter, Paul, and Mary version.  Mama thinks there's a sea chantey to the same tune.  It's stuck in my head . . . which is fine, because these days it's also sung as a Christmas carol.  And so it begins . . . .

And of course, I'm going to be making Soul Cakes, a spicy shortbread-like cookie.

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

Soul Cakes

340g plain flour (sifted) (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
170g sugar (approx. 3/4 cup)
170g butter (softened & diced) (approx. 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice (British sweet spice, like pumpkin pie spice; I used more cinnamon and a pinch of cloves)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg (beaten)
2 tsp of white wine vinegar (I used balsamic--yum!)

Preheat the oven to 200C (375-400F) and grease 2 flat baking trays
Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl – sifted flour, spices, and sugar. Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the beaten egg and white wine vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until a firm dough is made. Then cover it and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Flour a working surface and roll out the dough to 7mm (around 1/4") thick and using a large round pastry cutter cut into rounds, (optional: use a straight edge to press into, and then draw a cross shape, in the top of the dough). Place these rounds on the greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 200C until slightly coloured. Serve warm or cold.

RecipeWise
(When I convert this to US measures, I'll post them; also I have to figure out what "mixed spice" is.)




Tea for Me

I used to order a tea latte at Starbucks--Earl Grey tea and some other flavorings, sweet and creamy and warm.  But I'd forgotten about the drink until seeing Heather Bruggeman's FB post about the London Fog, which she found on another website.  And, sure enough, that's the drink.  I made it last night and again this morning, my own simplified recipe.  It's a wonderful, warming drink.

London Fog
Just put a teaspoon or so of honey (you could also use sugar) in a mug with a teaspoon or so of vanilla, add hot water and an Earl Grey tea bag (or, as I do, run the Keurig to make a cup of tea directly into the mug with vanilla and honey).  Add milk.  I don't mess with steaming or frothing milk and I don't have whole or half & half; just pouring milk in works just fine.  Give it a try!


Fall Faerie Fun

It's Faerie Village time again!  We've been for four years now, exploring the grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum in search of all the little faerie houses tucked away (2009, 20112012--we skipped 2010, which was scarecrows.)  This year, the theme was the "Wizard of Oz," more from the book than the movie, which was fine because we'd read it a year or so ago.  The kids are older now and so we let them rn and roam around on their own, knowing they wouldn't wander off or touch anything.  As in earlier years, my favorite houses were those made of natural materials, those tucked into the shapes of trees or the land, and those under the giant oak.   The kids aren't as particular or predictable in their preferences.  

After enjoying all the faerie houses, we went for lunch at Pizza Works, the train station pizza place.  And Sis actually ate pizza, which has long been a food she wouldn't touch.  But she ate three slices of bacon cheeseburger pizza!  We were so excited, even though that pizza isn't always available.  Bud and Mama shared a bacon clam pizza while I liked pesto mushroom.  There was chocolatey Derby Pie and caramel apple pie for dessert.



See Dorothy's house on top of the tornado?

"Follow the Yellow Brick Road . . . . "

I loved the Munchkin village under the big tree, which was made by local elementary students and their art teacher.


More doors and ladders . . . .




My paternal grandfather would dry gourds; Goo has, too.

Can you see the tiny pincushion?  There was a checkerboard elsewhere.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Anticipation

One of my favorite parts of the holidays, as you know doubt have surmised, is the imagining and planning of them all, including fun family outings, special activities, and all the food.  In fact, planning the meals is often much better than cooking them (especially if it all goes haywire like last Thanksgiving.)  With that in mind, I'm already dreaming of Turkey Day and collecting new ideas, including this, which Gommie just emailed:


It's Gommie and Aunt Banana's Sweet Potato Souffle with crunchy topping made of corn flakes!  They've made it several times, I believe, but I never have.  Well, it's making the list--so far--this year.  Though, as I type this, I already miss the traditional yams with marshmallows.  Is this why we always had the exact same holiday meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Gommie?  Gives you more time to squeeze in everybody's must-haves.

Though Mama and I just decided that Christmas Dinner is going to have an English bent to it--roast beef, popovers, mincemeat pie, sticky toffee or treacle pudding.  What else would we need, Lambeth?  No goose.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ice, Ice Baby

After Sis had so much fun at an ice-skating birthday party, we offered her the opportunity to take real lessons. She already takes gymnastics, but only once a week; this would give her another sport--and she's so strong (and the fastest runner in her class) that she'll probably be really good at skating.  At least it is fun and different (very different from me; lest I forget that the Northeast is a different culture from the Texas one I grew up in, I just need to look at ice skating and hockey and horseback riding/equestrian not rodeo to remember that it's not just the accents and foods that are different.)  We signed her up this morning and she'll start next week.  She'll get her skates from the rink, rental, and will wear a coat, bicycle helmet, and mittens for warmth and protection.  She's very excited.  Last night she even dressed up her doll Felicity in her ice skates and outfit.  And then, of course, there will be the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, with lots of ice skating.

UGH

I don't know what I did, if anything (I suspect too much driving, to kung fu and school and such, but usually that hurts my SI joint), but my upper back is spasming, limiting my activity yesterday evening and keeping me up all night.

And while it is painful, it's also really interesting.  Upper back pain in the upper thoracic/lower cervical area is totally different than low lumbar pain.  At least with all my lumbar back pain from herniated discs, I could stabilize it and get comfortable, usually lying down on my side in bed.  But upper back pain, spreading into my shoulders and neck, never seems to go away--when I saw the ortho today (at a new clinic that specializes in urgent ortho care, isn't that handy?), he said that those upper back muscles never all relax, even with pillows and such.  That was totally true last night.  However, I also found that with upper back pain, I can move around and still do stuff, even at the worst of it; that was not true of low back pain. That said, this is muscular not a disc (I had tests at the ortho)--a herniated neck or upper back disc might be just as awful, so maybe I should say I'd take muscle pain over disc pain?  As much as it hurts, I'd take today's pain over the old one any day.  For me, now, it's just not as scary or debilitating--though the same pain in my lumbar would be both.

I guess, part of me is grateful:  that it's not lumbar pain, that I've learned techniques for dealing with pain, that I have resources to get the right meds and such.  And of course Mama and the kids are always great.

But I'd still like it to go away.

Friday, October 25, 2013

My "Lousy" Days

Four classes, two days.  I just finished giving in-class programs to the third graders at Sis and Bud's school in preparation for their field trip next week to the historic house where I volunteer.  I entitled it, "Weird but True:  Colonial Life," but maybe should have called it "Ewww But True" because of all the gross stuff I shared--no baths, corn cobs for toilet paper, lice/fleas/nits, mice, trash middens right in the backyard, multiple-seat privies, hay mattresses, also boys dressing in skirts until they were about 7, corsets, long slow travel times, cold and dark houses, etc.  And then we made sachets, using lavender, winter savory, and rosemary, which were designed not only to smell sweet but to ward off bugs!

I forget perhaps how well-versed Sis and Bud are in historic houses, because several of these kids didn't realize that colonists had no electricity, no plumbing, no heat/AC, no well-stocked stores, no plastic, no trash pick up, no hospitals (yes, one girl asked me how women had babies!  She didn't mean physically, thank heavens, but where.)  I think they could barely fathom it.  And I forgot to start so simply because I figured they knew. I won't make that mistake again.  They had lots of great questions--and some challenging ones, like how would Santa get in the house if there was usually a fire--I had to tell them that colonists didn't really dwell on Santa Claus or even on Christmas.  They did not like the picture of the rat skeleton but loved the discussion of toilets the most.  They were shocked by the boys in skirts but pretty uninterested in how syllabub is made straight from milking a cow and not so surprised by the pillow I stuffed with hay to represent the mattresses they had.  They were all pretty surprised by the picture of George Washington's fake teeth and the fashion of wearing white-powdered hair (or wigs.)  They couldn't believe how long travel took (5-6 days between Boston and NY!  And sleeping in inns in bed head-to-toe with strangers!)  And they liked the etymology of "lousy," being full of lice, especially because lice had been going around school.

They all seemed to enjoy the sachet project, though one class ran so long that they'll have to save making theirs with their teacher next week (that was my only disappointment, especially because it was Sis's class.)   They followed directions for a pinch of this and a spoon of that well enough, even managing to bundle the cheese cloth into a little packet, but many of them couldn't tie.  I never dreamed that third graders would be unable to tie a knot or bow.  It's a great project, but prepping materials for 100 students would be my limit--I'm not sure I could do the sachet project with all schools if and when we could expand the in-class program (that would be 700 or so strings and cheesecloth squares!)  I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.

It was fun to be in Sis and Bud's class, though neither of them answered any of my questions, letting the other kids have a turn.  I had a few pictures of them--Bud at the archaeological dig in the backyard, Sis cooking in the fireplace.  And a picture showcasing the Brownie troop because they built the herb garden, which provided the winter savory and rosemary for our sachets (but not the lavender, as our plant didn't flower, so I bought buds in bulk.)  Everybody got a kick out of recognizing people in the photos--one class wanted me to take their picture at the house, too (but permissions being what they are, who knows!  Which is why this post is un-illustrated.)

So in a week, I welcome them to the historic house, on the last tour day of the season.  It's been a pretty good one, but I'll be glad for a bit of a break.

Lost Poem Found

Years ago, I read a poem that captured for me one of the most difficult aspects of parenting:  the disappointment I felt when I parented in a way I felt was "less."  Less than perfect, less than what I wanted, less than the children deserved.  I loved this poem, which I think I read in Brain, Child, but somehow managed to lose it before I could save it somewhere.  And I have tried to find it for years without an author or title or back issues of Brain, Child.

And this morning it was on the FB newsfeed of author and Zen priest Karen Maezen Miller. I am so grateful for finding the poem again.  And it still captures the emotions of parenting, for me, even though the cribs are long gone.

Nursery, 11 p.m. 
by Robyn Sarah 
Asleep, the two of you,
daughter and son, in separate cribs,
what does it matter to you
that I stand watching you now,
I, the mother who did not smile all day,
who yelled, Go away, get out, leave me alone
when the soup-pot tipped over on the stove,
the mother who burned the muffins
and hustled bedtime, tight-lipped.
You are far away,
beyond reach of whispered
amends. Yet your calm
breathing seems to forgive,
unwinding
into the air to mesh
like lace, knitting together
the holes in the dark.
It makes of this dark
one whole covering
to shawl around me.
How warm it is, I think,
how much softer
than my deserving.

Yes!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day in my neighborhood:  sun shining, chilly breeze blowing, colorful leaves dancing in the trees and to the ground.  I love fall days like this.  Makes me want to bake bread, mull cider, simmer soup, dip apples in caramel, curl up under a blanket, read a novel, crochet with some lovely soft yarn.  And I'll do some of that.  What do you like to do on autumn afternoons?

Another V-stitch prayer shawl, using my M hook and LB Thick and Quick Claret.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

'Tis the Season

Sure, the Christmas decorations have been in the stores for awhile now, like this:

I think Big Bird can take 'em.

And like this:

From early October--but where are the Thanksgiving decorations?

But now the Christmas spirit is infiltrating our home!

Yep, the kids have begun practicing their holiday recital pieces.  Sis has "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas," while Bud is still choosing.

And those are mixed in with some ghosty music for Halloween.

Makes my brain spin.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Little Old House in the Small Town

There are big things afoot at the historic house where I volunteer.  Recently, we celebrated the groundbreaking for a new addition. It was quite a party, with state and local officials including our state Rep and Senator, the mayor, and superintendent and assistant superintendent.  Sis, Bud, and I attended--in our colonial outfits, though Bud only changed into his once he saw the attention Sis was getting.  I'm sure the formal speeches and odd display of grown-ups pretending to dig with golden shovels struck them as silly, but I thought it was important to miss a bit of school to attend.  That made them nervous, even with the approval of the Superintendent, and so I had them back, after some photos and noshing on bagels.  The new addition will house an all-purpose room, kitchen, and another bathroom.  This will greatly increase our public space for programs and activities.

And we're going to need it!  We have visions of a public lecture series to open the new addition, which coincides with a big anniversary of our town.  And we're investigating a teen docent program that would train high school students to give tours to fifth-graders and perhaps even the public.  This, in addition to our regular school tours and new summer family fun workshops.

For now, I'm preparing for my in-class visits to the third-grade classes at Sis and Bud's school, in advance of their tours next week.  I'll give a down and dirty presentation on colonial life--you know, bathroom and bathing habits and other things designed to make kids go "ewww!"--and then they'll make sachets which were used not only to smell sweet but to ward off bugs.  Our house smells wonderful!


Dance Party!

Last night, after dinner, Mama turned on some 70s tunes; she's been trying to expand the kids' listening repertoire.  So far, we've added some early 80s.  Mama loves that she's gotten them into Debbie Gibson's "Electric Youth," "Walk Like an Egyptian," "Walk the Dinosaur," etc.  My favorites--Wham!, Culture Club, and Duran Duran haven't stuck yet.  We've also been listening to more classical--Handel's "Water Music" and Yo-Yo Ma--because of their new interest in strings.

But last night it was "Stayin' Alive," "I Will Survive," "Heart of Glass," "Boogie Oogie Oogie," "Play that Funky Music, White Boy," and, best of all, "YMCA."  After the kids stared/laughed at us through a few songs, they were game to do the moves to the Village People.  Sure, it got them a bit worked up, but it was a fun way to end the evening.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thoughts and Love

Our sympathies go out to Miss B and her family on the loss of their pug, Alastair.  He was a sweet, gentle, soft, and warm pug who will be greatly missed.

Perler Pride

For whatever reason, Sis,with Bud following, has taken up with Perler bead crafts again.  They've both made all manner of new designs, making up pictures and patterns--rainbow star, dolphin, sea monster, and, perhaps best of all, the T.A.R.D.I.S. and sonic screwdriver from "Doctor Who."

Happy parenting moment.


Ingress

While the definition of "ingress" is entry into a place, I'm talking here about the game app.  Goo got Mama hooked and now she's got the kids interested.  Anytime we're in the car, they want her to turn on the game and play.

See, if I understand if correctly, it goes like this:  when you join Ingress, you choose one of two teams, the "Enlightened" (who are green) and the "Rebels" (who are blue).  There's a whole backstory about teams protecting portals from invading creatures.  Each color tries to take over as many portals, which are local landmarks like post offices, churches, historical markers, and other public sites, as possible.  Mama and Goo play for the rebels, though I understand that the majority of players are green.

So as we're driving, the app identifies portals and the player "hacks" them, scoring points and picking up or losing powers.  They can set up resonators and eventually claim the portal for their own team or strengthen it, if it's already their team's.  You have to get close enough to deploy the resonators, etc., which can lead to slow (and hopefully not dangerous) driving, with perhaps more turns and stops than a usual car trip.

The upside is we are noticing things in our neighborhood and nearby towns that we otherwise would pass by.  And the kids are enjoying longer car rides in a way they wouldn't have before.  All good.  Especially because we hacked several portals on the way home from church yesterday.

Peace and Quiet

I'm learning a lot of new ways to quieten a class as part of my work as a docent at the historic house.  There is the standard raised-hand-in-the-air (one GS leader said once, "Imagine a string running from your toes through your mouth--you pull it closed when you raise your hand."  Ick.)  When they raise a hand with two fingers up (peace sign) and  put the index finger of their other hand to their lips, it's "Peace and Quiet."  In Brownies, we use the Girl Scout three-finger sign in the air.  Some teachers have a clapping pattern that they start and the kids complete.  Last week, the teacher counted down from 5.  On Friday, they completed a few different sing songs:  "Stop, look and listen!" - "Okay!"; "123, eyes on me!" - "1, 2, eyes on you!"; and finally, "Hocus, Pocus.  Everybody focus!"  And I even suggested, on the spot, that when I said something really interesting they could, instead of shouting out (of which they were doing a lot), wave their fingers as you do for ASL applause.

And most of the time it works, for a bit, until the teacher has to trot out a new one.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Recorder Playing

It's third-grade recorder flute time!

I loved my cream-colored plastic recorder with it's green vinyl case and spongy plunger cleaner.  I learned how to play the theme of Star Wars and "Hot Cross Buns" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb."  And after 35 years, I can still play them all.

Before the kids were born, I even took up trying to play other things on the recorder, got a wooden one, and a teach-yourself book.  I even managed to play a few simple Libana folk tunes on the recorder and others on a pennywhistle.  I'm sure my technique, both fingering and breath, were weak, but I had such a good time.

And now I'm having a great time teaching the kids those three recorder songs I know, plus looking forward to new ones to learn from them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Best Unlaid Plans

Dinner didn't go as planned, namely because I didn't have a plan.

But it turned out better than just fine.

I had ham in the freezer, from a baked ham a month or so ago, and asparagus in the fridge.  I could've made quiche but didn't want to throw together a crust AND bake the whole thing.  I wanted dinner ready when piano lessons ended.  So I made Ham and Asparagus Spaghetti, with a carbonara-like cheese sauce.

The kids each had two bowls.

Success.

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

Ham and Asparagus Spaghetti with Cheese 
leftover ham, even frozen
bunch of asparagus, cleaned and cut into pieces
1/2 lb spaghetti
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup or more Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Bring spaghetti water to boil, with ham, if frozen,.  Cook spaghetti as directed, along with asparagus pieces.   Drain spaghetti/ham/asparagus.

In a separate bowl, combine milk, cheese, butter, and egg.  Pour into hot spaghetti pot.  Add drained spaghetti/ham/asparagus.  Mix until cheese is evenly distributed and warmed through.

Serve immediately.

Mommy Hungry

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Binge

Having binged my way through several seasons of "Supernatural," which I really liked for its ethical and theological issues--oh, and the "X-Files"-like monsters and myths--I am now starting, quite by accident, "Battlestar Galactica," the 2004-9 tv series.  (It was recommended by Netflix; I don't think I was really aware that there had been a long-running series.)

I loved the original BG, watching Starbuck, Apollo, Athena, Cassiopeia, Commander Adama, Boxey, and his wonderful dog Muffit race around the universe away from Cylons and that nasty human who worked with them (whose name I forget but whose face is as clear as day.)  It's also where I learned one of my earliest non-curse words, "frak."  While at the time Star Wars was my greater obsession, at least I could watch BG weekly.

And so I'm fascinated by the update, with a female Starbuck instead of Dirk Benedict and Mary McDonnell as the president (was there even a president the first time?).  The special effects are great (those launch pipes and Vipers look so cool--and reminiscent of the 70s ones) and the storylines, as well as analogy to modern warfare and religious debates, are fascinating.  And those Cylons who look human?  Great.  And you gotta love the theme song.

Plus, they still curse.

Which means it will probably be awhile before I let the kids watch this childhood favorite.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Expanding the Whovian Universe

The kids love "Doctor Who."

We watched two episodes last weekend and they begged for more this weekend.  Meanwhile, they played with my sonic screwdrivers, drew pictures of the TARDIS, and read the Who encyclopedia.  And, so, on Saturday night we watched "Blink," the episode with the scary Weeping Angels.  But it was a little too much.
Then Sunday morning after UU service, Sis and Bud played "Doctor Who" on the playground with the other kids.  They all talked about Daleks and Cybermen, Doctors 9, 10, and 11, the Face of Boe.  And they ran around playing a kind of Weeping Angels tag, only moving when their target wasn't looking.  It really was perfect, a happy/proud parenting moment for me and the sense of how right the UU church is for us.  And I think it purged them of Weeping Angel nightmares.

Of course, now when we go to London, they want to visit the Doctor Who store with its TARDIS.  They also want to see Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4 and the phone booth where he dialed into the Ministry of Magic.  So much for the Tower or Westminster Abbey or the British Museum--our trip to London this spring might be a fandom trip!

Ice Queen

Sis went ice skating for the very first time on Saturday as part of a friend's birthday party.

And I, having only been skating once before, in third grade as part of a class get-together at Houston's Galleria ice rink, was unprepared. I didn't know to bring gloves for her hands or her bicycle helmet for safety; I barely remembered to dress her warmly.

Still, she got out on the ice, clinging to the wall with some of her friends.  And, with the help of a friend's dad--the only adult on the ice--she eventually got away from the wall some.  I had to leave before she was skating much on her own, but she tells me she did it.

And she had the bruises on her knees to prove it!

And a smile on her face that said she'd be doing it again.

Happy Birthday!

Today is our dear friend Miss Sunny's 90th birthday!  Happy birthday, friend.

We all visited her Saturday afternoon, taking the jewel-toned shawl I had made and a rainbow bracelet Sis had made.  Sunny was upbeat and engaged, with a new light-pink manicure.  We had a lovely talk, all of us, discussing her trips to London and our upcoming one, updates of other friends at our old church, memories of her holding Sis as a baby while I held Bud, and what the kids are up to these days, with the help of pictures from my 'droid.  The kids were a little shy in the hospital-like setting but talked and even did a puzzle.  We hope to go back, all of us, once a month or so, while I can visit more frequently.

String Beings

Yesterday at church, we had guest musicians, a wonderful string quartet--2 violins, a viola, and a cello.  Sis and Bud were enthralled, as new string musicians themselves.  The quartet played lovely selections--Debussy's "Claire de Lune" and "Girl with the Flaxen Hair," Eric Satie's "Gymnopedie," and Pergolesi's "Magnificat."  I didn't know any of the pieces, though I've heard of Debussy--my classical music knowledge is limited to the only the most famous pieces and composers (usually symphonies or operas.)  But I have a feeling that will change as they grow as musicians and as we take them to more concerts. The kids were too shy to talk to the musicians, but they loved watching them bowing and fingering and even plucking.

Friday, October 11, 2013

TGIF!

It's Friday, Friday . . . .

But for us, not a long weekend.  Our town voted to keep the Jewish Holidays for school instead of Columbus Day, which I believe is a fair decision.  Especially if you know the real story of Columbus's legacy.  I was actually very proud of our heavily-Italian town for choosing the one over the other.

Even if it means everyone will be at school on Monday.

Until then, though, we have kung fu, a birthday party for Sis to attend, a haircut for Mama, church, and whatever else we decide to do--Sunday lunch, more "Doctor Who," rainbow loom creations, and who knows.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

If Life Gives You Lemons, Make This

I'm taking a meal to a family tomorrow, which has had some health challenges this fall.  Along with my usual pasta dish, I experimented with another lemon-flavored dessert, after yesterday's traditional lemon bars.  The reaction is mixed:  Sis thought they were too lemony; Mama thought there was too much crust.  I like the concentrated lemon curd and agree about the crust.  I feel another variation coming on. Until then, here they are:


Lemon Curd Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 tablespoons lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8-inch-square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang. Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Work in the butter with your fingers to make a crumbly dough.

Refrigerate 2 tablespoons of the dough for topping. Press the remaining dough into the baking dish; freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.

Bake the crust, 15 minutes. Spread the lemon curd on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border; crumble the reserved dough on top. Return to the oven and bake until the edges are golden brown, 25 more minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then lift out of the pan and cut into squares.


adapted from Food Network "Marmalade Shortbread Bars"

Happy Early Birthday, Juliette Gordon Low!

Today our Brownie troop celebrated Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low's Halloween birthday early. We talked about her nickname "Daisy," her decision to found the Girl Scouts, the story of her pearls, and some of her challenges (deafness in both ears.)  We played a great game in her honor, Juliette Low's "Kim Game," which is a memory game using different objects drawn from the details of her life--goggles for her love of swimming, a cork for her love of fishing, pearls to go with the story of selling her jewelry to fund the scouts, a daisy for her nickname, etc etc--put them on a tray and see how many the girls can recall when the tray is taken away.  We also ate Lemon Bars (in honor of the new GS cookie, Savannah Smiles) and other treats.  Then we compiled Birthday-in-a-Bag packets to give to the local food pantry to distribute, which consisted of supplies for a child's birthday like cake mix, frosting, foil cake pan, napkins, plates, party hats, party decorations, party favors, and a big button for the birthday child, plus a note from our troop honoring our founder.  And instead of singing "Happy Birthday," we sang "On My Honor," one of the classic Girl Scout songs.  It was a pretty happy Founder's Day party.

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

Lemon Bars

1 cup flour
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, optional
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
powdered sugar

            Heat oven to 350°F.  Mix flour, butter, and powdered sugar.  Press in ungreased quare pan, building up ½ inch edges (8x8 or 9x9).  Bake 20 minutes.
            Beat remaining ingredients with electric mixer on high about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Pour over hot crust.

            Bake 25-30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched in center.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cut into 1 ½-inch squares.  

Gommie Hungry

-=-=-=-=-

On My Honor
Chorus :
On my honor, I will try.
There's a duty to be done and I say aye.
There's a reason to be here for a reason above.
My honor is to try and my duty is to love.
People don't need to know my name.
If I've done any harm, then I'm to blame.
If I've helped someone, then I've helped me.
And I've opened up my eyes to see.
Chorus
I've tucked away a song or two.
If you're feeling low, there's one for you.
If you need a friend, then I will come.
And there's many mmore where I come from.
Chorus
Friendship is the strangest thing
if you keep it to yourself, no reward will bring
but you gave it away, you gave it to me
and from now on great friends we'll be
Chorus
Come with me where the fire burns bright,
We can even see better by the candle's light.
And we'll find moremeaning in a campfire's glod,
Than we've ever found in a year or so.
Chorus
We've a promise to always keep.
And to pray "Softley Falls" before we sleep.
We are Girl Scouts together and when we're gone,
We'll still be trying and singing this song.
Chorus

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Next Shawl

In "Coral Stripes".... I love yarn weather!

Fall Cooking

I think cooking in the autumn months has to be some of my favorite--the chillier weather invites stews, casseroles, breads, and fruited desserts, while the produce is still plentiful and fresh.  Today, I have a Beef Stew in the slow cooker, to which I'll add skillet cornbread; last night, I made up a new Pear Crisp (adapted from my Apple Crisp) to accompany chicken and dumplings (after "baked" chicken the night before.)  I have both a delicata and a butternut squash ready for roasting later.  And a giant blue-green Hubbard, that I'll have to drop on the driveway to break open, for pies later.

And mulled cider to go with it all.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Beef Stew
1 1/2 - 2 lbs beef stew meat
1 onion
3-4 carrots, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 Yukon potatoes, cubed
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded
2-3 parsnips, diced
(other vegetables, as desired, like mushrooms, turnips, kale, etc.)
1 cup water
1 cup red wine
2-3 tablespoons Italian tomato paste
salt, pepper

Brown stew meat in skillet.  Transfer to slow cooker, with all the other ingredients.  Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

Mommy Hungry

-=-=-=-=-=

Pear Crisp
6+ pears, peeled and sliced thickly
1 1/2 cups oats
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons butter, in pats
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

Toss ingredients and place in pie plate.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Mommy Hungry

-=-=-=-=-

Apple Crisp
lemon juice
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
¼ teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
¼ cup butter
salt
cranberries (optional)
chopped pecans (optional)

            Mix and bake in greased pan at 375°F for approximately 30 minutes.
            Alternates:  We don’t even measure anymore, just make enough mixture to cover apples.  Also, this can be made with other fruits, including pitted cherries, raspberries, and blackberries.


Mommy Hungry

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Victory!

Or, really, two finished prayer shawls in V-stitch (one 39 x 70"; other 29 x62".  Smaller one is a good size--cast on 111.  See here for pattern.). One in greys and purple/raspberry Lion Brand thick and quick for Miss Sunny; the other, also 3 skeins LB, which reminds me of waves and sand and sky, is for church ministry.


Apple Art

One of the big activities at the historic house where I volunteer involves apples, a major food staple of colonial life.  In fact, as we tell our student visitors, colonists and early Americans were often referred to as "pie eaters" for all of the apple pies they consumed.  And so, in our keeping room before the 7' hearth, we string up dried apples.

We just have to dry the apples beforehand.  After cutting them into small slices with a mandolin and soaking them in cider, we dry them slowly in a low oven.  Voila, dried apples.  Of course, colonists would have strung up the apples without drying them first, hanging them up in the rafters of their smoky kitchens to dry.  Then they would re-hyrdrate them as needed and bake them in pies.  Our apples are hung in our hearth, which would have been too close to the fire but makes a pretty and central decoration in the house, along with all of our fresh herbs.

1.  Slice whole apples thinly with mandolin.  Toss apples in apple juice and soak for 7+ minutes to prevent browning.  Arrange a single layer of apple slices on baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

2.  Bake apples at 225F for 3 hours, turning over and rotating sheets (if more than one) halfway through.  Cool apples and enlarge core or pierce hole for easier stringing.  Store in paper bag.

3.  String up and hang for decoration..  These are for educational and decorative purposes only; do not eat.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Autumn Walk

Twenty-Five Weeks and Counting

Twenty-five weeks puts us in mid-April.  Spring Break.

And we think we're going to London to celebrate Mama's big birthday by visiting the Harry Potter Studios.

It's all in the planning stages, and we're not even sure that Mama's big project will be over (so we might go at the end of June instead.)  But we'd love to go.  Time in London, time with Lambeth.  The biggies:  the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben, St. Pancras's Station (platform 9 3/4!), Hampton Court, maybe one of the museums (British?  V&A?  National Gallery? of the City of London?).  Plus whatever with Lambeth--his town, Stonehenge, King Arthur's table, the filming location of "Downton Abbey," all manner of things.

It's all to be worked out.  But it's the fun kind of work.

Sleeping with the Fish

Not "fishes."  This isn't a mafia thing.

It was a Girl Scout overnight at the aquarium.  Mama went with Sis and the troop, in my stead, since I couldn't sleep on the floor (no cots allowed.)  And they had a wonderful time.  Tour of the aquarium, IMAX movie, plaster shell art activity, feeding the seals, pizza dinner, cookie bedtime snack, and, best of all, sleeping in the galleries.  Our troop was with the sea turtle.  Though, apparently there was very little sleeping, with the girls giggling until 1:30 a.m. and wake up around 7:00 a.m.  Not enough sleep for anyone.  But they had a good time.  Sis is one of the only ones in her troop who hasn't been on a sleepover so we weren't sure how she'd do, hence Mama's attendance; she loved being with her friends and will probably be just fine for her first independent overnight.

Meanwhile, Bud and I were home alone.  We had a big Italian dinner--I got lasagna because Bud has wanted to try it since reading Garfield, who loves lasagna; Bud had his usual seafood pasta.  Then we watched Star Wars:  Attack of the Clones, while eating candy in bed.  We finished off the evening with some Minecraft.  Sure, it's not sea turtles, but it was a fun evening.  And we got a lot more sleep.  (However, he probably isn't ready for a sleepover; he sleeps too much like a heat-seeking baby koala bear, even in a big bed!)

TheirCraft

Over a meal at our favorite breakfast place yesterday--with crab quesadillas, peaches and cream French toast, pancakes, and some duck roll with bacon--we were talking about the Greek gods, a la Percy Jackson, listing them all.  The kids have decided to create Olympus on Minecraft, their favorite computer game.  Together, they have built a floating city with temples to the main gods and a huge throne room with seats for all the gods (hence needing to know how to spell them.)  It's a great room with this partially-domed golden ceiling, reminiscent of the Pantheon.  There is also a gorge to fill with water for Poseidon and a lava-filled underworld.  I like Athena's purple temple.  Of course, I most like the creativity and teamwork that has gone into their city.  I can't wait to see what else they add.

Apples, Pumpkins, and Ice Cream--Oh, My!

What a weekend!  And I couldn't talk at all.  My laryngitis is just now easing up, after lots of tea and chicken soup.  So, it gave me the chance to teach the kids some of the sign language they've forgotten since they were toddlers.

And we even had company.  One of Mama's friends, who had been her mentor way back at AT&T Bell Labs, was in town with her own wife, who had a music conference to go to.  And so, while the one played her dulcimer all day, we hung out with the other, introducing her to some typical local fall activities.  Even though the weather was very warm for the season.

Sis picking her pumpkin

First, we went pumpkin picking, getting some large ones for decorations and some small squash--delicata and buttercup--for eating.  Sis and Bud also chose some gourds for decorations.  And we all tried some pumpkin cranberry cookies and apple cider.  It was fun to see the kids walk among the pumpkins; the first time we went to this farm, they were about the same height as the biggest pumpkin.  Still, they can't quite carry the big ones.

Next was the apple place, with lots of Mutsu to pick, and apple cider to drink.  We didn't pick apples last year, so it was fun to go this year.  Makes me want to host our old annual Applepalooza, which we haven't done in years (last in 2010, see also 2009, and a recipe but not party in 2011); the kids agreed. We'll see.

Finally, we went for ice cream, also on a farm (our third that day.)  Yum, pumpkin and caramel apple and strawberry.  All homemade right there.  A great way to end our fall-in-New-England day.


Two New Fans

We all watched "Doctor Who" last night!  Even though knew about the T.A.R.D.I.S, sonic screwdrivers, "bigger on the inside," Weeping Angels, and the like, Sis and Bud hadn't seen "Doctor Who" yet.  Bud gets scared easily, ever since the Basilisk in Harry Potter and early stories about Medusa.  So Mama and I have been debating which episodes would be best.  And yesterday we decided--"Runaway Bride" and "Partners in Crime," both of which are the Tenth Doctor and my favorite companion Donna.

And they were a success.  The kids begged for more episodes and, when we said no (because who knows what our next episodes would be), they ran off to play with my sonic screwdrivers and build their own T.A.R.D.I.Ses, shouting "oi" at each other.

Now all I need to do is decide which episode would be okay next . . . .

Friday, October 4, 2013

Laryngitis

Yep, giving a tour on top of my cold has taken my voice.  So, don't be surprised if I don't answer the phone or anything for the next day or so.

WOW!

Happy 49th wedding anniversary (yesterday), Gommie and Pop!  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting Ready

It's almost time for tours to start up again at the historic house.  So today, volunteers and I were prepping the house by setting up activities, clearing away the extra stuff, and even hanging some fresh herbs from our colonial-inspired herb gardens.  There's rosemary, lavender, winter savory, and sage, making the house smell so fresh.  Of course, colonists wouldn't have hung herbs inside the fireplace where they would burn, more likely hanging them from the rafters.  But, as we lecture from the hearth, we hung them there.  There's also our new candle mold on the mantle for us to discuss nighttime and the ways colonists created light.  It's going to be a great (but busy) season, especially because all my Brownies plus Sis and Bud will be coming on the tours in October.  





Tuesday, October 1, 2013

More Soup

Even though the weather is on a warm streak, I am on a soup kick, mainly because I have a(nother) cold.  So, I made Chicken and Rice Soup to slurp on today and I found a recipe for Cabbage Soup, while trolling the internet for something like Katz's Deli's cabbage soup, which I enjoyed immensely this weekend; I'll be making it next.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Chicken and Rice Soup
1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
carrots, diced (I used part of a bag of carrot sticks)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken breasts
6-8 cups chicken stock
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
cooked rice

Cook onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil until onions are tender.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add stock and chicken breasts and simmer until done.  Add seasoning.  I like to keep rice separate until serving time so it doesn't absorb all the broth.

Mommy Hungry

Cabbage Soup
3 lbs. flanken or lean short ribs
3 1/2 quarts water
6 beef bones
1-3 lb head cabbage, shredded
salt to taste
1-35 oz. tomatoes
2 onions, sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 gingersnaps, snapped in half
2 cups cooked cranberry beans

In large pot, cook beef and bones in enough water to cover.  Simmer 15 minutes and then skim top.  Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer covered for 3 hours.  Refrigerate overnight, skim reheat, and serve.

adapted from Hope Hirschhorn, Harrison, NY
I Must Have That Recipe

Dark Day

This morning, our bus-stop friend's mom wasn't dressed for work.  She can't go because her childcare center was shut with the shutdown.  She'll be home with the kids instead of earning money to support them until she can work something else out; and instead of getting a head start with early childhood education, they'll be home alone.  The family loses in many ways.

See, it's not a theoretical debate, the budget and the shutdown, but something that affects real people in real ways.  But some of those millionaires in Congress don't really care; for them, it's an ideological battle of Right vs. wrong.

How is it that people who ARE the government despise the government enough to shut it down?  Perhaps they should consider other careers--no doubt their choices aren't affected by a recession, sequester, or shutdown.

I cannot even begin to express my anger, disappointment, shame, and frustration with Congress, specifically the GOP.

And I think we should quit calling them the Grand Old Party.  How about Grand Old Idiots?

Lastly, on a silly note, I'm angry that Panda Cam at the National Zoo has gone dark.  I know this is not important in the grand scheme of things--they'll still feed the pandas and take care of them--but we'll miss that bright spot in our day as we watch the mom and cub.

And I imagine the Panda Cam is very important to the now out-of-work people who operated it and all those other hourly workers at the concession stands, shops, and booths at the National Zoo.

So, taking a cue from the wise Karen L.R., I'm taking a break from the news and FB today.