Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kidbits

Just one today:

Sis wore a t-shirt proclaiming Mama's Alma Mater today.  And so I asked her, "Who went there?"

"Mama did."

"And . . . ??"

"You did?"

"Yes, what did I get there?"

"You got Mama."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pancake Paradiso

Dear Goo gave us a homemade jar of pancake mix last weekend, to go with the blackberry syrup he'd given us from the Shenandoah the week before.  So Mama made a batch for our Memorial Day breakfast.  And they were wonderful!  Especially with the syrup.  The kids didn't even notice the buckwheat. Thank you so much, Goo.

-=-=-=-=-=-

"Instant" Buckwheat Pancake Mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour (*you can sub 1 cup AP flour for regular pancakes)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup dried buttermilk (optional)

Instructions:
1 cup mix
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (alt: one envelope instant buttermilk + 1 cup milk)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1.  Mix above ingredients together until combined; do not overmix.
2. Heat skillet or griddle over low-medium heat.
3.  Pan is ready when a drop of water dances across the surface.
4.  Grease pan with butter.
5.  Using a ladle, spoon in pancake batter.
6.  Allow to cook until bubbles begin to set around edges.
7.  Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more to allow pancakes to set.

Goo


May Flowers

From our garden....

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Memories

We did our annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia this weekend, both for sightseeing and Bud's kung fu tournament.  But it wasn't our usual trip--we didn't go to Ben Franklin's print shop or even the Visitor's Center.  And we never go to the Liberty Bell because the lines are too long.

Upon arrival, we did go to our favorite NPS Independence gift shop, which has moved but still has the soap I pick up every year.  Then we headed to our all-time favorite Philly eatery, and one of our favorites anywhere:  City Tavern, the real colonial American restaurant in the historic building run by Taste of History host Chef Walter Staib.  As usual, we loved it--raspberry shrub, sweet potato biscuits, anadama bread, Sally Lunn bread, pepperpot soup, salmagundi platter, chicken pot pie, lobster pot pie, mushroom toast.  YUM!!  And this year, our waitress was an historian and shared extra information about how the lobster pot pie was the most authentic period dish and was even served after the defeat of the Hessians at Trenton!

Better yet, we shared the meal and much of our afternoon with some longtime friends of ours from Philadelphia, whom we don't get to see often.  They met us at City Tavern and then strolled around downtown with us for awhile.  We visited two new-to-us locations--Shane Confectionery and Franklin Fountain, which I'd read about in the recent American Spirit magazine (thanks, Gommie!)  One is an old-fashioned candy store, with shelves of glistening, colored confections and jars of tasty offerings.  We chose chocolates, caramels, cherry sourballs, lychee candies, lavender lollipops, violet "mints," and teaberry gum.  Next door, and owned by the same people, is the old-fashioned soda fountain.  No ordinary historical remake of plain old milkshakes and sundaes, this place has homemade sodas syrups plus real phosphates and citric acids dispensed from droppers--you see the pharmacy connection right away.  We had black raspberry ice cream and then four fancy sodas:  a Ladies' Choice, with peach ice cream in raspberry soda, with cream; a War Admiral, with ginger, milk, and rose-flavorings (my favorite); the Japanese thirst killer, with Orgeat Almond syrup, grape soda, and angostura bitters (Bud and Mama's favorite); and finally, a fizzy Roman Punch, with lemon, orange, grapefruit, and bergamot.  Delicious!!  I know these will become permanent fixtures on our Philly tour.






After saying goodbye to our friends, we headed for a self-guided tour of the US Mint, at Sis's request.  She has been increasingly interested in coins but only seemed mildly interested in how they were made; it didn't help that the factory wasn't in production, it being a holiday and weekend.  Still, she got some official sleeves for her coins and was happy about that.

Then we went to play putt-putt.  Yep, it's becoming a family thing.  This one was the course at Franklin Square, complete with mini-symbols of Philadelphia, including the Liberty Bell, Elfret's Alley, Independence Hall, the Ben Franklin Bridge, various sports teams, the art museum, the LOVE sculpture, and the Chinatown gate.  So cute.  The course itself was pretty predictable, with no moving parts, and VERY crowded.  Still, a nice time.  And we liked riding the carousel, too.



That evening we had Philly cheesesteaks from Tony Luke's, which several people recommended.  I'm not a huge cheesesteak fan, unsurprisingly, but it was a good bite of local color.  We finished the evening with a swim in the hotel pool.

The next day was kung fu competition, Bud' fourth, I believe.  He competed in three forms--staff, broadsword, and tong bei, a kind of hand form (we previously called it "slappy form" because he slaps his legs repeatedly.)  And he won gold in all three!  We were very proud of him, but it was a long day.  He waited almost five hours for his first event, which was supposed to be in the morning, and then it was at the exact same time as his afternoon event.  Literally, as he stepped on to the mat for his hand form, they called him up for his staff form.  He did two forms in five minutes, running in between!  I don't know how he did it, pure adrenaline.  A very exciting five minutes, after a very long wait.  He's broadsword was an hour or so later, icing on the cake at that point.





We all celebrated with dinner at Iron Hill brewery, our traditional post-competition dinner.  (Can you tell we are creatures of habit?)  French fries with garlic-rosemary mayonnaise, mushroom soup, Caesar salad, fish and chips, more French fries, mussels, seafood stew, hamburgers, chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes,  apple crisp, maple pecan bourbon ice cream, and oatmeal cake.  WHEW!  We left well-fortified for the long drive home, choosing to wake up in our own beds the next morning.  We made good time, saw a beautiful sunset over the rest area near the Meadowlands, and were greeted noisily by some happy cats.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Packing Up

With it being Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial beginning of summer (even if at 50F, it feels like spring), 'tis the season for packing up and going on short weekends away.  Just like we did last weekend to Long Island.  And each time we go away, we start a new list for prepping, so here's an attempt to get a general list.  Compared to our England or Disney World prep, it's a cinch.

To Pack
For each family member (1 x # days gone + 1 extra each)
o   shirts
o   skirts/shorts/pants
o   underwear/undershirt/bras (when applicable)
o   socks
o   pajamas

Toiletries
o   toothbrushes/toothbrush/floss/mouthguards
o   nail clippers
o   moisturizer/lotions
o   hairbrush/combs/hair clips
o   deodorant
o   children's painkillers/Benadryl
o   Benadryl gel (for bug bites)/neosporin
o   thermometer
o   prescriptions
o   sunscreen
o   bug spray
o   earplugs

Miscellaneous
o   water bottles
o   snacks
o   audiobooks/car activities
o   camera
o   chargers—phone, camera, UP
o   first aid kit/ice pack
o   activity-specific gear (swimwear/goggles, ice skates, etc.)
o   SQUIRT books
o   other entertainment (DS? Cards?)
o   loveys like Shirt/Bunny/Mr. Big
o   brace for Mommy
o   special pillows
o   hats (mittens/scarves if winter)
o   jackets (rain, etc.)


To Do
Beforehand
o   check house for plastic (for cats)
o   alert friends/mail itinerary
o   get gas
o   charge all batteries
o   clean cat water fountain
o   clean litterboxes
o   pack car
o   straighten outside (toys, etc)
o   arrange mail pick-up or cat-check, if necessary

Day of
o   take out garbage
o   bring in trash cans
o   feed and water cats
o   scoop litterboxes
o   close windows and curtains
o   adjust thermostat
o   adjust lights
o   pack batteries and chargers
o   secure trash can cabinet
o   open doors like basement for cat

Other (as needed)

My New Tricks

You've heard the saying about old dogs.

Well, I'm learning some new tricks.  This morning, I started my one-on-one ASL (American Sign Language) classes this morning.  I think I've mentioned that my beloved Aunt Sis had taught me signed English when I was younger, which is more of a signed version of English than a language in its own right, like ASL, though there are huge overlaps and users of one understand the other.  I had several sign language dictionaries and a few nursery rhyme books to practice with and then Aunt Sis and I would sign together.  One year, she even took me to a conference where I met and got the autograph of Miss Deaf Texas (I asked her all by myself, letter by letter.)  When I was a counselor at a camp for special needs kids, I used some signs with different campers, just as decades later, I would sign with Sis and Bud. 

I have taken ASL once before, a decade ago, with an interpreter in NYC; loved that class, too, but logistics with work and living in CT were too much.  So now I'm trying again, with the first lesson this morning.  And it went swimmingly.  We went through ABCs, numbers (I'm awful at numbers), general politeness words, and some questions.  I remembered some, not others, and did yet others in my signed English, needing minor changes.  Still, she was full of praise and I was pleased as punch that I remember so much.  It's the only language I'm good at!  I'm convinced that's because it's the one I learned before I was 7 or 8.

My second new trick:  I'm taking an archery course, namely to become an archery facilitator for the Girl Scouts.  Archery was my favorite unit in high school P.E. and we have been trying our hand at Archery Tag, which has foam tips.  I'm hoping I can earn my archery certification so I can teach our troop, now old enough to take archery.

Between the two, it's like my own personal adult summer camp!

Thoughts and Prayers Please

My cousin D, son of my beloved aunt, had a stroke a week ago and is still sedated in ICU.  They can't find the location of the bleed and so can't perform surgery.  My thoughts are with him, his young daughter, and my aunt and uncle.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Glad Today is Over

For a variety of reasons--though, perhaps with them all boiling down to issues of control and inadequacy--today was a challenging day, practically from start to finish.  Nothing major or permanent, just . . . repeatedly frustrating.  (I am only being cryptic because I don't want to rehash petty grievances and slights; just trying not to ruminate.)

Happy to be able to say good night.

And glad tomorrow is both a new day and, especially, Friday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Looking Back and Forward

It's been four years since our big CSA heyday, in 2009 and 2010, before my back injury.  And, while we aren't returning to that farm (which was wonderful but is almost an hour round-trip), we are returning to a weekly CSA box.  This time, through an aggregator of local farms, so that we get not only fruits and vegetables but also eggs, meat, and a weekly cheese.  It's going to be glorious!  And we are so excited to play with our CSA share again.

And so I looked back over those two years of CSA posts, always titled "Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share" with the label "CSA."  The first thing that struck me is how limited my recipe repertoire was compared to what we got in the box--no mention of how I prepared or ate so many items, such as kohlrabi, dandelion greens, radishes, beets.  Sure, I didn't post about tomatoes, because I gave them all away, and I didn't need to post about potatoes or green beans or garlic or onions because those are very familiar. Instead, I wrote a lot about greens, from kale to escarole to collards.  Lots of squashes, too.

Here are some of those posts, in alphabetical order:

Bok choi
Collards
Corn
Eggplant
Escarole (and here, though it can be almost any green; also here)
Garlic Scapes (with other recipes for kale and bell peppers; also here)
Kale (here, though it says eggplant, and here and here for soup and here for stir fry)
Zucchini and summer squash (also here cookies and here for joke and here for even more recipes)

Sis's Vegetable Soup

I also wrote about the lessons we learned, our challenges, and even a sample menu or two.  I even wrote a love letter to our farm.  And in case readers didn't have a CSA, I wrote up some farmer's market tips.

Reading all of this has me rearing to go in a few weeks.  I've relocated all of my old CSA-inspired vegetable cookbooks--Greens, Glorious Greens, From the Kitchen Garden,  More from the Kitchen Garden,  Vegetables Every day,  Farmer John's Cookbook,  Classic Zucchini Cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, The Roasted Vegetable, From Asparagus to Zucchini (plus my vegetarian cookbook collection, from Bloodroot to Claire's Corner Copia and Mollie Katzen)--and pulled out my special Tupperware produce boxes.

And we've even forewarned the kiddos!  (Who didn't exactly groan . . . but they don't remember the last CSA either.)

So, stay tuned for "Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share" part three.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

LI Adventure



It was an extremely busy weekend.  After Friday night at Sis's gymnastics performance--yay, Sis, on floor routine and trampoline!!!--we had family pictures with Ma, Gong, and Goo taken on Saturday to commemorate Goo's graduation from medical school.

And on Sunday morning, we headed to Long Island for that graduation, taking the ferry across for the first time.  We started our visit with a trip to Old Bethpage Village Restoration, which Mama fondly remembers from her third-grade field trip--there were stick candies and birch beer!!  And this time she shared those with our kiddos!  I loved wandering amid the old buildings including inns, general stores, and farmhouses, especially with the purple irises and bluebells.  Mama loved the newborn lambs, who "baa"-ed at us repeatedly.  Sis practiced her hoop skills and got pretty good. Bud liked the stick candy, of course.

   
Sis hones her hoop skills.
That evening, we met up with the family for a celebratory dinner at famed NY steakhouse, Peter Luger's.  It was quite the meal:  steak (of course, but I can't recall which kinds), a nice filet of sole for me, creamed spinach, German potatoes, iceberg wedge with blue cheese, Caesar salad, tomatoes and onions with their special tangy tomato sauce, and then cheesecake, apple strudel, key lime pie, and a hot fudge sundae with tons of "schlag," or whipped cream, for dessert.  I also had a too-strong "German" coffee with kirsch.  Mercy, that was a big meal.  

We worked off dinner with putt-putt golf!!  The kids had never played and the rest of us hadn't played in years.  And what a course it was, somewhere near Westbury, with animatronic pirates and other special effects set pieces.  We had the course to ourselves (who else plays putt putt at 7 pm on a Sunday night??) and had a jolly time.  Everybody even got a hole in one each!  Though, there were lots of holes where the players just missed as the ball spun around the cup or where they were several shots above par.  That's when we teased Goo that he'd need to practice his golf game now that he was a doctor.  As we played (well, I watched), there was a beautiful sunset over the Sound.



Monday morning was the graduation ceremony, good enough as those things go, best because it was Goo's med school graduation.  Yep, he's Dr. Goo now!  We are all very proud of him, especially because of the challenges and his persistence.  We picked up some flowers for Ma and Gong after the ceremony but before the reception; Sis even chose the peony that graced the center.



And then we played more putt putt!  This was a classic course, complete with windmill and lighthouse.  And just as much fun as the night before.


We took the late ferry home, after picking up picnic supplies, including sandwich makings, grapes, chips, cookies, and then grabbing yet more food at the dock--chowder from the Steamroom Seafood and ice cream and fudge from the Frigate.  It was a beautiful, though very windy, evening, with a stunning sunset behind some isolated storm clouds.  A great end to a great weekend.






Saturday, May 17, 2014

Yard Art

Putting out our art collection!  Sis had fun distributing them around the yard.  Thanks to Ma and Gong for our new peonies and azalea, to Sis for our Gloxinia ...and Sis also got some pink daisy-like flowers for her gym performance.  Spring is sprung!  It's 68 F and beautiful.






Friday, May 16, 2014

Busy, Busy

I don't think I've posted all week, mainly because we're busy here.  It's prep for the kung fu tournament and the end of gymnastics culminating in a performance.  Plus historic house tours and pre-visits at the school. Brownie bridging ceremony and a service project. Finally, my BIL's med-school graduation weekend!

And two new things:  I'm beginning American Sign Language (ASL) lessons and will be taking an archery class through the Girl Scouts so I can teach the Brownies.  I'm very excited about these last two, being longtime interests that I haven't been able to pursue in several years.

 Our regular chaotic May.  At least the two weeks of school in June will be relatively quiet.  At least til camps start!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gommie's History

Gommie's visit this spring has involved a lot of colonial history, start to finish.  Last week, she followed along--and even really helped out with some of the needlecrafts--on a school tour at the historic house.  I'm not sure she had ever followed me on a tour before; luckily, it was a small and enthusiastic group of kids who made me look good!  I think she had fun helping them with their sewing and such.  It sure helped us!

Then, this morning, while I was giving a presentation at school, which she couldn't attend, she wandered around town to one of the old burying grounds and explored the headstones.

Afterwards, we went to a local museum and learned more about Connecticut history, well, local history, that is.  Connecticut is not so much a state as a collection of 140-odd towns; local identity is much stronger than state identity, unlike good ol' Texas.  Even after 10+ years here, I'm not sure I could describe the state flag--I know my town seal, though!  And I know the town tree, but not the state tree, flower, or bird.  (Texas: pecan, bluebonnet, mockingbird.)  The only reason I know the CT state song is because it's "Yankee Doodle!"  Anyway, we had a nice chat with a costumed interpreter who also does colonial reenacting--he certainly knew his stuff, from minutiae about George Washington to pedagogical issues of first vs. third-person interpreting, and even the local politics in our town!

Gommie has been reading a lot of my colonial history books while she's here (and more than usually interested in it all) because tomorrow (Tuesday) she's heading to Boston for the rest of the week before flying back to Texas.  She's never really done Boston and is very excited.  She's staying at the Parker House--for the rolls!--and doing the Freedom Trail.  We'll miss her but are glad she's off to even more historical adventures!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Our Mothers' Day

Kung fu.  Ice Skating lessons.  Free skate.

Lunch at the German restaurant, which Gommie loved--sauerbraten, rouladen, wiener schnitzel, cheesy spatzle, pickly potato salad, a wurst platter, red cabbage, linzer torte, beehive cake, and strudel.  Gommie talked of ompah bands and dance hall polkas, her grandmother's sauerkraut in a vat at the top of the stairs to the dirt cellar, and smoking sausages with her great uncle.  She even danced with both kiddos.

Shopping at the British food shoppe, all the snacks of which we've been munching on this weekend (including crisps and digestive biscuits; must make flapjacks.)

"Doctor Who" and leftovers and looking at some of our vacation pictures.

Bedtime.

Then breakfast in bed from the kiddos, namely cheese and crackers, Cheerios, and macaroons, plus drawings and poems and a handwritten menu.  So sweet.

Also church and the church plant sale.

Lunch at the seafood place on the water (Gommie liked the Arctic Char.)  Churros from the taco trucks.

Planting, planting, planting all the church plants (including a honeysuckle, aster, and pepperbush) and the school plants (snapdragons, petunias, pinks, etc.)  And more phlox.

And resting . . . .

A good day for the three moms in the house.

Happy Mother's Day to you and yours!

We expanded the little bed next to the mailbox, adding honeysuckle on a trellis (right) and other flowers to the already existing lavender, tulips, and mini-roses.  (It's all rather hard to see in this picture.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Slippery Slope

I can't be righteous anymore:  we now have a television in our living room, after a several-year hiatus.  It came about rather quickly; we realized that the four of us no longer comfortably fit on our bed to watch movies and "Doctor Who."  And, even though we probably only watch about 3 hours of screen time a week, we want to enjoy it.  Also, the kids have been hankering for a game console, mainly Minecraft on the big screen.

The game console will have to wait for Christmas, or at least birthdays, but we got the tv today.  Not huge, though big for us (46".)  Call it an early Mothers' Day present.  We set it up on an existing table and plugged it right into a Blu-Ray . . . and we watched Frozen with Gommie while eating pizza in the living room to christen it.

See, slippery slope.

But we loved it!   Gommie had never seen it and thought it was beautiful.  The kids liked being able to eat in the living room, which is generally taboo.

But now we can watch the Macy's Day Parade while prepping Thanksgiving dinner, the ball drop on New Year's Eve with extra space for dancing around, and the Super Bowl with lots of messy snacks.  Shall we bet on whether our hours-per-week goes up?

Slip slidin' away.

24 Hours and Counting

Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.  Pick up Gommie
4:30  Take-out dinner
6:00 Get dressed for concert, take pictures
6:10 Leave for concert
6:30 On time and in place--get our favorite seats, aisle back row
7:00 Concert starts
7:15  Our part of the concert ends (their group dismissed)
7:30 Having fetched instruments, head for frozen yogurt--yum!
8:30  All wound up and not ready for bed
9:00 Fights over where Gommie will sleep;
9:30  Gommie in Sis's bottom bunk, tomorrow night in Bud's bed; sleep

Thursday, 7:30 a.m.  Getting ready for school
8:15 Bus arrives
8:45 After coffee, Gommie and I head to the stores
10:00 Home for a break
10:30 Pick up deli lunch and head to school
11:00 Plant sale with Sis's class--lots of hanging baskets and some other flowes
11:25 Take plants to car
11:50 Lunch with Sis and Bud in crazy-noisy lunchroom
12:10 p.m. Lunch ends, head to plant sale with Bud's class (more flowers!)
12:45 Head home
1:30 I fall asleep while Gommie reads
2:30  I wake up and get ready for Brownies; Gommie gets a quiet hour at home, talks to Pop on phone
3:15 Brownies starts (Bridging activities, practice flag ceremony)
3:55 Gommie gets Bud off the bus
4:30 Brownies over
5:00  Dinner (Gommie made Swedish Meatballs)
5:15 Mama picks up Bud to go with her to PT and then straight to kung fu
5:30  Sis, Gommie, and I make brownies for teachers
6:15 Bud has kung fu; Sis and Gommie go outside for walk/bike ride
7:10 I leave for PT
7:45 Bud comes home with Mama
8:15 I come home from PT (I'm supposed to crochet 15 minutes a day!)
9:00 Kids fighting in Sis's room
9:30 Kids still fighting
10:10 Kids finally quiet; adults downstairs talking

Friday, 12:00 a.m. we all start heading to bed
12:42  I finish this post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

GOMMIE!!!!!

Gommie is coming up for a Mother's Day weekend visit, beginning tomorrow.  Her timing is perfect because the kiddos have a strings concert tomorrow evening.  She'll also get to see kung fu, ice skating, maybe Brownies, maybe the historic house, maybe some high school musical theater.

Or maybe even Vermont, if some of our raffle luck holds on.

But more on that if/when it happens.

Also, you know what that means:  probably not as much posting for a few days.

My Tea Party

I overstuffed my Victoria Sponge, but it's delicious.  And no one at my pre-Mother's Day tea party today seemed to mind!  No one else had tea, either; they're all coffee drinkers!  But I knew that and was prepared.  We're a casual group and it was a relaxed affair, despite the name, just a chance for old playgroup friends to get together to catch up.  I love how we can connect even if it's been awhile.  And we've been doing it for almost nine years!  I am grateful for my mommy friends (both those who came and those who couldn't.)


Victoria Sponge/Sandwich a la Tea & Sympathy

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour (or 2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons flour)
1 heaping teaspoonful baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two 8" round pans (I greased, put down parchment rounds, and greased and floured.)  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately two minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour and baking soda and stir til smooth.  Divide batter into two prepared pans.  Bake 20-25, until cake tester comes out clean.   Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Filling:
heavy whipping cream
strawberry jam
fresh strawberries, sliced or diced

Spread jam on one cake round.  Distribute cut-up strawberries.  Whip heavy cream until thick and spread on top of jam level.  Place second cake round on top.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve.  (I overstuffed my sponge--it should be a reserved thin layer, but, well, no.)

adapted from Anita Naughton and Nicola Perry, Tea and Sympathy:  The Life of an English Teashop in New York

Monday, May 5, 2014

London Leftovers

Almost everyday, we think back to our time in England.  Like, three weeks ago we were at Stonehenge and four weeks ago we were at the Tower of London.  In Sunday school (we call it RE, or religious education), Sis and Bud noticed, in the storybook about Queen Esther, that they were wearing gauntlets to send off carrier pigeons, reminding them both of our falconry lesson; Bud told about how heavy the turkey vulture felt on his arm.  This morning, the cool spring morning air reminded me of that at the country house in Winchester.

Other things have stayed with us--stereotypically, Mama and I are drinking more tea.  I brought back a lot of PG tips bags and some Fortnum and Mason loose teas, both of which I'm drinking out of a little silver teapot I bought in England last time.  Bud has been craving crisps of wacky flavors and has been begging us to go to the local UK shoppe to get some prawn crisps; he was thrilled to have Eton Mess for Easter.  And I'm hosting a so-called tea party tomorrow (albeit in the morning, so really more like a coffee morning), complete with homemade Victoria Sponge.  (I'll post recipe and picture if it turns out ok.)

I've also been reading several of the books I picked up while we were there, including books on crop circles, the Hampton Court kitchens, a few cookbooks (two from Porter's Restaurant, one on "A Year of Victorian Puddings), a history of London from the Museum of London, the Viking exhibition catalogue, and others.  Plus a few books I already had about England--the travel memoir trio by Susan Allen Toth (I think the best was My Love Affair with England--made me want to go back right away!) and Michael Wood's Story of England.  For her part, Mama has been listening to J.K. Rowling's Cuckoo's Calling, written under a pseudonym, a modern British crime novel.  The kids are listening to David Tennant's reading of Cressida Cowell's How to Train Your Dragon, which is admittedly Scottish.

And of course, we're re-watching some of our Harry Potter and "Doctor Who."  Mama and I also need to catch up on "Bletchley Circle," the second series, and the "Story of England" dvd.

Then there's our speech.  Mama actually said "car park" the other day instead of parking lot.  She has also talked about going to the "ladies'," for bathroom.   I"ve been saying "cuppa" when asking Mama if she wants some tea.  And the kids have been lapsing into faux British accents, which usually entails their voices rising at the end of sentences.

All of which means, we've come home quite the Anglophiles and are relishing are memories there.

Moving Season

No, we're not moving.

But lots of people are.  Young families realize their homes are quite as big as they hoped they were; families with college-aged children decide their homes are too big or not in the place they want to be.  Lots of people we know are leaving our town and Connecticut.  (And we wish them much happiness in their new homes.)

Sure, you might have seen the article that 50% of CT residents don't want to live in our state, the highest in the nation, right there with Illinois.  I like our state.  No, it doesn't engender the same dedication and pride as my time in NYC, nor my home state of Texas.  But the liberal-leaning LGBT-friendly laws and culture (plus few religious/social conservatives, even among the Republicans), the four-season weather, the proximity to NYC, and the genuine non-stereotypical-New England friendliness and community feel of our town make it a great place for us.

Yeah, in our town, the schools could be better; yeah, the taxes are high--and now, flood insurance is even higher--while much of the infrastructure needs improvement.  Sure, we'd love an extra full bathroom and actual closets.  But I wouldn't trade my neighbors and friends for any of that.

But.

But when people leave my community, I wonder if they know something I don't, if I'm not blind to its flaws or full of inertia.  And so, periodically, Mama and I have the should-we-think-about-moving conversation.

And we're staying put.

But . . . I am dreaming of a wonderful little addition off the back of the house, with French doors, lots of windows, and a full bathroom.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

May Days

After a very heavy April "shower" on Wednesday that delivered NYC's 10th rainiest day on record, we are finally seeing green, the good kind, here in Connecticut.  We have some grass, buds on trees, and blossoming buls, including daffodils, hyacinths (I LOVE their scent), and two tulips, down from a half dozen our friend Miss Mary once gave to us.  Our phlox is blooming purplish in our rock wall, but the azaleas are still a few weeks off.  As much as I like snow and winter, and even rain, it's been nice to switch to lighter skirts and sometimes even no jackets.  It's been too damp to picnic outside yet, but the kids and I have played a few games of hide and seek (whereby I stalk them furtively and they run away, never ever caught.)  They've also rediscovered their swingset and have spent lots of time in the backyard.  Sis is itching to plant a garden and has seeds growing in a terrarium-like box on the porch; she keeps wanting to plant outside but local lore says to wait for Mother's Day because of the danger of frost.  She's hoping Gommie, who arrives for Mother's Day weekend (and a little bit more) on Wednesday, will plant with her.  I think she has visions of an flourishing English garden, heaven help us.  At least we have lots of space (for the suburbs) and that nice rock wall feature.  Besides, for me anyway, the joy of gardening is more in the anticipation . . .maybe because our acidic soil (or my brown thumb) often defeats our plans.  Still, it's nice to be outside.