Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ripple, Cowls, and Crochet, Oh, My!

I'm still crocheting . . . just finished a chunky Granny ripple afghan and am working on my Outlander-inspired cowl for my cosplay at ComicCon this fall.  The ripple worked well and the cowl is lovely (I just need to decide how "tall" to make it.)  I might even make an infinity cowl out of some of the purple yarn I used for my first ripple afghan.  We'll see.


Mama and I haven't gotten back to our amigurumi; something else always seems to come up.

But my crochet keeps getting better.  For the Ripple, as I mentioned, I had to learn to dc2tog and count.  For the cowl, I practiced my foundation double crochet and both my front and back post stitches, none of which I've ever done.  I never dreamed that one of the positive outcomes of my surgery would be improving my crocheting skills!  I love it.


-=-=-=-=-=-
Chunky Granny Ripple

4 skeins Lion Brand Thick and Quick
P hook

Ch 79

will finish rest of pattern


Outlander "Sassenach" Cowl

from Polly Foo Foo on Ravelry

I foundation double crocheted 50 stitches to make mine wider.  Then I worked the pattern till it was about 12" high.

Silence Has Fallen

We had piano lessons this morning and then got a deli picnic lunch.

We played our own Star Wars game for an hour or more, running around the yard defeating Ventress and Grievous, and then partying with Ewoks.

Then, hot and tired, I was ready to go inside.  So I said, "Kids, do you want to watch Winter Soldier or . . . check your Kindles?"

Today was the release date for the new Wings of Fire book (whose author Tui Sutherland we met a few weeks ago.)

They ran inside, tripping over each other, and have been silent ever since.

Golden.

Rainbow Love and Marriage

As you can well imagine, Friday was a wonderful, emotional day of us here in the Hungry household.

And I had barely remembered that the SCOTUS would be handing down their ruling, except I saw something about it that George Takei posted on FB about it.  So I posted on my timeline a letter to SCOTUS asking for them please to give legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states to Mama for her birthday, which was that day.

Less than an hour later, I picked up my phone and saw the NYTimes breaking news alert.

The kids were playing a computer game, when I burst into tears.  Both ran over to see what was the matter.  When I told them, we all hugged.

I called Mama crying; she hadn't heard.  I think she was as surprised as I was.  Truly, I figured the court would vote against it.  I never expected that they would pass it.  Sure, 5-4, but a miss is as good as a mile, my dad says.

I called Gommie and Pop, who I knew were in a media black-out at the bay--they hardly even get signal, much less news (and who would want to, with the burning of 6 black churches and the massacre of 39+ tourists at a beach in beautiful Sousse, Tunisia--I was there in 1990 and am so saddened by the extremism attacking their country.)  They cheered and we all got sniffly and they promised to celebrate.  They are so amazingly supportive of us and have rooted for same-sex marriage and rights all the way.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, and Hannah, for your constant acceptance, love, support, and enthusiasm.  Fly that rainbow flag!

We immediately decided to make another rainbow cake, like we did two years ago on Mama's birthday to celebrate the federal approval of same-sex marriage in states that had legalized it, including our own.  We got cake mix and ice cream at the store, deciding to make it a pineapple upside-down cake, which is one of Mama's favorites.  A rainbow pineapple upside-down cake!



I spent the rest of the day checking FB off and on, sharing everything remotely rainbow:  a cartoon of the lowering of the Confederate battle flag and the raising of the rainbow pride flag; a compilation of photos of all the buildings lit rainbow, including the White House and Disney Castle; a collection of rainbow pride ads; thank-yous to the various plaintiffs; the photo of the running of the interns to take the decision to the waiting media; the LOTR-inspired "I am NO Man" meme of the three female justices; a gathering of FB memes including Obama on a rainbow unicorn; the meme about the battle between Skittles and the Confederate flag; the Star Wars meme about "a million homophobes cried out and were suddenly silenced"; the funny conservatives "moving to Canada" meme (where there has been gay marriage for 10 years!); the SCOTUS decision haiku;  the cartoon of God out of lightening strikes to destroy gays--"All we have in stock are rainbows"; a link to Obama's speech; a link to the full 100+ page decision; a pic of Ben & Jerry's I Dough, I Dough honorary flavor; the "can we just call it 'marriage' now?"; and the exploding FB rainbow computer meme, plus many others.  And yes, I changed my profile picture to a rainbow image of Mama and I where we met.  Yep, I was a part of the social media rainbow.  And the glow is still with me.

When Mama got home, we celebrated both her birthday--with lots of rainbow-wrapped presents--and of course, the ruling with the gay cake (beautiful but not all that tasty; it was a box mix that used egg whites instead of full eggs probably to preserve the color, but it made a tasteless, light cake.)  Lots of hugs, some more tears, and occasional sharing of rainbow FB posts.  I'm not even sure I can articulate most of what I'm feeling and why.  We've been lucky to have this kind of support from our families and community for years; it was great to see it backed up legally and to have gay and lesbian folks receive this legal support for the first time and hopefully their loved ones and families will come around--in fact, the first lesbian I knew and the first woman who kissed me can now marry her longtime girlfriend!

And I'll admit that I was not just a little happy that SCOTUS delivered a kind of "f**k you" to conservative homophobes.  The fact that some will now willingly disregard the ruling (I'm looking at you, Texas Attorney General Paxton) because they don't like it and are sore losers makes me crazy (insert meme comparing Christians who want their brand of religion to be the rule of the US to the Islamic Sate.  Quippy but true.)    But I'm still glad we won.  (It has been a pretty good week for liberals, for a change.)

We're still thrilled, of course (and perhaps a little amazed) and I have been ignoring, for the most part (see previous rant), the negative reactions.  Just basking in the win . . . .

Twenty years to the week after I first met Mama . . . . . Happy Birthday, Mama!!

It just got better!

Summer Fun Update

It's only been a week, but we're off to a good start with our list.  Though, in fairness, we did a few before school was even out.

  1. Party/activity in honor of Aunt Sis
  2. Go swimming at Y with friends
  3. Meet friends at ice rink:  this is actually tomorrow
  4. *Attend town festival in June/volunteer at historic house:  we did this before school was even out!
  5. *Beach trip in city
  6. *Putt-putt golf
  7. *Baseball game
  8. Family book club (we're reading Menagerie and also Redwall)
  9. Eat Dole Whip:  first night of summer, we got Dole Whip and Fluffernutter sundaes!
  10. Make ice cream
  11. Go to outdoor concert
  12. Have a barbecue (after bricking fire pit)
  13. Raise butterflies
  14. Have a lemonade stand (cookies for cancer?)
  15. Picnic:  we had a deli picnic, but I hope to do something more sophisticated soon.
  16. Mario kart-athon
  17. Movie night
  18. Old tv show marathon (ours or theirs)
  19. Watch some movie musicals 
  20. Play in sprinkler:  and used it to make a slippery water slide!
  21. *Go to culture festival (Scottish, Irish, Greek, etc.):  we loved the Greek festival food, as always!  
  22. *Go to Renaissance festival
  23. *Go to zoo
  24. Stargazing at observatory
  25. *Biking
  26. Celebrate 4th of July
  27. Celebrate Solstice:  they stayed up "all night," which was midnight for Sis and about an hour later for Bud.  I even played Mario Kart with them at midnight.
  28. Celebrate Mama's birthday:  a weekend of take-out meals and movies!
  29. Birthday party for kids:  coming soon, Minions movie birthday party.
  30. *Go to nature center
  31. *Go to aquarium
  32. *Go to bird festvial
  33. Try a new craft/art project
  34. Decorate chalkboard for summer:  we started our own mini-drawings of Awesome Summer Things.
  35. Learn to cook weekly dinners
  36. Make ice cube candles
  37. Make soap
  38. Activity kit day
  39. Host a sleepover with friends.  
  40. Learn how to clean bathrooms:  Bud earned a ticket for this already--on his own initiation!
  41. Learn how to work washer/dryer
  42. Make popsicles.
  43. Hang pictures.
  44. Learn an ASL sign a day (or more)
  45. Learn some computer coding using Scratch
  46. Make shrub for 4th of July
  47. Make friendship bread starter and share
  48. Photos with public art around town ("benching," Bud called it)
  49. Make homemade virgin pina coladas
  50. Make blankets for cat shelter


  51. Learn a new game
  52. Learn a new magic/card trick
  53. *Go letterboxing or geocaching locally
  54. Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party:  for first one, the kids swam and tried "kiddy crack" (butter-cinnamon-sugar spread on graham crackers)
  55. Start afternoon tea party tradition ("Tea Tuesdays")
  56. Explore new music genres together ("Music Mondays"):  we started with the 80s.
  57. Practice making lemon curd and clotted cream
  58. Research places to go in England, etc
  59. Purge and donate toys and books
  60. Pajamas day
  61. No electricity day
  62. Do a 1000 piece puzzle
  63. Kite flying
  64. Wash car
  65. Buy new couches?
  66. Community service project (volunteer with cats?)
  67. Do nothing special

Summer Fun: Bench Buddies



We've started one of our summer projects:  we're visiting all the "seat sculpture" in town and taking pictures.  Here are just a few of the ones we saw yesterday; I believe there are 20 in all.  The fun is figuring out the photo--for the butterfly one, I sat in the middle, like I had wings; for one with a cat and a dog, both kids sat in front to cover up the dog and just show the cat!  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Fun: Invasion of the Ferocious Feline

Watch out, London--both the big Lego Tower Bridge or the 3-D puzzle with plastic monuments (all the pieces were there, Gommie, and Mama says thanks for her birthday present--Albus is on the loose!


Friday, June 26, 2015

Rainbow Birthday Cake!!

Yes!!!

Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Here's love and birthday wishes for Mama!!  (And the Totoro I made for her desk.)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Campin'

I'm camping this week.  At home.  Via the internet.  Which, considering how muggy it is and how hot for Connecticut in June, suits me just fine.

It's my second time attending Heather Bruggeman's Summer Soul Camp, which invites us to adapt the parts of camp we liked as children and invigorate our daily summer routine with small rituals and activities.

I think I can credit camp with our two afternoon forays outside so far this week.  We didn't last long because it was hot, but I've been enjoying sitting under one of our maples which provides great shade for our metal table set and has my favorite view right down our rock wall.  Yesterday, I sat there while they played in the sprinkler/"beerorium."  Today we picnicked there, albeit with a deli lunch.  I'm considering doodling some little flags to decorate.

And then I had this crazy idea to get a tent to sleep outside with the kids, since we're not going far this summer.  The weather will cool off, into the low 70s again next week, which would be good camping weather.   It could be really fun.

Summer Fun: Inspiration Station

Today we started our summer chalkboard project.  We are drawing small images of AWESOME SUMMER THINGS, inspired by the print by Funnel Cloud that arrived in the mail yesterday.  Here Sis draws a watermelon while Bud draws the Tower Bridge, which set they did as a family Lego build!

So far, we have:
Artists at work
  • art
  • sleeping in
  • hummingbird
  • watermelon
  • Tower Bridge
  • Nyan cat
  • Tardis
  • ice skates
  • storms 
  • rainbows
  • butterflies
  • sprinkler



And this is our inspiration.

After-Storm Delight

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Fun: Beerorium

It was hot today, for Connecticut, highs up around 87F, which is more like August for us.

Which meant I stayed inside as much as I could, with the AC on.

But around 4 pm, Sis wanted to go play outside . . . in the sprinkler.  So she donned her swimsuit, set the sprinkler up in the shade, and soaked herself.

Pretty soon, to encourage her idea, I headed outside with my iced tea in a Ball jar with straw and a bowl of cold watermelon.  Bud followed right behind me, albeit in his pajamas still.

Soon they were both running through the sprinkler, then taking watermelon breaks.  Then slip-sliding down the watery slide!  And every now and then, I could smell the water and feel it change the breeze as I sat in the shade of one of our trees.

It reminded me of my paternal grandfather's "beerorium," or at least that is how my childhood brain remembers the word.  Essentially, it was a sprinkler set up to cool off the hot afternoon breezes of Dallas.  I remember playing in it sometimes, while all the adults sat on the porch, no doubt with beer.

Recently, my uncle has been posting videos of those times on You Tube, old 1970s videos reclaimed in the digital era.  There I am, with my blond curls (yes, you read that correctly) wandering around my grandparents' front yard, complete with a swingset that I definitely remember--just not at their house.  There's all the trees, the pond that was drained to be a rose garden, and the little house with the red brick that would stain your feet.  You can see my grandmother, looking so old in a kerchief--though, she is two years younger there than Gommie is now! (I think I'm closer to Aunt Sis's age, or even Aunt Ohio, than to Gommie, who was only about 30 here)--and Gommie, Grandad, and Aunt Sis, and Aunt Ohio, and Uncle and Cousin Monk, and even their "weiner dog" Otto and my dear old Becky, a black lab.  Not sure who is filming--Pop isn't in the photo, but I don't think he's the cameraman--maybe one of my older cousins.  We're all there, (well, not Aunt Banana, not yet)  probably celebrating Christmas.  (Don't ask me why they're blowing up firecrackers in the gravel.)



There's no beerorium--in fact, it's winter (see, jackets and even hats!)--but where I walk around is about where the sprinkler would go.

Summer Fun: To-Do Today

Today, Bud has cleaned the upstairs bathroom, washed the garbage cans, and emptied all the house trash cans.

Sis took out the recycling and weeded the garden.

I LOVE our tickets-for-screen-time/jobs-for-hire system!!!!

Beyond their usual chores (unloading dishwasher, helping with laundry, feeding cats, wiping table, sweeping kitchen) for which they do not receive any renumeration, they can choose to do extra jobs for tickets.  Each ticket is worth 15 minutes of screen time OR about $2.50.

The kicker is that they have to pay for screen time on weekdays.  If they want to play video games or Minecraft Monday through Friday, they have to have tickets.  That would be about 20 tickets a week for an hour of screen time a day (that's their max during the week.)  That's a ton of chores, which average one or two tickets each.

Perfect.

In fact, I'm going to have to dig deep to find more chores so that they can get their screen time!

Not a bad problem to have, I'd say.


(**I would LOVE for them to be able to clean each of our 4 litter boxes everyday, and would give beaucoup tickets, but everything I read says they're too young because of the bacteria in feline fecal matter.)

Wonder-ful

I doubt I'll ever get a photo of our visiting hummingbird, so I drew this instead.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lessons Learned

I have made this patch of afghan six or seven times now.  And I think I might finally have it.


Well, there is one mistake, one side of the last point is a set of three double crochets short.  But, well, I can live with that.  
I haven't done a ripple--that's what this pattern is--in a very long time.  And I wasn't good at it last time, hence the long wait to try again.  But I came across a reference to a Granny ripple, which essentially uses the telltale three double crochets of the typical Granny stitch (best known in squares.)  I'm partial to the Granny right now and wanted to give it a try.  And I was curious to see if I'd gotten better and more able to do a ripple afghan.

Mercy, it's been a trial.  Even though the pattern says beginner!  In fact, I'm following my second pattern, in the book 100 Ripple Stitches to Crochet because the first one via Ravelry on a Project Linus site, just wasn't working (or I wasn't working it!)  I think I made it twice and pulled it out twice before switching.  And it was still a series of mishaps.

First, I reaffirmed that I'm not a good counter.  I knew that.  When I tried chaining 132 or whatever it was, I couldn't get to the number without getting lost, usually when I counted but didn't complete a stitch.  I was having trouble counting the chains afterwards because of the curly nature of the Lion Brand homespun.  Sigh.  I even tried stitch markers, but when I did the first row, I came up about 7 stitches short.

I tried again and realized that my dc3tog stitch wasn't sitting correctly, so I looked it up.  Only to find that it wasn't sitting correctly because I was double crocheting incorrectly!  I was adding a whole yarn over and pull up a loop to the stitch!  I wonder when I started doing that.  Must have been about the same time I added a step to the single crochet, which I think I had been doing wrong for years, as I recently found out while trying Amigurumi with Mama.  I pulled everything out and got my double crochet back on track.

While I had aimed to do a lap afghan and had adjusted the size accordingly, it was coming out too wide, which is when I discovered that I was still doing the dc3tog incorrectly on the first row!  Sigh.  See, at some point, I had switched from reading the pattern written out in words to using the pattern diagram printed out in symbols, a new approach for me.  The written words were confusing; the diagram clearly showed the dc3tog.  So I pulled it all out.   Interestingly, the diagram is actually different than the photos accompanying the pattern--the diagram has you stitching the dc3tog in the tops of stitches while the photos of the finished afghans clearly show that it is worked in the chain space!  I could have actually pulled it out one more time.  But I'm satisfied with it now.

Talk about a lesson in patience, humility, and persistence!  Usually by now, I would have either buried the mistake or quit completely.  I certainly would have stopped for a long break.  Or at least thrown some yarn across the room.  I don't know what made this time different, except I REALLY wanted to make a ripple AND I didn't want to be beaten by some yarn.  And I wanted this time to be different.

There you have it, twelve or so rows of a Granny ripple afghan.  I doubt it'll ever be one of my favorite, go-to patterns, but I'm glad to have learned more about crochet . . . and myself.

-=-=-=-=-=-
***Pattern is incomplete.  I'm still figuring out how to write it.

My Granny Ripple Lap Afghan
Lion Brand Homespun
K hook

Ch 79 (or a multiple of 26 + 1; each set of 26 gives you another peak)

Row 1:  Ch 4 and work 3 dc in 5th ch from hook.  (*ch 1, sk 2 st, 3 dc* twice; sk 2 st.  Work peak:  3dc, ch 2, 3dc in same st.  *ch 1, sk 2 st, 3 dc* twice; sk 2 st.  Work valley:  3dctog, sk 3 st, 3 dctog)  Work entire pattern inside () to end of row (ending on halfway up "peak.")  Then ch 1 and dc, turn.

Row 2:  Ch 4

Repeat  to make afghan.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Doodle All the Day

Experimenting with doodles today, my last scheduled day of quietude until September 3!   I've gotten a new doodle book and magazine and so played with some new ideas; also, I tried my hand at a version of Things that are Awesome:  Summer Edition (see this post.)

Actually, I also made birthday presents for Mama, Sis, and Bud yesterday, but I can't show those yet.







Thursday, June 18, 2015

Today


Blank Canvases

Look at this print, entitled Things That Are Awesome, by Funnelcloud.  It's got almost 200 little drawings of:


Starfish, ukuleles, tipis, daiquiris, llamas, flashlights, guacamole, lavender, flip flops, log cabins, ice bergs, bagels, sloths, cupcakes, aliens, mix tapes, raindrops, horse shoes, submarines, the Big Dipper, peanut butter, hot water bottles, hang gliders, wine, jeans, modern chairs, hot cocoa, fireworks, gila monsters, slide whistles, palm trees, cookies, conch shells, foreign coins, spotted toadstools, tractors, hot dogs, bakeries, earth, concert tickets, cheesecake, in-line skates, bulldogs, shish kebabs, UFOs, twisty straws, snowflakes, glow sticks, bobbleheads, narwhals, blueberries, grills, birds of prey, lip balm, castles, venus flytraps, windmills, lemonade, sunglasses, buttermilk biscuits, jellyfish, bicycles, cacti, milkshakes, pyramids, popsicles, canoes, passports, sea shells, candles, homemade bread, hockey, fountain pens, fresh peaches, steel drums, geckos, cameras, fireflies, neon signs, bubble gum, maps, mason jars, sprinklers, tree houses, drive-in movies, crepes, bubble baths, clawfoot tubs, ampersands, bridges, bacon, igloos, light bulbs, exclamation points, gnomes, pizza, sharks, french crullers, picnics, hiking boots, chocolate milk, computers, motorcycles, crayons, corn on the cob, deep sea anglerfish, beer, hazelnuts, grizzly bears, trampolines, chalkboards, wiener dogs, double rainbows, butterflies, campers, hammocks, cowboy boots, hot air balloons, tubas, chocolate-covered pretzels, cheese, telescopes, rockets, sailboats, flippers, sunflowers, shooting stars, chocolate, strawberries, books, autumn leaves, olives, convertibles, octopuses, record players, champagne, pine trees, sea horses, greyhounds, unicycles, letters, snorkeling, kayaks, bighorn sheep, bulldozers, rafts, sticky notes, gelato, cheeseburgers, camping, mountains, marsupials, jack-o-lanterns, picture postcards, banjos, water slides, barns, chicken & waffles, sunrises, sunsets, pajama pants, robots, the moon, avocados, lilacs, islands, sangria, thunderstorms, snow tubes, goats, wrecking balls, bison, pasta, frozen custard, gumball machines, pies, surfboards, didgeridoos, gargoyles, airboats, hummus, dinosaurs, coconut rum, monsters, lanterns, crabs, campfires, lighthouses, wildflower bouquets, gin & tonics, funnel clouds, and twinkle lights.

I love the whole thing (and just purchased a print!):  the little drawings, the combo of words and images, and just the whimsy of a list of good things.  I can't wait to spend time discovering the 194 awesome things.

And it got me thinking.  We have a big green chalkboard taking up a whole kitchen wall.  It's been a Hobbit hole door almost all school year and it's time for a change.  I think we're going to draw things that we think are awesome, maybe particularly summer things.  I don't know.  I'm thinking of hanging the print across from the chalkboard on the basement door so we can see it all the time, both to be inspired artistically and also to be grateful for the little things, the ordinary miracles of each day.

What would your list include?

I'm going to enjoy making mine.

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

Secondly, I LOVE this work, We Do Geek by Crafts by a Geeky Mommy.  It's a take-off of all of those sweet "We Do Family" lists, with things like "In this family, we do hugs, we do mistakes, we do laughter . . . . "  And while that's a nice list, it's kinda milque-toasty.  I like this one better:


In This House
We believe in Magic
We have epic adventures
Once upon a time and in 
Galaxies far far away
We do wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff while 
Going where no man has gone before
We know the answer to 
Everything is 42 and that
The odds are ever in our favor
We do cosplay and passion
And we aim to misbehave
And we don’t care what others think
Because in this house

We do Geek

I bet we could adapt this list to us (since we're not into Hitchhiker's Guide or Hunger Games yet.)  It would have to have Studio Ghibli and Minions.  And we would "manage mischief" instead of "misbehave." But it's such a great list (and looks even better with all the different fonts), fun to play off of.   

When It Rains

It hasn't been a good weather month in Texas.  First, all the flooding in Houston and Wemberley near Austin a few weeks ago, now, Tropical Storm Bill hammering the southeast coast along much the lines of devastating Hurricane Carla fifty years ago.  My extended family is safe, though some of the property is a little worse for the wear.  Apparently the place where many have bayhouses was hit pretty hard--the houses are okay but the piers are gone and many of the boats came unmoored from their boat stalls as the tides rose and even floated around the harbor.  But it's not nearly as bad as Carla, when all the houses in the town except one were wiped off the earth.  They'll be able to recover, but it'll be a slow road in some places.  Our thoughts are with the people all over the state (and in the other states as well) as they recover and rebuild.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Picot Practice

Trying the picot edging on a couple of recent afghans.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Almost

Almost the end of the school year.

Almost 5th grade.

Almost Father's Day.

Almost time to celebrate Goo and Gong's birthdays.

Almost their birthday.

Almost ten.

Almost Mama's birthday.

Almost Solstice.

It's going to be a big week or two.  The kids are giddy with excitement that today was the last full day of school (we have three half-days left, I think.)  Behind the scenes, I'm getting ready for summer, their party, and celebrating Mama, too.  Though I'm not sure what exactly we're going to do for that last one.  Most of our plans are for fall (Comic Con, Vermont, Block Island), with only minimal actual plans beyond summer camps and our usual Summer Fun 2015 list, except for an anniversary weekend in the city for Mama and me to see Fun Home and have fun, maybe afternoon tea and a museum, while the kids do the beach with Ma and Gong.

Almost feel like I did before surgery.

Almost back to my regular activities (I have eaten in a restaurant and driven to the mall TWICE!)

ALMOST ready for summer.

But ready or not, it's almost here.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Of This and That

Of Ice Cream and Kids' Books
Yesterday, we had the delightful opportunity to go to a presentation by children's authors Tui Sutherland (Wings of Fire series, Menagerie series, etc.) and Christine Taylor-Butler (numerous non-fiction and Lost Tribes series.)  The kids knew the former author very well from several of their favorite books--earlier, they'd both agreed that they liked her dragon stories more than Harry Potter!  We hadn't knowingly read any of the latter author's works (though we saw copies of a book on Pluto that I know we had) but were interested in her new series that involves lots of codes.

Sutherland intrigued the kids with stories on how she became an author (via publishing), how she works (late at night), and how she fleshes out an idea (sometimes with a character first, sometimes with the idea of a world, like Wings of Fire--draw a map, she advised!)  She showed lots of cover art, including book 8 in the dragon series, and generally encouraged the children's creativity.

Taylor-Butler, who is an MIT-trained engineer, also always wanted to be a writer but hadn't thought it was a paying "real" job until she was an adult.  She wrote close to 75 non-fiction books, often on contract with Scholastic, looking for what interested her in such subjects as American History, meteorology, etc.  Only later did someone ask her to turn a short children's book about a boy who thought his mother was an alien from Venus into a novel.  And now she's written a novel about codes, Lost Tribes.  She talked about existing codes--and kid's pages on the FBI, NSA, and CIA websties--and did a few scientific experiments (magnets and money, paper clips on water.)  She says she always bases science fiction on real science.  Our kids were fascinated.  Mama and I liked her, too, as she repeatedly said what a nerd she was . . . and proudly!!


We stood in short lines to meet both authors and take pictures, buying copies of Lost Tribes for the kids.  I teased Mama that she might need her own copy!

 Afterwards, we went to our favorite farm ice cream stand--we hadn't been in such a long time!  And it was as good as we remembered.  I couldn't decide and so got strawberry AND peaches & cream, sharing it all around.  Mama got Jersey cow (coffee ice cream with chocolate and caramel chunks); Bud, purple cow (raspberry ice cream and chocolate chunks); Sis, caramel swirl.  Delicious!!  They're planning all the flavors we can make this summer.

Of Slushies and Straight Swords
Bud had a local kung fu competition today, this time a mixed martial arts contest between teams at one of the local amusement parks.  Most of the other groups were karate--Bud said that there was a lot of breaking boards!--and some very young kids doing simple forms.  He did both his fist and straight sword forms as part of the large team performance.  And they came in second!  They were all very pleased.  Plus, there were slushies and fried dough and ice cream! And a rollercoaster that almost did Mama in.  A fun day out.  With a team trophy for langiappe.

Of Cake and Crochet
At home, Sis and I had our own fun today.  We started off with a trip to the craft store for supplies--my first drive out to the mall since my surgery (my longest drive yet!!)--and then picked up pasta at Sis's favorite Italian place (chicken fettucine alfredo for her, "pink" pasta with prosciutto for me.)  We watched a lot of "Doctor Who" and petted the cats.  Midday, we made Tex-Mex Chocolate sheet cake, which we shared with our neighbor who had been so kind to give us brisket yesterday (he's into smoking brisket these days--and we are the happy recipients of his experiments.  His sauce was better yesterday!)  Sis took some to his family and also to our friend Miss K, the teacher.   We watched more tv, with me finishing two un-edged crocheted afghans and Sis completing a thread art project.  Later, Sis told Mama that we had an awesome day!  Yay!


Of Pie and Puzzles
Well, not really pie but close . . . . Last week, we had a Cobbler-Off.  We made two kinds of cobbler:  pie-crust-topped mixed berry, based on my aunt's Dewberry Cobbler recipe, and a skillet peach cobbler from the Homesick Texan cookbook, with its more cake-like top.  Why?  One each for Bud and Sis!  And I was trying out the different types of crust.  I wasn't completely pleased with the peach, not fluffy or cakey enough.  I think I might still like the topping of Swedish Apple Pie best for cobbler.  Something worth playing with this summer.

Meanwhile, we started a new puzzle.  Mama is on a puzzle kick because she's been doing them with her team at work.  And so we've done a few here, including this multi-colored cupcake one which was challenging.  Mama and I like to do the border; Bud and Sis like to do the section they like the best, with or without the frame--this time they'd choose a color.  But some of the colors didn't vary enough to make it easy to put together.  But we like a challenging puzzle, made more so by the cats that kept sitting on them.  We finished it tonight, after a slow try-each-piece-in-each-spot approach for the last, most difficult cupcake.  I wonder what we'll do next?



Of NYCats and Connecticats

There has been some progress on the cat front.  The basement boys, Mojo and Mr. P, are definitely more comfortable, in fact even prefer, being on the first floor with us.  P sits in the cat tree near the front window, next to where I am on the couch (hence all the photos of him--that and he's easier to photograph than a black cat.  He sits there so much that the cover is beginning to fray--it's an old cat tree--Sis and I bought new furry fabric today); Mojo likes being on the couch, also wandering around (he's even been climbing the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.)  And even when Hermione approaches, they either hiss or just ignore her.  It's rare that they race straight downstairs.  In fact, at least once, we put our "old" cats in the basement while we let the "new" cats have the top two floors.  Mr. P even slept with us!  But Mama says that in the morning, Albus and Hermione were crying, "You accidentally locked the wrong cats in the basement!"  They'd even pulled part of the frame of the small cat door off.  They were all so exhausted afterwards, that the four cats went to their usual places and slept all day.  Last night, we didn't even separate anyone.   They all lived.  And came together again today without much hissing.  It's nice.  Or at least as nice as it has been so far.  (We're still aiming for no hissing.)

Puzzling

All four cats found their way onto the puzzle, separately, this weekend.  Could it be the cool surface?  Despite this "help," we did finish.

Mojito takes his turn on the puzzle.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gumbo Yay-Yay!

That green thing is a giant bay leaf.
Oh, yeah, this is gonna be good.  I just tasted my very first attempt at gumbo in the slow cooker and it's good.  I am not sure, yet, if it's better than my stovetop version, but it's at least a tie.  And so much easier to make.  I got the idea because I've seen numerous recipes for slow-cooker gumbo--it does need to be cooked low and slow--I often rush mine.  And it's so much easier than sauteeing everything separately and then combine in a roux-based sauce.  I still made the roux and then dumped everything together.  The chopping is the longest and hardest part now (this time, I let the roux cook the whole time I was chopping--right next to the stove so I could watch it, though--got it nice and brown.)  

Now experts will probably deride the slow cooker.  And also notice that Mama bought the wrong color bell pepper.  And question the authenticity because I don't add tomatoes or file or okra or whatever.  It's my version and we all love it.  And now I've found another, easier, and maybe even better way to make it.

(My original stove top gumbo recipe and my other New Orleans recipes are here.)

My Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

4-5 chicken breasts
1-2 lbs. sausage, sliced into coins
1 large onions chopped
3-5 ribs celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Tony’s (approximately--I use just 1 teaspoon for my kids)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
6-8 cups chicken stock
cooked rice, for serving

Place chicken, sausage, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf, and Tony's in crockpot.

Make roux by slowly heating flour and oil in a saucepan on the stove until the color of peanut butter.  Do NOT burn.  Add chicken broth and stir.  Pour this broth mixture over ingredients in crockpot.

Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.  Serve over rice.

Mommy Hungry

Girl Talk

When I was a kid, "the talk" came in 5th grade.  The girls were gathered on the industrially-carpeted floor in the communal space between the four classrooms to watch a filmstrip while all the boys got extra outdoor recess; moms weren't invited, but they did have to give permission to participate.  The whole talk was very abstract, as I recall it, with flowers and how it feels to be a girl, and we got a booklet and a coupon for a product starter kit.  I don't remember much else, probably because I knew about menstruation before the talk (I started after my fifth-grade year, when I was 11.)  I did like the booklet, with its pastel colors, and its chatty informational style.  Amazingly, you can see the whole thing here.  I was very excited, though, about the starter kit that came in the mail after I sent in my coupon, filled with different kinds of pads in a big pastel box.  I kept it under the bed for a long time.

Things are different now.

First, the talk comes in 4th grade and it's after school, very optional.  In fact, our neighbor girl told me that she and her mother are totally against the school providing such information, that parents should teach this when the time comes.  Sigh.  I told her families have different beliefs and that we believe in science and education and this was about biology.  But then, as you know, my kids have had the UU OWL class, about sexuality health already and know a lot about biology and its spiritual dimensions.

The talk was given by a school nurse, very direct, entertaining, informational, and practical.  She put the girls AND moms at ease as she discussed:

  • the biology of puberty (the physical changes), from widening hips, growing breasts, appearance of sweat glands, increase in hormones, growth of pubic hair, and then advent of MEN-STROO-ATION! (I can still hear it as talked about in Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret?) and the actual process of ovulation, etc etc etc.  She kept saying that their bodies were practicing for being pregnant . . .and then she said they should wait a long time, after college, to have babies;
  • and the emotions of adolescence (the experience of puberty), like moodiness and lack of concentration and tiredness;
  • practical hygiene issues--changing pads and underwear, keeping clean with morning showers, and the one that surprised all the moms--changing pillowcases every night to reduce blemishes from the bacteria and oil gathered on the pillow.  Who knew?
  • and practical issues for handling it at school--how to have a little pouch with pads, extra underwear, maybe some wipes; how to get to the nurse if you have an accident or cramps--just say, "I'm going to throw up!" the nurse said; also that it's a private issue and no one will know that you are having your period unless you tell them.
  • Cramps--exercise to move the muscles and release the endorphins, heating pads, tylenol and ibuprofen if needed;
  • she even passed out pads that they opened and unwrapped--of course, one girl stuck it on her forehead (not MY girl.)  The pad was so small that I said it must belong to an American Girl Doll!  When did they start coming in small sizes?  It is so much more appropriate for young girls.
  • Sleep, eat right, keep clean, listen to your body for rest, and exercise--girls are strong, the nurse said, and we're the only ones who can make babies and we can handle periods.  
It was all very straightforward and even empowering.  And a huge milestone in a young girl's life (the talk, I mean, not even the period.) The first of many coming up.  

I hope I can meet them all with such calm directness.

Blessing the Hands



"Clearing" by Martha Postlewait
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing
in the dense forest of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.


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

Today was our annual hospice volunteer luncheon, which is always a fun and touching event.   And I was so excited to go--I made it the whole time!! This is huge because I haven't eaten in a restaurant--in uncomfortable chairs!--since my surgery.  And you know how I love eating in different restaurants.  I also haven't seen my hospice friends since March either, so it was good to see them.  It gets lonely at home by myself.

It was a lovely event, with a special blessing of the hands that the chaplain performed. "May your hands be blessed as you offer compassionate care to those that you touch," she said.  Actually, we perform it on each other, saying a blessing or a wish for the person next to us as he or she dips fingers in the basin.   "In this work, may you be a comfort to others and, when you are in need, may you be comforted," I said to the person next to me.  The person on my other side wished me healing and a full life.  

And we ate great food!  It's so much nicer not to be a vegetarian at these events--pasta is usually the phoned-in dish.  But the rest of it was delicious.  (I do feel the pull of vegetarianism strongly, but it will probably just be a larger percentage, not total.)  There were also cake pops, as there always are at our gatherings; someone in the office makes them--and I get sent home with extras for the kids!

All the volunteers received nice swag--both volunteer appreciation bags with candy and pens and such, and things with our company logo on it (an insulated lunchbox--last year was a picnic blanket--we are part of a multi-state corporation that provides hospice; they are required by federal law to have a volunteer corps--it's a nice change from non-profits sometimes!  We eat better.)--and were recognized for our work.  The daughter of a former patient gave a moving speech about how our hospice team helped with her mother's dying.  It was a nice addition to hear from a family member, especially since we have no contact with the family after the death (that's the bereavement team.)

I love this work and I really like my team.  Today was extra-special because of these last few months.  It's nice to be a volunteer again, and not a patient!!!

(Though, thankfully, not anywhere near a hospice patient in March.)

-=-=-=-=-=-


Blessed be the hands that have touched life.
Blessed be the hands that have nurtured creativity.
Blessed be the hands that have held pain.
Blessed be the hands that have embraced with passion.
Blessed be the hands that have closed in anger.
Blessed be the hands that have planted new seeds.
Blessed be the hands that have harvested ripe fields.
Blessed be the hands that have cleaned, washed, and scrubbed.
Blessed be the hands that have become wrinkled with years.
Blessed be the hands that are scarred from doing justice.
Blessed be the hands that have reached out and been received.
Blessed be the hands that feed those who are hungry.
Blessed be the hands that comfort the dying and touch the dead.
Blessed be the hands that greet strangers.
Blessed be the hands that guide the young.
Blessed be these hands.

TGIF

Last full Friday of the school year, with only a week of mostly half-days left to go!

It finally feels like summer here in CT, perhaps too much--I am just not ready for 86F, even with air conditioning.  Makes me want to never leave the house, until maybe October.  Oh well, other people don't like to leave the house between December and April, so I guess it balances.

I'm trying an old recipe in a new way today:  gumbo in the crockpot!  My usual slow cooker recipe requires sauteeing onions, celery, and bell pepper apart from the sausage and apart from the chicken AND making a roux before combining everything.  And I find just the chopping can be enough standing-at-the-counter time for me these days.  So, I pretty much dumped all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, made a roux, and added it.  It'll simmer all day, hopefully really pulling the flavors out of the veggies and sausage.  I'll let you know.

Otherwise, we've got the usual extracurriculars and all of the end-of-year stuff, and even a birthday party in the next week or two.  Whew.  I think they're will be more meals in the slow cooker . . . because yesterday, having taken Sis to the "Girl Talk," I totally forgot that I had to make dinner!  I have a feeling that could happen again in the next week or so.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Renewed Books

I got a Kindle while I was recovering from surgery--it was easier to hold than a book and I could also read it at night without a light, while Mama slept.

And I'm loving reading historical mysteries, which was my preferred genre before the kiddos.  A friend in grad school turned me on to them more than twenty years ago--she was a huge Anne Perry fan and so I started to read her Victorian mysteries, too (first the Thomas Pitt series, then Detective Monk.)  Slowly I branched out--medieval mysteries, Elizabethan mysteries, eighteenth century, Victorian.  I never really took to the ancient Roman ones, despite my background in classical studies.  At the height of my reading, I was probably reading 20+ different series.

See, I'm not a great reader of "literature"--I tended to read non-fiction for school and then these "twinkies" after school.  I've never been one to fret over the great American novel or the hot trade paperback.  And then, with young children, I barely read much for myself; I'd read to them.  But now that they're finally reading books like Harry Potter, etc., that interest me, they want to read on their own!

And I've rediscovered reading my mysteries.  It started when I began reading the books on which "Miss Fisher's Mysteries" were based--I just love Phryne Fisher and her early 20th-century Australia!  And reading was made easier by the Kindle--they are cheap and easy to get.  I'm reading through many of the favorite series I was reading a decade ago, picking up where I left off.  And I'm enjoying it immensely, going through a few a week.

Just wait til I catch up with all the new historical mystery series started in the last decade!

I don't even have to make room on my bookshelves.

-=-=-=-=-=-
Medieval
Margaret Frazer, Dame Frevisse series (15th-century England)
Caroline Roe, Isaac the Healer series (medieval Spain)

Elizabethan
Fiona Buckley, Ursula Blanchard series
Karen Harper, Queen Elizabeth 1 as detective!
Kathy Lynn Emerson, "Face Down" series with Susanna Appleton

Victorian
Barbara Hambly, Benjamin January (early 19th-century New Orleans)
Victoria Thompson, Gaslight series (early 20th-century NYC, with a midwife and a detective)
Anne Perry, both Thomas Pitt and Detective Monk series (London)

Other
Laura Joh Rowland, Sano Ichiro (17th-century Japan)
Peter Tremayne, Sister Fidelma (7th-century Ireland)
Bruce Alexander, Sir John Fielding (18th-century London)




Feeling Better

No pain pills yesterday.

And feeling good today.

(except for some side effects of drinking all that damned contrast drink)

Grateful.

So Proud

Sis was awarded the student-of-the-month "Character Counts" for her class.

We are very proud.

And surprised.

She hadn't told us--I read it in the monthly class newsletter this morning.  So Mama and I are thinking up ways to celebrate.


Cat Love

Loving my fur buddies, who are my constant companions (usually one or two at a time.)
He was purring AND snoring!

Albus says, "This is my house."


I like to sit on my brother (see his ear?)

My brother makes a nice pillow.

Brothers
Hermione refused to pose for the paparazzi this time around.