Monday, August 31, 2015

A New Chicken Recipe

Mama found a great low-FODMAPs food website, Delicious as it Looks, for me and we made this Greek chicken tonight.  With triple the oregano, it would be just like the Chicken Tigania we get from the Greek restaurant (minus all those onions.)

The diet is challenging but clearly working.  When I've gone off it, mostly on weekends when we try to eat out, I've paid the price.  Which is a terrible way to start the week.

There are several more recipes on the site which I hope to make in the next two months, and beyond . . . .


Serves 4

Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
½ cup oven-roasted garlic oil (horizontally-cut head of garlic with 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, baked for an hour at 300F) or extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic or olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
Cut three slits across the top of each chicken breast being careful to not cut all the way through. Place chicken breasts in a large plastic storage bag. Pour marinade over chicken and mix around. Squeeze air out of bag and seal. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
Lightly oil grill and heat to medium-high heat (about 350 to 400 degrees F). Grill chicken breasts until golden brown, about 3 minutes a side or until no longer pink in the middle. Serve.

Happy Birthday, Pop!

Wishing you a wonderful 75th year!

If I could, I'd get you:

  • a liberal Democrat or even a Socialist for president  . . . until I'm 75!
  • the dissolution of gerrymandered districts;
  • the reversal of the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United;
  • a complete reversal of climate change;
  • a huge crackdown on pesticides, chemicals, and other harmful materials (like microbeads) in our food, personal products, and other consumer goods;
  • renewable, sustainable, responsible energy for everyone;
  • strict gun laws and an end to the prison-for-profit system;
  • free college education for everyone . . . and the Dream Act;
  • nationalized healthcare including long-term disability, palliative care, and hospice for everybody;
  • the expansion of the National Park system;
  • computers, DVD players, smartphones, and digital SLR cameras, and other electronics (and systems) that do what you want them to do . . . even if you don't know;
  • calm waters and good fishing;
  • no more mosquitoes; 
  • a futuristic UV blocker bubble anywhere you go;
  • new episodes of "Law & Order," "Downton Abbey," "Frasier," and whatever other show you like;
  • Pino's, down the street;
  • ice cream every night; 
  • and a teleportation system connecting your house and ours.
Well, until that happens (and I'm sure I'm forgetting something), we send all of our love to you!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer Fun: Our Movie List Update

We watch a lot of movies, especially for people who pretty much never go to the theater (maybe once a year, maybe.  This year it was Minions.)  This has been the summer of re-watching all the Marvel movies.  Yes, I know, violent.  But in that fantasy/sci-fi kind of way.

Tonight, we watched Back to the Future.  It aged pretty well in 30 years.  Yep, we're now the future--except that's the second movie--and no, we don't have hoverboards yet.  The first one goes back to 1955.  The kids enjoyed it enough.  Sis was particularly surprised that the young female lead now plays the mom on "Switched at Birth."  And neither one of them could comprehend the inside joke about Huey Lewis and the News. (They also didn't realize there were cars in the 1950s.  Sheesh.)

I was looking at my old list (trying to find a movie for Labor Day weekend) and realized we've seen many of the ones on our original list a few years ago.

Still a lot of good ones to see.  And we'll have to watch the movie Matilda before we go see the Broadway musical in November.
  • Andre*
  • Addams Family Movie
  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • Adventures of Tintin*
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Babe
  • Back to the Future
  • Beetlejuice
  • Beethoven*
  • Big
  • Black Beauty*
  • Black Stallion*
  • Brady Bunch: The Movie
  • Caspar*
  • Castle in the Sky
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Clue
  • Dark Crystal
  • Dr. Doolittle*
  • Dolphin's Tale
  • Escape to Witch Mountain
  • ET
  • Fern Gully
  • Finding Neverland
  • Flash Gordon
  • Flight of Dragons
  • Flight of the Navigator*
  • Fly Away Home*
  • Footloose
  • Free Willy
  • Ghostbusters
  • Golden Compass*
  • Goonies
  • Gremlins
  • Harriet the Spy*
  • Heidi
  • Home Alone*
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Hook
  • Hugo*
  • Incredible Journey*
  • Incredible Shrinking Woman
  • Indian in the Cupbaord*
  • Iron Giant*
  • Jaws
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer*
  • Jumanji
  • Jurassic Park
  • Karate Kid
  • Labyrinth
  • Ladyhawke
  • Land Before Time*
  • Last Unicorn
  • Legend
  • Matilda*
  • Miracle Worker
  • Mrs. Doubtfire*
  • Muppet Movie
  • Muppet Treasure Island*
  • Nauiscaa of the Valley of the Winds
  • Never-Ending Story
  • Newsies*
  • October Sky*
  • Parent Trap
  • Paulie*
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure
  • Perfect Game*
  • Pharlap*
  • Pollyanna
  • Popeye
  • Princess Bride
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Sandlot*
  • Secret Garden
  • Secret of Kells
  • Secret of NIMH
  • Secret of Roan Inish
  • Secret World of Arietty
  • Short Circuit*
  • Slipper and the Rose*
  • Song of the Sea*
  • Space Camp
  • Spaceballs
  • Spirited Away
  • Stuart Little
  • Superman
  • Swiss Family Robinson*
  • Tale of Princess Kayuga*
  • Time Bandits
  • Tron*
  • War Games
  • Water Horse
  • Whale Rider
  • Where the Red Fern Grows*
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit*
  • Willow

Summer Fun: Cooking with Mama

Mama has done it again:  she has had a glorious day helping the kids to make some of their favorite foods.   About a year ago, it was linguine with clam sauce and chicken marsala.  Today, Bud made beer-steamed mussels with bacon and garlic, while Sis made fried chicken.  Mercy, they eat well!  And they have such fun and pride doing it.


Beer-Steamed Mussels with Bacon and Garlic
(from a NYTimes recipe for clams)

100 littleneck clams (Mama substituted 2 lbs mussels)1 tablespoon unsalted butter¼ cup diced chorizo or bacon, optional2 cups beer, approximately 1 can or bottle
  1. Carefully scrub the clams under cold running water to remove sand and grit, then set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot set over medium heat, and when it foams, add the chorizo or bacon, and allow it to crisp, stirring occasionally, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beer to the pot (use just 1 cup if cooking 50 or fewer clams), and allow to heat through, then carefully add the clams in layers. Cover the pot, and allow the clams to steam and open, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Serve in the pot, or use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove clams to a platter, and serve alongside a bowl of the remaining clam broth and melted butter.

Fried Chicken from Southern Living a la the NYTimes

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
chicken with skin, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut up into 8 pieces (see note)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil, like grapeseed, peanut or canola (do not use olive oil)
¼ cup bacon drippings (or use more oil)
  1. Combine 1 tablespoon salt with 3 quarts water in a large bowl or container. Add chicken, cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse with cold water and pat dry. 
  2. Stir together remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Sprinkle half the mixture evenly over chicken. 
  3. In a large sealable plastic bag, combine remaining pepper mixture and flour. Add 2 pieces chicken to bag and shake well to coat. Remove chicken pieces, shaking off extra flour, and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken. 
  4. Take a large (10- or 12-inch) cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer, for which you have a lid, and fit with a candy or deep-frying thermometer. Add oil and bacon drippings and heat to 360 degrees over medium heat; the oil will ripple and possibly give off a few wisps of smoke. 
  5. Using tongs, immediately add chicken pieces, skin side down (work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding pan). The oil will drop to about 325 degrees, where it should stay; adjust heat so that oil is bubbling gently around the pieces. Cover and cook 6 minutes; uncover and cook 9 minutes. Turn chicken pieces; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook another 5 to 9 minutes, depending on size of pieces. If necessary for even browning, turn pieces over a few times toward the end. 
  6. Drain on paper towels or paper bags. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving. 


  • If chicken is larger than 2 1/2 pounds, use a large heavy knife to cut each breast half in half again, making 10 pieces in total.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Fun: Beautiful Balloons

Tonight we ventured to the hot air balloon festival north of us.  While I won't sully this post with a long, detailed recitation of the major problems of the festival (complete lack of preparation, not enough of anything, long long long waits and many shortages--most disorganized I've ever seen), we really liked seeing all of the balloons--the one in flight as we arrived, the tethered one going up and down (with its loud and bright propane flame), the inflation and deflation of 10 balloons, and the "glow" when the fire lit the balloon from within.  There were a few rainbow balloons and a pink and a blue one each for Sis and Bud.  Mama, who had dropped us off, didn't get to see much because of traffic and delays.  But it was better than sitting at home.  We also got some great artisanal cookies (a chocolate orange one and even a GF dark chocolate almond one), a 1000-piece balloon puzzle, and a hanging balloon for our porch.

We spotted a balloon as we drove towards the hot air balloon festival.

Sis watches the tethered balloon take riders up and down.

Add caption

I couldn't believe these were left just unattended.  People just stepped over them!

I liked all the rainbow balloons, while Sis liked the pink-ish one and Bud the blue-ish one (not inflated yet.)  

They never glowed all at once but were still so pretty.  There were 10 in all (in my mind I think of them as rainbow tethered, rainbow and black stripes, Bud's blue balloon (which says Avery's Beverages on one side, inflating in this pic), "safari" balloon, checkerboard, Sis's pink/magenta balloon, rainbow diamonds balloon, blue and yellow steps, rainbow diagonals, and "Superman" balloon)

Summer Fun: Breakfast in Bed

I was treated to breakfast in bed yesterday morning.  The kids had apparently cooked up the scheme the night before, let Mama in on the plan, even had a menu all ready.  And within a few heartbeats of my waking up when two cats had a disagreement, the kids were in my room, ready to go.  Sis had even consented to Bud waking her up early (she is on adolescent time and will easily sleep til after 9 a.m.; he still regularly sees 6:30 a.m.)

Look at this menu:  see the GF options?!  So sweet.  They had carefully recorded all of the things they knew how to prepare and could serve easily for breakfast.  And made notes of what I could have.  With dessert!  Sis was apologetic about the lack of GF sides; she said they'd work on that.  And I loved that ice cream is annotated "only some times.")

In the end, I had a single scrambled egg, some rice puffs, a half-and-half lemonade/iced tea.  Service was prompt and courteous.  Then we all munched on candy while watching tv.

When asked the occasion, they replied, "Because you put up with us all summer!"

I'd do it again, eggs or no.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Our Anniversary Weekend Getaway

This weekend was our sometimes-annual tradition of a weekend alone in the city (see here and here; we went to Block Island in 2014)--what we have called a nano-honeymoon--perfectly timed with our actual 18th anniversary.  And we had a wonderful time!  While the kids stayed with their NYC grandparents eating their way across Queens and going to the beach (even boogie boarding on the waves!  Think tummy surfing with a smaller board), Mama and I returned to our favorite hotel near Union Square and had a delightful three days.


We actually started our weekend, after dropping off the kids, in Midtown--at 61st near 1st, at the old Mount Vernon Hotel Museum.  Built as a mansion with carriage house in the late 18th century, the carriage house became a "day hotel" (think 19th-century spa) with parlors for the ladies to sew, play music, visit, and take tea, and fishing and a horse-trotting track for the gentleman, with a big supper for all.  Miraculously, the building survived (Thanks, Con Ed!  They bought it way back when and didn't tear it down) and is now administer by the Colonial Dames.   Gommie, you might remember this--it was known as the Abigail Adams Smith House when you went, I think.  Well, like Gommie, I love a good house museum and this one had great fake food (that three-tiered gelatin dessert!  those blackberries!  even that oyster pie!), a remarkable parlor barrel organ, and a complete traveling whiskey case with gold-painted glass bottles in all sorts of odd shapes. We also liked the shop, where Mama picked up the little owl that features in most of our pictures instead of one of us (she did the same, with a different little owl that was mistakenly left at home, on her own trip into the city about a month ago.)

We headed to our hotel next, the indulgent Inn at Irving Place, where we've stayed the last two times, and were even able to get into our lovely room early.  I always love the period kitsch, tastefully arranged without too much thought to historiocity; a little nicer than shabby chic, it is very comfortable and evokes a different time for me (but with air conditioning!)  It's also very conveniently located right near Union Square, which affords us a great neighborhood to explore and dining options to try.  Mama had assiduously researched special GF/DF/FODMAPS dining options for me and found several in the area.  And not just meat and rice.  We started with french fries from our favorite Maoz, which we ate while perusing the Union Square Green Market, on our way to the Lion Brand yarn shop.  

Loved these bags; wish they were t-shirts
The Lion Brand yarn shop had a great all-yarn (mostly knit) farmer's market display in its window and the staff walked around helping customers while knitting and crocheting!  I can't imagine.  I had fun seeing all the various yarn colors and textures, plus notions and accessories, and only brought home half a bag of yarn!  Okay, their bags are really big, but still.  I even finished a mandala in the Landscapes Boardwalk (which, I must admit, I liked better as a skein than as a finished piece--for me, there is too much murky green and brown and ugly orange!  And the colors change so quickly that the striping didn't work well in the rounds.  Oh, well, it felt wonderful and I enjoyed the crocheting nonetheless.)  Mama even got an Amigurumi book. (She isn't a yarn hoarder like I am.  Yet.)

I might be getting my days switched, but we visited the art supplies store on Friday, too.  Mama perused everything like a kid in the proverbial candy shop, picking up a pencil case and some other items.  We spent a lot of down time on this trip just hanging out in our lovely room and engaging in some of our hobbies--crochet, drawing, reading--in the serene peace and quiet.  I loved the afternoon light through our tall windows.  We also ate take out in our room a few times.  Our late-afternoon snack Friday was from Hu's kitchen, which had a GF/DF dessert called Maple "Creme Brulee" made with taro and coconut milk; Mama enjoyed a "Diesel Walker" or something, which was sloppy joe beef on a baed of sauteed "grandmaster veg."  Late that night, we had GF rosemary-potato-ricotta pizza, a lovely GF truffle ham sandwich, and a GF nutella strawberry dessert pizza from Pie by the Pound.  At some point, and I can't recall when, we also got a snack from Wok to Walk, cilantro-laden noodles with spicy sauce for her, chicken teriyaki rice for me.  As I said, we did manage to find some great food.

We started this day off, after "sleeping in" til 8:30 a.m., with a long-awaited trip to Friend of a Farmer, a restaurant I had seen advertised and had wanted to visit since my grad school days 20 years earlier!  While I was sad to have to skip the renown pancakes, I did enjoy a skillet omelet and home fries.  We also got a sampling of their homemade breads, of which I ate this incredible lemon one (half a slice, willing to take the consequences, which never materialized.)  Mama enjoyed her crab cakes benedict and cheese grits.  What a way to start the day!

You would think we don't get food in Connecticut because we stopped at the Bradford Cheese Shop next and had fun choosing delicacies to take home.  Well, in truth, our little corner of CT has an overabundance of pizza, diners, and take-out Chinese, not much else (unless you look really hard, but we have found nearby enough Peruvian, Indian, vegetarian at Bloodroot); at least, we have both a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's.    We got special Fentiman's soda, including my favorite Rose Lemonade and Mama's favorite Shandy (lemonade and beer, a British combo), some GF treats, lots of odd potato chip flavors for Bud, some caramels for Sis; more than half the fun was perusing the international variety on the neat shelves.

Later that day was the highlight of our trip, Fun Home, the musical.  In case you don't know, Fun Home is based on the autobiographical, "tragicomedy" graphic novel by famed lesbian cartoonist, Alison Bechdel.  She focuses on both her coming-out narrative and her closeted, gay father's suicide four months later, in a wonderful, richly-layered story of her life at different ages (mainly, elementary school, college, and adulthood.)  We had known and enjoyed her nationally-syndicated Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip for 20 years and read the graphic novel when it came out.  But we never knew it could be a musical!

And what a musical it was!  I had seen "little Alison" actress Sydney Lucas perform "Ring of Keys" on the Tonys and instantly loved the song.  It reminded me of Mama, when we first met (except she had jeans):

Your swagger and your bearing
And the just-right clothes you're wearing
Your short hair and your dungarees
and your lace-up boots
and your ring of keys.

It's only missing her flannel shirt, baseball cap, (SW 25, i.e. Stonewall Riots 25th anniversary), and her omnipresent, omnipotent Swiss Army knife.

We both loved the musical.  First, the 1970s period details--the photo cube, the box tv on the floor which the kids sprawl in front of, the "Partridge Family," the clothes, even the exclamation "tough titties!" (where did we get that, anyway?)  Though, I didn't grow up with a dad who ran a funeral home--a "fun home"--like she did, but I remembered many of the other bits.  Mama recognized the old bags from Macy's, the Strand, and Li-Lac Chocolates.

The performance was unique, being played in the round at Circle in the Square, an intimate theater.  It was also played straight through, with no intermission or late seating.  In fact, we were in a section where we weren't allowed to get up and leave at all, behind the little orchestra, by a trap door!  Big Alison sat at the base of our stairs a couple of times.  You really felt like a ghost in Alison's life, experiencing its layers as she remembered it.  And the actors were top-notch.  So amazing.  The actress playing Big Alison is a lesbian, too and makes the show.  Middle Alison played it with no make up and is so believable as an awkward college dyke.  And Little Alison, just 12 years old . . . wow, just wow.

But it really was the coming out story that resonated with us--from Little Alison's awareness of not fitting in sometimes (dresses, barrettes) to her crush in college and first forays into lesbian culture and sex (which elicited groans from Big Alison--"I didn't even know what Take Back the Night was!"  and "I had a crush on my first grade teacher!" to being scared of hanging out with "real lesbians" and that first major romance "I'm majoring in Joan . . . ."--there were often two Alisons on the stage at once, drawing connections between different parts of her story) to the pain of coming out to parents, with silences and awkward conversations (I know what it's like to send that letter.)  You could definitely tell where the lesbians in the audience were because we laughed loudly at the same parts (and there were so many more lesbian couples than I have ever seen at a Broadway show, ever.)  It was so special and really resonated; we just never see lesbians in Broadway shows.    Perfect, perfect, perfect.  Especially for the 18th anniversary of our own little lesbian love story (20 if you count from the very beginning, but Aug 23 is the date we like to count best.)

Whew.  We processed the entire experience over a late lunch at Otto, Mario Batali's pizza place.  He is very GF friendly and so I got a GF spaghetti carbonara that was delicious.  Mama had a seafood appetizer with little dishes of cuddlefish, cod, anchovy, mussels, calamari and the like treated in different cold, pickly salads.  We also loved the spinach, ricotta insalata, salad with honeyed truffle oil!  Decadent.  And the desserts!  Olive oil gelato with passion fruit granita and basil syrup with a sprinkle of salt--I got a big bite of salt and thought it was awful but second tastings, after Mama's reassurances, revealed it to be a marvelous concoction.  I got the lemon meringata.  YUM!  We walked nearby Washington Square, where Mama spent summers as a child when her mom was finishing her Ph.D. at NYU, reminiscing about her childhood at Bobst library, our time in NYC together, that fateful day 18 years ago (after a fight of all things--just like in the movies when the sparring characters kiss!--but we were fighting long distance Chicago to NY over the plot of Bar Stories and its implications and then, well, we weren't fighting), September 11, and other times.

We sauntered home via the Strand bookstore, where we picked up some books for the kids, souvenirs for our cat sitters, and a couple of craft books.  I came across a few reminders of dear Aunt Sis--an artsy epistolary book called Griffin and Sabine that she had given me decades ago and a pair of art socks (was it Van Gogh?) that I had taken her just last December.  Bittersweet.  We enjoyed a slow walk home; it was cooler on Saturday than Friday, remarking on the various buildings (we always realize anew that the house across the street was Washington Irving's)--and even the plantings!  (Because if a plant can survive the sidewalks of NY, surely it will survive our yard)  I think there are a few more caladium varietals we can try.   We spent the rest of the night in our room, playing with art supplies and yarn, just talking and hanging out, like we did in NYC when we met in 1994.


We had planned to attend a Friends church service at the historic meeting house in Queens, but when the time came, we were more content to laze around and talk.  We picked up some GF treats at a nearby coffee shop and had tea in our hotel parlor, while reading bits from the Sunday Times to each other.  Yay, panda twins!  Boo, abortion restrictions in Ohio!  Great bit on Tig Notaro!  Plus lots of articles we skipped because they'd been online all week already (there's an article on 36 hours in Burlington, VT, Ms. Sew and Sow.)

We checked out around noon and grabbed lunch at British fish and chips shop, A Salt and Battery.  Mmm, vinegar on chips, bangers with a curry sauce (Mama loves that curry sauce!), and another Shandy for Mama.  We grabbed some last-minute treats from the British shop next door (more rose teas, various crisps flavors for Bud, some Crunchie bars for Sis, a TARDIS mug.)  I would've loved to go to Tea and Sympathy, next door (all three are owned by the same couple), but would've been sad to forego my usual non-GF/DF favorite scone and clotted cream.

We drove out to get the kids, down the West Side, past the WTC and City Hall, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and through various neighborhoods til we reached the beach.    The kids had a marvelous time as well and we were all sorry to see the weekend end.

Until next year . . . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Fun: Chalk the Walks 2015

Bud and I participated in the (inter?)national Chalk the Walks event today, which I first heard about on FB.  Essentially, people are invited to decorate their local sidewalks and surfaces with inspirational messages and drawings.  Several of our friends participated and I've enjoyed looking at the pictures all day.  It was blazing hot so we worked pretty quickly and, with not rain in the forecast for a few more days, it'll be up for awhile.  

Ours is here (a butterfly, "Carpe Diem," a flower mandala, a sun/moon, and a Tree of Life with bluebirds of happiness and squirrels)--hard to photograph whole, but fun nonetheless:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer Fun: Farmers' Market Fun

We've been to our local farmers' market a few times this season, though we mainly go for things other than what grows on a farm.  We've gotten maple sugar candy, honey, Italian ice (by the pint!), candles, soap, homemade granola, pulled pork, apple cider doughnuts, and some other fun things, like face painting (or hand painting.)  Today we did even get some locally-grown vegetables--squash, green beans, potatoes, and corn.

A few friends run booths there and we always run into still other friends, including our very favorite swim teacher, Mrs. M.  Did you notice that the kids aren't taking swim lessons this year?  That's mainly because our teacher is helping with her grandkids more and because the kids really can swim well enough on their own to manage.  It was a long, not-getting-my-whole-head-much-less-my-face-wet-until-Pop-gives-me-$20 road, from ages 4 (after first year of preschool) to 9 (last year), but eventually they could both do each of the basic strokes and swim underwater and even dive, somewhat, in.  They never do recognize Mrs. M on land in clothes right away, especially if she is without sunglasses, because she was always in glasses, visor, and swimsuit (I had the same trouble recognizing her husband in a suit once!)  But we're always happy to see her.

It was a dreadfully hot day at the market today so we didn't stay long.  We're looking forward to a few more, hopefully less hot, trips before it's all over.


Just a couple of weeks until school.

We have the uniforms; we have many of the supplies.

We're trying to remember to fill in reading logs and do some math.

Now, we're trying to get the house in fall order.  I know people spring clean; we school clean.

This year, that includes a new armoire for Sis (whose room doesn't have a closet.)  The small, three-drawer dresser we got for the nursery just doesn't work anymore.  And so we're moving things around to accommodate it.  The nursery dresser is nice, but we're not sure where to put it now.

Soon, we'll tackle some items in Bud's room, to give him more space--see, he has a closet, but it is filled with stuff from Mama and me.  Which means purging and relocating.

Fun, fun, fun.

We'll be having some fun, too, these last two weeks, but our minds are already half on school.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Trio of Treats

Yesterday, I finished off three books through which I have been working my way.  The first was a Twinkie read, Susan Wiitig Albert's Tale of Hill Top Farm, which is a delightful and simple romp through the Lake District with a fictionalized version of the author/illustrator, her new neighbors, and all of their talking animals.  It wasn't much of a mystery and talking animals are a bit precious, but I enjoyed the ambiance . . . I even learned about arval, or funeral, cakes, and other details of rural life at the turn of the 20th century.  I had started the book during my long test at the doctor's office and finished it off yesterday.

I also finished another book I had read at that long test at the doctor's office (I got tired midway and changed genres), Vivian Swift's watercolored memoir, When Wanderers Cease to Roam.  Swift, who had traveled extensively, settled down in Pelham, NY, and recorded both her observations of life in her village and reminiscences of her world travels.  I liked the little illustrations and her art journaling of types of mud in March and snowflakes in December and her "memoir in five moments" where she reflects on different times she's been on a beach or been in the rain.  And she likes cats.  I've been experimenting with different kinds of journaling, having recorded my days each evening or so for years and also learned more doodling.  It's best to read her book a page or two at a time, or just a month; I read too much of it in one sitting, which didn't invite close looking.  I'd actually discovered it because I loved Susan Branch's A Fine Romance, an illustrated memoir of her extended travels through England and readers recommended Swift.  Of the two, I still prefer Branch, but I plan to read Swift's memoir of France soon.

Lastly, I also finished Lisa Graff's A Tangle of Knots, which was our mother-daughter book club read this month.  I'd actually started it just a day or two before and had tried to read it during an insomniac bout but found it too complicated.  There are a dozen or so characters whose lives are, unbeknownst to them, entwined--I just got confused at 3 a.m.  But in the light of day, it was a great story.  Each of those characters (well, most of them) has a special Talent, which is almost a magical ability to do something--whistle, tie knots, hide between walls, knit, even divine a person's perfect cake.  There are even cake recipes interspersed between the chapters.

So when our book club met this evening, we sampled a few of the cakes.  Three, to be exact:  yellow cake with chocolate frosting, peanut butter cake, and lime pound cake.  Beautiful and delicious (I had a bite of each, smaller than my thumbNAIL, just crumbs really, and will be curious to see if I suffer for the gluten and dairy.)  The recipes are in the book--and on the author's website.  We also played a game at the end--guess your mom's perfect cake.  A couple of the girls guessed "nutcake," which struck me as funny, and none of them guessed correctly, and then Sis stood up and said, "My mom's perfect cake is orange chocolate."  And you know what?  She is right.  I guessed that Sis would be either chocolate molten lava cake or yellow cake with frosting--she clarified that the frosting would be melted chocolate chips.

Which we had just made yesterday!  We tested a GF (gluten-free)/DF (dairy free) King Arthur Flour yellow cake, made into cupcakes.  Wonderful!  And not just wonderful for GF/DF.  (Or I've gotten desperate in 2 weeks.)  I had mine with marmalade and Sis had hers with . . . melted chocolate chips. It was nice to bake together, which is one of our favorite shared pastimes.   Sis has been great about the whole restricted diet thing.

And it helps that there is cake.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stomaching This

All the tests have come back negative:  I don't have celiac disease, Crohn's, a build-up of unwelcome bacteria in my gut, or anything else abnormal.

Which means that the discomfort and difficulties that have increased since my surgery are most likely due to a return of inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, whatever you like to call it.  I've had it since childhood but mostly had it licked in the last ten years or so, mostly due to my vegetarian diet.

But not anymore.  I can literally not stomach beans, cabbage, broccoli, tofu, or many of my usual staples.

And so the GI doctor has put me on a very restricted diet, called FODMAPS, which removes 6 major food carbohydrates from my intake--wheat, dairy, soy, and a whole host of fruits and vegetables (besides all legumes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and the like, I can't have any stone fruit, apples, avocados, onions garlic, mushrooms,and a whole host of other odd fruits and veg.)  The list is impossible to keep track of without the two long lists taped to my fridge and the new app on my phone (I also got a few new cookbooks, such as they are.)  Oddly, I find losing onions and garlic the hardest part so far!  I can even get a mocha frappuccino with coconut milk once in awhile.

I'm supposed to follow that for three months and check back with him.  It is possible that I can add one or more of the chemicals from the acronym back to my diet, but I doubt I'll get all of them.  And I've felt so crummy that I'm not even really upset about it.  Sure, it's been a rough two weeks adapting to it, both mentally and physically, and I do miss many of my favorite things--I'm variously resigned, aggravated, overwhelmed, sad, grumpy, willing--but I don't like feeling sick and being indisposed, and there are so many GF and DF substitutes on the market.  It is cutting into our eating out, but we have located some places that will work.  And I still get tea, coffee, rice, potatoes . . . and, well, lots of meat.  The doctor said no vegetarianism for the present--it would be too challenging without the beans, tofu, and nuts I relied on.

And it could be worse.

Mama and the kids are being great about it.

And the kids at least are glad I'm not cooking any beans.

Monday, August 10, 2015


This might be my summer of crocheting.  I have really been enjoying both making mandalas from Wink's 12-round pattern and using cotton yarn, a departure from my usual acrylic or wool.  And now I can't decide which mandala to send into the #MandalasforMarinke collection I've discussed here before.  I have the first, straightforward, rainbow-esque burst:

And the second, variegated rainbow with embedded pastel rainbow, which I experimented with today (after Sis and I ran to the craft store for more polymer clay, inspired as she was by Goo's visit):

I'm not sure which I like best, nor which I'll send along.  

My cat has made her choice.


A Weekend with Goo

Less than 12 hours after putting Gommie on her train, the kids' uncle, Goo, came for the weekend.  Being a doctor, he doesn't often get full weekends off, but he did and elected to spend it with us.

Playing video games.

Almost from the moment he showed up to the moment he left, he was playing Splatoon, Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Infinity or some other game with the kids.  They even played a few traditional board games, including one based on the comic book Mouse Guard.  And they had a blast!  They particularly liked playing Splatoon, which was having a special Splatfest this weekend--a contest between marshmallow and hot dog lovers.  We were on the marshmallow team.  And so they played and played and played, taking turns between the three of them, with Goo giving them strategic advice.  Mama and I even went to bed early on Saturday while they stayed up til midnight playing.  I did play a few rounds of MarioKart ("not last! not last!"), but not the super-fast 200cc races they started to play.

We did break for meals, though not so much for cooking.  We had Vietnamese take-out on Friday, Thai take-out on Saturday, and Peruvian take-out on Sunday.  Goo did bring a delicious strawberry pie and then taught Bud, who loved it, how to make it.  I include the recipe from Serious Eats below.  

We also went to the opening of a local lighthouse, a once-in-many-decades opportunity.  Apparently, the Coast Guard, who owns and operates the light, expected about 400 people; they got close to 3000.  We didn't opt for the 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour wait that some people did, instead just walked around the 19th-century light and took a few pictures.  The view is gorgeous.  And, as we left, we heard an officer say they were now seriously considering opening it twice a year.  (Pop, I also checked with the CG--if you want to rent a boat and operate it in CT, you're going to have to take their class and test.)

Oh, and we did spend a part of Sunday morning making little polymer clay creations.  Goo had introduced me to the art of Sculpey some 18 or so years ago.  He's great at making itty bitty things.  This time, a four-layer cake.  Sis made her own cake, caramel-chocolate with pink frosting. Bud made a penguin.  And I made a tiny hedgehog and a tiny Baymax from Big Hero Six.  

We had considered putting up the tent and sleeping outside on Saturday night, but opted instead for the lower maintenance no-tent scenario.  Perhaps come fall.

The kids wiped out last night; no doubt Goo did, too.  Our cats, however, were glad to have the house just to us and themselves for the first time since July.

And today?  Well, Bud continued the video game marathon by starting geeky video game camp.


Summer Strawberry Pie (No Bake)
For the Crust:
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted, using more if needed
14 ounces graham crackers (about 24 crackers), crushed into fine crumbs in a food processor or blender
For the Strawberry Filling:
3 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled, divided
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
Pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon (optional; see note above)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

  • For the Crust: In a medium bowl, stir butter into graham cracker crumbs until evenly incorporated. Firmly press into an even layer lining the bottom and sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate; it helps to use the bottom of a measuring cup to flatten bottom of crust evenly. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
  • For the Strawberry Filling: Place 12 ounces of strawberries in a food processor or blender and blend to a smooth puree. You should have about 3/4 cup puree (it's okay to have up to a cup ).Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and set aside.
  • Cut remaining strawberries into 3/4-inch slices, transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the sugar. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until berries release about 3/4 cup liquid, about 1 hour. Measure out enough macerating liquid to combine with strawberry puree for 1 1/2 cups total. Drain macerated berries of any extra liquid; reserve extra liquid for another use or discard.
  • Place 2 tablespoons water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin evenly on top and let stand 5 minutes. Microwave gelatin mixture in 10-second intervals until gelatin is melted and hot, about 10 seconds.
  • Scrape melted gelatin into a large bowl, then gradually whisk in strawberry puree mixture until well combined. Whisk in salt.

  • Add drained macerated strawberry chunks and stir to combine. Adjust taste with lemon juice, if desired, then immediately pour into the prepared pie crust. Turn the berries on top skin side up for best presentation. Refrigerate until set, 4 to 6 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer Fun: Bench Bucket List

We've seen them all, all the special art benches in town.

It was a real push there at the end.  Yesterday, we saw five with Gommie and, then, this morning on a whim we ran around to the last six--as we were taking her to the train station to catch her train that would start her journey home!  You should have seen us zipping down Main, running across streets, taking quick pictures (actually, Mommy Goose did see us--and asked if everything was okay!  I didn't think my driving was that noticeable.)

We got to the train station but couldn't find the last one.  We didn't have time to back track; I knew it was near the station, but I'd left my map at home (we only decided at the last minute to do the benches anyway.)  As we pulled up to Gommie's drop off, there it was--the last bench, next to the station building!  Yay, all 20 done.

And to think, they'd seen the first one we saw, the butterfly, being painted on her last visit this spring.

We got pictures of us with all of the benches, but only took some benches sans people--these were usually the ones I liked the best.  Here they are . . . .

Our first bench. I love this one.  Gommie and the kids saw it being painted.

We liked the back of this one.

This looks better in person--it even has faux stones and glittered paint.

Our very last one, at the station.  Not one of my favorites--and it would be odd to sit on the flag.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gommie's Week: The Beach

I'm not sure how many people think of the beach when they think of Connecticut--almost as if we exist in some kind of permanent New England fall--but we do have them.  Sure, nothing like Rhode Island or the Cape, but still right here, quick and easy access.

So today, we went to the beach.  We took the usual hats, towels, sunscreen, and water; Gommie thought to bring our porch umbrella, which was a great idea.  I remembered my comfy captain's chair.  And off we went!

We intentionally went at low tide because Sis wanted to look in the tidal pools.  No horseshoe crabs this time, though.  But they got a lot of wonderful wading in, especially to and fro on the various sandbars.  And as the tide rose, they could do some swimming.

I was surprised to see four different people I know.  I guess I forget that people go to the beach in the summer, since it was really our first trip there to spend some time (I'd dropped Sis off at a birthday party a month ago, which had given me the idea in the first place.)  One of these friends was very adept with planting beach umbrellas and helped me when mine blew over.  She planted it in the sand and did this press-swivel motion, like stirring a giant cauldron, and it dug quickly into the sand and stayed put despite the strong breeze (the other friend had advised us to wet the hole first--but both of our umbrellas fell over!  I'll stick with this technique.)  She said she learned it from a cute cabana boy in Spain!

It was especially great to have Gommie there because she likes the beach and waded straight into the water and then went back from round two and three.  She marveled at the large seagulls, looked for horseshoe crabs (I think they found a dead one), swam out to the sandbar, and made it more fun than I would have.  Instead, I sat in my chair, with my hat on, under the umbrella, sketching in my notebook.  You can see my sketch in the bottom of the photo.  Midway through the excursion, everyone came back to the shade and we ate from the concession stand--strawberry popsicles, Oreo bars, hot dogs, chicken fingers, and fries.  And, surprisingly, I don't think any of us ate any sand!  That has to be a first.

We stayed for three hours and inherited a left-behind purple shovel.  All in all, a good day at the beach.