Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rain, Rain, Come Our Way

It's raining!  Or, it was, all night.  We definitely need this rain, having been in a moderate drought.  And by tomorrow the temperatures will drop, which will also be good--we've had our AC on for the last 48 hours, which is almost unheard of.  80F three days before October??  Glad it's dropping again (and know this will upset at least one of my local readers, who is prone to being cold.)

I'm not sure we "need" a hurricane, though.  Joaquin is headed up the eastern seaboard, no telling where exactly it'll go.  I imagine we'll see some rain and perhaps high winds on Saturday, but nothing we can't handle, as far as we know now.  It just means we might alter some of our outdoor plans for the weekend.


Monday, September 28, 2015

ASL Awakenings

Saturday evening found us leaving the kids at home with a babysitter, picking up my friend Miss D, who is deaf, and heading into the city to see a Broadway show.  Our destination:  Marlee Matlin, Camryn Manheim, and Spring Awakening.  One-time Tony-award-winning best musical starring a pre-"Glee" Lea Michele, the show has been revived by Deaf West with both deaf and hearing actors.

And it is AMAZING!  (Insert my doing the ASL sign for "amazing" here.)

It was touch and go for awhile.  Roads were closed all throughout midtown and cops were everywhere, even though the pope had left Saturday morning.  But, the UN has its General Assembly now and they must all be staying at the Waldorf!  Then there was a street festival up and down 6th.  Took more than 2 hours to get to the parking lot, what should barely have taken 1 1/2.  But Mama and I pad time schedules and we still had enough time to have a delightful dinner at Sapporo, on 49th, the kids' favorite.  Katsu, curry, miso soup, Japanese potato salad.  We knew better to have soupy Ramen before a Broadway show.  Especially because there are never enough restrooms.

We got to the theater with plenty of time to spare and were swarmed by drama students from a local program--one of their alumni was in the show.  But, as far as we could tell, there were no other Deaf people in the audience.  My friend, who uses ASL as well as read lips and talks, definitely kept her eyes peeled.  She did know someone:  she had gone to camp in elementary school with one of the Deaf cast members!  Small world.

Mama got us great seats, front row mezzanine on the aisle, so we had a totally unobstructed view.  I had really looked forward to the production; we had loved Deaf West's production of Big River more than a decade ago and I still can sign to some of the songs.  As soon as they announced they were coming east again, I wanted to go (they regularly do shows in LA, but don't often come to NYC.)  And then Oscar-winning Marlee Matlin joined the cast.  Sis and I watch her in "Switched at Birth" every week and I have enjoyed her in other shows ("West Wing," "L Word," and of course Children of a Lesser God.)  I knew other actors, too--Daniel Durant from "Switched at Birth" and Ali Stroker from "Glee Project" (and the first person in a wheelchair to be on Broadway!)  And then Camryn Manheim, who is fluent in ASL, joined the show.   My friend, who had never seen a Broadway show, was similarly excited to go, so we began making all the arrangements.

What a wonderful evening!  I hadn't seen Spring Awakening before.  As Mama summarized it,  the story is about "horny 19th-century German teenagers who have trouble communicating with their parents, make some mistakes, and suffer permanently for them."  Sex, abortion, suicide, molestation, child abuse, S&M, gays, prostitutes.  It's not a show for little kids.  The music is modern, though, very rock.  In fact, you might say, it was Rent for Millennials, in the same vein as Once:  the musical embraced by a generation feeling marginalized.  I'm not of this young generation and so I could both understand the teenagers and their parents.  That miscommunication was the major theme of the show  with dual communication systems being its central device strengthened the power of both.

The show is beautiful, powerful, mesmerizing.  Some characters were played by Deaf performers, some by hearing.  Some characters--like Wendla and Melchior--have one of each, the Deaf character and his or her Voice (Mama recognized the parallels of the costumes of the pairs.)  The use of doubles was more subtle than in Big River, especially the way the Voice almost seemed to be the inner voice talking to the character sometimes, instead of two separate people standing side by side. All the actors signed, both Deaf and hearing.  In fact, as my friend noted, the only way you could sometimes tell was that only the hearing actors were wired with head mics.  I loved seeing Marlee Matlin in person, even though her role was smaller.  Even I could tell that her signing (aka acting) as Frau Gabor was totally different from her role as Melody on "Switched"--tighter, more precise, closer to her body, while Melody signs more fluidly, with more pauses for connection with her listener.  And Camryn Manheim was fabulous!  I loved her signing and her acting and even her purple costume.

Visually, it was very striking--light changes and pulses (and these weird electric-point glow-in-the-dark gloves) and color switches and full blackout (which was shocking the few times it was employed) to match the beat of the music, which had a lot of bass for the Deaf actors and audience to sense; clever use of projection of subtitles so that some things weren't voiced (the rare power of the absolutely silent Broadway stage); the clash of 19th century and modern in set and costume and music; creative staging with members of the company forming a tree that two lovers sat beside or sitting as chairs representing tombstones (not unlike Our Town); and, if you reflected at all on the history of what would be Germany in the decades after the story takes place in 1891, you could see the seeds of totalitarianism in the rigidity of the adults (and the single salute and goose-stepping of the kids.)  As the Times noted in its astounding review, the fact that one of the company was in a wheelchair was seamlessly incorporated.  I hadn't realized how symbolically colorless and drab it all was until the teens walked off into a beautiful forest at the end, leaving their parents behind.  I'm still mulling over the symbolism of their coming out in their very white undergarments, donning drab costumes for the show, and then relinquishing the drab at the end to leave into the color wearing white.   There was even incense!  I'm not sure I've ever been at a show with scent.  Or with the no-cell phone and camera warning being conveyed visually by men holding placards at the front of the various sections.

I was amazed at how much of the ASL I could understand--thanks to my friend who started as my ASL teacher--though, I was also absorbing meaning through hearing the lyrics. I think I got more out of it with the signing and wouldn't have caught all the words otherwise.  The signing was very choreographed, creative, and dramatic.  Romantic performance of signs on each other's bodies; synchronized signing across the company; a seamless connection of signing and full-body movement; even some inside ASL jokes, only 1 of which I caught--the use of the sign "vagina" becoming "heart" when Wendla's mother can't bring herself to explain where babies come from (there's also the intertwined "love" sign on the poster.)     Check out a video of the first song here.  We clapped and signed applause after nearly every song, as did the whole house.  There was a loud and long standing ovation at the end.  We loved it.

We couldn't stage door, though.  All those college students were waiting to see their alumnus; we couldn't even see the barricade to join in.  It's okay.  I would probably have been too shaky to sign to Marlee Matlin et al how much I enjoyed the show.  So we stopped for Junior's cheesecake instead and  made it home by 1 a.m.

I can't shake the happy vibes the evening gave me (even though it's kind of a downer of a show, even with the last upbeat song), especially the joy of my friend at her first Broadway show, especially one in her language.  It was all unforgettable.

Lunar Celebrations

It was a weekend full of lunar happenings for us, beginning not Sunday evening with the rest of the Western Hemisphere, but Saturday with a local Lunar Festival.  Three years running, Bud's kung fu team has performed at a celebration of the harvest moon.  Thankfully, unlike last year when rain interrupted the proceedings just as Bud was to go on, it was a beautiful day for the festival.  And the performance went off without a hitch.  Bud did his hand form and his broad sword, along with a dozen or more of his teammates.  So proud of him!  We grabbed lunch from our favorite Thai place and headed home.

On Sunday evening, we prepped to watch the supermoon lunar eclipse.  There are lots of articles about the uniqueness of this one:  supermoon closer to the earth than usual, full Harvest moon,  etc, the confluence of which won't be seen again til 2033.   From 8 pm to a little after 10 pm, we stayed in the yard and watched the moon darken from left to right, turning red as it did so.  Mama got some photos.  The kids played ninja and then parachute, while checking on the moon's progress.  We sang songs (moon songs, "Rainbow Connection,") and laughed at stories.   We even saw a skunk wander across the driveway!  The only thing we didn't have were s'mores and a campfire.  But it was a fun break from our usual routine, even if everyone was over-tired this morning.

I wonder what the kids will remember of this night, if anything, when they're 28?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Successes

Yesterday--a holiday from school for our kids for Yom Kippur--was a day of which I can be proud.

First, I have "leveled up" in physical therapy, meaning she switched out all my old exercises for new, harder ones.  Yay?  So, while the old ones had become much easier, the new ones kicked my butt and I admit to being a bit disappointed at how hard the new ones are.  But it's progress and, hopefully soon, these new ones will be easy.

Secondly, the Girl Scout troop went on a 6 mile bike ride yesterday!  Now, before you are paralyzed with shock that I rode a bike for 6 miles, know that I didn't.  Both kids did, along with their troop and some moms, but I was the anchor crew, staying with my van at the starting point, then meeting them at the lunch spot (with some of their stuff in tow), and then meeting them at the finishing point.  While it doesn't seem like much, I was proud of my ability to do all the driving and waiting without being uncomfortable--we were out for almost 3 hours.

But the biggest achievement came late in the day.  I had my first Lay Ministry meeting at church, some thirty minutes away.  And I drove myself!  At the end of the long day!  This is quite an accomplishment:  the farthest I've driven since my surgery (and the farthest I had managed to drive in the years before that)!    And this after an already physically taxing day.  I was also sitting in a meeting with a new minister and people I did not know, which could have created a little bit of stress but didn't.  We had all gathered to brainstorm on updating our strategies for supporting the minister in offering pastoral care to our church members, including hospital and home visits, possible meals and rides, even the prayer shawl ministry.  I also spoke briefly to the minister afterwards and she said we should talk about my ideas for seminary and chaplaincy; she had yet another path I could consider taking.  So exciting.  I didn't even get home to almost 9:30 pm, after tuck in!

By then, I was too energized to sleep, talked Mama's ear off til late, and then fell sound asleep in my book, even though I thought I was awake enough to read for hours.

A great day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gingerly We Move Along

We are having a thing about ginger over here right now.

Love it!

I usually only like "fake" ginger--you know, commercial gingerale and gingerbread and gingersnaps.  Real ginger is usually too strong for me.  And it gives me really crazy, vivid dreams, sometimes disturbingly so.

But Mama made me a Ginger Syrup to help combat some digestion issues that popped up this month's cycle (yes, even on that low FODMAPs diet.)  And so we've had gingerale--namely, this tangy sweet syrup in seltzer.  I'm really enjoying it--and it helps--and the dreams haven't been too much.

Even better than that, though, I put it in our fruit-infused water.  See, I've also been having a thing about glass Ball jars for about a year.  I use various sizes for all sorts of things, including as drink pitches (especially for home-brewed ice tea) and as drinking glasses.  You can buy this great top with a straw hole that fits right on your jar, making it essentially spill-proof and reusable; I like that it's glass not plastic.  And now you can buy a little screw-on cylindrical infuser with its own sippy-top lid (both at Target, where the canning supplies are in housewares.)  I've been making individual batches of fruit water and even large 2-quart jars to share.  I've done raspberry as well as pineapple, and then variations of pineapple with orange and lime.  Mama and I are drinking it by the barrel, though the kids are suspicious.

And those waters are even better with a little bit of the ginger syrup!

Tomorrow, I'm going to infuse seltzer (instead of tap water) with fruit and add the syrup--yep, we're living it up over here.

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

Ginger Syrup
from David Lebovitz



8 ounces fresh ginger, peeled  and cut into thin slices
4 cups water
2 cups  sugar
pinch salt

Place the ginger along with the water, sugar, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan.  Boil then reduce to simmer and cook for 45 minutes to one hour.  Let cool, then strain the syrup.  Store covered in the refrigerator; should keep for up two weeks.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Ad Hoc Wildtree Slow Cooker Recipe

I've been having such a good time with my Wildtree slow cooker freezer meals.  The kids have enjoyed Margarita Chicken, Golden BBQ Chicken, Garlicky-Lime Chicken, and Savory Sweet Onion, all from the workshop I went to this summer.  I've got some of the products leftover and so  I've drawn up this cheat sheet for further meals (I could also look on their website.)  You have to play around with it, flavor-wise, but so far the kids have liked everything I've tried.  I think it would be hard to mess it up.

For those of you wondering, no, these recipes aren't strictly low FODMAP, with the garlic and onion and honey.  But, it's minimal enough that it doesn't bother me too much (I'm finding I can eat small quantities of these things, as long as I don't have too much oil, or too many of the different FODMAPs.)  And it's much better FODMAP-wise than any take out.

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

My Ad Hoc Wildtree Slow Cooker Recipe

Choose a Protein (if your cut of meat is especially lean, consider adding a couple of teaspoons of any Wildtree Grapeseed Oil):
  • approx. 2 lbs beef rump roast (I actually haven't tried any beef yet)
  • approx. 2 lbs chicken breasts or parts
  • approx. 2 lbs pork chops or loin
Add sauce (choose one):
  • 1/2 cup Cactus Pete's BBQ sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Agave Margarita mixture 
  • 1/2 cup Golden BBQ sauce
  • 3/4 cup Sweet Onion Dressing
Add flavors:
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Galore Blend
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (or 2 teaspoons dry mustard)
  • 2 tablespoons Bruschetta Blend
Add sweet and/or salty:
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2- 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
Add acid:
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Put all of the above in a large freezer bag, freeze for later use or refrigerate overnight for the next day.  If frozen, defrost for 24 hours in refrigerator before putting in slow cooker.

Then, to a 3-4 quart slow cooker, add vegetables (about 2-3 cups total):
  • onions
  • bell peppers
  • green beans
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • red potatoes
Sometimes I add 1/2-1 cup of water to make more sauce.  Cook on LOW approximately 6-8 hours.  Serve over rice or noodles or "straight up" with a nice green salad.

Mommy Hungry

Finished

Here's the afghan I just finished, which is a donation item for the historic house fundraiser raffle:

Large Granny Square, in Lion Brand Thick and Quick Claret, Pearls, and some green . . ..

I'm also working on a wedding gift for my high school friend and her new wife.  No pictures just yet.

Doctor Who Weekend

Doctor Who has started again!  And we were there Saturday night, at 9 pm, when it started.  It was a great episode, though we couldn't pick up on all the classic Who references (we hadn't seen the Fourth Doctor episode on which it piggybacked.)  Missy came back, Clara died again, and there were Daleks.  And the Doctor played guitar!  We did notice that it was shot in something of a retro style, to recall the 1970s show.

Before the show started, we had a veritable feast of steak and ale pie, bangers and baked potatoes, and orange marmalade tea sandwiches, plus tea, of course, and Jelly Babies!  Sis also made Crispy Chicken Wings and Bud made his steamed mussels again.  It sounds like a lot--it was!--but we only made a little bit of each one.

On Sunday, we continued the chicken wings theme, with lunch of teriyaki wings, after church and then watched some of that aforementioned Fourth Doctor arc, which aired Sunday morning on BBC America.  We haven't finished the three-hour show yet, but will make a point of it before this Saturday's continuation of "Doctor Who."

I don't think we'll be eating more wings, though.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Crispy Chicken Wings
  • 4 lb/ 2 kg chicken wings, cut into wingettes and drumettes (tips discarded)
  • 2 tbsp baking powder 
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • Oil spray

  1. If you are organised enough, uncover the chicken wings and leave them in the fridge for a few hours to dry out. Otherwise, use a paper towel to pat the wings dry.
  2. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions.
  3. Preheat oven to 250F/120C.
  4. Line a baking tray with foil, then place a rack (like a cooling rack) on the foil. Spray the rack with oil spray.
  5. Place wings in a large bowl or in a ziplock bag. Add the baking powder and salt, then toss to coat evenly.
  6. Place the wings on the baking tray in a single layer with the skin side up. They should just fit snugly. They will shrink when they cook because the fat renders out so don't worry if they look too snug.
  7. Place wings on the lower middle oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Move wings up to the upper middle rack and increase the oven temperature to 425F/220C. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through.
  9. Remove baking tray from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes.
  10. Toss wings in sauce of choice (or serve it on the side to dip / drizzle on the wings), then serve.
from Cook's Illustrated via Recipe Tin Eats

Friday, September 18, 2015

What Goes Around

Three kids of one friend and three kids of another; and two kids of yet another; and one kid of one friend and one kid of another.

And both kids of mine.

Yep, the fall colds have hit town.  With only 10 days of school under our belts, we've had enough time  to spread germs and everybody seems to have sick kids.  No fevers, for the most part, but lots of stuffy noses and headaches and coughs.   Sis coughed so hard tonight she lost dinner.  It all came on rather fast--she felt fine going into dinner.  Bud woke up sniffly very early this morning but didn't complain about it until after school.

So our quiet weekend will serve a double purpose.

I hope all the kids get well soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

TGITh

What is it about weeks that begin with a holiday dragging on so long?

I've thought it was later than it was for days.

But now it's Thursday night which is as good as Friday for me, especially because I don't have any errands or appointments tomorrow beyond socializing with friends and visiting my hospice patient. And the temperatures will be a little lower tomorrow--today got up to 85F which is 10+ degrees  above normal--and it will be even cooler after Saturday.

This weekend is fairly relaxed for us.  Regular Saturday morning lessons and then church on Sunday (I'm not teaching til next week), which means time for crocheting, movies (we're on a Muppet kick--sang through the original Muppet Movie and laughed through Muppets Most Wanted.   We thought of you, Aunt Banana, and I recalled your love of many things Muppet, like your Miss Piggy puppet and how you'd watch the Animal scene over and over), archery (Mama bought a lower draw-weight bow so I can pull it back; my previous 28 lb-draw was too heavy for me now), maybe cooking lessons for the kids (Bud has asked for clam chowder), perhaps some family games (current favorites:  Munchkin Panic, Castellan, Forbidden Island, and Risk) . . . .  

AND  the season premiere of "Doctor Who!!!!!"   We'll watch it Saturday night, after enjoying a large repast of British-inspired food.  Steak and ale pie, Welsh rarebit, finger sandwiches, Jammie Dodgers, shortbread, and scones with jam.  And tea, of course; maybe Shandy.  But no fish fingers and custard!  (Favorite of the 11th doctor.)  We've been waiting since Christmas.





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kidbits

I never thought I'd hear myself say, "You can only sword fight with weapons of the same material."  Sis had her wooden "fantasy" sword, while Bud had his plastic lightsaber.  And I just knew wood would crack plastic.  So we all had a lightsaber battle.

My new name is "Darth Mommy, Sith Lord of the Rock Wall."
-=-=-=-=-

Quiche.

Quiche is the word around our house these days.  See, I've had the ingredients to make that for days and have mentioned every night for dinner.  And then we always have something else.

We even started singing about it.  "The quiche will come out tomorrow.  Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be quiche."  Or "Quiche, I'm going to eat it tomorrow!"  You name the musical, we made up a quiche song.  Drove Mama nuts, made Sis snort water out her nose.

We finally ate the quiche, to much fanfare, last night for dinner.

-=-=-=-=-=-

The cooler weather has taken us outside.  Yesterday, for their day off, we played our version of tag/hide-and-go-seek.  This involves my searching after the children, who try to hide and not be seen, with frequent location changes.  It's more a game of spy because the object is for them to watch me while I don't see them.  We all stealthily circle the house trying to "win."  And once I see them, we just start again.  There's no running or actual tagging, just spotting.  It sounds kinda lame in the description, but we all enjoy it.  And sometimes I do manage to surprise them!

They also play real tag in the morning at the bus stop, especially now that there are more kids.  Besides our usual foursome--my two, the girl in their class, and the 2nd grader--there are two more girls (1st and 3rd grades?) and a 4th-grade boy (the kindergarten girl only rides home in the afternoons.)  And they've been playing tag (well, not the 4th-grade boy, who is not quite warmed up to us yet.)  Invariably they tag me and I try to sneak up on one of them to no avail.  These other kids are fast and don't realize I won't run, especially with my cup of tea in hand.  Sometimes they tag the 2nd-grader's dad and he runs very fast.  It's a wonderful way to start the morning, actually.


Monday, September 14, 2015

L'Shana Tovah!

Happy New Year 5776!  May your year be filled with sweetness!

In honor of the Jewish Holy Day, we'll be making Swedish Apple Pie later (apples being a major symbolic food for Rosh Hashanah; I can't eat the apples--stupid FODMAPS--but will enjoy the scent.)  Yes, the kids are home.  It's a school holiday here in town, as is next week's Yom Kippur.  We voted as a town to observe the Jewish Holy Days over (historically suspect and corrupt) Columbus Day, about which I'm quite proud considering that we have many more Italian than Jewish families, but we seem to recognize, as a group, the importance of these days.

So, the kids slept in, had to run a few errands with me, got lunch out, and are now watching a little tv before we head to the farmer's market this afternoon.  Sis is craving cider doughnuts.

It actually feels a little like fall today, with the humidity finally dropping some, along with the temperatures.  I think it was 57F overnight!  I even got up and put on socks and a heavier nightgown but left the fan on because I enjoyed being chilly.  It'll still be warm this week for September--into the low 80s everyday after today--but the nights are cooling off.

Which is great for the foliage.  Except we're still in a moderate drought and some of the trees are just beginning to dry up brown.  It's not going to be a good year for colors here in CT, I think, unless we get a lot of rain now.  And there's no rain on the 10-day forecast.

Still, it's beautiful today and we're relishing the change in temperature.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Another Small Step



So, you know I like to doodle and draw, using the Zentangle method.  I've drawn on flags and porcelain statuettes, book bags and pillows, and filled sketchbooks and "tiles."   I started on my own, having seen some drawings on Pinterest, and then took a three-day workshop/retreat in February, which I loved.  I've introduced it to the kids, Gommie, and my Girl Scout troop.

And now for the next step:  I'm going to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher!  I'm so excited.  It's a four-day intensive, like a mega-retreat, in nearby Providence.  It's very pricey, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

Why, you ask?  To further my practice.  To expand my opportunities to use it with hospice patients, their caregivers, and other hospice workers.  To teach it at the local community center and churches.  In fact, I've already been asked to present it at a workshop of hospice volunteers.  The "certified" part also gets me--besides intensive training--discounts and networking.

Isn't it somewhat ironic, art historian turned artist?

I Love a Luncheon

Luncheons were always things adults did.  Kids had lunch, at school.  Moms who played bridge or volunteered for organizations had luncheons.

Well, I don't play bridge, but sometimes my playgroup used to host mommy-only luncheons and I do volunteer, so a couple of times a year I get to go to a luncheon.  I love them!  It's always food I don't usually get--interesting salads, often a tangy punch, unique desserts.  And party favors!  Kinda like the birthday parties of my youth but without the games.  

Yesterday, I went to the volunteer luncheon of the historical house and had a fun time.  It was a small group, but we feasted well--local deli wraps, a delicious Sweet Potato Bake (see Miss J, I didn't call it a casserole!), and these lovely little Peach Squares.  So, of course, I got the recipes (I always get good recipes from a luncheon--see Norwegian Apricot Squares and Orange Poppy Seed dressing for salad here, Sticky Coconut Rice here, historical syllabubs and switchel here, Florentine Lasagna Roll-Ups here, and Pea Pesto Salad and also Caramel Apple Dip here.)

There was even a door prize and t-shirt giveaway.

Looking forward to another year at the house, happier not to be in charge of tours this time around.

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

Miss JR's Sweet Potato Bake
5-6 sweet potatoes, washed and cubed (peeled, optional)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
cinnamon to taste (generous sprinkles across the potatoes a few times)
olive oil to coat

Preheat oven to 425F.  Toss ingredients together until coated.  Spread evenly in 9x 13" pan or even larger baking dish (good to give them space).  Bake 45 minutes or until caramelized.  Delicious!


Miss CA's Peach Squares
So easy. Buy the puff pastry sheets (I get Pepperidge Farm).   There are 2 sheets in a package. Take either one or both out of the package and defrost for about 1/2 hour. It is folded in three. After it defrosts open it up. It measures 9x9. Easy to cut because you are going to cut 9 - 3 inch squares. Cut thin slices of either peaches or nectarines. Lay 2 or 3 slices on each square. Then, I take a tsp of sugar and sprinkle it on 3 of the tarts. And do the same for the other 6 tarts (so u will be using 3 tsp total). Put them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until browned. Cool on a rack. Drizzle the fruit with honey right before serving.  It makes it taste and look good. This would be a fun project to do with the kids. It is. Soooo easy and they come out so good they would be proud of their accomplishment. Enjoy!,,

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Piano Forte

My piano lessons are picking up in intensity now that we're back on a more regular schedule  . . . and I can practice more with the kids gone during the day.  When they're here, there's usually something to do besides piano; my practice flagged over the summer.  But now, I have nine clear months to practice and improve.

I'm almost at the end of my adult piano book(Adult All-in-One-Course), but we've also branched out to its companion volume (Alfred's Adult Piano Course:  All-Time Favorites) with longer songs and no theory.  "Finlandia," "Hungarian Rhapsody," and now "In the Good Ol' Summertime" are all from that book.

We had done some chord chart reading, if I've got that right--it's just the chords, no melody--often figured out by enthusiasts and posted online but not really officially published.  I've tried a few of these without too much success, though I was getting the hang of the Indigo Girls' "Language of the Kiss."  I might try "Touch the Sky" from Brave and "The Skye Boat Song" from Outlander next.

Also on my list to try sooner rather than later:  "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter and "Concerning Hobbits" from LOTR, both of which the kids have played.  Plus "Amazing Grace" and "Simple Gifts."

So, it's an exciting piano time for me.

Though, honestly, I don't really know if I'm going to play in the recital.  Yes, I did it in the spring, just a month after surgery--what could be harder than that?--but I don't really have a piece ready and I don't really know if I have a handle on how not to be nervous and shake so much.  Let's just say I'm leaving my options open, which is just fine with my piano teacher.  I have almost two months to decide . . . and to get a piece ready.

The kids, of course, could be ready now!

Another Scorcher

It wasn't quite as hot today, as far as the thermometer was concerned, but the humidity was high and there was a lot of retained heat in the un-cooled schools.  When they were sent outside for recess, they were ordered not to move around "energetically"--they could only stand to kick a ball, not move much less run, and nothing else.  The kids told me they all huddled under the one shade tree.  Fun.

So, after lunch, I fetched them from school to bring them home, mainly to save them from a nauseating bus ride . . . and ran into another friend getting her child!  From their class, even!

It was supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow, but we haven't had much luck with rain and most of the state is in a moderate drought.  Our grass is dead; our memorial hydrangeas didn't make it, even with some watering.  Several trees are just turning brown--it'll be a pretty mediocre fall foliage year. Even the storm headed our way is patchy and thin and the possibility of precipitation is falling on every forecast chart, as is the amount.  I'm going to guess a bit of drizzle, with maybe one impressive 15-minute downpour. Maybe.

Just as long as the storm brings cooler weather . . . . .

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fall Fun 2015

I realized that, while I always make a long list of activities for summer, I never really make one for fall.  And fall is one of my top favorite seasons!

Since it's so hot here right now, abnormally so, I can't help but think of fall.

So here is a list of ideas.  It can't be as long as the summer list, mainly because of school, but it's delightful.  Even if we don't get to most of them.

It's very idiosyncratic, with trips and outings we've already specially planned for this fall . . . .
  1. Applepalooza (our family fall open house, with apple desserts)
  2. Apple picking
  3. Pumpkin picking
  4. Decorate a pumpkin
  5. Roast pumpkin seeds
  6. Make apple or pumpkin butter
  7. Corn maze
  8. Church in-gathering celebration
  9. Florence Griswold Museum Wee Faerie Village
  10. Make faerie houses
  11. Comic Con
  12. Matilda
  13. Spring Awakening (adults only)
  14. Block Island weekend
  15. Knitting retreat
  16. Indigo Girls concert
  17. Scout overnight at Mystic Seaport
  18. piano recital
  19. School Open House
  20. Make a leaf pile
  21. Trick or treat
  22. Backyard fire with foil dinners and s'mores
  23. Tent in the backyard
  24. Go to a football game
  25. Prepare Halloween costumes
  26. Boo gifts for friends
  27. Amish Friendship bread
  28. Nature walk or bike ride
  29. Paint pinecones
  30. Make candles or soap
  31. Yarn!
  32. Explore sourdough bread recipes
  33. Renaissance festival
  34. Vote
  35. Make pies
  36. Church Harvest festival
  37. Get out mittens, hats, scarves, sweaters, etc.
  38. Pull out quilts and blankets
  39. Watch Halloween film (is it time for Hocus Pocus?)
  40. Change fire alarm batteries

Hot Topic

It was not a great school day.  For various and sundry reasons that I won't delve into here, there was confusion about school dismissal today and policies regarding excessive heat warnings.  See, today was the hottest Sept. 8th since 1919 in the area; Central Park hit 97F and we were above 92F something (heat index over 100F.)  Now, they might not seem like much to my Texas readers, but recall:  neither our schools nor our buses are air-conditioned.  Inside today, temperatures reached over 100 degrees, with just small windows open and inadequate metal fans.  These are schools built for winter--my kids can wear short sleeves all winter long without being cold.

So, after much brouhaha, they were dismissed early and home by 1 p.m.  They had ice cream, air-conditioning, and mostly just sat around wilted, reading.  But at least they weren't nauseous like they were last week in slightly cooler temps.

The Superintendent thinks there will be school tomorrow, though I think that is foolhardy--the schools will stew overnight and the humidity will be even higher tomorrow.  If it is, I will go fetch them around lunchtime.  Because, regardless, no one will be learning if it's that hot.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Crocheting Kiddos

I have tried a few times to teach Sis how to crochet, to no avail.  I'll admit that I'm not much of a teacher; I find it hard to break skills into steps and to explain them verbally.  And Sis is left handed, while I am right.  I tried to reverse the steps for her the last few times, which didn't work for either of us.  Recently, I read somewhere that lefties have to not only crochet left-handed but then reverse patterns; ugh, too much.  Some felt it was better to just learn right handed, just as Sis has to play the violin right handed (there just aren't left-handed violinists.)

So today, we started again, with her agreement to give it a try right handed.  A metal hook, some neon pink Red Heart yarn, and lots of slowness and patience.  I also pulled up the intro videos of my Woodland Amigurumi class on Craftsy by Stacey Trock, which slowly and concisely introduce chain stitching and single crocheting.  Sis worked at it carefully and persistently . . . and soon she had a row or two, a foundation chain and single crochet, with a chain-2 turn. My word, she was crocheting!   She plans on making it a scarf for her stuffed animal, the river otter Skipper (named after Redwall.)

Midday, having watched us for awhile, Bud decided he must learn how to crochet, too.  He plans on making a scarf for Mr. Big, his giant penguin.  And so, Sis sat him down and started him on slip knots and chains.  Soon I was showing him the Craftsy video and demonstrating single crochet.  And he too had rows and rows of very straight stitches.  They both crocheted through half the afternoon!  Much better than I did for my first few weeks.

I never dreamed I'd manage to teach Sis to stitch, or that Bud would want to crochet, too (he usually doesn't want to do what Sis and I do together.)  There is something very touching about passing down a treasured skill/hobby to your kids.  Sis and I had baking; Bud and I tried juggling.  Mama has drawn with them both.  And I think we've passed on our  love of cats, musicals, reading, and travel.  But a skill is more concrete.  It's a little bit of the future right here and now, though that doesn't quite explain it; a touch of immortality, perhaps?  I hadn't realized that so clearly.

Or that they'd pick it up so fast.

Or that we'd all spend an afternoon, crocheting on the couch together.

Or that Bud would say, "I know you're looking at me with pride!" as I watched him stitch.  And I was.

Or that he would also cry out in frustration, "I'm surrounded by all the things I want to be able to make (e.g. afghans, mandalas, and scarves I've made) and know thad I can't!  It's so hard."

Or that they'd both plan going to the yarn store to choose their next yarns.

Or that they'd want to learn new stitches, increases and decreases, etc., so they can make amigurumi penguins and bunnies.

Or that as we called for dinner, they'd both say in unison, "Just one more row!"

All while I told them about my early crochet lessons with my friend Miss V, whose maid of honor I had been and who would later throw me a baby shower, and whose intricate and complicated beautiful pink and green/diamond with roses afghan we were all leaning against.  And how very hard I found crochet--loops too tight, stitches uneven, skipping stitches or doubling up accidentally--all while clutching my hook too tight and crying in frustration.  It took so long to really get the hang of it, but soon I was making very simple afghans, then more complicated ones, and now mandalas and such.  Rome wasn't built in a day, practice makes perfect.  All of it, I said to encourage the kids.  Besides, I've been crocheting longer than they've been alive.  And they are off to a better start than I ever had.

It's a wonderful beginning.

Friday, September 4, 2015

School Report

The first two days of school have gone as well as the first two days of school could go, which for us means pretty well.  It's crazy-hot in the schools, which are un-air-conditioned, but the temps will break some this weekend.  The kids have connected with their friends (both classmates and bus mates) and teachers and have nothing to complain about.  Well, except that time has been taken off recess and put to math instruction time.  Only 15 or 20 minutes of moving in an 8-hour day.  On the up side, they have PE twice this year!  Which means on those days they'll get to move twice.

Otherwise, they have Spanish, art, music, and library, plus reading, writing, science, math, and social studies.  I think library includes computer skills sometimes.

And the all-important lunch.

But now for a three-day weekend of sleep, snacks, cats, and video games.  There will be two more holidays in each of the next two weeks, for the Jewish High Holidays.  So we're getting off to a measured start this year, which is just fine.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Another First Day

The kids are off for the first day of fifth grade.  It was a pretty calm event, all things considered, but, then, I calculate that it is our eighth first day of school.  We had our usual special poster, which this year is written in Gallifreyan from "Doctor Who"; last year's Elvish was very popular.  We also had our traditional Schultute, which are German cones given on the first day with goodies inside (a little candy, some tickets for screen time)--I started this their first year of pre-school, after seeing it in a magazine; they even said a couple of days ago that they hoped they were getting their usual cornucopia.  Mama made special omelets, to order, with bell peppers for Bud, ham for Sis.  The kids were so giddy about the first day that they were outside before the middle school bus left!  This gave us plenty of time for the traditional photos as we waited for the bus.  Soon our usual bus mates arrived; we'll have one more afternoon bus mate, the new kindergartener across the street.  While we stood there with our friends, a doe and her two fawns walked down the street and later through our yard.  So close we could even see their spots.  Quite a sight! 

The house is now very quiet.  The cats don't quite know what to do with themselves, though they'll figure it out quickly.  I have a full's day worth of things to catch up on, maybe even a few days!  Girl Scout paperwork, delayed doctor's appointments (just the usual annual stuff), some church RE work, an event at the historic house.  But for right now, I'm drinking rose tea out of my Jane Austen mug while blogging and watching "Midsomer Murders."

And it's so quiet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Mandala

I was so excited to find my Mandala for Marinke, the donation/memorial hosted in memory of crochet artist and author Marinke aka Wink by Crochet Concupiscence,  on Pinterest today!  Click here to read the article.

It's been wonderful to see all of the beautiful and creative designs posted on the blog by organizer Kathryn Vercillo.  And I like the photos she took, much better than mine!

May the family, friends, and crochet community of Marinke be comforted.








Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer Fun: Final List



Summer has just about drawn to a close.  And it's been a pretty good one.  Here's our final Summer Fun 2015 list of completed activities.



My sketch of our summer of fun
  • Have a lemonade stand (cookies for cancer?):  helped the local cat shelter
  • Party/activity in honor of Aunt Sis:  planted two memorial hydrangeas, which aren't happy with the heat
  • Go swimming at Y with friends:  Well, we went swimming by ourselves at the Y.  We'll go with Gommie
  • *Go to nature center:  for camp!
  • *Go to aquarium:  for camp!
  • *Go to bird festvial:  Such fun!  Loved the Eastern Screech Owl
  • Host a sleepover with friends:  went to a sleepover with several friends; had one sleepover last week and stayed up watching Minecraft videos and making fudge
  • *Beach trip in city--in August--they even went boogie boarding!
  • Mario kart-athon--Well, they did a few Splatfest-athons!
  • Movie night--lots of these, most recently with Back to the Future
  • Learn to cook weekly dinners--they did another favorite-meal cooking lesson with Mama, with steamed mussels for Bud and fried chicken for Sis
  • Hang pictures--we filled the wall in our bedroom.
  • Learn a new game
  • Do nothing special
  • Meet friends at ice rink:  Yep, it's now a weekly event.
  • *Attend town festival in June/volunteer at historic house:  we did this before school was even out!
  • Family book club (we're reading Menagerie and also Redwall):  I started Menagerie over 4th of July weekend.  It was pretty good.  The kids haven't started Redwall yet.
  • Eat Dole Whip:  first night of summer, we got Dole Whip and Fluffernutter sundaes!
  • Make ice cream:  Strawberry Soda is great.  Peaches and Cream is great, too.
  • Picnic:  we had a deli picnic, but I hope to do something more sophisticated soon.
  • Watch some movie musicals:  we started by watching "Lost Broadway Treasures" and other compilations of famous songs.
  • Play in sprinkler:  and used it to make a slippery water slide!
  • *Go to culture festival (Scottish, Irish, Greek, etc.):  we loved the Greek festival food, as always!  
  • Decorate chalkboard for summer:  we started our own mini-drawings of Awesome Summer Things.
  • Celebrate 4th of July:  Yes, we did!
  • 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.
  • Celebrate Mama's birthday:  a weekend of take-out meals and movies!
  • Birthday party for kids:   Minions movie birthday party, with decorate-your-own-Minion jars and Minion cupcakes.
  • Learn how to clean bathrooms:  Bud earned a ticket for this already--on his own initiative!
  • Learn an ASL sign a day (or more)
  • Learn some computer coding using Scratch:  they have started making a cat draw stars around the earth.
  • Make shrub for 4th of July:  Bud and I really like it
  • Photos with public art around town ("benching," Bud called it)  We're about a third of the way done.
  • Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party:  for first one, the kids swam and tried "kiddy crack" (butter-cinnamon-sugar spread on graham crackers); they also like badminton, or "chaosminton" with several shuttlecocks.
  • Explore new music genres together ("Music Mondays"):  we started with the 80s, then Celtic (Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack), Broadway, jazz, and patriotic.  Not sure what this week will be.
  • Research places to go in England, etc:  I'm reading Susan Branch's book about falling in love with the English countryside
  • Purge and donate toys and books:  doing really well with this; lots of donations.  Kids prepping to have room makeovers.
  • Do a 1000 piece puzzle:  Bud and Mama are our puzzlers--they've done cupcakes, Broadway, London, New York, among others.
  • We also made or ate the following foods, which I totally forgot to blog about:

FODMAPS Rice Pudding

1 litre of lactose-free milk
100g of raw rice (Arborio, white, basmati)
1 tablespoon of raw sugar
Cinnamon

1.     Pour lactose-free milk into a medium-large sized saucepan.
2.     Place saucepan onto a stove top and allow lactose-free milk to almost reach boiling point. Then reduce the heat, add in the rice and allow to simmer.
3.     Add in 1 tablespoon of raw sugar to the milk-rice mixture and stir through. Continue stirring frequently for approximately 20 minutes until the rice is tender and the mixture has thickened to your liking.  If mixture is too thick you can add more milk. If mixture is too runny continue cooking – it will thicken up.
4.     Keep stirring frequently so that the milk doesn’t burn and to avoid rice pudding sticking to the bottom.
5.     Once cooked, remove rice pudding from saucepan.

TRADITIONAL SERVING SUGGESTIONS
·       Serve it hot with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
·       Serve it cold by cooling it in the fridge first, then a sprinkle of cinnamon on top 

OTHER SUGGESTED TOPPING
·         Grated dark chocolate
·         Maple syrup
·         Blueberries and strawberries
·         Banana and passionfruit
·         Grated chocolate, strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup
·         Add zest of an orange or lemon while cooking, for a taste of citrus


FOR THE CAKE:



 Butter for greasing baking pans
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅓ cup best-quality cocoa powder
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup sour cream, at room temperature

FOR THE FROSTING:

6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
3 ounces ( 3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  1. For cake: heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter sides of two 8-inch cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a knife blade, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream. Process to make a smooth, thick batter.
  2. Using a rubber spatula, divide batter between pans, and smooth tops. Bake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes; do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before removing from cake pans.
  3. For frosting: Combine chocolate and butter in a large heat-proof bowl, and heat until melted in a microwave oven or over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in corn syrup, sour cream, and vanilla. Whisk in confectioners' sugar until very smooth. Frosting should be thick and spreadable. If necessary, add a teaspoon or two of boiling water to thin it, or additional sifted confectioners' sugar to thicken.
  4. Cut four strips of waxed or parchment paper, and place them side by side on a cake plate, covering the surface. Place one cake layer domed-side down on plate.
  5. Spoon about a third of the frosting onto center of cake, and use a knife or a spatula to spread it evenly. Place the other cake on top, domed side up. Spoon another third of frosting on top of cake, spreading to make swirls or a smooth finish. Spread sides of cake with remaining frosting, and allow to sit for a few minutes until set. Carefully remove paper strips. Place cake under glass or in an airtight container, and set aside in a cool place until serving.

FROM BOOK CLUB CAKE PARTY (we just sampled--delicious!)

 Toby’s (Not Quite Perfect) Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting, from Lisa Graff, A Tangle of Knots

FOR THE CAKE:
2 1/2 cups flour (plus extra for preparing the pan)
 
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
 
1/2 teaspoon salt
 
1 cup butter, at room temperature (plus extra for the pan)
 
1 1/2 cups sugar
 
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
3 large eggs, at room temperature
 
1 cup milk, at room temperature
 
           FOR THE FROSTING:
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
 
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
 
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
 
1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans with butter. Using the cake pans as a template, trace two circles onto wax paper and cut them out, placing one wax circle in the bottom of each pan. Grease both pans with butter again, covering the wax paper as well as the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pans lightly with flour, and tap the pans to distribute it evenly. 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.

4. Reducing the speed on the mixer to low, add about a third of the flour mixture to the batter, combining well. Add about half of the milk and combine. Then add another third of the flour mixture, the last of the milk, and then the last of the flour, combining well each time.

5. Pour the batter into the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

6. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting: In a double boiler or a heatproof bowl fitted into a saucepan of simmering water, carefully melt the chocolate chips. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

7. In a large bowl, cream the butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add about half of the powdered sugar, blending well. Beat in 2 tbsp of the milk and all of the vanilla, then beat in the remaining powdered sugar, followed by the remaining milk. Add the cooled melted chocolate to the butter mixture and beat until smooth.

8. When the cakes are completely cooled, place one cake layer on a plate and spread a thin layer of frosting on top. Repeat with the second cake layer, and cover the whole cake with frosting.

*recipes adapted from Real Simple's Yellow Cake with Strawberry Filling recipe and Betty Crocker's Cookbook, Ninth Edition.


The Owner’s Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting,  from Lisa Graff, A Tangle of Knots
What you'll need:


         FOR THE CAKE:
small sliver of butter (for greasing the cake pan)

2 1/4 cups flour (plus extra for preparing the pan)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature

         FOR THE FROSTING:

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 to 2/3 cup milk


What to do:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans with butter. Using the cake pans as a template, trace two circles onto wax paper and cut them out, placing one wax circle in the bottom of each pan. Grease both pans with butter again, covering the wax paper as well as the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pans lightly with flour, and tap the pans to distribute it evenly. 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter and eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and milk until well combined. 

4. Gradually add the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture and beat until combined. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes completely before frosting. 

5. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting: In a medium bowl, cream the powdered sugar and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of milk, and beat until well combined. Gradually add more milk, one teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.

6. When the cakes are completely cooled, place one cake layer on a plate and spread a thin layer of frosting on top. Repeat with the second cake layer, and cover the whole cake with frosting.

*recipes adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, Ninth Edition 


Marigold’s Lime Pound Cake,  from Lisa Graff, A Tangle of Knots


 FOR THE CAKE:

large eggs, at room temperature


1/2 teaspoon vanilla 


2 teaspoons grated lime zest (from approximately 2 limes)

2 tablespoons lime juice (from approximately 1 lime)

1 cup butter, at room temperature (plus extra for greasing the pan)

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour



What to do:



1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter. 


2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, lime zest, and lime juice. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and the salt and beat, starting on low speed and then increasing to medium-high, until well combined, about 2 minutes more. Slowly add the egg mixture and beat until well combined, about 3 minutes.

4. Reducing the speed on the mixer to low, gradually add the flour to the batter, and beat until just combined.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

*recipe adapted froReal Simple's Citrus Pound Cake with Cranberry Syrup