Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Fun Photos

We're decorated and ready for tomorrow night.

Last night's sunset was beautiful.

It's been great crocheting weather--chilly and overcast, chilly and bright.  Almost everyday is good for crochet.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Good, Simple Recipes for a Friend

To my friend who asked for some good, simple, relatively healthy meals that she can make, I post here some of my favorites, with extensive notes about adapting them to her own tastes.   It took me half the evening to choose these and I kept adding to it.   I imagine I make each of these at least once a month, some more than that.   We also make "baked" chicken in a crockpot (here's the original non-crockpot recipe) a lot and then eat it with rice and gravy then turn leftovers into gumbo, chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, quesadillas, chicken noodle/tortellini soup, and the like; many of my friends just buy roasted chickens from the grocery store.

For more ideas, see my blog's sidebar --with my favorite soups, vegetarian meals, and slow cooker meals (with some practice, you can adapt all slow cooker meals to the stove, really), plus holiday favorites.   There are hundreds of recipes on my blog.

These are just a beginning.

I actually usually make this as a frittata now, essentially leaving off the pie crust, which we never really need unless we're serving it for company.  Given to us by a French co-worker of Mama's, the amounts are pretty flexible.  You can use spinach instead of broccoli, or leave out the greens completely; often we add handfuls of leftover ham.  Three of the four of us like it best with Worcestershire sauce.  There are never any leftovers, but it does keep nicely and can be eaten cold.

1 pie crust (or half of my pie crust recipe, below)
4-5 eggs up to as many as 8 eggs, if a lot of add-ins or people to serve
1/3 cup sour cream
8 oz. Colby or cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes (do not grate/shred)
2 cups add ins,  frozen broccoli florets, cooked and drained til less wet
salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Place pie crust in pie plate, crimping edges.  

Mix all ingredients.  Pour into prepared pie shell.  Bake 35-45 minutes until middle is set and crust is golden.

Serve warm or room temperature.

Mommy Hungry

Versatile Chinese-inspired Sauce
I use this either as the base of a stir fry (which is how this recipe is written up) or, without the stock, as a marinade for chicken to bake in the oven (350F until done, I often cook it over a bed of green beans)

1 cup stock (for stir fry only)
1/4 cup tamari or low-sodium soy sauce (works with teriyaki, too)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
(you can add a little sugar if you like it on the sweet side)

Saute chosen vegetables and protein in olive oil, adding garlic and ginger.  Then simmer them in the above sauce until tender.  Serve over rice or even noodles.

adapted from Katie Workman, The Mom 100 Cookbook

Welsh Rabbit, or Rarebit
We've been eating this a lot more recently, with sourdough bread.  Goes well with soup instead of grilled cheese.
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
3 tablespoons ale or milk
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (or Coleman's powder made into 1 teaspoon mustard)
4 slices of toast (doesn't have to be Sally Lunn bread, just any sliced loaf)
Worchestershire sauce to taste

Melt cheese with ale or milk and mustard over stove.  Pour over four slices of toast on an edged baking sheet.  Broil until brown and bubbly.  Remove to plates and score tops and drizzle Worchestershire sauce (without scoring, it just rolls off).  Eat immediately.

Mama Hungry

Spaghetti Pie
This has long been my go-to meal to take to people in need.  With or without the broccoli, this is a nice meal--sometimes I serve it with meatballs (usually store-bought frozen meatballs.)  It keeps and reheats well.

4 cups cooked spaghetti (about 1/2 pound uncooked)--I'm using whole wheat
1-10 oz package frozen chopped broccoli, thaed and squeezed dry
1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, warmed in the microwave
chopped parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 350F and coat 9" springform pan (I'm using a foil pie plate) with nonstick spray.

Stir the spaghetti, broccoli, cheeses, egg, and Italian seasonings together in large bowl. Scrape in pan and level the top.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden. Cool about 5 minutes and then remove sides of springform pan. Cut into 6 wedges. Serve with marinara and parsley.

Weight Watchers Eat! Play! Move!

Best Easy Pasta Sauce--Tomato
Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
I just discovered this recipe recently and love it!  So easy, so bright.  Even keeps beautifully.

Via Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

Serves 4 as a main course; makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti

28 ounces (800 grams) whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)*
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.
Serve with spaghetti, with or without grated parmesan cheese to pass.

Easy Pasta Sauce--Creamy
Make this quickly in the pot where you cooked the pasta while it drains in the colander.  We've added asparagus, peas, ham, chicken, whatever you like.  
1 egg
1 T milk
1 T butter
¼ c cheese--can be Parm or Mozz 
(can add asparagus, peas, chicken, ham)
Heat ingredients in pot until smooth.  Toss with pasta.

Pasta e Lenticchie
One of my all-time favorite recipes.  So easy, so quick, so versatile--but is it a pasta or a soup??!  
5 cups water
3/4 cups lentils
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound pasta--pretty much any shape works, though the smaller is better (even broken spaghetti)
1 teaspoon or more Italian seasoning (also, for non-Italian taste, I've used Sweet Curry Powder and Garam Masala, too.  Works great.)
optional:  I often add greens, either frozen or fresh (kale is a favorite), to equal approximately 1 1/2 cups when cooked (best if it bite-size pieces.)
optional:  Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top after (or cooked with part of the rind)

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils are fully tender.

Add greens, either frozen or fresh.

Add pasta. Cook, covered, at a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to the point of being cooked.

When pasta is cooked to taste, add seasonings of choice and serve, perhaps with a garnish of Parmesan cheese.

Mommy Hungry via "Molto Mario" Batali

Milk-Can "Cowboy" Supper
We all like this and think you could substitute corned beef or even chicken pieces for the kielbasa; I'm not even sure we use that much sausage.
adapted from Cook's Country

2 lbs. kielbasa, cut into big chunks about 1 1/2-2" long (we used 2 kinds, one more peppery than the other)
6 red potatoes, washed but unpeeled
1 small cabbage, cut into wedges and unstacked
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
1 onion, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 ears of corn (I put in 4 frozen ears and it worked wonderfully)
1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
10 sprigs thyme (or not)
2 bay leaves
1 green bell pepper, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the kielbasa in a little oil until browned all over (about 6-8 minutes on medium high.)  Remove from pot (I used a Dutch oven.)  Layer ingredients in pot in this order, bottom to top:  red potatoes, cabbage wedges (unstacked and all spread out flat), baby carrots, onion, garlic, and corn.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add bay leaves and thyme.  Distribute kielbasa on top and pour in chicken broth.  Bring to boil, cover, and simmer approximately 15-20 minutes.  Add green bell pepper on top and cook 15-20 minutes more until potatoes are tender (use long skewer to test doneness.)  Remove to serving platter and discard bay leaves and thyme.  Enjoy!

Mommy Hungry's Rice-Cooker Mujadara
I know you don't have a rice cooker, but maybe try adding these items to a regular pot of rice, with lentils and onions stirred in later.  Delicious meal on its own, also good in wraps or with hummus or falafel.

2 cups white rice
2 cups cooked lentils (brown or whatever)
1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2-4 onions
1-2 tablespoon oil (grapeseed, olive, whatever)

Place rice, lentils, cumin, cinnamon stick, garlic, pepper, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt in rice cooker.  Add water according to machine temperament (my takes about 2 cups for this; Ar-Ma Hungry's hint is to add enough water to cover the rice plus the thickness of one finger horizontal on top of the rice--it works!).  Set to cook white rice.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet.  Add onions, sprinkling 1 teaspoon of salt on top, and cook on medium-low to medium heat.  Watch onions and only stir occasionally in order to let them brown.  If they get to dry, add water.  Cook til brown and sweet, about 45-60 minutes. 

When lentil-rice and onions are done, stir together and season to taste.

Mommy Hungry

Chickpea Stew with Couscous
I have several versions of stews like this; another one has Yukon gold potatoes instead, green beans, and carrots, plus some coconut milk, instead of the peppers and zucchini.
1 medium onion, diced 
3 garlic coves, minced 
2 cups vegetable broth 
1 1/2 cups diced zucchini 
1 large sweet potato, peeled, in 1/2" dice 
1 cup diced red bell pepper 
1 cup diced green bell pepper 
1 cup diced, peeled tomato, canned or fresh, with juice 
1 teaspoon cinnamon* 
1 teaspoon ground coriander* 
1/2 teaspoon cumin* 
pinch cayenne (we omitted this) 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
1 tablespoon lemon jice 
1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained, or 1/2 cups homemade 
2 cups couscous 
2 tablespoons minced parsley or cilantro (I leave this out) 
*I substituted 2 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's sweet curry powder for this and it was wonderful. 

In a large pot, combine onion, garlic, and 1/4 cup vegetable broth (in fairness, I used a little olive oil to get in my daily guidelines for WW). Cook over moderate heat until liquid evaporates and onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, sweet potato, bell peppers, tomato, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne, sat, and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups broth and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, cover, lower heat, and simmer gently until vegetables are just tender, about 5 more minutes (nope, took almost 15+). Stir in chickpeas and cook until chickpeas are hot. Keep stew warm. Serve over couscous. Garnish with minced parsley. 

Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish

Potato and Greens Soup
Love this soup.  

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 bunch leeks, thoroughly rinsed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (or veg stock)
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 white or yellow potatoes (about 3 1/2 lbs), peeled and cut into 3/4 cubes
1 bunch arugula or other bitter greens such as curly endive or escarole (I usually use kale), washed

Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the leeks and stir well. Cover and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add potatoes and bring back to a simmer. Cook until tender but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat.

Ladle about 3 cups of soup into a blender (don't fill more than halfway). Hold the lid on with a dish towel to prevent splattering, and blend until smooth. Return pureed soup to saucepan, stir to combine, and bring back to a simmer. Season to taste.

Stir in greens. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until wilted and bright green, and serve immediately.

Martha Stewart Living

Winter Vegetable Soup

Another favorite soup.  

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot (about 2 carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-14.5 oz cans Great Northern beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 cups cubed Yukon Gold potato (about 10 oz)
2 1/2 cups water
2-14.5 oz cans vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry (I like it better with kale)

Heat oil in Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add spinach; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Weight Watchers Annual Recipes for Success 2003 (3 pts a cup)

Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples
The kids love this dish; I prefer my pork chops broiled in the oven with salt and pepper, but c'est la vie.
2 thick pork chops, about 7 oz each (I've used all kinds of pork chops, even thin)
3-5 large apples, peeled and cored and cut into wedges (thick or thin)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add the apples and cook over medium-high heat for 1 minute on each side.  

You can either add pork chops and cook thoroughly or just do the apples and pork separately.  Serve immediately.

Rozanne Gold, Kids Cook 1-2-3

Mama Hungry's Quick Pan-Fried Fish
Sis even likes this and she doesn't much like fish.  There are lots of variations on this, with capers, lemon, teriyaki, tomatoes and onions . . . . 

Heat skillet and then add oil.  Saute selected mild white fish filets; when the filet begins to brown, flip it and sprinkle with salt/pepper or better yet generous amounts of Wildtree Scampi seasoning.  (Sometimes, you can broil the fliet, skin-side down rubbed with a little bit oil, on a greased baking sheet til cooked--don't flip.)  Can deglaze with lemon juice or concoct a great teriyaki glaze.

For Optional Teriyaki Glaze:  Meanwhile, reduce 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce in saucepan over medium low, adding 1 Tablespoon sugar, chopped scallions/shallots, garlic as desired.  When fish is done, drizzle with teriyaki glaze.  Kids lap it up.

Mama Hungry

Dutch Baby Pancake
Breakfast for dinner--the kids love this with the sauteed apples from the pork chop recipe above.  I have to double it to feed all four of us, though.  Never any leftovers.

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425F. Grease a 9" nonstick cake pan, shallow baking dish, or skillet with an ovenproof handle.
Crack the eggs into a bowl. Then use a fork to beat together the eggs, oil, and milk until smooth. Stir until well-blended.
Add the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl. Stir until a smooth batter forms. A few lumps are okay. Pour the batter into the greased dish.
Bake the pancake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350F. Bake until the pancake is very puffy and lightly browned all over, about 5-8 minutes.
Note: it will deflate upon leaving the oven, so be sure the kids get a look before you take it out! Also, it is easiest to cut with scissors.
C is for Cooking: Recipes form the Street

Our Favorite Roast Vegetables
Our favorite side is some kind of roasted vegetable--broccoli, carrots, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, green beans, kale, yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes (recipe below plus 1/4 c brown sugar and a heavy sprinkle of cinnamon)

Simply preheat oven to approximately 425F, toss veg in olive oil and sprinkle with salt (can add garlic powder and/or parmesan cheese, too), and bake til desired crispiness.  Usually about 30 minutes, shorter for kale and  longer for potatoes (which I do at 375F.) 

And finally . . . . 

Simple Crusty Bread
This bread goes well with everything.  Make a batch of dough, keep it in the fridge til you want bread, bake accordingly.  It's actually easier than the directions, which include if you're baking the dough off immediately at room temperature or bringing it out of the fridge.  Once baked, though, this bread doesn't stay good for long, because there is no fat in it (one day, maybe two.)

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (in the little brown jars, keep in fridge)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan (or throw ice cubes on the bottom of your oven) and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. (Nobody waits.)

Yield: 4 loaves.
Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.

Dr. Jeff Hertzberg, 
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This is a great, simple brownie recipe.  Gotta have at least one dessert.
Makes 24 brownies

One 12 oz. package (2 cups) Semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
½ cup butter
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

In large, heavy saucepan over low heat, melt 1 cup chocolate chips and butter (for best results, melt butter then add chocolate chips and melt—prevents chocolate sticking to saucepan); stir until smooth. Remove from heat. Add eggs; stir well. Add flour sugar, baking soda, and vanilla; stir well. Stir in remaining (unmelted) chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Spread into greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 18-22 minutes or until set. Cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.

used to be on Nestle Chocolate Chip bag

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More Affirmations

I posted a list of Affirmations I use to buck up my confidence back in March, actually a week before my surgery, and again four weeks later in April.  I realize I could add several big things to it.  So, here we go, my recent list of accomplishments:

I can walk.
I can pick stuff off the floor.
I can shop and push the cart.
I can drive all the way to church, 25 minutes.
I can play the piano without wearing my brace briefly.
I can take a bath.
I can get dressed all by myself. 
I can unload the dishwasher.
I can wash dishes.
I can cook dinner
I can do the laundry and even fold it.
I can blog.
I can crochet.

I have not had severely debilitating back pain in almost 4 whole years (my major episode was 6 years ago!)
Last Memorial Day 2014 when I had back pain, I still functioned and did things.
My surgery was seven months ago and I am much better.
I know how to cope with pain.
I know how to cope with fear.
I know there will be pain and fear and I am ready.
I can be calm in a crisis.
I can accept that I am not in control.
I have compassion for myself.
I have the tools I need--meds, heat pack, brace, stretches, rest.
I have great support and understanding in Mama and the kids, my parents and my sister.
I have the time and resources to take it easy.

I've survived and thrived:
  • On trips to
    • ENGLAND! and Cardiff!
    • Girl Scout overnight, on the floor, at Old Sturbridge Village!! (this one gets forgotten because it was three days before my emergency)
    • Girl Scout overnight, sleeping in a ship's berth at Mystic Seaport (and carrying my gear to the ship and then walking around for hours)
    • Disney World (even though EPCOT was hard, I got through it)
    • Washington DC
    • Boston
    • Philadelphia
    • Houston and environs
    • Block Island (twice!)
    • our nano-honeymoon in NYC (twice!)
  • Experiences such as
    • doing my hospice work, sitting at people's bedsides and holding their hands
    • lighting a fire and cooking over it
    • going swimming
    • teaching RE
    • taking GS outdoor class Food, Fire, & Fun
    • taking archery and becoming certified as an instructor
    • passing First Aid and CPR--I can give mouth-to-mouth and use an AED
    • riding on parade floats and giving a lecture on costuming in full corseted costume
    • giving historic house tours
    • sitting and standing for hours at kung fu competition
    • sitting at the piano and play "Finlandia"
    • learning ASL
    • going on retreat by myself for two nights all alone--including sitting at length, creating art, taking yoga
    • winning 4 stars on Just Dance, dancing to "Bang, Bang"
    • playing basketball with the kids
    • playing water basketball with the kids at the Y
    • going to long movies
    • going to Lion KingPhantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Wicked, Vagina Monologues, Fun Home, Spring Awakening, Matilda
    • walking all day at Comic Con (and other long walks--at Trunk or Treat, fairy houses, Mystic, NYC, etc.)
    • building fairy houses and nature mandalas
    • wandering around museums
    • eating in restaurants at night
    • walking in the snow
    • making snow angels
    • going canoeing
  • I can do 
    • laundry
    • baking
    • unloading the dishwasher
    • walking on the treadmill
    • sitting on the floor with the cats
    • taking a real bath
I did all that.  I can do what comes next. 

Fall Fun Update

An update on our fall to-do list.  We're doing pretty well, but there will be several things we don't do. 

  1. Watch Halloween film (is it time for Hocus Pocus?)--we watched Hocus Pocus.  Odd.  Virginity is a major plot line in this kids' movie from 1993.
  2. Scout overnight at Mystic Seaport!!!
  3. Florence Griswold Museum Wee Faerie Village
  4. Make pies--we made a Swedish Apple Pie
  5. Boo gifts for friends
  6. Applepalooza (our family fall open house, with apple desserts):  a wonderful day, even with the flurries!
  7. Pull out quilts and blankets
  8. Nature Mandalas:  a first this year; so pretty.
  9. Church in-gathering celebration:  we took water from our rain gauge, excited that it had finally rained
  10. Make faerie houses:  our first ones circled the silver maple
  11. Comic Con:  always fun, like a big geeky Halloween party
  12. Matilda:  excellent!
  13. Spring Awakening (adults only):  a fantastic evening of ASL and musical theater, in a story about drastic consequences resulting from miscommunicaitons between horny German teenagers and their parents
  14. School Open House:  another year has started!
  15. Prepare Halloween costumes:  We have Black Widow and Link all ready to go
  16. Nature walk or bike ride:  I'm going to count the Sept GS bike ride.

  1. Trick or treat--SOON
  2. Block Island weekend--SOON
  3. Knitting retreat--SOON
  4. Indigo Girls concert--SOON
  5. Decorate a pumpkin
  6. Make a leaf pile
  7. Backyard fire with foil dinners and s'mores
  8. Tent in the backyard
  9. Go to a football game
  10. Amish Friendship bread
  11. Paint pinecones
  12. Make candles or soap
  13. Yarn!
  14. Explore sourdough bread recipes
  15. Vote
  16. Get out mittens, hats, scarves, sweaters, etc.
  17. Change fire alarm batteries

  1. Renaissance festival:  NO, missed it this year
  2. Church Harvest festival--NOPE, we missed this
  3. Apple picking
  4. piano recital--now in December
  5. Roast pumpkin seeds
  6. Make apple or pumpkin butter
  7. Pumpkin picking
  8. Corn maze

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Fun: A Mystical, Magical Weekend, Part 2

Our evening at Mystic Seaport began in the parking lot across from the main entrance at 5:45 as we gathered together 13 girls, 2 brothers, 4 moms (Mama and I included), and 2 dads for an overnight program on a 19th-century sailing ship, the Joseph Conrad.

We walked into the Seaport, carrying all of our gear, which we stow on the ship.  You'll notice that the photos are all cloudy and dark--it was a very overcast fall day, but not windy and not too chilly.  The bunks were stacked three high, with a few smaller cabins available for adults only.  I nabbed the cabin because it was the best bed for my back.  More on the night later.  We practiced our fire drill first and then began our adventure:  the girls were going to play detective for a uniquely nautical mystery.


My cabin!

Divided into two groups (Mama and Bud were in the other group), the girls were presented with the conundrum of the Morgan's captain's daughter's lost tooth.  They were given a list of suspects who had access to the captain's quarters and began their search . . . . They went to the scene of the crime first--where the daughter slept in the captain's quarters.  Then . . . .
to the quarters of the cabin boy . . . 

to the cooper's workshop. . . . 
They also went to the chandler's, where they learned more about whaling voyages (3-5 years!) and the crew (who was paid what) and supplies ("baggy wrinkle" protects sails from rope burns.)  They received a message recorded in Morse Code, which they raced to translate, working in groups.  They also compared handwriting samples of the various people involved.  And then they examined a fingerprint of the person whodunit!  I won't spoil that part, but I will answer one question:  why would someone take the girl's tooth?

Because it wasn't her tooth, but a whale tooth with scrimshaw!!!

As a bonus, the program leader let the girls try their hand at scrimshaw, albeit on plastic tokens, not real bone.  The girls loved sketching and then carving their own scrimshaw; we all realized how hard it was to see where you'd worked the token.  I can't imagine doing it on a rocking ship!

A few examples.  Bud's is the lighthouse (#2) and mine is the compass rose (#3.)

It was around 9:15 p.m. when we returned to the ship, supposedly to go to bed.  Eventually.  First, we all explored the deck and downstairs.  One of the educators gave us a lot of great information about life aboard a ship--who became a sailor (2nd- and 3rd-born sons and those without trade or prospect, plus anyone press-ganged), how they traded for supplies on their long voyages (with beads and things), the different parts of the ship (bow, stern, forecastle, bowsprit) etc.  We couldn't do any star-gazing because of the clouds and no one was ready to sing any sea chanteys on deck.  The kids were more interested in running around, squealing, and climbing on things (not riggings, thankfully.)   They also enjoyed peeping over the deck rail to watch the various groups of visitors on the scary Nautical Nightmare tour--the scary ghost lady was not to far from us and would frighten the visitors.  The girls enjoyed scaring themselves and imagining things (later the next day, the educator told Mama there are rumored to be 23 ghosts on the ship; glad he didn't tell the girls that!)  I won't dwell on how long it took for the kids to get ready and then settle down for bed, except to say it was after 1 a.m. (and after many adult interventions--they were particularly keyed up and not listening to instructions by this point.)

I slept separately in the cabin, where it was colder than I expected, and more comfortable, too.  The boat is sunk into the mud of the shallow port and so doesn't move at all, except with the shaking of running kids!  Still, once I fell sound asleep (after 3 a.m.--just unused to the bed, the sounds, etc.), I had crazy dreams of ships, Titanic, danger, rescuing kids and Mama, blah.  I woke up a couple of hours later at 5 a.m. and decided that sleeping was too much work!  I went and sat on deck in the pre-dawn hours, thinking about the age of masted ships, the uniqueness of sleeping onboard an old wooden vessel, waxing historical and philosophical  . . . . and listening to Mama snore gently, before she woke up, too.  Yep, Mama slept on the deck of a 19th-century masted ship!  It was the main reason she and Bud came on the overnight, to have this rare experience.  And she made the most of it by sleeping up top.  The high sides protected her from most of the wind and she had a mattress to cushion the hardness of the wooden deck.  She loved it.  We sat chatting as the sun rose, watching the sky change from black to blue to overcast gray.  It was supposed to rain.

Because of the threat of rain, our program leaders let us do our rigging climb first.  This is what most of the kids had been looking forward to.  They donned pelvic harnesses and then, one at a time, in a "code of silence," they scampered up the riggings to the first platform.  There were three gold bars strung across there, which were good luck if you touched them.  Both Sis and Bud made it up to the lucky bars.  And so did Mama!  I watched from below (and even that was hard.)


Mama even took a picture of the view on her way up!

After breakfast, the program was essentially done.  Most of the girls headed off with their parents, but some stayed around, like us, and wandered then now-open seaport.  We saw the exhibition on longitude, complete with replicas of Harrison's four machines.  We also saw the planetarium show on the night's sky.  We saw the baking demonstration in the Buckingham house.  And we showed the kids some of the pictures of them as babies and toddlers exploring the place.  We've been going to Mystic for years, even before they were born.

After lunch at the Galley restaurant and a quick detour to the shop, we headed home exhausted, exhilarated, and with lots of new stories to tell.

Fall Fun: A Mystical, Magical Weekend, Part I

What a weekend we had!  I'm going to post in two parts, as it is very dense with photos and texts and fun.

On Friday evening, our school hosted it's annual Halloween festivities, this year outside as "Trunk or Treat."  Various parents volunteer to decorate their cars and pass out candy; there are also games and a bake sale.  We were there right at opening time--Sis as Black Widow and Bud as Link  (from videogame Zelda)--because experience has taught us that the check-in line gets long quickly.  The kids had 30 tickets for visiting the cars (this prevents multiple visits and un-registered visitors) and some tickets for games and such.  And I let them go . . . . they wandered around the school parking lot with friends, while I wandered around with the other adults.  It was chilly but not the worst we've had (one year it was cold AND so windy that we lasted about 15 minutes, enough time for the kids to make one circuit.)  There were lots of cool costumes--'50s waitresses, (too many) zombies, Katniss, various witches and princesses, a cute Barney, a chunky mouse, My Little Pony.   It was a great way to kick off our Halloween season.  Only one more year of this--I'm going to miss it.

Saturday, through the afternoon:
After our usual kung fu and ice skating, we took off for annual visit to the faerie houses at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme (see 2014, 2013, 2012, 20112009.  We've gone every year (except when they took a hiatus for a scarecrow exhibition, 2010) since it began.  It's one of our favorite family traditions and permeates our fall and spring as we make our own faerie houses.  This year the theme was Whimsical Castles.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Merida's castle tower and standing stones, one of my favorites.

Hagrid's hut

Hobbit hole

Not a faerie house, obviously, just a colorful handprint on a tree from some other program.

As usual, I like doors and gateways, especially those set in trees.



And I preferred the more natural-looking houses to the ones made of painted plywood, found objects,  etc.  In fact, the bright green Oz and gold Thai palace, among others, seemed out of place.  


 As usual, the kids' favorite part was finding the hidden object in each castle--Merida's quiver (or was it her bow?), the Sword in the Stone, the little bear--some were much easier than others.  (But at least they were all there; one year, we looked and looked for a hidden object, only to learn later that i had been missing for days!)  It wasn't too crowded and the people there were friendly and well-behaved (one year, we kept coming across children who were touching and moving and even breaking things, without any hindrance from parents.  This drives me to distraction.)  It was another great faerie house year.

We had a little time before our dinner reservations so we took the kiddos to the Stonington Lighthouse Museum.  It's a mid-19th-century stone house light, with an easy 29-spiral step tower.  I think it was the kiddos first lighthouse climb!  And they really enjoyed the visit.  Besides the tower, we looked at the various exhibits, including the cistern uncovered below (visible through glass in the floor), antique doll's house, map of lights on Long Island Sound, and other local historical objects.    There was also a fourth-order Fresnel lens, like the one which would have been in the tower.  The kids were pretty amazed that the lighthouse keeper would've climbed the spiral steps and even gone out on the ledge around the light to clean the windows--it was high and narrow, without much of a rail.  Even though you can't even go out on the ledge anymore, I went downstairs before everyone else, a little nervous for the height.

After the museum, we headed for dinner in Mystic, to a seafood place on the river.   The view (nothing like fall colors and white houses lining the water, typical New England) was great, the food just as good.   We could even see the ship where we were having our Girl Scout overnight in the distance.  We supped on pumpkin soup, clam chowder, a seafood pasta, buttered fish, and oysters, with a delicious tres leche cake for dessert.  I was a little edgy--having been the person to organize the trip and the responsible person during the overnight--and kept checking the time (besides, I'm recognizing how anxious I am on a regular basis, but that's another post.)  I couldn't be late after I emailed the troop to be on time!  But we managed to finish dinner and even take a few pictures along the river before heading a few miles down the road to Mystic Seaport . . . .  and then it was time for the big part of our weekend to start.