Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Gift!

Wishing you and yours a joyful twelve days of Christmas and a happy new year!

May tonight also bring light in the darkness-- happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent All-Around

I'd say we're full of the holiday spirit now, with cheer arriving almost daily since our holiday/birthday weekend in Vermont.

(I'll note one downside:  the Snowy Owl died.  She (or perhaps a juvenile "he") was probably exhausted from her journey from the Arctic and in organ failure (making it easier to photograph her, alas), then she fell through the ice and, despite being taken to a rescue organization, died two days later.  I was very, very, very sad, as was Mama--and we decided not to tell the kids.  Enough death this year.  They got the lesson.  So, please don't mention this.  We've said the owl moved on so it's not here to be seen anymore.  I read today that there's one in Hartford.  Hopefully, it's heading south!)

Okay, back to the holiday spirit.

We're decorated (though, somewhat minimally this year), with presents wrapped and cookies baked, too.  We watched Bill Murray in Scrooged and the kids even made a small snowman in the weekend snowfall.  I did the grocery shopping today and finished my gift buying (I think.)  We're not doing a big meal, just gumbo and muffalettas, with Vermont cheeses, homemade (and cookie cafe) cookies, hot chocolate, maybe the NYTimes hot chocolate red wine (!), and perhaps a gingerbread bundt cake from King Arthur Flour.






  1. Go to Cookie Cafe (Dec.3)--DONE
  2. Set up Lego Christmas village--DONE
  3. My birthday celebration--DONE
  4. Holiday weekend away--DONE
  5. Office party--DONE
  6. Look for Snowy Owl--DONE
  7. Family game night (probably Animal Jam)--DONE (we played Tenzi, too)
  8. Decorate house--DONE
  9. Build gingerbread houses
  10. Host cookie party--TODAY
  11. Make holiday wreath--DONE (two, actually--one with boxwood and one with twinkle lights)
  12. Stay up late, a la Solstice Camp Out the night of last day of school
  13. Gifts for teachers, vet, coaches--DONE
  14. Create and send family Christmas card--halfway done (the cards were just ordered)
  15. Watch "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas" 
  16. Watch "It's a Wonderful Life!"
  17. Watch "Doctor Who" Christmas episode
  18. Christmas Eve service
  19. Drive around looking at lights
  20. Extra screentime--DONE
  21. STAR WARS!!!!!--DONE

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Owl and the Pussycat: A Tale of Two Animals

As you know, it is owling season for me here along the Connecticut coast, especially now since a Snowy was spotted nearby.  Last week, I went to a state park to look for the Snowy, walking up and down the boardwalk, checking the marshes where it had been photographed the day before.  No luck. And then I spotted a group of photographers in a distant parking lot, so I hightailed it across the beach, past a display of Kindness Rocks and several rock art formations ("Hi," "God," and a heart.)  There were four or five photographers and birders with binoculars, some standing on the bed of a pickup; they were all focused not on the beach but on the brush behind.

I whispered, "Good morning!  What are we looking at?  The Snowy?"

No, and they pointed into the brush.  It was an animal.  They were so excited.

I looked; I saw it.  "That animal at 11 o'clock?" I asked.  Yep.

"It's a bobcat," they said.

I raised my binoculars again and studied it again.  "Um, that's a marmalade tabby cat.  Not a bobcat."  They continued to stare, partly in disbelief, until one of the other photographers confirmed:  housecat.

I guess birders don't know bobcats.  I laughed all the way home.

I try not to get disappointed when I go looking, unsuccessfully, for the Snowy.  To paraphrase my dad, "A bad day birding is better than a good day doing chores and errands."  I try to think of it as a nice walk outside, but I can't help but be a little disappointed when I don't spot one, especially when it has been in the area.

And so, yesterday, when I saw that someone had posted about the Snowy being spotted that very morning, I headed out.  Mama was home with a head cold but decided to go with me.  And brought her camera.

I know you know from the pictures already posted how this turns out, but let me tell you the whole story.

We wandered for more than an hour.  First where the bird had been spotted; we checked with a gentleman who was also birding but he hadn't seen it.  Then we checked along the beaches, heading to the nearby point.  We talked to another birder there who hadn't seen Snowy either.  Sigh.  And so we decided to go home the way we came, via the marsh, for one last look.

That's when I saw her (probably her, or a juvenile, because of all the black flecks.)  By happenstance, I looked over the passenger's side at just the right moment and saw the owl on the ground.  Mama saw a blur and we rushed to find a place to turn around.  I figure I made more than a few moving violations, but there were few people around at midday.  We pulled up across from where I saw the owl and I encouraged Mama with the big camera to hop out; she insisted I get out, and so I did, running across the still-empty road.  And I just stood there, watching it.

The bird was about 20 feet away, on the ground in the brush near a canal--and a no trespassing sign!  It sat there--all thick and fluffy--just looking around, at me, at some of the passing cars, at who knows what.  I didn't want to stress or flush the owl, and so I didn't go any closer, stood still on my spot.  She was very white with many contrasting flecks.  Very puffy, too.  So still, except for moving her head (easily more than 180 degrees, but not the mythic 360) and squinting and then opening her eyes.

And before Mama could get back to our spot, the gentleman birder from the beach drove by!  He parked (illegally--I wasn't the only one making questionable maneuvers) and stood still watching and photographing, too.  We were just amazed at her beauty and quiet.

Mama returned and parked in front of him, deciding it was worth the cost of a parking ticket.  And then she took those gorgeous photos with her fancy camera.  The other birder left and Mama and I stayed to marvel.  The owl just kept her place.  And while we would have loved to stay until she flew off, we a). didn't want to scare her, b). had to get Mama to her doctor's appointment, and c). didn't want to cause traffic problems.

This is my favorite of Mama's photos.

I was in awe and joyful the rest of the day.  WE SAW A SNOWY OWL IN THE WILD!!!!  No binoculars necessary.  Complete luck.  I've been looking for a Snowy off and on for three years--and yes, we did see one last year (the kids and I) about 300 yards off in the marsh.  But this sighting was so much more amazing.  And I was glad Mama was with me (she hadn't seen it last year.)

Just a little bit of magic on a wintry day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Belated Advent

We're a little behind with our Advent Activities, though we have been slowly getting in the spirit of things.  We'll see what else we get to--here's a list to help me keep track.

  1. Go to Cookie Cafe (Dec.3)--DONE
  2. Set up Lego Christmas village--DONE
  3. My birthday celebration--DONE
  4. Holiday weekend away--DONE
  5. Office party--DONE
  6. Look for Snowy Owl--DONE
  7. Family game night (probably Animal Jam)--DONE (we played Tenzi, too)
  8. Decorate house--DONE, halfway
  9. Build gingerbread houses
  10. Host cookie party (Dec. 21)
  11. Make holiday wreath
  12. Stay up late, a la Solstice Camp Out the night of last day of school
  13. Gifts for teachers, vet, coaches
  14. Create and send family Christmas card
  15. Watch "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas"
  16. Watch "It's a Wonderful Life!"
  17. Watch "Doctor Who" Christmas episode
  18. Christmas Eve service
  19. Drive around looking at lights
  20. Extra screentime
  21. STAR WARS!!!!! (Dec. 16)

SNOWY OWL!!!!!!













Photos by Mama.  Story soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Birthday Weekend in Vermont

Having enjoyed Vermont so much this fall, we decided to visit again, this time in winter and, after the events of the last few weeks--deaths and politics--it was good for us to get away for a holiday weekend (I'm sorry we missed you this time, Sew and Sow.)  And it was marvelous!  Here are a few snapshots outlining the fun.




Our first stop in Vermont was the Vermont Country Store.  It's a rest stop, snack place, and souvenir shop.  We started our holiday shopping, picking up things for each other and friends and family.  We did not buy the hat that Bud models here!

A lovely tree with cookie ornaments
Next up:  King Arthur Flour.  Last time, we arrived very late in the day, when the bakery was almost completely empty of its goodies.  So we made an effort to arrive midday.  Oh, so good.  We had lunch--tasty grilled cheese, delicious homemade kaiser rolls, chocolate croissants, cardamom roll, and my favorite almond cloud cookies.  I liked the quote on the wall near the cafe, "All sorrows are less with bread" (Cervantes.)  And of course we did some shopping.  Sis was so excited to pick up boxes of cinnamon puff muffin mix, her new favorite.  And I got some unique mixes--Portuguese sweet rolls, Scottish oat bread, orange cranberry brioche. It was a tasty way to begin the weekend.

Another stop we made on the way was the Vermont Toy and Train Museum in Quechee.  There we wandered amid the displays of toys from our childhoods--Cher doll, Luke and Leia dolls, Donnie and Marie dolls, Holly Hobby dolls, various lunchboxes including Holly Hobby, Happy Meal toys, bubble bath dispenses, boxed Halloween costumes with plastic masks, Fisher Price Little People.  And there was a great model train through the Vermont countryside in summer, fall, and winter.


In the same complex, there were various shops, including an antiques store, with old photos ("instant ancestors"), tools, tea sets, food tins.  Fun to wander with the kids.

And then we arrived in Woodstock, considered one of the most picturesque towns in the country.  With holiday decorations, snow, early American houses, a preserved downtown including old dry goods store and pharmacy and unique shops, covered bridge, nearby river, and the surrounding mountains, it really is a great little place.  And we were staying at the Woodstock Inn, a venerable hotel sitting back from the town green.  (Lambeth, the kids said it was second only to the Lainston as their favorite place to stay!)

In our room were two treats--chocolate-covered strawberries and a notice that we would be riding in the town's Wassail parade, on the hotel's own wagon, both arranged by Mama and the concierge for my birthday!!!!  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  It made for the perfect weekend.

But before the parade Saturday afternoon, we spent Saturday morning wandering the town, listening to the high school band play carols, and visiting the Dana House and the historical society with its displays on Christmas past.  (This was after breakfast, when we discovered our waitress grew up in the town we live in and her cousin owns the deli near our pediatrician's office.  Small world.)  Sis and Bud even ran down to the river behind the house, enjoying the snow (which we haven't really had in Connecticut.)

The parade!!  Mama had given me a heads-up about it, actually, first to see if I were interested and second so that I could pick a festive outfit.  As the theme was Victorian, I wore one of my long historic house skirts and my lovely blue wool cloak from Gommie, under which were layers of sweaters, leggings, extra skirts, and warm socks--because the morning temperature had been 3F!!  We all got a ride to the staging area where Sis was in her element around all of the horses.  Across from us was the donkey brigade which we just read about in the morning's paper (the group helps youth and adults with developmental disabilities who take care of the miniature donkeys.)  The little donkeys wear stuffed animals on their backs and pull small carts, led by their handlers.

And then we got on our wagon, wearing matching plaid fleece scarves supplied by the hotel.  The festooned wagon was led by two humongous Belgian draft horses.  We rode along with another family and an older couple, singing "Rudolph," "Jingle Bells," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!" and waving to the crowds (over 2,000 cheering people!)  It really was wonderful to see all the holiday cheer.  And I liked seeing the old town from the wagon, which put me back in the 19th century.  Though, it was pretty cold.






After the parade, we warmed up by the fire at the hotel with hot chocolate (and Bailey's!)  At 4pm, we went to look at the town tree, Yule bonfire, and luminaries as the sun set.  Dinner was the Wassail Feast at the hotel, with a variety of dishes such as prime rib, sliced salmon, Yorkshire Pudding, pumpkin bread pudding, buche de noel, and trifle.  Mama and I made Yard of Flannel--hot apple cider and rum-whipped cream--and sat by the fire.



That evening we sat in the room, warming up from the day.  I worked on my crocheted birthday blanket, in Lion Brand Thick and Quick Celestial Stripes.  The kids made Rainbow Loom bands and played with their light-up wheelie bopper toys from the Vermont Country Store.  (It was a no-screen weekend.)


Sunday, though it was cold again, we went to Billings Farm--with its draft horses, decorated farmhouse, and craft activities.  The kids dipped their own candles and then Bud made a pomander with cloves and a clementine.  Sis was enamored with the white Percheron draft horses and some more Belgians.  And I liked the snow, the barns, and the warm kitchen with apple pie and roasted pumpkins.


  

On our way home, we ate at delicious Worthy Kitchen (poutine!  fried chicken!  pickled pineapple!)  and then moseyed our way home.  We did stop at the lake we'd visited with my folks in October--it was completely frozen and snow-covered.  I did a 20-yard hike into the woods and watched Sis poked the ice with her toes.   









We got home after dark, with snow falling gently on our town, the last little treat of the weekend.

My favorite photo, from town (actually taken from the car as we drove by.)



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

There was one uncomfortable thing that happened repeatedly in Vermont:  there were a lot of questions about our family, race- and/or gender-based.  From the woman at King Arthur Flour who thanked me for having a big heart and adopting Sis, to a white woman who said hi to Mama in Mandarin and was surprised she didn't speak Chinese, to the six or seven people (and I'm not exaggerating here) who mistook Mama for a boy/my son, Sis for a boy, and Bud for a girl.  Never have so many assumptions been spoken to us aloud by so many in such a short time.  It was rather disconcerting.  We've had less trouble in rural Texas, for goodness sake.  Come on, Vermont, what's with that?  (And no, it wasn't just the tourists from elsewhere.)
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas Baking


It was our annual holiday party for volunteers at the historic house, with delicious food and friendly faces.  So I made a cake!

As a little girl, I remember our family getting boozy cakes in a box--rum and amaretto, I think--tender, moist, strong, small.  They might have come from Foley's.  I loved getting a little piece of them.  I haven't had a boozy cake in decades.

So when I saw this recipe in Taste of Home AND needed something to take to the party, I chose this cake.  And it was delicious, even though I rushed the glazing--I baked it this morning, kept it in the pan, poured half of the glaze on the cake about 20 minutes after it was out of the oven, and then took the cake out of the pan an hour later and glazed the top.  Yum!

I can't wait to try it with Amaretto and perhaps almonds.


Rawhide's Whiskey Cake from Taste of Home1 package spice cake mix with pudding (regular size)
1 package (3.40 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup canola oil (I used grapeseed oil)
3/4 cup whiskey (I used bourbon)
4 large eggs
1-1/3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, divided 

GLAZE:
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup whiskey

Preheat oven to 300°. Grease and flour a 10-in. tube pan.
Combine the first six ingredients; beat on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes; fold in 1 cup nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 60-65 minutes. Cool in pan.
For glaze, mix all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. Cool 3 minutes. Pour one-third of glaze over top of cake, allowing some to flow over sides. Let stand 1 hour. Remove from pan to cool completely; cover.
The next day, reheat glaze; brush half over cake, cooling before covering. Repeat the following day, using remaining glaze. 

Yield: 16 servings.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rest in Peace

My gentle cousin John, son of my beloved Aunt Sis and Uncle Sis (who himself died a week or so ago), has died.  I hadn't seen him in years, mainly because he was a monk in France.  But I have been hearing stories about him all my life.  He is almost a mythic figure, because . . . .


  • As a teenager, he kept a huge Python in bathtub.  For years.  I think he finally gave it to a zoo.
  • He was 6'7" and blond, with a tan and easy smile, and that long thin nose and high forehead from my dad's side of the family
  • In high school, he took Latin-- our grandad, who valued learning but didn't have much schooling, was so proud
  • He could juggle--balls, pins, who knows what all.  And he taught me.  He would juggle with friends in Breckenridge Park on weekends and my aunt would take me to watch.

  • I think he played basketball for his high school team (I seem to recall there was a photo in a local paper.)
  • He had a soft voice and laugh and would say "now, now" just like his mom.
  • I saw him most during the years I spent in San Antonio for counseling at summer camp and then school.  He even drove me home from camp one year and we had a wonderful conversation.
  • He went to Pepperdine and illustrated the cover of the college magazine.  It was a play between a photograph and a drawing, with an easel on it.  His parents were so proud.
  • After college, he worked as a construction worker in SF for awhile.
  • Then he apparently rode the rails (illegally) across the US a few times, like a true hobo.
  • At some point, he took classical sculpting from a teacher in Italy and sent home a beautiful bust of a woman, which his mom prominently displayed.
  • When I was in NYC, he stayed with me for a few weeks, sleeping on my floor (he didn't really fit in beds anyway, having to move the mattress down the frame and supplementing with pillows.)  I remember him as fairly austere.  He ate only Cream of Wheat, didn't like recorded music or even photographs because they weren't "real."  There's a photo of us from this time, but I can't find it.
  • While in NYC, he was sculpting at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, having gotten the connection from his Italian teacher.
  • Later, he lived in a basic hut (no power or running water) on the moors of Scotland; his parents visited him there.
  • And then he met up with a Pepperdine friend at a monastery in France.  He became Catholic.  He learned French.  He took vows and became a monk.
  • As a monk, he traveled both to Egypt and to the Czech Republic doing the work of his monastery.  He also helped with the online end of the monastery's retail business.  They made jams and I think even wine.
  • He also got a degree in paleo-calligraphy--the art of ancient documents--from the Sorbonne.  His handwriting was beautiful like his mother's, but more flowing.
  • He wore Teva sandals because he couldn't fit into the regular monk shoes; his mom would ship them from Texas.
  • Before he took final vows, he came back to US to think things over.  And he even did some bartending with his brother for awhile.  
  • I think this was the last time I saw him, at his parents' home on that trip.  
  • We exchanged letters and emails only very occasionally--when I came out, when Mama and I had twins, when his mom was ill and then when she died.  We only discussed religion once or twice--when John Paul II died and I sent condolences and he said, as a monk, he wasn't that concerned with the politics of the church.  And when I told him about being a Unitarian, he said I should give the Trinity a try. Through his monk-friend I sent him our goodbyes.
Just a few years older than me.

You are remembered well, cousin.

Friday, December 2, 2016

R&R

Haircuts. Horseback riding.  Kung fu.  Parent-teacher conferences.  Piano lessons.  Crochet. Office holiday party.  Hospice visit.  It's been a pretty regular week around here.  And it's lined up to be a pretty standard weekend.  More kung fu.  Zentangle.  Speedskating.  Church.  Maybe a hike.

We're hanging in.  We miss our cat Mojito.  We mourn my uncle.  I wait to hear that my cousin has died.  I liked the rain, but it's nice to see the sun, too.  There doesn't seem to be real winter, much less snow, in sight.

Meanwhile, it's not long until my birthday and then on to Christmas and my parents' visit.  We'll do our usual cookie party for the kids, maybe do the sock advent calendar (though clearly we're behind--it just doesn't feel like December yet.), keep working on the Christmas Lego village, do some local holiday activities, decorate the house and tree.  I haven't managed to do the Christmas cards yet; not sure I'll get to it.

We're not quite joyful yet, but we're hanging in.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Taking a Hike

After gorging on Thanksgiving, we lazed around the house all of Friday.  I'm not sure any of us got out of our jammies.

On Saturday we were similarly lazy, in that we caught a double feature at the theater with the recliners.  We saw Fantastic Beasts again (and noticed more than the first time) and then Moana, with its catchy Lin-Manuel Miranda songs, lovely (and historically accurate, even) Oceanic setting and details, and the young-woman-finds-herself-and-triumphs-over-adversity Disney (not-a) princess story.

We finally got out and moving on Sunday, a warmer and somewhat sunnier day.  We went for a hike.  We're really becoming a little hiking family.  We had our snacks, water, walking sticks, and I had my new little sling bag for carrying things.  And we each "hiked our own hike," a phrase I picked up in Bryson's Appalachian Trail tale, A Walk in the Woods.  Mama and Sis did some whittling on pieces of cedar that they picked up.  Bud alternately used his walking stick from Pop as a kung fu spear and broad sword.  And I, ever the historian, thought of the Native American and then settlers' use of the land as it appeared in toolmaking sites, charcoal kilns, rock quarries, and stone walls (I even thought about the prehistoric creation of those stones millions of years ago.)

And now it's Monday and we're back in the swing of things.  Mama is at work, kids at school, and I have chores and a hospice visit.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Ate Dessert First

It was an unusual Thanksgiving for us, though we had pretty the same guests and menu.  Our goal was a relaxing, low-stress holiday with more time for connection.  To accomplish, since I do all the cooking (and that won't change), this year we changed the menu somewhat--fewer dishes and not everything made from scratch. (Sure, my heart hurt a bit to forego seasonal, fresh, and even organic for this celebration of food and family, but, when I did do all that, I could rarely even enjoy it.) Gone were three kinds of homemade cranberry sauces in favor of that jelled can that holds its cylindrical shape.  Gone was the homemade mushroom cream sauce for the fresh green bean casserole in favor of, gasp, cans of condensed soup and green beans.  The extra sides--brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash, spinach salad, broccoli rice casserole, lime jello salad, whatever--were banished.  So were the three pies usually made by me (pecan, pumpkin, apple); I made a cake instead and bought the pies from the special pie shop.  And we only had two appetizers--Texas Trash and cheese dip.  The turkey (made using the new NYTimes splaying method with dry rub), gravy, rolls, yams, and dressing remained the same.

And you know what? I got to sit and enjoy the parade!  We watched and chatted and laughed and didn't worry about the cooking.  I drank coffee and ate orange biscuits with the family and my in-laws.  It beat running back and forth, checking the schedule for everything and not being fully present.

When my brother-in-law arrived after the parade, we broke out lunch.  See, second big change:  we were having our big meal late in the day, closer to 5 pm than the usual 1 pm.  This gave us more time to relax and connect, which was more important to me this year than others, with the loss of our dear Mo and my uncle and the illness of my cousin and the loss of the election and just all the shit in the world (DAPL, Flint, Syria, the need for Black Lives Matter, both the inspiring and the depressing stories of women and liberals on Pantsuit Nation, everything I'm not even mentioning, etc) . . .  But we needed to eat so . . . .

Big change number three:  we ate dessert first!  Yep, we had coconut snickerdoodles and pumpkin bread made by Goo, along with my glazed orange-cranberry bundt cake, Sis's Swedish apple pie, and several little store-bought pies.  Plus there were the appetizers and some cold Szechuan dishes Mama picked up for savories (noodles and beef.)  It was fun to sample everything without being stuffed from turkey etc.  My cake was delicious, as was Sis's own Swedish apple pie.  And I liked Goo's coconut snickerdoodles.  And we all had fun sampling the various nut, cream, and seasonal pies.  (Sis likes the lemon chess best.  I like that and the coconut cream and also chocolate peanut butter.  Tomorrow we eat the key lime!  They're small, like a store-bough chicken pot pie.)

Then the cooking started. But--change #4--I didn't do most of it.  Mama and Bud made his oyster dressing.  Bud and Goo made the green bean casserole.  Sis and Goo made the yams.  I had made the rolls and the regular dressing.  Mama, as usual, made the turkey.  And Sis made the gravy all by herself.

And it was delicious!  Best gravy ever.  It was all delicious.  And I could enjoy it much better.  I think we all did.  And not only because there weren't many leftovers.  Everybody said they liked the late meal because they weren't trying to cook while socializing or later socializing through a food coma. The kids and their uncle also liked dessert first.  I did, too.  Who can enjoy pie after turkey?  The only downside with the late meal was that my in-laws left pretty much right after we ate, but Goo hung out with us playing games and such.  We always have a good laugh.

And then it was pretty much bedtime.  A lovely day, for which I am thankful.

Especially for dessert first.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Food for Thankfulness

I'm getting into the Thanksgiving mood.  I did the big grocery trip today, though of course I've discovered that I'll need to do a little one tomorrow.  I always forget something.

We're going with a small-for-us meal, compared to my usual numerous sides, several pies, a few cranberry sauces, and a couple of appetizers.  Mama's family will come, just for the day.

We're experimenting with having dinner later in the day, closer to 4+ pm, instead of closer to 1 pm--we're hoping this gives us more time to relax, watch the parade together, do an activity (Mama found a fairy lights jar to make.)  If we get hungry--or if cooking takes too long--we'll eat dessert first!  The kids were particularly excited about this.

And we'll do our thankful-tree again, too (because they like writing on leaves way more than saying what they're thankful for aloud.)

  • Bud's request--"Fancy" Velveeta Cheese Dip (that's the one with ground beef and sometimes sausage)
  • "Texas Trash" aka Chex Mix
  • Candied and spiced nuts from Mama's co-workers
  • Turkey (perhaps a new "splayed" recipe)
  • Gravy
  • Dressing
  • Bud's oyster dressing
  • Cranberry sauces, jellied and also whole berry (from cans!)
  • Green Bean Casserole (not from scratch)
  • Sweet Potatoes with marshmallows
  • Rolls, homemade
  • Collard greens (maybe, our favorite Sylvia's brand)
  • Swedish Apple Pie
  • Orange-Cranberry Cake
  • Pumpkin ice cream



Trash
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (double, at least)
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
¾  teaspoon garlic powder
½  teaspoon onion powder


1.         In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
2.         Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.
Oven Directions Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Chex website


"Fancy" Cheese Dip
1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs. Velveeta
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 teaspoon garlic power
1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

            Brown meats and onion.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until onion is tender and cheese melts.  Serve warm with corn chips.


Gommie Hungry


Gravy
Be patient and really let that roux brown!
Heat 4 tablespoons grease. Add 4 tablespoons of flour. Brown til copper-colored. Stir in 4 cups drippings. Add chicken bouillon and salt and pepper to taste.

Mom


Dressing

½ cup margarine
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 bag of stuffing
2 cups dry bread (or 2 more cups of Pepperidge Farms)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon sage
1 cup chicken stock (double this amount!)

Saute onion and celery in margarine. In mixing bowl, crumble breads and add spices and onion/celery mix. Add chicken stock. Refrigerate over night. Bake at 350°F for 45 min.-1 hour.

Mom




Yams

29 oz. can yams, drained
4 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
orange juice

Bake at 375°F. Add marshmallows to brown.

Mom

Green Bean Casserole
2-16 oz. cans whole green beans, drained (can also use frozen)
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
½ cup milk
Dash pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1-2.8 oz. can of French-Fried Onions

Combine soup, milk, soy sauce and pepper. Stir in green beans and ½ can of onions. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until hot; stir. Top with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes.


Big-Batch Quick Dinner Rolls
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 cups warm milk ( 100 - 110°F)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons yeast, instant preferred
6 to 7 cups KA all-purpose flour


I put everything in my bread machine (using 5 cups of flour and then adding 1 1/2 more as needed).  I let it knead and then rise about 30+ minutes (i.e. not the whole cycle).  And then removed the dough, made a 12 x 8" rectangle, divided it into 4 rows with 6 rolls each, rolled them into balls, and placed them into greased aluminum pie tins. Allow to rise 10 minutes.  Then I covered them tightly and put them in the freezer.  I'll defrost overnight.  In the morning, I'll preheat to 350F and bake 20-25 minutes until golden.  Yum!

adapted from King Arthur Flour


Miss B's Swedish Apple Pie

3-5 apples, peeled and sliced (any kind or a mix)
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 cup works, too)
1 cup flour (AP or whole wheat; haven't tried with GF but think it could work)
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional; we've also added Craisins or raisins)

Fill a greased 9' pie plate 2/3 full of apple slices. Sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.


Combine remaining ingredients into batter and pour over apples. 

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

N.B.  We have also added 1/2 cup or more of oats to the batter, to make it more like a crisp; use the full amount of butter in that case.

Miss B from playgroup




Splayed Turkey from the NYTimes



1 12-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed and saved for stock
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch lemon thyme or regular thyme
10 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
Dry white wine, as needed, for the pan
1 large onion, halved and sliced 3/4-inch thick (not thinner, or slices may burn)


Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin that connects legs to the breast on both sides of the turkey. 

Press down on thighs until they pop out of the sockets and the legs lie flat.

In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper and lemon zest. Smear mixture all over turkey, including inside the cavity. Pat herb sprigs and garlic all over bird. Stuff bay leaves into cavity. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight or for up to 2 nights.

Remove turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to roast it. Remove all but the top rack from the oven. (You can remove that, too, but if you leave it in, you’ll be able to roast something else at the same time as the turkey.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Take all the herb sprigs and garlic cloves off the surface of the turkey and stuff them into the cavity.

Place a large, empty heavy-duty roasting pan on top of the stove, across two burners if possible. Heat up the pan for a minute or so, until the pan is quite hot. Add the oil, let it heat up for a few seconds, then add the turkey, breast side up, so the legs are parallel to the short sides of the pan and have room to flop open. Press down on the splayed legs so they touch the bottom of the pan. Let turkey sear for 5 minutes, pressing down on the legs occasionally.

Pour enough wine into the bottom of the pan to reach a depth of 1/8 inch. Scatter onions around turkey and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Drizzle turkey and onions with a little oil.

Transfer pan to oven, setting it directly on the oven floor (not on a rack). If you have an electric oven, position the rack at the lowest possible position. Top with a pizza stone, if you have one. Place turkey in its roasting pan on the rack and cook as directed. Roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees, give the onions a stir, and if the bottom of the pan is dry, add a splash of wine to moisten the onions. (As the turkey continues to cook, occasionally check the onions to make sure they don’t dry out or they may burn, adding wine as needed.) Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) reads 165 degrees and the breast meat reaches at least 160 degrees, about another 40 to 65 minutes depending upon your oven and the pan you use. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.


  1. Orange-Cranberry Glazed Cake from the NYTimes

    1 cup/226 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature (or use 1 cup/236 milliliters coconut oil)
    3 cups/360 grams all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    1 ½ cups/297 grams granulated sugar
    4 large eggs (3 whole and 1 separated)
    2 medium to large navel oranges
    1 ¼ cups/160 grams dried cranberries
    ¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
    3 to 3 ½ cups/340 to 397 grams confectioners’ sugar 
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a Bundt pan or ring mold with a little of the butter and flour.
    Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until well blended. Add the 3 whole eggs, the yolk and half the egg white. (Reserve the rest of the white for the glaze.)
  4. Zest the oranges, then juice them, adding both the zest and 3/4 cup/177 milliliters juice to the batter and mix to incorporate. (Reserve remaining juice for the glaze.)
  5. Add flour mixture to the mixer and beat until well combined. Stir in 1 cup/128 grams dried cranberries. Pour batter into the cake pan, shaking the pan so the batter firmly settles and there are no air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
    While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze: Mix the remaining half an egg white with lemon juice and 1/4 cup/59 milliliters orange juice. Gradually beat in 3 cups/340 grams confectioners’ sugar, mixing until all the lumps have disappeared and the glaze is thick and smooth, adding more sugar if needed.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Insert a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen it, put a rack on top of the pan, and flip the cake onto the rack. Set the rack on top of a plate, then spoon on the glaze when the cake is still warm, scooping up any glaze that drips onto the plate and using it to reglaze the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and decorate with remaining cranberries before the glaze sets.

LUCY BUFFET'S OYSTER DRESSING--we usually just add oysters, parsley, lemon juice, bell pepper to my cornbread dressing
12 tablespoons/1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided, plus more for baking dish
1 (8-inch-square) baked and cooledcornbread, preferably on the sweet side
15 slices white or wheat bread, toasted and cooled
½ large white onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
½ large green bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
2 dozen freshly shucked or jarredoysters, preferably Gulf oysters, drained and coarsely chopped (reserve the oyster liquor)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot sauce, preferably Crystal
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon ground sage
1 ½ teaspoons truffle salt or sea salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by 13-inch baking dish.

Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. Tear toasted white or wheat bread into very small pieces, add to cornbread, and toss to combine

Melt 8 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and bell pepper; sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are almost translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove cover, add broth, and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to cook mixture for 1 more minute, then remove from heat, add to bread mixture, and stir to combine.
In a medium bowl, stir together oysters, lemon juice, hot sauce, parsley, sage, salt and white pepper. Add to bread mixture and stir well to combine. If dressing seems too dry, add a little oyster liquor and up to 1/2 cup more chicken broth; mixture should be very moist.
Pour dressing into greased baking dish. Cut remaining 4 tablespoons butter into small pieces and scatter over top of dressing. Bake until top and sides are browned, 40 to 45 minutes.
from NYTImes

Monday, November 21, 2016

Coming Un-Stuck

Kind words from friends and our minister at church yesterday.

Some food from Mama's coworkers, a card from a friend in Vermont.

A walk in the woods . . . with ducks.  And Mama.

Seeing an accipiter overhead this morning (not sure if it was a Cooper's Hawk or a Peregrine, which I know aren't that close, but it was high and directly overhead so hard to spot with my binoculars.)

A big drop in temperature and some flurries at the bus stop.

And Sis went to school--her fever has been gone since Thursday and she feels better.

Doing some of the chores on my list--laundry, the beginning of Thanksgiving shopping, some emails, straightening the house.

I don't feel as cynical and sarcastic as I did yesterday, not quite as grumpy, or as close to despair (I've been sad but I wouldn't say despairing--definitely pessimistic.)  I was exhausted this weekend, with long naps, but today I wasn't as wiped.

I even picked up sweet Mojito's ashes, in a black urn with silver paw prints.  It came with an impression of his little paw.  The whole box weighed more than he did!  I cried some, but that's okay.

Just 1 1/2 school days 'til Thanksgiving.

I'm grateful.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Stuck

Thanksgiving is next week and, while I know I have so much to be grateful for, I'm just not feeling it yet.  I'm irksome.  I'm rather disillusioned and disgusted with the whole shebang right now.  I can barely get through my FB feed.  Or the newspaper.  (Though, as a side note, I'm loving all the mischievous  Biden memes.) All the talk of coming together and love on FB is annoying me.  "Love always wins"--yeah, except, you know, the election.  Sometime shit does actually happen and I think we do ourselves a disservice to pretend otherwise.  Random acts of kindness do not erase the real effects of racism, sexism, intolerance, violence, income inequality, environmental collapse, and the like.  For now, I feel like they are pablum to make us feel better that we're not doing more.  And frankly, they make liberal white women (because that's where it seems to be coming from) look silly.  Now, I'm not saying go be an asshole like the President-Elect.  And buying a stranger's cup of coffee is good.  And I do like the safety pin movement because, as a lesbian with biracial children, I appreciate knowing who would support me in the event of conflict.  But I'm looking for a little more practicality and realism than "love."  Especially because that is NOT the game the other team is playing.

I've given this some thought ever since I read an article about why Martin Luther King, Jr and later Barack Obama both looked at Unitarian Universalism and rejected it--its embrace of inherent worth and the search for truth and justice was too positive and didn't address the real losses and real suffering of many communities, particularly African American, both urban and Southern.  The UU focus on the goodness of humans can leave followers at a loss when faced with people who behave dishonestly, selfishly, immorally, violently, illegally, etc.  There have been discussions of why UU kids have trouble when they realize not everyone believes in inherent worth, the interdependent web, and acknowledging the importance of various sources of knowledge, etc.   I think it might be the reason so many UUs now embrace Buddhism--myself included--because it acknowledges suffering and how to address it skillfully.  I think that's one of the reasons I'm frustrated with all the "stronger together" talk now.  I'm sure I'll find a middle ground.

Still, I haven't decided what I want to do about it all.

Well, I have--I'm planning my Thanksgiving menu.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Square Dancing




I've been doing a lot of crocheting in the last few weeks, with the election, loss, illness, and even just having some free time and a new tv show that I like ("Arrow," another superhero.)  Anyway, one of my projects was a king-sized rainbow granny square afghan using up my leftover yarn and some of my favorite colors of Lion Brand Homespun.   By the time it was done, it was so heavy that I had to finish the edging with the blanket on the bed!  It came out well and feels so soft.  I actually like it rumpled more than "made."  The cats like it either way.


Giant Rainbow Granny Square Afghan with Lion Brand Homespun
 This was my blanket du jour for most of 2015.  I gave several away and donated some as raffles to the historic house, including the one on the right.   
adapted from Knitterly Arts

I've removed the ch 1 sp between side sets of 3 dcs.
Rnd 1: Ch 4, join with sl st to first ch made to form ring. Ch 5 (counts as 1 dc + 2 chs),
*work 3 dc in ring, ch 2, rep from *twice more, work 2 dc in ring; join with a sl st to 
3rd ch of beg ch-5. (four ch-2 corners) DO NOT TURN WORK.

Rnd 2: Ch 1, sl st into next ch-2 sp, ch 5, work 3 dc in this ch-2 sp, *ch 1
(3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in next ch-2 sp, rep from * twice more, work 2 dc in final ch-2 
sp (which is right beside the beg ch-5); join with sl st to 3rd ch of beg ch-5.

Rnd 3: Ch 1, sl st into next ch-2 sp, ch 5, work 3 dc in this ch-2 sp, *work 3dc in 
next sp (side), work (3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in next ch-2 sp (corner), rep from * 
twice more, work 3 dc in next sp (side), work 2 dc in final ch-2 sp 
(which is right beside the beg ch-5); join with sl st to 3rd ch of beg ch-5. 

*Continue working rounds like Rnd 3 until afghan reaches desired size.  Edge as desired.
  1. Cherry Blossom (pink variegated)
  2. Cotton Candy (solid pink)
  3. Cherry Blossom (pink and purple with white)
  4. Solid hot pink (Tulips or Peony?)
  5. Ambrosia (hot pink and purple)
  6. Corinthian (multicolored variegated with orange highlights)
  7. Sierra (orange and brown with white)
  8.  Golden (solid yellow)
  9. Fiesta (green, yellow, red)
  10. Herb garden (darker green)
  11. Windsor (light blue)
  12. (browns and blues--Pueblo?)
  13.  Colonial (dark blue)
  14. Celestial Stripes (dark purples and green)
  15. Gothic (deep purple)
  16. Mixed Berries (purple, hot pink, and white)
  17. Tudor (white and multi-colored)
  18. Wisteria (pinks and purples)
  19. Great Plains (reds)
  20. Ambrosia (hot pinks and purple)
  21. Cherry blossom (pink and purple and white)
  22. Parfait (pinks, whites, and creams)
  23. Cotton Candy (solid pink)
  24. Mimosa (pinks, oranges, blues, purples, white)
  25. Coral Reef (pinks, oranges, purples)
  26. Sierra (orange and brown with white)
  27. Golden (solid yellow)
  28. Quartz (beige with greens, pinks, purple)
  29. Sundae Stripes (pink, green)?
  30. Forest (green)
  31. Lagoon (Blue/green)
  32. Ocean (Blue, green, white)
  33. Delft (blue, white)
  34. Blue Mountain (blue, dark gray)
  35. Purple Aster (light purple)
  36. Barrington (purple)
  37. Baroque (purple)
  38. Vineyard (purples, yellow, green, reds)
  39. Gothic (deep purple)