Saturday, February 27, 2016

Smooth Sailing

I'm not sure what compelled me, except perhaps a sense of curiosity, but I made yogurt from scratch this week.  There had been an article in the NYTimes which spurred my interest and so I got the ingredients and got to work Thursday night (there were even reader tips to help out.)  It really is a little like magic--heat some milk (tip:  rub ice on the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching), add a little plain yogurt, keep it warm a long time (tip: turn on oven to 200 for 2 minutes, turn off, leave yogurt there wrapped in towel with oven light on), and then chill it.  Voila!  Some of the freshest, tangiest, smoothest yogurt I have ever had.  It's perfect with honey or jam, or just plain if you like tart yogurt.  Mine is even lactose-free, with lactose-free milk and yogurt to start.

And it was perfect timing:  Mama had a wisdom tooth removed on Friday.  The procedure went well--easier than she expected and had been lead to believe by well-meaning friends with horror stories.  But she can't exactly chew.  And the yogurt has been perfect!  In less than a day, we have eaten almost 8 cups of it.

I doubt we'll eat that much every day, but I know I'll be making this again.

Oh, and the Tooth Fairy brought Mama an extra-special treat, the Lego Death Star kit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Coconut Comfort

We were craving something sweet last night, but it was too late to bake or even contemplate messing up the kitchen that much.  But as I was cleaning up after dinner--and about to toss the dried, days-old cooked rice--I realized we could make cooked rice pudding.  Most of my recipes start with raw rice and plain milk, but I was craving something like the sticky rice Ma makes to go with mangoes, and I found the recipe below.

Sis, Mama, and I took turns stirring the pot and finally we ate our reward:  sweet, creamy, coconutty, warm goodness.  

It's great cold, too--as Sis found out for breakfast.

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


Coconut Rice Pudding
3 cups cooked rice (we had cooked Jasmine rice--I think any kind would work)
6 cups whole milk (I think we had 2% lactose free and it worked just fine)
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, well-stirred
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we didn't even use this)

Combine all ingredients (except vanilla) in heavy duty saucepan and simmer for about 40 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Eat warm or cold


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

So Much for Normal

Remember how I thought last week we were getting back to our normal schedule?

Well, Sis was sick on Friday.  Both kids missed yesterday.

And now it's an early dismissal because of the possibility of sleet, snow, or just rain.

Maybe they'll go to school a full day tomorrow.  I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, February 22, 2016

OWL!!!!!

The kids were home sick today, more a result of being out late at Lincoln Center than actual full illness.  Sis's fever hasn't come back and Bud didn't have one, but both were listless with no appetite. By mid-afternoon, though, they had perked up and so I made them an offer:  come owling with me on the last nice day til the weekend and I will buy us lunch out.  Always game for take out, they agreed.

See, the snowy owl has been spotted in town again, even by very amateur or casual birders, not just the very dedicated ones.  And I wanted to try my hand at seeing him (most reports are that it's a male) before the rain drove him away.

So we headed down to the right beach, and even as we drove I swore I saw an owl fly over a few houses, the big chunky white body (compared to a gull), the distinctive flight.  I almost had a one-person car accident trying to keep my eye on the owl.  We circled the area a few times but gave up--probably sitting on someone's back deck somewhere (as it apparently has done before.)

Then we went to the beach and immediately noted a huddle of birders down on the edge of the marsh, with their binoculars and scopes on tripods.  We walked over and, sure enough, they had a snowy owl in their sights.  They pointed to a tiny bump on a log--albeit a very white bump--some 200 or 300 yards away.  How could they know it wasn't a plastic bag?  They let us look through the lens and sure enough:

SNOWY OWL!!!!!

There it was, right there, on a log, facing us full forward (not in the usual over-the-shoulder or side pose), with its oh-so-white body and some black specks.  Occasionally it would preen, cleaning around its left wing, but then it would go back to sitting stock still.  Like a white bump on a log.   Beautiful, just beautiful.

I couldn't believe it.

SNOWY OWL!!!!

And if the birders hadn't been there with their 20x scope, we would never have noticed it, perhaps even with our 8x binoculars (though, we could see it just enough with ours, once we found it.  Thanks for those, Pop!)  The kids were as jazzed as I was.  And so grateful to the birders for pointing him out and sharing the view.  If we'd arrived just 10 minutes later, we would have missed it completely.

They say there are 2 owls in the area and they've even been coming closer to the shore.  Some casual amateur birders--not intense ones like these who follow listserv updates on bird whereabouts--have even come across the owls very close up.

We stayed around a little while longer, marveling at our good fortune.  Perhaps hoping a bit that he take flight right towards us.  But no, he kept sitting on his log, safe in the confines of the marsh.  Such a beautiful bird.

And now we've seen one in the wild.

I think it just makes me want to see him again.

Can you see it?  It's right there!  Can't even see the white speck in the photo, but we could see it.


(For a sense of what he looked like, check out this Getty stock image, which is the closest "snowy owl on a log" result to what we saw today.  Now, make the image as small as possible and stand on the other side of your room and put up a rounded hand like a telescope--that's what it looked like.  About 1/2" tall in the scope.  Good thing they're white or we really never would've seen it.  And now I think I'll want a scope with a tripod!!)

-=-=-=-=-=-
Update:  Okay, I'm now geeking out on birding.  Just joined the Connecticut Ornithological Association which hosts the listserv that tracks sightings in our area (all the birders today recommended it) and also eBird, where I reported my sighting of the Snowy Owl!!  Should do the Audubon too (CT has its own chapter not affiliated with then national one, typical Connecticut.)  I don't think I'll ever be much of a real birder, but I do love those birds of prey--we see hawks all the time.  We've even already seen a few Bald Eagles in flight this year along the river.  If I had to list them, very unscientifically and incompletely, I'd say I've seen a Barn Owl, Northern Saw Whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Red Tailed Hawk (though, admittedly, I have trouble telling them from Red Shouldered Hawks and Cooper's Hawks at a distance), Northern Harrier Hawk, and Bald Eagles.

The Sounds of The Secret Garden

We had box seats on the side, a little obscured, but so close.
With Sis over her fever but only just recovered, we ventured into the city last night for a very
special treat, The Secret Garden in concert at Lincoln Center--the same stage Bud performed on last week!  It was an all-star cast and we were definitely looking forward to it.  And, mercy, it didn't disappoint.  Wow, just wow.  So incredible.  Each song better than the next.  Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo in "Girl in the Vallery," Ramin Karimloo and Cheyenne Jackson in "Lily's Eyes," Sydney Lucas in any song, the same for Karimloo and the man playing Dickon (whose name escapes me.)  I even liked Telly Leung in his small role as Fakir.  And even though she hasn't performed in much since her Tony win 25 years ago, Daisy Eagan received several cheers and much encouragement, especially when she lost the last note of "Hold On" to  tears (for a discussion of the importance of her role as the child lead at the time of her own mother's illness and death, see here.)  There were several cheers, even a few showstoppers,  and a standing ovation from the full house (which included Lea Salonga and Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom we spotted during intermission.)   I went from smiles to tears and back again several times.  So did Mama.  We've always loved singing the score to one another but had never seen it together; to see it with this cast, even "just" in concert, was so special and amazing.  Bud loved it and Sis soldiered through, definitely enjoying.  We sang the soundtrack all the way home, with one kid awake at any given time, til midnight.  And I'm still humming the songs today . . . . (you can watch some of it here.)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Our Weekend

We're doing pretty well.

My optimism about a "normal" week, even a new normal, was dashed when Sis developed a fever Thursday afternoon and so missed school on Friday.  This means, out of almost two weeks, we had one day that resembled our previously normal schedule.

Last night, we ate Vietnamese and watched Men in Black, not up for much else (we got Vietnamese because she doesn't really like it and wasn't hungry anyway.)

Her fever has broken, but she's still feeling pretty wiped.  So, we're home.  There's been a lot of "Phineas and Ferb" and chicken soup.  Right now, I'm introducing her to "Glee."  I'm not sure it will take.

Bud is at an all-day kung fu workshop.  He'll practice with his team, have lunch, hang out, and then go to a performance at a local community center later this afternoon.  It'll be a fun day for him and his team friends.    Mama's at IKEA to get a new bookcase; we're rearranging the basement some since there aren't any cats down there; Mojito now lives on the first floor exclusively, sleeping on the dryer (preferably running) and wandering around the living room and kitchen looking for attention (this makes us happy that he's no longer hiding down there.)  Albus and Hermione own the house again.  We smile more about Mr. P than cry, though there are a few tears everyday.

If all goes well with Sis, we're headed into the city tomorrow afternoon to take Ma to dinner for her birthday and then . . .

We have tickets to The Secret Garden at Lincoln Center!!!!  It's a concert in honor of the 25th anniversary of this great Broadway show (which Mama saw with Daisy Eagan; I saw it on tour in Houston.  We both love it.)  Several of the Broadway stars we've seen recently are in it--Sydney Lucas (Fun Home), Sierra Boggess (Phantom of the Opera), Ramin Karimloo (Les Miserables), Telly Leung (Allegiance), and, yes, even Daisy Eagan!!


It's funny that we'll be in the same theater Bud performed in a week ago.

So, pretty good.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tea and Cake and Sympathy

Been a quiet couple of days around here.  Mama back at work; kids back at school.  Chores to do but not much else.  So I sit and drink my favorite Taylor's of Harrogate Rose tea in my new-to-me "vintage" 1988 Japanese Shafford creamware teapot and my NYC Starbuck's mug, both of which I got this weekend.




And notice that my sweet couch buddy, who kept me company everyday after my surgery, is gone.

Thankfully, Mama Teacher came for a visit today and we had a wonderful, comforting chat . . . and cake!  This delicious Orange Marmalade Cake from the NYTimes (I'll grab the recipe another time.)  It was even better than the Orange Poundcake I like so much (that was definitely fine, dense poundcake; this was coarse, buttery yellow cake.)  It was great to try the cake and have such a good friend with whom to share it.  A recipe for healing, for sure.


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

Orange Marmalade Cake
adapted from the NYTimes (I changed the zests)

2/3 cup coarse-cut orange marmalade, divided (though plain ol’ Smuckers Sweet Orange Marmalade is what I had and it worked)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1/2 tablespoon for glaze
¾ cup granulated sugar 
2 ½ teaspoons orange zest
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour 
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt 
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

Beat together softened butter, sugar, and orange zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in 1/3 cup marmalade and the orange juice.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold dry ingredients into wet until just combined. 

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until surface of cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack.

Cool 10 minutes; turn cake out of pan and place on rack right-side up. Place a rimmed baking sheet under rack to catch the glaze. 

GLAZE:

Heat remaining 1/3 cup marmalade in a small pot over low heat until melted; whisk in confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 tablespoon butter until smooth. Slather warm glaze over top of cake, allowing some to drizzle down the sides. Cool completely before slicing. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

One Week

Feeling weepy today.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Looking Back

Since our last full school/work day on Thursday, Feb. 4, we have had:

(UPDATE:  OOoops, I spoke too soon.  Today not back to normal--2 hour delay for ice!)

  • school play auditions
  • school cancellation (snow)
  • mom social evening (Pampered Chef)
  • water park birthday party
  • local kung fu performance
  • major family Chinese New Year celebration
  • school early dismissal (snow)
  • school delay (snow)
  • school play callbacks
  • Girl Scout meeting
  • vigiling for Mr. P
  • death of Mr. P
  • Girl Scout service project
  • no school (winter break holiday/grief)
  • rock climbing for Sis and Mama
  • lunch from Mecha Noodles
  • haircuts
  • NYC--Discovery Center exhibitions on Star Wars and also Vikings
  • lunch at Virgil's
  • kung fu practice
  • rollerskating birthday party
  • lunch from Afghani restaurant
  • more kung fu practice
  • Valentine's Day (though, we didn't celebrate)
  • extreme cold
  • lunch at 'wich craft
  • kung fu rehearsal and waiting for . . . . 
  • kung fu performance at LINCOLN CENTER!!!
  • celebratory dinner
  • sleepover in NYC
  • breakfast at Alice's Tea Cup
  • President's day/school holiday
  • extreme cold and snow and now sleet turning to rain by morning

And now we're back to our new "normal."  It will be strange.  And sad.  And probably a somewhat rough adjustment.  And raining, to boot.

Practice, Practice, Practice

To reverse the joke, that's how you get to Lincoln Center!!!

Last night, Bud performed with his kung fu team at a Chinese New Year celebration at David Geffen Hall.  Originally, only the older members of the team were going, but Bud was added pretty much at the last minute.

We never dreamed that he would ever be on the Lincoln Center stage!!  What a wonderful and amazing experience!  I don't know if it dawned on Bud until we got there just how big a venue and event this was; the couch didn't seem to know Lincoln Center at all and so maybe they were all spared some of the anticipatory jitters.

So, he spent most of Saturday with his team, practicing, practicing, practicing.

Waiting
We're here!
Checking it out
Dress rehearsal--he's the red/white blur in the back right

And yesterday, we went into Manhattan for rehearsal and the performance.  We had lunch, checked into our hotel, the Empire, across the street, met up with  his teammates, and then Sis and I went back to the room (grabbing Starbucks coffee on the way), where we met up with Ma, Gong, and Goo.  We went back to Lincoln Center around 6:45 and took our seats in the back of the first tier (which was better than we expected.)  As we got closer to time, I got more nervous about the whole thing (because I knew how big Lincoln Center was!)

Backstage
Heading to their room
Meanwhile. Bud and his team got a very truncated rehearsal and a ton of waiting time in their green room, where they chatted, ate sandwiches, and made friends with other performers from a Chengdu dance team (our group was the only American-born group of performers.)I understand it was kinda tense at times backstage and acts rehearsed, chairs were moved, kids got a little stage fright, and adults spoke sternly to each other in Mandarin.  But our team hung together tightly and made the most of it.  They watched the internal monitors to know when it was their turn, about an hour into the evening.

View from the stage

Dress rehearsal--he's the red/white blur near the photo's middle

Wow.

Am I a proud mom!


The finale of their routine--he's the red/white blur in the back row, very middle
The program
Their section of the program was about ten minutes, but it was a well-done routine and they looked great.  (There was a glitch with the music, but the team waited it out.)  Bud did his 9-chain and his Tong Bei form--beautifully!  The team got lots of cheers.  And I got all choked up.  Later, he said he could hear some of the applause.

Leaving by the stage door on 65th
We opted not to stay for the rest of the show and so met the team in the lobby for congratulations and photos--Bud was both extremely excited and pretty exhausted.  And hungry.  So we said goodbye to the group and our family went out for a celebratory seafood dinner at a place called Ed's Chowder House.  It was delicious.

Bud's eyes were drooping over his souffle and we headed upstairs to bed.

Wow.

As his teammate's mom said, "This was a real bucket list item.  Except it probably wasn't even on their list yet!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

In honor of Valentine's Day, here are 14 questions about me and my spouse:

1. Where did you meet your other half?  Shelving books at the university library
2. How long have you been with your significant other?  Since 1994
3. If you're married, when did you say "I do"?   August 1997.
4. What song did you walk down the aisle to? We had a whole playlist for the second wedding (or the first wedding, after the civil union.)  There were Indigo Girls songs and maybe Lover's Waltz by Jay Ungar.
5. Do you have any children yet? Twins and, in total, 5 cats (currently, Albus, Hermione, and Mojito, plus Mr. P and Morgan.)
6. What's your favorite thing about your other half?   Kindness, loyalty, caretaking, tenderness, intelligence and curiosity, creativity and inventiveness, organizational skills,   But best of all, we have such a good time together and laugh a lot.  She's so cute when she laughs.

7. Were you and your other half high school sweethearts?
No, but she was 19 (a few weeks shy of 20) when we met.
8. Where was your first date?
Early on, we went to "Rent."  She brought roses and we went out to O'Lunney's afterwards (or was it peppermint schnapps hot chocolate at the Marriott Marquis?)  Before that, we ate breakfast and lunch together everyday of the summer of 1994.
9. How long were you dating before you said "I love you"?
Hmmm, we were dating without knowing we were dating.  We said "I love you" as friends pretty early on (I wrote a long treatise on it in a book dedication!)  As more?  August 23, 1997.
10. How long were you dating your other half before he/she proposed? 4 years  We kinda proposed to each other, in the midst of an argument over the book, Bar Stories, on the phone between Chicago and NYC!!  I said, "What would you do if I told you I loved you?  and she said, "I'd buy you a ring."  Done and done.
11. Where is your favorite place you have traveled with your other half?  We have fun near and far, but some of the best trips were our first trip together to Galena, two trips to Door County, our Great Lakes lighthouse tour,  our "nano-honeymoons" in Union Square, London and environs three times now, two trips to New Orleans, three trips to Disney World, even just Old Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport, and Hancock Shaker Village, and all the lighthouses and living history museums.  I know I'm forgetting somewhere.

12. How do you and your other half plan to spend Valentines?  She hates Valentine's Day and so we never do much.  We're going into NYC with the kids.  I have some candy for everyone but didn't get to doing the Zentangle gifts I'd planned.

13. What does your favorite 'date night' consist of?  Now?  Locally, dinner and maybe some bookstore browsing.  Grandiose plans would be our overnights in NYC with a Broadway show or a museum exhibition and a meal or two.

14. What is the best gift you have received from your other half?  Early on, she gave me a beautiful silver hair clip.  It was always so romantic.  But exchanging rings (from Tiffany's) in front of the fountains at the Plaza Hotel is a favorite memory.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tidbits Plus

We have been very pun-ny recently, mostly before sweet Mr. P died.

  • Sis, when we were talking about "Ceiling Cat," which in our family is kinda the Spirit of cats gone by, said that our cat Albus must be "Cat-olic."
  • Goo referred to our cardboard cat tree as "Fort McKitty."


Plus, there have been three other fun and distracting events in the last few days:

  • Mama took Sis rock climbing!  Sis loved it; even Mama climbed the wall.  (Bud and I stayed home in our pjs.  I fell asleep and, when I awoke, I said, "Did I fall asleep?"  He replied, "Yeah, Mom, it's April.")  Sis would love to go again, but, until she is 13, she has to climb with an instructor.  Maybe we'll take the Girl Scout troop.  
  • Goo stopped by on his way home for a swazu in Vermont.  He loves the scenery and the food--local restaurants, food purveyors, and such.  He brought four loaves of bread (challah, brioche, boule, and baguette) to share with us from King Arthur Flour, and a great Cabot cheddar, plus some maple syrup and even maple syrup cotton candy.  He stayed for a few hours chatting and keeping us company.
  • Today, the kids went rollerskating (as part of a birthday party, which Bud squeezed in between two kung fu practices) for the first time.  Yep, on wheels, not ice.  Sis took to the rollerblades right away, though she realized she couldn't move in them quite the same way.  Bud wore traditional skates and soon had the hang of it enough not to hug the wall.  The rink was old school, with disco ball, flashing lights, indoor carpeting, and those molded plastic-coated benches.  They even did the hokey pokey and the limbo (Sis did well at this, mainly because she is so little.)   I have such good memories of rollerskating--I took lessons (and could "shoot the duck," which was a maneuver squatting with one leg extended!) and even had skates well into college (when I had a terrible fall and almost broke an elbow--the nurses at the urgent care clinic had to scrub my arm to remove all the gravel!  And also use tweezers . . . ugh.  I never really skated again, but I could relive the sensation today.  I'm not sure I'd ever strap on stakes again, but it sure would be fun (and terrifying.)  I think the kids will skate again.  And I'd love to watch.  

Downtown

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go downtown
Things will be great when you're downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything's waiting for you
-=-=-=-=-=-
Yep, we went downtown yesterday.  Well, really Midtown, but you get the idea.  Yes, NYC was our special outing--to the Discovery Center in Times Square to see not only the Star Wars costume exhibition but also the Vikings exhibition.  And we had a great time!

First, it's always great to be back in my old neighborhood, though it's changed so much.  Still, I feel 25 again and filled with the positive memories of my time in the city.  It's like going home.

The SW show was good, too.  I've seen other SW shows, namely "The Magic of Myth" in both Milwaukee (on my own) and Brooklyn (with Mama in 2002); it had costumes plus models, props, and blueprints.  This show was all costumes (plus a few blasters and lightsabers.) We got to see all the standards, from both trilogies.  I especially liked seeing Princess Leia's white dress from New Hope.  I wish they'd had the Hoth, Cloud City, or Endor clothes, or even especially the Force Awakens outfits.  Still.  There were all the various Jedis, Han Solo, Chewie, C-3PO, R2-D2, BB8, lots of stormtroopers, various Senate officials, Yoda, and Darth Vader.  There were more elaborate gowns for Amidala than you could shake a coathanger at, but they were lush and complex, even if I don't like the movies.  I was amazed at how small the infamous metal bikini is; no wonder they had trouble keeping it on her--there isn't anything to it!  Bud said that costume always makes him feel uncomfortable.  Me, too, and I think that was the point.  We liked seeing Rey, Finn, and Poe at the end, their clothes continuing many of the trends started in the first three films.  

We had lunch just a few buildings down from my old home, at the barbecue joint Virgil's.  Quick, reliable, tasty.  And NYers just don't eat at 11:30 so we got a table easily.


Then we went back for the Vikings exhibition.  I've also seen a few major Viking exhibitions--at the American Museum of Natural History and at the British Museum--and this one actually compared, though it was smaller.  It had some great artifacts--brooches, swords, amulets, needles, axes, even dried bread--plus a few stele (though I think they were all reproductions.)  And of course the "ghost ship," which is suggested by rivets hanging on strings, since the wood was all lost over time.  There were several interactive kiosks and some lovely photos of reenactors and museums in modern-day Sweden.  Plus, there were even some Nordic dogs, in town for the Westminster Dog Show, that were like the dogs the Vikings would have had.  Sis and Bud enjoyed seeing them.  The exhibition was all about the daily life of Vikings--which never included horned helmets!--and so went out of its way to separate them from the marauding Beserkers who attacked Lindisfarne, etc.  This shift in the scholarship has been a long time in the making, but I didn't realize until now that "viking" is actual used to reference the activity of going on an expedition "to go Viking" or to "be on a Viking."  It's NOT the name of a group of people, like we use Swedish or Icelandic or Norwegian.  It was an activity.  Still, in a few ways, the exhibition did too much to erase the more violent aspects--the reason there are graves everywhere and lots of trade is because of their offensive maneuvers and plunder.  But, it was probably not much like the tv show, "Vikings" (which I like anyway.)

We picked up some cupcakes from the Discovery Center cafe and headed home through Friday afternoon traffic.  All things considered, it was a great day, and, even more, a good distraction from our sadness.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Waves

I'm not sure I can write about yesterday and what I have poetically referred to as our cat Mr. P entering immortality.  Maybe someday, if and when I need to.  Suffice it to say, we were all there and we were all able to say goodbye in the ways we needed, including Mr. P's original owner.  And it happened quickly, painlessly, and peacefully.  We are very sad but also grateful not only to have known Mr. P but also to have been able to let him go when the time came.

Luckily, it's our school's winter break starting today so we can spend some days grieving and recuperating.  Our mantra is "be gentle" to ourselves and each other, because we know grief can cause all sorts of emotions and behaviors--anger, sadness, listlessness, forgetfulness, regret, nostalgia, and then just moments of being really quite normal.  Everyone seems to compare it to waves--one that sucks you down and you have to swim back to the surface (Pema Chodron) or a succession of waves which you have to float between until the next one (and the peaks get lower or the distances greater and you see them coming.)  And so we go up and down.  We're also trying to "stay with it" (also Pema Chodron), stay with the grief, instead of staving it off and avoiding it with shopping, food,  endless video games, or whatever.  Similarly, also from Pema (Mama is listening to some of the Buddhist nun's sermons in her car), we are trying not to "escalate our suffering" with anger, meanness, avoidance, etc.; it's bad enough without our making it worse.  And we know that soon, we'll be able to remember Mr. P with more happiness than pain.  For now, though, there are tears and quiet pauses.

So, today, we're home.  (The kids and Mama got haircuts.)  Tomorrow we have an outing we planned a couple of weeks ago (after canceling our big trip to DC and Williamsburg which was supposed to be now; we didn't want to board a sick and anxious Mr. P.)  Saturday, the kids have a ROLLER-skating birthday party which is novel; neither has rollerskated.  Sunday, we might have another outing planned (we'll keep it hush-hush until it goes through, but it promises to be pretty exciting.)  And Monday will be more R&R before work and school.

We are grateful to friends and family who have called, emailed, posted, and even dropped by with cards and a beautiful plant (though thankfully not the kitten that the girl thought would cheer us up!)  We're okay and we'll be better soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Good Night, Sweet Prince

 . . . and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Patron, aka Mr P, 2000-2016
Rest in peace, Mr. P.

May we who love you be comforted.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vigiling

Mr. P hasn't gotten better. We're vigiling now (with goodbyes and quiet company, at a distance), though he remains comfortable and not in distress. Sure, he surprised us almost a week and a half ago, but . . . .

Pancake Tuesday

Snow day Friday.

Early dismissal Monday.

Two-hour delay Tuesday.

At least the snow delay gave us time to have a big pancake breakfast in honor of Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras.

Sis made the buttermilk syrup while I started the pancakes.  Once the kids were full, Sis made my pancakes so I could eat--so sweet, so talented!  She's really expanding her kitchen skills.  This weekend, she made our family chocolate chip cookie recipe completely by herself, including the oven work.  And she cleaned up!  That's the best kind of cook.

We may or may not have a full day of school on Wednesday.

And then Thursday is a half day, Friday AND Monday are holidays, so it's rather a wonky week for us.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Monkey Business

We celebrated the Year of the Monkey today, on Chinese New Year's eve.  It was our usual day of rituals and feasting, with the kids old enough to help out more with both.

Here they are carefully molding the rice for the presentation table to the ancestors.

Sis makes some pork meatballs for the broth.


The family altar where we say prayers to the Buddha.
Offerings to the Buddha, which the kids helped transfer after prayers.

Bud helps pour liquor for the ancestors.

The table for the ancestors.

There was a new empty chair at the table, for Mama's grandfather, Lao Gong.

Aren't these pretty?  Red bean paste buns.

Chicken, pork, and duck.


Paper money to burn for the ancestors.


Burning the paper money.
Not pictured is the groaning table of food that we sit down to after all of the prayers.  Many of the foods are reheated and combined in soups and stir fries.  I love the stir-fried fresh bean leaves and also the Buddha noodles with bean curd skin, dates, mushrooms, and gingko nuts.  Oh, and the taro with coconut milk.  The kids love the soup with the meatballs and fish cakes and the fresh chicken.  This year there was duck, which Ma made herself, with brown sugar and black soy sauce and a long salt-curing and then simmering.  Mama loves it all (except gingko nuts!)  And there are so many candies and sweets, each year is slightly different depending on what is available where (Ma and Gong visit dozens of stores in various areas--Manhattan Chinatown, Flushing, Bay Ridge, Avenue Q, etc.--in the week or so leading up to today.  In fact, one shop owner harassed Ma for buying so much!  And wouldn't even give her a box, wanted to charge her for it.  But the shop makes old-fashioned Chinese sweets so Ma puts up with them!)  This year there were candied kumquats and lotus seeds, various nut and seed bars, red bean paste buns, coconut buns, "smiley face" sesame balls, these peanut-filled "empanadas," sponge cakes, sesame buns with lotus paste, and these awful Osmanthus candies that Mama found (they looked good, though.)  You'll notice that most of the foods have red dots--Ma meticulously paints each piece or places a small paper cut out dot, as a blessing.  Her hands were noticeably red today.

Also, you can't quite tell that most of us are wearing red along with a new item of clothing--this year, we all got black Millennium Falcon t-shirts!!!   The house is also decorated with lots of red and gold, both old decorations of symbolic paper money and new Monkey things.  I don't think I took any photos of the decorations, though I did shoot a video of my favorite singing turtle, which flashes while you hear the song "Gong xi ni!" (sung over and over again in a squeaky girl's voice.)  I'll see if I can eventually link to the video here.

At the very end of the day, right before we pack the car with enough leftovers for days plus makings for the Buddha soup on the seventh day, we exchange red envelopes, "ang bao."  This is when we say our little chant, ""Xing jia eu-ei, xing ni huac chai, ang bao tua tua kai."  The amount of money in your envelope is related to your age, which is calculated slightly different--you are one on the day you are born (you get credit for womb time) and then turn 2 on your first Chinese New Year, so you are always about 2 years older than your Western age.  So in this case, the kids got a multiple of $12, plus $2 for luck.  (They get more than the adults, being kids, but later when they have jobs, they are supposed to give us envelopes.)  

And so we drove home, ready to start a new year . . . .which might just begin with a snow delay or even a day off!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Crowding Out

We had another good dinner last night.  "Is it Wildtree?" Bud asked.  Sorta, just the seasonings on the chicken.  Easy "roast" chicken, sweet potatoes, stir fried green beans.  We ate it all, minus a bit of the chicken which will go in soup on this rainy day.

We have a family goal to eat more fruits and vegetables.  We're each aiming to increase our intake.  Sis is aiming for three a day; I'm looking at four to five.  Bud just eats.  Yesterday, we hit our goals, which was good.  My thought is--using an idea from Heather Bruggeman called "crowding out"--that the more fruits and veggies we eat, the less junk we eat.  We'll see.  But if it can already go well in February, when good produce is pretty limited, we should be doing really well this summer and fall.


-=-=-=-=-

Easy WT "Roast" Chicken, adapted
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon Rancher Steak Rub
2 tablespoons Hearty Spaghetti blend
1 1/2-2 lbs chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients and let marinate 4 hours or overnight.  Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, turning chicken over halfway.


Baked Sweet Potatoes
3-5 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
cinnamon, enough to generously sprinkle over the top

Combine ingredients and bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until tender and caramelized.

Miss JR


Stir Fried Green Beans
1 lb green beans, washed and cut into 1/2" pieces (with scissors is easiest)
grapeseed oil to sautee
soy sauce
garlic powder

Preheat skillet with oil until drips of water pop in oil.  Add little green bean pieces.  Stir Fry until green beans begin to wrinkle.  Reduce heat and add soy sauce and garlic powder to taste and 1/4-1/2 cup water, covering to steam until desired tenderness.

Mama Hungry

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Purr On, Mr. P!

The cardiologist we saw on Saturday has every hope that Mr. P will be around for a check up in three to four months, once we tweak his meds some.  In fact, besides the congestive heart failure, the vet thinks Mr P looks great for his almost 16 years.  Still, we have to watch his eating (he needs to eat more--he's lost almost 20% of his weight, which isn't good under the circumstances) and his breathing (rapidity--more than 22 breaths in 30 seconds--indicates he's not getting enough oxygen.)  So, we've been doing both.  And he seems pretty good.  To say we were thrilled with both Mr P's improvement and the vet's prognosis is putting it mildly.  Of course, things could always change, but we hadn't dreamt of months, only just days or weeks.

"I'm too sexy for that bald spot."

Goodbye and Hello

We bid a fond farewell to our Honda Odyssey (onetime nickname: Homer), which we'd had for almost 11 years.  We bought the minivan when I was so pregnant I couldn't get behind the wheel much less test drive it; they were born about 3 weeks later.  We brought them home from the hospital in that car, drove around for endless car naps almost to Massachusetts and back while discussing all manner of things (often after church on a Sunday), and went on several family trips, before we switched to Mama's 2011 Subaru Outback for travel.  I loved listening to my music (too loud) and toodling around town, with my rainbow MOM bumper sticker on the back (it even attracted attention from other lesbians once in awhile, who would give thumbs up or comment at lights!)  I almost didn't have music--early on, Sis "fed" quarters in the CD player, stopping the whole system, which was still covered by the warranty and a recall, by just days.


And now I have a jasmine green 2015 Subaru Forester, which sits and drives a lot like my Honda and is roomier than Mama's Outback.  I like that it's partial zero emissions and gets better fuel mileage; Mama is glad that it has four-wheel drive for ice and snow (if we ever get that again.)    I was really impressed at how well (and hard) she drove a bargain--they tried a few things, but she stuck to the price and got us a good deal.  I was a bit sad to say goodbye to my MOM bumper sticker; they don't make them anymore.  But I added the one below this morning and it gives my car some character.

Otherwise, I almost had a mild heart attack when I realized:  this is the car the twins will learn to drive in not too long from now.