Monday, October 31, 2016


I had a lot to write today--about trunk-or-treat at school and horseback riding competitions and our first snow--but got word this morning that my cousin, the monk--my beloved Aunt Sis's son--is unexpectedly in his last days.  I'm just so sad--I always looked up to my very tall, creative, juggling cousin who took Latin which so pleased our grandfather--especially because his father, my uncle, is thousands of miles from him here at the end.  While Cousin had been receiving treatment for leukemia, he was doing well until he very recently developed an intestinal blockage and the doctors have stopped all treatment but palliative and have estimated 24-48 hours, as of yesterday.   He was the light in my aunt's heart and is so loved by my uncle, even in absentia. I send my love across the sea to him in France.  I'll write about the happier things another time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Weekend

Mama had a wonderful weekend at her 19th-century celestial navigation course at Mystic Seaport, where she learned to use a sextant, take readings, consult charts, and figure out her location the old-fashioned way.  She also learned stories about the Morgan, the restored whaler at the seaport, and other maritime lore, like the infinity symbol on old globes that was used to correct sundial time!  Yep, she spent her whole weekend doing complicated math and loved it.

The kids and I were here, having our own kind of fun, which included reading, crochet, movies, "Doctor Who," computer games, lightsaber fighting, frisbee toss, fairy houses, a trip to Target for snacks, pizza, kung fu, ice skating, making Rice Krispy candy, and a very special church outing to the installation of our new minister.  Sure, it wasn't  as educational or exciting as Mama's weekend, but we had a good time.  The only downside was that Trunk or Treat was postponed because of the rain, but we'll go next weekend.

And so now it's the Halloween countdown, with an office party, Trunk or Treat, and the big event.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thinking Out Loud

It's just after midnight and I'm watching the first season of "Arrow," about the archer superhero (with two actors from "Doctor Who," John Barrowman and Alex Kingston, which was odd at first.)  The kids are sound asleep, after a long day of school, Minecraft, Ant-Man the movie, and then the documentary on Hamilton, which brought up wonderful memories of seeing the show (and spotting Lin-Manuel Miranda by him ponytail at Secret Garden!)  Mama is out of town for the weekend, having a break and taking a class on 19th-century celestial navigation.  Can't wait to hear all about it.

So, Hamilton.  There were clips from the show (albeit not long enough), discussions with Miranda and his musical cabinet, interviews with major governmental figures (Presidents Obama and Bush, Laura Bush, Sen Elizabeth Warren, and a few Secretaries of the Treasury), and visits to several of the historical sites of the time.  It was just a wonderful trip back to the show, especially as we won't be going again any time soon; so lucky we got to go the first time, with the original cast.  I'll treasure it.  I wonder how much I would notice?  Like singing about taking a shot while drinking shots?  How Jefferson is singing jazz while everyone else is rapping because he hasn't caught up?  Much of the documentary footage was from the beginning creation of the show--prescient of Miranda to record so much.  I just like everything about Hamilton more and more.

Besides, engaging with politics from 200 years ago is easier than thinking about those today.  Trump is awful.  I just can't even say how much.  There are hundreds of articles outlining all the ways.  And why he's risen in power.  And what might happen with his followers and the level of discourse and civility in this country WHEN he loses.  Ugh ugh ugh.   And I'm not settling for Clinton; I voted for her in the primary against Obama eight years ago.  I don't see it as a choice between two evils now.  Clinton is intelligent, decisive, knowledgable, experienced, steady, and knows the game both at home and abroad.  Trump can't hold a candle to her.  Is she flawed?  Sure.  But if Hamilton shows us anything, it's that history-makers are.

Other things on my mind:  my parents' home was burglarized while they were away.  The thieves--probably teenagers messing around, according to the police--only took an old camera and a go pro, not jewelry or silver or tvs or computers.  It's unsettling and a hassle, but nothing like the burglary when I was a child (we came home from the bay after Father's Day weekend to find cops in the driveway--so much was taken and never recovered) or the fire when I was in grad school.  It's a bad ending for them after such a great road trip.  We loved having them up here.

My cat Mo is right here.  Hermione is at my feet.  Albus was around but I can't see him right now.  And no doubt Eris is in the hallway.  They were all in here having treats earlier.  I had given Mo his fluids earlier, which is always a tense 10 minutes for him.  Otherwise, he's been doing great.  He runs around, eats his treats, has his special arm time, walks around the bookcases--all his normal cat things.  He's been sitting near me more often; I think his skinny little body is cold, as many older people often are.  Truly, I wasn't sure he'd last this long.  And if these are his last days/weeks/months, they're pretty damned good.

Halloween is coming up.  Mama and the kids have been working hard on their Ghostbusters costumes (yep, they're both Ghostbusters.  Sis is Holtzman and N is a classic Ghostbuster), making elaborate proton packs with bits and pieces from the dollar store and black spray paint.  And last night, we all worked on a Ghostbusters Mobile Storage Unit for trunk or treat, the school party where students go from car to car in the school parking lot trick or treating--it's also bits and pieces, but with red spray paint.  The event was supposed to be tomorrow but was postponed due to rain.  It'll be next week, along with the annual office Halloween party.  And then, the big day!

We didn't get enough rain, though, to pull us out of our state-wide severe drought.  And it's warm again, close to 85F the other day and 74F today.  Blah.

Doesn't help my hot flashes and night sweats--peri-menopause just sucks!  Some nights recently, I go through two or three nightgowns.  Today giving my historic house tour, I wore my light vest and cranked the AC at the house.  Tours are going well; I always forget how much I enjoy them.  Especially the dressing up and telling stories about life a long time ago.  The kids love making butter and trying on clothes.  And even though they're in third grade, they are often surprised to find out that there was no electricity, no running water, no heat, no plastic, no trains, planes, or automobiles.  Which is why I keep giving tours.

I should get some sleep.  I'm in charge of all the activities this weekend--kung fu, baking for church, going to the minister's installation, attending a lay ministry workshop, etc etc etc--and I need to be awake to do the driving.  My allergies are sneaking back (most people are stuffy again) and I don't want another sinus infection.  So there will be lots of down-time, too.  Besides I have a crocheted blanket to finish for my neighbor whose father-in-law died.  (We all went to the wake--the first for the kids--but that's a whole other post, since neither had seen a corpse before.)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Flight of Faeries

Yep, that time of year again--pizza and faerie houses!  The theme this year was around-the-world.

Danish paper cutting--with tiny scissors hidden in the spider web.

Little doors are my favorite.

Add caption

Japanese temple, complete with tiny singing bowl.

Ireland, one of my favorites

Also Ireland.

My favorite location, along the now-dried creek bed.  This year the houses were embedded in the roots.

Can't remember--this might be Norway.


A hidden butterfly

Mesa Verde

In the here-and-now section, where visitors made their own houses.


With a Harry Potter door

And Sherlock Holmes

And of course Doctor Who!!

A Walk in the Woods

Last week, our Girl Scouts had a field trip to a local mountain, so-called in CT because it's a tall hill.  And I think, of all of us, I had the best time!  The tour focused on the natural history and human habitation of the area that could be read in the trees, reaching back to Native Americans and colonists and up through the agricultural use of the area, all of which I found fascinating--and I love rock walls!  I was proud that I made it through the hike, since parts of it had rocks and roots covered in leaves and unstable-for-me inclines and declines.

I'm becoming a much better hiker, a term I use loosely when applied to myself.  See, I don't think I realized what hiking was, seeing it as walking on paths through nature--not the arduous and sometimes treacherous climbing over rocks and trees and slopes that it is.  I first realized this in Vermont last weekend, when I was shocked to see what the Appalachian Trail looked like--not so much a path as a slightly-cleared thin line snaking through trees and rocks.  I'm now much more impressed with hikers than I ever was, particularly those who hike for months, sleeping on the way.

What we learned on our hike:

  • cedars grow where once there were agricultural fields
  • "wolf tree"--a tree with many protruding branches which was once probably the lone tree in a field.
  • charcoal kiln--where farmers would gather and stack timber, cover it with leaves etc to burn it into charcoal for sale
  • quarry--the holes and cuts of star drills, etc., were visible on cuts stones of an outcropping
  • "three-sisters tree":  when trunks are cut during timbering and then another trunk grows out of the roots, then there are trees with 2-3 trunks, a sign of timbering
  • how to roll a log--towards you to protect yourself from what might be lurking.  And always put it back!
  • walnut, chestnut, hickory, and oak--local trees that produce edibles
  • quartz--if you see a pile of quartz chips, it could indicate Native American tool-making.
  • deer rub--an abrasion on a tree where deer mark their territories.
  • rock walls--Second and third-generation European settlers (around mid-18th century) found that erosion caused by tree cutting and agriculture started to reveal all the boulders below the soil.  It was a curse on farmers!  They tried to clear fields, piling rocks as the iconic New England rock wall (most dating to late 18th and then 19th centuries), but agriculture in Connecticut ceased for the most part by the beginning of the 20th century, being too difficult and not profitable enough (hence the switch to manufacturing in much of the Northeast, as well as the move of settlers to better farmlands in Ohio, etc.)  In fact, the state is more forested now than since the settlers arrived; most trees are under 100 years old.  I love those rock walls and have been reading a history of them.
Between the hikes in Vermont and this hike, I'm of a mind to do more nature walks--as long as they are very easy access!

Rock walls

Wolf Tree to the right of center

More walls

Quarry holes

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Fun: I Love VT

A quick list of free associations and memories of my first foray into Vermont:

  • a beautiful welcome center with homemade baked goods to raise money for a food pantry--oh, the cider doughnuts and blueberry cobbler!
  • mountains, mountains, and more mountains
  • foliage--the mix of greens, yellows, oranges, reds, and deep red-purple always make me want to quilt
  • Vermont Country Store--I never knew it was real, thought it was just a catalog company for years.  But it's a big, real, quirky, nostalgic tourist draw (not quite a trap because the goods are mostly quality.)  Got a Shoot the Moon toy for the kids.  
  • Bryant House Restaurant--an old soda fountain, Johnnycakes that looked like corn muffins, Sis said they were the best fries ever
  • Maple Creemee--it's a maple soft serve with some chew, kinda like frozen custard
  • Mt Equinox--oh, my gosh, I went up a mountain.  Sure, we were in a car, but I didn't panic.  And I even sat sorta near the edge, contemplating time, life, and beauty.  Beautiful views, including a hawk soaring below us.  3,848 feet high.  The scent of balsam.
  • Inn at Long Trail--Lincoln logs come to life, with an Irish twist.  
  • Pop hiked Deer Leap Trail before we arrived, all the way to the ledge--scary!
  • Pop made the kids western juniper walking sticks! (And we only sword-played with them once.)
  • Quechee Gorge--we hiked about a mile, up and down beside the deep gorge.  I was impressed with myself (again.)  Thanks to Pop's loaner walking stick, I didn't eat dirt or sprain anything when I tripped on a rock.
  • VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Studies)--raptors, including Snowy Owl!  Also Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Kestrels, Peregrine, Red Tail Hawk, Broad wing Hawk, Ferruginuous hawk, Great Grey Owl, Barred Owl,  Great Horned Owl, small Eastern Screech Owls, and two beak-locked ravens. Nice rehab center and tour of the enclosures.
  • Worthy Kitchen--introduced Gommie and Pop to poutine!
  • Sugarbush Farms--maple, cheese, and condiments tastings!  Mmmmmmmmm.   Sis loved the huge horses and the bunny
  • KING ARTHUR FLOUR--Bake for Good Month and tasty wheat bread, Sis got some mixes, just delightful, except they were out of the 13" Pullman Loaf pan I wanted and I never got through to order from customer service (we got there late in the day so there weren't many choices in the bakery, sad to say, but the chocolate chip cookies were good and the chai latte was excellent.)
  • Checkers, chess, pinball-like baseball game, more chess, more checkers--loved the game room at the Inn
  • meals at the restaurant--loved the Irish brown soda bread with raisins, Guinness stew, and the pancakes in the morning.  Sis liked the hot chocolate.
  • Maple syrup, creemee, ice cream, hard candies, lollipop, candle, bacon, fudge, butter . . . . 
  • live Irish music--I think my Aunt Sis would have loved this place (and its rustic charm)
  • beautiful morning sunrise--Bud very thoughtful ("Can you imagine living like this?  With the mountains and sunrise everyday??")
  • that lovely Vermont lake (Kent pond?) surrounded by mountains and foliage and dramatic clouds
  • Thundering Brook falls--an accessible hike to the waterfall and more reflections on science and geological time by Bud, plus a few steps on the Appalachian Trail
  • We see a Bald Eagle in a tree by the road!
  • Billings Farm Museum--new calf, huge draft horses, sheep, maple and pumpkin and caramel apple ice creams, a farm house with modern conveniences and a dairy.  Bud square dances with Gommie.
  • Lunchtime sandwiches from Woodstock Market, which we eat back in the Inn
  • I think I'd like Woodstock, not sure about Manchester, for our next visit
  • three covered bridges in the area, though I don't know what their names are.  We drove across a red one to get to Sugarbush.
  • Mama goes to VINS photography class--she got great pics!--and Vermont Flannel Store
  • I get the restaurant's soda bread recipe!
  • Oregon Trail game with everyone (Mama died by snake bite, Bud and I by dysentry, Gommie because she didn't have a coat, and Sis by typhoid fever.  Pop lived, even though he kept breaking the wagon.)
  • We don't watch the debate.
  • chilly night near freezing, felt good
  • more hiking on Long Trail/AT for Gommie, Pop and kids, on the bit across from the inn
  • how many games of chess and checkers did the kids play with the grandfolks?  It was a highlight.  Pop said it was no-holds-barred--and he did manage to beat them a few times.  I lost a lot.
  • another beautiful Vermont lake (Echo Lake), glittering and clear
  • a chainsaw art festival!  We got some owls
  • and lunch nibbles from the other Vermont Country Store on our way home--cheeses, Vermont common crackers, summer sausage, and maple nuggets (a whole lot like Buc-ee nuggets!)
What a wonderful weekend!

View from Mt Equinox

A tree at VCS

Inside the Inn at Long Trail

See, Lincoln Logs

Thundering Brook Fals

On Thundering Brook Falls Trail

More of the accessible trail

A lovely lake--Kent Pond, we think

Billings Farm Museum

Quechee Gorge

Echo Lake

Chainsaw art

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Stepping Out

Going to be offline until about Tuesday--more fun with Gommie and Pop!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

My Dragons

As I've told you, the kids got me hooked on the computer game Dragonvale this summer, which consists of building a zoo or amusement park-like world and populating it with a variety of dragons. It's calming, fun, without much game strategy, and a way for us to all bond over a computer game, which they like so much.  I've actually gotten into it--growing food, feeding my dragons, breeding new dragon types, decorating my world with flowers and statues, playing the games to earn more coins or "treats" for feeding.  I even go one step further and name my dragons.

When I started naming my dragons, I had no idea how hooked I'd become.  My first dragons were named after women in my favorite fandoms--Star Wars, LOTR, Star Trek, Marvel, Harry Potter.  But then I ran low on names, so I did favorite book characters, inspiring historical figures, ancestors, etc.  I stuck with female names, so I guess it's a gynocentric dragon world.  Indeed, it's hard not to repeat a name and to think of new ones.  Looking at the list, I see I am much better at choosing fictional characters than historical people as my heroes and inspirations.  I should think on that.  Though, if I were to do historical names, there are a lot of Janes, Elizabeths, and the like.

I even interrupted my post to check my dragons.  I have a Double XP boost right now, helping me to level up.  Don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about?  That's part of the point, to give me some common computer game ground.  Helps that it's fun, too.

My Dragons

  1. Abby, Swamp--Ghostbusters
  2. Abigail, Cave--Adams
  3. Agent May, Poison--"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
  4. Alex, Plains--"Supergirl"
  5. Alice P, Smolder--Paul
  6. Angela, Thicket--Lansbury
  7. Anne, Salamander--of Green Gables
  8. Arleene, Spark--family
  9. Artemisia, Inferno--artist
  10. Arwen, Sulfur--LOTR
  11. Audra, Root--Macdonald
  12. Beatrice, Magnetic--Shakespeare
  13. Berthe, Promethium--artist
  14. Blackwell, Bone--Dr. Elizabeth
  15. Bobbi, Blazing--"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
  16. Buffy, Evergreen--"the Vampire Slayer"
  17. Caddy, Quicksilver
  18. Cagney, Fungus--"Cagney and Lacey"
  19. Catherine, Rust
  20. Charlotte, Scorch--Cushman, artist
  21. Claire, Forest--Outlander
  22. Daisy, Rain--"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
  23. Demeter, Copper--Greek god
  24. DrCrusher, Storm--ST:TNG
  25. Dolly, Trench--Parton
  26. Donna, Thunder--"Doctor Who"
  27. Dory, River Dragon--Finding Dory
  28. Dot, Scoria--"Miss Fisher's Mysteries"
  29. Eliza, Fog--Hamilton
  30. Elphaba, Willow--Wicked
  31. Emily, Luminous--Indigo Girls
  32. Eowyn, Blazing Gale--LOTR
  33. Eponine, Chrome--Les Miz
  34. Fanett, Mirage--teacher
  35. Felicity, Feast--"Arrow"
  36. Fidelma, Hypnotic--mystery books
  37. Frances, Seaweed--aunt
  38. Frida, Pollen--Kahlo
  39. Frigga, Quake--Marvel movies
  40. George E, Glacier--Eliot, author
  41. Georgia, Sandstorm--O'Keefe
  42. Glinda, Air--Wicked
  43. Gwen, Crystal--"Merlin"
  44. Harriet J, Bubble--"Doctor Who"
  45. Harriet T, Ruin--Tubman
  46. Helen K, Lightning--Keller
  47. Hermione, Flower--Harry Potter
  48. Hestia, Miasma--Greek Gods
  49. Hildegard, Ivy--saint
  50. Hillary, Ash--Clinton
  51. Holtzman, Iron--Ghostbusters
  52. Idgie, Ice--Fried Green Tomatoes
  53. Idina, Shimmer--Menzel
  54. Inara, Tree--"Firefly"
  55. Irene A, Crypt--Sherlock Holmes
  56. Janeway, Plant--ST:Voyager
  57. Jax, Ortreat--"Robin Hood"
  58. Jyn Erso, Nightshade--Rogue One
  59. Juliette, Molten--Gordon Low, Girl Scouts
  60. Judi D, Phantom--Dench
  61. Kara, Iron Blossom--"Supergirl"
  62. Kate L-S, Water--"Doctor Who"
  63. Katherine, Halo--Hepburn
  64. Katniss, Smoke--Hunger Games
  65. Kaylee, Orchid--"Firefly"
  66. Kepchar, Glare--teacher
  67. Lady Jane, Sonic--history
  68. Lady Mary, Coral--"Downton Abbey"
  69. Lady Sif, Icy Torrent--Marvel movies
  70. Lagertha, Lava--"Vikings"
  71. Laura I W, Tempest--Ingalls Wilder
  72. Lily, Steel--Tomlin
  73. Lisa R, Trick--professor
  74. Lizzie, Nectar--Pride and Prejudice
  75. Louisa MA, Blizzard--May Alcott
  76. Lucretia, Gamma--Borgia
  77. Luna, Meteor--Harry Potter
  78. Lysistrat, Earth--Greek play
  79. Mac, Lodestone--"Miss Fisher's Mysteries"
  80. McGonagal, Cold--Harry Potter
  81. Maggie S, Glass--Smith, actress
  82. Manie, Meadow--grandmother
  83. Maria H, Geode--Marvel movies
  84. Marian, Cactus--Music Man
  85. Marmee, Palladium--Little Women
  86. Martha, Lotus--"Doctor Who"
  87. MaryS, Dungeon--Shelley
  88. MaryC, Malachite--Cassatt
  89. Mathma, Ooze--Star Wars
  90. Maya, Radiant--Angelou
  91. Me, Metal--"Doctor Who"
  92. Meg, Brass--Little Women
  93. Meryl, Wind--Streep
  94. Mildred, Frostfire--grandmother
  95. Minerva, Light--Greek goddess
  96. Molly, Obsidian--Harry Potter
  97. Nyssa, Harest--"Arrow"
  98. Paisan, Glass--comic
  99. Patricia, Plasma--professor
  100. Paula, Conch--aunt
  101. Pema, Ember--Chodron
  102. Petrella, Bubble--teacher
  103. Phryne, Howl--"Miss Fisher's Mysteries"
  104. Prudence, Hail--"Miss Fisher's Mysteries"
  105. RiverSong, Pepper--"Doctor Who"
  106. Ro, Dark--ST:TNG
  107. Rose, Heat--"Doctor Who"
  108. Roslin, Snow--"Battlestar Galactica"
  109. Ruth, Iceberg--Fried Green Tomatoes
  110. Sam, Mirror--"Foyle's War"
  111. Sarah J, Arctic--"Doctor Who"
  112. Scarlett, Mud--GWTW
  113. Schackett, Mine--teacher
  114. Scully, Fire--"X-Files"
  115. Shane, Forge--"L Word"
  116. Sharon, Lagoon--Salzberg, Buddhist teacher
  117. Sigourney, Firefly--Weaver
  118. Simmons, Vortex--"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
  119. Sojourner, Glacier--Truth
  120. Starbuck, Mountain--"Battlestar Galactica"
  121. Stoner, Flash--mysteries
  122. Sukie, Dark--"Gilmore Girls"
  123. Susan B, Watch--Anthony
  124. Thyme, Acid--"Rosemary & Thyme"
  125. Trelawney, Moss--Harry Potter
  126. Vita, Garden--Sackville-West
  127. Willow, Lichen--"Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
  128. Wilma, Nosferatu--Deering of "Buck Rogers"
  129. Zoe, Sand--"Firefly"
  130. Agent 13, Delight--Marvel Movies
  131. Alice, Double Rainbow--Austen
  132. Amy, Bronze--Indigo Girls
  133. Angelica, Snowy Bronze--Hamilton
  134. Antigone, Omen--Greek tragedy
  135. Arietty, Summer--The Borrowers
  136. Ashildr, Bizurian--"Doctor Who"
  137. Athena, Thunderbolt--Greek goddess
  138. Belle, Serenity--Beauty and the Beast
  139. Bette, Rainbow--Middler
  140. Billie Jean, Double Rainbow--King
  141. Carolyn V, Ironwood--professor
  142. Clara, Sun--"Doctor Who"
  143. Clara B, Moon--Barton
  144. Cordelia, Nightbloom--Shakespeare
  145. Eleanor, Gold--Roosevelt
  146. Elizabeth, Solar Eclipse--queen
  147. Ellen, Rainbow--Degeneres
  148. Elsa, Snowflake--Frozen
  149. Emmeline, Sanguinite--Pankhurst
  150. Fantine, Bizurian--Les Miz
  151. Florence, Autumn--Nightingale
  152. Francile, Sapphire--relative
  153. Frevisse, Snowy Bronze--mysteries
  154. Gabrielle, Rainbow--"Xena, Warrior Princess"
  155. Galadriel, Opal--LOTR
  156. Geena, Prism--Davis
  157. Gertrude, Rainbow--Stein
  158. Guinan, Electrum--ST:TNG
  159. Hartley, Snowy Silver--"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
  160. Helen M, Snowflake--Mirren
  161. Helena, Dawnbringer--Bonham Carter
  162. Jo, Silver--Little Women
  163. Joan B, Bronze--professor
  164. Lacey, Moon--"Cagney and Lacey"
  165. Leia, Nebula--Star Wars
  166. Martina, Moon--Navratilova
  167. Maz, Nebula--Star Wars
  168. Melanie, Melancholy--GWTW
  169. Merida, Lacewing--Brave
  170. Moana, Silver Olympus--Disney
  171. Morgana, Amber--"Merlin"
  172. Mulan, Bismuth
  173. Nan, Bronze--Tipping the Velvet
  174. Nat, Snowy Silver--Marvel movies
  175. Osgood, Snowflake--"Doctor Who"
  176. Peggy C, Chrysalis--Marvel movies
  177. Portia, Nightmare--Shakespeare
  178. Prim, Ornamental--Hunger Games
  179. Radclyffe, Rainbow--Hall
  180. Rey, Nebula--Star Wars
  181. Rosemary, Valor--"Rosemary and Thyme"
  182. Sappho, Prism--poet
  183. Skye, Polarian--"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
  184. Tasha Yar, Flicker--ST:TNG
  185. Tauriel, Gold--LOTR
  186. Whoopi, Seasonal--Goldberg
  187. Victoria, Bronze--queen
  188. Xena, Double Rainbow--"Xena, Warrior Princess"
  189. Zelda, Seasonal--video game (Bud's request)

Names to Consider
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Sonia Sottmayor
  • Elena Kagan
  • Sandra Day O'Connor
  • Carrie Chapman Catt
  • Alva Vanderbilt
  • Dorothea D (or Middlemarch)
  • Jane A
  • Emma Goldman
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Amy Lowell
  • Grisabella, Cats
  • Lady Violet
  • Anne B
  • Jane Seymour
  • Catherine
  • Elizabeth
  • Anne Cleves
  • Troi
  • Eva WS
  • Sylvia
  • Vigee Lebrun
  • Sylvia Boorstein
  • Jane Eyre

Fall Fun: The First Fall Family Weekend

I wasn't posting, but, oh, were we having fun!

Gommie and Pop arrived here on Friday, just before the kids got home early from school.  They were all so excited to see each other, as I had been a bit earlier.

As usual, there was some show-and-tell when my parents arrived, this time in the form of watching the school musical on DVD, pointing out the kids in each scene, commenting on the whole experience.  Almost as good as being there in person!

Then we went out to dinner at a local place, with artichoke dip, fresh bread, steak, chicken, mussels, meatloaf, hamburgers, profiteroles, bread pudding, creme brulee.  A nice feast!

I think they even squeezed in a couple of games of checkers, with Sis roundly beating Gommie a few times--Pop managed to win against her, finally.

Saturday brought our usual round of kung fu, followed by a special performance at a local festival.  The festival was very small and local, but Gommie and Pop were so glad to get to see Bud perform.  He did his tong bei (first form), spear, and 9-chain routines as part of the larger team performance.  I just love watching him fly through the air!  We did a few of the activities--Gommie got a red flower painted on her cheek; I watched a calligrapher at work.  We all made "snow skin" Singapore mooncakes, which are bright white.  They are made of a pre-cooked dough of glutinous rice flower, coconut milk, with sweet bean paste in the middle--you make a ball and then stamp it with a symbolic decoration.  (See here for a similar recipe.)  It's a lot like mochi, though the woman in charge of the activity balked at the suggestion, saying, "The Chinese invented mochi, not the Japanese."  We walked the beach for a bit and then had a quick lunch of dumplings, shumai, scallion pancakes, and egg rolls.

Then we went out for ice cream!  Not your usual ice cream but the popular new nitrogen-frozen one that's all the rage around here.  Pop and I got the bourbon breakfast one, which is quite boozy.

For dinner, Mama made a delicious pork shoulder in her pressure cooker.  Yes, hers.  I am a bit wary of the steaming, squeaking thing.  But the dinner, with sides of roasted sweet potatoes and also broccoli, was delicious--and the first homecooked meal Gommie and Pop had eaten in 2+ weeks!

Sunday was church, a discussion and celebration of "accounting" of Rosh Hashanah.  I don't remember the exact context, but my favorite part was about those who yell loudly because they feel as if they aren't heard, literally and figuratively.  How true is that!  I see it here at home, in online discussions of local issues, on the national stage from both politicians and their supporters.  It seems like we have a rash of many people trying to communicate without many feeling heard.

And then it was time for Applepalooza!!  I was so excited that my folks could be here for our usually annual party for the first time.   And also for the first time, none of my usual playgroup friends could come; they were missed.  Still, we had our great neighbors and bus route friends, plus more from the community and church.  It was a great group, with lots of good conversation and delicious food, as usual:  apple rosettes, honey apple quiche, apple pie, caramel apples, old-fashioned apple cake with brown sugar frosting, cupcakes, doughnuts, mulled cider, and some fall beers.  Plus Pop's spicy homemade salsa!  The adults chatted around the fire pit, while the kids played--the younger ones in the dirt or on the swingset, the older ones running around playing zombie tag and climbing trees.  It was all going so well, until, simultaneously, a child was smacked in the head by the seesaw and the low dogwood branch the kids were sitting on it the tree cracked.  We confirmed the tree kids were fine while fetching an ice pack for the crying little one.  Soon, all was right again, though Pop later cut the branch off the tree.  The dogwood has some rot, so it's not surprising, but it was a lovely branch.  Still, I'm so glad no one was hurt.

Sis rushed off to speed skating after the party, with Gommie and Pop watching her race around the ice in her impressive "skin suit," made of kevlar for her protection.  She's still a beginner, of course, trying to learn the crossover and such, but she loves it and tried very hard.  We had Italian for dinner, with Sis inhaling a whole entree after her three-hour workout.

Monday was a school holiday and our rest time, though Mama had to go to work.  We sat at home, playing games like checkers and MarioKart.  Pop tried his had a few times at it, finally mastering the controls so that he didn't come in last.  Gommie and I tangled tiles. We watched "Speechless," which Gommie enjoyed.  Pop cut down the branch.   They all went swimming at the hotel. We even practiced flipping bottles, which apparently is the new craze; I didn't even know about it til I read a Boston Globe article, but the kids say it had already been banned at school.  Gommie got down on the floor and was flipping water bottles with the best of them.  Bud had piano and Sis had horseback riding; Pop and Gommie went to the horses, happy to see Sis riding Pooh, as well as grooming him and taking care of the tack.   We nibbled on Applepalooza leftovers until we made our own pizzas for dinner.  (And had some grumpiness with the kids, Mama, and me--if Gommie and Pop wanted a taste of our schedule--with all of our activities and such, they got it and a few of some of our breakdowns when we're tired.)  It was also Gommie and Pop's 54th wedding anniversary!  And as Gommie told the kids, without their marriage, the kids wouldn't be here.  True enough.  We cheered their long marriage.  

Today, Mama is at work, the kids are at school, Gommie and Pop are headed to the Adirondacks or somewhere, and I am at home still fighting this cold.  It wasn't goodbye--we'll see them in Vermont for another wonderful, long weekend.


King Arthur's Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting--it was fantastic!


  • 2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple, about 1 1/3 pounds whole apples 
  • 1 cup diced toasted walnuts or pecans (we skipped these and added more apples)


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.
To make the cake: Mix all of the ingredients except the apples and nuts in a large bowl.
Beat until well combined; the mixture will be very stiff, and may even be crumbly.
Add the apples and nuts, and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter, somewhere between cookie dough and brownie batter in consistency.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with your wet fingers.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it.
Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool completely; don't remove the cake from the pan.
To make the frosting: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.
Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. Spread on the cake while frosting is still warm.
Yield: about 2 dozen servings.

    Tips from our bakers

    • To toast nuts, place them in a single layer in a cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 6 to 9 minutes, until they're golden brown and smell "toasty."
    • To guarantee lump-free frosting, sift confectioners' sugar before adding to the butter mixture. Usually all the lumps disappear as you beat the frosting; but to guarantee no lumps at all, sift the sugar first.

    1. Apple Rosettes
      • 1-2 sheets puff pastry
      • 1/4 cup cream cheese
      • 3 tbsp sugar
      • cinnamon
      • 1 apple
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • 3 tbsp water

      • Take out the core and thinly slice the apple.
      • Combine the apple slices with lemon juice and water in a bowl and microwave 3 minutes. Cool the bowl in some ice water. Pat dry the apple slices of excess moisture and set aside.
      • Roll out the puff pastry and cut into 4 even strips. 
      • Spread cream cheese and sprinkle on sugar onto the puff pastry strips. 
      • Arrange the apple slices and sprinkle cinnamon on top.
      • Fold the pastry puff in half lengthwise and roll them up. Place in greased muffin tins.
    Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.
    Miss CA

    Homemade Caramel Apples--made by a friend's daughter, via Land of Lakes
    1 cup finely chopped peanuts, optional
    1/2 cup butter
    2 cups brown sugar
    1 cup corn syrup
    dash salt
    14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    10 tart apples, washed and dried

    Butter waxed paper; set aside. 

    Place peanuts into bowl. Set aside.
    Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan; add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes or until mixture comes to a full boil. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 20-25 minutes or until small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a firm ball or candy thermometer reaches 245°F.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
    Dip apples into caramel mixture. Dip 1 end of each apple into peanuts. Place onto prepared waxed paper.

    Pop's Spicy Salsa

    can of diced tomatoes
    jalapenos (without seeds)
    black pepper

    In blender, mix tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapenos. Pour into dish and cover top with black pepper.  Stir.  Serve with tortilla chips.

    Pizza Dough--this is Mark Bittman's recipe, essentially the same as the one the girls did at their overnight
    • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, or more as needed, plus more for kneading
    • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
    • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as necessary

    1. Put the 3 cups flour, yeast, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water through the feed tube. Process until the mixture forms a slightly sticky ball, about 30 seconds. If the mixture is too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 to 10 seconds after each addition. If the mixture refuses to come together, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until it does.
    2. Rub a little olive oil or sprinkle a little flour onto your hands and shape the dough into a ball; wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. Or, if time is tight, let it rest at least 20 minutes before proceeding. Or refrigerate for several hours, deflating if necessary if it threatens to burst the plastic. (Or divide in half, wrap each ball in plastic, slip into a plastic bag and freeze.) Let it return to room temperature before proceeding.
    3. Reshape the dough into a ball and cut in half, forming 2 balls. (From here on, use olive oil if you're cooking on baking sheets, flour if on a pizza stone.) Put them on a lightly floured surface (a pizza peel is ideal), sprinkle with flour and cover with plastic wrap; or brush then with a bit of oil and place on a lightly oiled sheet. Let rest for about 20 minutes, while you heat the oven to 500 degrees.
    4. Press a dough ball into a 1/2-inch-thick flat round, adding flour or oil to the work surface as necessary. Press or roll the dough until it's as thin as you can make it; let it rest a bit if it becomes too elastic. (Patience is your friend here.) You can do two baking sheets at once, or one after another, as you'll have to if using a peel. If doing the latter, slide the dough from the peel onto the stone.
    5. Sprinkle the pizzas with olive oil (just a little), salt and rosemary. Bake for at least 10 minutes, perhaps rotating once, until the crust is crisp. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.