Friday, August 11, 2017


It's been a relatively quiet week.  Sis has been at overnight camp all, so it's just me and Bud.  We've watched a lot of movies--ask him about the sci-fi/kung fu movie The Matrix and being Neo for Halloween--had a few meals out together and done a lot of perler bead art.  He made several large Pokemon characters while I made a couple of colorful mandalas.  We also practiced our Italian on Duo Lingo together, getting ready early for our trip to Italy next April (yep, we've chosen the location for our next big trip--Rome, Florence, Venice.  It's been 25 years since I was there--and met Lambeth!)

School starts in about three weeks and I've been gathering info about supplies and such.  Today, Bud and I bought their gym shirts and shorts from a local t-shirt printing place; it'll be their first year to change for gym.  I also bought big zip-up binders for their coursework.  Apparently, they can't carry bags between classes and everyone uses the new-fangled version of the Trapper Keeper.  And today I bought a bunch of pants in the next size for both of them.  I don't know what they'll wear to school--it's their first year since preschool without a strict dresscode.  So they don't have to wear navy and khaki anymore!  Bud, at least, plans to wear a penguin t-shirt a day.

Otherwise, I'll be away from the blog for a bit as we do some family things together.  Because we haven't gotten very far on our list . . . . though, we probably won't get to much of this list now.

  1. Go to Vermont--oh, that was fun!
  2. Sis's speedskating camp--she loved camp (with 2 Olympians and a national coach!) and we liked our wanderings around Jersey, including living history museums, lighthouses, great Malayasian food.
  3. Go to Texas--Yes, we did!  And completed a subset of our list:  boat rides, driving the golf cart, fishing, tubing, sailing, fireworks, Mikeska's, Prasek's, Buc-ee's, Whataburger, seeing dolphins, walking on the pier at night, bird sightings (pelican, mockingbird, Mexican eagle/caracara, gray hawk, white-winged dove, purple martins, even baby buzzards), hammock time, chalk art, water balloon fight, birthday parties, visiting with family.
  4. Family camp in Maine
  5. Sis's computer camp--almost done! Pick up is today.
  6. Bud's theater camp--he liked it and we thought the little production at the end of the week was cute.
  7. Trip to NYC with kids by myself--nope, but we did go as a whole family to see Come From Away and Gulliver's Gate
  8. See musical Come From Away
  9. Beach outing
  10. Putt-putt golf--well, at least Mama and Bud got in a round in NJ
  11. Create Minecraft server
  12. Make ice cream
  13. Go to zoo
  14. Family biking
  15. Celebrate 4th of July--watching fireworks in TX
  16. Celebrate Solstice--first full summer day at home so we have a free day and kids stay up late
  17. Celebrate Mama's birthday with Studio Ghibli film festival--Yay!!  We've seen Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service
  18. Birthday parties for kids--birthday pinata!
  19. Kids cook weekly dinners--Bud started with shish kebabs!
  20. Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party

  21. See Spiderman Homecoming--we LOVED it!
  22. Big house purge before carpet removal--we've delayed the carpet removal, just ran out of time
  23. Bird song e-course--I've done some of the lessons and am trying to learn the mnenomics
  24. Zentangle workshops--I learned all about doing 3D designs, Dingbatz, radial blossoms, and "Delft Designs"
  25. Summer Soul Camp workshop--it's going on right now
  26. Clean basement--I did a really good sweep of the "front" part.  It's navigable again.
  27. Gardening--I've cleared the bed in the back and planted some flowers
  28. Make rock art
  29. Lego Death Star
  30. Refurbish dollhouse
  31. Kids learn how to do laundry
  32. Lemonade-stand fundraiser
  33. Try embroidery on pillowcase
  34. Improve my Splattoon skills
  35. Make Jan-June photobook
  36. Get back to my YogaDance class
  37. Quilling
  38. Read through magazine pile--I've made headway.
  39. Teach mandalas class

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Embroidery-Hoop Mandala

I finally wrote up this pattern the way I do it!!!  The original pattern is one of my favorites, the Granny Mandala from Crocheting with Raymond.  In the beginning, I would starch the mandalas with watered-down glue or Mod Podge before hanging them in my windows.  Then I decided to attach a mandala to an embroidery hoop and now that's my favorite way to do it.  Because I tend to use variegated yarn, I did not need to change colors with each round and so adapted the transition between rounds to include a slip stitch across the stitches to get to the next ch 1 space.  So the pattern is written to be used without yarn; I include a note about doing it otherwise.

I'm really pleased to have finally written this up, having made two mandala hoops this week.  Good luck!!

(It's dark so I'll add better photos tomorrow.)

Three embroidery-hoop mandalas
(the small one actually has 6 rounds, to get that light blue in,
but it is a little loose.)

Tonight's big mandala!

My Embroidery-Hoop Mandala

·      any size embroidery hoop (wooden or plastic)
·      medium-weight (4) yarn (or any yarn with comparable hook)—I tend to use cotton
·      H hook

This pattern is for variegated yarn, with no yarn changes at each round.

NOTE:  If you want to change colors with each round, instead of “sl st across dc cluster and sl st into ch 1 sp”, join new color with a sl st into a 1 ch space from previous round and proceed as directed.

Size suggestions:
Small embroidery hoop:  5 rounds
Medium embroidery hoop:  8 rounds
Large embroidery hoop:  11 rounds

When you have completed your desired number of rounds:  Do NOT finish off.  See directions below to attach to hoop

US crochet terms
sc single crochet
dc double crochet
ch chain
sl st slip stitch
dc2tog  double crochet two together
yo yarn over
sp space
FO finish off

Round 1:  Make a magic ring. 3 ch (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc, *ch 1, 2 dc* repeat **  5 times (6 pairs).  Join with a sl st to 3rd chain of  first 3 ch.  Tighten magic circle.

Round 2: :  sl st across tops of stiches to next ch 1 sp and sl st into ch 1 sp.  Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc, ch 1, dc2tog (same space), *ch 1, in next space dc2tog, ch 1, dc2tog* repeat ** in each ch 1 space until end of round, then ch 1 and join with a sl st into 3rd ch of ch 3. (6 pairs)

[dc2tog:  yo, insert hook, pull through a loop, yo, pull yarn through 2 loops, yo, insert hook into same stitch, pull through one loop, yo, pull up 2 loops, yo, pull through 3 loops]

Round 3:   sl st across tops of stiches to next ch 1 sp and sl st into ch 1 sp.  Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc in same sp, *ch 1, into next sp 3dc* repeat ** until end of round, then ch 1 and join with a sl st into 3rd ch of ch 3. (12 sets of 3 dc)

Round 4:  repeat round 3. (12 sets of 3 dc)

Round 5:  sl st across tops of stiches to next ch 1 sp and sl st into ch 1 sp.  Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc, ch 1, 3 dc in same sp, *ch1, into next space 3dc, ch1, 3dc* repeat ** until end of round, then ch 1 and join with a sl st to 3rd chain of original 3ch. (24 sets of 3 dc)

Round 6:  repeat round 3. (24 sets of 3 dc)

Round 7:  repeat round 3. (24 sets of 3 dc)

Round 8:  sl st across tops of stiches to next ch 1 sp and sl st into ch 1 sp.  Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc, ch 1, 3 dc in same space, *ch 1, into next space 3dc, ch 1, then into NEXT space 3dc, ch 1, 3dc*, repeat ** until end of round, then ch 1 and join with a sl st to 3rd chain of original 3ch.  (36 sets of 3 dc)

Round 9:  repeat round 3 (36 sets of dc)
Round 10:  repeat round 3.  (36 sets of 3 dc)
Round 11:  repeat round 3.  (36 sets of 3 dc)

Round 12:  sl st across tops of stiches to next ch 1 sp and sl st into ch 1 sp.  Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc, ch 1, 3 dc in same space, *ch 1, into next space 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc , ch 1, then into NEXT space 3dc, ch 1, 3dc*, repeat ** until end of round, then ch 1 and join with a sl st to 3rd chain of original 3ch.  Pattern goes 3 dc-ch 1-3dc, ch 1, 3dc, ch 1, 3dc, or increase (3dc-ch 1-3dc), ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc, ch 1, increase . . .

Round 13:  repeat round 3.
Round 14:  repeat round 3.
Round 15:  repeat round 3.
Round 16: repeat round 12.

To make an even larger mandala (like in a hoola hoop), do three rounds without increase and then increase the next round like round 12.

To attach to hoop:
When your mandala is the size of the inside of your hoop by stretching it a little bit,  it is done (if the mandala is too close to the edge or overlaps the hoop, it will not be tight, leading it to sag or flop.)  It will be harder to crochet around the hoop than a regular row; be patient.  Your mandala will stretch as you go and you can adjust by sliding stitches around to make it more even.

Separate your embroidery hoops and use only the inside hoop (you can do both; I like the look of doing just one so that the outside edge is just wood.) Hold mandala near the hoop and then insert the hook through a ch 1 space under the rim of the hoop, as if you are treating the hoop as the top of the ch 1 sp.  Then sc by drawing  up a long loop over the top of the hoop and completing the stitch.  Then ch 1.

*sc, ch 1* around the hoop and repeat until end of round. 

Loop:  Then ch 10 or 20 and sl st to first ch stitch to create a loop.  FO.

Mommy Hungry

Thursday, August 3, 2017


We were in NYC this weekend and I have a few new suggestions for you if you go:

1.  Go see Come From Away:  The musical about the "plane people" grounded in Gander, Newfoundland when the US closed its airspace on September 11 is AMAZING!  Touching, tender yet powerful, funny, energetic.  We loved it.  It plays without intermission so the emotion of the show is not interrupted.  And there are a lot of those!  Grief, frustration, sadness, confusion, love, peace, hope.   (I left with the belief that we should just let Canada be the leaders of the world.)  The show follows about a dozen different characters, with more making cameos, all played by the core cast.  And they do a remarkable job at distinguishing the different personas through accent, gestures, and costume changes.  We had been enjoying the soundtrack, but the show was just so much better.  We laughed, we cried.  It was better than Cats.  And afterwards, we stage-doored.  The kids got autographs from every main member and at least one musician.  Sis told the actress who played the animal-lover that she was her favorite.  Mama told the actress playing the firefighter's mom that she brought her for tears.  And we all gushed about Jenn Colella, who played one of the pilots, Capt Beverly Bass, actually the first female captain of a major airline.  Colella was wearing a love trumps hate shirt and was really engaging.  And after signing everyone's program, she just rode off into traffic on her push scooter!  If you get a chance to see the show, definitely go.

2.  Eat at BXL:  Mama found this Belgian restaurant on 43rd and the menu sounded great.  It was even better than that!  First, it doesn't look like a touristy Time Square trap; it felt like a small English pub, with distressed wood and lots of soccer.  But despite having a prominent bar, it is family-friendly (the owner and friends spoke French the whole time, so if they were cursing the game, we didn't know.) And the food was extraordinary:  truffle croquettes, goat cheese with honey on toast, delicious dressing on fresh insalata, steak frites with this amazing pepper dressing, croque madame, all kinds of mussels, a really good spaghetti bolognese, and delicious tarte tatin and pot du chocolat.  Oh, so good.  And there were so many things we didn't get to try.  Definitely a do-again.

3.  Explore Gulliver's Gate:  On Saturday morning, we were some of the first at Gulliver's Gate, an astonishing miniature exhibition near the Mariott Marquis in what was the Discovery Museum.  I'd been hearing good things for awhile and would second all those and more.  What a wonderful place!  It's to scale but not exactly geographically correct, but the models and figures and all the details evoke places all over the world, with the first whole room dedicated to NYC.  There are also big displays of England, Russia, and Israel.  There's even a working Panama Canal with locks and REAL water!  There are also lots of famous figures and icons hidden--Yoda, the Obamas, the new 13th Doctor, Wonder Woman, Spider Man, Batman, and so many we didn't see, like the Fiddler on the Roof (there's not exactly a list; ask the staff.)  There are also spaces dedicated to the art of model making, and on our day it was staffed.  The artist talked about making grass with a hair dryer/flashlight-like aparatus which ionized this green material and made it stand on end before it hardened in the glue.  He also showed us a bamboo forest complete with pandas that will be added to China--it even has two figures in the treetops, straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (and he was very impressed we knew that.)  AND we had our photos taken in a special pod with 200+cameras that will then digitally convert us into teensy 3D models with a digital printer.  Mama and I stood together and elected to be placed in Grand Central.  Sis wants to be in Stonehenge.  And Bud opted for the Brooklyn Bridge.  Can't wait to see the photo of us in situ.  You should go look for us.  I know we'll be going again.

Lastly, I should add that we stayed at a hotel which used to be my old dorm building when I was in graduate school!  I knew it had been converted into a hotel--Gommie has even stayed there--and I'd been in the lobby, but this was our first night to sleep there.  No, not in my old room--804, which just has one double bed apparently--but in the penthouse with views north and south! (We got an upgrade for some reason--and it was bigger than our own first floor, with two full bathrooms!)   The southern view was just like my old one albeit a few stories up.  You can see the Woodstock (where the crane from the Conde Nast tower fell and killed a woman in her apartment on the top floor during construction), but many of the buildings out the window were new.  It really was rather surreal.  I could also see the air shaft which was the view of a few of my friends.  The elevators are exactly the same--very slow and small.  It was quite a treat.  And I was just thrilled to be back "home."  Mercy, I loved living in NYC, right there in Times Square.  A lot of my old neighborhood has changed, but I always love going back.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer Fun So Far

Making some progress . . . . 
  1. Go to Vermont--oh, that was fun!
  2. Sis's speedskating camp--she loved camp (with 2 Olympians and a national coach!) and we liked our wanderings around Jersey, including living history museums, lighthouses, great Malayasian food.
  3. Go to Texas--Yes, we did!  And completed a subset of our list:  boat rides, driving the golf cart, fishing, tubing, sailing, fireworks, Mikeska's, Prasek's, Buc-ee's, Whataburger, seeing dolphins, walking on the pier at night, bird sightings (pelican, mockingbird, Mexican eagle/caracara, gray hawk, white-winged dove, purple martins, even baby buzzards), hammock time, chalk art, water balloon fight, birthday parties, visiting with family.
  4. Family camp in Maine
  5. Sis's computer camp
  6. Bud's theater camp 
  7. Ice skating with friends
  8. Trip to NYC with kids by myself?
  9. Trip on Port Jeff ferry with kids by myself?
  10. See musical Come From Away
  11. Beach outing
  12. Putt-putt golf--well, at least Mama and Bud got in a round in NJ
  13. Create Minecraft server
  14. Make ice cream
  15. Go to zoo
  16. Family biking
  17. Celebrate 4th of July--watching fireworks in TX
  18. Celebrate Solstice--first full summer day at home so we have a free day and kids stay up late
  19. Celebrate Mama's birthday with Studio Ghibli film festival--Yay!!  We've seen Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service
  20. Birthday parties for kids--birthday pinata!
  21. Kids cook weekly dinners--Bud started with shish kebabs!
  22. Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party

  23. See Spiderman Homecoming--we LOVED it!
  24. See Thor: Ragnorak
  25. Big house purge before carpet removal
  26. Backyard archery
  27. Bird song e-course--I've done some of the lessons and am trying to learn the mnenomics
  28. Zentangle workshops--I learned all about doing 3D designs, Dingbatz, radial blossoms, and "Delft Designs"
  29. Summer Soul Camp workshop--it's going on right now
  30. Clean basement--I did a really good sweep of the "front" part.  It's navigable again.
  31. Gardening--I've cleared the bed in the back and planted some flowers
  32. Make rock art
  33. Lego Death Star
  34. Refurbish dollhouse
  35. Kids learn how to do laundry
  36. Volunteering (Sis with horse camp, Bud with cats?)
  37. Lemonade-stand fundraiser
  38. Try embroidery on pillowcase
  39. Improve my Splattoon skills
  40. Make Jan-June photobook
  41. Get back to my YogaDance class
  42. Quilling
  43. Read through magazine pile--I've made headway.
  44. Teach mandalas class
  45. Blueberry picking

Since I've Been Gone

Since I've been off the blog, we

  • had a multi-day heat wave with temps in the mid 90Fs and heat index well into 100F;
  • had a cold snap with lows right at 60F and highs not getting to 70F;
  • spent a week in NJ--but not on the delightful shore--touring the midlands around Morristown, where Sis had speedskating camp (which she loved--and I think she improved) with not one but two Olympians and a multiple-Olympics national coach!  She made friends with a girl in CA and another in the area and one in NYC.
    What Sis did all week.

    Speedwell--building on left is where telegraph demonstrated

  • toured the area, finding the kinds of things we like to do, including 
    • The "temple"

    • Fosterfields:  a lovely 200+ acre farm started at the turn-of-the-20th-century by Clara Foster, who loved the colonial revival and built a lovely "Temple of Abiding Peace" cabin with an adjoining historically-inspired garden, which they've restored;
    • historic Speedwell, an early 19th-century factory and iron works, where Samuel F.B. Morse introduced the first telegraph;
    • Gorgeous meadows at Duke Farms
    • Duke Farms, the lavish estate of the late Doris Duke (whose father was behind the modern cigarette industry and then went into electric power!), which is now dedicated to environmental and sustainability issues.  I especially liked the remains of the basement of the grand house that was never built and the ruins of a burned barn that then housed a sculpture garden.

    Just one view of one part of one room
    Sculpture garden in barn ruins
    • Northlandz train museum:  this is a wacky tourist trap with the largest model railroad in the world, but the craftsmanship and creativity is amazing--you actually wind around a whole mile looking at the detailed models.  
    • Navesink
    • Navesink Twin Lights--yay, we got to see this very famous light, with its dual towers separated by an stone, armory-type building.  The lights are relatively short but are on a cliff, making it one of the highest lighthouses on the east coast.  Wonderful. 
    • Sandy Hook Light (est. 1764) and Fort Hancock--out on the peninsula that is Gateway National Recreation Area (the other half of which is over by Mama's parents, across the harbor in NY).  The light is from 1764!!!!  And apparently the British held onto it despite an attack by Patriots during the Revolutionary War, the canon marks of which you could apparently see well into the 19th century.  Around the lighthouse is the remainder of a fort that was inhabited by 10,000 soldiers during WWII.  There is a 9-gun battery and also a proving ground for new weapons.  Most of that is in shambles, while some of the buildings have been converted to modern uses for the Coast Guard.  It was a very hazy day, but on a clear one you could have had a great view of the city.
      Sandy Hook light est 1764!!  
    • Putt Putt!  Bud even made this great shot backwards between his legs!
    Malaysian "ice cream"
  • ate out at seafood (soft shell crab sandwich and crab cakes and corn and lobster bisque!), Vietnamese (spring rolls!), Malayasian (stand out food:  kachang "ice cream" with sweet corn, kidney beans, grass jelly, palm hearts, and red rose syrup on crushed ice!), and Korean (bimibop!) restaurants--mmm, mmm, good!
  • spent some down-time in the hotel pools and watching "Ancient Aliens" and the new Clash of the Titans, with me crocheting on my first amigurumi critter (an owl-penguin thing that doesn't have eyes yet)
  • came home exhausted and resumed kung fu, piano, and horses.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


The kiddos are twelve.  12!  As Bud put it, there are only 364 days until they're teenagers.


Our celebrations have been relatively constant but also low key.  We spent last weekend opening presents, eating out, and having fun (with videogames, a new puzzle, movies.)  We also went on Sunday to welcome my brother-in-law Goo to Connecticut.  Yep, he's a new Nutmegger!  He moved into a condo not far from the hospital in which he'll be working.  Very exciting.  And nice to have him so close.  Only downside:  his AC promptly quit and so he spent two nights here as the landlord and the HVAC guys got it fixed.  It was so hot and muggy this week--until a high of 65 on Friday, that is!--that AC was a must (I know, I know, first-world problem.)  So, his studying for his licensure exams fell behind but we enjoyed seeing him.

Sis was with her beloved horses all week, helping out with camp.  Yep, this year she was a helper, not a camper.  And she loved it.  She spent about 4 hours each day, more on her lesson and lease days, with her horses and her riding buddies.  She loves everything about the stable, even the manure.  See, it's a tradition at her farm to throw the birthday girl into the stable's manure pile.  Sis was tickled pink and barely resisted as the bigger girls picked her up.  Thankfully, they threw her into the hay-part of the pile, but she did manage to muck up her hands and boots getting up.  We laughed and laughed all the way home.  "Mom, I just can't stop smiling," she said.  It's fun to be a part of things, even if it's in the manure pile.  And being thrown in meant she belonged.  We laughed about it for a few days.

That night, we went to a summer picnic and told the story, showing the pictures, to everyone we knew.  Happy birthdays all around.  At the party we had a lot of great food to eat--lobster rolls, pulled pork, barbecue chicken, giant turkey leg, sliders, kettle corn, and great Cherry Coke floats.  I also tried a Long Island Iced Tea--I'd never had one--mercy, those taste like tea!  But with vodka, tequila, triple sec, and rum (plus cola and lemon juice), those could also mess you up.  Sis climbed a rock wall, twice, beautifully and I got a hair tattoo (metallic flowers in a row.)  Sis and I also rode on the ferris wheel, which swayed more than I remembered.  I had never been on a small, portable carnival wheel, only ones at amuseument parks.  Sitll it was a few stories high and a bit nerve-wracking.  Sis, who had never been on one, had a good time.

While Sis was at horse camp this week, Bud and I mainly played games together and went for nice lunches.  On Friday, we went to see Spiderman: Homecoming, which I greatly enjoyed.  He and I laughed aloud quite a bit.  I even gasped, apparently loudly, when they dropped the Lego Death Star.  Bud, I think, was embarrassed a bit and later told me people turned to look at me!  Ah, well, I'd gasp if we ever dropped the hard-to-make Lego Death Star!  Anyway, I think it was a nice coming-of-age story.  Highly recommend.

And tonight is Sis's slumber party.  There are three other girls here for macaroni and cheese, cake and ice cream, lots of snacks, and who knows what else tonight.  Mama and Bud have gone out to dinner and then store-hopping.  They'll be back later tonight for a Splattoon videogame marathon.  I'm the mom in charge of the sleepover, so I'm cooking and keeping an ear on things.  It's surprisingly quiet right now.

Perhaps I should go . . . .

Affirmations--Adding to My List

I've leveled up!  Bud's been checking my fluency with videogame parlance.  So, achievements unlocked:

  • going for a boat ride!
  • swimming in the bay!
  • riding a ferris wheel!
  • driving ever further (30+ minutes)
  • first day with my new badge at hospice
  • hiking to the chapel at Trapp Family Lodge
  • hiking along the ridge of Mt. Mansfield
  • hiking up the rock/root scramble at Moss Glen Falls
  • wading in the stream at Moss Glen Falls!
  • exploring the gunboat at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
  • went for mammogram (clean!)
  • driving to hospice (30+ minutes)
  • driving to deliver a church meal (30+ minutes)
  • gardening--clearing the back and front beds
  • juggling with and without brace
  • three shifts as snack supervisor at the play
  • 5 days in auditorium seats!
  • working town festival

For the old lists, see my original list of Affirmations is from March, AprilOctober 2015, then March and June 2016, and June 2017.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our Time in Texas

We sure know how to pack a lot into a short visit, even with both parents sick with the epizootus (I was already on antibiotics, but I think we picked up a virus at the airport because Mama and I are sick all over again--I didn't have a voice for most of the trip.)

Here's a non-sequential list of what we did:

  • boat rides:  I love a boat ride.  Always have, probably always will.  Wind in my hair, kinda bumpy--it's a great time for reflection or day dreaming.  Sis said it's like cantering on a horse; she likes boat rides, too.  She even drove some.  On our second ride, Sis saw churning water and we then saw a dolphin!  Must have been chasing up some fish.  It stayed around us for awhile, curious, surfacing so close to the boat once that it's blow hole squirt splashed my cheek.  Beautiful creature.  I couldn't get a good picture, though--it surfaced very quickly and in unpredictable places.  My back handled these boat rides much better than four years ago.  

  • driving the golf cart:  Sis and Bud had their first non-MarioKart driving lessons!  And no one was injured.
  • fishing:  Bud and Pop went fishing early one morning in the harbor, before anyone else was awake.  They caught some catfish.  On another morning, the whole crew went fishing in the harbor and each kid caught a catfish, with Bud catching the biggest one.

  • tubing:  Sis was definitely in her element.  She loves going fast and thus loved being pulled behind a motorboat on a huge tube, especially when she flew off into the bay!  Yes, she had on a life vest.  She said the best part was bouncing two feet off the surface of the water.
  • sailing:  Sis also went sailing with Gommie in the little Sunfish.  She liked it much better than her sailing lessons at Mystic because it wasn't as windy and rough.  
  • swimming:  the kiddos took to the warm, muddy water right away, even though both were stung by little jellies.  They especially liked jumping off the pier into the water.  I went into the water myself, never my favorite activity at the bay (I'm irrationally scared of Jaws, though there aren't any threatening sharks there, and I don't like jelly fish), and floated around with the kiddos.  Even with sunscreen,  I got burned a little.
  • family:  I think Gommie and the kids counted and they met 60 new people, more than half who were relatives--Gommie's siblings, her cousins, my cousins, my second cousins, my second cousins' kids . . . . It's a bit overwhelming, but the kids managed.  Though, Gommie did help by drawing out the family tree. Bud even shook everyone's hand!  Of course, our goal in going to the bay, besides their experiencing Gommie's very favorite place, was spending time with Aunt Banana and kiddos.  It was a bit strange at first for Sis and Bud because they aren't around little kids much at all.  Sis took to them well enough and even Bud did chalk art with Cousin M.  I don't know how much chance they got to talk to their aunt and uncle; it was pretty chaotic and busy the whole weekend.  I'm not sure I got to really visit with them!  I did do some art and juggling with Cousin M and played "slide the baby off the roof" of the dollhouse with Cousin B.  And I had some nice chats with my Aunt T, Aunt A, and Aunt J.  It was good to be together.  
  • fireworks:  My cousins put on a lovely fireworks show off their pier one night.  Bud and I walked down to see it close up.  I really liked the ones that explode into a giant array and then the "spray" explodes into smaller arrays.  There were also some very striking red and white fireworks.  And you could see other displays all around the bay.  Unfortunately, some of those fireworks, on another night, caught the back fields on fire.  I was already back at the hotel with Mama, but Pop, who'd driven me to the hotel, couldn't get back to the bay house because the road was closed.   Everyone was safe--there were a dozen water tanker trucks between them and the blaze, which the fire departments amazingly put out very quickly, not before it burned a few acres.  But it could've reached the boat houses and all those boats with 100-gallon gas tanks.  The kids called me in the middle and weren't scared, just wanted reassurance.  I knew they were safe with Gommie and Aunt Banana.  Still, scary and impressive.
  • Mikeska's:  Nothing like eating ribs and chopped beef sandwiches surrounded by taxidermied dead animals!  But I love their banana pudding and sweet tea.
  • Prasek's:  KOLACHES!  Fruit, sweet cheese, or sausage-filled pastries.  Best kolaches in the world.  And really good Tex Mex chocolate sheet cake, too.  The Prasek family's bay house is right next to ours and we had told one of the grandchildren how much we loved their kolaches.  Lo, and behold! Mr Mike had someone deliver 3+ dozen more kolaches to us!!!  Love that Texas hospitality.
  • Buc-ee's:  Oh, you know how I love Buc-ee's.  It's like the Texas version of the Vermont Country Store--food, souvenirs, homey, except Buc-ee's isn't quite as upscale.  But they have iced tea!  And I met a new food--the Frito Burrito!  Yep, that's right--a tortilla filled with chili, cheese, onions, refried beans, and FRITOS!!!!!!  We like their plain bean-and-cheeses and also breakfast burritos, too.  And I got a bluebonnet pillow.  I knew I wanted my Texas souvenir to have bluebonnets on it and I found the perfect throw pillow at Buc-ee's.
  • Whataburger:  Not "waterburgers," even if we pronounce it like that.  Mama spent two days asleep at the hotel where we were staying as "overflow" (Gommie and Pop's house isn't big enough to comfortably fit three families.)  I took her Whataburger a few times, once with the kids.  I love the chicken bites and creamy gravy with Texas toast (which is just thick white bread.)  And of course, iced tea!  Sis liked them, too.  Just seeing the orange-and-white stripes makes me smile (I remember the steak fingers of my childhood, but they don't have those anymore.  Or was that Dairy Queen?)
  • Food:  In addition to all of the food at restaurants, we also ate back at the bay house.  Mama and Aunt Banana had coordinated meals so we each took different nights.  We made Cowboy Supper but added cubed chicken breasts to the usual sausage; she made these great pulled pork tacos.  She also had this yummy Greek pasta salad.  Gommie brought French Dip sandwiches for the first night.
  • Palacios:  I had wanted to visit the town where my great-grandmother had lived and so Gommie, Mama, our twins, Aunt Banana, and Cousin M and I drove over one afternoon.  We had a good lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant (noodles with grilled chicken and egg rolls, shrimp and veg with noodles, somethink like a bird's nest with fried noodles, spring rolls, Vietnamese iced coffee (like Thai iced coffee, with sweetened condensed milk), and this great banana pudding.   Then we drove around to all the sights:  grandmother's house where Aunt Banana and I would spend the weekend (separately) across from the hospital, her real estate office which is still a real estate office, the restaurant Pederson's where we always went for Sunday brunch but which is now a bookstore (still has the bar and mural, though), the Texas Baptist Encampment, the shrimp boats, the piers where there used to be a pavilion for dancing, abandonned Camp Hulen which held 10,000 WWII soldiers in pup tents and where my great-grandmother was a typist and met my great-grandfather, and the old Luther Hotel, with the same screen door I remember passing through four decades ago.  It's a grande ol' dame of a hotel but has seen better days.  We saw a little white kitten there with one blue and one green eye (so probably deaf), covered in fleas but cute.  Pop almost got a new cat!  Aunt Sis and I remembered the vanilla wafers Grandma Mildred kept in the refrigerator, with their delicate and crispy brown edges, the burger place we often ate, and the shops she would take us to.  

  • pina coladas:  this is one of the popular drinks down at the bay and both kids learned how to make them!  Sis was sure to make a "virgin" pitcher for herself.  Directions, as far as they recall:  1 cup Coco Lopez, 1 cup pineapple juice, blend it with 2 cups of ice and 3 oz of rum (they don't remember.)  When I was a child, I would make bourbon and cokes for my uncle.
  • games, including Mexican train and "hand and foot" canasta:  The bay is full of game players and both kiddos got to play.  They learned a domino game called Mexican train and a card game called "hand and foot."  And both of them won.  I was really pleased to hear that they were good winners, shaking hands and thanking others for a good game.  I was even more pleased that I didn't have to play!
  • walking on the pier at night:  We went out our last night there, just for the experience of it.  I always feel like I'm walking above clouds on the pier at night.  
  • bird sightings:  This part of Texas is a birdwatcher's paradise.  I wasn't trying too hard but did notice many species I don't often see in CT, including the brown pelican, laughing gull, cattle egret, some kind of heron, snowy egret, mockingbird, Mexican eagle/caracara, gray hawk, white-winged dove, purple martins, and even baby buzzards.  I spotted my first caracara squaring off with a buzzard over some road kill.  They flew away as I drove off and the buzzard got back first.  As for the pelicans, I'm still amazed to see them everywhere; they weren't many of them at the bay when I was a child.  Now, they fly the coast every morning and evening; it's awe-inspiring.  And they really do look like dinosaurs.

  • hammock time:  Mama liked the hammock under the porch, as does Pop.

  • chalk art:  Cousin M and Bud did a great big chalk mural under the house on the concrete.
  • water balloon fight:  The cousins also had fun doing a water balloon fight.
  • birthday parties:  There was a big train birthday party for my 3-year-old nephew (I added the train tracks to the cake!)--it was funny to see him smear cake on his face!--and a pinata for our 12-year-olds.  It took awhile to smash the pinata so by the end they were not even using a blindfold; several of the cousins helped out.
  • the land:  I forget how flat it is in our part of Texas.  So flat, with views so far in the distance.  We passed huge cotton fields, corn, maize, but not as much rice as when I was a child.  There are old abandonned farm houses in some places, lots of cows, some windmills, lots of barbed wire fencing, silos in the distance, small towns of 200 people with all the businesses on main street closed, and Sis counted at least 277 horses!  It's not bluebonnet or Indian paintbrush season, but I did enjoy seeing some flowers.

  • mosquitos, high humidity, and Trump supporters:  Let's just say the bay would be a nicer place without any of these (let me revise that last one:  it was hard to believe that all my extended family (not my immediate family, i.e. parents, sister, BIL), who love us, also voted for HIM.  I'll keep the family, just dump #45.)
The only thing I didn't get to do while at the bay was honor the memory of my aunt and uncle and cousin in any way.  This was my first trip back since they'd all died and I had hoped to get a chance for some kind of quiet observance.  But I never quite figured out what that would be and there didn't seem to be a good time, with Mama and I both not feeling well.  Next time, perhaps.

Whew.  I'm tired just writing about it.  Good thing it's summer and there's not much I have to do right now.  Except laundry!


Giada De Laurentiis's Pulled Pork Tacos

                        2 teaspoons ground cumin
                        1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
                        2 teaspoons salt 
                        1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
                        2 pounds pork shoulder roast 
                        2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
                        1 onion, chopped 
                        3 cloves garlic, smashed 
                        1 chipotle in adobo plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
                        1/2 cup beer
                        1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (1/2 orange) 

Garnishes:  lime wedges, cheese, avocado, etc.

For the pulled pork: In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, coriander, salt and oregano. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork roast.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork roast and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, in a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, garlic, chipotle and adobo sauce, beer, and orange zest. Add the browned roast along with any pan juices. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 6 hours.

When the pork is cooked and fork tender, shred it using two forks. Add the shredded meat back to the slow cooker and toss with the onions and cooking juices. Keep warm in the slow cooker for people to help themselves and assemble the tacos with all the garnishes.

Aunt Banana's Greek Pasta Salad
bow tie pasta
cooked chicken, cubed
kalamata olives
tomato (optional)
bell peppers? (I can't recall)
**I saw a recipe on that includes 3 cups baby spinach
red onion
feta cheese
Greek salad dressing

Cook pasta al dente then toss with vegetables and chicken and coat with Greek salad dressing.

Aunt Banana

Milk-Can "Cowboy" Supper, Bay Version
adapted from Cook's Country

2 lbs. kielbasa, cut into big chunks about 1 1/2-2" long 
4 chicken breasts, cubed12 red potatoes, washed but unpeeled
1 small cabbage, cut into wedges and unstacked
1 1/2 cups baby carrots (oops, forgot to put this in)
1 red pepper, chunks
1 onion, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
7 ears of corn, halved
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 can beer

salt and pepper to taste

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