Monday, January 15, 2018

In Honor

Last week, I had a conversation with a hospice patient that touched me deeply.  He was an African American man born in the South in the 1920s.  And as he told it, he had seen so much violence and hatred in his lifetime--in fact, he said that when he was a young man, he would have been killed for talking to me alone as we were.  What was it all for, he wanted to know.  And where was religion?  Did I think that the world was a better place because of a belief in God?  He was thinking not only of our present challenges--terrorists in the name of Islam, Catholic priests who molest children--but of all the white preachers who supported racism especially in the Civil Rights era.  He was incredulous, saddened, at the anger and hatred.  He said he believes that God is love and wishes more people knew that, acted like it. I said that I vacilate in my thoughts on religion--that there has been much violence and prejudice and hatred in the name of God and belief systems, but that I had also seen many people trying to help their fellow humans and the world--feeding the hungry at our local soup kitchens and food pantries, collecting clothes and coats for those in need, housing the homeless in our churches during the winter, working for non-violence and social justice and the like.  He asked me if I had any good news.  I told him that I had hope for the future, paraphrasing King, that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice. That while we couldn't have talked like this in his childhood, we can now and I teach my children so that they recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all people and work for justice and equality.  He seemed to agree. We said goodbye soon after.  I hope I get to talk to him again.

Up to Speed

Two weeks or so ago, Sis had her first speedskating competition of the season.  And for awhile beforehand, everything just went awry--Mama was diagnosed with the flu, we got 13"+ of snow in a wicked Nor'easter, and the blanket I had been racing to finish for the competition raffle was accidentally left behind at kung fu (and unretrievable because of said snow.) But we made it work.  Bud stayed home with Mama and I took Sis all by myself--driving farther than I have since my back issues, in post-blizzard freezing weather, hauling all sorts of extra supplies because I was in charge of the officials and coaches' hospitality room.  And it went beautifully!  I finished a scarf for the raffle, did all the shopping, made the drive just fine, the hospitality room came off without a real hitch, thanks to a lot of volunteers, and Goo joined us to cheer on Sis and help out with everything in his sister's stead.

And Sis skated up to 10+ seconds faster this year than last!!!   I saw every race--I love watching her skate.  Her form is clean and she's really steady.  Her coach said she got stronger and faster throughout the day.  So proud of her.

And of me.

Friday, January 12, 2018

2018 Affirmations

Here we go, more achievements and affirmations:

  • applying, interviewing, and earning spot in CPE spring unit!
  • Speedskating weekend, including:
    • driving farther than I have since my back issues
    • driving after a blizzard (though the roads were great!) at night
    • lugging all the supplies for the competition
    • taking care of Sis by myself out and about for the whole time (pretty easy, but still!)
    • overseeing the hospitality room at the competition
    • working the hospitality room for 10 hours!
    • driving home despite being tired
    • and then driving to church the next morning!!!!
  • our trip to DC, with very cold weather and full day spent at museums
  • holding down the household when Mama had the flu
  • braving a back spasm in October and recovering after a few days
  • not wearing my brace for hospice, shopping, birding, piano playing, zoo, etc.
  • restarting my treadmill habit!
  • walking in ice and snow, which usually scares me
  • wearing jeans (which have bothered my back, in the past)
  • and a few I didn't ever list from last year
    • all the sightseeing in NJ in the awful heat
    • Hog Island Camp, especially the full-day hike!!!  
    • Opera, Broadway shows, and lots of movies (all that sitting)

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


I had an amazing "owliday" yesterday.  I saw three owls!

There had been reports of a short-eared owl in the area and so I thought I'd see if I could catch a glance.  As I arrived at the entrance to the site, I asked a woman with a big camera lens walking along the road if she'd seen the owl.  She pointed right in front of us, in the upper limbs of a tall tree!  I immediately pulled over and hopped out of the car, but as I turned around, it had flown off.  But I had seen it!  Inspired, I pulled into the park, where about 10 other birders cum cameras were.  And sure enough, the owl was hunting all along the meadows, back and forth.  Beautiful.  I watched for a long time, not even pulling out Mama's camera, which she had sent with me when I said I was going owling. I did finally pull out her fancy digital SLR but wasn't sure if I were getting any good pics.  Using what my dad calls the "shotgun approach," I took many and a few are even in focus!  It was amazing to see her (the others called it a her, though no one was sure) swoop and soar back and forth. A life bird!  (Meaning it's my first time to see one.)

I love this photo, even though it's out of focus.

The other photographers told me that there was a Snowy visible from the parking lot in a nearby park.  So, when the Short-eared Owl seemed to find lunch and disappear into the grasses, I left to look for the Snowy.

She wasn't in a tree near the parking lot, but she was out on the ice, indicated by the 10+ people with cameras and scopes looking in one direction.  There was even a film crew.

Can you see her?

We're pretty sure it's a "she" based on the amount of flecking, though young males have flecking too.

Can you see her now?  Yep, Snowy's camoflauge works well.

She sat on that ice shelf for quite awhile because she knew her lunch was under there.  The other birders told me that there was a clapper rail under the ledge and that she'd already tried once to get it. Now she was waiting it out.

And waiting.  And waiting.
And we were waiting.

Utnil she swooped down from the ledge and lunged into the crevice.  We even heard her cry out a few times!

And she got it!  Everyone was amazed.  The longtime and professional birders said it was a once-in-a-lifetime sight.  And the film crew captured it for their documentary (they said they'll put the footage out soon.)  It really was amazing, even if it was a bit sobering to think the clapper rail had been alive a minute before.  The cycle of life is not always beautiful, even if it still looks pretty in these photos.

Eating her lunch.

One of the birders let me take some photos through his great Swarovski monoscope with my cellphone. Wow.
(I laughed that I put that scope on my Christmas list but I must not have been a good enough girl!)
We stood and watched a long time, hoping she'd actually finish and fly off.  But she waited . . . and outwaited me.

There was actually another Snowy--more white, probably a male--about a mile off and visible only with that lovely Swarovski scope.  Three owls.  I saw three owls yesterday!

I smiled the whole rest of the day, especially once Mama helped me see the photos I took and when I could tell the kids and Gommie and Pop about it.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Another Favorites List

Because I have always loved questions and favorites listicles. . . .

👰Marriages? 1
💍Proposals? 1
🚑Surgeries? 5
Piercings? 2
🔫Shot a gun? Yes, target practice
Quit a job? Yes
📺Ever been on TV? No
🌅Been to an island? Yes--Manhattan, Block Island, Greek Islands, Matagorda Island, Hog Island
Flown on a plane? Yes.
🚙Hit a deer? No
Fallen in love? Yes
😪Watched someone die? Yes
🚑Been in an ambulance? Yes
🎤Sang karaoke? Yes, during my Natural Singer class
Been ice skating? Well, I stood on ice in skates once as a kid
🛳Been on a Cruise? Yes, Greek islands
🚲Been on a motorcycle? Nope, no way
🐴Rode a horse? Sat on a horse once
🏥Stayed in a hospital? Yes, twice--babies and emergency surgery
🍽Favorite fruit? Blueberries, cherries
🌽Favorite vegetable? Broccoli, kale, collards
🍨Favorite dessert? Victoria sponge or anything with almonds or oranges or dark chocolate
🌓Morning or night? Night
🌈Favorite color? Purple
📞Last phone call? My brother in law
📀Favorite Song? Hamilton...pick one
🏈Favorite sport? Kung Fu and speedskating
☀️Favorite season? Winter
🎄Favorite holiday? Christmas (and also my birthday)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year's Favorites Questions

 Bud asked me about our favorites questions today because he wanted to fill them out.  Here we go!

Book/Author:  Every Day, The Fault in Our Stars, Scythe
TV show: Supernatural
Movie: Wonder Woman, Star Wars
Musical: Hamilton  
Color: Teal
Number: 77
Food: Fried Chicken
Flavor: Chocolate
Ice Cream: Vanilla
Candy: Kit KatsAnimals: Horses and Bei Bei the panda
Dessert: Cookies
Drink: Virgin Pina ColadaRestaurant: Takumi
Toy/Thing: Special Prismacolor Colored Pencils
Game: Things to Do: Ride Murphy, Read, Bake
Place to go: Spring Meadow Farm
Job When I Grow Up: Horse Related
·      Bud:
Book/Author: The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way by Bill Bryson
TV show: Doctor Who
Movie: Star Wars The Last Jedi 
Musical: Come From Away 
Song: Not Today
Musician: BTSColor: Blue
Number: 46
Food: Sushi
Flavor: Grape
Ice Cream: Cherry Garcia
Candy: TwixAnimals: Penguin
Dessert: Ice Cream
Drink: Purple Cow
Restaurant: Ola
Game: Super Mario Oddyssey
Things to Do: 
Place to go: 
Job When I Grow Up:
Book/Author:  Outlander series, Maisie Dobbs series, poetry, 
TV show:  "Outlander," "Supernatural," "Elementary," "Arrow," "Supergirl," "Amazing Mrs. Maizel," "Doctor Who"
Movie:  new Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, new Spider Man, Thor: Ragnorak
Musical:  Hamilton, Come From Away, Fun Home, 
Song:  "Tosche Station"!! (kidding; anything from above musicals)
Musician:  Indigo Girls, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pink, Adele
Color: purple
Number: 12
Food:  fried chicken, pizza, biscuits, Indian buffet esp with gulab jamun and rasmalai
Flavor: almond, orange, 
Animals: cats, pandas, otters, hedgehogs, koalas, manatees
Dessert:  almond fantasy bars, panettone, 
Ice Cream: mint chocolate chip
Candy: dark chocolate, candied orange peels,
Drink: London fog tea, peppermint mocha frappuccino, "Arnold Palmer"
Restaurant: Bloodroot, Indian, breakfast places
Toy/Thing:  smartphone, yarn, 
Game: Mario Kart, Dragonvale, Tenzi, air hockeyThings to Do: Zentangle, crochet, read, listen to music, watch movies and tv,
Place to go: looking forward to Italy, want to return to England; museums, living history
Saying/Words: hope
Job When I Grow Up:  hospice chaplain

Previous years:  Jan 2016July 2015Sept 2012Jan 2012July 2011Feb 2011July 2010Dec 2009, July 2009April 2008

One Pan Pork

I picked up lots of different groceries when I did my pre-storm shopping, to give us choices for being stuck at home.  This has been doubly useful because the kids have gotten a second snow day and will be home tomorrow!  We could make tacos, chicken stir fry, or porkloin, with cabbage, broccoli, and other veggies (but not Romaine lettuce!  There have been recalls because of e.coli for romaine in the northeast and Canada.)  The kids voted on the pork, so I'm trying something new.  This dinner is an adaptation of some of our favorite meals--baked pork chops, roasted cabbage rounds, and roasted potatoes--and the concept of the one-sheet-pan baked dinner.  Hopefully, it turns out well.

One-Pan Pork Tenderloin Dinner
1-2 pork tenderloins, depending on number of people (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
one head of cabbage, sliced into rounds
potatoes, cut in chunks (or fingerlings or small reds in half)
olive oil
salt, pepper, seasoning
If not pre-seasoned:
1 to 2 tablespoons spices or seasonings (See Recipe Note)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450F.

Pat the pork dry and cut off any large pieces of surface fat. Mix any spices being used with the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix into the surface of the pork on all sides.

Layer cabbage and potatoes on sheet pan and toss with oil and seasonings.  Set the pork on top of the pan. Roast for 10 minutes.

Flip the pork to the other side. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and continue roasting another 10 to 15 minutes. The pork is done when its internal temperature registers 140-45F in the thickest part of the meat (20 to 25 minutes total).

adapted from The Kitchn

Our Boy Garfield

Like Garfield, Bud loves lasagna.  But he doesn't like a lot of cheese in it, preferring peppers, onions, mushrooms, and olives instead.  So he's practicing making his own!  Mama and he worked through a basic recipe two weeks ago and they both loved it.  With bombogenesis happening outside, he made another today.  And it's just as good as the last batch.

Here's his recipe, as written down by Mama today:

Bud's Lasagna

1 lb ground turkey or beef
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (removed from case)
1 jar marinara (or more)
2 cups sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes (we had some from a deli, but you can do it in advance with olive oil and garlic)
1 jar black olives, sliced
1 package button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 small container ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups Italian mix cheese (mozzarella and parmesan)
1 package oven-ready lasagna noodles

In large pot—
Brown meat, including minced dried garlic and a bit of olive oil
Add one jar sauce

Run one of the jars of the ‘tomatoes/peppers’ from freezer under hot water to loosen.... just enough to get it out of the jar. Add to pot.  If you have peppers/onions/tomatoes leftover from Chap’s, add as well.  (These are very specific instructions from today's lasagna, from Mama.)

When heated through, add olives and mushrooms (there might be a can leftover from last time), spinach, kale, etc until heated through. 

In separate bowl, mix 2 eggs, small container ricotta, 1.5 cups of Italian cheese mix (or 1:1 ratio of parm and mozz). You should have about 0.5C of the parm/mozz left for topping later. 

Layer in 9x13- double check the box for more exact instructions. 
1/4 of the sauce
Approx 3 sheets lasagna, plus partial sheet as needed to cover
1/3 of the cheese mixture
1/4 sauce
Approx 3 sheets lasagna, plus partial sheet as needed to cover
1/3 of the cheese mixture
1/4 sauce
Approx 3 sheets lasagna, plus partial sheet as needed to cover
1/3 of the cheese mixture
1/4 sauce

Cover with foil
Bake at 350F approx 50m. Check the lasagna packaging for timing
Remove foil, add 0.5C (or remaining) Italian cheese (mozz/parm, not the ricotta mix)
Bake additional 10m

Washington Weekend

As promised, here is a description of our 36-hour trip to DC.  We always go to DC for a quick trip, rarely stay longer than 36 hours or 2 nights.  This time it was for the Vermeer (last time, for the Pre-Raphaelites; then twice for the pandas.) We really should go down for an extended visit; we leave so much that we don't see.  This time, we wanted to see the Spy Museum across the street from our hotel but didn't have time.  No doubt we'll go again.

Saturday evening
Mitsuwa:  This huge Japanese grocery store in Edgewater, NJ is now one of our favorite stops when we head south.  Not only does it have some of our favorite ramen, sesame ginger dressing, Calpico and Yakult drinks, and jasmine iced teas, it has an amazing food court.  Sis had "hamburg steak" with dumplings; I had pork katsu don; Bud had a big sushi bowl; and Mama had tempura and sushi.  She also got a delicious black sesame shake while Sis got macaroons.  We didn't go to the Japanese bookstore this time, with all its manga, Pokemon, and Studio Ghibli items, but I did get a nice photo of NYC across the river.

Lincoln's Waffles:  This diner is located across from Ford's theater, where Lincoln was, of course, shot.  They were out of their famous chicken wings, but we liked their waffles, corned beef hash, grits, blueberry pancakes, salmon cakes, scrapple, and such.  A good way to start of the very, very cold day.

Vermeer:  We were in line for the show in the 5F degree weather about half an hour before the museum opened; thankfully, they let us in early because of the extreme cold.  And the Vermeer show was beautiful.  We'd seen some Vermeers a few years ago at a Dutch genre painting exhibition in Boston.  But there were more this time.  To prep for the exhibition, we had watched the documentary Tim's Vermeer, about a Texas digital systems mogul and inventor who theorized about the kind of optics Vermeer used to create his painting.  The documentary was intriguing--with Tim building a replica of one of Vermeer's scenes and then minutely painting what he saw using a mirror and a lens (which he ground himself!)  Interspersed were conversations with Penn (of P and Teller), artist David Hockney, and an art historian.  I don't believe anyone now argues against the idea that Vermeer used some kind of lens to create his paintings--and they were teaching that in my art history classes long before Hockney's book.  We just don't know which and to what extent.  Tim Levinson seems to suggest that the majority of the effects in Vermeer's painting are due to a lens-mirror combo.  And while the documentary was persuasive, I didn't find it compelling as I stood in front of the paintings.  Vermeer was not a fijnschilder, painting everything the eye or lens could see (as Tim did with the seahorse swirls on the virginal), but created a mood using color and light--keeping some details in (some of the stitches on the Persian rugs), but eliding others, especialy in the foreground.  There is just much more artistry, and a lot less replication, than the documentary argues.  And the paintings are beautiful--the muted tones, the quiet stillness, the symbolism overlaid on the scenes of daily life.  We all loved looking for Vermeer's re-use of objects such as the pearl earrings, yellow ermine jacket, lion chair, globe, etc.  And we liked the other paintings in the show, particularly the Ter Borchs (including the one compared so unfavorably to Vermeer in the documentary--and I think that is owing to the unfortunate yellow wallpaper negatively casting its pallor throughout the painting), de Hoochs, van Meirises, and a few Jan Steens.  I love Dutch 17th-century art--and, even Tulip Fever, which was a pretty mediocre moving, was fun to see for the recreation of clothes and interiors.  After the exhibition, we perused the other 17th-century Dutch galleries--with the Lady with the Red Hat and several Rembrandts.  We ran through the Italian galleries, just to see the one Leonardo in the US, but weren't up for staying long.

Freer/Sackler:  We saw two exhibitions at the Freer-Sackler, the first being a show on Egyptian representations of cats that Mama wanted to see; it was small but delightful.  I liked the permanent exhibition on depictions of Buddha throughout Asia, with Chinese, Tibetan, and Indian versions present. It even had a recreated Tibetan shrine, complete with chanting audio.  We also wandered through the exhibition of Chinese bells and even got to play a replica.

Museum of the American Indian:  By now, we were cold, tried, and hungry, so we cabbed it over to the MAI, where we love the food.  Biscuits with salmon gravy, curried butternut soup, white bean soup with chorizo, lomo saltado, Jack Daniels-brined turkey, stuffing, scalloped potatoes, cranberry sauce, passion fruit aqua fresco, cranberry aqua fresco.  So good.  Just what we needed.

"Nutshells of Unexplained Deaths":  Lunch gave us the energy to see another exhibition, one that Mama had just read about.  Entitled "Murder was Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshells of Unexplained Death," the exhibition included several of the dollhouses Lee had made depicting unexplained deaths in minute detail. (She knitted table runners on straight pins and wore the fabrics for clothes until they looked worn; one was made from the 200-year-old timbers of her barn so it looked weathered.)  See, though an heiress (her house is an architectural gem and museum in Chicago! Mama and I had been 20 years ago), Lee was interested in legal medicine and founded a department at Harvard; she was even the first female police captain and is called the godmother of forensics. In fact, even now, the dollhouses are used to train investigators in observation, so that the answers aren't given as to whether a given scene was homicide, suicide, accidental, or natural death.  We were fascinated not just by the craftsmanship, but by the mysteries.  And so we stood debating them and trying to figure out the narratives.  Some of our favorites, with clues gathered from observation, discussion with the guards, and articles we found online.  We don't know if we're right, of course, but we're satisfied (well, mostly.)

  • Barn:  the broken crate was our clue.
  • Three-Room Dwelling:  this was the hard one, which Bud discussed with a young man at length.  We came to a conclusion based on all the blood.
  • Burned Cabin:  the murder weapon is still in the house! (A guard pointed it out.)
  • Pink Bathroom:  our clue was the location of the fire escape and some fibers we only later spotted in photos.
  • Two-story porch:  apparently, the guard said, this is the only one without the clue to the answer in the picture (it's supposedly based on a true story of two boys who discharged a rifle in a field, killing the woman on the porch) and it's not used in training anymore.
  • Woodman's shack: the temperature was our clue, as was the covering of her face.
  • Unpapered bedroom: there was a didactic label allowing us to turn the pillow over.
  • Attic:  the position of the chair and the mess were our clues.
  • Parsonage Parlor:  the reported daily temperature was our clue.
  • Sitting Room and Woodshed:  we believed the doctor.
  • Red Bedroom: we don't believe the "boyfriend."
We were stumped by (either what--murder/suicide/accident--who, how, or why)--
  • Saloon and Jail:  Where's the lunchbox? Where's his hat? How did he die?
  • Garage:  We can't see why it's not suicide except Bud wondered where the broken window was.  And the wife does have a motive.
  • Living Room:  why were there so many cigarette stubs?  
  • Log Cabin: we read that the hard-to-find bullet in the rafters set someone free.  HOW?
  • Dark Bathroom: such an odd angle of the body of the woman in the tub and why was there alcohol here?  
  • Striped Bedroom:  what is going on in that basin?
The Kitchen--we all seemed to skip this one!  No one saw it, but we're pretty sure it was there.  And that it was murder.

I admit that when the victim was a woman, especially as these mostly happened in a domestic space, I suspected the man involved, even if I couldn't prove it or find conclusive evidence.  Statistics bear me out; women are usually killed by husbands or lovers.   

The show has definitely stayed with us; we've talked about it off and on for days.  I wish we could go back and look again. 

Hen Quarter:  We celebrated New Year's early with dinner at a Southern food restaurant, where we actually spent most of the time discussing the nutshells!  And the meal was delicious--pimento cheese fondue, fried chicken skins, deviled eggs, fried pickles, biscuits with honey butter and fig jam, brussels with balsamic glaze and parmesan, crab cakes, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens, succotash, roast chicken, grits, and sweet tea and Peach Fizzy!!  So good.  We didn't manage to stay up to watch the ball, really, though we had it on--we kinda opened our eyes, said "Happy 2018," and then turned off the tv to go back to sleep.

Pandas at the National Zoo:  This was our fourth time to see the pandas.  We'd seen baby Tae Shan, when both he and the twins were a year old.  Then we went back in 2010 and 2013.  It was so very cold at the zoo, which was practically empty.  The pandas were inside, trying to get treats out of their enrichment toys, eating their bamboo, and then napping.  So cute!  I stayed watching the pandas when the rest went to see cheetahs, ponies, betongs, and other critters; I just wanted to stay in the warmer enclosed panda viewing area.

Chap's Pit Beef:  We headed back home around noon, stopping in Baltimore at this dive for beef sandwiches.  Kinda like the real version of Arby's or perhaps the Maryland version of barbecue.  But I think I liked the french fries with gravy the best.

It was a long drive home, with lots of traffic congestion, but well worth the trip.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


I've been meaning to tell you about our fun New Year's weekend in DC, complete with Vermeers, pandas, and an exhibition on "nutshells of unexplained deaths!"

But we got home, school started, Mama got the flu (officially, type A), and now there's this huge "bombogensis" snowstorm cyclone blizzard thing that hits tonight, giving us 4-?? inches and 50 mph winds.  Which actually sounds like a fairly normal N'oreaster.  I bought a lot of food, prepped for Sis's speedskating competition on Saturday (which I'll take her to by myself, Mama being contagious) where I'm in charge of hospitality, prepped for the Sunday school lesson I'm teaching at church, tried to finish a blanket for the raffle at the competition but left it behind at kung fu tonight and the studio won't open in time for me to finish it for Saturday.  Plus GS stuff and hospice today.

Now to hope the rest of us don't get the flu.

But DC was marvelous and perhaps I'll have time to tell you all about it tomorrow.