Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Fine, fine, snicker. Then, grow up.
Yep, Bud was a faerie. In his Denahi blue tunic and belt but with his blue faerie wings. And he was wonderful "spreading magic around the world" and being so happy in his chosen costume. Did we have reservations? Frankly, there wasn't that much time to agonize over or debate his choice. Coincidentally, I had recently read the Motherlode post, "When a Boy Wants a Tutu," and empathized with the parents who felt awkward about letting their kindergartener wear his tutu to the school Halloween parade (mainly because they didn't want him teased). Mama and I had discussed the post at length, before Bud chose to be a faerie. It's an unenviable position--the kindergartener''s parents can protect him now but possibly send a message that they don't accept him or send him out into the often cruel world of the elementary school playground in his tutu and see immediate and maybe longlasting repercussions when he is labeled a "fairy." Would parents worry about a girl being a firefighter or even, say, a Native American boy who became a man by becoming a bear?? (That's Kenai, folks. A boy. Who Sis dressed up as. But then this whole "boys-can't-dress-up-like-girls" has its roots in misogyny because "real men" would never want to be like girls, right? Don't get Mama started.). Bud has a pink tutu just like that five-year old, but we don't let him wear it out of the house. Not because we are embarrassed (he can wear it, and has, around anyone who comes into the house) but because costumes are not street clothes and we don't wear costumes out of the house (nor does Sis; we keep rules the same). Except at Halloween. Which is why we were happy with Bud being happiest as a faerie (And, with Sis as Kenai. Though, Mama's office is not Bud's school; the ramifications are different, and so might our decision be). And all but one of the people at Mama's office were totally cool, even nonplussed about it; the one guy was an asshole, saying that Sis and Bud got their costumes backwards. You're the backwards one, mister.
The kids are now expert trick-or-treaters. We knew they would be. When she was very little, at her second Halloween, when she was just over one (and a gnome, along with Bud), Sis knew she had two hands and therefore must have a piece of candy for each hand whenever anyone offered her the bowl of treats! This year, they could spot a bowl of candy in the various cubicles from half a hallway away and didn't really want to stop to exchange pleasantries--"and what are we this year?" just drew quiet stares--with Mama's coworkers if there was no candy in sight! Sis was very selective in her choosing, picking out her favorites: Tootsie Rolls, Hershey bars, and Hershey Kisses. Yep, chocolate. Bud was indiscriminate in his grabbing, often of much more than the 1-2 pieces we had practiced this week when we played Halloween. He even got several off-limits peanutty candies in his greedy grabbing. But the enthusiasm was evident and no one minded much--there really was a ton of candy, which was the focus of the evening. At one point, Mama asked if they wanted to go get a balloon animal or keep trick-or-treating and they both said "candy" as they took off to yet another cubbie. At least they both remembered the "trick-or-treat" and "thank you" we had also practiced.
Finally, having exhausted every office, they collapsed into bean bags and started sorting their loot: Bud had 6 popcorn balls! And probably about 3 lbs of candy. Sis had substantially less, but it was all chocolate. And so, there they sat, inhaling anything they could open. At one point, Sis buried her head deep in her tote bag of candy so that all you could see was her back! And Bud got popcorn all over his costume. And the bean bag. And the floor.
When even they'd had enough sweets, we headed to dinner. As we left Mama's office, one of the most magical events of the evening happened: we spotted a 6-point buck munching grass on the side of the office drive, staring at us as we came to a stop to watch him. "Look, Mommy, " Sis cried out happily, "he's not scared of people!" We sat there for 5+ minutes watching him watching us. Then, on to the restaurant, which was more for us than for them, though surprisingly, they did manage to eat their food. But there was enough sugar in them to keep them awake all the way home in the dark, way past their bedtime. They're asleep now, though, getting ready for the main event tomorrow!
Though, interestingly, Bud says he wants to be Denahi, without wings, tomorrow.
And what did we do? Grocery shopping! But not at just any store: we went to Balducci's and Whole Foods. Yep, fancy grocery shopping. We love wandering the aisles of upscale markets (and as granola as WF tries to be, the prices are upscale) and seeing what there is to buy (and laughing when we find strawberry fluff at one and snack pack rice pudding at the other). At Balducci's, we were fascinated by the truffle popcorn--that's not chocolate, folks, but dehydrated truffles which lent an earthy sophistication to the moviehouse treat. And I got a big jar of bitter-sweet marmalade, even though I was strongly tempted by all the specialty chocolate bars (well, not the bacon chocolate!). We also picked up some Icelandic strained yogurt and some Australian grapefruit-flavored yogurt, which turned out to be very, very soft, almost drinkable. We gorged on gouda and barbecued chorizo samples while considering what we would take home. I wasn't particularly tempted by all the oils and vinegars, but I did pick up some rosewater and orange blossom water for cookie making this holiday season. We almost bought, but didn't in the end, get any gourmet gelato.
Then off we went to Whole Foods, a store we used to visit on date night in Chicago (back when, without kids, every night was date night!! Remember those days??). We almost changed our dinner plans and raided the paneer and tikka masala at the buffet but decided we weren't ready to eat yet. So, we spent time studying the tea--oooh, rose petal black tea!!!--though in the end I opted for hot chai chocolate. And we also enjoyed looking through the cookbooks (Moosewood Restaurant Desserts or Baking Illustrated, anyone?) and rummaging through the organic cotton clothes. I almost got some caper and olive chips, with garlic, but they were corn not potato chips, which didn't sound right to us. And then there was a chickpea salad with edamame, bell peppers, and . . . cranberries?! Mama doesn't like fruit in her savories so we skipped that. I was also interested in an Amy's orange pound cake in the frozen section, at which point we realized it was time for dinner.
So we headed to our favorite vegetarian restaurant and had a wonderful light dinner, light in that we didn't each get one of each course! Instead, I got a creamy Czech mushroom and potato soup, with oatmeal bread, and a salad, while Mama had the pastitsio with a great cinnamon flavor. We finished dinner with a pumpkin tofu custard, which is one of my favorite desserts there. We even talked to one of the women about how she makes it, since Sis loves pumpkin: they use hubbard squash. Well, I have a sugar pumpkin and canned puree, so I'll have to use one of those to make it.
Food and fun, oogling and eating. A great date night.
After our rather medical day on Wednesday (thank you, the stitch-removal and intranasal vaccinations went well), we spent yesterday in a magical, mysical Wee Faerie Village at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme.
It was a beautiful, colorful fall day to wander the grounds of the museum on the banks of the Lieutenant River. After checking in at admissions and receiving our map of the houses and our twinkling, beaded bracelets (so much more fun than an admission ticket or badge!), the kids took off across the grass searching for more than 30 hidden houses constructed by artists out of found objects and natural elements. Under bushes, up in branches, in the hollows of trees, amid the flowers, the kids found a variety of hidden houses, with tiny baskets, little ladders, miniature furniture, and all matter of accessories. Sis's favorite house was filled with white bunnies! Bud preferred the "faeries working" house hidden in a basement window because harp music from the parlor upstairs filtered down. Mama liked the little mill set on a rock in the stream. And I like the giant tree whose hollows were filled with houses and doors, whose trunk was covered with ladders, and from whose branches hung numerous wee baskets. We all liked wandering the huge stickwork sculpture, The Rambles, which was like an oversized faerie house for people.
And then we got to build our own faerie dwelling in a cluster of trees near the stream. Having had lots of practice building faerie houses for the last year, the kids set to looking for building materials--bark, sticks, chestnuts, leaves, branches, all went into the making of our house. Such fun! The kids were so excited to add our own house to the woods. But then they started asking if we could come back to visit our house and all the others. And so we told them that the magical houses would disappear after this weekend (when the exhibition closes), fading away in the mist until they were invisible--and maybe we could come see other houses next year or find different houses in other places, including our back yard.
We distracted them by touring the galleries of American Impressionism (which had a great gallery activity of finding paining details) and then visiting the house of Florence Griswold which was the center of the Lyme Art Colony at the turn of the twentieth century. I enjoyed seeing the paintings, especially in the famous dining room filled with panels contributed by resident artists such as Hassam, Chadwick, and Ranger) but didn't have much time to linger. Off to the shop where Bud got blue faerie wings and Sis got pink. They danced around the grounds some more and we headed to lunch.
Lunch was almost as exciting as the museum because we ate at the train station at Pizza Works, which has a model train set up on the second floor. Sis loved the focaccia; Mama and I loved the dipping marinara. And the baked potato pizza with red potatoes, broccoli, sour cream, scallions, and bacon (on half). But best of all, beside the trains, was the Kentucky Derby Pie, just like a warm chocolate chip cookie. Mmmmm. Both the kids loved it, even with the pecans (which they can have now).
We headed home with them jabbering the whole way about faeries. Sis put her wings on Amy the Bunny and flew her around the backseat; Bud followed with Penguin. And the fun continued at home. Donning the faerie wings, they pretended their igloo tents were faerie houses. We also acted out the story from Tracey Kane's Fairy Houses, the book that galvanized the current faerie house obsession (which got it's start here on an island in Maine). So, I was the little girl in the woods building a faerie house and they were the faeries who come to thank me. And Bud, when telling me about himself and his fairy sister, said they were "spreading magic all over the world."
And they still are this morning, asking for their wings and to play faeries first thing upon waking. I think he might even switch to being a faerie for Halloween, at least for the party at Mama's office this afternoon.
May the magic continue . . . . (pictures to follow)
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Suddenly, Bud was out of his seat at the table and next to me, arms around me in a cuddle. "Mommy, don't ever break up with me."
Then, after lunch at the restaurant of his choosing (looks like it's going to be the "chip" restaurant) and a little rest time, we'll head to get their H1N1 flu vaccination. I hope it's not too late: swine flu has entered our playgroup, with two of our friends and their mom very sick with it. We haven't seen them in awhile but knowing it's so close only solidifies our decision (though, oddly, hearing that the Obama girls got their vaccinations was very reassuring).
Whew. That's our day. I'll tell you about it after . . . .
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Spaghetti Squash with Garlic
2 spaghetti squash (appx 2 lbs each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, slivered
salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°. With a fork, prick squash in several places. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until soft to the touch, about 1 hour.
- When cool enough to handle, halve squash crosswise. Scoop out seeds; discard. Scrape flesh into strands.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over low heat. Add garlic; cook until fragrant and just starting to color, about 5 minutes. Add squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until squash is very hot, about 5 minutes.
Potato and Greens Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 bunch leeks, thoroughly rinsed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 white potatoes (about 3 1/2 lbs), peeled and cut into 3/4 cubes
1 bunch arugula or other bitter greens such as curly endive or escarole, washed
Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the leeks and stir well. Cover and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add stock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add potatoes and bring back to a simmer. Cook until tender but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
Ladle about 3 cups of soup into a blender (don't fill more than halfway). Hold the lid on with a dish towel to prevent splattering, and blend until smooth. Return pureed soup to saucepan, stir to combine, and bring back to a simmer. Season to taste.
Stir in greens. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until wilted and bright green, and serve immediately.
Martha Stewart Living
Monday, October 26, 2009
But perhaps even more insidious is the constant talk about swine flu among parents and friends. I can't say hi to anyone without some talk of the epidemic starting. Worried parents wondering what we're doing about the vaccine, friends and family sharing the latest stats and rumors and theories, articles about scarcity of vaccines, newstories about that pregnant woman (read at your own risk) in the hospital for 4 months who lost her baby under extremely tragic circumstances.
In the beginning, I was pretty impervious to all the talk, not too worried about the virus, definitely not getting such a new vaccine for my kids. But like water on a rock, I've been worn down. I worry about my kids being so little and small. I worry that they will be very sick if they get the flu. Or worse. I worry about worrying about it for the whole flu season. I worry about it coming back like the flu of 1918. I can see that washing hands as a preventive measure to save us all from sickness is a joke: have you ever seen how quickly kids can get snot all over themselves and others? Or how they forget to cover their mouths for coughs and sneezes every other time? We can't count on hygiene, even soap and Purell, to keep us healthy.
But I also worry about side effects of the vaccine: of Thimerosal, of auto-immune issues down the road, especially considering all the food sensitivities the kids had, of catching it in the lag-time before they are immune, of the vaccine not actually protecting them. I mean, in general, the FDA, CDC, USDA--you name a governmental agency in charge, even indirectly, of our health and safety (not to mention Big Pharma)--have had some spectacular failures (even if, I'm sure, most of the time, things are fine). Thimerosal. Thalidomide. Transfatty margarines. Peanut butter. Yaz. Spinach. Fen-phen. Vioxx. Cold medicine for kids. Doesn't make you trust them as far as you could throw them.
Our pediatrician office's official line follows the AMA, AAP, CDC, etc etc etc. Of course. But privately, she has questioned the safety of the vaccine. The other pediatrician in the practice doesn't seem to worry as much about the safety of the vaccine, but doesn't seem to think it's absolutely necessary. And so I ask everyone, hoping to find the Holy Grail of H1N1. Except I only seem to ask people I know are either on the fence or against it, in other words, people pretty much in my boat--I haven't asked my friend who already had her children vaccinated, though perhaps her calm confidence is just what I need. And so many are saying, nope, no way.
And still. Both sets of grandparents keep asking if we've done it. My sis says she would. I wonder what my bio-lab BIL would say? I think he even worked on it for awhile . . . Mama and I are, in general, law-abiding and rule-following people. Despite all the reasons not to trust various agencies and Big Pharma, I don't think they are actually out to get us. And they make a seasonal flu vaccine every year under what, as far as I can tell, are generally-accepted protocols. Why would H1N1 be different? Except . . . . it just is. As it the amazing panic, as well as indifference but also distrust, surrounding it.
So I have what I'm calling "swine flu fatigue." I can't vacillate about this anymore, can't worry about it all season everytime they get a sniffle. I won't ever know if I've made the "right" decision. I can only do the best that I can do right now. And I'm no medical expert. Lots of medical experts are officially saying do it. Lots of parents are saying not to. Could they be wrong? Could I be? Mama and I have talked and talked and talked and talked and talked. We don't take this lightly. In the end, it all boils down to fear. And I am more scared of the flu than I am of the vaccination. One is real and right now; the other is an unproven, future possibility.
And so, the kids have an appointment for an intranasal H1N1 vaccination (sans preservatives) on Wednesday.
Unless we cancel it.
(Please, just don't tell our pediatrician!)
At first, I was exercising, continuing the pace I set on the treadmill this morning. It felt good to walk outside for a change, warmed by the sun, cooled by the breeze, with more to look at than a wall or other exercisers. And then, I remembered what I'd read about walking meditation, or kinhin. I couldn't remember the exact posture described in Three Pillars of Zen (I've just looked it up and I think I'll have to see the arm positions to understand it fully), but I thought I remembered that you stepped on your inhalations and exhalations (though, the book doesn't quite describe it that way). It is so much harder than it sounds. Maybe it was me, with my PT issues, but walking that slowly really through off my balance. I couldn't manage to count and breathe and balance at the same! It also reminded me of yoga--it doesn't look like you're doing much--here, you're just walking really slowly--but you are using every muscle. I could feel each muscle engage as I stepped. Amazing how it slowed me all down, brought me right back into my body and the moment. I wasn't zoned out but very attuned to everything (of course, I had to be: the kids were still riding around in the streets). So, I might not have aspects of it "right," but what I did manage to do was pretty amazing.
In his assigned square (each child has a spot in the basement, about 4 x 4', that they can fill with toys and not have to clean up each day, so that their creations can stay around for multiple days of play), he has been recreating everything we did on our vacation, with some minor alterations.
There's a museum with Chinese warriors. And a cabin next to a forest of little plastic trees. The forest is filled with animals, like wolves and beavers and deer. And monkeys. But the nearby pond is not freshwater, it's salt, and has sharks in it. And an alligator. Nearby, knights on horseback joust, in their own little Renaissance Festival.
Texas is a crazy place, but it would be even crazier if Bud were in charge!
Sis and Bud didn't understand.
"Why is he eating soap?" Sis asked. "Is it good?"
Not wanting them to try the soap for a snack during their next bath, I tried to explain what a dirty word is.
"A dirty word is a word that adults use when they are mad or frustrated and can't think of anything else to say. But they're not nice words."
"What are they?" Bud wanted to know.
"You'll learn them. Later."
"Is it like 'I don't want to clean up'?" Sis queried. "Or, like 'no'?"
Um, no. They kept trying to guess, coming up with the worst things they could think of to say, like "I won't do that." Or making up grunting sounds. Oddly, they didn't actually guess "dirt," or "poop," or the like.
I try really hard not to curse in front of the kids and I do pretty well, not wanting them to sound like preschool sailors. I do curse though, after dark, and have found a joy in cursing that didn't exist before I had to curtail myself--ask any of my friends what creeps into my otherwise civilized conversation when the kids aren't around. It's like I'm the Incredible Hulk Mommy. though, rationally, I find cursing to be uncreative. But there is a power in it, even if it's becoming prosaic. So, I'm not teaching them any dirty words now, but when it's time, I'll be a great teacher!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
So, after everything checked out okay, I put in a cardboard spacer between my sample and my scarf, which saves room for tassles later. And I hemstitched it altogether to hold it in place. I actually really like to hemstitch--it looks so neat and tidy when you basically tie down the bottom row of your weaving to keep it from unravelling. It almost makes these tiny little tassles (later, we'll do a twisted tassle, which takes forever). (Note to self: I put in 12 picks of plainweave after the hemstitching; my other teacher said to pick a number that I can remember and that would be it).
We talked a little about patterns and drafting. She suggested getting something like cash register/adding machine ribbon to pin into your fell, the edge of your weaving, to track which patterns you do for how long so you know without having to unwind it what your scarf looks like. I wrote it all down on a sheet of paper the first time but that got very messy (though, Mama and I did manage to read it and match it to my scarf so that I could identify some patterns). And she talked about ways weavers organize their pattern, particularly Fibonnaci numbers. In case you aren't up on your mathematical theorems, Fibonnaci numbers go 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 . . . etc etc etc. Just adding the "last" two numbers to get the next one. Fibonnaci numbers are often found in nature, including:
Fibonacci sequences appear in biological settings, in two consecutive Fibonacci numbers, such as branching in trees, arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruitlets of a pineapple,the flowering of artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone.Apparently, the sequence can also be found in chambered nautilus shells and the seeds of sunflowers. Weavers often then incorporate the numbers into their patterns, for instance doing one patter for 3", then another for 5", and maybe another for 3", using some combination of the numbers in or out of sequence (see here for an example). Of course, weaves are inspired by many things, apparently, in drafting patterns: from letters in a name (each one getting a color) to musical sequences (ditto with notes) to astrological signs (as described in this month's Handwoven magazine).
Of course, I'm not worrying too much about that because Mama has selected her pattern, which will basically be a series of alternating weft- and warp-faced horizontal stripes (I think that is how you would describe it). I had considered changing color to do a few other stripes but I think that might be a bit too complicated (or something; my teacher wasn't that jazzed on the idea). Besides, Mama likes simple.
And so the weaving begins. Or will. After all that, I had to head home for tuck-in instead of weaving a few inches. There will be lots of that, though, in the weeks to come.
We carved our pumpkins today. Mama was in charge, taking design ideas from both kids as to how they would like theirs carved. I was in charge of getting the seeds out, which Sis was very intent on roasting and eating. Halfway through the process, the kids wandered off to rake leaves and jump in their piles, which was cute (good thing the leaves had dried some after all of yesterday's rain!). Then they proudly posed and paraded with their pumpkins to the front steps. We have one more big pumpkin to carve but are saving in for later in the week, fully expecting squirrels and raccoons to eat the faces off the ones from today as soon as possible--and we want a jack o'lantern with a face for Saturday night! And by then, we'll need more pepitas because Sis liked the ones we made today.
Oven-Roasted PepitasThis is an oven method, which I like better than the skillet method we used last year, below (those were too oily).
- Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.)
- Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
- Sprinkle with salt (we used Penzey's seasoned salt) and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes. (We roasted a lot longer than this because they just weren't getting crunchy).
- Let cool and store in an air-tight container.
oil or butter
Gut one pumpkin, saving the seeds. Save the pumpkin for jack o'lantern carving. Wash and dry the seeds.
Heat oil or butter in skillet. Pan roast the seeds until brown. Spread on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Food always comes first at these events and so Bud and Sis dug into the potluck. Sis most enjoyed these crunchy, coated sweet potato fries (coated with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese and then baked). Bud liked the fried chicken and lemonade. There were lots of veggie options, which was a nice change, and so I enjoyed a butternut squash pasta, veggie bean chili, and those good fries.
Then we headed off to the activity tables, with the same--very popular--activities as last year. Sis liked gluing a variety of beans and noodles on paper, just like last year (the model is of a noodle skeleton but who cares? She did her initial). Bud made a teepee. Then he ran off to marker-color a little pumpkin. Her next stop was another pumpkin table: you wrap rolls of toilet paper in this plastic-y orange tissue, use rolled-up brown paper as a stem, and raffia and ribbon to decorate. She just wanted a stem. Bud eventually made one with everything.
Then it was group activity time: the wrap-a-mummy race. Mama arrived just in time to be wrapped in toilet paper by the kiddos, who were very intent on covering her up (if only from the waist down, where they could reach!). Then all the kids had a giant tp toss! One of the other parents called it the "environmental part of the evening," since we wasted probably 15+ rolls. But it got cleaned up quick because it was . . . pinata time! Oh, how Sis and Bud love a pinata (a jack o'lantern, which was homemade by one of the parents). Everyone got 3 swings at it blindfolded, except the little ones--and Bud and Sis got in some good whacks--but we sped it up by un-blindfolding the older ones, at which point the candy and trinkets fell everywhere. Bracelets, parachute guys, rings, SweetTarts, Runts, Nerds, and, Bud's personal favorite, the kazoo. Oh, heaven help me, he got 4 kazoos and plays them constantly. (And he was so excited to realize tonight that the word "kazoo" has "zoo" in it.)
Of course, no one knew what they were. One friend guessed "ninjas." And Bud took to telling folks he was an "Indian" or "Native American," which I then had to explain in relation to Brother Bear. But the kids didn't care; they knew who they were and love their tunics and totems. What Bud didn't like was everyone asking about his hand injury, at which point he would hide behind me until the inquisitor would wander off. He said it made his hand hurt; I figure the memory of it did make him hurt, in a way. But soon everyone knew and quit asking.
At 8:15 p.m., so late for us, we headed home and off to bed. Of course, that was after a piece or two of candy and a few songs on the kazoo. It's going to be a fun week--one party down, two parties plus trick-or-treating to go!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
We are being held up by the food. We decided to do our Swedish Apple Pie with our excess apples but it is taking longer than usual to crust. So now the vegetables to be roasted--our original contribution to the potluck--haven't gone in yet. And we need to leave in 30 minutes.
They are so excited about getting dressed up. The pie beeper just rang, again, and Bud ran upstairs asking if he can put on his costume. Why not, right? I'm kinda excited about donning my flower garland and butterfly wings.
Let the holiday season begin!
"Is Mama a leader?" Sis asked me.
"Yes, at work she leads her team. We should be proud of her."
"I'm just proud because Mama is my Mama."
Anyway, Mama works again today/Saturday, leaving around 6 a.m. and so missing the kids until she gets home in the early evening.
At least she'll be just in time for our first Halloween party (of 3) of the season, the potluck at church.
Which probably means not much blogging tomorrow, if only because I haven't started on the Brother Bear costumes yet!! And there are also potluck dishes to make. . . .
Friday, October 23, 2009
We picked up a pound or two of brussel sprouts at the farm today. I have dreams of roasting them. I'm roasting anything that enters my kitchen these days--after brussel sprouts (evoo/s&p@400F for 30+, to write it in Twitterese), I'm planning on asparagus. But tomorrow, I'm doing a cauliflower/broccoli/carrot mix to take to our church Halloween family fun night.
And then, this afternoon, we made one-bowl chocolate snack cake--with an extra handful of chocolate chips on the top for good measure--in honor of Uncle Soccer, to take to playgroup. It was well-received. And so easy to make! But now I'm dreaming of a vanilla version of the same kind of one-bowl cake, thinking I can't just take out the cocoa and have it be good, so I've been googling recipes but not happy with what I've found.
Stay tuned for the results . . . .
- putting end stick through end loops and securing
- placing lease sticks in raddle cross
- placing the raddle between both sets of sticks and spacing out the bundles
- attaching end sticks to loom end stick
- winding warp onto loom
- placing paper bags between layers
- moving lease sticks from inch-by-inch cross to thread-by-thread cross
- cutting the front end loop
- tying warp into bundles
- tying lease sticks up for threading
- threading the heddles
- sleying the reed
- tying onto front apron stick
- adjusting tension
. . . . all while you count and recount, tie and untie and retie bundles . . . .
. . . . all while everyone asks why you haven't started weaving yet . . . .
Well, it's no wonder it took more than 3 weeks of class! And I'd even done it before, two years ago. But the repetition was good. Besides, Albus the cat watched me from the wide castle of my 16-shaft loom the whole time I threaded those 200 heddles! And then sleyed the reed, again, with 200 threads.
I just wish I'd remembered to take pictures of all the steps as I did it.
Now my loom is finally dressed, with its indigo Jaegerspun warp. And I have a shuttle full of plum weft. It's time to start weaving, but only my practice swatch (think of it as checking the gauge in knitting). I started with several rows of plain weave (1-3, 2-4) and then experimented with a few patterns. Mama checked in as I went along--it's her scarf, after all--and chose a horizontal stripe pattern (4, 3, 2, 1, 2-3-4, 1-3-4, 1-2-4, 1-2-3) for her scarf. My first scarf is much more of a sampler, with about 20+ different patterns separated by bands of plain weave. But I wanted Mama's scarf to be more composed, if you will, than that. I think it will be pretty, showing off both the indigo and the plum well.
I wove about 4+ inches tonight and will do the same tomorrow night, just to get the feel for it again--remembering to go over and then under my selvage thread, how to keep the special weaver's 45-degree angle to make my sides as straight as possible, establishing a routine for when to beat (after a pass, generally, but before I change my shafts), how hard to beat, when to advance the warp (mind you, I'm still practicing doing it all and am not sure of the exact phraseology). And then, hopefully, on Sunday, I'll put in a spacer between my sample and my "real" scarf (probably a piece of chip board, at least for awhile) and start working on it. I just have to remember that even though it is my second scarf, it is still only my second scarf and I'm still learning. I'm kinda thinking of it as my second "first" scarf!
Besides, experience tells me that many of the mistakes are so much less obvious once there are tassles and the scarf has been washed (which seems to help the uniformity). Besides, once you wrap it around your neck and tuck it in a coat, whose looking at each row of weaving??
So, let the fun begin!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
1-2 bunches broccoli
1-3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut broccoli into bite-size florets. Toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on baking sheet for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Note: You can add herbs or even 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (omitting the oil). I've noticed that oven temps very by vegetable, with carrots baking at 425. I imagine you can bake it anywhere between 350-425F as long as you watch them.
Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.
“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”
Sound familiar? I'm one of those helicopter parents (trying desperately not to hover too close) who doesn't believe in spanking, who really prefers "time-in" discussions of feelings and actions to timeouts, but who sometimes finds herself yelling to get attention and action. And I don't like it. Timeouts haven't been working well for us, mainly because the kids refuse to go and I can't physically force them because of actual worries about my back and philosophical concerns about using physical force, similar to spankings, to achieve results. So, I resort to putting toys in timeout instead. And this whole, completely ineffective negotiation begins--"You have a timeout. Go sit in the timeout spot"--"I'm not going!"--"Go to timeout or I'll put a toy away"--"Which toy?"--"I'm not telling. Go to timeout!" AGGGGGHHHHH. It's asinine. And so sometimes I yell. Or I yell when they are fighting like cats and dogs, wrapped up in each other's arms and legs, intent on hurting each other and I can't pull them apart--yelling makes them stop long enough to separate. My goodness, I knew it was bad the day I yelled at them to stop yelling! Even as I did it, the irony did not escape--or stop--me. (Insert the required statement that I really don't yell that much, certainly not everyday, just a couple of times a week. But I'm not sure either of us would believe me. Let's just say it's not everyday but more than I like).
But out of guilt that I am out of ideas, that I am sometimes not the parent I want to be, I apologize after I yell (though usually not until after everything has died down). And they apologize that they were acting up and acting out. And so some progress--is that what it is?--is made. Recently, though, I've altered my timeout strategy somewhat: I'm not arguing with a 4-year old over going to timeout. So I've eliminated the issue of "go," of where timeout--that way I need not figure out how to move them--they choose the spot as long as they aren't near their sibling or playing with toys. Suddenly, there is less to argue about and they just do it (grudgingly, of course). It's working like a charm now. And the need for it is decreasing as my consistency with the strategy increases. I think, by letting them choose the spot, it's more like Dr. Rao's Sendakian time-away than a timeout.
Of course, the NVC-er in me recognizes that all coercion, even if it's more civilized than yelling, is a form of violent communication. And I've read about unconditional parenting and using reason and love. And I believe in it and do it. I'm even getting much better at it. And so are they--they can identify their feelings and say what they need. But when it doesn't work, when I'm out of ideas and out of patience, when they are still fighting, when we are all beyond talking and thinking and reasoning, the only thing left is to yell. And, in the silence that follows, to say "sorry" and start again . . . .
I miss all the good Texas food we ate on our vacation. Sure, most of it wasn't homecooked--we never cook as much as we mean to--but most of it was good. And so, upon arriving back in Connecticut, the first thing I really wanted to do was cook something. With a bag of Camellia red beans which I'd picked up at the store down there--the only beans our friend Miss B said should be used for red beans and rice--I made a pot of vegetarian red beans and rice. And it was just what I wanted and needed, a little bit of home at home.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
But that has to wait.
Bud is at the ER now with Pop and Mama having his finger stitched up. He cut it on the crank of a deer feeder. Blood everywhere. And it took a long time to locate a hospital. None in the first town. Too much swine flu at the hospital in the second town. Third stop (an urgent care clinic)the doctors looked at it and referred them to the hospital, where they are now. We're just waiting to hear that they are headed home (we split up so they could leave the cabin earlier and get the stitches while we closed up.).
Poor little boy.
But there's a local high school football game this afternoon to distract him. And fudge we got on the way home.
Friday, October 16, 2009
But there's not wi-fi or even cell coverage and we'll be gone until we return on Saturday for a football game (but not THE football game between UT and OU). Then, after the football game, it's pretty much downhill to our departure from there. We travel all day Sunday to get home to Connecticut. I expect I'll post again on Monday.
When I'll definitely need a vacation from this vacation!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
On Tuesday night, after tucking the children in bed, Mama and I hightailed it out of Houston to visit my aunt and uncle in Rockport, whom I hadn't seen in a few years. Google said the trip would take 4.5 hours; GPS (once we changed the time to CST) estimated it at 3 ish. It took almost 5!! But that's because, enjoying our first night away together from the children EVER, we dawdled and made several stops, including:
- Taco Cabana is my go-to fast food restaurant in Texas. From my college days of midnight bean-and-cheese runs, I have loved this regional Tex-Mex chain. We ate there several times during last year's Texas trip to Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer's wedding. And so we had googled TC locations and found one on our way to the coast. Such a delight to eat bean-and-cheeses (refried, not black bean), with their new creamy Ranch Salsa dressing (no tomatoes in sight, but a mild smokey/peppery flavor). And since we went in to fetch them, Mama could pile on all the cilantro, onions, and hot salsas she liked. Sure, I know that these are really vegetarian--there's animal fat in the beans--but once a year, I'm not bothered by that.
- Target. You would think I get enough of that store in Connecticut but I was craving a frappuccino to keep me awake on the drive and knew I could get one there. That, and Mama was craving a long-sleeved shirt, even though it was 90F+. So we got her a new flannel shirt and a coffee. And the store was exactly the same as the one I'm at weekly. Except our Target doesn't sell wine right at the cash register! Guess suburban moms in Houston need their wine, easy to find and readily available . . . .
- Whataburger. Pronounced "water-burger," which greatly confused Mama the first several times she heard us all rave about it. But she's used to the pronunciation now (along with "Genada" for Ganado, "Porta-Conner" for Port O'Connor, and "Tie-voli" for Tivoli) and knows that the burgers are good. So are the fries and onion rings. Especially around 11 p.m. And they have these fried pumpkin pies! Just like McD's used to make their apple pies, with the hot filling and crispy, bubbly skin. De-yicious, as Bud says. Definitely good late night driving food.
But by far the very best place we went was Buc-ee's. What's that, you asked? It's a new chain of gas stations cum convenience stores cum food stops with the "cleanest restrooms in Texas." And these fried maple-y, kettle-corn like snacks called beaver nuggets that we took to calling "Buc-ee nuts." Yum-o. (The kids loved them to, polished off our bag, and are clamoring for more). I loved this store (and as you know, I try not to fall for such blatant marketing ploys and rampant consumerism). But I loved the clean restrooms--the women's room was larger than our entire downstairs in Connecticut, with probably 20 stalls!!!--and all the friendly and helpful staff and the snacks. And the vast array of kitschy Texas, country, and Southern souvenirs. I am Texas proud and always like to buy something tres tacky to take home and this was the place to find it. I got a corrugated sign painted with the Texas flag, opting not to get the one in the shape of Texas. I almost got branding irons with my initials, thinking to use them on cookies instead of steak of course, or a big Texas flag throw blanket. Mama and I both got Buc-ee shirts, giddy with the fun of it all. We didn't get the kids anything but will let them choose their own souvenirs at the Buc-ee's on the way to Pop's cabin tomorrow. It'll be a highlight.
But the night wasn't all shopping and eating. We saw lightning in distant clouds, marveled at the irridescent creepiness of all the industrial plants down on the coast lit up like giant Christmas villages, listened to our new CD of old Texas dance hall classics (guess where we got that?!), and frequently commented on how dark and deserted the roads were, and discussed suburban Texas mall-sprawl and the new, 21st-century Manifest Destiny of leaving no grassy field or forest empty of yet another overly-designed complex of chain stores and restaurants, exactly like the one 5 miles back (more on my observations about what Texans seem to buy most--God, custom-built homes, and restaurant meals--later). I also spotted, on the side of the road near Tivoli, a barn owl with its white oval face and narrow eyes having a late night snack. I'd never seen an owl live in the wild before so that was quite a treat (and, no, I didn't hear it call my name, though it did turn its head and just stare at us, which was almost discomfiting). We arrived at our destination around midnight and got almost 8 hours of sleep.
Best. Date. Night. Ever.
After a mediocre hotel hot breakfast, we headed to my aunt and uncle's house around 9 a.m. On the way over the bridge I spotted dolphins playing in the glassy-still water of the bay. And then there were the mosquitos. Unbelievable. Swarms of them at my aunt's house. Mama and I probably got 30+ together in the few minutes it took us to pile out of the car and get inside. But no matter. We had a great visit, talking about books we're reading (both of them have just finished a bio of Algernon Swinburne, one of Grandad Johnson's favorites), movies we liked (they recommended Copying Beethoven), trips (particularly their experiences in Scotland because we gave Aunt some Scottish things as belated birthday presents), kids (ours and then their grand and great-grand kids), and the like. After snacks, pictures, and more conversation, we headed to lunch at a local Vietnamese place where Mama got a bowl of noodles she really enjoyed.
Then we had to go back to the big city, having sworn to Gommie, Pop, and the kids that we'd make it home before dinner and bed. And we did. But not before a few more stops:
- For chocolate sheet cake at Prasek's. But no kolaches or coconut pie to be had. I also got some pinto bean spices. I love beans.
- For pinto beans, banana pudding, and sweet tea (my favorite!) at Mikeska's.
- And, of course, Buc-ee's!
Lots to do before we leave, including buying little lifevests for the kids.
Or, if I get too far behind, by Monday!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
- wine and flannel shirts at Target
- the new ranch salsa dressing at Taco Cabana
- suburban sprawl and Manifest Destiny
- barn owls
- fried pumpkin pies
- classic Texas dance hall music
- "beaver nuts"
- bagpipe rock
- squirrels planting peanuts
- Vietnamese noodle soup
- banana pudding
- sweet tea
- 98F and 96% humidity
I'll tell you all about it in a post to be titled, "What-a-Buc-ee!"