Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Bud lost a tooth.  Literally.  He came home with one missing on the bottom.  He noticed it was gone on the playground, probably either dropped or swallowed.  But he much prefers to think it fell out (and frankly so do I).  And he was very worried that the Tooth Fairy wouldn't come if there wasn't actually a tooth.  No worries on that score.


Over dinner the other night, Bud told Sis that he could read her mind.  "Prove it," she challenged him.

"I don't want to right now," he demurred.

She kept insisting and so he gave it a try.  But she said he got it wrong.

His explanation?  "I was reading another part of your mind."


The kids were practicing their "ang bao" rhyme for Chinese New Year, with my help.  Of course, I don't speak Mandarin or Teochew (our family's dialect), but I can pronounce the words atonally so I was helping.

Well, come time for the kids to perform the rhyme for Ma and Gong to ask for the envelopes and the family started laughing.  The "tua tua" part the way I pronounced it, and taught the kids, sounded like "peanut" in Thai (another language I don't speak that the family does), not "big" in Chinese, and everyone thought this was funny.  Because, of course, the last thing you want is a peanut-sized envelope!  So I laughed and said that in one of the languages I know, Latin, "tua" is your.  And asking for other people's envelopes isn't a bad idea.  

Right Now

Windows opened to a refreshing spring-like breeze on an incredibly warm day for January.

Right Now

Georgia O'Keeffe clouds....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Going Vegan, Again

I have the urge to go vegan again and am starting today.  I read recently on The Happiness Project that people can fall into two categories when it comes to self-discipline (especially food)--moderators or abstainers.  After years of trying to moderate my eating with Weight Watchers, etc., I realize that I am a much better abstainer--just take vegetarianism.  I find it easier to give up meat (and mind you I do still like some of it) than to moderate a few cookies or pieces of pizza.  And so, with a desire to continue my healthy eating and weight loss, I'm going vegan again.  But not a full-on, honey-avoiding, soy-worshipping vegan who stresses about how the food was colored (with cochineal beetles) or sugar whitened (by bone char).  I'll be a vegan like I am a vegetarian--practical.  Which means honey, eggs and dairy in some baked goods, and only an 80% avoidance of dairy and eggs (thanks to Heather of Beauty That Moves for the 80-20 idea).  The other 20% gives me some wiggle room.  And a little cheese on my bean burritos!

Chinese New Year: Wrap-Up

As you could see from all the pictures, we had a wonderful, if belated, celebration of Chinese New Year at my in-laws' house in NYC this weekend.  Chinese New Year is actually, in part, a sacred, ritualized, private family holiday, with lots of prayers and food.  I've been celebrating with them now for several years  but learn new things each time (see here for my best description of the holiday).  This year, I realized:

  • I have trouble praying on schedule.  We pray at the altar of the Buddha to present the food and then we pray with incense, approximately every 15 minutes, as the incense burns down by a third (at which point we add more incense and more sherry and tea), asking for luck, health, wealth, happiness, success, and all good things for the new year.  Anyway, I quietly recited some of my metta meditation but had trouble concentrating, and then finishing in the allotted schedule.  Also, while I've done some reading in Western Buddhism, in other words how it is generally interpreted and practiced here, even in its myriad guises (Zen, Tibetan, Theravadan), it is almost completely different when it is an actual Asian tradition (even though their version  is also Theravadan); the main difference is the praying to Buddha specifically, in the belief in numerous spiritual, celestial beings, that don't arise in the texts I've read.  Of course, Chinese New Year is also a Confucian ancestor ceremony.
  • While Mama's family sets places for the ancestors, including Gong's grandfather and parents and Ma's mother (her father is in his 90s and doing well), this is unusual in that the woman's family is not generally included at all, but they wanted to acknowledge her.  Apparently, before Lao Ma's death, the seat was for Gong's father's childless first wife.  But apparently most recent deaths are more important.  Similarly, Ma's mother's paper money is in a separate basket from Gong's family money before we burn it.  The spirits don't mix and Ma doesn't want her mother to have to explain herself to Gong's ancestors. 
  • The family's New Year table combines a few different traditions, including certain dishes from Cantonese tradition but also the platter of sweets which is a Teochew tradition.  The sweets are my favorite.
  • Last night we ate the traditional Seven Vegetable Soup, on the seventh day of the New Year.  But Ma is not sure about the exact meaning of the soup. Each vegetable has a specific meaning but she doesn't know about the seventh day.  We laugh that it's to give you some vegetables after all the rich new year's sweets.

Playing in the Dirt

I spent this morning at the historic house sorting through dirty bags of artifacts found during excavations under the house's floorboards a decade ago, in preparation for docent training on our new 5th-grade tour which will include a section on archaeology.  It was great fun, even if most of the finds were uninteresting and, well, gross--like rat and mouse skulls and bones.  But I liked finding even the ordinary bits of broken crockery, bent nails and pins, and buttons, even if their exact dates are uncertain, as least to me.  I can picture the house's inhabitants and history more clearly through their odd bits of detritus.

It all reminded me of my time helping on an excavation of a Roman bathhouse near Carthage, Tunisia.  There, we found vaulting tubes (to make ceilings), hypocaust tiles (to hold up the bathhouse floor), tesserae (from the mosaic floors), rainbow-colored glass (it gets that tint from being buried), and, my favorite find, a fragment of a small statuette of a Roman matron.  It was hot, dirty, hard work with our heads by our ankles hours a day, garden trowel in hand, in the baking North African summer, with a short break for "cass croute" of dark chocolate and cookies.  But our dig house had a view of the Mediterranean and a great cook, who made fantastic couscous with chicken, carrots, and potatoes steamed in a giant, battered washtub-like basin.  

I think a dig in a New England summer might have been easier, if not quite as memorable, but if there was another one, I'd love to be there.

Just a selection of finds, including bits of pottery and glass, button, nails, bones and teeth, and oyster shells.

A photo of the original excavation under the floorboards, where the above finds were discovered.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Beautiful Day in My Neighborhood

Okay, not meteorologically, since it is rainy and overcast, with a cold snap and high winds expected anytime now.  But socially.  I have spoken to several friends today, which really brightens my day regardless of the weather.  Especially because I hadn't spoken much to one grad school friend in a couple of years, one old church friend in several months, and one local buddy with some personal challenges in a few months.  I think we all felt better for the time spent together.  Friends warm you up (or even chill you out) when the weather doesn't.

Right Now

Watching a blanket of fog nestle the house snugly as I talk on the phone with friends far and near, and wait for the safe arrival of another one.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reading in the Kitchen

"As long as you taste curiously, and watch and feel and listen, and prick your way toward food you like, you will find that you become someone about whom people will say that cooking seems to come naturally, like walking.  They will say it and it will be true."

Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal:  Cooking with Economy and Grace is that rare cookbook--more prose than prosaic instruction, more musings than exact measurements.  And while I usually prefer to follow exact recipes from standard cookbooks (and I do that a lot, from the many books I have), this book inspires me to want to cook, giving me the confidence and the ideas how to do it, without really giving me too many recipes.  Take the chapter "How to Stride Ahead."  Adler describes cooking all your vegetables as soon as you get home from the market so that you have the not-quite-raw ingredients for meals the rest of the week---they can be turned into delicious dishes with little work, which means you are much less likely to let them rot in your fridge. "By the end of the week, you will have eaten vegetables a dozen ways a dozen times, having begun with good raw materials only once." Her description of her dance from roasted vegetables to sauteed greens is beautiful.  And easy looking. Her first chapter, "How to Boil Water," similarly suggests how easily a meal comes together with a pot and water, as it has for 10,000 years. (See articles in NYTimes here.)

Adler was an editor at Harper's before she ever stepped foot in a professional kitchen.  But a stint at Prune (with chef-cum-writer Gabrielle Hamilton) and then at other restaurants turned Adler into an accomplished cook.  Thankfully, following in the footsteps of M.F.K. Fisher, she has written about it both at Salon and in this her first book.  I'm only a few chapters into it because I read a bit and then muse upon it.  And cook!  Yesterday, between chapters, I made black bean soup for my lunch and broccoli noodle soup for our dinner.  And I'm ready to be back in the kitchen for dinner again today.  Where I'll be cooking a meal based on Adler's dictum to use what you have between reading such enticing sections as "How to Make Peace," "How to Weather a Storm," and "How to Drink to Saints."

Right Now

It's .... slushing!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sounds of Snoring

Mama is working late tonight and so I've got "Basilisk watch," meaning I'm the adult on the second floor whose imperative it is to ward off any Harry Potter-esque giant snakes that might come get the kids.  Bud specifically is still very upset about the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and proves that he is just 6 1/2 by holding two completely contradictory notions in his head:  the HP books are a work of fiction by J.K. Rowling, whose picture we have shown him, and the books are real and the snake is coming (even if this overlooks the fact that Harry killed the snake at the end).  Mercy, I don't think he was this upset about Voldemort.  But fears aren't rational so Mama and I have been taking turns being in the next room as they fall asleep.  An easy solution.

And from the sawing next door, one that is working very well.

Right Now

Waiting outside for bus and two squawking wild, bright light-green parrakeets just flew by, part of flock that lives in nearby park.
Time to unplug....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Art History in Action

Check out Dr. Carrie Rebora Barratt, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explaining to Stephen Colbert why you can't lick paintings and that those red fobs aren't George Washington's testicles!  It's art history in action, folks.  And I studied with and later worked for her for a bit  . . . . So glad the Leutze painting is back on view.  I've wanted to take the kids to see it for ages.

When It Rains . . .

It's an apt idiom with this unseasonably spring-like weather, but I'm actually talking about my projects.  I'm busy right now with two very different projects:  the elementary school cookbook and the historic house curriculum on the Revolutionary War.  And despite trying to schedule those so they didn't happen at the same time, they are.  Between now and mid-February, I will gather more than 150 recipes and edit them, then organize and arrange the cookbook and place the order (thankfully Mommy Goose is my co-cookbook editor!).  And, for the historic house, I need to research and write several fact sheets on women, maritime trade, African freedmen and slaves, taverns and travel, and the house, as well as write instructions for the archaeological activity and edit the teacher packet.  Plus lead four docent training sessions on said topics.  And that doesn't include my usual Daisy troop leader responsibilities, nor our gig teaching about Chinese-Americans for the multicultural program at school. I'm not complaining, though.  Not at all.  I like cooking.  I like history.  And most of all, I like to feel useful.

Even if it is cutting into my rigorous schedule of "Glee" reruns and blogging!

The Daily Unplug

On Sunday, our minister spoke about time and specifically the practice of Orthodox Jews to step out of the hectic chaos of daily life--to step out of regular time--to embrace the peace of their sabbath.  We can't do that, she noted, as 21st-century UUs (because it takes a village, or community, to commit to such an extensive observance and we tend to be more flexible and diverse than that), but we can try to adapt some of the ideas to our own practices.  We do already save an hour for Sunday worship--why not add a walk?  Or agree not to talk "shop" (committees, meetings, work) during fellowship?  And how about the rest of the week--could we unplug some, to step out of the rush of time crunches and embrace what is really important in our lives?

Unplug.  There's that word again. It keeps coming at me.  I already have an "unplugged basket" to drop my smartphone in when the family is home.  But I haven't been that good at relinquishing the 'droid.  So I'm trying again because, as our minister said, it's good to have aspirations.  I'm going to put my smartphone in the unplugged basket--now a wooden heart I bought at church that was made by a Haitian artist--every weekday from the bus arrival to bedtime, essentially three and a half hours from 4-7:30.  It's not too long, considering I'm fully plugged in from 8 am to 4 pm.  And even if I have my own time while the kids do their thing, I'm not going to blog or email; I'll read or cook or make something.  But what's important is to be present, available, not distracted by the computer/phone which is a kind of digital sedative when I'm restless or don't know what to do with myself.  We'll see what comes of it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Right Now

Kids playing in snowy mist as dusk falls.

Breakfast Theater

This morning found Mama and me in school for a whole-school meeting.  And our kids' class was the main performance.  They did a readers' theater piece on Amazing Grace, by Caroline Binch, about a little African-American girl who wants to try out to play Peter Pan but who is discouraged by her classmates because they don't think she fits the part.  "You're not a boy!  And you're black!"   But she tries out . . . and she soars!

The children took turns reading a line or two, while one little girl was dancing around as Grace.  Sis had a few lines and was "Nana," who encouraged Grace.  Bud was a narrator.  Then they all did a little dance together at the end.  They all soared!  It was very sweet.

All's Fair in Love and Monopoly?

Is it just the people I grew up playing with, but aren't you supposed to cheat at Monopoly--not paying if you land on a square, stealing money from the bank, taking money for passing "Go" twice, miscounting as you move forward?  Seriously, I remember people cheating at Monopoly left and right and it was all expected and okay.

So, how exactly do you teach that to kids?  Um, kids, yeah, go ahead and cheat like fiends, anyway you can.  Good luck being sneaky and dishonest.  Here, I'll give you some tips.  But only with Monopoly, not at any other game.  Is that really the lesson we want to teach, that cheating with money and business is the only way to win?

No wonder I just don't like playing games.

Happy Birthday, Lambeth!

Dear Lambeth,

I hope you have a marvelous birthday today.  We'll be thinking of you over here across the pond and wishing you the best of all possible years.  Thank you so much, these last almost 20 years, for staying in touch, passing along interesting tidbits, sending me encouragement and advice.  

Much love,

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday Snapshots

This storm had the best snowflakes I've ever seen--large (for here; one was almost a 1/4"!), well-defined, intricate, beautiful.  See, I even caught a picture of one  on the car window with only my cellphone camera!

Right Now

Small miracles:  Sitting. In a regular chair.  At the table.  For breakfast.  With the Family.  For eight whole minutes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012


Not sure I have much to type.  I've spent the day researching the history of the Paugusetts along the Housatonic, especially during the 18th century and spoke to a Native-American storyteller who had some valuable insights, information, and contacts.  And I have fielded several kind email from our first church family, who are responding to our membership resignation with kindness and support.  Each email brings me to tears.  Mama Hungry tells me that I can take away from our first church the love of our community and forget the negative.  It's quite a legacy, even if it is still time to change.  Finally, I'm waiting for snow.  I keep hearing that it's coming, with guesses from a couple of inches to 7".  I really doubt seven.  But I can almost smell the cold metallic signs of snow, the way I can always smell a good rainstorm.  I'm definitely excited.

Second Chance

Okay, the forecast is calling for snow.  Again.  2-4" overnight into tomorrow.  I won't hold my breath . . . but I will put out our bowls to collect snow for ice cream.

Right Now

Huge flick of honking geese just sailed overhead.

No Snow

At least not even enough to cover the grass...oh, well.

Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same

I am up early to finish reading my the chapter for school book club today.  A-student habits don't go away, I guess.  I couldn't sleep because I've never left an assignment this late before.  Silliness, truly.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something Wintry This Way Comes

The light snow started around 7:30 and has come and gone in the hours since.  I don't know if we'll have any accumulation tonight--or tomorrow night or Saturday--as the forecast hems and haws between a trace and 3".  I'd love some snow, real grass-covering, snowperson- or snowball-making, delay-of-school causing, enough-for-ice cream snow.

If not tonight, though, it will come.


I just resigned our membership at our "old" church.  I am sad, even though I know the decision meets the needs of our family.  But we were there eight years and it is hard--they supported, encouraged, inspired, and cared for us and the "church babies."  I know we'll stay friends with our friends, but still . . . . I just can't keep from crying.

Someone's in the City with Mama

Mama Hungry and I had a wonderful time in the city on Tuesday, treating ourselves to several fun stops to enliven the main event at the doctor's office.  I don't know Union Square well, despite working nearby for nine months in our museum's office before the new building opened, but am learning.  Exploring the area on doctor's days is definitely a treat (and much better than the Upper East Side, in the 70s off York, where my other doctor is).  And there is more left to see.  We're hoping to take the kids the next time we go.

First, we went to the Strand, billed as 18 miles of books, used and new.  They've spruced it up since I'd been there last, but it's the same quirky place, with helpful staff helping you navigate the warren of shelves.  I was looking for books by Anne Lamott, whom I see quoted everywhere these days, and was first in literary nonfiction, then in Christianity, which is tucked so far back that if I were a Christian I might be offended at hiding the books in Siberia.  Still, I got her Traveling Mercies, on becoming a Christian after a childhood of atheism (no, I'm not going quite that route, but it does make insightful reading), and chose lots of books by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, and Jack Kornfield in the nearby Buddhism section.  We searched cookbooks, children's books, and all the clearance tables, finding a few more gems.  The photo of the view out the window, with the plastic owl, cab, and Broadway street sign in the drizzling rain (I see owls everywhere now, Shelley!) is from the art section on the second floor.

We also went to Forbidden Planet, the comic book and alt-culture store.  We looked at manga, Star Wars, old metal  lunch kits, t-shirts about video games, and so much more.  I bought a Princess Leia figure, in her Tatooine metal bikini, to go with my shelf of action figures of my avatar.  Too bad there wasn't any Xena stuff.  But perhaps the store is more macho than that (and we were some of the only female customers, though there were several female clerks).

Finally we visited a chocolate shop of Max Brenner, kind of a grown-up's Willy Wonka, with pipes and mixers of chocolate throughout the shop and restaurant.  Here is where we got the chocolate pizza (yes, it was as good as it looked in that picture), a chocolate croissant, and two drinks, an imaginative hot white chocolate chai and an icy hazelnut milkshake.  Plus a few bon bons for us and the neighbor who was watching the kiddos.

Altogether, with the doctor's support of my continued PT and a wait-and-see approach (i.e. no injections for now) plus a different medication to replace the one I stopped (this time, gabapentin, which I'm postponing for a bit to see how PT goes without any meds for awhile), it was a marvelous day.   I actually am excited about having to go back for a follow-up at some future date!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Another busy day, though this time, completely unplanned.  In the morning, I caught up on two days' worth of phone calls to doctors, friends, family.  I didn't get to everyone (we got your message, Aunt Banana--we were playing in the snow!  We have your cookie order and will call you this weekend) and still have more calls.  Plus emails and other things.

Midday found Mama taking Sis to a last-minute pediatrician's appointment for a follow-up, glad that she could squeeze Sis in.  Then Mama stayed home because the stronger meds the doctor prescribed yesterday are leaving her poorly in addition to her three-week-old cold.

Afternoon found us hosting a little friend for a playdate, again a late decision.  Sis and her friend had a great time playing bunnies.  Bud played DS with Mama.

Then it was dinner, bed, bath, and beyond.  I might have more time to write tomorrow, once I get my stragglers done.

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm"

Did anyone else notice that, despite the national blackout, Wikipedia's mobile site worked all day today?

Right Now

Bud is reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone all on his own!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Yes, that is chocolate pizza!

I Love NYC

Right Now

Heading to the city in pouring rain for my pain doctor appointment, after taking Mama to the GP because she's still sick. 

Right Now

Good Morning!

Not a lot of snow but still pretty....

Right Now

Less than an inch of wet slushy snow, but plows just went through and school is delayed!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Right Now


The Art Fairy

 . . . visited this morning (the kids go downstairs before us on weekends) and left this gem for me (Mama got one from the other art fairy, not pictured here because it is harder to photograph well).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Home Alone

The kids and mama are off to church, but I am home alone coughing and sputtering.  I was sorry to miss today because we'd signed up to do the snacks for fellowship.  I'd planned to bake with Sis and also with Mama Teacher, and then augment those homemade goods with fruit.  Oh, well, best-laid plans . . . Mama made a store run last night and took the kids this morning.  So, I've been watching Harry Potter movies and reading My Little Chickadees.  Except for my coughing, it's been a perfect lovely morning.  They'll be home soon and we'll eat and play, until they have an evening pajama birthday party.  Which means date night for Mama and me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Right Now

Playing Jr. Monopoly and eating the last of the Girl Scout cookies!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Silent Night

What do you get when two mommies get laryngitis?

Yep.  This post.

Having no voice left at all after social yesterday and a long conversation this morning with my--what shall we call her?  The woman who also can't sit whom I'm getting to know--Non-sitting Buddy about doctors and diagnoses, but especially medications (since she's been to the ER twice for the same reaction to different drugs!!!!  Maybe Long-Lost Twin is more like it!), I haven't really spoken to the children since they got home.

I have no voice.  Which, for those of you who know me, means it is unusually quiet over here (and sorta frustrating). Especially because it seems that if I'm not talking, the kids aren't talking as much.  Dinner was very quiet.

And then I tried some sign language on them.  Remember how they knew some sign language by about 10-months-old, signing for "more" and "done" before they could talk?  At the height of our (okay, my) obsession with Alex and Leah of "Signing Times," they probably knew 50+ signs--for animals, colors, actions, places, people.  I loved refreshing my own skills and sharing it with them.  But it never stuck.  And now they don't even recall Alex and Leah (Babysitter does though; she can still sing all the words to the theme song!) Though, somehow, the alphabet did stick and they know it!  Anyway, tonight over dinner, I signed a bit with Mama, who can follow me most of the time (she watched "Signing Times" too!).  And the kids were flabbergasted.  How do I do that?  What were we talking about?  Maybe they'll be interested to learn some again.  But because that didn't help tonight, we managed to get them to bed with a combo of pointing and ritual, having to give up our nightly read for "Phineas and Ferb" because neither one of us can handle Harry Potter.

And now Mama and I are chatting on Gmail with each other, sitting here in the same bed.  Neither of us knows enough sign language to have an in-depth conversation and we're not ready to go to bed quite yet.  In fact, it's odd not to have talked today--we usually chat at some point, sharing snippets of our day during her commute  or between baths.  Thank heavens for computers (and that we have two of them so we can each use one).  It is, by the way, how we got started, you know, years ago chatting over the university intranet after work at the library that summer almost 18 years ago!  So, I'm actually enjoying this little electronic trip down memory lane, an unplanned date night.

Silence is golden, you know.

Addendum:  As I finished this, Mama initiated text-to-speech software (get this, Lambeth, she's using a British voice!)  Things have certainly changed!  And I don't miss that orange "pine" prompt at all.  Her iPad is cooler than my notebook.  She's charging the kids' iPad so I can be British too.

Right Now

The temperature has dropped 15 degrees since morning.   It's winter again in Connecticut.  For now.


I have laryngitis because of this cold, so if you call, don't be surprised if I can't talk.  Thankfully, I feel better than I sound.

Auld Acquaintance . . . and New

Yesterday, as I posted earlier, I had a marvelous time.  First, in the morning, several of my playgroup moms came for our monthly coffee, though this was the largest group we'd had.  It was great to chat with them all, at leisure over coffee and sweets.  We don't usually get two whole hours and more for conversation.  I see some of them intermittently, but not usually as a big group.  It was like old times, six years and more ago when all had  infants (for almost all, our first).  We would get together weekly at each other's houses, eat lunch, and share (see here, in only my fourth post).  There was laughter, tears, questions, advice.  For years, through second children, deaths of parents and family and even one of those infants, divorces, diagnoses, moves, job changes and losses, and all the vicissitudes of life, we came together regularly.  But now, it doesn't happen as much.  When it does, though, the easy camaraderie of lives shared, no matter how long we've been apart or how much we still have in common, comes back and fills us with happiness.  Or, at least it does me, which is why I'm so glad they gather at my house monthly now.

And then, I met someone brand new, which was an equally wonderful treat:  I got to meet Shelley, of My Little Chickadees, and the great coincidence.  We laughed in the beginning that others had wondered if it were safe for us to meet since we'd only met online--one of my playgroup friends even stayed around to make sure Shelley looked okay!  She had apparently heard the same fears from her husband--but she said I'd been vetted by Mrs. S and I said she'd been vetted by the whole Orthodox Church!  So we were safe.  And had a delightful time.  We have many things in common, particularly viewpoints on parenting and cooking and such (though not scrapbooking, I'm afraid.  Sorry, Shelley, I tried.)  I look forward to many more discussions--of books, bread baking, and spirituality.  And those are just the topics we know about!  Thanks for coming over, Shelley!  I can't wait to do it again.

It's days like that keep me in good spirits.  Thanks, y'all.

Right Now

Sunshowers of ice...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Coming Soon

Even with the dreary, wet (but not snowing) day, I had a glorious day with friends, old and new.  But more about that later, probably tomorrow, as I had my u/s today (no clots! re-confirmed) and have PT tonight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Did You Know . . .

. . . that gas is the funniest thing in the world?

And therefore my kids are the funniest kids in the world?

Oh, my.  They were laughing hysterical and shaking their tushes and tooting on purpose.  And then starting singing about it!  First, the standard, "Beans, Beans the musical fruit," but then they branched out with their own composition (oddly, part of the tune of the "Candyman" song in Willy Wonka.  I can't explain it.):

"Mango lassies . . . will make you gassy!"

Oh, and if gas and gassy kids are funny, gassy songs are the funniest!!!!

How do first graders toot on command?

And then I had to go and give them ammo for tomorrow, with greasy Chinese chicken dumplings for dinner!

But you know what?  I was laughing and singing too.

But that was it.  I don't have that skill.


Our snowdrops are coming in this warm, unfrozen winter.

Twinkies: In Memoriam?

Say goodbye to Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Cupcakes, and Wonder Bread?

Hostess has apparently filed for bankruptcy.  And though they will still be baking, this might mean the end of America's love-to-hate, hate-to-love sugary indulgence soon.  I haven't had one in years (well, a fried Twinkie at a fair once . . . because you have to try it to believe it.  Eh.), but liked them as a child--the orange cupcakes were my all-time favorites.  I haven't let the kids have them.  And now they might never get to try one.  Part of me feels like they've lost out on childhood just a bit.  Maybe we'll need to have a nostalgic run to the corner store this weekend . . . they'll keep til the kids are older, right?!

New Goal

After posting ad infinitum (hopefully not ad nauseum) about all my health issues recently, I'm going to take a  break from that.  I don't want to think of myself only in medical terms.  So while, sure, some medical things will be going on in the background--heart monitor and ultrasounds tomorrow afternoon, the cessation of my  taking my pain drug (side effect of sleep trouble--been up since 2, no nap, not tired!), visit to my pain doctor on Tuesday, etc.--I don't want to dwell on them here (but I still welcome your support and conversation, for which I am grateful), and will only mention them if something really extraordinary happens.

Let's talk about something else.


Well, my cold feels better. . .

Must have been the fluids and steroids at the ER today.

Let me start from the beginning.  I had had a few leg cramps behind my knee--nowhere and nothing I'd had before, sharp and pinchy and powerful--and they moved.  My heart was also racing.  So I called my GP.  She wasn't in.  And when I said I thought I should see someone, they said tomorrow.  So I thought some more (including thoughts about changing GPs, to someone with other doctors and real nurses and more hours--this was 1 pm on Tuesday and she wasn't in all day, with no coverage!)

And Googled it.  Remembering my sister had mentioned DVT (deep vein thrombosis) as a side effect of being in bed too much, which I had been with my cold, and also knowing I was on relatively new pain meds, I wanted to see a doctor (but my pain guy is in NYC).

So Mama came home and we went to the hospital.  And they were more worried than I was!  It was like my own personal ER episode.  They took my vitals and a man showed up with a chair and insisted I get in.  Now. Then we were in cardiology with 3 people swarming around, attaching all sorts of wires and poking me with needles.  Two nurses were even arguing about what order the stickies went on, slowing down the whole thing.  Nurse Hathaway would have put an end to that!  I learned that my heart was "tachy"--or racing (their words are always so much more dramatic and mysterious.  And alarming.)--and that my blood pressure was low, apparently an odd or dangerous combo.

And it went away almost as soon as I was hooked up!  Though, the leg cramps continued intermittently.  But they monitored me for 4 hours, gave me fluids, and did a CT Scan (with steroids and benadryl in case I was allergic to the dye).  No blood clots, which was my fear.  The cardiologist wants me to wear a 24-hour heart monitor just to check, and have a follow-up leg ultrasound to recheck for clots; I'll be getting that sometime Wednesday, I think.  And I'm supposed to see my GP.  I wonder if I'll get in.

Anyway, I feel good actually.  Except I've been up since 2 a.m.  Not worried, not in pain, just awake.  Because even with the ER, I didn't do much today.  So now I've cleaned the kitchen, sent some email, and am finally blogging..  I should've just blogged this before bedtime, once I called my folks and my sister (gotta worry everyone, you know. After the fact.)  I might be asleep if I had.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reading Days

Remember those days in college before final exams that were reserved for studying?  My university gave us two; Mama's gave her almost a week (I guess those Ivy League finals are harder!).  It was always an unusual limbo--no schedule but lots to do, excitement about upcoming vacation but anxiety about tests.  I don't miss the finals, but I did like those days of reading and solitude.

Sure, my whole life right now, between 8 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., resembles those times.  And I'm especially engaged right now with a variety of books and topics, having received several books for Christmas and working on colonial history for the historic house.

  • As part of my continued spiritual quest and also readings on pain/illness/medicine (How to Be Sick by Toni Bernhard and The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Tova Bradley fall into this category, too), I'm reading Larry Dossey's Healing Words on the relationship between prayer and medicine.  I'm finding it a fascinating read, not only for the exploration of published scientific studies of the relationship of healing and prayer, but for little insights such as people heal better/faster if prayers are vague and "thy will be done"/"hope for the best outcome" rather than specific.  
  • Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project has me thinking on resolutions and the life I want to live (while providing memorable tidbits like it takes six seconds for a hug to induce happy chemicals in the body).
  • Below Stairs:  The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, by Margaret Powell, as I get ready for the second season of the latter.
  • From the used bookstore, for fun, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Ungarnished Truth:  A Cooking Contest Memoir--A Woman, a Chicken Dinner, a Million Dollars.
  • Heaven is for Real and The Shack, part of my therapist's homework to consider other people's spiritual lives.   The former is very Born-Again Christian--about a real little boy who was very ill and later told his parents about going to heaven, meeting dead relatives, and seeing Jesus's rainbow horse--but not as difficult to finish as I expected, despite the pleas to "know Jesus in your heart."  I'll start The Shack, which is fiction, soon.
  • Continuing my reading  in Buddhist studies, I've read It's Easier than You Think and Happiness is an Inside Job,both by Sylvia Boorstein, but I'm not sure which book I'll tackle next so, for Buddhism, I'm perusing Best Buddhist Writing 2011.
  • For a reading group at the kids' school, I'm reading Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky.  After Nurture Shock, it's kind of repetitive but I'll keep reading.
  • For the historic house, A Guide to Historical Artifacts of Colonial America by Ivor Noel Hume, once head of archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Shine and Shadow, a book of meditations by UU minister Kathleen McTigue
  • All my magazines, mostly food and parenting . . . . 
Obviously, I pick and choose, go back and forth, depending on mood or activity.  As Rubin notes in The Happiness Project discovers, growth, or learning, generates happiness. Doing my best.

My Turn

First Gommie and  Pop caught it and suffered a painful flight home with bursting ears, which still hurt a week later.  Then Mama got it, becoming sicker with a cold than I have seen her in our nearly 18 years together.

And now, as of waking up at 5 am with a hot throat, stuffed nose, and burning eyes, I have it.

Gargling, saline mist, extra vitamin C, chicken soup (literally, no vegetarian qualms here), washing hands, tea with honey, and a call to the doctor who saw me for a well visit on Thursday . . .  and I'm feeling mediocre.

And nervous.  It was my last cold, that morphed into bronchial asthma, that precipitated the late-night-while-I-was-asleep disc herniation/pelvic joints event that left me unable to sit.  Don't really want to do that again.

So, as I'm reading Larry Dossey's Healing Words on medicine and prayer, I'll ask you to send good vibes, wishes, prayers our way . . . .


A day is vast.
Until noon.
Then it’s over.
For the whole poem by Jane Hirschfield and many other thought-provoking poems and posts, check out Thinking Faithfully, a blog by Rev. Kathleen McTigue.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Right Now

Gorgeous big moon rising on a clear night....

Saturday, January 7, 2012


To all of our first-day cookie customers!

Cookie Time!!!

Thin Mints.  Samoas (pictured here).  Tagalongs.  Do-Si-Dos. Trefoils. ThankU Berry Munch.  Dulce de Leche.

And Savannah Smiles, a new lemon cookie covered in powdered sugar to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts by Juliette Gordon Low.

Sis is very excited to be selling cookies again for her Daisy troop.  So, friends and family, if you would like to purchase cookies for $4 a box during the month of January (with delivery in March), please contact me offline.  We can also facilitate the donation of cookies to military personnel and the local food pantry.

Sis says thanks!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Right Now

I'm SITTING with my purring cat on my lap!  Paradise.


Sis just had a nosebleed. 

Right Now

Sis and Mama are miserable--congested and awake.

My Epiphany

It's fitting that I post this today, being the Feast of the Epiphany and all, but I've had some personal spiritual insights recently that I want to share.  I don't have answers, but I'm asking new questions.

I believe in something.

I'm open to the possibility that there is more going on than I understand, than anyone understands.  I'm not talking about God specifically.  Just . . . something.

Sounds simple, sounds easy, sounds obvious.  But it isn't.  And it's been a long time coming.  Sort of.

So this is going to be something of a spiritual biography, starting at the beginning. Because in reflecting on where I've been, I realize that I've been searching for and seeking this "something" for a long time, even if I would have said that I hadn't been (incorrectly remembering just monolithic doubt) . . . because I would have said there was nothing to find.

I've been told that when my grandmother Bammie died, one of the first things I said was that when I died I wanted to come back as a dog. I was four.  They had no idea where I picked up that notion.  We weren't a religious family.  At all.  No church.  No religious affiliations (both of my parents had been raised Methodists but that's as far as it went).  No spiritual beliefs.  Which I'm guessing is why I didn't plan to go to heaven when I died.  We celebrated Christmas and Easter but secularly.  Except my dad insisted on the reading of the biblical Christmas story each year before we could open presents.

In childhood, I was much more interested in the Greek gods than the Christian one.  I read all the mythology books I could get my hands on.  Once I even built a temple to Poseidon on the beach.  My Aunt J, the only churchgoer in my extended family that I knew of, asked if I really believed in mythology.  Being precocious, I told her I found it as likely as anything else and that the Greeks didn't think their stories were untrue myths. In fact, the Greek gods made sense to me--each one in charge of a few facets of life, with their own very human personalities and stories.  Just larger than life.  I especially identified with Athena, goddess of wisdom.

I was also fascinated with the paranormal, always getting books on ghosts, ESP, or unexplained mysteries from the book club or watching similar shows on Atlantis, Easter Island, and Stonehenge on tv.  I also watched that HBO special on Nostradamus (which terrified me).  I had the whole Time-Life book series Mysteries of the Unknown.  And I remember believing it all.

And I went to church some in elementary school.  If I spent the night with a friend, I'd go to church with the family on Sunday, didn't matter where.  Methodist.  Presbyterian.  Catholic.  Southern Baptist. When I spent the weekend with my great-grandmother, we went to her church, a small, small-town congregation of, well, I can't recall if it was Lutheran or Presbyterian or Methodist.  I do remember one service though, a fiery, hellfire and damnation, "come to Jesus" sermon at which I was almost moved to go up to the altar, save for one thought:  my parents would burn in hell and we would be separate.  At ten-ish years of age, that was scarier than brimstone and so I stayed put.  I actually attended a Southern Baptist church for about a year, again around 5th grade, enjoying the instant camaraderie of classmates who went there and liking the school-like atmosphere (I loved school!)--I went to Saturday retreats, a daughter-father dinner, Vacation Bible School, and even sang in the choir's production of Come, Messiah, Come (ask me, I can still remember the songs!).  I loved the weekly bulletins and had a white zippered Bible I thought was pretty.  It wasn't about God for me, really, but about community.  At some point I quit going.  I don't remember why, especially as I think I came very close to being baptized.  I was instantly ignored by all my "friends."  That was the end of church for me for a long time.

Then in high school, I joined the Atheists of America and was fascinated with Madeleine Murray O'Hare and the court case against school prayer.  Especially because by this time I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the "Under God" part.  I became fervent in my atheism.

In college, I went to chapel once, for the Christmas Eve service, because I thought you had to attend it to go to the all-school holiday reception afterwards.  By sophomore year, I knew you could skip it.  And so I did. I took a history of religion in America course to meet a requirement and enjoyed learning about the waves of religiosity in American history.  I even enjoyed visiting services as part of my coursework--a Catholic mass in Spanish, a reformed Jewish shabbat, and a three-hour evangelical (but unaffiliated) service of a predominantly African-American congregation.  Also, some LDS missionaries and a Wiccan visited class.  I was the only atheist and didn't talk much in class.  But I still got an A. I was more interested in religion as history or art or theological differences or culture.  Not as spirituality or belief. Otherwise, the only churches I went to were in Rome during my summer abroad (in 1992, where I met Lambeth, who was in the same program, along with his wife--20 years ago!)--I loved visiting churches there to enjoy the art work and architecture.  I would sometimes even pretend to pray so I could visit the special side chapels reserved for that purpose.  I noticed that Italians had a very pragmatic approach to mass--many would show up just in time for communion, standing in back by the door, and leave right after, so it "counted."  I was even blessed by Pope John Paul II three times (once in an audience and twice in St. Peter's Square) and have some rose rosary beads from the Vatican gift shop.  I was strangely drawn to the Vatican, to all things Catholic that summer, but not in a spiritual way,  I was especially fascinated by all the nuns in their various robes.  My mom laughed that I would probably become a nun because I liked costumes and I liked joining groups! (Coincidentally, one of my cousins, also non-religious in his upbringing, did become a Catholic monk in France.  And that side of the family wasn't even Catholic!)

The decade or so that followed college is spiritually empty, with no church, no exploration, only the continued belief that there was nothing else out there, nothing paranormal or metaphysical or spiritual.  And that when you died, you were dead.  This last bit occasionally saddened me--I would have liked to have believed in something more and was sometimes disappointed that I didn't believe.  I couldn't fake faith, though, and so had none.

Mama had a more traditionally religious upbringing, in the Catholic church and 12 years of Catholic school, encouraged by her Buddhist parents who saw Catholicism as just another variation of a spiritual path.  Mama liked talking about religion with her friends, who were often Orthodox Jewish women.  After coming out, however, she left the Church but without giving up what she characterizes now as her Chinese ancestor-worship/Buddhist polytheism.  But being casual in her beliefs, she didn't mind my lacking any.

As a member of a tight-knit lesbian community in Chicago in the later 1990s, I met people of a variety of faiths--some Unity, some Metropolitan Community Church, and several Wiccans.  I was a member of a chorus and we sang several Earth Mother songs and I began to read about paganism--Starhawk, Diane Stein, Z Budapest, and others.  Mama and I experimented (oooh, that sounds like Christine O'Donnell) with observing the sabbaths in our own way and tried some rituals but never really felt comfortable with spells or potions.  It was my first adult attempt at engaging in spiritual practices and I liked the connection to the earth, nature, the seasons, and history.  I think you could mark this as the beginning of my spiritual journey as an adult.  But, imbued with feminism and a tinge of lesbian separatism (still popular with my friends in Chicago who were activists in the 1970s), it was still decidedly anti-church and anti-God.

Five years later found us in Connecticut at a Unitarian Universalist church, the suggestion of a lifelong UU friend, though I honestly don't remember how she came to suggest it and us to listen in the first place.  This was pre-children (though I don't remember if it was pre-thinking about children.  I mean there is that joke, "Show me a UU and I'll show you an atheist with children."). I vaguely recalled that my mom had once said I might like Unitarians, because they read the Giving Tree and didn't talk about God.  And she was right, I loved UU.   I've posted here several times about how meaningful the principles are to me, how important the community. And as my church has faltered, I've been bereft.   But for me, spirituality wasn't really a part of church, which was securely secular humanist in nature.

Eventually, through UU, I came to learn about meditation and finally happened upon Buddhism (this might be a family tradition--I understand my paternal grandfather became very interested in Buddhism), which has provided me great insight into life.  Of course, Buddhism can be studied philosophically--there are books about atheism and Buddha and Buddhism without Beliefs.  And that's how it started for me . . . .

Until recently. Until after this 18-month journey of injury, pain, and disability.   I had been meditating and praying, more as a personal practice.  I was adapting and redefining spiritual language to fit my liberal religious UU faith.  I was becoming more comfortable with so-called "God talk." And then this whole PT thing started, with healing energies and actual profound changes.  Nothing the allopathic doctors have done has helped; there is something about my mystical, magical PT and her various techniques--osteopathic manipulations, cranio-sacral, IMT (Integrative Manual Technique of Sharon Weiselfish), chakra healing, acupressure--that I can actually feel--her slightest pressure literally sends shockwaves coursing through my legs.  Qi. Chakras.  Diaphragms. It's not rational, explainable, quantifiable, scientific, but it does happen  And it does help, the only thing that has.  She says I don't have to believe for it to work.  If I am healed  through energy, do these energies exist?  Or, put more dramatically, "If my back gets better, is there a God?"   Everything came together, a lifetime of vague wanderings coalesced.  And people who have had spiritual experiences witnessed to me and I listened with an open heart and non-judgment instead of my usual cynicism and rational explanations.  And I realized I liked thinking about believing in something, even something as vague as energy or connection.  It has promise and possibility. I've obviously been looking for something for a long time.

Sure, I worry that I am gullible and vulnerable, grasping at straws to get better.  Sure, I imagine this could all be explained more rationally.  Sure, it might be in my mind, a placebo effect.  Sure, the spontaneous healing could be the result of 18 months of other treatments coming together.    I'm not joining a cult or shaving my head.  I'm just entertaining some adjustments to my worldview, refining what I believe in, a mind-body-spirit paradigm shift, if you will.  These ideas are not harmful or dangerous to me or anyone else.  Whether or not they are true probably doesn't matter much (isn't that what Karen Armstrong says in The Case for God?  I haven't read that one yet).  I think they call that faith.

Does this mean I believe in God?  No.  Still no. Not in the traditional sense. I don't believe there is a omnipotent creator with power over us all.  I do however sense more of a connection between us, perhaps what Buddhists call the universal consciousness, or some people call source energy.  In telling a few people (mainly my spiritual friends) in the last couple of days (it actually only came together for me late Tuesday night!), I compared this experience to being a new kitten or a rosebud--fragile, new, a beginning, beautiful.  I can't really find the words to express what I'm not sure I'm talking about.  I'm still not sure what it all means.  What I believe.  What effect it will have.  What I'm going to tell the kids.  Even what I'm telling you . . . and mind you, "coming out" with even this bare minimum of belief is more challenging for me than being a lesbian because it speaks more to my core identity of being secular than being straight ever did.  Especially because I doubted and yes, laughed at and denigrated the other side frequently enough.  I'm ashamed of that now.  Maybe a little fearful of being in that position myself.  But not enough not to say something.

And so I keep walking this very meandering path that I have been walking all my life, just taking another turn and seeing some new scenery.  It's a lovely journey.  And it feels great.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Get-Well-Soons

  • for Mama, who has infections in her ears and sinuses
  • for Gommie and Pop, also sick with infections
  • for CJ, who has pink eye
  • and everyone who is sick right now

On Sand Tarts

Sand tarts.  Pecan sandies.  Snowball cookies. Mexican wedding cookies.  Russian tea cakes.

You know the cookie--round, even ball-like, or crescent-shaped, covered in powdered sugar, filled with a crumbly, dry cookie and lots of pecans.

They were long my very least favorite cookie.  I didn't like the nuts and I didn't like the sandy texture; they were always such a disappointment.

Until recently.  Both last Christmas and this, I found myself liking the sandies, even choosing them over other cookies.  For our baking bonanza this year, Mama Teacher made sandies--and they were delicious!  And there were none left in our house, the only cookie that was completely gone without sharing. Mmm, mmm, good.  My favorite cookie from the church holiday bake sale?  Sandies made with mini-chips instead of pecans.

And then out of the blue, Gommie called me asking about sandies, looking for my paternal grandmother's sand tart recipe.  And awhile later I found it, in her distinctive handwriting, in a little recipe book my aunt photocopied from the treasured original.  I made a copy for Gommie.

Finally, I've been eyeing a recipe, "cocoa wedding cookies," that is a chocolate sand tart with mini-chips and pecans.  I didn't get to make it over the break but hope to make a batch before morning coffee next week.  Right now, I just can't imagine a better cookie than that!


Mama Teacher's Snowball Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups finely ground pecans
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl with mixer until creamy.  Blend in flour, pecans and salt.  Refrigerate 1 hour.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 mins.  Cool then roll in powdered sugar.


Grandmother's Sand Tarts
(transcribed from picture)

2 sticks butter
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 tablespoons sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

Roll into crescents or balls--bake 30-45 min at 300F.

Mommy Hungry


Cocoa Wedding Cakes

2 cups pecans
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 cups cold butter (4 sticks), cut into pieces (do not use margarine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate mini-chips

Preheat oven to 325F.

In food processor, pulse pecans with 1 cup confectioner's sugar until pecans are finely ground.  Add butter and vanilla and process until smooth.  Add flour and cocoa and mix evenly (I had to do this in my mixer because it wouldn't fit in my processor).  Add chocolate chips and combine.

With floured hands, shape dough by rounded teaspoons into 1-inch balls.  Place balls 1" apart.

Bake cookies until begin to firm to touch (the original recipe says "lightly browned"--how do you tell that with cocoa cookies??), 16-18 minutes.  Transfer to rack to cool slightly.  

Sift remaining confectioner's sugar onto paper to roll cookies into it OR, as we did, sift sugar over cookies on cooling rack.  To cover completely, sift more powdered sugar on when completely cool and ready to serve.

makes appx. 108 cookies

Good Housekeeping's The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook

Other Variations:

Snowball Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups finely ground pecans
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl with mixer until creamy.  Blend in flour, pecans and salt.  Refrigerate 1 hour.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 mins.  Cool then roll in powdered sugar.
Mama Teacher

Snowball Cookies

3/4 c butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1 cup powdered sugar


1. preheat over to 350
2. line a baking tray with foil
3. in large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using electric mixer
  add salt, egg, and vanilla, mixing constanly
  Slowly add the flour and continue mixing until the ingreadients are well-combined
4. use hands to shape it into round, 1-inch balls
  place each ball 2 inches apart on baking tray
5. bake for 15 min or until bottoms are golden
  let cool for 5 min on a wire rack
6. while the cookies are baking, sift the powdered sugar into a large plastic bag
7. after they have cooled, place in bag and gently shake

Snowballs (Russian Tea Cakes)—One of Miss L’ mom’s specialties
6 oz shortening and 2 oz butter (or 8 oz butter)
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt (optional)
1 cup coarsely ground nuts (pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, etc)
Additional confectioner’s sugar for coating

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Blend shortening and /or butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Stir the flour with salt and beat into shortening.  Stir in nuts.  Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto nonstick baking sheets or roll into 1-inch balls.  Bake at 325 for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden  Remove and cool.  Roll twice in confectioner’s sugar
Miss L’s Mom

J.D.’s Russian Tea Cakes

2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 walnuts, finely ground in food processor or blender
2 cups confectioners' sugar for coating

Heat oven to 400 degrees  Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until blended.  On low speed beat in flour and walnuts until blended.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.Bake 10 min (cookie may crack slightly).  Roll hot cookies in remaining 2 cups sugar until coated and cool on cookie rack.  Once cooled roll again in confectioners' sugar.   Enjoy!!

Italian Nut Balls—Another of Miss L’s mom’s specialties

¾ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2 egg yolks, reserve whites
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 cup chopped nuts
Your favorite jelly

Mix sugar, salt, butter, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and almond extract on medium until well blended.  Slowly add flour at low speed.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls.  Dip into egg whites.  Roll in chopped nuts. Place on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart, and make a deep depression in the center of each. Bake at 350 for 10 – 12 minutes. Fill with jelly while still warm.

Mini-Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
Powdered sugar

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

BEAT butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour; stir in morsels and nuts. Shape level tablespoons of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned. Remove from oven. Sift powdered sugar over hot cookies on baking sheets. Cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, if desired. Store in airtight containers.

Word of the Day

I used to get a kick out of the "Word on the Street" on "Sesame Street."  It was always a good word, fun to say, and I'd remember it the rest of the day.

Well, we're now doing something similar:  a daily family word-of-the-day.  Except we choose our word at the end of the day, during dinner, and write it on the calendar.  Ours is not a vocabulary word.  Part journaling, part gratitude practice, the word of the day allows us to encapsulate our day.

Swimming.  Tooth.  School.  Cold.

These are the first four words of the year, all unanimously agreed upon.  I'm sure there will be days when there is more than one word.  And that's fine too.

I wonder what the word will be today?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Right Now

13 degrees, with 1 degree wind chill, waiting outside for the bus.  Reminds me of our years in Chicago.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thinking of Them

  • our little friend, Driver's daughter, who has pneumonia
  • the father of my co-Daisy leader, who is having surgery tomorrow
  • the brother of my friend, Mrs. S, who had surgery over the holidays
  • the daughter-in-law of Lambeth, who is undergoing chemotherapy
  • the mother-in-law of a friend, who has congestive heart failure
Our best wishes and prayers are with you.

Our Holidays

As you could gather from my infrequent posts and short "Right Nows," we had a very busy winter break.  But while busy, it was also one of the most relaxing, satisfying, and enjoyable holidays I've had as an adult.  I'm not exactly sure how we managed that, though we did 1). shorten our to-do list and manage our expectations of what we could accomplish (which meant fewer outings/activities, some untidiness (or actual downright mess and dirt!), and only very modest wrapping of packages), 2). remind each other that our goal was to enjoy our family in the moment, nothing more or less, and 3). eliminated complicated holiday meals in favor of still-tasty but less labor-intensive Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, second Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day dinners (soup and dessert, beans and cornbread, anitpasti, leftovers, and take-out), none of which would have been possible without the support of our families.

That said, when we reviewed the holiday, several wonderful moments stood out, in no particular order:

  • making gingerbread houses with Ma, Gong, and Goo
  • swimming with Gommie and Pop
  • the musical Christmas Eve at our (possibly) new church
  • eating our favorite foods, including remoulade, gumbo, muffalettas, panettone bread pudding, mincemeat pie, orange biscuits, bacon, corned beef hash, sausage, monkey bread, ham, black-eyed peas, cornbread, all-afternoon stew, chicken with rice and gravy, Peking Duck, shumai, roast pork, mushroom quiche, gingerbread, fresh mozzarella, mortadella, ham, arancini, olives, artichoke salad, dill Mediterranean chickpeas, sushi, pizza, Swedish meatballs, lingonberry sauce, salmon, shrimp, chocolate truffle cake, curried chickpeas, crepes (sweet and savory fillings), pancakes, sourdough biscuits, waffles with speculaas, Teuscher's chocolates, Christmas cookies (this list alone would take a few lines!), gluwhein and glogg, punch, decaf grande Peppermint Mochas, holiday tea, hot chocolate, panettone, pandoro (panettone without the fruit), dolmades, gyro, kebbe, kefta, mujadara, hummus, falafel, pistachio baklava, rosewater cake, cheese enchiladas, beef tacos, chile relleno, refried beans, Mexican rice, chicken fingers, beer beans, curried lentils, pork and apples, and that's not all . . . . (links to available recipes soon) 
  • making moving model cars at the Eli Whitney Museum with Gommie and Pop
  • coloring Shrinky Dinks with Ma, Gong, and Goo
  • Bud losing his first tooth!
  • reading Moody Cow Meditates and liking the Angry Mind jar idea
  • I sat for 5-10 minutes almost each day!!!
  • making a list of family resolutions and fun ideas for 2012 (more on this later)
  • playing baseball in the warm 50 degree days with Gommie and Pop
  • watching Wizard of Oz with Gommie
  • eating at Bloodroot with Gommie and Pop (mushroom stroganoff, spinach noodles with vermouth cream sauce, seitan carbonnades, fresh ricotta salad, endive with avocado and watercress, potato and celery seed soup, escarole and white bean soup, mushroom soup, oatmeal bread, cranberry kissl, brandied fruit, bourbon vanilla ice cream)
  • singing Christmas carols (the kiddos prefer the "Phineas and Ferb" versions!)
  • playing "Silent Night" on the keyboard Santa brought
  • playing with Babysitter
  • having pancakes for dinner
  • begin reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • building Legos, doing arts and crafts, putting together models, reading new books, and so much more that I can't recall!
I was actually sorry to see it end this morning, though our first flurries were a consolation.

A (Partial) New-Year's How-To List