Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Fun: A Month Left

(What's with the formatting??)

We're not quite halfway done with our list, which was intended as more of a list of ideas than of must-dos.  Which is good because time is flying by.  Sure, there is a month to go til school, but half of that month will be filled with grandparent-fun, which won't necessarily align with the list (though, Pop, we hope you grill, and Gommie flies a kite!).  

Top choices are asterisked**.
  1. **Fly a kite.
  2. Campout overnight downstairs.
  3. Have a pj read-a-thon.
  4. Fondue party.
  5. A night 'round the firepit singing and making s'mores.
  6. Play with one of our science kits.
  7. Work on woven placemats on loom.
  8. **Make paper beads.
  9. Play putt-putt golf.
  10. Go to a zoo.
  11. Go to the arcade.
  12. Go horseback riding.
  13. Go to a science or natural history museum.
  14. **Tie dye.
  15. Have a movie marathon (Star Wars?  Miyazaki? Harry Potter?  Disney?)
  16. Have an astronomy night.
  17. Go birdwatching.
  18. **Have a lemonade stand.
  19. Do community service projects.
  20. Go letterboxing.
  21. Go on a sketching outing.
  22. **Do a Star Wars craft.
  23. Make fudge.
  24. **Make sun prints.
  25. Make a dance CD for a family dance party!
  26. Try new grilling recipe.
  27. Watch a new musical.
  28. Hang pictures.
Some, like berry picking, subsequent jam making, and Solstice fell by the wayside when the windows of opportunity passed.  Or like concert-going or candle-making, just moved outside of our realm of possibilities.  Still, it's been a great list and a good summer so far--and half of it is left!

Counting Down

It's two weeks til Mama's surgery and we find our days crammed with to-dos to get ready (not only prepping the house/supplies, but also for the first weeks of school, so we're ready without last-minute rushes) as well as lots of remaining summer fun.  What there isn't is much time to blog.   But no news is good news and I'll post when it's interesting.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer Fun: Games Families Play

18.  Game-playing marathon.

Our first family game night in a long time, a great counterpoint to cleaning out closets and watching Olympics.

Magic Labyrinth--a wonderful, award-winning memory game where you move your piece through an invisible course with obstacles to your reaching the magic sign before your opponents.  

Slap Rat--a game Bud learned at Lego camp, played with a deck of cards equally divided and players turn over cards trying to collect as many as possible.  Face cards require another face card from opponents and you can slap "sandwiches" (A-B-A) or doubles.  You kinda have to play to get it.  I googled it to find concise rules but only see a computer game, Egyptian Rat Slap.

Phineas and Ferb card game--okay, I can't even explain this one--you're trading characters, issuing challenges (like staring contests, rock-paper-scissors), winning points through scenes (completed by collecting characters in the scenes).  And we didn't even play with the complications of Perry and Doof yet.

Beauty in our Bushes

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Fun: Keep Calm and Watch the Olympics

59.  Watch the Olympics.
60.  Host a culture night for England, Japan, India, Egypt, Thailand, Navajo, Ethiopia, or Carpatho-Russians.

With biscuits and candies from the European section of the regular grocery store, we spread out on the bed to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics.  But we never saw the cows and sheep, only spotting the Clydesdales among the merry maypole revelers (did anyone else think Hobbits?).  I liked the four children's choirs from England, Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland, as well as "Jerusalem." Sis and Bud enjoyed the fireworks but had a lot of questions about the Industrial Revolution--"Why would they build factories and tear up the grass?"  Indeed.  Interesting, as much as they've called it a celebration of Britain's gifts to the world (literature, music, healthcare, and industry.  And humor.), I wouldn't say the aesthetics of the factories and downtrodden workers actually made it look like a celebration of the Industrial Revolution; perhaps more an acknowledgment.  Of course, the significance of all the personages--Kenneth Brannagh, Simon Rattle, Mike Oldfield--save one, Harry Potter creator (and one of the only woman, save the hearing-impaired drummer whom we knew from "Sesame Street"), J.K. Rowling, were lost on them.  They (well, all of us) didn't get the giant baby, but we did like the focus on children's literature--but where was Winnie the Pooh?? (or Tolkien?  Or Narnia? Or Peter Rabbit?).  They found the 100' Voldemort entirely too upsetting and were glad that Mary Poppins got rid of him.  And you gotta love a country that celebrates its healthcare system, with real dancing doctors and nurses no less!  And they were good.  The kids didn't know Rowan Atkinson or "Chariots of Fire" but did appreciate his lightening up that section.  And Bud loved the fart!

Wait, I forgot to mention HRH The Queen.  But describing the mini-movie with James Bond and her very own corgis (it's been confirmed--those were her dogs and her actual page!) and especially the parachuting trick cannot be improved by my descriptions!  Talk about playing along.

We put them to bed after "Chariots of Fire" and watched the rest of it today.  Bud loved the music, though I'm not sure he cared much about the little love story.  Mama and I recognized the 80s music (No Wham!?  No Boy George?  No Elton? Much less that British creator of famous and successful musicals, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber??!!  Hopefully in the Closing Ceremony.) and some of the classics but none of the tv clips save Hugh Grant and Andie Macdowell.  Of course, we didn't know the inventor of the world wide web either (well, Mama might have).  I did like his "This is for everyone" message though--inclusive, like the rest of the ceremony.  

We raced through the parade of nations, stopping for Greece, China, Thailand, the United States, and Team GB, really liking how they planted their flags on the mock-up of Glastonbury Tor.  The speechifying and such were so-so but the torch coming in via Beckham and motor boat and then the cauldron being made of little cauldrons representing each nation was beautiful, especially being lit by young athletes!

After Paul McCartney, we began to watch some sports:  cycling road race (too bad about that crash), handball, volleyball, beach volleyball, table tennis, boxing, women's basketball, fencing (they liked that a lot), and swimming.  All while eating tasty British food we bought at the British shop a ways away:  beef and onion pies, beef and potato pies, Cornish pasties, Colliers cheddar cheese, Branston pickle, Fentiman's Rose Lemonade.  And we have a bunch more for later this fortnight, including a variety of chips (prawn, anyone?) and candy (Aero, which Sis likes).

We also pulled out our travel books and talked a bit about England--where it was, some of the history, what they might know from there.  Shakespeare was Bud's first contribution, then "the mother of Queen Elizabeth the first, who was beheaded by the man with all the wives" and "that's where the Pilgrims left from" and "They had so many taxes that the Americans left."  And "They had the Middle Ages!" There was also Robin Hood, King Arthur, Stonehenge, Hadrian's Wall, castles, sheep, and discussions of my three visits there, twice with Mama.  We promised we'd try to take them there before they were 10.  I think that's when I called and left a message for you, Lambeth, my friend in England--are you going into London or staying well away for the next two weeks?

Tonight for dinner, being not very hungry, we had scones, jam, and clotted cream!  Which I prepared from a recipe from Nigella Lawson . . . while wearing my Jubilee apron!  (Bud thought I should get the tea towel that said, "Stay Calm and Drink Tea," even though he announced that he'd rather "Carry On" than "Drink Tea!")

God save the Queen!


Lily's Scones
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt and tbsp caster sugar if you prefer a sweeter scone
2 tsp baking soda
4 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons margarine or more butter
1 1/3 cup milk
1 large egg beaten for egg wash

Preheat oven to 425F.  Sift the dry ingredients together and rub in the butter thoroughly. Add the milk and stir very briefly. Knead lightly together on a floured surface. [It's important not to overwork scone dough] Roll out to approx 1 - 1 1/4" thickness and then cut into 12 scones.  Wash with egg wash.   Bake for 10mins until wonderfully soft and slightly golden.  Best eaten warm!
Variations:  3 oz. raisins, sultanas or cherries with zest of 1/2 an orange; OR 3 oz. mature cheddar and pinch of mustard powder 

'Lily's scones' from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess
Makes 12

Friday, July 27, 2012

Congrats and Best Wishes!

To London and Lambeth, on the opening of the 2012 Summer Games!

Wishing the world a wonderful Olympics!

(And a lot less Romney!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More Weather . . .

What a storm!  We'd been getting the Accuweather updates for hours, warning of all sorts of lightning, wind, hail (which is often like crying wolf because oftentimes recently nothing has happened).  But the sky was clear when I had to head out to PT with Mama.  Thirty minutes or so later, however, when we were leaving the sky was blackish-purple long before sundown.  Rain hadn't started so we decided to go for it.  Mistake.  The storm hit a minute or so later--blinding rain, little branches coming down, constant lightning, and that ominous green hue.  Of course, all routes home were narrow, tree-lined roads, which were concerning if something crashed; we chose the fastest but there was no place to pull over as it go bad, so we opted to keep going home.  Some of the scariest moments I've ever had in a car.  Knock on wood.

We got home just fine and found the kids and babysitter in the basement.  The kids had gotten upset and panicky, never quite forgetting that other summer storm almost exactly four years ago.  But the lightning died down somewhat and eventually we let Babysitter leave (at least for once she hadn't biked!).  Then we watched some Claymation videos on YouTube to cheer everyone up before bed.

It worked.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Fun: Recently

4.  Draw and play hopscotch in the driveway.
With their babysitter . . . .

5.  Long midday bubble bath.
She's making "rose tea" and "purple drinks" in the tub right now.

7.  Draw with chalk inside and/or outside.
Again, with the babysitter . . . this and #4 are very similar.

14.  Make friendship bracelets.
Sis used her two new bracelet kits--one with beads, one with colored embroidery floss--to make several bracelets.  I even got to make a pretty purple-beaded one.

33.  Make our own bubble solution.
We compared homemade with store-bought.  Homemade bubbles are bigger and don't burst easily (and smell like Dawn!), while store-bought solution creates lots of little bubbles that burst immediately.  

Bubble Solution

1/2 cup dishwashing solution
1-2 tablespoons glycerin (available at pharmacies) or corn syrup (but this attracts bugs)
6 cups water

Mix together, age overnight, and have fun!

from the Stepping Stones museum

35.  Write to a pen pal.
Sis wrote Gommie today.

45.  Sort through books to give some away.
Slowly working our way through the kids' bookshelves to give to a local reading charity for kids with no books (where our friend Miss M.H. works).

50.  Scrapbook
Mama and the kids scrapbooked our weekend swazu last night.

53.  Make something with Sculpey.
We had a blast making some of our favorite critters--a bunny, penguin, hedgehog, and otter.  Their uncle, Goo, via Mama, introduced me to polymer clay.  He made turtles.  I made dollhouse food and little bears years ago.


65.  Visit an historic house or living history museum.
Plimoth and Newport.  

Learn Something New Everyday

Our dryer quit heating this morning and Sears won't be able to come out for 8 days!  But before I got hold of friends to use their dryers (thanks, Mrs. S!  And also Miss B as backup!), I decided to put some of the clothes out on the line.

Yep, kids, that rope strung across the backyard is not there just to hang up our Scottish flag and Tibetan prayer flags!

I even had clothespins . . . in the arts and craft bucket!

Sis was most interested, helping me hang up the damp clothes.

But, as the line only held about a quarter of that single load, we were grateful to go dry the rest at Mrs. S's house (where the kids were also invited to swim in the interim!).

The clothes came out bright, fresh, and stiff (Miss B helped me take them down, reminiscing not-at-all nostalgically of growing up without a dryer in Maine and hanging laundry out everyday even in winter!) and I bet there will be more clothes on our line before it's all over.

Bread Fail

It was a teachable moment on Monday:  I carefully popped the steaming loaf of fragrant banana bread out of its pan and flipped it upright when the entire center gave way--the insides were raw!  I had baked it, 15 minutes more than suggested, and even tested it for doneness twice, clean bamboo skewer!  I still don't know what happened--I guess a pocket of it didn't bake.

With Sis keening her lost banana bread, I popped what I could back in the pan, baked it another 30 minutes, and called it banana bread pudding.  All's well that ends well--we finished it off this morning!

The Pilgrimmage

Last week we looked at the forecast and it said that Saturday's high would be 75F!  We knew we had to go somewhere outdoors and ruled out Mystic and Sturbridge Village . . . then we remembered Plimoth Plantation, the trip that we keep planning and then having to cancel for health reasons.  And here we were, relatively healthy and with good weather.  So, off to Massachusetts we went for a mini-vacation.

Plimoth Plantation
I thought Plimoth Plantation was wonderful, from the recreated English village to the Wampanoag homesite, from the 17th-century food in the cafe to the children's discovery center.  But best of all were the costumed role-players who portray actual 17th-century folks, complete with one of 17 or so regional British accents!  It took a bit of practice to talk to them without referencing anything after 1627, and the kids were too shy to try, but I had several conversations with various women and men and learned so much.  We arrived just in time to talk to one of the role players who was cooking the noontime meal, dinner, in the one-room thatched houses; she was making a boiled chicken with sorrel sauce over a fire built right on the dirt floor which smoke went up the open chimney (no damper to keep rain out!).  She talked a lot about how she preferred English onions and garlic to native grown, couldn't really find uses for any native plants!   They apparently even got their butter from England!  And she didn't think much of cornmeal cakes for bread.  Other interpreters talked about how they sprinkled water on the floor to dampen down the dust but couldn't waste ox blood on it (their cattle were mainly for work--if there were no oxen, men had to to do labor--and were trying to increase the herd), though it would really seal a dirt floor; how kids didn't do a lot of the chores we think of--like hauling water or helping with cooking or milking cows--because it was too difficult or dangerous (they could milk goats, though); how they brought all their furniture over with them, which cost a fortune to pay sailors to move things so they didn't bring much, but as everyone was a farmer in the plantation (until they worked 7 years to pay off the company for their travel, etc) and couldn't practice trades, they had to get everything like furniture, flour, even clothes from England; how they were in church all Sabbath "because it's the Lord's day not the Lord's hours!"; how they said "just so" for yes and "win-e-gar" for vinegar; me as an interpreter; how they ate "sallat" of various greens and boiled egg dressed with sugar and "winegar" and oil of olive with the knives they wore attached to their belts.  Oh there was so much more but I might just bore you with recitations of pilgrim stuff.  Especially if you did read Mayflower!  I also really liked their costumes--the rough, heavy materials, the thin leather shoes that tied on, the tight white caps and high outdoor hats.  Makes my 18th-century costume look very comfortable!

We had a fun lunch in the cafe, which offers some period foods:  peppery stewed "pompion" pumpkin,  cucumbers in sugar, sauteed squash, peasecod (kinda like a colonial samosa!), stuffed quahog, Indian pudding, rosewater cheesecake with almonds and raisins, spiced Shrewsbury sugar cookie, succatash with lots of meats and corn and limas, plus fried fish, lobster roll, and modern Thanksgiving dinner plate.  

Then we visited the Wampanoag homesite.  Here, actual Native Americans, many of them descendants of the original Wampanoag, populate the village engaging in 17th-century activities while maintaining their 21st-century attitudes.  I understand the rationale behind the lack of role-playing Indians, which can be highly offensive to them.  However, many of the interpreters seemed, well, bored and pissy.  A few stressed that this was just a 9-5 job, that they appreciated that the museum tried to include them but . . .  Of course, that sounds like I wanted happy, cooperative natives, but I think what I really mean is that because most of them seemed unhappy, it reminded me of 19th-century exhibitions of native peoples for the pleasure of white Western audiences.  And that is neither pleasant nor a good precedent.  Now, it wasn't all of them:  one young man talked to the kids and I about the gauntlet he was sewing in leather for his bow arm, the mishoon they had hollowed with wood, the fishnet he would be working on again soon, the training of interpreters with the Mashantucket Pequot museum (which he had heard was closing?!).  I think he is the reason--plus the games of skill and coordination (ball and cup, catch with fur-stuffed leather bags)--that the kids liked the Wampanoag site better than the Pilgrims.  

We finished our visit at the discovery station, where Sis dressed up in pilgrim play clothes and we cooked clams and baked bread while Mama and Bud played Fox and Geese, a marble strategy game.  Oh, and we quickly went through the Thanksgiving exhibition and movie, which wasn't very meaningful to them as far as offensive stereotypes of the pre-PC era go.  At one point, Bud asked where the 3-D IMAX was, and I laughed and replied that the 3-D pilgrims were down in the village!

For dinner we ate at Wood's Seafood in Plymouth Harbor--it was fabulous!  Mama and Bud shared a lobster, meaning she did all the work and he ate it all (he'll still eat almost anything but potatoes).  She also had a seafood platter with scallops, shrimp, clams, etc.  And I had fried fish (because sometimes I'm not a vegetarian, especially on vacation when I don't just want mediocre iceberg salads).  We walked the wharf with ice cream from Ziggy's (Grape Nut!  Maine Black Bear!  And of course strawberry and chocolate), watching sunset and waiting for first star, which is so much later than the kids usually get to stay up

On Sunday morning, we breakfasted at the All-American Diner, which had great food--crunchy French Texas toast, buttery grilled Morning Glory muffins, corned beef hash Egg Benedicts--and the grumpiest waitress.  It was one of the themes of the day.

The Mayflower II was our first sightseeing stop and was just as informative and interesting as Plimoth Plantation.  The pilgrim in the hold, who was sewing on a poppet, told us how it was dark (windowless and candleless), airless (and they couldn't go above deck), and so scary with the storms, illness, and prospects of the new world for them. And the ship was small--smaller than the Morgan, the 19th-century whaler at Mystic!  I really don't know how they did it, though I suppose once you were on board it was too late to change your mind.

The Rock.  It's a rock.  I didn't know they'd moved it several times, breaking it in the process.  Nutsy.

So we headed home via Newport, RI, stopping first at Beavertail Lighthouse sitting on an outcropping of rocks on Narragansett Bay.  We couldn't climb the current tower but did sit on the ruins of the 18th-century tower, enjoying the breeze and the view.  We're hoping the kids get lighthouse fever like we have and made a point of showing them Rose Light, which you can actually stay in--maybe for Mama's 40th birthday!

In Newport, we had lunch at Brick Alley, which had great food but another grumpy waitress.  When she brought me the wrong bruschetta appetizer, instead of getting the right one, she tried to bring me the bits of it--raw--to cobble together my own and was shocked when twice I had to tell her that it wasn't going to work, that I wanted the dish I ordered the way it was meant to be (broiled and melted not cold and raw!).  And then she took offense!   Seriously?  I'm guessing they have a policy that she would have to pay for the mistake, which is why she tried so hard to have me take it.  It was good, though--bread with sauteed spinach and mushrooms with melted gorgonzola and walnuts and a  balsamic reduction.  Mama and Bud shared some mussels.  Bud had a lobster mac and cheese while Mama had a lobster roll.  I had a delicious lemon piccata scrod (yep, fish again).  And Sis got bacon mac and cheese.

Fortified, we drove around Newport, admiring the great colonial houses--so many and so well-preserved, but our goal was the Breakers, the Gilded-Age Vanderbilt mansion.  We got the audio tours but gave up on them pretty quickly as one headset broke and we realized we were like automatons (I know, I'm a museum educator, but I really don't like audio guides for myself.  I'd much rather have the text to go at my own pace, skip stuff, dwell where I want to).  So we took them off and I gave the tour!  I mean, I've been there before (with Mama and Gommie years ago) and seen enough Gosford Park and Downton Abbey to make sense of a great house.  Their favorite part was the dumbwaiter!  Bud wants one for our house, four of which could fit in the great hall alone.  Sis wants both an internal and external balcony.  And they liked the soccer-field sized yard for somersaults and cartwheels.

A few last notes on our wonderful weekend:

  • Thank heavens for audio books, without which they'd never put up with such long car rides.  We almost had a crisis because one of our stories wasn't engaging and another had a damaged disk, leaving Little House on the Prairie as fallback.  We always travel with several.
  • There were no Starbucks where we were, which was surprising.  Lots of Dunkin Donuts, though.
  • Traffic was a big issue, both to get to Plymouth and just in driving around Newport.  I mean, Newport was worse than midtown NYC!
  • MA coast is very quaint and picturesque and touristy and fun and historical; I'd love to go back there and visit many other places.
  • Next time, we should picnic for one meal a day--it takes too much time to eat out two meals.
  • Coming home late on Sunday is ok (we usually avoid it) . . . until Monday!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Pilgrimmage, in Pictures

Not pictured:  my favorite part of Plimoth was the costumed  role-players.

Look, Ma, no hearth!

Obligatory view down the center of the English Village at Plimoth.

That's the Mayflower II in the distance.  Tide was out every time we were near water!

Waiting for the first star, with a view of Plymouth harbor.

Mayflower II

Beavertail Lighthouse, site of third oldest in nation.

Narragansett Bay, off Beavertail Light

Great minds (mine)

think alike (Mama, but in lower resolution 'cos her camera is too fancy for the  blog.)

The Breakers in Newport.  "Mantions are cool!"

Actually, my favorite houses in Newport were the 18th-century ones.  Would the Pilgrims have come if they knew this was in the future??

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Right Now

Starting the second day of a mini-Massachusetts vacation.  Be back soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

By the Skin of His Tooth

Bud lost a tooth on Monday, on a piece of watermelon, just hours after a good visit to the dentist.  (When he  got agitated about the blood, Neighbor Boy took him by the shoulders and said, "Be a Man!"  ERGH.  I'm sure my explaining that manhood did not rest on reactions to blood didn't remedy that.)  He proudly put it under his pillow.

And then we all promptly forgot.

Until the next morning.

Has this happened to . . . your Tooth Fairy?

We were talking about sharks over breakfast.  About how many teeth sharks lose in a lifetime (it's about 30,000, Bud learned at camp).  Teeth.  Tooth.  Tooth Fairy.

Oh, no.

And by the grace of all that is magical, the Tooth Fairy managed to have the right tools in her purse, get upstairs, do her job undetected, and ease back to her proper location as the shark tooth conversation continued for another few minutes before Bud and Sis (thank heavens she had a  very rare lapse in memory) remembered his tooth.  They raced upstairs excitedly and retrieved his money.


A miss is as good as a mile, right?  Better lucky than good?  That's one lucky Tooth Fairy.

Summer Fun: Twinsleep

On Wednesday, Sis relished being the only child at home while Bud was at kung fu team.  She even went to bed early so his "talk talk talk talk talking" wouldn't keep her awake.  I said that if it really bothered her she could have her own room.  Her reply, "But how would I sleep without him?"  But Friday night, she couldn't even get in bed without his coming home from team first.  In fact, she spent most of the approximately 3 hours we had together wondering when he'd get here.  Because they've only slept apart maybe 3 nights (all that first week when he was in the NICU) in 2,555 days!

Summer Fun: Body Tricks

Sis and I had a good time waiting for the doctor this week (awful post-nasal drip + sensitive gag reflex = vomiting and no sleep for almost two weeks; new prescriptions are helping the presumed allergies), playing games I remember from childhood.  I don't know what  the category would be--ways you can trick your body into feeling something that isn't happening?   Yeah, that's gonna draw a lot of odd visitors.  For instance, pretending to crack an egg over someone's head and smoothing your hands over their head so that they really feel like the slime is on them.  Getting the sound of the crack just right is key!  Another:  karate chopping them on the upper back for a long time and then "stabbing" them with your fist and removing it slowly feels like, well, I'm guessing, being stabbed and feeling the blade come out (yeah, I guess that is pretty sick.)  Finally, if you lie down on your stomach and someone holds your arms off the floor and over your head for awhile and then slowly lets them down, you loose all sense of depth perception and feel like your arms are going into a hole--just try predicting when your arms should reach the floor; it's always inches off!

Next up:  "light as a feather, stiff as a board!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Prayer for Aurora

May the souls of the Aurora, CO victims be at ease.
May the survivors of the shooting be comforted.
May their family members and friends be comforted.
May the police officers, rescue workers, and medical teams be comforted.
May the Aurora community be comforted.
May the shooter be comforted.
May the family of the shooter be comforted.
May other people who suffered loss, pain,and  illness during this time be comforted.
May people who suffer loss, pain, and illness be comforted.
May the people who help and care for them be comforted.
May we all be at ease and come to the end of suffering.

Weather the Weather

Today's weather--60s and overcast--has been a wonderful salve after weeks of 90Fs.  And tonight the low is 59F.

And as much as I appreciate the drop in temperatures, the gulf of 30ish degrees between the two--plus record droughts out west, record rain in the UK, record heat all over the US--brings climate change to the fore.  We do the average as far as environmentally-conscious practices go, but I can't help but feel it really doesn't matter if I recycle one more can in light of such ecological disaster.  Sure, I'll keep doing it, but it seems like the proverbial drop in the dirty bucket.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Fun: Thunder Bundt

34.  Make a bundt cake.

With all the thunder in the last few days, Sis and I read Patricia Polacco's Thunder Cake last night.  And today, we made it . . . as a bundt cake (because I wanted to make a bundt cake for the look and they don't like frosting enough to put between the suggested two-8" rounds.)  I was uncertain about the secret ingredient--pureed tomatoes!--but they seem to contribute moisture and a certain je ne sais quoi.  It's actually a pretty good chocolate cake, even without any kind of frosting.  And it looks great as a bundt!


Thunder Bundt Cake
Cream together, one at a time
1 cup shortening (we used coconut oil)
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
*3 eggs, separated (Blend yolks in.  Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold  in.*Do this first?  Unless you have more than one bowl.)
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup dry cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture.
Bake in greased and floured Bundt pan for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Optional--frost with chocolate buttercream and decorate with strawberries.

Patricia Polacco, Thunder Cake

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Fun: Kickin' at the Kung Fu Picnic

64.  Have a picnic at a new park.

On Sunday, Bud's kung fu academy had a big summer picnic at a local beach which we had never visited before.  It was hot, with threatening storms so that we hadn't made up our minds to go until after church (which, coincidentally, was also about kung fu--the complementary philosophies of kung fu and UUism--the style was Ving Tsun and very different from Bud's wu shu--without much movement and a focus on the core line and balance, Bud thought it was "boring.")  We picked up snacks at a grocery store--watermelon, cookies, and crackers and cheese.  Mama kindly pointed out that perhaps cheese wasn't the best thing to take to a picnic of mainly Chinese people, who tend to be lactose intolerant.  I hadn't thought about that, knowing that our family ate cheese and crackers and those snacks always seem to be at gatherings.  Sigh of embarrassment.  All the kids at the picnic downed the cookies and watermelon right away and some of the cheese and crackers disappeared . . . .but even I liked the fried wontons and special Taiwanese noodles better.  I'll remember next time.  (I do that with my in-laws, too, always think to serve cheese--mercy, we Euro-Americans serve cheese all the time!  But I usually manage to remember).

The kids had a great time.  There were friendly three-legged races, balls, the beach, and boardwalk.  Later, I saw Sis tearing away from the beach and figured she had to use the restroom until I spotted the ice-cream man!  Strawberry fruit bars, fudgesicles, a coconut bar, and creamsicle melted fast in the heat.  We left when it started to drizzle, really glad we'd decided to go, even with the heat.

Right Now

Where is our rain???

It's so hot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Fun: Pool Pool Party

32.  Go swimming.

The mommy campers went on a field trip today:  a pool playdate with Mrs. S, her daughter, and granddaughters!  And goodness, did they have old-fashioned summer fun.  Diving for rings and lost goggles, kickboard races, spinning on tubes, almost cannonballs, "Marco Polo" and other games like "Toothpaste" plus an out-of-water turn at "What time is it, Mr. Fox?"  Plus a huge sandwich lunch (what is it about swimming and sun that doubles an appetite?  No wonder they sprout in the summer!).  All while the grown-ups watched and talked (and listened--if you haven't read this, "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning," please do so--about half of the children who drown each year do so within 25 yards of an adult).  It really was the perfect summer day.  Even with the incredible heat.

Thanks, Mrs. S and co!

Monday, July 16, 2012


To Goo on doing well on his boards and earning his white coat!

Right Now

Eating lunch....and they like broccoli and not fried mozzarella??!!

Right Now

Grown-up seven-year olds don't need me at the dentist this time!

Summer Fun: Not-So-Fun Right of Passage

There is a toy stuck on our roof.

I'd post a picture, but it's so high up that I can't get one.

It started this morning with a toy--specifically a stomp rocket--stuck in a tree.  It was so high that sticks and such couldn't get anywhere near it.  But I brought out the hose and shot a stream of water up 20+ feet and it eventually came down.  "Ooooh, it's wet!" they said to me, as I stood there dripping from the leaky nozzle.

I told them that stuck toys are part of summer and childhood--frisbees, balls, even once a Luke Skywalker doll (henceforth "Luke Treewalker")--all get stuck.  And most eventually come down.

Not 10 minutes later, another rocket ended up stranded, this time, on the very top of our roof, totally unreachable by sticks, brooms out of windows, ladders, or even the hose--because if I hit it incorrectly it would just end up in the gutter.  Which is probably where it's heading during the next rain.

Until then, it's there on our roof, a badge of summer fun . . . interrupted.

Summer Fun @ Mommy Camp: Making Crayons

A great way to use up crayon bits and turn the blistering heat to creative use!
Cover a craft cookie sheet or cardboard with foil, as well as one end of toilet paper tubes.  Place tubes upright on cookie sheet and fill with unwrapped crayon bits.  Leave in sun until partially melted.  If it gets too liquid, the wax will seep out.  We tried this for about 5 hours on a 90F day, but it was not quite long enough.  The next day, also hot, we put the tray on the dashboard of my car for about 2 hours--that was too hot and too long--the crayons totally liquified!  I think an hour in the hot car, with frequent checking, would be enough.

Summer Fun: Mommy Camp

With camp over until the end of summer, the kids begged me to design a "Mommy Camp," complete with activities, swimming, and even kapers (chores).  So I made a quick list of activities until Mama informed me that Sis expected a "schedule," you know, by the half hour, just like at GS camp!  And so I made one up, for fun:

7 a.m. freeplay (basically DIY time--Legos, art activities, Hex Bugs, marble run, dollhouse, reading etc.  Not screen time)
8 a.m. breakfast
8:30 a.m. chores and getting dressed
9 a.m. morning activity
11 a.m. lunch (including mini-cooking lessons)
12 p.m. freeplay (may or may not include Mommy)
1 p.m. rest time
2 p.m. afternoon activity
4 p.m. freeplay (maybe screen time, at Mommy's discretion)
5 p.m.chores and clean up
5:30 p.m. dinner and "Day is Done"

And then each day has a theme:

Monday:  Arts and Crafts, including making crayons, sun prints, chalk drawings, sketching, painting also any other indoor art kits like vases, mandalas, bracelets, etc)

Tuesday:  Tie-Dye Tuesday

Wednesday:  Wacky Wednesday

Thursday:  PJ Day

Friday:  Camping at Home, including s'mores, camp songs, games, stargazing, and sleeping in sleeping bags downstairs

Of course, that all looks more official and formal than it is--for instance, right now instead of prepping lunch, we're watching "Phineas and Ferb," having had a late breakfast, then swim lessons, and then made our crayons outside where it is incredibly hot.  And in about 30 minutes, they have a dentist appointment!   It's the idea of it that they like, I think.  And it will give a focus and rhythm and even an energy to our week.  Who knows, we might have "mommy camp" the rest of the summer . . .

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Right Now

Such a light and sound show tonight, from Mother Nature herself!  Loud thunder, bright lightning, and pounding rain.  The kids are asleep, except when Sis wakes up coughing miserably.

Right Now

Playing Hedbanz while thunder booms and lightning flashes in the darkness.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

7th Heaven

Sis was too excited to sleep on her birthday eve, almost like it were Christmas. Of course, by the time birthday eve had rolled around, the kids had already received and opened a few cards and gifts in the mail.    We also let them exchange presents early.  Sis gave Bud a Phineas and Ferb playset and Bud gave Sis a perler bead kit and some clothes for her AG doll.  Hugs and squeals and tackles and "awesomes!" abounded.  So by Tuesday, excitement was at a high.  She knew we were downstairs wrapping presents--earlier in the day when Mama Teacher told me there were boxes on the porch and I said they were presents, Sis piped up from another room, "Those are presents?!"--and desperately wanted to check on us.

They were both awake by 5:15 a.m.  Though we informed them they weren't actually seven for a few more hours, they were ready to celebrate and so we opened presents, all in one rush, the exact opposite of Christmas.  Paper flew, squeals sounded, hugs tackled us.  Legos (Ninjago, Friends, and a Kingdoms chess set), electric circuit boards, "Phineas and Ferb" dvd, a mandala maker, and a woodland critter village.  They raced downstairs and played hard for the 1 1/2 hours before Bud headed to camp.  They liked our presents almost as much as the ones they'd exchanged between them.

While Bud was at camp (after a birthday pancake breakfast), Sis and I visited our church friend, Miss M, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.  We had a great time talking to her and especially exploring her garden.  Sis liked her "money plant" and another that made little "purses" containing a seed similar to ground cherries.  After lunch, Sis played with young babysitter M while I had an appointment.  M brought each child a dessert kit mimicking flower pots--one even had dirt and gummy worms--as well as markers and glow sticks and such.

Mostly, a break from birthday fever.

On Friday, Goo came up early for the birthday party.  He helped us shop for last-minute food, birthday girl/boy badges, and thank-you cards.  More importantly, he also helped us pick up not one but two birthday cakes, chocolate-frosted chocolate and vanilla-frosted with strawberry (yes, I buy them from the bakery frosted but undecorated--I can't bake, torte, frost, and decorate two cakes the day before so opt for decorating over baking).  We spent part of the afternoon decorating the cakes.  Using a toothpick, Sis drew her standard bunny and then we outlined and filled it with white.  Sis also added grass, flowers, and the sun.  Later, in the day, we helped Bud do a facial portrait of his stuffed penguin, "Mr. Big" (aka Mumble from Happy Feet).  Because it was a portrait, Bud asked for more help but was similarly  pleased with the results.  

Then we all went to dinner at the local Tex-Mex place, which we chose because we knew they make a big deal about the birthdays.  After shrimp fajitas, chicken mole enchiladas, fish tacos, vegetarian quesadillas . . . and chicken fingers, plus chips and salsa the staff brought out apple burritos, flan, and sopapillas, along with giant sombreros.  With candles aglow, they sang first in Spanish and then in English.  The kids were thrilled.  Mind you, this was the third birthday meal for each--they both went for individual meals with Mama (sushi for one, pancakes for the other) and then a big Italian lunch with us after seeing Brave, almost all with singing and desserts (not free ones, though; no one does that anymore, it seems, which is fine).

The kids woke not-as-early-as-we-expected and headed straight to Goo's room, where he had tucked his presents--Legos for both of them.  They put together and played with those until the three adults got into the kitchen and started breakfast.  Goo made homemade scallion pancakes with dipping sauce a la Alton Brown and I made sourdough biscuits.

Soon Ma and Gong arrived and we packed the car to head to their party at the Eli Whitney Museum, where they would make wooden toys with their friends.  I'd say about 10 kids were there, neighbors and classmates, plus their parents, Ma, Gong, Goo, and Babysitter.  They separated into two tables--one for the dragon toy that moved head and tail in sync (Sis's choice) and one for the Frankenstein's Cat toy that had a motot that made it wiggle (Bud's choice).  Wearing safety goggles, they sanded, colored, and constructed their toys, with the careful, double-sided coloring taking by far the most time.  Then everyone ate pizza and cakes, which I think were much appreciated for their decoration--all the kids knew how much Sis and Bud like penguins and bunnies, strawberries and chocolate.  After taking a picture of the group, we wandered the park outside the museum (the museum seems pretty disorganized during the summer--marble run is broken, no exhibitions) and particularly played in the water tables.

We got home midday and spent the heat of the day in the house opening their horde of presents.  Mercy, such great games (Headbandz, Apples to Apples, Blink), books, arts and crafts (beads, bracelets, vases, bird house, snow globes), make-a-story book, books, doll clothes, dress, Legos.  I still think it's odd to open presents at home--sure, there never seems to be enough time at destination parties and parents are uncomfortable with the inherent greediness of opening piles of presents (plus the fear of ungrateful or untactful kids)--but I'm not sure it's less greedy to disassociate gifts from the gift-giver and prevent kids from practicing the fundamental skill of receiving gracefully and gratefully (also, the art and joy of giving, when they're on the other end--it's so odd to deposit a gift like a toll and only know later that they got it when you get a generic thank-you note, if you get one).  Still, I haven't bucked suburban tradition.  Yet.  Maybe next year if there are fewer kids or if we have the party at home.  Especially because I'd like people to know how much the kids really enjoyed and appreciated all the presents.  There were squeals, exclamations, and then the opening of practically every kit and game . . . .

We went for an early dinner altogether, at a Japanese place.  But we didn't get the birthday dessert--Bud had been there for birthday sushi and gotten one 10 days earlier.

Yep, that's a lot of celebrating.  so, we tucked them into bed tonight, wished them "happy birthday" one more time and called the fete over, as great as it was.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"And I Helped!"

The kids decorated their own cakes this year (one with more help than the other; both started by drawing with toothpicks and then using my Wilton cake decorating arsenal--note the fancy "grass" tip--and pre-tubed icings.  And, of course, bakery cakes purchased frosted but undecorated).

Can you guess which is whose?!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Summer Unplug

This summer I'm trying to unplug during daylight hours unless the kids are plugged in, an extension and adaptation of my after-school unplug,  And they haven't been DSing much, choosing movies for their limited screen time instead (they get about an hour a day unless we're watching a movie--see why they're choosing movies??), which we mostly watch together.  And at night, I try to observe another unplug with Mama--no smartphones or extended computer time in the bedroom!

So I'm not posting much, especially this busy birthday week.  In the last few days, we've 
  • visited our church friend, who is undergoing cancer treatment (Sis loved her garden and brought home "money plant" seeds!)
  • taken Sis to the doctor for her 5-day old cough, which is likely bronchialitis; we'll go back next week for meds if it continues
  • gardened a few times, trying to prune plants that suffered in the heat, redirected the spiderwort, and watered everything
  • baked "birthday brownies"
  • designed with perler beads
  • drawn mandalas
  • played Legos, chess, checkers, Brave
  • watched the kids perform a stop-action Phineas and Ferb movie
  • experimented with oil, water, sugar, and colors
  • decorated the bathtub with new tub crayons
  • visited the adoptable kittens at the local pet food store
  • had swim lessons
  • eaten out
  • discovered that the kids will eat homemade quesadillas!
  • gone shopping
  • watched Mulan
  • watched "A Taste of History"--Sis was fascinated to see the chef behind City Tavern, where we ate in Philly
  • had babysitter time
  • visited with neighbors
  • talked to family on the phone
And I'm sure there's more. Though, funny, none of those were on the "summer fun" list.  I'll try to remember the most interesting things so I can tell you about them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Right Now

Seven years ago today....happy birthday!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Fun: Tidbits

36.  Playdates with friends

"Bud, I want to be your minion forever!"

From Bud's playdate on Monday.  They had performed a magic show and a talent show and then were doing a play, with a wizard and a runaway girl and all sorts of magic and mayhem.


I was encouraging Bud to help me with our plan for the day when he paused, "Mom, I can't plan the future."


Sis to Bud at dinner last night, "Bud, say something that makes sense!"  And he wasn't even practicing the Giberrish language Babysitter had just taught him.

Summer Fun: Hanging with Sis

We should have put random arts and crafts on our summer fun list so I can cross it off!  This morning (as well as yesterday afternoon), Sis and I made doodads with perler beads.  I haven't figured out the whole perler aesthetic, though--are you supposed to be able to see the holes or just melt the beads into oblivion?  We tend to the latter.

Otherwise, today we had breakfast together at a local cafe, with Sis eating out the insides of a huge croissant.  We picked up some items at the store.  And saw 3 bunnies and a crossing of geese during our travels.  The goslings are all grown up and indistinguishable from the other geese.  Sounds pretty rural, no?

We played bakery outside in the mud, surveyed and tended to the garden, and then came inside.  Now Sis is taking a break (or, really, humoring my taking a break) to old seasons of the original "Fraggle Rock," as she gears up for more activities this afternoon, including an oil-and-colored-water experiment we just got oil for (wasn't going to use my expensive grapeseed on science!).

Sacrifices to the Sun God

The heat has claimed many victims in our garden, despite protective watering:  potted carnations, lobelia, lantana, and fuschia are dead.  The double impatiens, hydrangea, salvia, pincuschion plant, and petunias are hanging on, barely.  There's been a break in temperature, thankfully; now, we could use some rain.  Usually my garden doesn't succumb until August.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Fun: Busy Morning

8.  Paint

49. Build fairy houses

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Fun: Scottish Weekend, Part 2

40.  Go see a movie in a theater.

We loved Brave.  The characters, the plot, the settings, the humor, the themes, the moral, the score, all of which we parsed over birthday pizza lunch.  We liked strong Merida who can shoot an arrow accurately from horseback but who also recognizes when she makes a mistake and is brave enough to fix it; plus unlike ALL other princesses, she is neither interested in falling in love/getting married nor does so accidentally by the end of the film (a la Belle, Pochahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel). Marriage is just not her raison d'etre. Finally. We also liked her three mischievous brothers and her loving dad.  And especially her graying and wrinkled yet beautiful and powerful mum, voiced by none other than Emma Thompson.  After spending yesterday at the Highland Games, we spotted numerous Scottish details--caber tossing, hammer throws, dancing, clans, tartans, bagpipes, frosted biscuits, and all the accents. We liked the magic and the legends, the standing stones and will o'the wisps, even the woodcarving witch.  We even liked the breathtaking scenery and the lovely, lilting music. Sure, both kiddos got scared during the intense bear scenes.  And three of the four of us cried at the touching ending.  But no complaints.  No negative comparisons to other Pixar or Disney films ('cos I didin't really like Cars or Toy Story that much).  No kvetching about weak male characters (anybody else notice that one of the suitors sorta resembled Prince Charles, but blonde?  Or was it just me?).  No complaining about an anti-feminist solution to the main plot problem (because really, it wasn't. Sewing at a full gallop is just not all that traditional.  Especially since she has a dual with her dad afterwards!  Can't find the review I read that in, though.).  Why do I even read reviews?  We thought it was wonderful.  All of  us. 

And we spent the afternoon playing with the action figures and castle!

(We also liked the Pixar short, La Luna, which was very sweet and surprising.)

Right Now

Celebrating birthdays early:  a movie, lunch with desserts and singing, some shopping, and presents soon!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer Fun: Scottish Weekend, Part 1

39.  Go to local festivals.

I thought I'd write summation of our visit to the Highland Games today but found I'd already done that three years ago--and not much changed!  We still spent a sizable time eating--including all the same foods, such as fish and chips, scotch egg, "haggis puff", steak pie, Empire biscuits, shortbread, and some frozen lemonade (with a scoop of raspberry sorbet!).  And we really enjoyed watching all the competitions, from the bagpipes  to dancing, plus caber toss, hammer throw, some other kind of heavyweight toss (which actually hit a judge in the arm which luckily and amazingly wasn't broken), and drum major drills,  We  liked the bagpipe-rock music of MacTalla M'or.  We really liked the various bands of drums and bagpipers.  We shopped, getting a "tartan cat" tea towel, our Clan Hay tartan scarf, and some flapjacks (think oatmeal bars).  And the kids relished visiting the Clan Village to complete their passports--learning about clan castles, war cries, the history of the Scottish kings, Stirling Castle, the St. Andrew's Cross, the thistle, etc--and earning a commemorative water bottle for their efforts.

The only difference from three years ago?  Oh, the heat.  It's been quite a hot spell, with heavy humidity, making it really a struggle to enjoy being outside.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Party City

It feels like one big party-prep over here.  Bud and I spent the morning running errands for their birthday party:  two cakes--one chocolate and one strawberry-filled--frosted but undecorated so I can add a bunny and Mr. Big respectively (good thing I took that Wilton class, Mama Teacher!); investigations on sandwich platters, which are much more expensive than pizza, but Sis doesn't eat pizza; and emails both to invited guests to generate some RSVPs (there are more than 14 outstanding, I believe!  We invited the whole class but of course don't expect them all to attend . . . still, that's a huge differential for planning purposes).  The kids are really counting down to the party, almost more than their actual birthday.  Can you believe they are seven?

Then this afternoon, I've been prepping for tonight's farewell shindig for my dear playgroup friend Miss BB, who is moving about 45 minutes away--mercy, that's practically half the state away (east to west, it only takes about 2 hours).  I'm glad she's getting her dream home of more square footage and more land.  And I know I will still communicate with and even see her (though that distance is beyond me right now).  Still, it's not the same as the unexpected meetings at school functions, the last-minute drop-in coffee dates and, before that, weekly hours-long playdates we've known for the last 6 1/2 years.  She's loved and she will be missed.  So, it was with a heavy heart that I made Cheese Dip (Queso) and cut up veggies for dip (Wildtree Dill--1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 cup sour cream + 2 teaspoons dill blend), gathered plasticware and checked on refrigerated sodas.   Still, it will be great to gather together tonight, knowing she'll be close enough to continue partying with us on occasion.


Cheese Dip (Queso)
2 lbs. Velveeta
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilies

Combine til melted and heated through.  Eat with corn chips.

(The slower version has you sauteeing some onions in a bit of oil and then adding the cheese and tomatoes. Eh).

traditional Texas party dip

"Fancy" Cheese Dip
1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs. Velveeta
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 teaspoon garlic power
1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

            Brown meats and onion.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until onion is tender and cheese melts.  Serve warm with corn chips.

Gommie Hungry

Score One for Corporate America

Okay, I know I often rail about consumerism and corporate America, but I'm here to say kudos to one of the biggest of them all:  Kraft, by way of Nabisco, which makes Oreos.

Yep, the Gay Oreo.

I guess there is one major advantage of such huge corporations:  they are so bent on profits that they'll follow and support dominant social trends, in this case LGBTQ rights.

So, for once, it's sweet to be in bed with the enemy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Texas in the Times

I usually don't like to see Texas in the NYTimes, but this week was a rare exception.  There was a review of a wonderful-sounding barbecue restaurant on 26th Street, Hill Country Barbecue.  And then descriptions of three of their dishes, including a recipe for corn pudding, in the Diner's Journal.  There was even an article about a barbecue contest in NJ, though I was suspicious when a supposed master of Texas-style bbq mentioned his pulled pork sandwich.

In another section altogether, there was a review of Gail Collins's new book, As Texas Goes, which sounds more like the usual news about the Lone Star State in the Times.  But Collins is usually funny and perceptive, so the book would probably be worth a read.

While I'm eating some of that Hill Country banana pudding . . . .


Mommy Hungry's Banana Pudding 

12 oz. vanilla wafers, reserving 8-10 and crushing the rest (beyond recognition)
tub of Cool Whip (large)--I haven't made this since I gave up fake whipped cream and will have to test it with the real thing!
package of cream cheese (large)
package of Jello Instant Vanilla pudding (large)
5 bananas, sliced in rounds

            Line the bottom of the dish with uncrushed wafers.
            Make the pudding.  Add cream cheese and cool whip, beating with mixer.  Add bananas and half of the crushed wafers.
            Spoon pudding mixture on top of whole wafers.  Cover with remaining half of crushed wafers.
            Refrigerate and serve.

Mommy Hungry

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Right Now

I love the Boston Pops's piccolo players, who stand up in "Stars and Stripes Forever" every year!

Right Now

Was that 1WTC lit up in the background of the Macy's fireworks??!!!

Summer Fun: Happy Fourth!

54.  Celebrate July 4th

It's an odd holiday this year, on Wednesday, smack in the middle of the week.  Sis wasn't even be home because she had GS camp (I know, odd; it was a quiet day for us and I missed being part of a big gathering of family, friends, food, and fireworks).  So we saved our big meal for late in the day, which is just as well because Mama took Bud on a sushi date, an early birthday present for just the two of them (you won't believe what they inhaled: squid, octopus, tuna, salmon, ikura/salmon roe, tobiko/flying fish roe, sea urchin, freshwater eel, unagi and anago/fresh and seawater eels, shrimp, jumbo sweet shrimp, crabstick, salmon skin handroll . . . and dessert for his birthday, a tempura ice cream!).  I stayed home, making food and hanging out.  When Sis got home at 5 pm, we started with nachos and later had our indoor July 4th picnic, including:

  • Shish kebabs, actually just the chicken because the kids weren't up for the rest and we were cooking indoors
  • Oven fries--we ate two whole trays of this!  And that's without Bud's help.
  • Sumi Salad--Bud's favorite red cabbage slaw, from a recipe at our new church
  • Pasta and Bean salad--very good with red kidney beans and tri-color penne
  • My adaptation of the mint iced tea we had at the Greenmarket last weekend
  • Strawberry Soda Ice Cream--Wow!  This was the best strawberry ice cream I've ever had
  • Chocolate sorbet--this didn't freeze well because we overworked the machine but since it's just chocolate sugar-water, we're gonna try again tomorrow.  Sis likes the mix, though.

To mark the occasion, we talked about patriotism (love of country vs. nationalism, belief in your country's exceptionalism and superiority) and what was special about the USA--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to gather, votes for women, some state legalization of same-sex marriage, the new changes in healthcare law and immigration (that executive order that resembles in part the Dream Act), the gumbo (not melting pot) of diverse religions and ethnicities, the beauty of the land, the rich history--but also noted that many other countries have such rights and resources (cue "Finlandia" here--"But other hearts in other lands are beating/with hopes and dream as true and high as mine"), mentioning though the countries that didn't have such freedoms (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uganda, China, etc.  We also talked about things that we wished we could change about our country, desiring full nationalized healthcare, federal same-sex marriage rights (like Canada or Denmark), maternity leave, the full Dream Act and other issues.  More than that, we wished for peace at home and abroad, more equality (racial, gender, economic) and compassion.  

Then we ate ice cream.

The kids are in bed and we're watching some of the televised celebrations, just enjoyed John Williams conduct (I saw him once conduct his famous movie scores in Houston), was touched by Javier Colon (a local CT boy, whom we saw open for the Indigo Girls a few years back) singing "Stand By Me," and looking forward to Megan Hilty (oops, missed her in the opening and saw her on DVR--great!) and Amber Riley.  

And to waving at the crowd at the Macy's fireworks in NYC, somewhere within which is dear Mrs. S.!

(Maybe next year, we'll cover the myths of July 4th!)

Authentic Texas Nachos
bag of corn chips
block of sharp cheddar cheese
jalapeno slices, if desired

Spread chips in single layer across a large cookie sheet.  Put a single, thin slice of cheese on each chip and a jalapeno slice, as desired.   Do NOT dump a bag of grated cheddar cheese on top of the chips.  (And if you want cheese sauce, well, that's queso and a different recipe--melt a lb. block of Velveeta with a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, eat with chips . . .or a spoon!)

Broil until cheese bubbles and turns slightly golden.

Eat immediately, careful not to burn yourself on the edge of the tray.

Mommy Hungry

Shish Kebabs
2 pounds meat (peeled shrimp, chicken, or beef)
1 dozen cherry tomatoes
16 oz. pineapple chunks
1 dozen small fresh mushrooms
2 green peppers cut in 1” squares
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

            Place in a mixing bowl with the oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, parsley, salt, and pepper, and mix well.  Add the meat, pineapple, mushrooms, and green pepper, and mix well.  Let it marinate for one hour, stirring now and then.  Mount everything on skewers, which have been soaking in water.  Leave a little space between them so the heat can circulate; otherwise something may come out raw.  Place over hot coals for five minutes, basting them with the marinade now and then.  Turn them over, baste some more and cook for five minutes more.

Gommie Hungry

Oven Fries
Slice into strips washed, but not peeled, potatoes.
Place potato strips in ice water in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
Drain water. 
Toss 1 tablespoon of oil in potatoes, totally covering.
Place potatoes on greased (Pam-sprayed) cookie sheet. 
Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes or until brown.
Sprinkle with Lawry’s season salt.

Sumi Salad
3-6 oz. packages shredded red cabbage, or 1/2 head of firm cabbage, chopped
1 package Ramen noodles, crushed while in package (save the seasoning packet)
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
6 tablespoons rice vinegar, plain, not seasonred
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

In small pan, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add sesame seeds and almonds.  Brown, stirring constantly.  don't let burn.  Set aside.  Chop scallion, using tops as well.  Combine crushed Ramen, scallion, and cabbage in a large bowl.  Mix together. In another bowl, whisk the vegetable oil, 1/2 cup of sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, seasoning packet, salt, and pepper.  Combine all, stirring well.  Store covered in refrigerator overnight.  Stir a few times during the day before serving.  (*I'm working on using less oil and substituting olive oil in this recipe).

Church cookbook

Pasta and Bean Salad (Seed Savers' Heritage Bean Salad)
1 1/2 cups dried beans (I've used a mixture of heirloom beans from Laurel Hill; Seed Savers calls for Lena Cisco's Birds Egg)
1 box pasta, cooked al dente according to directions (any shape, I used tri-color penne)
Vinaigrette -
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. Dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Cook dried beans (I soaked them overnight in salt water) by bringing to a boil for five minutes and then simmering for about 1 1/2 hours.  Cook pasta al dente.   Prepare vinaigrette. Add dressing ingredients while beans and pasta are still warm. Chill for several hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Add corn, red onion, chunks of fresh mozzarella, red/yellow bell pepper, celery, olives, or whatever sounds good.

Mommy Hungry via Seed Savers

Mommy Hungry's Greenmarket Mint Tea
2-3 cups mint leaves
2-3 tablespoons sugar, to taste
juice of 1/2 large lemon

Steep mint leaves and sugar in 2 cups hot water.  When water is much cooler or even room temperature, add cold water to fill pitcher (1 liter+) and lemon juice.

Mommy Hungry

Strawberry Soda Ice Cream
Just saw this in Food Network Magazine and it reminded me of the Big Red soda we made at camp (sans strawberries)!  It was delicious.  We also made root beer ice cream at camp, which was also awesome.  This recipe, below, makes about the best strawberry ice cream I've ever had.
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup red cream soda (Big Red!) or regular cream soda
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and mashed

Whisk the condensed milk, half-and-half, cream soda, cream and strawberries in a medium bowl.  Churn in ice cream maker.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Laura Duckworth, Food Network Magazine

Chocolate Sorbet
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened (or Dutch process) cocoa powder

Combine the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cocoa and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and pour through a fine strainer into a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Stir the cool mixture, then freeze in your ice cream maker. When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book