Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Meal Crib Sheet

Around the beginning of every school year, I update some of my household paperwork--chore chart, emergency contact info list, and kids' favorite meals.  Below is the latest crib sheet:

Gommie’s Baked Chicken with rice and gravy—15 min @ 500F then 1 c water for 1 1/2hr @ 350 or 6 hr HIGH 2 1 c water  in crockpot; gravy--4 T oil + 4 T flour + 4 c broth
Gommie’s Chicken and Dumplings—dumplings: 2 c flour, 2 t salt, 2/3 c milk, with ½ c milk added to broth
Chicken Pot Pie—crust + filling 1 hr @ 350F
Chicken Noodle/Vegetable/Tortellini Soup—NO tomatoes
Soy Sauce Chicken and Rice—saute chicken and flavor with soy sauce
Baked Drumsticks—marinate in soy sauce then 1 hr @ 375F
Chicken cutlets—seasoned flour/egg & milk/breadcrumbs @350 for 30 m
Kebabs—1/2 cups oil, lemon juice, soy sauce marinade
Chicken fried rice
Tortilla soup—chicken, corn, onion, stock, cheese, corn tortillas

Ground Turkey
Stroganoff—ground with sour cream and mushrooms over egg noodles
Meatloaf—1 lb ground, 1 can chicken and rice soup, cracker crumbs, ketchup/bbq sauce 1 hr @350F
Ma’s omelet—ground and scrambled egg
Salisbury steak—ground w/bread crumbs or crackers to form patties cooked in onion gravy
Hamburger or taco soup—ground, corn, carrots, onions, some tomato sauce, garlic, seasoning

Smothered Pork Chops—sauteed with onions (w/water for gravy)
Pork & Sweet Potatoes—2 lb roast+ 4 sweet potatoes, garlic, 1 c broth, 1 onion @ 6 hrs LOW in crockpot
Baked Ham—325F for 1 ½+ hours
Pork and Apples—sauté pork and cook with sliced apples

Spaghetti Pie—1 c mozz, ½ c ricotta, ¼ c parm, 10 oz. frozen broccoli, ½ lb pasta
Cauliflower Pasta—boil bow tie pasta with cauliflower florets and serve with sauce
Fettuccine with cream sauce and ham—1 egg, 1 T milk, 1 T butter, ¼ c cheese (can add asparagus or peas)

Breakfast for Dinner
Crepes-- 2 eggs, 1 c milk, 1 c flour, 1 T melted butter, 1 T sugar, ¼ t salt
Dutch Baby Pancakes— 2 eggs, 1 t. oil, ½ c milk, ½ c flour, 2 T sugar, ¼ t salt, ¼ t cinnamon
Pancakes—mix plus 1 egg, 1 c milk, 1 T butter
Scrambled Eggs

Other Dinners
Baked Potatoes—pierced, oiled, and salted for 1+ hr @350F (N won’t eat these)
Grilled Cheese
Broccoli Noodle Soup—onions, 6 c broth, 8 oz noodles, 2 pkg frozen broccoli, 6 c milk, 1 lb cheese
Cheese Quesadillas—flour tortillas with cheddar in oiled skillet
Veggie stir fry—1 c stock, ¼ c soy, 2 T sesame, 1 T rice vinegar
Cowboy supper—layers of red potatoes, carrots, onion, sausage, bell pepper, cabbage in beer/stock
Brisket—4+lbs w/potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, stock, 2 bay leaves on LOW 8-10
Fish—lemon and capers
Corn chowder—3red potatoes + 2 cream corn, 1 1/2 c frozen corn, 1 1/2 water, 1 c ½ & ½
Welsh rarebit—8 oz cheddar, 3 T milk/ale, 1 tsp mustard poured on toast
Quiche--3-4 eggs, 2 big spoons sour cream, cheese, protein/nuts, veg (def. frozen spinach) in crust @ 350F for 45 min
Mac and cheese--white sauce (equal parts butter & flour, add milk) + grated cheese + cooked pasta; bake in oven w/bread crumbs and extra cheese

Many Happy Returns!

Today is Pop's birthday, so we're sending happy birthday wishes through the ether to somewhere in Canada, either in Vancouver or along a railway through the Rockies, where he's vacationing with Gommie.  Hope you have a wonderful day and a fabulous trip!  Sis hopes you see bunnies and Bud wants you to eat lots of salmon.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dinner Ups and Downs

It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.  It is an age of pickiness; it is an age of experimentation.

Yes, dinner.  I'm a bit frustrated with cooking lately, having had a few too many failed meals.  There was the minestrone soup--a huge slow cooker full--that used mealy chickpeas and freezer-burned green beans, much to my surprise.  Ruined the whole pot.  Then there was the marsala sauce I added to beautiful browned chicken, sauce that had gone bad on the shelf unbeknownst to me.  I also had a broccoli noodle soup disaster--was it the cheese?  the stock?  the broccoli?  I don't know, but even Mama could smell the funkiness when she walked in the house.  Now, these are all dishes I've made before with no problem, but sometimes it doesn't go well.  Sure, the underlying pattern is off ingredients, mostly frozen ones or prepared ones.  I use these as a crutch sometimes so I don't waste produce or so I cook at home instead of ordering in; most of the time, they're just fine. Nothing is wrong with my freezer.  I guess it just happens.  But then you have all that food to toss and extra dishes to clean and hungry people still to feed.  It's so disheartening.

I should say, though, that the chicken I "baked" in the slow cooker on Monday turned out beautiful, as did the gravy and the stock I made afterwards, all of which contributed to the best chicken and dumplings I've ever made.  Which, of course, is why I keep trying. (Please note that the chicken, gravy, stock, and dumplings were all made from scratch!)

Mama, however, is going one step beyond me.  Inspired by the intro to Michael Pollan's Cooked, which advocates for more homecooking, Mama is determined to help the kids learn to cook their favorite meals.  And not just meals like chicken and dumplings that are already in the family repertoire.  No, she said it could be anything.  So Bud chose linguine with clam sauce, while Sis asked for chicken marsala!  So Mama spent last night pouring through my cookbooks looking for recipes, deciding upon a couple in Cook's Illustrated, with some adjustments.  She's put marsala and clams and white wine on the shopping list and is determined to cook with each of them this weekend; in fact, she's really very excited.  I'm very impressed with her ambition and impressed with her determination.

But I'm also glad, especially in light of recent meals, that it's her project and not mine!


Chicken Stock
(Or it might be broth, since I don't really reduce)

bones of cooked chicken

Place all the leftover bones and bits of a (what's the word for a chicken you've taken the meat off of?) cooked chicken in a slow cooker along with a handful of chopped carrots (I used baby), a couple of stalks of celery, a quartered onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Completely cover with water.  Add salt.  Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.  Remove and discard the bits, straining liquid if necessary (I usually just skim once the liquid has cooled).  Refrigerate.  Can also be frozen.

On My Mind

Why is killing people with chemical weapons worse than bombing or shooting them?  Obama says Syria has now crossed the "red line" with its neurotoxins that killed hundreds.  But does that mean that killing the first 100,000 Syrians with bombs and guns was okay?

Why did the Ft Hood killer get death but the soldier who killed the Afghanis get life?

While I really have nothing to hide in my email or blog or FB posts, I disprove of the NSA accumulation of online/electronic personal data.  I fear this shadow government that persecutes Manning and hunts Snowden.  I know we all feared terrorists after September 11 and haven't suffered many major attacks since then.  Now we know why.  The price is very high.  I'm not sure I'm ready for what else we don't know.

I know we fear terrorists (and I know that by doing so, we fulfill the terrorists' plans)--and I do wonder at the cultural and political circumstances that create such violence over and over in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the like--but in the U.S. itself, young white men in Aurora, Virginia Tech, and, yes, Newtown, have killed more Americans than the so-called terrorists have.  Makes me wonder about casting the first stone, especially living in a glass house.

On a lighter note, I read this week, in Pollan's Cooked, I think, that cooking is a rural project, for the most part, and that the farther we get from farmers and real ingredients, the less we cook and eat real food.  Interesting connection, but the increased urbanization of America does parallel the growth in industrialized and processed food production.

Twerking.  Miley Cyrus.  Race issues in America.  Some article, which I can't relocated, mentioned that disapproval is a form of social control.  What does disapproving of Cyrus achieve?  Control of women?  Sexuality?  The definition of black culture?  Several people decry Cyrus's appropriation of twerking and ratchet culture as another example of white people stealing from black people for their own gain, especially in music and popular culture (just ask Paula Deen.)  So that kind of sexual display is not acceptable for a young white woman, but is okay for a black woman?  Maybe as feminists we should get to the point that that kind of pornographic twerking display is demeaning to all women.

Whew, that's it for now.

The Cubists

Rubik's Cube, that is.

Mama, Sis, and Bud have the Rubik's bug.  Mama had picked up two cubes for the kids, thinking they'd like them.  Each can get one colored side, I think.

And then Mama got her hands on one of them and spent the evening working on it, following the directions.

Yep, directions.  Those little colorful cubes come with instructions now for how to best work the puzzle. When the Rubik's Cube first came out in 1980, I was in 5th grade and those were the most popular toys with my friends.  I even had one but never got past one color.  A few of the boys in my class did and we were all impressed.  Especially because they didn't have directions.

Still, I was impressed when Mama did it, as were the kids.  But Sis put the neat cube on her desk and probably won't mess up the colors again.  Bud is still working on his.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kidbits: The First Day of School

Last night, packing their school supplies, Sis carefully unwrapped everything and laid it in her box.  Bud kinda tossed his in . . . and then forgot to put the pencil box in his backpack.


Bud, on putting on his new shoes and being asked how they felt:  "They're just like new shoes, weird yet satisfying."  I swear, that's exactly what he said.


Like mother, like son:  Bud had been a bit nervous about not knowing where to go and the names of all of his specials teachers.  "Mom, I just have the jitters; it's not a real stomachache.  It will dissolve when the bus gets here."  And it did.


Sis tried to console Bud's fear of not knowing where to go (they were supposed to go to the cafeteria and meet their teachers there), "Just follow the short people, Bud."  They're the youngest grade in the school.


On arriving home, the kids were brimming with news:

  • Our neighbor and now a teacher at their school, Miss K, stopped by to see them each twice.
  • They went to an assembly welcoming the third graders to the new building.
  • Bud had library, with a librarian subbing for the other librarian who had surgery.
  • Sis had art, but they only got a tour and didn't make anything.
  • Both had homework--to put 3 or 4 objects representing themselves in a brown mystery bag.  Bud chose his kung fu class schedule, a piece of sheet music, and a stuffed penguin.  Sis chose a Harry Potter Lego (2 in 1!), a little bunny statuette, a paintbrush, and a cat toy.
  • They both liked the new playground and had recess together but didn't play together.  Sis played with her good friend S, who is in Bud's class, while Bud practiced his kung fu forms on the blacktop (we've warned him not to get to close to anyone or it will look like fighting.)
  • Sis's class had snack; Bud's didn't today.
  • They were both disappointed to learn they won't get their lockers until Friday (yes, lockers!  It used to be a middle school.)  As part of their Schultute this morning, they got locker bling.
  • They were also disappointed that they will have homework on Fridays.  :(
  • They both mentioned a good behavior/sticker reward system.  Sis's class also has a "desk fairy" who brings treats to those with neat desks, Sis's new goal.

And tonight, their looping teacher for first and second grades sent all of her students an email saying she missed them and wishing them a good year!  It was the first time I teared up all day.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


  • Sis and I were playing her American Girl questions game.  "What age do you want to be?"  I philosophically said the age I am now.  Sis said, "19.  Then I can drive, still live with you and Mama, but go walking around alone with my friends, like for trick or treating."  I love that the ultimate goal is independent Halloween.
  • Another question was "If you could be anyone, who would you be?"  "Pop," she said, "So I could be with Gommie."
  • Today, I asked the kids what they didn't have that they wanted for school.  Bud replied, "A get-out-of-school-free card.  And a sign that says 'no homework allowed.'"

Some Thoughts

I am sending:
  • Prayers for comfort, ease, peace and support to Miss B, whose father has health challenges and whose dog is ill;
  • Prayers, well wishes, and good vibes to musical Miss M, who undergoes a stem-cell transplant and will be hospitalized for a month;
  • "Bon Voyage" to my parents who embark on an almost-three-week journey including railway trip halfway across Canada (Vancouver through the Rockies and back);
  • Congratulations and good luck to Gong, whose retirement is official today, and to Ma, who concluded more than three decades of "professoring" at the end of spring term;
  • Good luck and best wishes to Miss K, who begins her first full day as a permanent classroom teacher tomorrow;
  • Good times and wishes to the seniors we know in high school (Babysitter H and lawn guy R) and college (Beloved Babysitter M, if you can believe it!) and to the "freshman" entering high school (Babysitter M down the street);
  • And peace to all the moms who will have empty houses for the first time in years.

Summer Fun 2013: The End

With just a few daylight hours until bedtime here on the first school night, summer is definitely waning.  Sure, there's the upcoming Labor Day weekend, and then the day off for Rosh Hashanah, but really, those feel more like fall holidays than summer.

We haven't done anything spectacular here on the last day--some Animal Jam time, some playing outside with friends time, some re-reading Harry Potter time, even piano lessons. Plus we distributed school supplies and packed up backpacks with summer reading and math packets, new pencils and such, and boxes of tissues and bandaids for the teachers.   I asked Bud and Sis what things they might want for school that they don't already have.  Bud said that he wants a get-out-of-school-free card or a sign to wear reading "No Homework Allowed."  I also baked a loaf of no-knead bread, squirreling away the other half of the dough for another time. Now I'm starting the last of the dinner prep; there's the kids favorite "baked" chicken in the slow cooker and I just put the rice in the rice cooker--yes, we eat early, sometime between 5:30-6:00 pm on a regular day.  Sis is having a "play bath" (I'm on the computer upstairs instead of downstairs because I like to be on the same floor when one of them is in the tub; is that silly with them 8 years old?  Maybe it's just an excuse.)  I promised them a little bit of tv when I make the gravy.  And then it'll be last-minute clothes sorting (yay for strict dress code!) and alarm-setting before reading at bedtime (I tried to read them Wildwood, Karen L R, but, still in the throes of HP they were having none of it.)  Mama has PT tonight and will be late, but she'll manage an appearance at bedtime.

We have several things to do after their bedtime--gathering treats in cones as part of our annual Schultute tradition and creating their first-day-of-school poster (always in the first-day-of-school photo.) And I'll confirm breakfast and lunch and snack makings and water bottles, plus write little notes.  I have little signs reminding them what to do to earn their $1-a-day (make bed, put away toothbrush, put away clothes, pick up floor), but I won't burden them with that the first few days (nor the new chore chart with some added responsibilities!)

And then 7 a.m. and the energy of the first day will come pretty early.

I guess after 6 years of first-days-of-school, counting preschool (which I most definitely do), this is getting pretty old-hat.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Last Links I Like

For now, anyway.

It's a short but tough list, with Newtown and Hurricane Sandy.

Not So Secret

Recipes for the School Year

Okay, you've seen them all over FB, especially recently, people sharing recipes with the most luscious food porn photos (almost always linked to some diet or weight-loss page, regardless of the decadence of the recipe.)  I have given up "sharing these to save to your homepage!" in favor of cutting and pasting the text.  Besides, I find FB really hard to search for past posts.  So here are some of the recent ones that I might actually try!


Crock-Pot Apples
Place 2 sliced apples, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch salt in the bottom of the crock pot.

Pour in 2 cups of oatmeal, 2 cups of milk and 2 cups water.
Do NOT stir.

Cook overnight for 8 - 9 hours on low.



1 pound boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 cup beef consumme
½ cup soy sauce
⅓ cup brown sugar or honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cooled sauce from the crock pot after being cooked

Fresh broccoli florets (as many as desired)
Hot cooked rice (brown rice, or riced cauliflower)

1. Place beef in a crock pot.
2. In a small bowl, combine consomme, soy sauce, brown sugar/honey, oil, and garlic. Pour over beef. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. In a cup, stir cornstarch and sauce form the crock pot until smooth. Add to crock pot. Stir well to combine. (If your sauce is not thickening, try bringing your sauce to a boil on the stovetop with the corn starch mixture. Boil until your desired consistency is reached).
4. Add broccoli to the crock pot. Stir to combine.
5. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes on high (the sauce has to boil for it to thicken).
6. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken


1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 24 ounces) or breasts
sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley


Combine the first five dry spices in a small bowl and spread over chicken on both sides. Set aside. Pour olive oil and garlic on the bottom of the crock pot. Place chicken on top. Pour balsamic vinegar over the chicken. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley on top to serve.

Nutrition Info

Servings: 8* Calories per serving: 133* Fat: 5g* Cholesterol: 70mg* Sodium: 222mg* Carbs: 4g* Fiber: 0g* Sugars: 3g* Protein: 17g* Points+: 6*


Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark
this is sooo easy to make!

2 sticks of butter
1 cup of light brown sugar
1 reg. bag of pretzels (you'll use about 3/4 of the bag)
12 ounce bag of chocolate chips
Sea salt - ( I use our coarse sea salt with our grinder)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Line a large bar pan with parchment paper, cover with pretzels
In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. When it begins to bubble add the brown sugar. Stirring occasionally let the butter/sugar mixture meld together and brown. This should take about 3 minutes. Do NOT let it boil, you will have sticky goo that is no good. When you have a nice, brown caramel pour it over the pretzels, slowly and evenly. You can then use a spatula to spread it out, you have to work quickly and gently. It hardens fast so even pouring is the best method.

Bake the sheet for 5 minutes.

Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the whole bag of chocolate chips evenly over the mixture.

Place back in the oven for about 45 seconds. If you let it sit there too long the chocolate will burn.

Remove from the oven and use a silicone spatula to evenly spread the chocolate over the top.

Sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. 

Seriously? Only 2 ingredients!

Who out there has ever made ice cream bread? If you haven't, what are you waiting for? You use only two ingredients and two steps. All you have to do is mix self-rising flour with softened ice cream of choice and bake. Poof! You have bread!

You need ice cream that is not sugar free or low fat...just regular full fat ice cream. This one is made with just chocolate but just imagine how awesome a loaf of Ben and Jerry's Rocky Road or Cherry Garcia bread could be. I have made it with Chunky Monkey and it is delicious. I will include that recipe too so you can try it. Go with bold flavors of ice cream such as peanut butter or butter pecan. Don’t forget, you can also add extra ingredients into the mix to make it less plain and more flavorful. Experiment and have fun with it!

Ice Cream Bread

2 cups of your favorite ice cream, softened
1 and 1/2 cups of self rising flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8×4 inch loaf pan. Mix the ice cream and flour together in a bowl just until combined. Smooth it out so it looks even. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a while and then serve.

Chunky Monkey Ice Cream Bread (2 loaves or 1 large loaf)

2 pints Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey, softened or melted
3 cups self-rising flour
1 very ripe banana, chopped
1 chocolate bar, chopped
Handful of walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bread pan, or line with parchment paper. Mix melted ice cream and flour until well combined. Add chocolate, banana and nuts. Pour into prepared bread pan. Bake for 45 minutes per loaf or 60-90 minutes for a larger double loaf. If the top starts to brown too much, cover it with aluminum foil and continue to bake. The bread is done when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Almond Joy Brownie Bites

1 box of family size Chocolate Fudge brownie mix
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (14 oz.) bag coconut
1/4 C milk
1 C chocolate chips, melted
1/4 C almonds (or nuts), crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line (regular size, not mini) cupcake pan with paper liners. (Don't skip the paper liners as they make stick).

Make brownies according to package directions and pour batter only half way up the liners.

Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. While they are baking, mix the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and milk together.

Remove brownies from oven and spoon on some sweetened coconut.

Place bake in oven and continue to bake an additional 14-16 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing the paper liners. Drizzle on the chocolate then sprinkle on the almonds.

Summer Fun 2013: Activity Kits Galore!

With one day to go until school starts, I think we've done all the activity kits we are going to do this summer. In the end, they preferred reading the Harry Potter books.  Still, not bad.  And it cleared a shelf or two in the basement.

  1. Activity-kit-a day:  Make a snow globe  Well, not exactly, but Sculpey came to the rescue and the kiddos made bunny and penguin snow globes.  
  2. Activity-kit-a day:  Make your own birdhouse.  Well, Sis painted a birdhouse at a playdate with a friend, but not from the kit we have.
  3. Activity-kit-a day:  spin art
  4. Activity-kit-a day:  My first Chemistry set
  5. Activity-kit-a day:  Magic Science kit  What a mess mixing water, oil, citric acid, baking soda, and red cabbage dye!  This was their favorite.  Even after the chemicals from both sets (they each had one) were gone, they used baking soda and vinegar.
  6. Activity-kit-a day:  Make a stepping stone
  7. Activity-kit-a day:  Etch a tag engraver set
  8. Activity-kit-a day:  Pottery kit  No way a kid can make the pots pictured on the box.  Kinda discouraging.
  9. Activity-kit-a day:  Potato Clock  Bud is really excited about this one.  I just have to remember to buy the potatoes.
  10. Activity-kit-a day:  Mandala maker
  11. Activity-kit-a day:  Lava Volcano kit  The mold of the volcano worked, but the explosion didn't.  All the blood red liquid just leaked out the bottom no matter what we did.  The instructions needed pictures.
  12. Activity-kit-a day:  Disgusting Science kit
  13. Activity-kit-a day:  tie-dye kit  We tie-dyed at the family picnic, though.
  14. Activity-kit-a day:  Eco crafts kit  When we opened this again, we realized Sis had done all the interesting parts.
  15. Activity-kit-a day:  Sound studio kit Some kits just aren't what you think they'll be.
  16. Activity-kit-a day:  drawing kit  Ditto.
  17. Activity-kit-a day:  light kit
  18. Activity-kit-a day:  Sun prints kit  This is the one I've been waiting to do.  
  19. Activity-kit-a day:  friendship bracelets  We wove friendship wheel bracelets at the historic house.
  20. Activity-kit-a-day:  thread art
  21. Activity-kit-a-day:  pom pon bunny

Yes, More Links I Like

From January through March

Friday, August 23, 2013

Yet More Links I like

From April through June etc . . .

Thursday, August 22, 2013

More Links I Like

More great reads . . . .from July!

Familiarity Breeds Fondness?

Me:  Do you want to go to Bud's kung fu performance or to the wedding?

Sis:  Kung Fu.

Me (surprised):  That's great, but can I ask why?  I thought you might be tired of that.

Sis (also surprised):  Because he's my brother.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Links I Like

Some things I've read that resonate . . . (yes, FB friends, these are the links I've shared there.)

  • "3 Books Offer a Way to Cut the Cord" (NYT):  "“This is not your computer — I know it has your name on it, but this is my computer (or your school’s computer). I’m your parent, and I reserve the right to see everything that’s going on there. You need to be on the computer in an open place. I have the right to know what your homework assignment is. You can’t be in your room with the door closed. You can’t take it to bed with you. You can’t collapse a screen when I walk by. We have a code of conduct and we expect you to stick with it: Don’t be mean, don’t lie, don’t embarrass other people, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, don’t go places you’re not allowed to go. Don’t post pictures that Grandma wouldn’t love. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t approve of.” from The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair
  • "For Whites (Like Me):  On White Kids" (HuffPost):  I really liked NutureShock for its discussion of the uselessness of general liberal responses to race such as "everyone is equal" and "we're all the same", mentioned in the article, but like that book was frustrated that the article gave no guidance just responded about "pat answers" being a cop out. I think they'd be a start, though, since as the article mentions white families have such trouble talking about race. We started talking about race directly right after I read NurtureShock, esp because the kids are bi-racial. But those conversations are hard because there's no guidance. I've come up with something along the lines of each person's race is very important to that person and it's important to respect that and learn more and realize how that changes how they experience the world, just like they are proud to be half Chinese and how being immigrants has affected their grandparents. 
  • "It Gets Better" on Momastery:  On life after the last child starts school!
  • "13 (Better) Questions to Ask Your Child About School":  What was the best thing you did at school?  What didn't you have at school today that you wished  you had?  Who did you sit near in class?  in lunch?  Whose locker is near yours?  Etc etc etc
  • Book Love and finding the lost gems of childhood--"One Book in . . ." (NYT)
And that's just August.

Summer Fun 2013: A Week of Playdates

Sis is a single child this week while her brother is at kung fu camp.  And she's loving it!

But not with me.

While I had visions of lots of mother-daughter activities--crafts, baking, American Girl dolls, just hanging out--she had visions of playing with all of her friends.  ALONE.

And so we've booked playdates for the whole week, here, one a day.  Morning to afternoon, lunch included.

And while it's not what I had envisioned, I'm glad she's having a great time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Fun: Queens of Weekends

What a weekend!  It was our second annual "leave the kids in Queens while we take Manhattan" nano-honeymoon!  Cooler than last year, the weekend was also lazier with fewer stops and plans.  And it was lovely that way.

But we almost ended before we started because of something called "Summer Streets," whereby cyclists take over the Village and Park Avenue and many cross streets were closed.  We could not get to either our hotel or first stop, the Merchant's House Museum.  Very frustrating to drive around for what seemed like forever--most of the parking garages are on the side streets so there was nowhere to stop.  Yes, yes, I'm sure it's great that the cyclists get the streets--but with no announcements on the traffic radio and with the cops uncertain where all the blockades were (they didn't even know why the streets were closed!!), it was a little difficult.  We eventually parked somewhere near enough to our hotel and managed to get the bags there, where they would hold them while we made our first outing to the Merchant's House Museum, via the subway.  Look, beavers at the Astor St station!  Maybe the Astors were fur traders long, long ago?

Beaver tile in Astor Pl subway--for you, Pop

The Merchant's House Museum, built in 1832, is the only family home preserved intact from the nineteenth century in NYC.  And it's a jewel--4 stories right out of The Heiress/Washington Square, complete with kitchen and family room in the "garden apartment"/below street space, formal first floor with two parlors separated by pocket doors, bedrooms on the second floor, and then the only existing Irish home from 19th-century NYC where the servants lived on the fourth floor (current museum staff on third)!  With sparse visitors, unobtrusive staff, a big binder of information, most of the original furnishings (it became a museum right after the youngest daughter of the family died, aged 93, in 1933!), and natural lighting, you really could immerse yourself in the place and imagine the time.  Though, going from basement to fourth floor was a haul--those poor Irish girls!  We also liked the little garden in the backyard.  I would highly recommend this to all, both jaded NY inhabitants, seen-it-all regulars, and newbie tourists.

The garden at the Merchant's House Museum, a highlight

This is our hotel, same one as last year, on Irving Place.  It's an indulgence, for sure, but we love the Victorian richness and the location.
Where we stayed

Fresh flowers everywhere

Our room, rich Victorian decor, especially the wallpaper
Interestingly, the hotel is two brownstones, linked, almost exactly of the same floorplan as the Mercant's House, with similar mirrors between the windows on opposite end of the formal parlors, the elaborate moldings on walls and above chandeliers, and elaborate mantles.

We headed out to the Greenmarket in Union Square to peruse the produce and farm products, coming across a few Connecticut "neighbors"--the cheese guy from Colchester and the garlic lady from Shelton! We sampled goat cheeses and jams, pickles and chutneys.  In the end, we cobbled together a wonderful market lunch--farmer's bread, a honey lavender goat cheese, roasted garlic spread, plum chutney, triple fruit marmalade, another goat cheese, two aged Welsh cheeses (a Vivace and a Boomsday??), a slice of mazurka cake, and cups of mint lemonade and mint tea with maple syrup (Mama also got some jerky and sausages for another time.)  Of course, we didn't finish it all, but it was a lovely meal.  I also picked up some lovely merino in variegated pink.  

A butterfly proving the worth of butterfly bushes, at the Greenmarket in Union Square

Gandhi and sunflowers
Dozens of chess players set up  in the Square (Bud would love to play)

After an afternoon nap, we headed out again at dusk to do some shopping.  Mama replaced her worn out Doc Martens and then we wiled away the evening at Forbidden Planet and Strand Books.  It's hard not to buy more books than we can carry!  Especially now that we buy kids' books, too.  A late dinner was falafel and fixings at Maoz's.  Yes, a lot like last year.

Sleeping in.  The Sunday NYTimes.  A pot of Marbury Rose tea.  Chocolate scones.  Almond scones.  Fresh fruit.  A lazy stroll around the neighborhood.  Dark chocolate granita.  A wonderful, slow Sunday morning in the city.

On our way out of Manhattan after noon checkout to get the kids in the Rockaways, we drove around the Village a bit now that the roads were open.  We located my old office on 13th between 5th and 6th (it housed the museum staff before the museum building opened.)  And serendipitously came across famous Brit teashop Tea and Sympathy!  I've always wanted to take Mama there, having been once myself, but we never seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  And we even got a parking space!  We weren't ready to sit for tea but went into the shop next door, where we spoke at length with Sean, husband of T&S founder Nicola Perry (whose portrait, Lambeth, was recently at your NPG.)  He told several jokes--about Texas, his wife, and even alluded to something funny surrounding the Dalai Lama--and was very friendly.  We bought two kinds of tea, Garibaldis, pickled onions, wine gummies, and a copy of their cookbook.  While I waited to pay, Mama nipped next door and ordered us some fish and chips at their companion store, A Salt and Battery.  Hmmmmm!  With extra vinegar on the "chips."  Mama also got some mushy peas, a few pies, and who knows what else.  She wanted to get a "chip butty," or french fry sandwich, for Sis, but we didn't imagine it would keep.  We'll have to take them there, especially because we're very seriously considering a trip across the pond within the next year (what do you think, Lambeth?) to see the Harry Potter studios, London, and of course Lambeth. 

After polishing off our lunch, we headed, late, off to Queens, past the construction of the new World Trade Center tower and then under the Verrazano Bridge and past the cannons in the area (Fort Hamilton.)  The kids had an equally wonderfully time with Ma and Gong--Chinese soup bun lunch, the beach, watching the movie Spaceballs not once but twice, a fancy homecooked seafood dinner with prawns and lobster (and chicken for Sis), pancake breakfast made to order by Goo, dim sum, and even ice cream from the truck twice!  

We sure know how to have a fun weekend!

World Trade Center/Freedom Tower, but with ominous cloud

Driving under the Verrazano on the way to fetch the kiddos

Friday, August 16, 2013

Compare and Contrast

Summer Fun 2013: A Week to Go

With about a week of summer to go, I've been reviewing and updating my list of summer activities.  We haven't done as many as I expected, probably because of the trips--Philly, Texas, NYC, camp if that counts--and, more than that, reading five Harry Potter books in July.  Still, it's been a good summer and they've had a lot of fun doing whatever they liked, which oftentimes was not on my list!
  1. Activity-kit-a day:  Make a snow globe  Well, not exactly, but Sculpey came to the rescue and the kiddos made bunny and penguin snow globes.  
  2. Activity-kit-a day:  Make your own birdhouse.
  3. Activity-kit-a day:  spin art
  4. Activity-kit-a day:  My first Chemistry set
  5. Activity-kit-a day:  Magic Science kit  What a mess mixing water, oil, citric acid, baking soda, and red cabbage dye!
  6. Activity-kit-a day:  Make a stepping stone
  7. Activity-kit-a day:  Etch a tag engraver set
  8. Activity-kit-a day:  Pottery kit  No way a kid can make the pots pictured on the box.  Kinda discouraging.
  9. Activity-kit-a day:  Potato Clock  Bud is really excited about this one.  I just have to remember to buy the potatoes.
  10. Activity-kit-a day:  Mandala maker
  11. Activity-kit-a day:  Lava Volcano kit  The mold of the volcano worked, but the explosion didn't.  All the blood red liquid just leaked out the bottom no matter what we did.  The instructions needed pictures.
  12. Activity-kit-a day:  Disgusting Science kit
  13. Activity-kit-a day:  tie-dye kit   We haven't done our kit, but we did tie dye at the family picnic and at camp.  Love to tie dye!
  14. Activity-kit-a day:  Eco crafts kit  When we opened this again, we realized Sis had done all the interesting parts.
  15. Activity-kit-a day:  Sound studio kit Some kits just aren't what you think they'll be.
  16. Activity-kit-a day:  drawing kit  Ditto.
  17. Activity-kit-a day:  light kit
  18. Activity-kit-a day:  Sun prints kit  This is the one I've been waiting to do.  
  19. Activity-kit-a day:  friendship bracelets  Sis has done some at camp, but we still have the kit.
  20. Activity-kit-a-day:  thread art
  21. Activity-kit-a-day:  pom pon bunny
  22. Host a sleepover with friends.  I'm going to count the sleepovers with Gommie and Pop and Ma and Gong.
  23. Join swimming pool.  Well, more like we've been mooching off friends, like Mrs. S and Miss K!
  24. Start Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Yep, started on June 30.  Finished July 1.  And now they're reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  25. Make ice cream in a roly ball.
  26. Have a no-electricity day.
  27. Have a backwards day.
  28. Have a pajama day.  We've done this a lot now, but I'm not sure it gets old.
  29. Paint like Jackson Pollock.
  30. Help at historic house.  They helped prep for a program and even posed for publicity shots!  Then Sis helped out at the event.
  31. Work on woven placemats on loom.  Does weaving potholders count??
  32. Learn how to clean bathrooms.
  33. Learn how to weed garden.  Well, Sis has, anyway.
  34. Practice scooping litter boxes.  Yep, they don't like it.  And with stuff I've recently read about certain bacteria in some cat feces causing schizophrenia, I think I'll be doing the litter boxes.
  35. Play putt-putt golf.
  36. Sort and donate books.  We gave 6 bags and boxes away to Read to Grow.  And that's just the kids' books.
  37. Go strawberry picking.  Nope
  38. Go blueberry picking.  Nope
  39. Make jam.  Nope
  40. Purge and donate toys in basement.  It's a process.  But we've started.
  41. Visit Miss S.
  42. Write to a pen pal.
  43. Organize school papers.
  44. Go see a movie in a theater.  With Gommie, Monsters U.
  45. Go to one library event.
  46. Make popsicles.
  47. Have an astronomy night.  We tried.  Meteors didn't cooperate.
  48. Have a lemonade stand.
  49. Host a Luau/Hawaii party.
  50. Build fairy houses.
  51. Scrapbook.   
  52. Make brandied fruit a la Bloodroot.  I started this before our summer, technically.  But we've added to it and also stirred it everyday.
  53. Go on a sketching outing.  At Aunt Sis's!
  54. Celebrate July 4th.  With fireworks and a crawfish boil!
  55. Celebrate Solstice.  The kids celebrated Solstice on their last day of school by staying up as late as they could; they even put on a performance of Grease for us at 9 p.m.!
  56. Celebrate Mama's birthday.  We ate rainbow cake and played a Lego game.
  57. Make ice cube candles.
  58. Host a culture night.   Hogwarts culture?  We made Butterbeer!
  59. Make fudge.
  60. Go to concert in the park.
  61. Visit a new museum.
  62. Hang pictures.
  63. Make treats for animal shelter.

  • make soap
  • go to a local festival
  • do 1000 piece puzzle
  • have a backyard weenie/s'mores roast  Well, sorta.  We had a playdate with a friend and hosted a hot-dog supper.  And we made s'mores at the family picnic.
  • make a family songbook  I'm working on a GS one..
  • have a kids-in-charge day
  • have a no-cooking day.  Otherwise known as, "pie for dinner" when it's too hot out.  We shared a small apple and a small cherry.
  • have an all-outside day  Would camp count?
  • and did I mention go to Texas?!  Yep!

Go fishing.  At the bay!
Fly a kite.  With Gommie and Pop!
Learn a new game.  Gommie introduced them to Mah Jongg.
Make Gimp with plastic strings.  Also at camp, but we also have a book for making animals with the gimp strings.
Catch fireflies.  Yes, indeed.
Make suncatchers.  Sis painted a cat and a rainbow; Bud did a turtle and a sun.  I did a dolphin.