Friday, January 31, 2014

Comforting Kids with Apples

We've been doing some cooking around here.

And some mistakes!  I had long enjoyed Cracker "Toffee" but had never made it.  But a mistake on the Brownie Kaper Chart afforded me an opportunity to bring in snacks--I made the toffee.  And it was a disaster!  I misread the recipe and added the chocolate chips before baking and it was awful.  So I tried it again, a week or so later, with Sis's help, and it worked.

The other big disaster took out dinner--as I went to add the cheese to an alfredo sauce, I realized it was moldy and, before I could find other, the sauce spoiled.  And dinner was ruined.  The kids didn't mind--they got frozen dumplings, their favorite.  But I was in tears, having had a long day already.   It was a new recipe that I made up--chicken tortellini alfredo--and I'll post it if I get it right.
Otherwise, the kids love my apple version of cranberry-upside down cake.  We've made it twice and it's a lovely breakfast the next day, too.  And they liked my homemade cheesy beef macaroni.  Add that to my list of possible dinners.

Nothing like winter for comfort food.

Cracker "Toffee"

1 sleeve saltine crackers
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
 2 cups chocolate chips

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Arrange crackers in a single layer on baking sheet.  Boil butter and sugar and pour over crackers.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Spread chocolate chips over crackers and cool.  Break into pieces.

school fundraiser cookbook

Apple Upside-Down Cake

8 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
3 apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cup teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F, with rack in center. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8” round cake pan with 2 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over bottom of pan; arrange apples in a single layer on top.

With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 tablespoons butter and ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.
Spoon batter over cranberries in pan, and smooth top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a rimmed platter.

inspired by Martha Stewart Everyday Food's cranberry upside-down cake

"Chili" Mac
It's not chili flavored, but I wanted to call it something besides "Cheesy Macaroni and Beef."

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
1 lb ground beef
salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc to taste

Brown ground beef (or turkey.)  Set aside.  Meanwhile, boil pasta til al dente.  Make a white sauce:  melt butter and cook flour.  Add milk and cheese, heating until melted.  Stir ground beef and macaroni into cheese sauce.  Season to taste.  

Mommy Hungry

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Old Guard

It was the mixing of the old playgroup, in part, and new friends at a Lunar New Year celebration today.  I rarely see the friend who hosted the party anymore--her children go to a different school--after almost five years of weekly encounters.  The same with most of my old playgroup--we might run into each other at the store or at extra-curricular activities, but nothing matches the intensity of the toddler years.  So it was delightful to spend time with some of them (not nearly all and I missed the ones who would have been there if it had been a playgroup.)  And, while we greeted the others and even conversed (some even knew each other!), we congregated together, catching up . . . . while eating wonderful food, as usual (indeed, my fourth post ever mentioned all of the food)!


Hello Ladies----
It was so great to see everyone today, thank you so much for such a lovely afternoon.  Here is a link to the cake recipe:

The only thing I would say is that when it calls for wax paper I would use a layer of parchment instead (with the buttered parchment layer on top of it), I don't think it's great to bake with wax paper. 

Anyway, I felt fed on many different levels today, so great to catch up with you all!  


Flourless Chocolate Cake
4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling
Accompaniment if desired: Coconut Lime Sorbet
Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.
Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.
Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with sorbet if desired. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Everything I like to do involves my right hand somehow:  blogging, emailing, crocheting, baking, driving, pushing a cart at the store.  Even reading and talking on the phone are difficult.  Which means my hobbies and my volunteer jobs and all of my chores are falling behind.


Tired of this painful hand thing, even kept me up last night.  PT not for another week or so, 'cos of no openings.

Couple that with the cold and some hormones, and I'm a grumpy bump.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Can't Catch Up

Lots to say but hand in a bad way, not a good patient for hand things--I don't rest it very well.

So, just a list for later:

  • my proud weekend--on Thursday, I drove to Girl Scout training farther than I've driven since my back and stayed for 3 hours of training in a awful chair; on Saturday, I attended a 6-hour first aid training AND then I managed to go out for dinner with friends while it was snowing; and on Sunday, I drove us to church 'cos Mama had to work and then taught, drove us home, and got lunch.  WOW!
  • Bud's ice skating injury and the rink staff's marvelous response;
  • more snow and ice;
  • the annoyance of this hand injury;
  • recent enlightenment from various books.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Arts, crafts, and cocoa crackles!

Hands-Free Hands On

I've been reading Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, one of those books via popular blogs that inundate the shelves these days.  Her essays are very popular on Huff Post and FB, being reposted and such repeatedly.  As I sympathize with the idea of mindful parenting freed from the distraction of digital media, I picked it up--I can always use new techniques for keeping my smartphone off!

I probably shouldn't have read it all at once, with its earnest stories of how much she had gained from turning what seemed like her entire world towards her children and her poetic reflections on the rewards of presence.  It became very repetitive very quickly, especially as it was lacking in any kind of critical analysis of the causes of such distraction personally or culturally, her own challenges and failures, the advantages and disadvantages of such a child-centered almost-attachment parenting, and a more realistic way to adapt some of her ideas.  I must admit to speed-reading the last third.  Which isn't to say that I disagree, just that it's probably better as a blog, in smaller doses.

I started reading some bits aloud to the kids, having already explained what I was reading, dramatizing the reflections earnestly.  The kids got to giggling as I stared at them and beseeched them.  We created a "silly staring tuck-in" and I pretended to hold them and swear I'd never leave them and that I loved them and that I wouldn't do anything but stare at them, exaggerating Stafford's precepts.  Then I told them about bedtime when they were younger and all the songs we used to sing.  We did it over and over until they begged me to do it at bedtime.

And that I did, to their delight.

All of which is exactly Stafford's point.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ice Eggs

'Cos what else are you going to do when it's 1 degree F outside?

We used party balloons from the store but found that they didn't stretch well, hence the small "eggs."  Sis particularly liked coloring the water, even playing with the color--filling blue balloons with red water to make a purple balloon that revealed a reddish egg when opened, etc.  It was hard to remove the balloon, standing outside in the cold at the bus stop without gloves using my keys to rip holes in the rubber (are they rubber?  plastic?)  And despite being frozen solid, the eggs were fragile--the blue one cracked in half when I dropped it in the snow.

So, with different balloons--oooh, like long ones for balloon animals maybe!--that stretch better, this could be more fun.  Especially since we're not really rising above freezing in the next 10 days!

I've got bubbles on standby for later.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Today, in order:
  • Bud and I wake up excited that it's a snow day--I didn't even sleep that well waiting for the call, like a mini-Christmas;
  • so we go downstairs and play games in the darkness before dawn; he teaches me Shut the Box and Captain's Mistress (like Connect Four) and I practice Mancala;
  • we all share hot, homemade sourdough biscuits with honey and butter, plus scrambled eggs and bacon;
  • but we can't really clean because the pipe behind the sink/dishwasher has frozen again--only the cold though, so we put the hot fan on it (and 10 hours later, it still hasn't thawed);
  • the kids play outside for just a bit--so cold, at 1 degree and -17F windchill;
  • Mama works from home with lots of conference calls; in between, she snowblows the drieway;
  • the kids and I make thumbprint art;
  • Bud's Yoda and Grievous; my Ewoks, and Sis's 10th Doctor with the TARDIS and a Slitheen
  • then we clean the magnetic chalk wall and create a TARDIS in the Time Vortex;
  • Our TARDIS in the Time Vortex

  • we talk to Gommie and Pop, who are "staycationing" at the cabin in central Texas;
  • mmmm, Frito chili pie lunch;
  • we watch two Doctor Who episodes, including the Shakespeare one (only 2+ months!!!) and the one with the actor from "Merlin";
  • Mama takes the kids sledding, cut short by a non-dangerous collision and child upset and embarrassed;
  • I get REALLY frustrated at our historic house partners who drive me nuts on average once a tour season and make my blood boil--this time they set the tour dates with the school district without telling me, after I expressly requested a delay of less than week---AGGGGHHHH.  Yeah, let's see what teachers come the f***ing day after spring break, a*******.  What kind of partnership is that?  Where's the respect?  It's just so frustrating!!!!
  • Then I receive an email regarding a package I never received, the company concluding it was sent--more hassle.  But I think they're coming around to make good on it, hopefully.
  • so, I walk on my treadmill;
  • we had some reading time and, now
  • it's piano lesson time!
Busy rest of the week--Brownies, maybe hospice, GS training, first aid class, birthday party, Sunday school teaching, Sunday school teacher meeting--whew.

And yes, my arm is still problematic.

Sending love to Mama Teacher, who has the real flu, poor dear.  Get well soon!


It's going the wrong way:  its 1 degree!!  With -17F windchill!

Happy 3-Degree Morning!

NOT venturing out to get a better picture on this frozen no-school day!

I'd say we got about 6 inches, judging by the snow near the gate and bearing in mind that our relatively protected deck doesn't accumulate as much.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Yep, it's snowing.  And the kids are on early dismissal.

I love snow.  So pretty, so quiet.

It warms my heart, even though it is so cold.  When I'm tense or in pain, snow is my happy place.  Each snow adds to my repository of mental images--small, dry snow that is barely visible; thick, wet, fluffy stuff that clings to everything; sun on snow the day after; snow so thick and fast that you can't see the houses down the street, all the pretty little flakes with their intricate and unique designs; when it glitters in the light; horizontal snow, tornadic snow, "snow wind," snow that blows up; drifts on windowsills; snow stuck to windowscreens and walls.  Today, it's dry and small, with no real flakes, barely dusting the ground.

But it will pile up soon enough, inches and inches worth.  The snow ice cream bowls are already out.  I have stockpiles of hot chocolate and marshmallows and a new (proprietary) recipe for honey buttered popcorn from Heather Bruggeman's current Hibernate workshop.  And this morning, Sis and I filled little balloons full of colored water.  Oddly, the balloons didn't expand, even with the water pressure, so the frozen colored balls will be small.  And I have bigger bubble bottles and blowers for tomorrow's 5F degree morning and probable school holiday.

Monday, January 20, 2014

For Now

Hard to type in my hand brace; hurts, too.  But otherwise things are pretty good...especially with snow on the way tomorrow.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Crochet Injury!

Yes, you read that correctly:  crochet injury.

Not croquet injury.

Or crochet inquiry.

I have injured myself with yarn.

It started, I'm ashamed to say, in the fall when I was making all of those prayer shawls.  At first, it was just some intermittent soreness in my right elbow.  But more recently it was weakness and more constant aching in my entire right forearm.  I knew it was a problem when it was bothersome to hold the phone and worrisome to unload the dishwasher without dropping something.

I asked my favorite PT what she thought--ironically, last night when she discharged me from PT for my back--and she concluded "compressed radial nerve."

The PA at the ortho's office confirmed it.  What started as tennis elbow advanced to a compressed radial nerve and tendonitis.  I have a new PT scrip, a brace to immobilize the wrist and forearm, and a warning not to use it.

You know, for typing on my blog and things.  Like crocheting.

So, I'll probably be quiet here (and on email and FB) for awhile, or at least brief.  She said it might take a few months for it to feel better, even with my magic PT.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


It might be a tad premature, as it hasn't actually started, but it looks like the teen docent program at "my" historic house that I designed with the local schools is going ahead as planned!!!!   After meeting with the assistant superintendent, I submitted the call for interns today and we will begin training them the first week of March.  I'm so excited.  It's the beauty of a small organization and a small town that we can get it up and running so quickly and relatively easily-all very straightforward, face-to-face, friendly.  The old fashioned "do business with a handshake."   I know there will be hiccups and bumps, but for now I'm just enjoying the joy.  Best of all, it gets two birds with one stone:  our need for more docents AND our goal of serving the town!  Plus, my own desire to expand professionally and find new challenges.  Yay!

Frozen Fun

They played Frozen this evening, acting out the whole thing.  At one point, they were Christoff and his reindeer Sven.  Guess who was who?

Yep, Sis had the reins.  The beanbags were the sled, two jump ropes together were the reins, and Bud the reindeer had shoes on his hands.

Otherwise, Bud was Elsa and Sis was Anna, singing their respective songs.

Bud was also an amazing Olaf, doing great comedic gestures.

It was wonderful.

Continuing their current obsession, Sis read the whole movie novelization in one sitting, while Bud continued drawing his favorite characters.

And through it all, I perfected my skills with our new wireless SONOS music system (I had been pointing my phone at the system like a remote control to make it work; Mama laughed at me for being "so 20th century!)

Now I just wish it would snow!  They could make a great Olaf snowguy or an ice palace.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Family Biscuit Lore

I made my usual sourdough biscuits when Gommie and Pop were here and I swear I recall Gommie asking if they were her mom's (Bammie's) recipe for biscuits.  I didn't know there was a Bammie biscuit recipe--I love her bread, so this excited me--so I wrote to the person in the family who would know:  my Aunt Quilter (aka Aunt T.)

And today I got a reply, which I include here.  Not what I expected, but I'll try them soon.

     Well, your grandmother could not make a decent biscuit if her life depended on it.  They were like hockey pucks.  Her pie crust was not far behind.  She only made a decent pie crust when the oil and milk recipe came out.  That is the one I use today for pies and cobbler. She never did make biscuits.  I could not either until I met W.C. in E.C. and he taught me how.   These seem to turn out OK.  I have no idea if this is his original recipe or from some book.  It is probably very similar to yours.

Old Time Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder ( I must admit I use 6)
1/4 teaspoon soda
5 Tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk

Blend shortening and dry ingredients until crumbly. Add buttermilk all at once.  Mix until pulls away from bowl. Turn onto floured board and knead about 1/2 minute. Cut and put on ungreased sheet.  Brush tops with melted butter.  Bake in 450 degree over for 12 to 15 minutes.  Makes about 14 or 16 biscuits.

Pie Crust(actually for 2 pies or 1 crust and 1 top. I, however, use it for one large pie crust, like 10" or 11")

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup milk

One Pie Curst

1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 oil
3 Tablespoons cold milk

Both of these are rolled out between sheets of waxed paper.

Steeling Myself for Oats

UPDATE:  It's the best version I've had so far, though I still think I like regular old-fashioned better.  And it took longer than 10 minutes.


I've tried to like steel-cut oats, really I have.  How many nice tin containers of McGann's oats did I throw out before I confessed that I didn't like the flavor?  It tastes fishy to me, whether boiled on the stove or cooked in the Crockpot. I bought more than one tin because I wondered if they were rancid.  The only container of steel-cut oats that I liked was the Quaker version.  Why is that, I wonder?

But, like eating kale and kefir and such, this was something I really wanted to like.  Foodie or crunchy-mom pride, or something.  Especially because I love oatmeal.  And granola and museli.  So, I had bought the Whole Foods brand awhile back, in hopes of trying again.  And promptly ignored it as the container moved further and further back in the cabinet.

Today, I picked up the Best of America's Text Kitchen 2014, which contained a recipe for steel-cut oats that involved overnight soaking!

And you know how big soaking grains is these days.

So I picked up my cannister, which lo! and behold, had a similar overnight prep method.  Boil.  Refrigerate.  Reheat.

I can do that.  And I'm hoping I like it.


Overnight Steel-Cut Oats

Boil 4 cups water.  Stir in 1 cup steel-cut oats and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cover and refrigerate.  In the morning, reheat for 9-10 minutes to absorb the excess water.  Serve as desired.

WF steel-cut oats container

Olaf to the Rescue

Here I've been thinking on the feminist implications of Disney's Frozen, the incongruity of the upending of the rescued princess trope and the waspish waists and tight dresses, and what it all means for my daughter and my son.

And all the kids can think of is Olaf, the funny snowman!

We were riding in the car to Sis's gymnastics class yesterday, with their little friend, and they were all atalk about the movie.  They could all recite the different Olaf bits, "I think we lost the Marshmallow Man . . . oh, look out for my butt!"  They were laughing hysterically.

The friend did mention how surprised she was that the prince said he didn't love Anna, also surprised that there wasn't a wedding at the end.  I asked if a wedding was the best thing that could happen to Anna.  "Yes," the friend answered.  "NO!" mine chorused.  Though, they agreed that a marriage could be a real highlight, but that there were other good things that you could do in life.

So, I asked what they thought about the sisters not getting along and how that would make them feel--the little friend thought not talking to her sibling would be great--he'd stepped on her head earlier in the day!  Sis and Bud couldn't quite fathom that kind of separation.

And then it was back to Olaf.

Truly, I think I might be relieved.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Weekend

It was a wonderful winter weekend here, with ice skating, kung fu, and church.  Plus lots of Legos, reading, and arts and crafts.  It was a remarkable weekend.

Friday night found Bud at kung fu, with Sis and me at home.  She asked me to help her with her spool knitting.  I told her I knew nothing of it, but she said I would be a good tool--well, moms weren't tools, she said, but useful people--since I knew lots of crafts.  But we both found it frustrating so I pulled out some knitting needles, cast on for her, and started her on real knitting.  I'm a very novice knitter, but perhaps we'll improve together.

Our beloved babysitter M, home from college, visited with us on Saturday.  We all went ice skating (well, three skated while two watched), with M helping and playing with them, including a snap-the-whip-type game.  Then we all hand lunch and exchanged Christmas presents.  She knows them so well, a Star Wars Angry Birds game for Bud and a pottery painting kit for Sis.  I can't believe she'll graduate from college in just a few months!

Sunday was church and I was teaching the little kids about David and Goliath.  They were, as usual, uninterested in the story, until I compared the two main characters to Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader--that got their attention.  And when I tried to explain a slingshot, one of the kids said it was what the Angry Birds use!  The Bible as popular culture; worked for them.

Afterwards, we went to see Frozen, the kiddos having heard from the other babysitter M that it was "epic!"  Indeed, it was very pretty--all that ice and snow and Scandinavian decorative detail.  And for Disney, it was quite novel--the princess saved herself, the prince charming wasn't, and the icy queen wasn't evil.  I especially loved Idina Menzel's anthemic "Let it Go;" I think the kids prefer the song about snowmen in the summer!  My only complaint is the look of the female characters, all doe-eyed anime faces, tiny waists, and bigger cleavage.  And what was with Elsa changing into a high slit dress with heels in a movie for tweens?!  Oh, well, it's a start.  Though it made me doubly wish Brave had been a musical.

So that's the weekend, minus mention of a recurrence of my stomach upset probably brought on by lunch with babysitter.  So it's back to potatoes and rice and plain bread for me.  I have a busy week of hospice, historic house, Girl Scouts, and the like and no time to feel sick anymore.  The kids have been very sweet over the course of this bug, bringing me a hot water bottle, a get-well-soon drawing, a doll to play with, and a Lego K-9 to keep me company.  Makes me feel better already.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sing a Song of Tuna

We've been making up a lot of silly songs over dinner, one of my specialties.  We've been singing the joys of bacon to "Fame"--"Bacon, I'm going to eat it forever!"--and despicableness of peas to "I Will Survive"--"First, I was afraid, I was petrified.  My mom put green stuff in my food and I could just cry."  We laugh so much that it takes more than an hour to eat!  Even over breakfast this morning, we were singing a solo for the cat about tuna!

(I Can't Think of a Proper Austenian Title Here)

It's practically a Pride and Prejudice marathon over here.

Except none of it's the original Jane Austen book.

It started when I first visited our town's Little Library, a drop point where we can take and leave books to share.  And I came across P.D. James's Death Comes to Pemberley on the very day that my friend Lambeth emailed me about it.

Now, I haven't started reading it, but I am reading Longbourn, Jo Baker's marvelous servants' version of the events of the novel.  It's Dickensian narrative with Austenian trappings--and I'm loving it.

Meanwhile, I can't believe it, but Mama is listening to the audiobook of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!  And she can't stop laughing about it.

Plus, inspired by a FB post of an old high school buddy showing the "No Life  . . . Without Wife" song from Bride and Prejudice, I rewatched that Bollywood-esque musical of the novel, which I've always enjoyed.

Which means now, of course, I mush rewatch Colin Firth in the classic.

And maybe even later Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier.

Oh, and yeah, the actual original novel is on my reading list, too.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Getting Better

The pipes have unfrozen, without any noticeable breakage.

And my second stomach virus is coming to an end, hopefully.  I have rice in the cooker and a loaf of very plain bread rising, just in case I want to eat.

I feel like the new year has been delayed a week, but the kids are settling back into school, so that's all good.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


The water pipes in one of our walls are frozen, so that we don't get cold water to the kitchen--we get hot, and we get water everywhere else, but we won't know if there's a busted pipe until the thaw.

And I don't feel well, stomach having trouble adjusting after the bug or a bit of a bug redux (though not the same or as bad as the first.)

So, while I don't believe in Blue Monday or the most depressing day of the year (see here, about how an energy drink and travel company have made up the idea), it's not a great day here.


Bud:  I was daydreaming with my eyes closed.
Mama:  That's called sleeping.


Sis has a pin-up in her locker at school--of the Tenth Doctor!


Every morning when I wake Bud up, he asks, "Delay?  Cancel?"  Poor boy, I wouldn't be waking him up then.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Last Day of Christmas

Our tree is still up; our decorations still about.  And many of the Christmas presents are still strewn around the living room.

Though it's Twelfth Night, we didn't quite feel up to putting things away yet.  I think we're relishing at-home Christmas-ness more this year, particularly as Mama has been working so much.  And with snow outside and such cold, it still just feels like Christmas.  So, this weekend has just been a continuation of the holidays:  Mama took the kiddos sledding both yesterday and today, their first real sledding.  And they had such a good time.  They also played several of Mama's new games, including Shut the Box, Mancala, and Captain's Mistress.  I read my way through Georgian, Victorian, and then Edwardian food in Clarissa Dickson Wright's book.  For something special, I made coffee cake in a special Christmas coffee cake dish--I can't give you the recipe yet because half of it's under the cake!  I needed Sis's usual help, though, because I miscalculated and doubled the sour cream.  It was VERY moist.  And went well with the hot chocolates and coffees they picked up after sledding.

There's enough time to take down Christmas next weekend.


Christmas Morning Coffee Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
walnuts or pecans, optional

Mix first three cake ingredients and set aside. In separate bowl, beat egg until frothy.  Beat in sugar and butter.  Add milk, sour cream, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix on low.  Do not over mix.  Combine streusel ingredients and set aside.

Grease 9" round cake pan or 8 x 8" baking dish.  Put 1/2 batter in dish and spread evenly.  Cover with 1/2 streusel topping.  Repeat and top with chopped nuts if desired.  Bake in preheated 350F oven for 35-45 minutes.

my coffee cake dish

It's Downton Abbey Time!

And I think most of the people I know will be watching.

Just finished watching the documentary on the original Highclere Castle, which I knew had been renovated in the 19th century but didn't know the core was from the 16th century or so.  I can't believe we'll be there in three months!!!!

Girl Scout Cookie Time

From Sis:  
"hi its girl scout cookie time please contact mom if you want to buy. its $4 a box. we have samoas, savana smiles, treafolis, thin mints, tagalongs, dos i dos, dulce de leche, thank you berry munch, and gifts of caring for the soldiers. thank you!!"

Friday, January 3, 2014


Yesterday, before the snow, I was looking out our back windows and noticed our squirrels in their cubbyhole.  We haven't seen them there much since a). our neighbor's tree next to ours split in half and then was removed, leaving a lot less foliage in the area;  b). part of the knot enclosing the hole was knocked out, opening the hole more to the elements; and c). we trimmed our tree back and had it cabled.  And in truth, we hadn't seen Stumpy, our squirrel with a half-tail, in awhile--now we just call all squirrels "Stumpy."

So yesterday, I saw "Mrs. Stumpy," sitting in the knothole, her big white fluffy belly catching my eye.  Then I noticed Mr. Stumpy running across the top of our swingset.

Mrs. Stumpy

And in a little bit, I swear I saw Baby Stumpy next to Mrs. Stumpy in the tree!  It poked its little head out a few times before Mrs., or should I say Mama, Stumpy "told" it to go back in.  I've never seen a juvenile squirrel before.

Mrs. Stumpy and Baby Stumpy

The photos are enlarged from cellphone pictures, taken at thirty plus yards away.  I'll have to keep a better camera in the kitchen in hopes of seeing the Stumpys again.

Frozen Beauty

I saw the post on FB with all the beautiful pictures of frozen bubbles taken by a mother and son.

And we had bubbles.

And very freezing temperatures (8F with -14F windchill.)

So we tried it.

Our picture isn't as pretty, but it certainly was fun.

See it there on the right edge of the snow, frosted and slightly deflated?
Most of our bubbles popped in the cold, dry air, or upon impact with the cold, dry snow.  Many flew far away.  But a few, a very few, stuck to the house or the snow-filled bowl we were trying to catch them in.  They would slowly frost over and then either deflate or break.  It was fun but too cold outside to last for long.

Next time, a bigger bubble blower--our good ones are away for the winter and all we had was one tiny favor-bottle from a party with a blow hole the size of a tapestry needle's eye.  And maybe some better bubble solution.

Still, fun.

Snow Day!!

It's not the most snow ever, but it is some of the coldest it's been in years--8F with -14F wind chill.  And they've pulled out the big diggers!  We'll be inside all day (that is, three if us; Mama went to work after clearing the driveway--brrrrr!), having had snow ice cream for breakfast.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Does the Doctor Say?

Sis made up a new song this evening, "What Does the Doctor Say?" (You know the Ylis tune so sing along!):

"What does the Doctor say?
I'm not, not, not, not from Mars . . . .

"What does Donna say?
Oi, oi, oi, oi, oi, oi!

"What does Rose say?
Bad Wolf, Bad Wolf, Bad Wolf, Bad Wolf.

"What does the War Doctor say?
No, no, no, no, no more!

"What does River say?
Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!

 " . . . . The secret of his name
Ancient mystery,
buried in Gallifrey
Will I ever know?
What is his name?"

--Sis Hungry (I'm very proud and impressed)

No-School Dance

That's right, no school tomorrow because of snow.

We danced in celebration--to "Vogue" and "Fame" and "You Can't Stop the Beat" (Hairspray.)  And stayed up late playing Blink (Mama and Sis) and building mini-Lego buildings (Bud) and reading about the kitchens at Hampton Court (me, squealing "We'll be there in three months!")

And now, later than planned, the kiddos are off to bed, as the snow begins to blow and pile up outside.

(Gommie and Pop called to say they just got home and were glad to escape the weather.)

Two Passings

I learned today of the deaths of two of my hospice patients.  May their families and friends be comforted.

The first patient was my longer-term one, who I had been visiting for a few months now.  We tied fleece blankets together, discussed recipes and looked at her handwritten cookbooks (I even made her cabbage soup--and it was good!), watched and laughed at "The Chew" and soap operas, sang Christmas carols, talked about her work in WWII which was one of her proudest moments, shared stories of her immigrant family especially her oldest sister, and looked at pictures of her children and grandchildren.  She was such a light, a real joy; and she was so at peace and ease with her life and its end.  I was privileged to have sat with her.

I visited my other patient only once and she died the next day.  But we helped her and her daughter share a moment and say "I love you" to each other.  That, too, was a gift.

And so I mark the passing of these patients and know I will carry each of them, as all of the others, with me.

Back to It

We're back to normal here in the new year, if waiting for a blizzard this evening can count as such.

But the kids are back at school, at least for part of the day.

Mama was off to work early, expecting to head home before the storm picks up.

Gommie and Pop are on their way to the airport, their flight tracking on time so far this afternoon.

And the cats are so grateful that both kids and guests are gone--they have their house back.  Time to nap, anywhere and everywhere.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodreads Reading

I haven't been too reflective this New Year's and haven't made any resolutions, not because I don't think there are things I can improve, only that resolutions don't seem to work for me.

But I did make one explicit goal:  I hope to read 50 books, tracking them on Goodreads.

Last year, I set a goal of 52, which I think I missed by 6 or so (though, I think some of them--like McCollough's Greater Journey and Ulrich's At Night's Close should have counted as more than one.)  So this year, I'm subtracting two for holidays, etc., and, besides, 50 is a nice round number.  I don't really mind that I missed my goal because I really liked working on it and feel like I read more than I ever would've otherwise.

I'm also planning a more specific theme to some of my reading this year:  I would like to revisit the 19th-century British novel.  Yep, of course Austen, but also Eliot, perhaps Dickens, Hardy, Gaskell, (Wilkie) Collins.  And Trollope, who my paternal grandmother favored so.  But no Bronte; not any of them.  I don't really like the Brontes (well, I liked Jane Eyre), despite their being my dear Aunt Sis's favorite.  I might, if time allows or interest changes, add some Wharton or James, though of course they're not British.  And, of course, there's always my mindfulness/Buddhism books, my hospice/death and dying books, my American history/historic house/social history books, my poetry books, my cookbooks/food writing/food history books, my kids/parenting/education books, and now my growing collection of Doctor Who books.  You'll notice that I don't really ever read modern American novels.  It's a lacuna--and why I can never claim to be a great reader--but I'm fine with that.

First up, The History of English Food  by Clarissa Dickson Wright, formerly one of the BBC's "Fat Ladies,"

Should be a good year.


Some ideas (and it's more than a year's worth . . . none of them new/current and almost all on my shelves!  I'm perpetually behind, by years, though I've read the Austens before.)

19th-century Novel

  1. Eliot, Mill on the Floss
  2. Eliot, Adam Bede
  3. Eliot, Daniel Deronda
  4. Eliot, Silas Marner
  5. Hardy, Tess
  6. Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd
  7. Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  8. Austen, Sense and Sensibility
  9. Austen, Mansfield Park
  10. Austen, Emma
  11. Austen, Persuasion
  12. Austen, Susan
  13. Austen, Northanger Abbey


  1. Dickson Wright, A History of English Food
  2. Bijan, Maman's Homesick Pie
  3. Engelhardt, A Mess of Greens
  4. Stavely, America's Founding Food
  5. Stavely, Northern Hospitality

Buddhism, mindfulness, etc.

  1. Brach, Radical Acceptance
  2. Boorstein, Solid Ground
  3. Salzberg, A Heart as Wide as the World


  1. Jaffe, The King's Best Highway
  2. Farrow et al, Complicity
  3. McCullough, 1776
  4. Philbrick, Mayflower
  5. Fenn, Pox Americana
  6. Withey, Dearest Friend
  7. Mantel, Wolf Hall etc
  8. Wood, The Story of England
  9. Swerling, City of Dreams
  10. Shorto, Island at the Center of the World


  1. Spencer-Wendel, Until I Say Good-Bye
  2. Watt and Tomatsu, Buddhist Care for the Dying and Bereaved
  3. The Arts of Contemplative Care (collection)
  4. Ware, Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
  5. Levine, A Year to Live
  6. Byock, Dying Well
  7. Anderson, Sacred Dying

Parenting, etc

  1. Steiner-Adair, The Big Disconnect
  2. Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way
  3. Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind
  4. Faber, Sibling Rivalry
  5. Faber, How to Talk so the Kids will Listen etc.
  6. Gottman, Raising an Emotionally-Intelligent Child
  7. Fontana, Teaching Meditation to Children
  8. Greenland, The Mindful Child
  9. Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings
  10. Kenison, Magical Journey
  11. Shumaker, It's OK Not to Share
  12. Wartenberg, Bid Ideas for Little Kids
  13. Hanh, Planting Seeds

  1. Cries of the Spirit (collection)

Doctor Who
  1. Stone Rose
  2. Only Human
  3. Krillitane Storm
  4. The Slitheen Excursion

  1. Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford
  2. Chevalier, Burning Bright
  3. Lamott, Stitches

Gommie and Pop: New Year's Day and Goodbyes

Since we were up past midnight, we slept in some.  But I did manage to rouse myself to set out my sourdough starter and to turn on the soaked black eyes.  By mid-morning, the biscuits were golden and perfect with butter and honey; the scent of black-eyed peas warmed the house.  Later, there was ham and cornbread; later still, cranberry upside-down cake, made by Sis and me.  It was all good.

The kids played games with Gommie, who finally was tired of playing games (I would have quit days earlier!), and they went swimming.  This evening, they watched some of Despicable Me 2 with her.  And then they kissed Gommie and Pop goodbye, the kids heading to school in the morning and the grandparents heading home.

All contingent on the weather, of course, with 6-10" expected in the next 48 hours, and near-blizzard conditions at times.  Pop ordered snow, but he's not staying for it . . . at least, not planning to.