Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Washington Slept Here

It’s a running joke in New Jersey that you can’t go anywhere without finding a place that George Washington stayed.  As the Revolutionary War criss-crossed the state, the Continental Army and General Washington were rather everywhere.  This past weekend, T and I took a visit to one of those places, the Ford House in Morristown.

The house was the home of a well-off family of Patriots and while the Continental Army camped just south of the town in the bitterly cold winter of 1779-1780, Washington and his advisors planned the next step in a war that was in a rough patch that year.

In the 7th grade, I’ve just finished teaching the Revolutionary War and the writing of the Constitution.  It’s refreshing to think about a time in American history when leaders and citizens worked together to make sacrifices and rise above their disagreements.  When I bring my thoughts to the modern world, I dread the thought that compromise in the name of moving forward as a nation is no longer among our talents.

’Tis the Season

More packages were wrapped in the last few days.

That’s happy!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pretty Packages

One of the things I most enjoy about Christmas is wrapping packages.  Wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift tags bring me happiness.  Though I can wrap gifts throughout the year, Christmas is an excuse to really indulge.  That’s happy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I have a friend who makes the most beautiful photos of nature and found things.  She’s a talented artist but the photos are more than just talent at work.  Through her lens, I can see the beauty of the items and places she has photographed.  I can also see the respect and appreciation she has for the natural world and things that have been left to nature.  Characteristically, she is modest about her rather immense talent.  Looking at her pictures and talking to her about what she views has given me a richer appreciation for the things that I see.  When I make a picture of something in nature, it’s with a renewed eye for that which I find lovely.

Last week, on a frosty morning, there were leaves on the pavement with a shadow of ice imprinted below them.  They were lovely.

The patterned icy print was ephemeral but I caught a shot just before the morning’s sunlight melted the picture away.

Thanks to C for always reminding me to look for the beauty that is around me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Not a Proud Moment

It just so happens that I am spending this week teaching 7th graders about the achievement that is the U.S. Constitution.  Right now, we’re learning about the writing of that document.  We’ll follow with studies of its meaning in the larger context.  We’ll explore the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment.  We’ll talk about the 19th amendment.  Invariably, I’ll be called upon to explain why such freedom-loving people permitted the continuation of slavery and the exclusion of women.  I’ll help my students to wrap their minds around the ways that our history has fallen short of the great promise contained in the Constitution.  I’ll show them how the promise of freedom was eventually offered to all Americans.  I’ll feel proud of my nation and it’s commitment to powerful ideas.

But not today.

Today, the Senate released its heavily redacted report on CIA-directed torture of detainees and prisoners in the custody of the United States.  It is deeply disheartening.  In advance of the release, Senator Diane Feinstein gave a speech in which she told the nation that, “…history will judge whether or not we are a just society, governed by law.”  And then she issued a report that detailed that many ways that we let down the cause of justice and have disappointed history’s expectations of us.

It’s horrifying to read about the things that our government did in the name of keeping us safe.  In this report is the evidence that in the war on terror we lost sight of who we are and what we believe in.  The price of our national safety cannot be brutality.  If it is, we have crossed the line into being our own enemy.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Food Friday: Homemade Popcorn

When I was a kid, my dad made homemade popcorn in a popcorn popper and it was the most delicious of treats.  As an adult, I love popcorn nearly as much and I’ve learned to make it on my own.  While the rest of us have become a nation of microwave popcorn poppers, at Sassafras House we are old-school poppers. In my book, homemade popcorn is the ideal comfort food.

It takes practice to learn how to make popcorn just right but it’s a skill worth practicing because homemade popcorn is snake-charmingly good.

You need:
a big pot or kettle with a firmly-fitted lid
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup popcorn
salt and melted butter to taste

Heat the oil with the lid on the pot and 2 or 3 kernels of popcorn.  Usually, I heat it just short of the highest setting on my gas stove.  This is a practice-makes- perfect exercise and you’ll have to find your own sweet spot for heat.

When the first kernel pops, pour in the rest of the kernels and set the lid on top.  Let the pot sit on the heat until more kernels pop and then every few seconds, give it shake over the heat.  You need to keep the lid on, so the best way to accomplish this is with some hot pads to hold the lid secure.  When the popping begins to slow, listen carefully.  When there are a few seconds between kernels popping, you’re done.  Turn off the heat and let the hot pot sit for a minute in case any kernels pop late.  Empty into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and melted butter to taste.  Turn on something great on the telly and sit back and enjoy the taste of childhood.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Attitude Adjustment

If December were a middle school student, we would have been having a conversation about its attitude.  I can hear the conversation now: “Overcast, damp, and gloomy is no way to behave, new month.  This is especially made worse by the shortness of your daylight hours.  Straighten up and fly right, December,” I would say.

This morning’s lovely sunlight suggests that December has opted to avoid a lecture.  Count me as grateful.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Icy Leaves

I made this picture on the back deck last week when the nor’easter blew through with snow and sleet.  This ice has since melted, though a cold rain is headed our way today.  Winter seems determined to take hold.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Front Yard Flowerbed: December 1

Winter has begun to take hold around here.  I expect we’ve seen our last 60 degree day of the year.  Since the 1st of last month, the leaves have all come down and the dahlia bulbs have been pulled up and stored away for the winter.  The flowerbed is at rest for a few months.

The only color to be seen is in the evergreen bushes and the rhododendrons and even they look weary, ready for the restful season that lies ahead.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the garden catalogs that will soon make their way to my mailbox.  Winter is the season of garden daydreams.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Unspoken Communication edition

The backstory:  JT takes Ceramics at school and the teacher uses the large plastic bags from dry cleaners to keep projects damp before they are completed and fired in the kiln.  We save our bags for that purpose, which likely explains the conversation JT and I had last week.  

Me (upstairs, unwrapping a wool skirt just back from the cleaners):  Does Mr. L still need…….(here words escaped me, as I wrestled with plastic in the morning, and couldn’t remember the demanding phrase “plastic bags from dry cleaners”).

JT (downstairs, finishing his breakfast):  Yes.  Just leave the bag on my bed.

Apparently words are not strictly necessary for the two of us to get an idea across.