Saturday, January 31, 2009


At a school assembly on Friday, JT learned about making sounds and music from homemade instruments. The boy was obviously inspired and he chattered about it the whole way home. Within 30 minutes of walking in the door, he had fashioned himself a homemade guitar from a shoebox, a wrapping paper roll, and some rubber bands.

This is one of the things that I admire most about JT: his vast imagination and willingness to explore creating things. I do my best to foster that spirit and it's clear that his teachers do as well. To me, that's an essential part of education: to enrich his intellect and his sprit; to look after the whole child. JT came home yesterday excited to talk about the sounds music makes, the uses of leftover materials in our home(his "guitar" is made of recycled goods) and the new homemade instruments he would create for himself.

Starting tomorrow and for the month of February, I will participate in Thing-a-Day, a web project designed to get people to create something every day. As part of the project, I will blog every day. That's not really a new thing for me, though I intend to re-double my efforts at being creative, and so in the next month I hope to start some new blog features, to continue some old ones, and to generally channel the spirit of my creative boy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter

Yesterday, at a White House signing ceremony for the law that bears her name, Lilly Ledbetter looked proud. She should be.

After nearly 20 years of work at Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Alabama, Ledbetter discovered that her male co-workers were being paid more than she earned. They did the same job she did, but the men made more money, in some cases 40% more than Ledbetter was earning. It was a classic case of discrimination and Ledbetter filed a lawsuit which asked Goodyear to make amends. In keeping with federal law of the day, the courts eventually awarded Ledbetter $300,000 in damages, plus back pay for the last two years of discrimination. That's as much as one can receive for an equal-pay lawsuit. It includes no back-pay for missed pension contributions or Social Security benefits. But Ledbetter was happy. Justice had been served.

Until Goodyear appealed the case (and the chutzpah of that is just astonishing). Their argument? The statute of limitations on Ledbetter's claim ran out 18 months after the discrimination began. Of course, Lilly Ledbetter didn't discover the discrimination until 19 years into her employment at Goodyear and so she, and her lawyers, confidently argued that such an interpretation of the statute was unreasonable. The law had never been interpreted that way before. But in 2007, with two Bush appointees on the bench, the Supreme Court made a sharp departure from the previous understanding of the law. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court sided with Goodyear. Lilly Ledbetter was told that she should have filed her case 19 years ago, when Goodyear first began to violate the equal pay for equal work laws.

Never mind that Ledbetter didn't know back then that she was being treated unjustly. According to the Court, Ledbetter didn't have a claim.

The Democratic majority in Congress immediately took action to make the equal pay statue crystal clear. The new provision provided that the statute of limitation starts ticking anew each time an employee receives a paycheck in which there is an equal pay disparity. Congress didn't change the amount of money an employee could receive (that remains capped at $300,000 and two years worth of back matter how long the discrimination continued). The bill passed in the House but was defeated in the Senate by a Republican filibuster.

This month the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act came before Congress again. This time, it was passed by the House and Senate. And yesterday, President Obama made it the first bill he signed into law. Lilly Ledbetter was there to see it happen.

Nina Totenberg of NPR tells more of the story ----- a 5 minute listen that is well-worth your time. But let me conclude by saying this is just why I voted for President Obama, who seems to have a very keen understanding of the phrase, "and justice for all."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Day: A Photo Diary

Yesterday morning the snow day call came at 5 am. In the darkness I settled back under the heavy flannel covers and slept for 3 more hours. And, since the snow day came on the very first day of the second semester of school, when I finally climbed out of bed, I had very little work to complete. So the day was given over to having fun.

In the morning, I drank an entire pot of coffee and played card games with JT. While we looked out the windows, some of my neighbors (the ones with a better work ethic than me) got to work with their snow blowers. By the time JT and I headed outside, all I had to do was shovel the front walk while JT made a few snow angels.
That task quickly completed, the boy and I took a walk around town. Walking with JT in the snow is always amusing. While I choose the sidewalk and what might best be called the path of least resistance, JT's approach is quite different. He hikes the snowy path of most resistance, chattering the entire way.
There was a temporary silence when I stuffed his mouth with snow.
After lunch, JT headed upstairs to supervise the on-going invasion in the playroom.
I finished a book and had a lovely nap. The afternoon found us playing some more card games. As is the usual pattern, I mostly got beat.
Supper was grilled pork chops made in my new indoor grill pan (don't worry, that recipe will be in another post soon enough), green salad, garlic noodles, and fresh beets. It was hearty meal and fortification for another walk, this one in the snowy cold night.
One of the nicest things about living with an eight year old is the pleasure of having a companion who provides me with well-needed reminders that life is richer when laughter and fun are frequent ingredients.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Go Away

In a recent interview on NPR's Tell Me More, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke about the Obama Administration's pledge that the United States will not engage in the use of torture when questioning detainees. If you can stomach it, the whole interview is to be found here. Much of it caused me to rage at my radio but nothing made me as furious as Gonzales' whole-scale dismissal of Obama's pledge that the United States will not use torture. Gonzales objected, arguing that once we outlaw torture we'll have no one to blame but ourselves if the bad guys come for us.


Just. Bullshit.

I hadn't quite realized just how exhausting it was to wake up every day in a nation governed by people who were rapidly undermining all that my country stood for. But in the 8 days since Barack Obama took the oath of office and moved into the White House, my relief has been palpable. And it's not just that we finally have a grown-up in charge.

It's that we have a grown up with principles in charge. A leader with an Administration who understands that the United States cannot survive the next century unless we stand for something and act on those principles. And standing for human rights is a pretty sound principle on which to stake our future.

I am tired of Republicans holding the nation hostage to fear. And the majority of the nation, the people who proudly cast their ballot for Barack Obama, they are tired of it as well. So, Mr. Gonzales, I am done hearing from you. You had your turn and you screwed up. In case it's not already clear, please take your fear mongering elsewhere. Go away.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This Moment in Time

Parenthood has taught me a lot, perhaps especially to appreciate a moment without holding on too tight, as it is those moments strung together that make up a happy lifetime. Lately, I'm finding that the moments just fly by. Unbelievably, in a little less than a month, my baby is going to turn nine years old.

My head knows that means JT is no longer my baby. And at well-over 4 feet tall, he's not even a little boy. But my heart is stubborn, and he'll always be that little bundle with the dark, shiny eyes that made my world anew not so long ago. In fleeting moments of an impish grin and a still chubby cheek, I see his past. But more often, when he opens the door for me or helps to take out the trash, I see the young man of the future.

And then there is the here and now, when JT reminds me just what it means to be eight-going-on-nine. Yesterday, as I was stretching my calves in preparation for working out, he called to me, "I see London, I see France. I see Mama's polka-dot underpants."

Thanks, son.

And then, on our way home from the market, a plastic spider he keeps on hand "bit" me and he drolly announced, "Well, now you'll be dead in two hours."

"Two hours?" I responded as a woman eager for instant gratification, "why isn't it an instant death?"

"This way you'll have time to make my supper," the boy explained. And then he offered up the antidote to my spider bite. It was a kiss.

So here I am at the intersection of JT's past and his future, that point where my little boy journeys forward to be a young man. And I am pausing to be glad of every minute of it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Real Life Conversations with JT: Eat Your Veggies edition

The backstory: It is a well-known fact that JT maintains only a passing acquaintance with vegetables in his diet, preferring to stick with carbo-loading for his 3rd grade training needs. Thus, I was slightly amused when the word 'vegetable' appeared on last week's spelling list.

Mama: Vegetable, huh? How did that word end up on your list?

JT: I KNOW (expressed in an exaggerated, indignant tone). Mrs. W might as well have assigned me to spell poison.

It's only a matter of time before the child contracts scurvy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

House Dressing

I am a fan of homemade salad dressing. For starters, it's much less expensive than that bottled stuff at the market, especially if you are prone to high quality bottled dressings. The ingredients are generally fresher. And then there is the taste. Homemade salad dressing is just superior on every front. My favorite dressing, and a staple in my house all year long, is homemade blue cheese dressing.

It's incredibly easy to make this dressing. Serve it with cold, fresh romaine lettuce and your belly will thank you. Plus: you'll never do bottled dressing again.

¾ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream (or ½ cup buttermilk, if you have it on hand)
¾ cup crumbled blue cheese
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
1/6 tsp onion salt
½ tsp dried parsley

Place all the ingredients in a bowl.
Use a hand mixer to thoroughly combine salad dressing ingredients (it takes about a minute). If you used sour cream (instead of buttermilk), stir in a splash of vinegar (it makes the dressing tangy and you can use whatever vinegar you have on hand; I'm a fan of red wine vinegar). Let it sit for 30 minutes (in the fridge if the weather is warm) and then serve.

The dressing will keep in the fridge until the sour cream has passed, though I promise that you will have polished it off long before that.
A note on blue cheese: my favorite is Maytag blue, but almost any blue will do the trick. You can also substitute gorgonzola, in which case I guess you'd call it gorgonzola cheese dressing.

And another note on my photography skills...I thought that all of these photos were without flash. But maybe not? Let's just say that photography remains a mystery to me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Five Reasons I'll Never Rule the World

While I am a fan of self-reflection, occasionally it lends itself to the recognition of facts that, ahem, reflect poorly on me. For example:

1. I am ridiculously pleased when my panties and bra match. And if they match my outfit, that's even better.

2. I cannot use the flame thrower to light candles or the outdoor grill. Sometimes I meet with success but, honestly, if I need to light something, I'm better off with a match. It's a hand coordination problem. No wonder I never beat JT at the Wii.

3. I'm the sort of mother who thinks I've failed if I put store-bought cookies in my son's lunchbox. Nine years of higher education; endless coursework in women's studies...but I fear I've failed Motherhood 101 if the cookies are corporate.

4. It pleases me to make my bed each morning. You could bounce a quarter off that bed when I am through. But what good comes from this skill?

5. I've been known to spend well over 15 minutes of precious morning time selecting the day's ponytail holder (which I mostly wear on my wrist....not in a ponytail at all). What is that about?

It's becoming more obvious why I haven't made the Nobel Prize committee's list of finalists.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Karma Calling

My parents tell a story about my sister and me going off to visit our grandparents and, while there, learning how tasty artichoke hearts were. At home, my parents had told KO and me that the heart was no good, thus reserving that delicacy for their own enjoyment. But on a weekend visit, Grandpa spoiled their fun by showing my sister and I how tasty the artichoke heart could be. We came home and shared this good news with our parents, perhaps believing that Mom and Dad had been living in a sad ignorance? In any case, we were on to their deceptions.

I was reminded of this story when my parents came to town and we went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. JT ordered french toast with real maple syrup and his eyes lit up with happiness when he tasted that maple syrup. He promptly announced, "Their syrup is much better than yours, Mama."

Uh oh.

I like real maple syrup myself and keep a stash in the fridge for the exclusive use of grown ups. The kids get Mrs. Butterworth. But now that JT has tasted the good stuff, I fear that the jig is up. He wants me to make him some french toast for breakfast this weekend.

Better hide the maple syrup.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama

Yesterday, I kept my son home from school to watch the Inauguration. It wasn't a snap decision ---- it's not like me to endorse a holiday from school ---- but I wanted to be sure that he watched the ceremony, that he heard the speech, and that he knew how important the day was.

Inaugural ceremonies in our democracy are always important; the peaceful transfer of power may be something that Americans take for granted but it cannot be taken for granted elsewhere in the world. And for that reason alone yesterday was special. But that's not why I wanted JT to watch Barack Obama in that moment that he went from Senator to President.

I wanted JT to watch that moment because I wanted him to be a part of the extraordinary promise that Obama's election fulfills. For a nation that once endorsed slavery based on skin color to choose a person of color for the highest office in the land doesn't mean that we've suddenly fixed our racial problems. But it is a giant step forward. So the election means that to me; it means that when I tell my son that what's inside us is what matters most I'm not proposing that he embrace a hollow idea. Instead, I'm passing on to him the inheritance of a nation getting ever closer to truly fulfilling what is still an extraordinary promise: all men are created equal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Real Life Conversations with JT: Paging Dr. Freud Edition

Reader Alert: Excessive over-sharing is about to follow. Don't say you weren't warned.

Mine is a home with no apparent boundaries, a fact driven home to me last night. As JT was putting on his jammies and engaging in his standard toothbrushing-evasion methods, I was in the bathroom removing my contact lenses and washing my face, wearing just my panties and bra. JT came in, started brushing his teeth, then looked at me and asked, "How do you get your bra on?"

Obviously, we were well past any privacy concerns and so I briefly explained the logistics of wearing a bra, "There are hooks in the back."

"Oh," he said, with a renewed interest. And then, before I could steer the conversation in another direction, he tried to unhook my bra, wanting to see just how those hooks work.

He couldn't get the hooks loose and announced, "well, thank goodness I'm not a girl."

Wisely, I believe, I let the conversation end on that note.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grown Up

One of the things that happened to me when I had my son is that my responsibility for that child re-shaped my identity, adding the role of mama to the other roles I filled. And then, slowly, that new identity as mama – the most important identity that I've ever had – became the identity that I knew best. I was still other things, but I was a mama most of all.

One of the challenges in my life in the last three years has been to keep my identity as a mama but to also re-find the other parts of my self. I'm not the same woman who became a mama nearly nine years ago; I'm not the same woman I was even three years ago. We all change, of course, but necessity forced a lot of changes on me. I wasn't happy about that and sometimes, rather than take the time to understand the new person I was becoming, I retreated to the familiar role; the one I knew I must fulfill: I was a mama.

And now here I am, a mama who is still incredibly happy to have that role. And I've gotten to the point where I want to explore who else I can be. I look in the mirror and I still see JT's mama. But I also see the faint outlines of some new things I can explore. And for the first time in a while I'm less frightened of that than I am excited about the prospect of my future.

It's a good feeling.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Works in Progress

For the past three years I've been teaching a section of frosh students. 9th graders are sometimes a world unto themselves, and it's a world apart from their other teenage colleagues. The frosh offer the occasional challenge but their primary charm is their unwavering enthusiasm and desire to please. In class, they wade right in to the course material, excited about what they will learn. Their minds are thoughtful and engaged and they ask questions that invariably impress me with their scope and scale. But while I like the far-ranging discussions of philosophy, history, and the human condition that we have in class, the most satisfying thing about spending time with them is watching these works in progress as they grow up – literally – over the course of the year.

At first, caught up in their enthusiasm, I don't see it happening. Then one day I look at a student who's been a slightly awkward girl all year long and for one quick moment I see, in place of the awkwardness, just a glimpse of the beauty that she will become. Or the boy who's had a creaky, croaky voice all year and then comes to school one day test driving his deep voice, which has now come to stay. Though they sometimes feel stuck in place, they are racing toward maturity.

I like teaching these chameleons. Everything about them is changing and they are sometimes a challenge, sometimes a joy, and always a reminder that the charm of adolescence is that the world is theirs to discover. And that I get to help with those discoveries is one of the things I find most rewarding about my job.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Talk, don't shoot. Talk.

Ever since I read this Deborah Solomon interview with Ari Folman in the New York Times magazine, I've been thinking about something Folman says in the piece. Folman, who made the film "Walz with Bashir," about the 1982 Israeli-Lebanaon War, is speaking of his feelings about war and the problems in the Middle East and as the interview ends he says, "Talk, don't shoot. Talk."

I opened my January 12 edition of Newsweek to see a picture of a family burying their four-year-old daughter, a victim of the most recent bout of violence in Gaza. I can't think of this war without seeing that child in my mind. This past week, with its news that the Israelis bombed United Nations trucks as the UN delivered food and medical supplies into Gaza has made me long for a voice in the Middle East who can get folks to the table to talk.

The situation in Gaza is just the most recent event in a long series of events whereby Israel, the Palestinians, and the surrounding nations choose violence over conversation. I'm not saying that previous conversations have yielded a peaceful agreement because – obviously – they have not. But the current situation, in which the Israelis try to subdue the urban maze of Hamas-controlled Gaza, is clearly not lending itself to a peaceful solution for now or for the long-term. Bombing UN trucks and taking out other UN-controlled buildings because they may harbor Hamas terrorists is just not okay.

Let's stipulate right no that no one has clean hands in the Middle East. Some have dirtier hands then others. But I keep seeing images from Gaza that show miserable desperate people. And I know, I know, that putting 4 year olds into graves will not solve any problem in this world. It will not make things better. It will not provide security for anyone.

Surely the Israelis and the Palestinians understand that they must find some compromise lest they destroy themselves while trying to ruin one another. The path to a peaceful solution will not be paved with bullets and rocket fire. And it won't be easy. But it might be simple: Talk, don't shoot. Talk.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Final Word

Last night, JT and I got our jammies on in time to sit down to watch President Bush's Farewell Address. We are not fans of the soon-to-be former president and he has just under 100 hours left in office. So it seemed a good time to mark Bush's (very welcome!) departure and to have a final listen to this man who has been president for most of JT's life.

JT's been learning about politics all year long and he's well-informed. I am teaching him what I believe and I am also teaching him to think for himself; to ask questions and develop his own system of political values.

He listened respectfully as the president spoke and we talked about what President Bush said to the country. And then JT turned to me and said, "Mama, that man is just a nincompoop."

Well said, young man. Well said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Household Happiness: Linen Cloth

More than ten years ago, when I was still living in Nebraska, my grandmother sent me a box of glass ware; some of the glasses were wrapped in hand-embroidered towels. A few of the towels were just your standard-issue floursack towels, embroidered with cats and other charming designs. Two of the items were much fancier; creamy linen napkins with a wheat-colored floral design. They were simple and lovely and I set them aside, thinking I would use them in a bread basket for holidays and other special occasions.

When I asked my grandmother about them, she couldn't remember if she had embroidered them or if they had been made by her mother, my great-grandmother. But she thought I would like them and so she sent them to me.

I loved them and I used them for special occasions for a few years. But I also worried that some day I'd stain or otherwise harm them. So, in the spring of 2002 I had the napkins laundered and then took them to a frame shop to have them matted and framed.
That summer, I gave one to my sister and then hung the other in my first home in New Jersey. KO's hangs in her dining room today while mine hangs in my living room. The walls in that room are painted a similar shade to the embroider on the linen; the color was chosen for that purpose. I see my cloth every day when I sit in my dining room; I often sit in the chair underneath it and read. It's a reminder of my grandmother and for that reason alone it makes me smile. But it's equally nice for me to think of the identical sister cloth, watching over my sister and her family 2000 miles away.
A note on the photos: I've got a new camera and I am experimenting with it (and use of the flash). The photo above was taken with the flash; the close-up photo of the framed napkin was without the flash; the colors in the close-up picture are a much truer reflection of reality in the room, so despite the glare, I posted it. The learning curve for me and photos is pretty steep. Please bear with me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Household Happiness

I read a number of blogs that include regular features about household style. I always find them interesting and sometimes find them inspiring. They've got me thinking about my own style. I think carefully about the things in my home, choosing the items for both beauty and utility. They are reflection of me and my world view.

My home was built in 1930, a classic Foursquare style with craftsman details. It's a home of amazingly good bones with lots of light; lovely, well-preserved woodwork; and almost no wasted space. My style preference is for simplicity and squared graphics and patterns that fit the style of the house. I like saturated color; most of the rooms in my home have been painted and I'm not afraid to take risks with color (this has led to the occasional need for re-painting when color choices have proven disastrous). I am deliberate in the items I choose for my home, which I want to be a warm and comfortable place. I like handmade goods and generally prefer small-scale producers, antiques, or quality antique re-productions. If something is in my home it's there because it has personal meaning and speaks to me.

Starting tomorrow and each month on the 15th, I plan write about something in my home that makes me smile. My focus here will be on the items that make up my daily viewpoint. I'm taking pictures and writing about these things to record the story behind the items and to remind myself of the many blessings in my life. Some of the items I will feature are things I've had for years; others are newer. All have been chosen because they make my home a happier place.

Whenever possible, I will include a link to the source of the item of question. And let me just say this now....if you don't yet have an etsy account, I recommend that you get one. Pronto.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Real Life Conversations with JT: He's Got My Number Edition

The backstory: The boy has returned from spending a few hours with his other mom. As he arrives home, he announces that he's had dessert already. Then, not 20 minutes later, he asks for more dessert.

Mama: I thought you said that you'd already had some dessert.

JT: I did already have dessert.

Mama: Then why did you just ask me for dessert?

JT: Awww, sweetness, there's no law that says a boy can't have two desserts.
You might be able to say no to that kind of charm. If so, you're a stronger woman than me.

Monday, January 12, 2009


It's a well-known fact that I like my classroom cold. I opened the window the other day (to a chorus of student groans) and then turned around to see this student:
I didn't think that it was quite that dire in room 211. But I might be wrong.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Year's Resolutions: Cat Edition

Tiger and Lucy have finally sobered up from their New Year's Eve partying and have made a list of resolutions for 2009.

1. To finally make the jump from the stairs to the top of that lamp, where I will rule all who are below me.
2. Less stress; more time for relaxing on the warm radiators.
3. To figure out how to fill the food bowl without the help of that foul-mouthed, slow-moving woman who lives here with the very loud boy.
4. More laps. More blankets. Enough said.
5. Lucy's bed in 2008:
Lucy's bed in 2009:
Let that two-legged wench curl up on the pillow at the foot of the bed and see how she likes it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

In Praise of Leon Panetta

The incoming Obama Administration has named its last major national security appointment, selecting Leon Panetta to serve as the head of the CIA.

Immediately, some members of the chattering classes commenced to wail. The biggest complaints came from some of the Democrats in the Senate who will have the job of confirming Panetta's nomination. Senator Diane Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee, was among the most skeptical of the Panetta nomination.

After 8 years of institutional cowboys in an unregulated wilderness and the so-called leadership of a Congress with little willingness to challenge the president's authority, part of me is pleased to finally see that the Senate is willing to stand up to the president. It would be good for the republic if the Senate would take seriously its institutional role in American politics. But there is no need to complain about Leon Panetta, who will be an ally in maintaining the necessary separation of powers.

And if there is one executive agency that could use some reigning in, it's the CIA. My instinct is that Leon Panetta at the CIA may very well prove to be an ally on this front. Panetta's experience in national intelligence is once-removed but it is meaningful. As Bill Clinton's chief of staff he sat in on the president's daily intelligence briefings. He knows what presidents need from the CIA and he is likely to be a reliable in-house skeptic about the role and power of the agency. I count myself as one of the many Americans who are concerned that the CIA has gone to far in its willingness to subvert American values in pursuit of what they claim is security. I'd like to see the CIA in the hands of a capable manager who is open-minded about the strengths and weaknesses of the agency and its approach to national security. Panetta, who has served in both the legislative and executive branches knows a thing or two about checks and balances and separation of powers. That's exactly what we need at the CIA.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Daily Sugar

JT and I follow the same routine every night. I tuck him in to bed and read to him. I've been doing this for his whole life, nearly nine years. We've come a long way from the baby JT who avoided sleep and would respond, "No, no, no stories" when I would seek him out with books in hand at bedtime.

His most favorite book in his early years was Good Night Moon. And though there was a period when I feared that bunny in bed with his bowl full of mush would be eclipsed by the excitement of the dreadfully named The Truck Book, a book that I found as dull as he found it thrilling, he still has fond memories of the Moon.

For some years now we've read chapter books at night. We pick them out together and enjoy the process of hearing a story unfold. These days the book we are reading together is Bed Knobs and Broomsticks. And when my reading to him ends, he snuggles under the covers and reads to himself for 15 or 20 minutes while I head downstairs to fold some laundry and run the dishwasher.

As we close in on his 9th birthday, I'm aware of just how big my boy has grown and how far he's come. At night, when he finishes his reading, he calls downstairs to me to say that he's done reading. And then he says, "Good night, Mama. I love you."

I call back upstairs, "Good night. I love you to, son." And only then is my day complete.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hot Cocoa

December signals the opening of the hot cocoa season at my house. I am not a fan of the taste of powdered mixes and instead make the real deal. That has the additional advantage of ensuring that my non-milk drinking child is fooled into some partially nutritious food. Hah.

And for the grown ups in the house, I include a shot of Peppermint Schnapps and a generous dollop of whip cream. I can confidently assure everyone that one taste of this drink will have you feeling enthusiastic about winter's cold.

1 tablespoon cocoa powder (if you use Dutch-processed, the chocolate taste is deeper)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 c. milk
a bit of vanilla, if desired

Combine cocoa powder, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Heat it on low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the paste from sticking to the pan. After about 1 to 2 minutes, add milk and vanilla. Mix it all together until it reaches your preferred temperature.

Happy drinking.

Update for Nichole: Try Dutch-processed cocoa. It tastes more like dark chocolate.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


After two weeks off, JT and I returned to our regularly scheduled programming yesterday. I decided to break out the new dishes for supper last night, largely as an award for having endured the first day back at work. But also because damn, even popcorn chicken (one of the three food items that JT will consent to eat) looks fantastic on these plates.
I did not opt for the popcorn chicken supper, instead I enjoyed a romaine salad (with homemade blue cheese dressing), a toasted smoked gouda sandwich, and veggie-packed bowl of Tuscan bean soup. And a glass of wine.
Not a bad way to start the week.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Spirit of the Season

We've watched a lot of college football bowl games lately. In fact, we've watched nearly every bowl game that's been played. The result of this is that football has been burned onto JT's consciousness.

So much so that his recent Christmas acquisitions ------ the soldiers, the knights, cowboys, pirates, and Indians ------- have all been assigned to play football. They line up on either side of the line of scrimmage, 11 players for each team, and then they play a bowl game of JT's imagination.

A word of caution to the offensive line: these defenders are often armed with guns, knives, and swords. Clearly, one should take pass protection a little more seriously when the defensive line is packing heat.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Family Supper

The best part of having my parents in town for the last two weeks has been having family suppers. Good food, good company, and the laughter of people I love. That all spells happy contentment for me; I like nothing more than a full table of people eating together

And if there is one meal I most enjoy with my family, it's tacos. We are Californians after all and that means a built-in love of fresh tortillas and salsa. So our New Year's supper was just that: chicken tacos, refried beans, rice, and a big bowl of guacamole.

Grandpa and Grandma have flown home and are already much missed. But there is lingering smell of fried tortillas in the house.

It smells like home.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The King and I

One of the funny things about being a Mama is that I'm a girl and strictly speaking I don't know what it's like to be a boy. Generally, things go just fine. But sometimes JT surprises me. The other day, he requested that I grab up the post-shower towel and dry him off. As he stood on the bath mat, dripping wet from the shower, I took up the towel (warmed from being left on the radiator) and began to dry him off.

"Hurry," he urged, "the King is getting cold."

"Well, King," I responded, "the Queen Mum is doing her best."

And then it became clear that the "King" in question wasn't the boy but his penis, whom he then requested that I refer to as "your majesty."

What? This boy has two mothers (me, the daily mama who lives with him and a second who plays parent every other weekend). He has no father and no brothers. He has a number of male influences in his life but, to my knowledge, none has explained to him that the penis is King.

And yet.

Biology is destiny it would seem.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Real Life Conversations with JT: Respect for Your Elders Edition

The backstory: JT was a little wound up on New Year's Eve and was running about loudly and basically being wild. The adults had had enough and sought to quiet the banshee. We sent Grandma into the fray.

Grandma: JT, Grandma is not used to all this noise.

JT: Well, Grandma, then you'd better get used to it. I'm a little boy.

And loud is how this little boy rolls.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

January 1: Hostas

For the part of 2007 and 2008, I took a picture of the big tree in my backyard on the 1st day of every month. I enjoyed the project because it was a monthly reminder of the pace and pattern of the seasons in my garden. Happily, the tree, seen here in its cold January coat, continues to thrive.

But I have decided to try a new backyard nature photography project for 2009. The winning nominee is the patch of hostas by the side of the garage. Growing up in California, I don't really recall a lot of hostas. I first took serious notice of them when I moved to Tennessee in 1989. That year I vowed that one day I would own a house with some hostas of my own.

The current Sassafras House has hostas aplenty. I have planted some on my own; many of the others have been here for some time before my arrival on the scene. The patch on the side of my backyard garage falls into the latter category. I plan to make a picture of this bed of hostas on the first day of each month so that I can watch the seasonal progression of these lovely plants.

The hostas are in winter mode right now. I know that will change in the next few months and I'm looking forward to marking their seasonal evolution.