Tuesday, November 30, 2010


When my sister was visiting, she offered a hearty endorsement of Nordstrom's house brand undies.  I am involved in the perpetual search for perfect underwear (i.e, doesn't feel binding, never rides up, washes well, no panty lines) and so I paid attention to her rave review.

Over the past weekend, I decided to brave the crowds at the mall and head on over to Nordstrom.  I texted my sister for a reminder of the brand of undies I was looking for.  She said that they were called Shimera, which she explained is Nordstrom's-speak for "fancy ass."

And I'm nothing if not fancy-assed.  In my mind, of course, Shimera immediately became Chimera…..body of a lioness; ass like a goat….that sort of thing.   I managed not to blurt this out to the nice lady at Nordstrom when she pointed me in the direction of the miracle skivvies.

They are amazing, by the way, just as KO promised.  I'll need to sell my soul to buy some more.  But when I do, I'll be a fancy-assed Chimera.  Which sounds like some sort of discount super hero.

I could do worse.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Last weekend in Washington D.C. featured a trip to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.  Two of my colleagues raved about their walk through the butterfly exhibit on the second floor and so JT and I decided to give it a try.

The display featured more than 24 butterfly breeds, all doing their butterfly thing in a double air-locked butterfly wonderland.
The butterflies were everywhere, flying about and enjoying their day.  It was truly awesome to stand there and watch these beautiful creatures.  From cocoons to adult, they were in various stages of butterfly life.  That's a remarkably short life, by the way, which made them all the more astounding.

Some opted to get up-close with the astonished humans.
Still more relaxed and enjoyed the day.  We're still talking about the extraordinary butterflies that we saw; it was time most well spent. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010


A few months ago, I bought a soft red blanket that caught my eye.  I was already thinking about using the color in my living room, an extra blanket is always handy to have on hand, and it was $7.99 on the clearance rack at Target.  I call that a win-win proposition.  I first deployed the blanket at the foot of my bed, to protect my quilt from the cats. 

JT took an immediate liking to the blanket and he soon took to wrapping it around himself when he went to bed at night.  He gave it a name, called the blanket "my companion."  Since then, he's completely claimed the blanket for himself.  We don't even call it the red blanket; we call it Companion.  Mostly, it stays in his flannel nest, ready for the evening's sleep.

On Thanksgiving, he brought it downstairs for his marathon viewing of Mythbusters.  He stood before me, wrapped in Companion, and announced "Woot, woot.  Companion in the house."  Then he, Companion, and his feline companions, settled down to watch the telly.  This here is fine living, JT style.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Cooking

There is almost nothing I enjoy as much as putting a well-planned supper on the table.  The prep work, the actual cooking, and even the clean up are all enjoyable tasks for me.  One of the reasons I like to cook is the immediate sense of accomplishment I take from the process.  Cooking keeps my hands busy while my mind wanders, yet another reason I enjoy it so much.
I'm a girl who would enjoy nothing more than making supper for a crowd of family and friends.  So it's one of life's ironies that my family is on one side of the continent and while JT and I are here on our own in the midst of the most densely populated state in the nation.

Happily, the two of us are more than capable of making a celebration on our own.  And so that's what we did for Thanksgiving.  Two people can't possibly do justice to even the smallest turkey, so we opted for fried chicken instead.  I served it with green bean casserole (a Pioneer Woman recipe that I highly recommend), roasted carrots, and rosemary rolls.  We had pumpkin pie for our dessert.  At my house, absent family is present in the form of new and antique dishes that set my table.  My grandmother's pepper shaker joins my great-grandmother's vegetable bowl and her relish platter.  They play nicely with the yellow plates that my mother helped me to select a few years ago and the antique dishes I began collecting when I lived in Tennessee.
Our Thanksgiving supper was hardly traditional, but I'm quite sure that the pilgrims would approve.  And JT and I enjoyed it together, for which I am most thankful.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Real Life Conversations at School: Thankful edition

The backstory:  Working with teenagers means high emotions.  Several times each year I spend time with a tearful or angst-ridden teenager who has been disappointed by something or someone.  When that happens, I listen, offer the usual sensible advice, and then gently point out that if this is the biggest disappointment to ever come their way they will have a very happy life.  On Monday, one of my Model Congress team members came by to review the weekend's events and I expected to trot out my usual platitude.

Senator X:  To be honest, Ms. Sassafras, I thought that I might win a gavel.

Me:  I thought so too; debating ideas is your strong suit.  But you never know how these things can play out.  What would you have done different?

Senator X:  I haven't really been thinking about that.  But I have been thinking that I've got a lot to be thankful for.  Even if I never win a gavel, I've got a pretty great life.  I'm at this school, my family is healthy, my parents are happy and good to me.  I've just got a lot to be thankful for.  So it will be okay.

Me:  Young man, you are wise beyond your years.

Conversations like this are a reminder of why I am so thankful for my job.  And there is much more for me to grateful about: I am thankful for a healthy family, a laughing son, a comfortable home, my garden, my cats, and so much more.  I hope that you have much to be celebrate today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Living Room Redesign: A Glimpse

As I wrote last week, I'm in the process of updating my living room.  A new color scheme has been selected and new furniture has been ordered.  My mom has been at work on the new window coverings.  With the decisions made, I'm just waiting for things to arrive.  I'm in a furniture holding pattern.

Until yesterday, when I arrived home to find the new chairs in two boxes on my front porch.

JT had a friend over and L was drafted to help unpack the chairs.  The boxes were opened and then dispatched to the front yard for recycling.
The new chairs were carried inside and placed in their assigned corners.
JT gave one a trial sit.  He reports that it passes with flying colors.
I've since taken off the protective covering, of course.  I'll wait until the room is complete before I unveil the furniture here.  But things are changing around Sassafras House.

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Real Life Conversations at School: By and For the People Edition

The backstory: I've just returned from the weekend's Model Congress events, where students spent hours and hours debating public policy.

Student J:  I think that the real Congress should take some time to listen to young people. 

Me:  Then maybe young people should try voting every once in a while.

It would seem I wasn't my normal cheery Ms. Sunshine today. Ouch.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Monkey in the Middle

I'm in Washington D.C. for the annual Model Congress trip and while the students are busily legislating a better tomorrow, I'm just enjoying the city.  Yesterday, we headed over to the Museum of Natural History to enjoy the company of our fellow mammals.
JT and B successfully fled the stampeding elephant.  That was good, because they had a long-lost relative with whom they wanted to catch up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Household Style: Living Room, part II

On Monday, I started to write about the living room re-design underway in my house.

The walls are a light taupe that tends toward grey; it's neutral but not plain.  The floors are a golden oak and the woodwork in the living room (and all of downstairs) is walnut stained in a dark tone.  The room receives lots of light in the mornings; it's darker in the afternoon.  Even in the afternoons, however, the number of windows in the house ensures a good amount of natural light. 

The windows have wood blinds which match the woodwork and valence curtains in a cheery blue gingham.  They were made by my mom and she's agreed to make new ones, so those will be updated to coordinate with the new furniture and new color scheme.
The artwork currently in the room is a combination of World War I and II propaganda posters, a piece of linen embroidered by my grandmother, and family photos.  Most of the those photos are black and whites running up the stairway and hanging over a red storage bench that was a garage sale find a few years back.
The carpet on the floor is a red weave from Flor which I've had for more than three years (and which I still adore).  My goal is to construct a room around the carpet and the bench, both of which will remain.  The lamps and tables in the room will also stick around, as will the linen embroidered cloth.  The other artwork might be changed; the jury is still out on that.  I don't feel the need to paint the walls, as I still like the color very much, but I'm open to the prospect if necessary.  The colors at the heart of the new room are brown, dark red, cream, and brown.
The layout of the updated room will likely be the same as the current room.  For starters, that works just fine.  In addition, the room doesn't really lend itself to re-arranging.  The ottomans, which JT uses to sail across the living room (!) will be evicted.  One is likely headed to the study, with the dark blue chair.  The other may go to the playroom.  If I find any replacement ottomans, they will not have wheels, which is strongly opposed by JT but favored by the Mama for very obvious reasons.

The new sofa and two chairs have been ordered.  I've been looking at Waverly fabric and have settled on a pattern with dark red, cream, and brown for new window treatments and some pillow covers.  When the room comes together, I'll post new photos.  In the meantime, it's awfully pleasing to think about the changes that are coming!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mug Shot

This month, JT and I have discovered the most remarkable leaves in our yard.  These babies are cover-your-face HUGE:
After I made this picture, I asked JT to hold Giganticus Leafus below his face and got this photo for my troubles:
When I remarked that this was like some sort of unhappy leaf mug shot, my boy laughed, which landed me this shot:
That laughing boy is all mine, ladies.  Step away.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Household Style: Living Room part I

For my birthday and Christmas, my parents gave me the gift of furniture.  Specifically, new living room furniture.  So today's posting is about the things that are currently in the living room.  In the weeks ahead, I'll be writing about the changes coming in the room.
My house is a bungalow so there is no hallway and when you enter the the front door, you are in the living room. 
 The room is a rectangle, measuring about 24x14.  So it's spacious.  But the combination of windows (there are 3, including a large sliding glass window that looks out on the backyard) and door ways (three….one very large doorway to the dining room facing the  French doors which lead to the study and a third leading to the kitchen) and the immovable radiators, means that re-arranging is not likely.
The study flanks the living room to the west and is now JT's homework and computer room.  When the new furniture arrives, I'd like to put one of the living room chairs in there so that we can read and enjoy that room.

The current living room furniture is a denim sofa, chair and ottoman which are ten years old and somewhat worn out for their efforts (particularly the sofa).  In the corner by the stairs there is another chair that is even older (I bought it when I lived in Nashville).  Suffice it to say they've earned the right to be retired from service.
Later this week, I'll post more pictures of the room as it exists now and I'll outline the changes I've planned. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dogwood Tree, Week 4

I started this post a little late and now I'm two weeks late in getting it up...which seems to the theme of my school year.  But I want to finish out the dogwood project and so I will.  The tree lost its final leaves in the days just before Halloween Sunday.  I woke up on Wednesday morning of that week to find that the last of the leaves were gone.
And by "gone" I mean piled in the yard, waiting for me to get to work with the rake.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Real Life Conversations at School: Racial Profiling edition

The backstory: I teach a rather cantankerous Government class this year; one with rather wily homework habits.   So I was reminding folks that the next homework was due Friday and I was further reinforcing that late assignments would not do. 

Me:  You people aren't pulling any fast ones this time around.  The assignments are due Friday, by which I mean FRIDAY.

Student X:  "You people?"  That's racist.

And before I could say a thing, we all heard this:

Student R:  That's not racist.  There's a bunch of white people in this room.

Student R is not white.  Neither is she ever late with her homework.  We all burst into laughter.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Real Life Conversations at School: Greatness Edition

The backstory:  Two parts to the back story here.  One is that kids in nearly every grade at my school are required to get an academic calendar that we call their "agenda."  My son has had one for years and many kids in the upper school use one.  Clue number two is that I'm a teacher at a prep school and so I have a lot of conversations with students, some of them very bright students.  One of my favorites is student A, who also happened to have a very bright older brother with whom I had some of the most engaging conversations of my career.  A is different from his brother (though just as bright) and we have conversations that range freely from one topic to the next.  Today, we started by talking about fantasy football, took a journey over to Alexander the Great (and how it was he was so great), ran through transcendentalism, and ended up thinking about government power.  A had a quote about government power that he wanted to share with me.

Me:  Lay it on me.

A:  I'm nervous.  I don't know what you'll think.

Me:  We can't know until you tell me.  So tell me.

A:  All power is derived from organization.

Me:  Interesting. 

A:  Yeah.  But is it good enough to be on some kid's agenda one day?

And that, in a nutshell, is one of the reasons I like this kid so damned much.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Practically Perfect

My sister flew into town on Thursday morning, to help celebrate my birthday.  She took the red eye from California and landed on a rainy, cold morning.  And, typical for KO, she was a woman with a plan.  So it was a whirlwind of a weekend.

On Friday, we started the day in Princeton to visit the stationary stores.  Then we went to NYC for the afternoon.  We went to Tiffany's first and then walked back uptown, stopping at stores that caught our interest and making the occasional picture of our selves.
 Direction and supervision was provided by KO and her phone (a phone far smarter than me, as my inability to make pictures with it will surely testify).
One of our weekend pleasures was to see Mary Poppins on Broadway.  KO made fun of me for choosing Poppins, but I think she should be flattered.  Mary Poppins is the amazing, magical person who appears just when you need her.  My sister, who flew in on a stormy day and left in the sun, is exactly the same.

Thanks for the visit, KO.  It was just what I needed.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Real Life Conversations with KO: Bed Bugs edition

My sister was in town this past weekend for a celebration of my advancing dotage (more on that later).  We were in the city on Friday and she and JT had their picture made with some shady curbside Elmo and Cookie Monster characters.  We'd had an earlier discussion whereby my sister repeated her husband's announcement that when she returned home he intended to hose her down in the garage so that she wouldn't bring bed bugs into the house.  I claimed that I was a tidy housekeeper and he needn't worry.  But perhaps I wasn't the risk?

Me:  Those stuffies are not Children's Television Workshop approved. 

KO:  No.

Me:  There's your bed bugs right there.  Should we call M now?

I believe that I sent her home bed bug free.  If not, I'm blaming sketchy Elmo and his pal.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Food Friday: Fancy Baked Macaroni

Regular readers know that the menu for my last meal on earth is chilaquiles with a big scoop of guacamole. 

If there's any room left in my belly, I'll also have a warm bowl of this fancy baked macaroni, which I made for supper last Sunday:
The recipe comes from Pioneer Woman and I followed her instructions exactly.  You should do the same at once.

Oh my.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Harvest Complete

I've already noted that this year's garden season wasn't as impressive as in previous years.  For all that, the zinnias hung in for far longer than usual; I've had a bouquet of flowers every week since late July.  Sunday night we had frost and before it came, I picked the very last of my garden's produce.

The beets were a no-go and I didn't get nearly as many carrots as I'd like, though the green carrot tops from the final harvest made for an impressive mess in the sink.  At the end of the greens were dozens of little fingerling carrots. 
The carrots joined a last zinnia bouquet and the final lima bean harvest.  Tuesday night, we watched the World Series and I ate roasted carrots with my supper of apple, bread, and cheese.  JT demurred because 1) it wasn't baseball food and 2) he doesn't eat carrots (which is not to be confused with all the other vegetables he refuses to eat).
Later this fall, I'll pull out the rest of the dead plants and mix in some mulch and compost.  And soon enough, I'll collect my garden catalogs, tuck under a warm quilt, and start dreaming about next year's planting.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Halloween Report

My town is an early trick-or-treat town and the weather was lovely, which really  brought out the candy-seeking herds.  Trick-or-treaters known to me received one of these chocolate ganache cupcakes. 
The rest of the kids (all 124 of them!) received candy.  And everyone had the chance to admire my frightened pumpkin.
It was a lovely night and I managed not to run short on candy, so I think that Halloween 2010 rates as a success.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


My birthday is later this week; on Thursday my sister comes to town to help me celebrate.  But there's no reason to confine the celebrations to just one day, so I'm stretching things out and planning a little treat for each day this week.

On Sunday, I celebrated by planting some iris bulbs. 
These bulbs are the descendants of bulbs that belonged to my great grandmother and were grown on her farm in Missouri.  My father and and my brother-in-law kept them alive in their own gardens and this fall  my father brought some my way.  I waited until this week to plant them and on Sunday, I dug a nice big hole and set them in the ground to winter over.  They're in a spot by my biggest patch of hostas, where they can enjoy spring sunshine and some protection from the wind.  The soil here drains well, which should also make for happy iris bulbs.  I mulched the new bulbs and moved my garden "grow" sign to this corner, to help me remember that the bulbs are here.  And to provide a little spiritual support for them come spring.
I always enjoy my garden; plants are my way of finding a little hope in a world in which I sometimes feel left out.  These plants, the inheritance of generations of gardeners in my family, will be particularly welcomed in my garden, both for the past they represent and the hope for the future they offer.

Monday, November 01, 2010

November 1st: Apple Cheeks

In early October, when a spate of cooler wet weather arrived, I put some grass seed down in the front yard.  Portions of the lawn had been trampled down to mud by a certain young man.  The summer drought and heat made the circumstances worse.  So the turf management team (me) declared the lawn off-limits while I worked on getting some new grass to grow and fill in the bare patches in the lawn.

JT loves to play outside and the front yard is his favorite play territory.  My announcement that the front yard was now off-limits was greeted with unhappiness.  He stomped about complaining for two days, at one point sitting sullenly in the living room making an effort to look crushed every time I walked by and happened to glance at him.

I love that he plays outside and didn't want to discourage that impulse.  But neither did I want to live in a house with a mud hole for a front yard.  In the meantime, there was an entire backyard where he could play.  The turf manager was resolute. 

Within two days, he realized that my will was stronger than his whining.  He took up his sticks and set out for the backyard.  He's been playing there ever since.  Twice last week I looked outside to see him running around trying to catch falling leaves.  That's a game with far more value than anything he could find on a computer.  I'm very glad that he's still outside, running around and coming back inside with sweet apple cheeks glowing with the enthusiasm of play and his imaginary games. 
The apple trees are happy to have a backyard companion.  Their leaves have begun to turn, another sign that summer has come to an end.  The final canna bulb has bloomed.  The last of my garden produce has been pulled up (pictures of that later this week), and I've started to plant some bulbs for the spring. 

In the quiet of the cool nights as I lie in bed under my quilts, I can hear the breezes rustle the remaining fall leaves.  It won't be long before I'll be raking up those leaves to mulch my garden for the winter.  And even then I'll be thinking ahead to the next season, and the prospect of some apples from my trees to pack in our lunchboxes.