Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday

The evening before Easter and our annual backyard Easter egg candy hunt, JT made an effort to skip the hunt, by suggesting that the Easter Bunny should just leave the candy in his basket.  I put the kabosh on JT's work stoppage efforts because I'm a killjoy.  There is an established division of labor at Sassafras House and it is expected that children will hunt for the candy.  The basket itself is readily available, and contains pajamas and a chocolate bunny, in keeping with long-standing Easter tradition.

But the rest of the candy must be searched out and the searcher's goal is to find the eggs that are obviously "hidden".
As well as those that were more subtly located.
Note that none of the candy eggs were hidden in the poison ivy patch, because T and I are nice like that.  Pesky didn't actually help with the hunt this year, though his power was invoked.
It was hard labor, though the boy survived.  At least he didn't have to hunt for Easter supper, which could be easily found on the dining room table.
Our day started with sunlight and though there is now a rainstorm, I remain convinced that warmer days are headed our way.  That's happy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Birthday Weekend

T's birthday was Friday and we celebrated in style.  Style in this case meant pretty presents, steak for supper and a trip to the Harbor Freight tool store that she's been longing to visit.
On Saturday, we went to pick up her new car.  It's awfully shiny and, fittingly, the folks at Subaru were terrific.  Then we loaded in the boy and made an effort to demonstrate to him that we aren't fussy old folks.  We drove fast and rolled up to his baseball practice playing AC/DC at volumes unsuitable for our collective long-term hearing.
For dessert today, I made my first attempt at a lemon meringue pie, T's favorite.  No pictures of the pie because I'm going to need some practice before I succeed at that venture.

One of the the nicest things about having T in our world is being able to give her treats and celebrate holidays and birthdays with her.  She makes us laugh and loves us beyond measure even when we're difficult.   And we love her back.   That's happy, very, very happy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tulip Wednesday: Week Two

Yesterday at lunch I sat in the windowed corner of the dining commons, dining on sunlight.  There were a number of us at the table, soaking in the sun like turtles on our rocks, eager for the warmth and light.  I imagine that's how the tulips are feeling.
Our cold and wet Monday yielded some sun on Tuesday and today looks promising for some more dapples of light.  We're creeping toward warmth and the prospect of flowers.
Each day when I come home, I take a walk around my flowerbeds, numbering the green shoots like a greedy banker counting her money.  Day by day, I see my flower account growing and I am glad of it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Life returns to normal today with our return to school.  The chill in the air seems to be prepared to ease.  The forecast calls for temps approaching 50 and that is at least something.  Better than that, the weekend forecast shows the prospect of sun,  a veritable festival of warmth given the weather of late.

I keep telling myself that March can't last forever and it would seem that I am not alone in repeating that mantra.  Late last week, while a cold wind blew, a local store set out this cheerful display of flowers.  Surely it's a harbinger of blooms and warmth to come.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25: Dogwood Monday, Week 2

Spring Break comes to a halt tomorrow and we return to school.  Usually, our break is earlier in March but the vagaries of religious holidays conspired to schedule it later this year.  Then Hurricane Sandy made it shorter, as the school decided we would make up some of the nine days we lost to Sandy by shortening our usually two-week-long break by four days.

Most of the break was cold and nearly half of it was cloudy.  There was snow and sleet.  In keeping with that unhappy theme, today's forecast calls for measurable snowfall.  When I look through the pictures I made last year at this time, I see a much greener world.  In 2012, we had an early spring with daffodils, azalea blooms and green leaves on the dogwood by the last week of March.  That is not the case this year.
This year, the end of March finds us barely creeping to warmth and sunlight.   At times, the pace seems so slow that I despair of Spring's arrival.  Under the circumstances, the dogwood tree, though surely doing its best, is not moving with any sort of haste.  Its buds are tightly curled against the snowy cold.  

I understand the feeling.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Report: Stella Gibbons' Nightingale Wood

On occasion, Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl writes about the words she learned and the phrases she enjoyed in a book she's recently read.  An example can be found here, in her notes from Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.   I always enjoy her posts and bookworm that I am, I've decided to take a page from her book.
I've eyed Stella Gibbons' 1938 book Nightingale Wood for years.  When I  received a copy of the book for Christmas, I was eager to get started reading it.  The book is a charming, modernized Cinderella story set in Essex, England of the 1930s.  The omniscient narrator outlines the character of all the players and shares my snarky sense of humor, though like me, she never seems ready to give up her faith in a happy ending.  To whit:

"Not that I ought to grumble.  I have money of my own, a luxurious home in excruciating good taste, and all the clothes I want.  All that is lacking is liberty, an aim to work for, and the conviction that my life is worth living.  I am a most fortunate young woman."

"No woman need be dowdy, or shabbily genteel.  While she has a few shillings to spend on clothes, she can buy something pretty and cheerful.  This may not be much, but it is something.  Tomorrow we die; but at least we danced in silver shoes."

"Demurely, in perfect taste, he flirted just a very little.  Forgotten art! pushed into the lumber-room since the psychologists told us how dreadfully dangerous it is to repress our passions, and how much healthier it is to book a double-bed at the Three Feathers and get it over.  How they despise the prolonged handclasp, the lingering glance, the double meaning, and the complement, all the old, old moves in the Prettiest Art! Poor psychologists, how solemn they are, how well they mean, and what a lot they miss."

"The party, so far as Viola was concerned, was now a riot; but no one else was enjoying it at all.  True, they were sustained by the thought that they could pick it all to pieces on their way home, but this scarcely made up for two or three hours' boredom."

"In the middle of a passionate prayer to God to make everything less rotten, it occurred to her that God must find it rather the limit only being prayed to when you want something, so she stopped, started over again, told Him that she was sorry she only prayed to Him when she wanted something, and asked if He would kindly bless everybody…"

This is a book I will read over and over when I'm in the mood to smile.  When I finished reading it, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out Elizabeth von Arnim's Enchanted April and some of my favorite Miss Read books so that I could continue the good spirits.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Food Friday: Carne Asada

It's been quite a while since I posted a Food Friday recipe and this year I want to get more recipes up on line.  My reasons are mostly practical ----- if I post a recipe (or a link to a recipe) on my blog, it's easier for me to find when I want to make it again.

This week's post is not a recipe of my own making.  But it comes from Simply Recipes and it tastes like home because it's Mexican food.  I make a whole lot of Mexican food (tortillas are a staple like bread at my house) and though beef doesn't make regular appearances at my table, when a craving for beef strikes, this recipe for carne asada is the way to go.  I served it with homemade refritos, Spanish rice, and a corn and black bean salsa that has become a real staple at my house.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Empathy

More than 10 years ago when I was living in Nebraska, a place not known for its tolerance of gays, a friend of mine noted of our critics that it might surprise them to know that we were a lot like everyone else: we take out our trash, we clean our kitchens, we make grocery lists and, yes, we are gay.  At the time, she was invoking a basic yet powerful notion, one that has repeatedly stood the test of time.   If folks who oppose equality for gays could just know someone who is gay, their sympathies for our common human experiences might overwhelm their bigotry.

I thought of that notion last week when Senator Bob Portman spoke at CPAC and told his fellow Republicans that he now favors same-sex marriage.  Portman explained that his mind was changed because his son, a child whom he loves, is gay.   As news of Portman's change of heart swirled through the political media,  I felt unity with critics who made fun of Portman's conversion to the cause of gay rights.   At some point, I saw a Tweet by @TheNewDeal which read "Rob Portman Supports Gay Marriage Now b/c His Son is Gay. We Must Make All GOP's Kids Uninsured So They'll Support Single-Payer" and it honestly made me laugh.  And then I set to thinking.  

I'd be the first to wish that Portman's Republican party could develop a greater sympathetic understanding of a lot of things.  In my estimation, greater empathy for people whose loved ones are killed by gun violence would certainly help move our nation toward a real conversation about gun control.  Sympathy for folks under stress because they lack basic resources like food and healthcare would serve the national interest far more than the current political climate has been able to do.  

In some respects, it's annoying that conservatives like Portman and Vice President Dick Cheney only come to see the justice in gay equality when their own children are adversely affected by the bias and injustice of anti-gay prejudice.  But Portman's conversion is just one of many conversions in thinking born out by real world interactions with gays living out and proud in America.  Just today, the Pew Research Center reports data that shows it is real-life experience with gays that is changing minds about same-sex marriage, especially among young people.  In living our lives, we change people's minds because to know gay Americans is to understand that we are just like everyone else.

In the meantime, I'll step back and offer Rob Portman the generous sympathy I wish him to extend to all of society.  And I will live out and proud, confident that minds are changed everyday because the arc of justice is on our side.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring: Sunlight & Tulip Wednesday

For the next few weeks, Monday has been given over to pictures of my dogwood tree, whose limbs are beginning the seasonal transition that I love so much.  In the meantime, after days of cold grey skies we were treated to sunlight yesterday afternoon and again today.  It's still quite cold, with temps in the 40s and a stiff breeze to remind me that the first day of Spring happens in March and follows the last day of Winter.  Even so, it is finally Spring and March cannot last forever.    To celebrate, I am declaring Wednesdays to be Tulip Wednesdays.
Monday's snow and sleet has melted and these blooms are on their way.
Happy Spring, y'all!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

JT's Festival of Food

In the last year or so, JT's metabolism has shifted to teenage boy status and there are times when he eats seriously impressive amounts of food. When he isn't eating, he's thinking about food.  It's not uncommon to have him sit down for breakfast and ask what will be served for supper.  For his birthday, T and I promised JT an entire day of eating whatever he pleased.   It was T's idea and the notion was a huge hit.  Last Sunday was the designated day and it began with donuts for breakfast.
Lunch featured a festival of fried food: homemade corn dogs, fries, and onion rings.
For his supper, the boy went traditional: homemade fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cinnamon apples, and corn muffins.
It was served with a side of Lipitor, so you needn't worry about the heart attacks we surely earned ourselves that day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18: Dogwood Monday is Back

Winter doesn't seem quite prepared to end its hold on us and this morning dawned cloudy and unpleasantly cold.  There is snow forecast for later today and overnight temps will be well below freezing.  The radiators clink reliably in the mornings and evenings, sending warmth throughout the house and reminding me that longer days not withstanding, Winter is still in the air.

In the last few years, we've enjoyed a relatively early Spring and I suppose I have come to rely on that.  This year's return to normal is natural, if unwelcome.  In lieu of much-desired warmth and sunlight, I will instead settle for weekly dogwood pictures.  That's becoming a seasonal tradition around Sassafras House, and it will continue this Spring.   

Upon first glance, my backyard dogwood tree looks like it doesn't have much going on.
But a closer look reveals that there are tight buds at the end of the branches.  Those little buds are a happy, hopeful sign.
The buds will grow larger and become blooms soon enough.  But for now, I wait.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Daffodil Optimism

This morning, the promise of time off and spring break lies ahead of me.  For the next 10 days, I can enjoy lazy mornings and free time.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that JT has a particularly nasty cold, full-blown as of last night.  Late last week, it was made clear that I will be teaching an additional class of 10th graders when we return to school.  Some of my time off must be used to plan for that reality.  Our break is shortened by four days (thanks, Sandy), at a time when we are truly worn out and need the rest.  Snow is in the frigid forecast for the next week.


Still, snow forecast not withstanding, I treat Spring as a hopeful time and spring break is no exception.  I've decided to concentrate on the good.  JT can rest now and recover from his cold.  I will think of the new class as a chance to read some extra history books.  No matter how cold it is outside, I will play in the garden and get ready for the vibrant blooms that are just around the corner.  I can at least make a dent in the pile of books and New Yorker magazines that litter the house.  T is planning to stay here for the week and that will be lovely.

There is promise in the air and by golly I will find it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Invitation for Spring

My unkind thoughts toward Winter seems to have firmed up her will.  The glimmers of warmth we have enjoyed in the past few weeks have been mostly offset by Winter's continued intransigence.  It's cold and windy and generally wintery.  Perhaps Spring needs an invitation of her very own to come and join us.

She is welcome to step on the front porch and enter through the front door, with its cheerful wreath.
In the dining room, she'll find that the bunnies are celebrating her arrival.
Come evening, she can sleep in a bed with green ferns.
In short, I've done my best to make Sassafras House welcoming for Spring.  I am ready to welcome the new season, with its green blooms and gentler warm breezes.  Show Mama the daffodils.  Please.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flying Her Freak Flag

My home has a small downstairs bathroom with just enough room for a toilet and a sink.  Each morning, I blow dry my hair in this small room.  It is not spacious, though it is easy enough to get the job done.  The room has a large south-facing window and the light is often quite lovely.
Lucy has taken to joining me in the mornings, though it is not quiet companionship that she brings to my grooming routine.  Instead, while I try to blow dry my hair at the sink, she rolls around on the toilet and meows in an unpleasant and whiny fashion.  It's like being hounded by a tiny feline monster.
If I pet her while I run the blow drier, she is happy.  If not, she joins me at the sink to ensure that her demands are loud and clear.  
Oh, Lucy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Just after the election, I promised a post about the state of politics in light of the Obama presidential victory.  Back then, I had hopes that the Republican party would see Obama's re-election as evidence that they would have to deal with the Democrats.


Now, nearly two months in to Obama's second term and with more than three months of Congressionally-manufactured fiscal crises hanging over our heads, it's clear that the GOP is not ready to deal with reality, let alone help to govern the nation.  Senate Republicans are one thing and while there is a notable  nut job wing in the group (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and sometimes, Tom Coburn), I think that the lot of them typically understands that there must be some middle ground to be found.  It's not much, mind you, and it's still governed by the ridiculous desire to filibuster every damn thing, but I suspect that the proper incentive would get them to at least regularly show up at the table.

House Republicans are a different story, led (though that hardly seems like the right word)  by John Boehner.  Speaker Boehner has mostly been able to move legislation forward this year with the help of the Democrat minority and a handful of the sane Republicans in his caucus.  The other Republicans in the House are prepared to take us over the cliff and then some.

I find that I am at a loss to explain the level of nonsense that is going on in Congress.  To call the institution dysfunctional hardly gives credit where it is due.  This is kind of dysfunction that holds the national interest hostage to the narrow and irrational interests of the Tea Party wing, a group who is elected to serve in a government that they abhor.  That Republicans believe potential longterm debt (an actual non-issue, as Paul Krugman regularly reminds us) is a more serious concern than immediate jobs, infrastructure development, and the environment drives me round the bend with its foolish ignorance of reality.   Hey, fellow citizens: this is our government and it is our responsibility to ensure it serves the national interest.  Let's demand action.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Having the Last Word

Wednesday's Nor'easter was a bust, at least in terms of snow, and I cheerfully assumed that round two, which came last night, would be similarly inclined.  Alas, Winter was determined to have the last word.  This morning, I awakened to snow.
Wet, heavy snow.  
And the flakes are still falling.
We have school (though a plow hasn't yet been down my road) so shoveling will commence in just a few minutes.  Oh, winter, why must you be so lovely to look at?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Look Here, Winter

On Sunday, T and I were outside, she in a coat and winter clothing and me with pants and a sweatshirt but sans jacket and wearing flip flops.  It's my natural state.  When the wind blew, I announced that it was cold and T noted, "It's winter."

My response was classic Sassafras: "I have declared winter to be over."

This led to the rolling of eyes and the general suggestion that willpower does not determine seasonal change.  T's obvious command of meteorological facts not withstanding, I really, really want winter to be over.  In pursuit of that, I generally conduct myself as if my will is a fair substitute for reality.  It is on this basis that I have  begun to pack away my wool sweaters and winter clothing, liberating spring-weight sweaters and t-shirts in their stead.  Sandals and flats are replacing tights and winter shoes.  

Naturally, Mother Nature is not amused.  And the forecast for the next 48 hours calls for snow, ice, frigid wind, and the low temps to sustain it all.  Happily, I haven't burned my mittens or winter coat.  Unhappily, I wish that I could.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Real Life Texts with T: Winter edition

This afternoon, after cold wind blew right up my (wool) skirt and made me cranky, I texted T the following: "I just told winter that we are breaking up because of the incessant and annoying wind."

Seconds later, she texted back: "So I hear you just broke up with winter… got any plans this weekend?"

And that is why she is the girl for me.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Oh, Thirteen

The other day, JT and I were at a local sports store acquiring things for the coming baseball season.  To qualify for store's discount plan, I needed to provide my e-mail.  I did so and then JT shook his head and announced that, "Sassafras is an embarrassing name."  Before I could say anything, the young man at the register looked at JT and said, "I think it's cool."  Then he looked at me and said, "I'm 22 and I no longer think my parents are stupid."

So, yeah, there is hope for me.

Friday, March 01, 2013

March 1: Front Yard Flowerbed

Though today finds us 19 days short of the first official day of Spring, my mind insists that moving the calendar from February 28th to March 1st means that springtime has arrived.  It could be the cheerful sight of flower bulbs peeking more insistently through the soil that makes me think this way.

My rhododendron bush has perked up from the ease in the cold air.  That development suggests something promising is on the way.  
Even the lilac is determinedly preparing to put on a good show.
No doubt there is some cold weather still to come.  But  it's sunny today so I shall live in hope.