Wednesday, December 31, 2014


In my world, New Year’s Eve is a night for appetizers, sparkly drinks, and laughter to accompany the reminder that tomorrow brings a fresh start in the form of a new year.

JT’s organized a games tournament to maximize our fun.

I hope that the last day of 2014 finds you safe and well.  May 2015 bring you peace and moments of great joy.  Happy New Year!

Looking Ahead with Hope

I’m not the type of person to end a year with regrets or, for that matter, to make resolutions for the new year.  I appreciate people who are capable of making such bold gestures, but that’s not for me.  I am the type to look back on the year that’s passed and think in terms of what I can do better next year.  I’m rather prone to running at full speed through life, a problem that pre-dates 2014.  To that end, in 2015, I am going to continue to remind myself to slow down.  That’s not a new idea to me; it’s my life’s challenge.  Each year I get better at striking that balance, though I’m human and therefore still plenty imperfect.

While I may not make resolutions for myself, for the greater political world, I am prepared to resolve and take action.  For the New Year, I’d like to see a political system prepared to address our problems together.   A real and abiding sense of communal responsibility could move us toward solving many of our national and international problems: poverty, climate change, and issues of race would all make progress if we saw ourselves as truly in this life together and responsible for one another.   I’m prepared to do my part, of course, though I’m realistic enough to know that alone won’t be enough.

I’m not a pessimist and I believe that human progress is possible.  There have been moments in the past year when I’ve feared this world view makes me a pollyanna.  But in the end, moving forward and faking it ’til I make it have always been my default mode.  In their strongest versions, that approach can bring me both hope and optimism.  That worldview is the only way I know to face uncertainty.  So I will hold on and live in hope for 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Time for a Walk

During the school year, JT’s after-school sports obligations keep us at school until after 5:30.  Since the time change, that means we arrive home in the darkness.  The sights of my neighborhood are lost to me in these long days and I’ve found that I miss them.  Over my much-needed winter break I’ve had time to actually go for a walk in town.  Add in the unusually mild weather and I’ve been drawn outside, finding any excuse to take a walk down the familiar sidewalks.

On those walks, I’m reminded of the value of slowing life down, if only for a half hour.  I see my neighborhood’s holiday decorations, smell the trees and plants, and get a chance to look more closely at the gardens around me.  Yesterday, I walked down the sidewalks of a street just two blocks away and saw some tired dandelions in the grass, a reminder that we haven’t yet sunk into winter’s hard freeze.

I’m well aware that these walks have been more enjoyable because of the warmer temperatures in the past week.  Winter’s cold has made a return today but I plan to bundle up and take a walk anyway.  That’s happy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

On Cooking

 In the midst of the eating revolution precipitated by the writings of folks like Michael Pollan, I have read a flurry of articles and essays explaining that cooking is hard for working families.  I find the pushback against the notion of a family table troubling.  Setting aside the question of the means to acquire inexpensive, healthy ingredients, a real issue that I will address in a different post, I disagree that cooking real food is too difficult for working parents .  In fact, for middle class families, the ability to put home cooked food on the supper table is less a question of time and more a question of planning and will.  

I think that the problem is that many of us don’t actually know how to cook the sort of simple meals that will feed a family.  Moreover, we’re so accustomed to letting our children be picky that we think putting together a family meal entails several different meals for the picky palates at our table.  I am not immune to the picky eater syndrome and I like to cook creative meals.  My solution is to always have on hand a few items that my picky boy will eat —— pasta with butter and cheese or tomato sauce; a quesadillas and refritos with salsa; noodle soup.  I serve the picky-eater’s meal with piece of whatever fresh fruit I have on hand.  It’s not going to make the cover of Gourmet magazine, but it will fill a hungry boy with a minimum of effort.

Since I lived in rural Nebraska and a large grocery store was 35 miles away, I’ve been a planner when it comes to the contents of my pantry.  I go to the market each weekend.  Before I head to the grocery store, I make a list of what I need and that list includes a plan for the week’s breakfasts and suppers.    My plans take account of time.  Sometimes, I’m home from work by 5 and have the time to make a more complicated meal.  More often these days, I’m home later than 6 pm and we’re hungry.  In both instances, it’s planning and the ability to create meals on the fly that ensure we get a home-cooked meal served at a table where we eat together.

I also use the weekend to my advantage.  For example, a few weekends back, I had the time to make chicken noodle soup for Sunday supper.  That leftover soup was later reheated and served with homemade corn muffins for a quick weeknight meal.  If time had run short, the soup could be served with crackers, cheese, and fruit.  Leftover corn muffins can be the next morning’s breakfast.   These days, I use the weekend to pull together at least one meal for the work week ahead.  

Though I know that cooking is not something that everyone enjoys, it is something that brings me pleasure.   Getting a homemade meal on the table feels like a job well done.   Homemade supper is a much better family meal than prepared food.  As long as eating is not optional, I feel like it’s my responsibility as a parent to feed my family.  I embrace that challenge.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Morning

Christmas Eve is considerably less pressure-filled when I needn’t construct a tiny Playmobil village, though I always enjoy filling holiday stockings with treats chosen for the recipient.  As I fill those stockings I think of Christmas mornings past, when JT was transfixed by the glories of Santa’s deliveries.  I’ve always maintained that the joy of playing Santa on Christmas Day makes up for the rough spots of parenting throughout the year and that’s true even when a teenager lives upstairs.  Turns out that even a 14 year old can be charmed by the happiness of Christmas morning.

I enjoy Christmas planning and preparation and even collect the ribbons to use for next year’s gifts.

I hope there was a package or two to make your Christmas bright.  Merry, merry to y’all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Planning

Yesterday, while I put together a batch of baked potato soup, I also got started on the appetizers I will serve for Christmas Eve.  I’m making everyone’s favorites, so the list is rather long.  In addition to sparkling drinks, the menu will feature:

- potato skins
- lil’ smokies in bar-b-que sauce
- chips & onion dip
- carrot sticks & blue cheese dip
- brie & crackers
- rye rounds (my hands-down childhood favorite)

I’ll set out the feast at sunset and there will be pictures posted then.  Today, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on tonight’s feast and doing some of the work for our Christmas supper.  Along the way, I’ll post updates here.  

9:30 am
Mix together pumpkin pie ingredients; slide pie into the oven.

10:00 am
Wrap potatoes to bake for tomorrow’s Potatoes Romanoff.

10:40 am
Pie is out of the oven and cooling.

11:15 am
Potatoes are in the oven and baking.

12:15 pm
Getting out the slow cooker for lil' smokies and dicing onions for the rye rounds.

4:00 pm
Lil' smokies in the slow cooker.  Putting together the potato skins and rye rounds.  Setting out everything else.

5:30 pm
Happy Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Traditions

The older I get the more I look forward to the holiday traditions that spell celebration: Christmas lights, holiday greenery, familiar holiday music, and holiday cooking all bring me happiness and peace.  Things are a little busier that I would like this year, but I am reminding myself of the blessing in that; happy and healthy family parents are nothing to sneeze at!  Today, sandwiched in between the cooking and shopping chores,  I will fit in a reading of a favorite story, a look at a favorite garden catalog, a nap, and a Shirley Temple drink.  They are a welcome reminder to pause and appreciate the holiday season.

That’s happy!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Carnage in the Christmas Aisle

On Saturday, T, my mom and I ended up in a CVS, killing time before our reservation at a Victorian Christmas Tea.  My mom scored some Gevalia coffee, T searched for Grinch Christmas cards, and I noted that there had been trouble in the Christmas ornament aisle.

This Cinderella didn’t get her happily ever after.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cookie Day

Each December, I make cookies for my students as my way of saying thank you for the ways in which they enrich my life.  It’s rather a feat of planning that gets 150 allergen-free cookies into the hands of grateful kids who, modern though they are, all relish the charm of a home-baked treat.

Every day that those students and I are together is an opportunity for me to share my love of the study of history with them.  Baking cookies is another way to share something else that I love with my 7th graders, boys and girls on the line between childhood and adolescence.  They are both ready to embrace big ideas and yet still prepared to laugh like little kids.  They make my days bright and this time of year get cookies as a thank you.  That’s happy!

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.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winter's Secrets

I always worry that once the leaves come off the trees, I will miss the lush green abundance of fully bloomed nature.  But once the colors are gone, I can see that there is a different kind of beauty hidden in nature’s stark Winter appearance.  Some of the tall trees in my backyard are a case in point.  The thick green leaves of these trees provide shade and privacy in our summer backyard.  Once those leaves were gone last week, it was clear that they hid large nests in their upper branches.  I can see them clearly now.

I suspect they are the creation of the squirrels who share in my garden’s bounty.  I have a soft spot for those squirrels.

We’ve already had our first snowy nor’easter storm.  Winter’s cold has rather taken hold of us.  Soon, I’ll set out the greenery and Christmas lights to join the stark beauty that Mother Nature displays in the Winter.   I’ll be reminded anew that every season offers its own sort of quiet lovely to admire and appreciate.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Self Awareness edition

The backstory: We spent part of our Thanksgiving break cleaning out two rooms that seem to become the repository of crap in my house: the guest bedroom and the downstairs study.  JT helped in the study because most of the things abandoned in there belonged to him.  One of those things, a plastic red devil’s pitchfork, attracted his interest.

JT:  We got this for a Halloween costume I never wore.

Me:  No.  We got that for you when we were at a Halloween store because you wanted to march around with a pitchfork and protest.


JT:  Really?

Me: Really.

JT: Huh.

Left unsaid: JT was a little kid with one hell of an imagination.
Related: he was sometimes a tad weird.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Supper has been served and now we rest, thankful for our many blessings.  Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Getting the Feast on the Table: Thanksgiving Day

Yesterday, I detailed the planning that goes into getting together our Thanksgiving supper.  Today is feast day and there are a few more chores to complete.  The list isn’t too long and I had a good time tracking events yesterday, so today I am doing the same.  Updates as warranted!

The tasks ahead of us (items in bold are completed):

1.  Roast the turkey.
10:00 am: Turkey is out of the fridge; being drained of brine, rinsed and prepped for roasting.

10:30 am: Oven is on; set for 400 degrees.

10:50 am: The bird is in the oven at 400 degrees.

11:10 am: Lowered the roasting temp of bird to 325 degrees.

1:15 pm: Lowered the roasting temp of bird to 225 the final hours of roasting!

2:25 pm: Turkey is out of the oven; resting.

2:50: Carve turkey.

2.  Bake rolls.
8:15 am: Rolls set out to rise.

2:50 pm: Rolls are in the oven.

3.  Peel and boil potatoes; mash them just before supper gets set on the table.
2:05 pm: Peel and cut potatoes; set to boiling.

2:50 pm: Drain and whip potatoes.

4.  Assemble cornbread dressing.
10:50 am: Chopping onions, celery, and jalapeno for cornbread dressing.

11:00 am: Boil water for dressing broth.

2:00 pm: mix broth into cornbread dressing.

5.  Bake rolls, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole.
1:55 pm: Side dishes set out in preparation for baking.

2:25 pm: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees for casseroles.

2:30 pm: Casseroles in the oven.

6.  Assemble cheese tray.
11:40 am: Slice cheese for cheese tray.

2:15 pm: Set out brie; assemble the rest of cheese tray & crackers.

7. Make gravy.
2:55 pm: Start gravy.

8.  Set the table.
9:50 am: Dining room table cleared off.

10:00 am: Set dishes; serving bowls on table.

11:00 am: Assemble centerpiece for table.

2:30 pm: Set the table.

3:15:  Supper is served!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Feast: The Pre-Planning

I secured all of my holiday supplies last weekend, so that I wouldn’t need to be at the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving, when the madness is well beyond my patience level.  This year’s supper is a traditional feast and will feature all the usual suspects:  roast turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, yeast rolls with butter, a cheese tray, and pumpkin pie.

I am blessed enough to have the day off from school and while the icy snow falls, I will be completing the advance work that makes Thanksgiving Day go smoothly.  I spread the tasks throughout the day, so I can get other things down as well.  I love this process and find cooking to be among the most pleasant parts of my holiday celebration.  This year, I am posting my preparation checklist here on the blog and as tasks are completed, I will live-update.  

The tasks at hand for today (items in bold are completed):

1.  Brine the turkey…….I do this for anywhere between 15-24 hours before I plan to put the bird in the oven.  I buy a fresh turkey from a local butcher so that I don't need to worry about defrosting it.

9:45 am: Mix the brine for the turkey.  Boil and let cool.

10:30 am: Rinse turkey and set in brine bag.

11:00 am: Pour brine in the bag; refrigerate brining turkey.

2.  Make cranberry sauce.

11:00 am: Start boil of sugar, orange juice, and water for cranberry sauce.

noon: Cranberry sauce cooled and in the fridge

3.  Prepare and bake the pumpkin pie.

12:10 pm: Make pie crust; start pumpkin pie custard.

12:40 pm: Pie is in the oven.

2:00 pm: Pie is out of the oven; cooling.

4.  Roast sweet potatoes; assemble sweet potato casserole.
1:45: Wash sweet potatoes for roasting

2:10: Sweet potatoes in the oven for roasting.

3:00: Mix together the ingredients for sweet potato casserole; place in the fridge until tomorrow.

5.  Assemble green bean casserole.
1:50 pm: Cook green beans for casserole

2:01 pm: Assemble casserole; cover and store in fridge for tomorrow.  

6.  Make cornbread (tomorrow, I will mix together the cornbread dressing).
12:45 pm: Set out cornbread ingredients.

1:25 pm: Mix together cornbread.

2:10 pm: Cornbread is in the oven.

2:35 pm: Cornbread is cooling.

3:20 pm: The day's cooking chores are complete and I am turning my attention to the tidying up the guest bedroom. Let's hear it for holidays!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Spice, Spice, Baby

A few weeks ago, T tackled the mess that was my spice shelf.  I say was because she found shelves and organized the whole operation.  Now I can easily find the things I am looking for, a very handy development now that the holiday cooking season has arrived.

That’s happy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Winter’s Rest

In my perfect world, happy endings always occur.  For this reason, I sometimes read the end of a book first, just to prepare myself for the prospect of an unhappy ending.  Of course, life doesn’t always offer happy endings and, even when it does, it may be that there is difficulty and sadness along the way.  To remind me to be patient with this uncertainty, I like to garden.

A garden demands some labor in exchange for a reward a few months later.  The growing season alone is a lesson in waiting.  Of course, I’ve also planted my fair share of seeds that don’t sprout.  So I know that gardening is not a guarantee of a happy ending.   But it is an investment in the idea that patience may bring beauty.  Seasonal change is its own reminder of constancy and on the coldest and darkest day of the year, the promise of a warm long day to come is as certain as life gets.

I thought about this last weekend as I got out my garden shoes for one last set of garden chores before winter.  I dug up my dahlia bulbs and stored them in the basement for next spring.  Tomato cages were put away for next season.  I ran the mower over the leaves on the lawn to mulch them up; this disposes of the fallen leaves and feeds the lawn over winter.  This particular chore also had the double  purpose of running the mower out of gas for the winter.  

Many of the leaves in my yard have already fallen and the stark beauty of winter has begun to take hold.  The peach tree has just two leaves left.

The apple and pear trees are not quite done dropping their leaves.

The garden had a few roses that had survived the cold.  I brought those inside for one last bouquet.

The cold temperatures that are settling in are a reminder that Winter’s season of rest is nearly here.  Gardening chores are shelved for a little while.  

On the front porch, a few pots have bulbs hidden in the dark soil.  These porch plantings will be the first sign of spring when it arrives in a few months.

Until then, Mother Nature has ordered that we rest.  It is a welcome respite.

Friday, November 21, 2014


On Thursday morning, JT and I left the house a little later than I would have liked and we were rushing.  Needing to rush in New Jersey is never a good idea and, naturally, things went poorly.  By the time we got to the traffic circle in South Bound Brook, I was not amused.  I was in that circle when a large garbage truck entered in front of me, forcing me to stop quickly to avoid being hit and crushed.  In that second, I shouted and immediately flipped off the driver, who was looking right at me as he cut me off.

I was wearing mittens.

A few seconds later, out of the traffic circle and now crossing the bridge over the Raritan River, my headphone-clad offspring looked at me and said, “that was fucked up.”


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All Grown Up

In the eleven years that I taught in the Upper School, I coached the Model Congress team at my school.  Each November, the team made a trip to Washington D.C., site of the real Congress, and participated in a contest to see if a Congress made up of high school students could do a better job than the actual Congress (hint: Yes, they could).

For most of the years that I made that trip with my team, JT joined us as the team mascot.  Here’s a picture of his first Model Congress trip, in 2006, when he was 6.  That year, I brought some babysitters to watch over the boy while I wrangled teenagers into bed at 1 am.  That’s the amazing J and C pictured with us at the Washington Zoo.

Over the years, we developed traditions during the trip.  Here we are in 2007, the year we started watching an IMAX movie on our annual visit.

When he was 8, he tried his hand at ordering room service.

And we visited the Jefferson Monument.

In 2009, we staged a Viking invasion of the Congress.

The year he was 10, we brought a friend and sought to avoid the scary beasts in the Museum of Natural History.

In 2011, we took a walk to the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Franklin D. Roosevelt monuments.

Our last trip was two years ago, when JT was in the 7th grade.  We messed around in Union Station and took a trip to the Zoo, as if things had come full circle.

Last year, I moved to the Middle School and a new coach took over the team and accompanied the students to the capitol.  This year, as a 9th grader, JT wrote a bill and he's joined the Model Congress team as a member.  His team mascot days are over.  Tomorrow, he heads south to D.C. with his teammates and plans to explore the city with his friends.  He has a good bill to propose and he’s practice debated.   He’s leaving his Mama at home, as befits a 14 year old learning to make his way in the world.  At home, I'll mark the quick passage of time and wonder just how fast the next few years will fly by.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Your Moment of Floral Zen

For my birthday, the principal and assistant with whom I share the office gave me these lovely flowers.

They sat on the table in my dining room last week and provided much-needed beauty and a reminder that even when the job is hard, I have some great colleagues, the kind that know how to laugh off the rough edges of middle school life.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Subtle Asides edition

The backstory:  JT was at the mall with me, a trip he made voluntarily because he had something he wanted to buy himself at the Apple Store.  After the errand at Apple, he found himself at Talbots with me. I had stopped in to purchase a scarf that was on sale.  I treated the mission as a strategic strike and was in the store less than a minute before I located the scarf and stepped up to the counter to make the purchase.  Talbots has a shopper’s reward card that offers occasional discounts.  This fact matters to the conversation that ensued. 

Clerk:  It’s your birthday month.  Would you like to use the 10% off on this purchase?

Me: (knowing that the 10% off can’t be combined with the 25% off I was already using):  No thanks.

Clerk:  Are you sure?

Me (wanting to get out of the store as soon as possible):  Yes, I’m sure.   I’ll come back later this month.

JT:  You’ll come back WITHOUT ME, right?

Apparently, when I return, it will be without the boy. The clerk was distinctly unamused by our  mother-son communication, a fact the boy noted when we left the store, as if it's a character flaw to not get (or enjoy) sarcasm.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Child at a Time

Some weeks bring more difficult than I would like and this week seems determined to be that sort of week.  But I’m the kind who fights back against rough weeks and last night I did it by baking and wrapping up homemade cookies for a bake sale at school this morning.

The bake sale benefits Pardada Pardadi School in India, a place where rural girls receive an education.  The Middle School sponsors a student at the school and I can’t think of anything better than ensuring that at least one more girl has a chance at the freedom of education.  

Also: homemade cookies.  That’s happy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Real Life Conversations with T: Organic Ingredients edition

The backstory:  T enjoys Annie’s organic bunny fruit snacks and as I looked the the box and its claim to be both organic and vegan, I had questions.

Me:  How do they make fruity snacks without gelatin?

T:  Weasel earwax?

Me:  Weasel earwax?  

T:  Yes.  No weasels are harmed in the harvest of their earwax.

Turns out it’s just organic tapioca, which likely tastes better but isn’t nearly as amusing to consider.  Also, who has “weasel earwax” at the ready as an answer to questions of any kind?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Food Friday: All Mexican, All the Time

It’s my birthday week and I decided to treat myself by cooking Mexican food for suppers this week.  Here’s a road map to the feasting:

Sunday supper: chicken tacos

This is a go-to celebration supper at Sassafras House, the original comfort food in our world.  A recipe for my chicken can be found here.

Monday supper: burrito bowl

This bowl came together incredibly quickly and was perfectly awesome.  I used red cabbage and leftover guacamole from the day before.  I also used canned black beans that I warmed and spiced up.  I don’t like plain rice, so I used saffron rice from Sunday’s taco supper supper.  I served the bowl with some warmed corn tortillas.  Tasty, easy, delicious and likely to become a staple in this house, the recipe can be found here.

Tuesday: 8 layer dip

Strictly speaking, this dish is Tex Mex but it fit the theme and it’s my birthday, so it qualified.  Plus, JT loves it.  My 8 layer dip features refritos, sour cream, guacamole, chopped tomatoes (the last ones from my garden), grated cheese, green onions, cilantro, and black olives… that order.  There are zillions of recipes for layered Tex Mex dip and if you’ve never made it, try this one.

Wednesday:  shrimp quesadilla

As should be clear by now, Simply Recipes is my go-to website for food basics.  The writer is from Sacramento, California, a place near enough my hometown to ensure that her definition of Mexican food meets mine.  I saw this recipe on the website and give it a try.  Tasty and easy to pull together on a weeknight.  Try it!

This week is proof-positive that I could eat Mexican food every day of the week.  Plus, having a theme for the week sure makes the planning part of cooking easier.  Happy Birthday week to me!