Monday, November 30, 2009

Back in the saddle

And my back side is sore. I don't like to use the word hate, but in the case of Monday after any holiday long weekend, there is hate. The hate I feel for this day is in direct proportion to the amount of fun and relaxation we have had since Wednesday night.

School? Homework? Commitments outside of game playing and reheating leftovers? What is that?

Back in the saddle again. With the serenity of Christmas just peeking up over the horizon, and in between the jagged peaks of too much in too little time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Leftovers and Memories

is all that remains... They came. We cooked. We feasted.

Many hands makes light the work as many miles will lighten these hips.

Twenty four hours ago my bro and I were sitting up in our kitchen, drinking coffee and watching the turduken cook. (This year he deboned the turkey without slitting the skin. In otherwords he took the carcass out from the inside.) Clocking in over 15 hours in the oven, this year's birds took their sweet time coming up to temperature. At one point the oven shut itself off, (You have to love Wolf products.) but I was standing right there to catch it. I am not happy with my boat anchor of an oven. Moving on --

The dinner was as enjoyable as the company. I am looking forward to getting out for a relaxing walk today. The season is coming on full storm. I will take this weekend to ease into it. At least I won't have to cook for a while.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No rest for the dishwasher

For days now I have been loading the dishwasher, running the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher and loading it again. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and I cook, and cook and then cook some more. Not a lot each day, but a dish or two in preparation of the gathering.

Today the bro and fam travel here to assemble the centerpiece of our family feasting; the turduken. In years past there would be a family meeting to discuss who was bringing what to the feast. Over the years, and our ease with turduken assembly growing, this communication has backed off to a few emails and a final one or two phone calls. Honestly I don't know where the original recipe can be found. The general plan is: debone the birds: turkey, duck, chicken. (The bro is talking about adding a cornish hen to the mix...) Layer with stuffing. (I still have to make the fruit stuffing today.) Sew and truss birds like an onion, ie Onions have layers. Put birds into pan. Cook in a 190 degree oven until internal temp reaches 170. This last step takes anywhere from 11 to 13 hours. Hence the hour of assembly is around midnight tonight.

Tonight's dinner will be a reflection on our Italian heritage. Grammy's Parmesan noodle soup, ravioli with (Bosky Dell Farm) homemade ricotta and gorgonzola cheese, (Happenings on the Hill) homemade bread, salad, feasted off of my Great Nana's china. Through food, and place settings we will reflect on the importance of family and friends. We will draw them all close and hold them in our hearts.

To pass the time between dinner and midnight there is fivolity: Nana's whiskey sour punch, singing, dancing, game playing, big day dinner strategy discussions: family.

Come the big day, the bro and his fam must leave to visit "the other side", the inlaws. Of course we understand, it's not a problem. And there is a silver lining to their leaving, for today and tonight we will savore the importance of our time together. How greatful we are that they will share their time with us. For we can be thankful on more than one day a year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Name that Tune...

Remember that TV show... the one where the Master of Ceremonies would give you a clue and then the contestants would have to name that tune, hence the name, after listening to the first few notes of the song. That number would be determined by a bidding system. Starting maybe with 10 and then going down to 2 or 1 or sometimes even zero -- great first clue.

Well yesterday while carpooling for errands and with the final goal of food shopping at Market Basket, we came up with a game of our own: Shop that Market Basket. I know, not very original, but it works.

The back story: Market Basket has the best prices, great selection, and awesome produce, but it is on the other side of town. It takes thought and planning to drive there, and then you have to think about the timing. Saturdays, Sundays, Friday evenings, Monday and Wednesdays after 10 AM it's a social gathering spot and thus impossible to see or select anything off a shelf that is less than waist high. On the other hand, I have found Thursdays around 8:15 AM the store is deserted; much to my happiness. And at times I have wondered if I have somehow driven to the wrong store.

And then there is yesterday, Monday of Thanksgiving week. The only spots available in the parking lot are in the back row, no worries I can use the exercise. Inside the store eight haphazardly discarded carts marked the spot where hundreds are usually nested. All the cash registers have fast fingers and scanners pushing the mile long lines of shoppers and their full baskets out the door. I looked at my shopping buddy, my dear dear friend, and we both smiled. For we know on a day like yesterday we could easily be preparing dinner in aisle 7. A "See you later," and we parted company.

The dairy aisle was a polite bumper car course. With no intentional hitting and a lot of polite smiles and apologies. I rounded the corner to the prepared meats and eggs, in record time I might add, only to be hit with the sight of a mountain range of frozen turkeys that spilt into the usual areas reserved for pork sausage and hams. I think every family in the surrounding four towns could pick up a bird or two and still there would be leftovers. And I wonder, what will happen to these unselected birds? Surely, there will be leftovers that will need to be consumed.

The baking aisle was another memorial straight away. I love shopping with the older folks. They smile. They take their time. They enjoy the moment. There is a lesson in patience and just being. And I find I am thankful for their example as I waited for my chance to pick up 5 pound of sugar, a bag of pecans and two cans of evaporated milk -- none of which I needed. But just in case...

Two nights ago I woke up in a panic wondering if I had the milk for the pumpkin pie. At 2 AM I was rummaging through the cabinets. And when I found the milk, I placed it front and center on the counter. Almost to remind myself, "YES you have the evaporated milk." Maybe I'll sleep better knowing there are two more cans somewhere stashed in with the canned hash and corn.

Usually when we carpool shop, we start out together but end up going our separate ways around the yogurt or eggs. No worries, we came into the store together and we will go out together. But yesterday for some unknown reason we kept running into each other. The first time was in the snack aisle I looked up and was surprised to see her. Surely I didn't forget we had carpooled. Though each time we met, we greeted each other as if we had arrived separately.

The last time our paths crossed was in produce -- right before the home stretch on the checkout line. We were done. We headed for the bank of check out stations and there was no one in line... I looked back down the aisles holding to capacity their sardines of shoppers. We slipped into side by side lines. I finished first. Her cashier was having a bad day, and we left.

We shopped Thanksgiving Monday at Market Basket in less than an hour. Can you?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I've a great recycled present for you to make

Our Girl Scout troop made some fire starters from empty egg cartons, dryer lint and melted old candles. It was easy and fast to make a dozen of these wonderful starters. But, after that foray into firebuilding, I have kept egg cartons on the dryer and put the dryer lint right into the wells. And there it waits until I get a chance to melt some of our old candles. I envision putting a bow on top, and giving a set or two to family and friends that have fireplaces. I know, I'm the last of the big spenders, but these fire starts work great.

During the big mishoon building sessions, we have been using our starters on light little fires in specific places on the log. These puppies light up fast and burn for quite a longtime.

So, there something for you to ponder.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pay it forward

I am a firm believer in paying it forward, but this past Wednesday I was requested to do the same.

This past Wednesday my very lovely middle one caught her finger in a car door jam, and gave herself a nasty. We were on our way into the local high school for an event and when we went in and asked for a first aid kit, no feet or mouths seemed to work. As we were heading to the ladies room, a lady came out from the crowd and said she was a nurse.

She washed and dressed the wounds.Yes, the middle one nailed the finger front and back. And when we thanked her she said, just pay it forward. So here I am to pay it forward. The National Guard in VT (I know it is not my home state, but they defend us all.) are being shipped out after Christmas. Right now they are in the midwest training for their deployment. But wouldn't it be great if they could could home for the holidays. Follow this link, then click on Operation Holiday Homecoming and make a donation so they can ride the bus east to be with their families.

Homemade Mishoon

Today we will start the little one's Native People school project. We will be making a small mishoon, or dugout canoe. The Native People she is researching are the Wampanoag. When we have visited the homesite at Plimoth Plantation, she has always been fascinated by the boat burning.

We have an 18 inch log that is about 8 inches in diameter. Just like she has observed, she is planning to build a little fire on her log, let in burn a while and then scrape off the charcoal and set another fire to burn down a little more, before scraping again.

But it's not all fun and no work. She has to read about the Wampanoag, and how they used these boats, and where they lived, then write a short report -- maybe three paragraphs.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Homemade Cranberry Liqueur

I'm a chemist by nature and a mom by heart. This combination keeps me experimenting in the kitchen. Usually it's cookies, or a new type of cooking. Six years ago it was boiling maple sap into maple syrup. This morning it was concocting Cranberry Liqueur. Is it a bad sign to have the vodka bottle opened before 6 AM?

Four weeks from today, roughly December 18th we'll find out if this kitchen experiment was successful or not. Maybe I should set up two bottles. The fine print says: Yields 4 cups.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Homemade Raviolis

Somewhere it became a tradition to have a pasta dinner at some point in time, usually Friday, during Thanksgiving weekend. Some years I can remember showing up for the feast weekend with a carload of homemade angel hair pasta. Probably enough to feed everyone in my Aunt and Uncle's small hometown, but we would manage not to have leftovers.

This year will be a variation on that theme. My bro and his family are coming to celebrate and cook with us Wednesday evening, (I think I enjoy putting the turduken together more than eating it... and that is saying something.) as they have to be partying with the other side Turkey day. So they will come. We will cook, partake of the Whiskey Sour Punch, and sing and dance to the "I am Mrs. Turkey" song, all the usual Prep fun, and then they will head out to the real deal party Thursday about 1. Another change will be we will have pasta Wednesday night for dinner.

For this meal I made homemade raviolis in the quiet of my kitchen, start to finish, complete with homemade ricotta cheese, in three hours. I mention the time to let you know, you can do this too.

For the cheese stuffing I mixed the decadently rich homemade ricotta with some Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheeses, a couple of eggs and some Italian seasoning in the food processor. There is a little left, which I think will end up in a ricotta pie for dinner tonight. And the pasta was the usual flour and eggs; easy -- but I haven't done this for probably seven years, so it took a sheet or two for me to get back into the rolling groove. Ninety-two two inch raviolis later, the main part of Wednesday night's dinner is in the freezer.

Now to think about the sauce. Maybe a fresh tomato, so it doesn't overpower the ravioli...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I wonder if time stamps carry any weight?

Last night, well early this morning, I couldn't sleep so I fired off a letter to one of my children's school administrators and several staff. As I hit the send key at 5:18 I wondered if anyone on the receiving end would realize I had been up half the night composing this missive and would it mean anything. Insomnia? Passion on the subject matter? Stupid mother with nothing better to do?

I got a well thought out reply at 5:46. I guess I'm not the only one up and thoughtful at that time of the day.

Now let's hope for follow through.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prayer from my sister-in-law

One of my sisters-in-law, I have seven, sent this prayer in an email yesterday.

Concentrate on this Sentence

'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this sentence... 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you' Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear.







This prayer is so powerful.


I can't be up now. I have too much going on tomorrow; I mean today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

One is the loneliest number

Today I am teaching my daughter's third grade Catholic Faith Formation class. My topic is the four Marks of the church. When I saw that, I thought, who knew. I always assumed there was only one Mark -- the gospel writer.

But these are different Marks, like marks on a wall sort of Marks. These four Marks are: One, Holy, catholic and Apostolic church. With third graders everything is learned at the end of a crayon. This tends to be true for sixth graders too -- but I digress. When I was reading about One, that famous Three Dog Night song popped into my head, and there it has remained. I pictured a tall skinny very lonely one. But then I have another One in mind, and that is a big fat one full of people and faces. The One of the church means we are all one church, welcoming to all (I know... what's written isn't always done with open arms), but for third graders I will forget my own political commentary. So today I will show them a skinny lonely one, and then a big fat one and have them draw faces to fill it.

We will move onto Holy, catholic -- which means universal in this sense and Apostolic, and call it a day as we drawn our way through religious ed. I'm looking forward to the class. I hope the kids enjoy it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sick Again...

The cough and cold fairy visited again. My husband asked, "Are you still sick, or sick again?"

I believe the answer is sick again. I believe there was a week or so during which I wasn't coughing, or sneezing, or wheezing. I hope this leaves soon.

Unfortunately, the little one got hit as well; poor little dumpling.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

busy busy bee busy

So I woke up this morning, and the next thing I know it's after dinner and the middle one is reminding me she has a flute lesson. Where did the time go? Food shopping, chair pick up run, coffee and council, parent teacher conference, dinner prep, track star pick up, flute and now general household clean up so the Girl Scouts can get past the mud room to finish our prep for the Hemenway Holiday Boutique on Sunday from 11 to 1. We are selling chocolate pops, chocolate covered pretzels, maple granola, knit headbands, copies of my book. All proceeds go to the troop towards our trip to Washington DC next year.

But... back to this clean up, I'm a stay at home mom, and I could use a maid. Now that is a sad state of affairs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Plymouth Plantation

We went on our annual trip to Plymouth Plantation today. For many reasons I love that place. I always learn something new. Like today I learned the Wampanoag tribes were a matriarch, and in order for couples to marry they had to ask the elder, a woman, for permission. The guide also said that violence and abuse among the people increased under a man's rule. I asked her if they were moving back towards a matriarch, and she responded, "Yes, in time."

I also love the artistry that the Native People are preserving. We would lose so much as human beings to not have these arts and their culture to learn from.

At the plantation, they had military drills with rifles and pikes. We had watched them fire the rifles before but the marching with the pikes was new. As a matter of fact, there was a lot of new building and such at the plantation. I mentioned to one of the settlers that we had been in these parts oh about a year ago, and much had changed. She agreed and said they are getting ready for shipments of supplies and needed a place to store them. We discussed the economy, and how the ratio of unmarried women to men was something like 2 to 36.

I also got a great recipe for stuffing.
Crisp up some bacon. Remove it from the pan. Add some day old (stiff) rice or if you don't have old rice, dried bread crumbs and fry it in the oil. Add the bacon back in with some sage, chopped onion, and vinegar whisked with sugar to make a syrup. Stuff this into the belly of a bird and cook it. I am told I won't be disappointed. A few years ago we got a recipe for Pottage, and it has been a Thanksgiving hit every since.

And then I like going to Plymouth Plantation for the quiet photo opportunities. And for these I would visit every day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finally, time to write...

or at least blog... Really, is blogging real writing? I guess it is, since I transcribe the electrical impulses that ricochet about the old grey matter.

Sometimes good days are the result of bad. Yesterday was excellent. Over a late dinner the eldest was helping with middle school Spanish, while I was assisting on an elementary school mystery book report. Later the little ones in bed, the Spanish tutor and I reread her latest English lit. paper together. I love editing, and I love learning about what I am reading.

I have learned so much the year. Honestly, I can't wait until the next History exam, as I enjoyed so much getting a better handle on the Spanish American War. When the big they say history repeats itself, they were not lying. The ground troops might change generational but that same (IMHO) bad decisions keep being made over and over again. Will we ever give Peace A Chance?

It's so nice to be up in the quiet of the day. Knowing the crazy pace of life won't commence for another few hours.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Last rides of the season

Took the girls for a spin on the bike. I would have loved to go further but they got cold and needed to come home for a hot chocolate. Being that there is two of them, I got two rides in today. It was nice to be back on the bike.

Bugaboo Creek

I believe we have eaten our last meal at Bugaboo Creek.

After raking and teaching a lovely group of Brownies how to knit, I decided to "pull myself some slack" (a saying from the littlest one), and have us go out for dinner. The email delivered a Bugaboo coupon so off we went.

My litany:
The food was too salty.
They sat us at a table that had one of those obnoxious lights that would periodically shine. If there had been a talking animal to go with it, I probably wouldn't mind. But all that happened was the scowl on my husband's face creased deeper.
The noise was deafening.
My children are no longer part of that noise. My children were very well behaved and didn't even need parental help coloring or with the word search. Darn!

The ambiance was so horrid, before the girls finished their dessert I walked out to the car to wait.

When I mentioned going out to dinner, the girls mentioned the Melting Pot. I laughed at them, yeah right. I should have listened.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

27 bags and raking...

We have a small front yard; maybe 40 feet across and 30 feet in depth. And even if I let the kids out there to play, it's not big enough for kickball or baseball, or even tag. Small. But what we do have out there is one gigantic pine tree that, so far, has dropped 27 lawn bags of pine needles.

As I was out there raking, a little bit each day for the past week, I was wondering when did lawns became vogue. When did some intelligent person have the notion that planting and then manicuring a monocotyledon was the way to go. And what group of individuals said, "Hey that guy, (it had to be a guy), has the right idea." Why not leave all these pine needles where they fall? If you kick away the sticky pine cones, they are soft underfoot. And no mowing...

I have a little bit of front yard left to clean up. Probably another 9 bags worth. (Without taking any seats out, I can fit nine bags in the back of my Suburban.) Then it's on to the big fenced in backyard. Where once the lovely maple leaves fall from our wonderful sugaring trees, they can't blow out. We mulch and composite the back 40. I would hate to think about how many bags that would be, annually; probably hundreds.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love.

Lao Tse

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Wall

My middle one had the homework assignment to write a poem for Veteran's Day. A bit stymied, I joined her on the kitchen floor for a brainstorming session. A bowl of Halloween candy between us, we talked about imagery and what I believe the whole writing process is about. In the end, I came up with a poem of my own. The funny thing was... in the end, she was done, her assignment completed and I was still sitting there working away.

Carved into God’s own earth, the black end scar that will not heal.
Adrift, a soldier, in faded ‘form, pauses;
reflecting an honor honed in his brothers’ black blood.
Their names etched before him.

Bombs silent for an age, rain down on this soldier’s dreams.
An unwelcome war, an ungrateful nation.
Grandchildren beside him, the yellow rose of peace extended.
Burned, he cannot enjoy its sweet scent.

His wounds for freedom, caustic and taught,
camouflaged by society’s canvas, do not heal.
Bent and worn, the black scar pierces God’s own men,
Forever Defenders of our nation’s freedom.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

And Happy Birthday to me...

I am so tired. Not from celebrating the big 49 event, not by any means. The day came, and the day went running from one appointment to event to the next.

Just tired... run here, pull that argument apart there, crazy stuff. But today is stained glass class so in a few minutes I'll head out and try not to cut myself handling the sharp edges of glass, and all those pointy bits. Glass is a lot like life. I think I need to spend sometime at the beach being tossed by the surf. Maybe then some of my life's rough edges will be smoothed and bearable.