Monday, December 28, 2009

Two giveaways

So, since I only had two people sign up in the comments, I will be sending two packages of cookies out to Aliceson and MLS.  Congratulations!  And thanks for participating! I'll send you messages looking for mailing addresses to which I can send your lovely package of cookies.  I've noticed less traffic in the blogger world during the holidays, so maybe next year I'll offer it up earlier than say, December 21.

We're stuffed to the gills with leftovers and sweet treats.  Had the ham, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, forgot to serve the apple salad but ate it later. Stayed indoors Friday and Saturday, though I did manage to make it to the gym on Saturday.  Sunday, we went shopping!  Maybe overdid it a bit.  Two new winter coats for me and Mr. Wild, and our first ever laptop!  Yup, a laptop.  It has a webcam and it was so easy to access our wireless.  Very cool!  I hope to try it out with my sister and her kids someday, so we can see them live time.  It will be interesting if we can get the stars to align.

See you on Random Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Moment in Time

Grandma, you'll be missed.

1918-2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So Random with Christmas Cheer

Time for Random Tuesday Thoughts!



randomtuesday

Courtesy of the Un Mom.

Sooooo busy!  Baking hoska bread for my son's class, whipping up powdered sugar icing, getting in some gym time,  buying last minute presents.  Whew!  Anyone else feel like this has been a marathon?

First things first.  I am having a giveaway.  Click here to see the details.  It is guaranteed to be yummy! You have until Sunday, December 27 to put yourself in the comments to be eligible for the random number generating!

Gave a presentation to my son's class about the history and heritage of Christmas we celebrate today.  Showed them how to make Swedish paper hearts.  Not that I have any of that heritage.  I work at a living history site and we celebrated Swedish heritage, among others, this year.  I made the hoska bread (Czech Christmas bread), again not because I have the heritage, but because we talked about it at my site.  It was fun to share with those fourth graders.  Even if they got wound up.

Who's going out of town for the holidays?  I'm not!  I'm glad I am not, because I like to cook and cook I will at home!  I hate to wash up afterwards.  Usually Mr. Wild isn't too disgruntled, but I do really dirty the dishes and he gets a bit tired of how many dishes I dirty.  Tonight is warm potato leek soup, no matter how much the children cry about it.

So, plans for dinner.  Don't ask me why, but Christmas Eve dinner has been Italian in my house and my parents' house for a while.  Not for any particular heritage.  Maybe because it's easy to make and most of us like it?  So I've carried it into my home.  I am planning mostaccoli (sp?), skillet cauliflower (from Lidia's Family Table cookbook), and a nice spinach and baby pea salad.  I also plan on serving crostini with sun dried tomato spread for an appetizer and Noel tortoni (ice cream with m&ms and maraschino cherries) for dessert.


I also like the tradition that I think my parents started, where we each get to pick one present on Christmas Eve to unwrap.  My parents are supposed to be coming, but with the weather, that may be iffy.  And who hasn't been talking about the midwestern storm.  It could be rain, freezing rain or sleet, or heavy snow.  I'm hoping for the rain, except for the flooding that may occur.

So, menus...
Christmas Day we will have ham, sweet potato casserole, lemon apple (jello) salad, green bean casserole, home made rolls (I'm going homemade, why buy dough for rolls? I can do it myself) and pumpkin pie.  I have been thinking about trying to make a dried cranberry stuffing, but I've not found a recipe I'm satisfied with.  I don't want cornbread, apples, or sausage in it.  Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

We sometimes have savory eggs on Christmas morning.  Thinking lots of Velveeta cheese and eggs and butter.  Yeah, so it's a heart attack waiting to happen, but we only have it once a year.  But me and Mr. Wild and my parents would be the only ones eating it, so if they don't come, it will have to wait.

I realized this year that my kids don't know a lot of traditional caroling Christmas songs.  Their school is so good about being diverse, they don't know Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Here Comes Santa Claus, Away in the Manager, Silent Night.  Some are religious, some are not, but I was thinking how sad they don't know them.  Guess what I think I'll do to remedy it?  My husband will think I'm nuts, I'm sure my kids will groan, but I think I'll organize a yearly caroling party with in-town friends.  Print out the words, meet at our house with their full familes and then wander the streets of our town, bringing Christmas cheer.  No one goes caroling anymore.  Why not?  I think we will, and we'll be silly and goofy and maybe weird, but it should be fun.  Then I'll serve mulled wine, hot chocolate, and maybe wassail and maybe have a chili dump. (Warning to my friends in town who read this, yes, this means YOU!)  We'll be a crowd and there will be safety in numbers for the embarrassment factor.  I miss singing and caroling.  Let's start a new tradition.  Well, I'm going to anyway!

Need to go make soup.  Hope your holiday is shaping up to be a good one!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Instead of Foodie Friday, how about a giveaway?!

Okay, okay, I've been missing from the blogosphere.  That's because I've been shopping, baking, cooking, planning menus, decorating trees, wrapping presents, throwing in a ten year olds birthday sleepover (which was much better than last year, limited to 4 guests this time, whew!), ordering gifts on-line, prepping some shipping...you get the picture.  This all because I worked weekends the first two weekends in December, which throws my whole holiday life out of whack.  Despite it being out of whack, I am going to do a giveaway.  Yup, you read that right.  And it will be a tin of my favorite holiday cookies, springerle.



They will be almond flavor, because that's what I have left.  This year I made two batches of almond and one batch of orange.  I think I'm about springerle'd out.  But willing to share their lovely goodness.  Sorry no orange, but there is little of that left and the only flavor dear Willa loves, so I am keeping them for her holiday cheer. In addition, my parents are coming to visit and I think they deserve a taste of orange as well.  My brother gets a tin of almond flavor very soon.  I should probably send my sister some so she doesn't feel left out.  Oh, dear.  Bags of it went around to my local friends.

Only fitting that one of my readers should get some too.  I will also send the extra little book of recipes that came with my last mold order from House on the Hill.  Maybe it will inspire you to try making some.  Sorry, no mold giveaway this year.  But you can check out the link and order a small one to start.  I'm up to seven or eight molds right now.

Leave a comment in this post.  I will leave this open until Sunday, December 27 at 5 pm Central Standard Time. That way I will be less rushed in getting this out in the post.  Maybe time to find a tin on sale.  Feel free to share this contest on your blog.  I'd like to have a goodly number of contestants, because, let me tell you, these cookies are worth winning.  I may ask the winner to give a testimonial about the cookies, because I don't want you to just take my word for it.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 18, 2009

Picture Proud!

I took that picture that is in my blog title header.  I'm pretty amazed with myself.  It's hard to read my title and description now, but oh, well, the picture is cool.  I'll be posting Foodie Friday soon.  Sorry to be missing friends.  Work has gotten in the way.  But I will leave you with some of the fantastic images of the snowstorm aftermath last week.  I gotta go get grocery shopping done.



Friday, December 4, 2009

Foodie Friday

Yes, I promised you that gingerbread recipe.  I haven't decided if I really like it or not.  It comes from Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt-Book, by Catharine E. Beecher, first published in 1858.  If you want to know what they might have dined on during the Civil War decade, this is a pretty good representation.

Sugar Gingerbread (plainer)
Two cups of sugar.
One cup of butter, rubbed with the sugar.
One cup of milk.
Two eggs.
One teaspoonful of pearlash in hot water.**will explain in a minute
Three tablespoonfuls of ginger. (oh yes, that is correct, hope you like ginger)
Five cups of flour.
Make it a soft dough, and add more flour if needed.

Pearlash was a historic leavening, later to be replaced by the likes of sodium bicarbonate or baking soda, and baking powder.  You can replace it with 1/4 t. of baking soda for each cup of flour (so a slightly rounded teaspoon should suffice here).

There is no baking directions, as it would be with a wood stove and oven and you would have to judge what temperature and how long by how you knew your stove ran.  I baked mine for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, as that's what other conventional quick breads run at then tested it to see if it was done.  The dough was slightly pourable, maybe a little less pourable than other cakes, but I think I was overzealous with the flour.

My cake turned out a very golden brown.  Without molasses or other spices, it is about the actual color of powdered ginger.  It is very sweet and not hot like ginger can get.

A very cool thing I found while trying to figure out the modern equivalent of pearlash was finding that someone still sold pearlash and saleratus (an early forerunner of baking soda).  Check out this place.

Good luck with trying a recipe from the past....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

So random...It's Random Tuesday Thoughts!

So random:


randomtuesday

Courtesy of the Un Mom. Come on, click the button.  You know you want to.

This is supposed to be Random Tuesday, but it's about my random Monday. Maybe more like manic Monday.  You decide.  I had the day off and away we go....

Baked gingerbread and it's not your mother's gingerbread, or maybe even your grandmother's.  Might be a great great grandmother's.  Check out my next Foodie Friday and I'll surprise you with the recipe.

Took son to orthodontist.  He's getting a bar across the top of his mouth to spread out his upper jaw.  Good thing, there's no room at the inn for the big teeth.

Baked the bottoms of jelly tarts.  Little tiny pie crust type things.  Then, after baking you put jelly on them.

Pressed out eight, count them eight, dozen springerle.  All thanks to my new mold.  And my new baker's ammonia.  Did you know that baker's ammonia is the same compound as smelling salts?  So it's a leavening, and if you need to help someone out of a faint, voila!  Almond flavor yesterday.  Baking them tonight.  It's a tricky challenge to bake them.  They might overpuff and not look as good as they might if they didn't puff so much.  I'm baking at 225 F for 20 minutes.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  One pan seems to be better than the others.  I need another pan like it.  Still planning on a batch of orange flavored.  Maybe next week.

Made a super supper.  Pork chops with Italian dressing in the crock pot.  Tried to make some homemade cranberry dressing, but it didn't turn out quite like I expected.  Steamed sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole to round it out.  Actually good I did a test run of the cranberry dressing.  I need to try again with a tweak of the ingredients before serving it at Christmas.

Bathroom sink got fixed, finally.  It's been dripping for maybe three months.  I replaced the seat springs and rubber bits.  But not before I forgot to turn off the water.  Can anyone say bathroom geyser?  Hence I had to do the towels in the laundry.  Everything, including me and my slippers, soaking wet.

Had to run to the store for broth.  While heading there I realized the moon was full, or nearly so.  Um, can we say no wonder I was a little crazy?

I watched one TV show and played one video game yesterday.

Last night I dreamed aliens that looked like humans (yes, it probably is V influenced) had captured all the humans and were making us do work for them.  Slaves, I guess.  Somehow I came up with the plan to foil them and coordinated the effort worldwide right from where I was standing.  We captured all of them and then I had to get up.

Does that explain why I was sore today?  Nah, maybe it was the mixing and baking and kneading and rolling dough?  My triceps feel like they've been through the wringer all day.

I was up way too late and am very tired tonight.

Good night, Gracie.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Foodie Friday

I hear the moans and groans out there.  Too much turkey?  Too much stuffing?  Too many potatoes?  How about that pie?  It's so sad, because for years I used to think all we could do with pumpkin was make pie.  But no more folks!  Some of you may recall the pumpkin waffles.  These are brilliant, yes, but sometimes one would like something else to add to the arsenal.

Enter pumpkin pancakes!

Yes, it is a breakfast theme, but pumpkin goes well with maple syrup.  Just ask my oldest, Andrew.  He will only eat the real stuff, not the fake stuff.  His sister is slowly coming around to the real stuff, but we have to mix the two at the moment.  The real stuff is a bit pricier and she's a syrup hog.  Uses three times as much as the rest of us.  So maybe not being into the real stuff yet is a good thing.

This recipe is by way of my friend, M.  She also gave me the pumpkin waffle recipe.

1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. wheat flour
1/2 c. pumpkin
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. or more water

Whisk flour, eggs, and pumpkin together.  As soon as combined, start gradually adding milk and water.  Continue adding milk and water if too thick.  Cook on medium high.

Enjoy!

And if any of you lucky people (or unlucky as the case may be) got cracking at 4 am on Black Friday, enjoy your your bargain purchases!  We are too far from major retailers for this to be of any use to me.  I am not normally into Black Friday (hello, have to get up really early!  Maybe stay up, that would work better for me) but if there's a bargain, then I might want to be there.  Oh well, it wasn't meant to be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So random

Let's join the random blogging world.

randomtuesday

I am shooting for incredibly random, mostly rants of the last few days.

I am annoyed at the concept of query letters.  Yes, I've been trying to craft one for that book I co-wrote.  Writing is a lot easier when you're making a book with characters, plot, research, descriptions, emotions.  SELLING a book you wrote is a whole lot different.  Too bad I can't just send a video of me describing my book to my potential agents.  Though a video of me could be scary.  I just want to say that the editing phase and the writing and editng phase of a query letter is not fun.  You hear that.  NOT FUN.  I want fun again.  Guess I should write another book.

And on that subject, no, I did not participate in NaNoWriMo or whatever that is.  I'll write my novel whenever I damn well please, thank you very much.

At work, I had someone who was supposed to interview me for a newspaper article.  That's fine.  Except she was random about when she'd call, maybe yesterday afternoon, maybe this morning.  Well, she called today at 11:50 am.  Yup, I waited around the office (somewhat) expecting this important call and she calls with 10 minutes to spare on the morning.  Then we had a brief conversation and she decides why don't I just email her the information.  I would have done that earlier in November if she had decided that back then when she first called to set up the "interview."  But instead I spend my last minutes at work today, the day before my day off of travel to the glorious state of Iowa, cranking out a tome on the subject, which I could have done with ease and care two weeks ago!

By the way, the title of this post is not original.  There's a silly little show on Disney Channel, which I can actually watch with my kids.  Sometimes Sonny with a Chance can be pretty funny.  So, it's a show I don't mind watching with my kids, unlike SpongeBob or Fanboy and Chumchum (I am not making that up).  It's a show about two shows and the actors that are in them.  Check it out:




Oh, I did say, "Check it out!"



So the mice mouse is gone from our house.  Yay!  But, again, at work I get to enjoy their company.  I have some traps there, which we call tin cats.  They look like this:




It works, even without bait.  You set the hole along the wall where they run, and they decide to run right in, but can't get out.  I know I should take it out and empty it, but eew! I know it's supposed to be humane and all, but I am not feeling humane.  Even more so when the mouse nose and paw scrape and chew outside the air vents you see there.  It was trying to get out, banging and scrabbling around.  I don't have a problem with nature, as long as it stays outside in nature where it should live.  And yes, I've said that before.

The best thing is a few days off now.  Today feels like my Friday.  My son gets fitted on Monday for a bar across the top of his mouth for spreading apart his narrow upper jaw.  This is just phase 1 of the treatment.  Poor guy.  His dad and I have given him both bad eyes and bad teeth.  I should have married someone with good eyes, my kids might have had a chance then.

And it's so random over at the Un Mom.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Foodie Friday (day late, maybe a dollar short)

And short a brain, too, since I accidentally published before I wanted.

How about an ethnic trip to the Czech Republic.  Or the area formerly known as Bohemia, for some special holiday bread, a bit like challah, but this one is called hoska.  None of my family is remotely Bohemian, but I was making a demonstration piece for something related to work.  I found that many East European countries make these holiday breads around Christmas and Easter.  It is very similar to the Jewish challah bread with eggs, yeast and braiding, so it is interesting how all these groups influenced each other.

This is from Cooks.com.

CHRISTMAS BRAID BREAD (Hoska)   

2 pkgs. dry yeast
2 c. warm milk
1 c. sugar
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 c. butter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
7 to 8 c. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1 lemon rind, grated
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mace
1 c. white raisins
1 c. chopped almonds
1 c. candied mixed fruit

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water until bubbly. To the warm milk add soft butter, salt, sugar, vanilla, spices and lemon rind. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add yeast mixture and beaten eggs and mix well. Sift in 4 cups flour, stirring well, add floured fruit and nuts alternately. Then add remaining flour, beat until dough does not stick to bowl.

Turn out on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic about 8 or 10 minutes. Put in greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough and divide in half. This make 2 loaves.

Cut 4 large and 5 smaller portions, roll each into long rolls. Braid the 4 rolls forming a loaf. Put on pan lined with greased brown paper. Braid the 3 smaller rolls and place on top, then remaining 2 pieces on top. Place toothpicks to hold braids in place.

Brush with beaten egg whites in a little water. Let rise to double in bulk. For rich crust brush with melted butter during baking. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, lower temperature to 325 degrees for 45 minutes longer depending on how you like it.


I only made two separate braids with four strands each.  Something about weaving four strands is really elegant.



 

 


Silly me forgot to take a picture of the end result.  One was a little too dark on the bottom because I had both in the oven in the same time and the bottom one was too close to the bottom of the oven.  Good thing I made two.  Other than that, they looked beautiful.

Also, I tried quick raising yeast, which is a crock.  It didn't really raise any faster.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Something by way of The Grandpa.  I was glad I visited.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time for Random Tuesday


randomtuesday

Dear Little Mouse,

I know the weather is a little chilly outside at night. I also know that you are cute, and fuzzy, and look adorable when you chew on a corn kernel. However, you may not know that this is my house and it is not acceptable to leave your little presents on my counter or under my sink. Mice are to live in the wild and my house is not the wild, thank you very much, despite what you may have heard. You are to be evicted immediately and I don't care how cute your little whiskers or paws are. It is also not acceptable to be sneaky and lick the peanut butter right off the trap without setting it off. Therefore, I have placed more presents for you around the places where you left us presents. I am sure you will not enjoy them, but I hope your life is quick and short and painless and I can then get on with mine.

Thank you.






Dear Little Chipmunk or Ground Squirrel or whatever the heck you are called,

I know you think you're cute, with all your aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings living under our garage and in our house walls. However, when one of them dies inside those said walls, the stench is pretty nasty. If you're going to live there, have the courtesy to die elsewhere so our basement does not smell like death. In addition, we could live with seeing one or two of you around, but now there's a whole commune and we do not want to see more holes in our yard or foundation wall. Therefore, Mr. Wild left you some tasty treats that may make your stomach hurt. Please be sure to have that stomach ache away from our house, so we don't smell your rotting carcass when it finally gets to you. If you want to go move to the neighborhood park, I think that would be the best for all of us. But if not, share the tasty poison pellets with your aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings and we will deal with the stench until it goes away.




I wouldn't have such a problem with wildlife, if it would just stay in the wild and not invade my space.

Go visit the Un Mom by clicking on the label for more randoms.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Foodie Friday (with a little history)

I was at a gathering earlier this week and this is what I made for the food table.



Blintzes with...






blueberry sauce

I made the crepes, cheese filling and sauce from scratch.




Sorry there's no picture of the sauce on top of the blintzes.
They do taste as good as they looked, if I may say so.

So the history lesson is that when I was maybe 10 or 11, we went out to Ohio to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins who were (are) all older than me.  My oldest cousin was graduating and at her graduation they served blintzes with cherry sauce.  It was really yummy and my first exposure to something that is often considered a Jewish food, though I didn't really know it was that.  My uncle is Jewish.  I think on this same trip I was also introduced to bagels, lox, and cream cheese.  I thought that was a pretty tasty treat, but didn't know its cultural background until I was a lot older.

I was going to do cherry sauce, but cherries cost more.

If you're absolutely dying for the recipe, then maybe I'll post it, but I think it came from the Food Network and is very long, which is why didn't spend the time copying it and posting it.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts going strong...


randomtuesday


Way too much candy, but healthier kids and a fun weekend nonetheless:



Snow Princess (good choice for the chilly weather)




 

 

We found a snow man, an orange snowman, but a snowman anyway.




Had a great time trick or treating with our friends, Bumblebee the Transformer and Spider Girl.

(Why is it that most superhero women are Something Girl, where their male counterparts are Something Man? Like Super Girl, Super Man, Bat Girl, Bat Man, Spider Girl, Spider Man.  There is only one Wonder Woman.  Wonder Boy sounds better than Wonder Man, don't you think?)

You will notice that there is no older child in these photographs.  I have hit a milestone I was not ready to hit.  The "I'm too old for trick or treating and a costume" milestone.  Made me feel sad that the end of an era was here.  We did buy him something earlier for a costume, when he was having a school party and I told him he should have a costume, but he missed the school party and refused to go out in the costume.  Mr. Wild also recently overheard him telling his sister and her little neighborhood friends that he didn't think Santa was real, that it was really just his Mom and Dad.  He hasn't said anything to us and I'm still not sure how to deal with it.

I'm so not ready for this next stage of childhood development....middle school!

Go visit the other randoms!


Friday, October 30, 2009

Foodie Friday

I pretend to being a foodie.  I like good food, but my cooking repertoire is not as varied as I would like it to be.  Perhaps that has to do with my children's, and, for that matter, husband's, limited tastes.  Mr. Wild is much more adventurous than he used to be, but there are many dislikes of his that limit my cooking and many of my childhood foods do not get made because he just doesn't like it (chicken divan comes to mind as being one of the dishes I miss on occasion).

But today is about some lovely items with which I created a new tradition in my own little family.  And it's about time to start making them for the holidays.  In fact, I have geared up by buying some supplies for the season.  They can be kind of a pain in the butt to make, but are so gorgeous and yummy to boot.  My own brother is perfectly satisfied with two tinsful of them for his Christmas present.

Oh, but where are my manners?  Let me introduce springerle cookies to you:



They are actually very tiny.  This one is about 1 inch by 2 inches or so.  They are made using molds.


 
 
Look at the detail.  There's even steam from the cup.  You can barely see it in my actual cookie, but it is there.  The mold picture is from the enabler website from where I get most of my supplies.  I just put in for a new mold.  Mr. Wild was like, "Oh, well, Merry Christmas to you!"  But it was a really good deal, because you get 6 different cookie designs for $30, when many single molds are at least $24. So he said, "Were you getting tired of all the designs you had?"  Well, yes I was.

Here's my new mold.  I can hardly wait!
 


That and I got hartshorn (baker's ammonia) and orange oil for flavoring.  I already have almond oil in stock.  My brother and son love the almond flavors (my favorite, too), but Willa and Mr. Wild like the orange flavor.  And one year I got creative crazy and brushed the backs of the orange flavored ones with dark chocolate.  Oh, that was decadent!

So by now you're wondering about the recipe.  I could retype the whole thing here, but I use the House on the Hill recipe all the time, in the booklet where they give loads of hints and tips on how to make them.  My method may be slightly different than yours based on weather, humidity, oven temperment, and so forth, so, for me to put in my recipe is pointless.  And it changes all the time depending on the flavors.  But I would recommend the following:
  1. Don't skip the hartshorn.  It really is so much better than the baking powder.
  2. Do experiment with one or two cookies when baking in the oven.  You don't want them to overpuff and size of the cookie can make it change drastically.  I have a large hornbook mold and the small coffee cup and both react differently.  I bake low and slow most times.
  3. Adjust your oven temperature a lot!  Use the tricks they offer in the tips and hints.  It really makes a difference.
  4. Use real flavoring oils (and do not pour them into or onto anything plastic.  I poured it on something plastic and it kind of melted it).  Extracts are not strong enough.
  5. Try to dry out the cookies for 24 hours if you can, but a couple hours will do fine as well.  Some drying time is necessary to help "set" the print.
The molds are not cheap, but buy a big one with several cookie designs on it for cost effectiveness.  I've never tried the rolling pins, so I can't say how easy they are to work with.  I prefer pressing them in.  This insanity all started when I was introduced to them while working at an 1880s German American living history farm.  I used to live near where the House on the Hill company is based and I would go in person to their store to buy "seconds" at a lesser price.  They were no less beautiful and it's amazing walking in and seeing the shelves full of all the gorgeous molds.  So addictive, you wish you had one of each.  When I first started, as I understood it, they were the only importer of these fine molds, made of resins, many copied from historic examples.  They have even been featured in Martha Stewart Living.

I am leaving you with a few more photos of my previous work.  The frenzy has yet to begin this year.  I am awaiting my new mold.



These are orange flavored which are enhanced by using fresh orange peel in the batter.

 
This says "Merry Christmas" in German.

 

 

You can find this mold here.




Both the wreath and the house were seconds. The wreath is discontinued.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Memeless: History Lesson

Attention class!  If you did not sign up for Costume History 101, you may leave the room now.

Thank you.

We're going to start today with a look at how stupid costume people on stupid television shows cannot be bothered to go do proper research, of which there is even plenty on-line and can take no more than five minutes to look up a historical painting or photograph to correlate with whether or not you got the historic clothing right.  It is especially agregious when the time period is the American Civil War and there are 50,000 reenactors as of 2000 (Wikipedia, 2009).  With so many people interested in this time period, you'd think the costume people could try a little harder.

First, let's start with the people that are supposed to be portraying "slaves" in this show:





 



Let's compare with an 1862 photo of slaves:


http://www.sonofthesouth.net/

There are NO shirts and skirts in the 1860s!  I hate that!  Well, ok, caveat, there was occasionally, but not to the extent that all the slaves should be wearing it.  In the top photo, the "slave" has a blousy, unfitted shirt and a skirt with way too little fabric to be right for the time period.  In the second picture, what the heck is the slave companion wearing?  That particular slave lady also has a corset, which, usually, is fine, but in this case, check out the real photo.  NONE of the women are wearing corsets.  You can tell, because much is sagging or otherwise loose.  If there was a corset, you'd seen the straightness of the body up to the bust line.  Also, in the real photo, the skirts and bodices are attached and made of the SAME material.  Really, it's not that hard to put that together.  Here, get a pattern.  Or two.

While we're at it, look at the young lady in the second picture.  While the jacket she wears is decent for her age and the time period and the skirt is really not that bad, a little too much skin!  A blouse on her would have been appropriate.





This one of the main young lady is also horrible:






ACK!


Oh, come on.  In the time it took me to write this, the costume designer could have checked out this website: Wikipedia, 1860s fashion or looked up these lovely patterns of which there are many and decent ones that they could have used on the girl character.  Simplicity even carries some really decent 1860s outfits in their current line.  That's right.  She could have gone to the fabric store, or WALMART and looked these up in their pattern catalogs. Sheesh!  (Did you hear that Susan De Laval and Jennifer L. Bryan?)  And seriously, if you don't have the time to make the costumes, you can buy plenty of decent ones. Oh, and that's just the tip of the ice berg.

And don't even get me started on the men's clothing in these pictures.  Double ACK!

Class dismissed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

randomtuesday

So, I am stuck at home with two children with fevers.  I am hoping it is not the bad stuff, because we have a week packed full of fun times that we may all have to miss.  We're missing the school's monster mash fundraiser tonight already.  Willa is very sad, because in PE they learned some dances to monster mash music and now she can't join in.  I'm sorry for her.  She even wanted to try out the haunted house.  Andrew, on the other hand, really isn't bothered.  He doesn't even want to do trick or treating.  His words, "Candy isn't good for you, it will rot your teeth."  I asked, "But don't you like candy?"  He said, "Well, I can't eat most of it anyway." (he has orthodonture appliances in his mouth, not braces, other stuff)  I said, "Well, you could go and then trade for the chocolate in your sister's stash."  He said, "Nah, it just seems like it's for little kids." (my jaw drops, I'm so sad, when did he decide he was a big kid?)

We have school Halloween party tomorrow, which they may miss, then Andrew was invited to a sleep over for Friday, and we have a family Halloween party on Friday and then on Saturday.  Trick or treat is on the day of Halloween, so exciting, if we aren't all sick at that time.  Bummer!  And I was looking forward to the parties, too.  The only consolation is that this year I broke my tradition and bought costumes instead of making them.  So I'm out the money, but not the time.  Perhaps they will fit next year.

Remember that episode of Friends with the "freebie list?"  This is my freebie list.  Unfortunately, there can only be five.


Val Kilmer (have had a crush since Real Genius came out.  Unfortunately, getting older has not necessarily made him get better.  It would have to be the Val Kilmer of The Saint or Willow.)
Hugh Jackman (who didn't like him playing Wolverine in X-Men Origins)
David Tennant (most awesome Dr Who evar!)
Jack Davenport (I think I have a thing for sensitive British guys.)
Jensen Ackles (younger, but not by that much.  Guess I like some ghost hunters, too.)

Um, apparently my celebrity worship has been shaped by sci-fi and fantasy.  Ha, go figure!

Compare that to my elementary school crushes:
Shaun Cassidy
Parker Stevenson (The Hardy Boys, remember?)

Mark Hamill (now when I watch Star Wars, I just think of him as super whiny.  Why didn't I notice that at the beginning?)


Oh, then there are those really older men who aged pretty well:

Sean Connery
Pierce Brosnon
Harrison Ford

I was going to put up all these photos, but you will have to settle for the links (thanks to IMDb for all the links).  Seriously, that would have been a lot of pictures.  Plus, I'm all worried about copyright, so I think the link will do.  That took me long enough.

Both kids are quietly sleeping in the den.  No protests.  No fighting.  I'm a bit worried.

For more randomness, click on the badge above.  I'm done.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More pudding recipes

Amy over at Bitchin' Wives Club is living the dream in England.  She shared a recipe Friday that seemed suspiciously familiar to me.  I went to the cupboard to see what my great grandmother's recipe for date pudding looked like.

Here's my family recipe:

2 c. chopped dates
2 t. soda
2 c. hot water
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 c. nutmeats
1 t. vanilla
2 T. butter

Mix dates, soda and hot water, set aside to cool.  Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in butter.  Add date mix, nuts and vanilla, stir until mixed.  Bake in a greased floured 8x8 pan at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.


My recipe is a little simpler, but it comes from a family recipe and may be 70-80 years old and is not fancied up by coffee flavors and other things.  It seems that my great grandmother truly used a recipe from Scotland, which is where my great grandfather is from.  Family legend has it that my great great great grandfather might have been a gardener at the Queen's summer retreat (this would have been Victoria) at Balmoral.  That I do not have verified, but I had great aunts attest to that fact.  I need some time and money to travel to the UK to check out my heritage.

Thanks for sharing the recipes Amy, I think I'm going to try the sauce on my pudding next time.  And maybe get cute little bowls for my puds, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Memeless in Madison: History Lesson

Well, I'm not quite in Madison, but it is a town in my state, so close enough.

I was hoping to find another meme as enjoyable as the Random Tuesday Thoughts, but not yet.  I am looking for a couple of days a week to keep my blog turning over more than once a week.  Actually, kind of sad that I have to go looking for an excuse to write.  This should be easier.

Instead, I'll leave you with a movie preview that may or may not be made about the World War II prisoner of war camp in Algona, Iowa.  Why do I care?  Well, as you watch the clip, you will see a nativity scene.  This was made by the German prisoners of war residing at that camp for the people of Algona.  They left it there, after they all returned to Germany.  That nativity scene has been restored, not once, but twice, by Mr. Wild.  He's done a nice job, I think, cleaning them and in-filling the paint so that they look almost new again.  So, who will play the part of the recent college grad who restored them back in the 1990s?  He has to be tall, red haired and maybe have a goatee.  Go to the movie Algona.

In an interesting, but strange twist of fate, my parents were raised in the other town in Iowa that had a German prisoner of war camp, Clarinda.  My paternal grandmother, a farm wife, told me how she and Grandpa used to have one of the prisoners come to the farm to work.  Women were not allowed to ride in the same car as the German prisoner.  However, gas was rationed (of course), and if Grandma wanted to get to town, she wasn't going to sit at home, no sir.  She rode in that car with Grandpa and the prisoner and then got out at the outskirts of town, walking into town while Grandpa dropped the prisoner of war back at camp.  Grandma is such a stitch!  More on the camps here.

And to add another strange twist of fate, my maternal grandfather was a WWII prisoner of war in German hands, but on Polish soil in Oflag64.  I cannot even begin to imagine that for him.  He was in the North Africa campaign, shot and wounded in the arm, taken to Italy for treatment and then shipped to Oflag64 for the rest of the war.  Apparently there is already a documentary on that POW experience.  Ten years too late for my grandfather to comment.

That's your history lesson for the day.  Thank you for attending.
(Hmm...this could be my very own meme)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Joining many others in the blogosphere, just cause I need a kick 'n th'pants to jumpstart my writing.  Thank you Un Mom for giving us writing excuses.


randomtuesday


OH, for heaven's sake. (Or should I have said "for Pete's sake?"  That is one of Grandma's favorites)  I'm not a girly girl.  I don't mind getting my hands dirty.  Heck, I helped birth a calf one time, and had my ARM stuck all the way in there.  The calf in womb would even suck my fingers, WHILE ALL THE WAY IN THERE.  You know where I mean.  So by no stretch of the imagination am I afraid of some dirt.  I moved one peony plant today.  It is my test peony, to see if I killed it.  So my hands were dirty today, once.

So, I wanted to replace my headlight.  That shouldn't be so hard.  I looked at the manual.  It seemed like a piece of cake.  Then, I opened the hood and tried to reach the apparatus.  What they don't draw in the manual is all the other crap parts in the way of the "easy" access point.  I don't think Mr. Wild could have changed this bulb because to get in there I needed my small hands.  It was fifteen minutes later, a screw removed, a strange shifting of the light apparatus and several minutes of trying to yank the bulb out of the electrical portion it is connected to, after I pulled it out of the housing.  And we have the wrong tools for removing that bolt.  Way more effort for one small light bulb.

Moving on, how about my thoughts on fall television, some newbies, some oldies?  Grey's Anatomy jumped the shark for me when they had a main character die, become sort of a ghost, then come back to life.  Yeah, I dumped that a while ago.  But, I think Kate Walsh is a fun actress, so I moved on to Private Practice.  Is it possible for an adult show to get as angsty as a teeny bopper one?  I think it is.  I removed it from my DVR recording list tonight.  I'm done with Private Practice.  Sorry Kate.

But how about that FlashForward.  It is just as intriguing as Lost, but not as weird.  Which I am ready for.  Something along the lies of pretty realistic, but still absolutely crazy.  I really like FlashForward.  It doesn't hurt that Jack Davenport is in it (sigh).  Show of hands.  Who also likes Jack Davenport?  What, don't you know who he is? You know, Jack:





Davenport
That Jack Davenport....

Jack Davenport

I would have put up a Swingtown, Coupling, and FlashForward photo too, but then my Random Tuesday would be all about Jack Davenport and you might think I'm obsessed.  (No, really, I'm not that obsessed. Sigh.)

Another show I've really and surprisingly enjoyed is Glee.  I didn't think I'd like it.  First, a glee club is usually a choir that stands in rows in robes or suits and ties and sings.  What they really have is a swing choir or show choir.  I should know.  I was in some.  Well, that would be three....



(It was the early 90s, please forgive the big hair)

But how much fun?  It's really great and the song selections are fabulous.  I wish my show choirs had sung less 60s pop and songs from I don't know where and had gotten to do more current music.  I guess Glee isn't all current, but they are some great songs.  You just want to jump up and sing.  I wonder if any of my old show choir mates can still bust a move.  I hope all those Glee kids really do sing, because if they do, they are awesome.  I sure hope it's not dubbed over.   But even if it is, it's still fun to watch and listen.

Does anyone else feel that keeping track of your kids book bags, assignments, papers coming home from school, field trip permission slips, parent-teacher conferences, lunch boxes, and so forth is like going back to school all over again?  I feel like I have assignments every night, signing the box where it says my son did his homework, the line to say my daughter's conference is fine.  It doesn't help when dear Willa comes home to say, "Mommy, you have homework."  Didn't I put in my dues?  Sigh.  Ok, I suppose when I have grandkids I don't have to worry about all that, yes?

Finally, something really weird for the Star Wars fans.  This came via FaceBook friends, but I was giggling about it, so I better share.


Doesn't that just about make your day?

Happy thoughts everyone.  My second day off is done, back to the grindstone.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Random stuff for favorites....




I'm so excited that Aliceson shared the Over the Top Blog award with me.  She's so sweet.  Now, we have to find a halfway point to have an Irish beer.  Really, she should just come visit me, my Irish friend and our Irish pub in town and have that beer. Tonight me and the ladies are having mom's night in.  Just as good as mom's night out, except don't need a babysitter.  We head to someone's house who is sans husband and everyone else's husbands watch the kids.

The award rules are:

Answer the survey below…you can only use one word answers! (I tried to follow them exactly)
Pass this along to 6 of your favorite bloggers!

Where is your cell phone? counter
Your hair? limp
Your mother? Iowa
Your father? Iowa
Your favorite food? Chinese
Your dream last night? none
Your favorite drink? hot whiskey
Your dream/goal? publish
What room are you in? office
Your hobby? sewing (if I only had the time)
Your Fear? death
Where do you want to be in 6 years? here
Where were you last night? computer
Something that you aren’t? tall
Muffins? blueberry
Wish list item? trip
Where did you grow up? Iowa
Last thing you did? eat
What are you wearing? scarf
Your TV? on
Your pets? none
Friends? best
Your life? wonderful
Your mood? content
Missing someone?no
Vehicle? corolla
Something you’re not wearing? nametag
Your favorite store? Target
Your favorite color? green
When was the last time you laughed? morning
Last time you cried? forgot
Your best friend? fantabulous
One place that I go to over and over? work
One person who emails me regularly? Moy
Favorite place to eat? Mexican

Ok, six other bloggers.  That's a bit difficult, because I haven't been blogging too much lately.  I really would like to see Pseudonymous High School Teacher, Vodkamom, Strange Pilgram, Amy@Bitchin' Wives Club (check out her adventures where she moved from the midwest to England, I am so jealous), True Blue Texan, and Heather.

I think I need to take part in Random Tuesday.  I've been wanting to hit My Town Mondays, which look pretty neat, but that would require me getting out of the house when I'm not working and going somewhere other than the grocery store in town.  Got to be at work two more days, then two days off.  One will be without the car as they figure out the brake situation.  If it's warm on Monday, I'm contemplating moving the peonies from the back to the front yard.  Wonder what Mr. Wild will say.

Happy Weekend!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I just don't get it...

I don't get why people are so afraid of universal health care.  Or even afraid of the government-run system.  I have friends on both sides of the issue, but I cannot understand the position of those that think that something like Medicaid and Medicare are not good examples of how government can run health insurance.  I understand that these things are not perfect, but who's to say they couldn't be improved upon?  And I understand that people on those get the care that they need.  I knew someone who was just waiting until she turned old enough to get started on Medicare.

I had a link in my Facebook today from here. In it, a Canadian doctor does a compare and contrast of the Canadian vs. US health care systems.  Why do people say that the Canadian system is bad?  Because there's a wait to see doctors?  Hello, it can be a month or more for me to get to see my doctor for a regular appointment.  When I call to set it up, I have to have a clear calendar two months in advance sometimes.  If I need to be urgently seen, well yes, I can get in, with a different doctor.  But the same can be said for Canada.  I know this is published in the LA Times (ooo, big scary liberal paper), but on the other hand, it was written by a Canadian doctor.  What does he care about what we get for a health care system?  He's not going to use it.  To me, this makes sense, so what is the fuss about government run health care?

Is it because it costs more via taxes in Canada?  According to that article, 16% of the US economic engine is contributed to healthcare, as opposed to 10% in Canada.  So, taxes go up?  But what if your up-front costs are lower or non-existent?  What if they no longer take that monthly payment out of your pay check for health care, but your whole family is covered?  And what about the small companies who could never afford it?  All their employees could get covered.  Those without care, covered.  Seriously, I always say that you'll pay for it one way or another.  So what if it comes out of my taxes instead of my pay check?  Either way I didn't have the money in the first place.  And people moan about government bureaucracy.  What about insurance bureaucracy?

And what is so bad about paying taxes so that those that cannot afford it can see doctors?  And get treatment?  To me it is so selfish to moan and groan about taxes going to people getting a check up and healthy.  Are you kidding me?  Really?

What my work contributes to my family's health insurance on a yearly basis (and that does not include my share) is astounding to me.  To know that another half of my salary covers my insurance.  Which means that's a huge chunk of the budget.  I am grateful to have it, but I keep wondering why better insurance prices aren't negotitiated when obviously the place is taking a big hit in the budget for this.  It's a big group of people; they really could have the insurance companies bowing down for price control if they wanted to play hard ball.  UPDATE: This is an interesting podcast that seems to corroborate what I know about the cost of my own family's health care costs. This American Life

But, in the end I'm afraid we won't dig ourselves out of this mess.  There's so much bad information, it's hard to find the good and its hard to keep everyone focused on the same goal.  And in some cases, I think our democractic experiment is not working all that well anymore.  We just seem to get more and more entrenched in two sides and it is harder and harder to find a common ground.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wardrobe Wednesday

I'm a sometimes Wardrobe Wednesday participant.  Check it out at the original post, with Heathen Family Revival.  Today I couldn't pass this one up.  Granted I took this picture almost a month ago.  And finally got around to downloading them into my computer.




All girls love their mom's shoes.












But I think the next fashion photo shows the best taste....





Nothing like heels with one's jammies.


Quite the fashion statement.


For more Wardrobe Wednesday, you can also check out my blog friend over at Feet Off the Table!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Anyone need a shrink ray?

Willa says: How do they shrink ray the oranges so they get so small?
(this in reference to her favorite treat, mandarin oranges)

Me: Laughing so hard I can't answer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

So nice to be a grown up

Good food, good wine and beverages, good friends.

What a combination! Sometimes it's so hard to remember the pleasures of the company of other adults. Really, as a parent, you have to try to force yourself to make time to go out and enjoy the company of others. Going to each other's houses can be fun, but taking the kids with can be such a distraction. Just something about a few adults getting together, sharing stories of mutual and separate pasts, stories about our own parents, stories of our children's trials and tribulations (at least in the child's eyes) and topics of interest that just make the conversation silly or fun.

Another good combination to this equation is to explore other cultures through food. Our small gang (can I call it a gang? maybe) has so far visited an Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Spanish restaurant. We enjoy our tour of the world via our plate.

I remember when I first thought I was a grown up. The younger me who enjoyed a few club visits, late night parties lasting into the wee hours of the morning, some overseas travel, some dates, some extra schooling. It was fun, those are great memories.

But it's really nice to be at this point, kicking back, relaxing and enjoying some simple things. An interesting red Spanish wine, octopus and calamari (two items that I never thought I might really like), a warm cup of decaf coffee at a friend's house after the sitter is sent home and the kids are in bed, long, various conversations. Sure, I was home by 10:30 pm, but it was a great night.

I think these nights out remind us that we are cosmopolitan people. We are citizens of the world and hope for the best for all residents of the world, not just our small town. I think it reminds us to remember life beyond our small families and town and to enjoy the diversity that life has to offer.

Cheers to my friends!

Monday, September 28, 2009

So, there's this book

So, yes, I've alluded to this book. This one I'm co-writing. With a friend. All that is going well. I want to say it's done, but actually, we've been over it several times and now we've decided to add a prologue, which we think is a really nice addition.

We thought we were done and started sending it out to agents, but then this prologue idea crept in and we're on a different track. So we've put more agent outreach on hold until this prologue is brushed up. And also our first four chapters. We really need to nail those better, because we think they don't grab the reader as much as we think they should.

So far this has been quite a creative experience. I really love co-writing. I think it might be better than just writing, because you have a person bouncing ideas off of and it seems things just get better with two heads. I'm surprised more authors don't do it. I have found out that James Patterson has. He likes to co-write. I don't see why not. It may be what keeps his stories rolling and fresh. This book writing has helped me get over some of the blues I have about my full time job. Some of the creativity has left there, and I needed something to spark my creative side.

Now we are in the learning curve about agents and publishing, in addition to revising our tails off. We've decided much of getting published is dumb luck. So we are hoping for luck. And trying different tactics. I am reading a lot more. Our genre is middle grade, which is books for children anywhere from age nine to twelve or thereabouts. I feel very comfortable about that age group and writing for them.

This blog was meant to help with some of that creativity, but as I got buried into revising, this blog has suffered. I don't write the book the way I do the blog, but writing anything a few times a week is a good habit to get into. Discipline is not my strong suit, and sometimes I just want to lie on the sofa and mindlessly watch TV rather than read or write.

So, I'm back to reworking the prologue. Then we hope to plaster that together with the first few chapters and send it to some family or friends for a second read through. We're hoping that we created more excitement and purpose for the characters. I've read about other writers who write their first book and then decide eventually that it's crap and shelve it, going on to write something better that gets picked up. But I don't think our story is crap. Far from it. In fact, I think it is just as good or better than some things I've read for that age level. But I worry that what I think is good may not be to a lot of people. I have no idea if I'm just crazy, or if it would be really enjoyable for kids. Lots of kids. Definitely not JK Rowling level, but a little fan base with kids writing us letters would be neat.

But really, I just don't know what agents and publishers are looking for. To me, it seems all over the board. So, how, in a small one page query letter, do we show an agent that he or she should take a chance on us? And how do they show a publisher to take a chance on us?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tracking the ham balls

So, some of you more faithful followers may remember my ham ball recipe. In that post, I was musing on its midwesterness. It seems, however, that it is really Iowan. Iowa is the place for pork. But recently, in reviewing some searches that have led some people to my site, there's been a couple of people searching for "Iowa ham balls." Fascinating. I hope they got the recipes I included. I am wondering if it's some people moved away from Iowa, fall coming on, they now start to get the hankering for ham balls. Cooking in the oven in the fall is a nice change of pace, and the secondary heat is nice for the house, no need to turn on the furnance just yet.

But it also leads me to believe more strongly that the ham ball was developed in Iowa. I think I will have to do some research into this. Of course, with all the free time I've got. You know, in between two full time jobs, soccer practice, soccer games, dance lessons, evening meetings, getting a chance to go out with the girls/boys (well grownups), FaceBooking, play dates, writing a book. You know, all that free time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Light on my feet

Go ahead and laugh. I know I was a bit nerdy or geeky in high school. For crying out loud, check out Glee and imagine what my life was like. I took dance lessons up to the ripe old age of 17. Yep, all the way through to senior year. I got a solo. That was nice.

Seriously, but I miss it. And, I didn't get exposed to a whole variety of dance. I got tap, ballet, and jazz. The basics. Recently, my daughter's fascination with Irish dancing has led me into a whole new realm. (Oh, yes, thanks to a dear friend of mine, who suggested she might enjoy visiting a trial lesson). Irish dancing is a bit too expensive for me to spend a whole wad of money on. But, oh, how she loves Irish music and watching others dance. I guess it didn't help that I took her to Irish Fest. Or downloaded music from Gaelic Storm. (Is it good or bad that she knows the actual words to What's the Rumpus?)

I watch my daughter dance her own little very bouncy, very near to Irish dancing dance. And I keep thinking I wish I knew some steps, just basic beginners, just to get her started. But woe is me. Because: one) They don't seem to offer classes for beginning adults, and two) for the longest time I could not find a video on the Internet to show me the steps. Me, having taken dance lessons, and knowing full well where to place my legs and arms as need be for various steps, can follow most visual instruction. Then, there it was, on the Internet, my first basic steps. It was all I needed.





Tonight there was an almost middle aged woman bouncing like an Irish dancing teenager. She bounced in the office in front of the computer. Good thing there's space in there. Then she cleared out the living room rug, her daughter selected the music, and away we went with Irish dancing mayhem. Mr. Wild came home from a meeting to find his wife sweating and bouncing in the living room. He was grinning like she was crazy. Her daughter was giving her high fives for getting it.

Threes are easy, sevens are hard until you know which beat your foot is supposed to hit the floor. And I love the point and toe move.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The other half

This post was inspired by the post at Strange Pilgram. I know it's an odd take off of that, but it moved my brain in this direction.


I want to be a fly on the wall when the dads get together. My circle of friends is a combination of stay-at-home moms and dads and their work outside-the-home dads and moms. We have occasion to get together in a variety of combinations. As couples, men's night, women's night, park play groups, family play groups. It is fascinating. Me being a woman, I see the women's side of things and the couples, but I always wonder about poker night.


Poker night is a mystical beast. I wish I could see our men in their native habitat and how things play out. We know men don't have the same topics of discussion as we do. Or do they? Do they talk about their wives? Do they talk about sports? That's a tough one, because I am sure at least half of the poker guys couldn't care less about sports teams. Do they talk about their kids and the weird things they do? I cannot even imagine that it could be as interesting as any time I get together with the girls. I've asked before what the topics of conversation are, not because I want to pry, but just curiosity. I really would like to see how guys relate.


I guess it has always been that way. I've never really known what groups of guys do or are interested in. There's the generic sports talk, or, if your guy leans toward the geek, the generic vid game/role playing talk. There might be sci fi, or taking things apart or putting them together. But really, is that all? And when a woman asks, the man shrugs it off as if it is so unimportant.


Occasionally, the womenfolk hear a snippet here and there. It's usually something shocking or grandly funny. The good thing is the guys do talk to us. It spreads like wildfire through the feminine grapevine. Then us ladies, as we get together more often than the gentlemen, have a little rehash and a giggle about whatever that latest tidbit was.


Why is it the women can pull things together and see each other more often? Is it something we crave and make an effort for? I just realized that the men haven't had a poker night since June, or maybe May. The women have had three book clubs, a couple girls' night out, maybe a girls' night in (can't remember), some play time at the park. It's not always the same combination of people, but the same people rotate in and out. There is definitely a list of gals, and roughly, their husbands participate in poker night. We care if it has been too long between bar hops, but they are so nonchalant. I don't get that either, because it is always great to blow off steam with a few people who know the trials of your sex.


If anyone has been the fly on the wall with a gathering of men, or is a man who would be happy to enlighten us, I would love to hear what their normal ordinary conversation topics are. Please leave a comment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My aunt

My aunt died on St. Patrick's Day. My mother's older sister. At the moment she was passing from this life to the next, I was in the local Irish pub, having a Smithwicks with a couple of friends and trying to be polite to the weird old man that was talking to us. We finally moved indoors and whiled away the time with random conversation and peeling peanuts from their shells, depositing the empties on the table. I remember it was a warm night, the warmest in weeks and the warmest in weeks to come, because I wanted to wear my leather jacket and it was too hot.

The next day I got the email. I knew it was coming, but still, you just think, that maybe, there will be a miracle. It was breast cancer. My mother's mother also died from breast cancer. The pit of my stomach churns thinking about it. Two cases, on my mother's side. It's a worry. But maybe, we'll get lucky.

It was a little weird getting the news via email. I could quietly grieve, instead of loudly grieving over a phone, but it seemed weird to me none the less. At least it wasn't one hundred years ago, or even 60 years, when a letter came, weeks or months after the fact, telling you a relative died. But I'm not sure I'm ready to be entirely in this emailing, texting world. At least it wasn't a text.

I saw this aunt, cousins, uncle occasionally and much less now than I had as a youth, which wasn't much to begin with. We were introduced to much less midwestern fare, not that my mom and dad were typically midwestern in the meals they fixed for us, but still, I had my first taste of some more exotic foods. We had some kind of oriental food, possibly Thai (my parents already made Chinese at home). My oldest cousin graduated from high school and we visited (or maybe that was college) and we had blintzes and I was introduced to bagels, lox, and cream cheese. My uncle was a professor and Jewish, my aunt was a nurse, and my cousins played violin, viola, cello. I wished I could be as cool playing an instrument like that.

My aunt was one to give thoughtful and thought invoking gifts. When I was nine, she gave me a lined book for writing in. Inside she inscribed, "For you to write your poetry in." It had not yet occurred to me, until then, that I had poetry to write, let alone having my own book to write it in. I remember bits and pieces of my nine year old poetry.

My desk may become a mess
But if you may
Please let it stay
In my room for more than one day.


Practice makes perfect, some people say.
But it seems like I get worse every day.
Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't.
I feel as if I'll quit, but I won't.

Immediately after my aunt died, I went digging in my basement. I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a pack rat. But, don't you think that a historian should be? It is my own personal history. I went digging and digging and digging. I know that book is in my house. I took it to college with me. I couldn't find it. I think, at that moment, that made me more sad than anything else. I have hope, I know it is here somewhere, I just didn't have the gumption at that point to haul everything out and dig through it. Another day.

Here it is, another day. My aunt never met my daughter in person. Who is named after the grandmother that first died from cancer. I'm sorry about that. We just didn't have the money or means to get to Seattle to see them before things went badly. My parents enjoyed visits with them out there in their retirement home in Seattle. I'm glad they did and they had good times.

My aunt had, what to me appears to be, a meaningful life. And she imparted a lot of great traits to her daughters, my cousins, whom I still admire a great deal. And I still admire my retired professor uncle. I believe we still need to make that visit to Seattle. I hope he can heal some from such an emptiness in his life. He has a passel of grandkids and another on the way. And the girls will tell such wonderful stories about grandma to their kids. They also know what it's like to be missing a grandma. I was eight when my grandmother died. I remember it pretty well.

I count my blessings that my own children's grandmother (both for that matter) is relatively healthy and well and can be there to impart her own special wisdom.