Saturday, January 31, 2015

War Opinions: Guest Post

With the change of semester at high school, Younger Daughter’s last period at school has switched from Study Hall to Forensics.  I never had the option of Study Hall in high school, but it sounds lovely to me – extra time to do homework, or go to the library and read books!  But now it’s time for YD to buckle down and learn the art of argument.  Her class on World Affairs has begun its study of the Middle East.  

From all these changes, this is where her thoughts went yesterday.  She asked me to publish this as a guest post.

Different War Opinions and Perspectives
By Youngest Daughter

Strange things come to those who ask an opinion of a war.
Start from far away. From the top of the world, from the heights of the heavens, let’s take a look at the god’s opinion.
I can’t see anything. There’s just green continents. I can’t see any humans. Why should I care?
Okay. That was a little too far.

Closer now, upon the earth, but still far away from the actual gunshots. Let us find the superpower’s opinion.
Something’s happening, all right. But I can’t see it. Why should I care?
Okay, still too far. Let’s try again.

Yet closer still, within the land, torn apart by blood and fire, and into a place of pristine white. What is the government’s opinion?
Something’s happening. I can see it right here on this chart, on this report. But it’s not happening to me. Why should I care?
Still too far! This is getting a little ridiculous.

Okay, one more time.
As close as we can come, straight to the fight, into the heart and mind of a soldier, shooting and running, waiting to die and hoping to live.
What does he think?
Something’s happening. I can see it. It’s happening to me. And I care. I care deeply.
I care about wanting it to stop.
Please government, superpower, gods themselves, can’t you help me?
Thanks for the opinion. Now, why should I care?
Strange things come to those who ask an opinion of a war.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Retirement Package

Due to various things lately, my husband and I are feeling our age a bit.  We are definitely the filling in the generational sandwich right now, at one moment transporting the teen to band practice (and more) and the next moment paying the bills for Grandma (and more).  It’s not a bad way for things to be at all, just busy.  And it is true that the pressure of the responsibilities weigh on a person.

The other night my husband said to me, “It sure is hard managing the old people’s needs.” 

I said, “Yeah, and they don’t even live with us.  Imagine how difficult it must be for the people who have their elderly relatives living with them.”

My husband misinterpreted what I was saying.  He thought I was suggesting that we invite them all to live here.  Oy!

Husband:  “We would never do that. Our house just isn’t set up for that.  I mean, the bathroom….”

Me:  “Oh, I’m not saying that we should have them live here.  But I wonder what the Old Folks’ Homes will be like by the time we’re ready to live in one.  Will they be like they are now?”

Husband:  “When I retire I’d like to go live at the bottom of the sea.”

This reminds me of Mafia-style retirement.

Me:  “ There’s too much pressure at the bottom of the sea.  I’d prefer the moon.  There’s no pressure on the moon.”

Husband:    “But if you’re at the bottom of the sea, you can watch the fish swimming by!  You can’t see anything from the moon.”

Me:  “You can see everything from the moon!  You can see the entire universe.”

Husband:  “But you can’t get packages delivered to the moon.”

Because what fun would retirement be if you couldn’t get packages?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Metaphorical Whiplash

Religious whiplash:
From a lofty and inspiring synagogue worship service on Friday night, at which we formally installed our new rabbi, to a nitty-gritty and inspiring day-long strategic planning retreat at church on Saturday. 

Spiritual whiplash:
From reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, about utter injustice, violence, and racism, to reading Love burning in the soul : the story of the Christian mystics, from Saint Paul to Thomas Merton, about heavenly love, mercy, and peace.

Familial whiplash:
From having all three kids around at all hours, which was wonderful and challenging, to no kids around at all during the day, which is wonderful and challenging.

Seasonal whiplash:
From the scurry and bustle of baking-planning-buying-wrapping-eating-traveling for Christmas, to the gloom and drear of taking down the lights, putting the paper chain away in the attic, and needing to get rid of the effect of all those cookies and pies.

I’m fine, but I might have my head on backwards for a while.   Also, I will sit on the couch wrapped in a blanket for a while.  Call me when it warms up.

And you?  How is the year proceeding for you so far?

Not just snow, but colder than cold.
Must keep in mind that the
arrival of this wintry stuff does not negate
the arrival depicted in the scenes below.

(The four photos above are of my sister-in-law's
nativity scenes made in Central America.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Seeking Symbiosis in the Kitchen

It’s either a brand new year, or just another day in the long string of days between Dec 23 (last day of school) and Jan 5 (when school resumes).  I have lost track of what day of the week it is, because no one in the household has to be any place on any particular day. 

Today I decided to use the lull to plan some menus for the next week.  I asked my husband what new dish I should learn to prepare in 2015, and he said, “Lentil loaf.”  Sigh. I know that if I make lentil loaf no one will like it, not even him.  And yet I am compelled to try.

While I am researching lentil loaf recipes, I invite you to go back in time to hear what the Common Household was talking about one year ago today (food, of course). 

For Christmas (2013) I received a gift of a box of polenta, a grain we had not tried before.  I served it on New Year’s Day (2014) for dinner.

Kids:  What is this stuff?

Me:  It’s polenta.

Younger Daughter:  Po-what?

Husband:  It’s po-etical!  I think it will be good with butter and salt on it.  (says the heart patient who is supposed to be avoiding fat and salt).

Me:  I’m having mine with the sauce from the peanut chicken.

Son:  It looks kind of like Styrofoam.

YD (after tasting):  But it tastes really good with butter and salt!

Me:  Maybe you would like it with some cranberry sauce, Son.  By the way, why does cranberry go so well with chicken, not to mention turkey?

Son:  It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Husband:  Cranberry is a fowl condiment.

YD:  You can’t have a symbiotic relationship between two foods!  They aren’t living things! 

Son:  This stuff is good with butter on it.  Maybe it would also be good with some milk on it.

Then there was a long argument over whether milk is acidic or basic.

* * * * * * * *

Maybe lentils would be symbiotic with polenta, if mixed and shaped into a loaf! 

Happy New Year. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Torrent of Baking

Nutmeg cookie logs, decorated by me.

Nutmeg cookie logs, decorated by Older Daughter.

My brother keeps sending me photos of cookies he has baked - so far, five kinds.  Then my sister-in-law (his wife) called and asked me to make Nutmeg Cookie Logs.  Because it just wouldn't be Christmas without Nutmeg Cookie Logs.  (Well, it would, but you know...)

We worshiped God on Sunday by performing the Christmas cantata.   It went well and was well received by the congregation, although I don't know how God felt about it.  I was thrilled to be able to participate, even though I just crashed through some random chords on the last piece.

I will be taking a break from my Deep Thoughts until sometime in the New Year.  So I leave you with photos of our baking.  We baked ALL DAY on Monday, and more today.

Raw snickerdoodles (requested by my husband)

I am not sure it was a good idea to try to make snickerdoodles
in Christmas colors.

Red, green, and regular snickerdoodles

Some steps have been taken toward the construction
of a gingerbread Tardis.

The Tardis parts are in the freezer, and may or may
not be made into a Tardis within our lifetimes.

Apple pie

We tried a new recipe for blueberry pie.  It called for
boiled blueberries.

Blueberry pie, complete with a rift
in the space-time continuum (on the right)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rush Construction Job

Today on the blog we examine this important question:  Is it possible to make a gingerbread menorah in less than three hours?

The answer is yes, with two conditions: the batter is already made, and you have had a vision, in the middle of the night, on how to construct it.

Here's how to do it, in twelve steps.  

1.  Decide with Younger Daughter to make Gingerbread Tardis (following Smalltownme’s suggestion last year!).

2.  On Saturday, make gingerbread batter and put it in fridge overnight.

3.  On Sunday Younger Daughter abandons interest in making Gingerbread Tardis.  At the same time, realize that there is a “home-made menorah” contest at the synagogue’s Hanukkah party, coming up on Tuesday.

4.  In the wee hours of the morning on Monday, come up with an idea on an appropriate shape for your menorah, one that will relate to the Hanukkah story.  And that shape would be a hammer.

Hanukkah is a celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Jewish guerilla army won the war against their oppressors.  One of the leaders of that guerilla army was Judah Maccabee (Maccabaeus) which means Joe the Hammer.

5.  On Tuesday, the day of the party, decide at 1 PM to see if you can do it.  Find a real hammer in the tool chest.  Trace and cut wax paper template.  Fire up the oven, roll the gingerbread dough, cut the pieces.
Some useful tools
Rolling and cutting
6.  Find an actual Hanukkah candle.  Make holes for candles in the dough.  Realize belatedly that matching up these holes once the dough is cooked is going to be nigh impossible.
Spacing the candle holes.
But this is pointless because the dough expands a bit while
baking so the holes will not be big enough for
regular Hanukkah candles.  Maybe for birthday candles...
7.  Put the gingerbread in the oven.  Go practice the Christmas cantata piano part while it is baking.  Make the house smell like burnt gingerbread by burning all the pieces of your gingerbread hammer menorah.  Remove from oven, sighing.
Burnt hammer head pieces.  If you make one piece shorter,
then you can make an actual claw on your hammer!

Burnt hammer handle pieces, with useless candle holes.

8.  While the gingerbread is cooling, mix up some “Royal Icing”.  It will likely refuse to form “stiff peaks” so keep adding more and more powdered sugar.  Eventually give up and hope it is not going to be impossibly drippy.  Decide that no, you will NOT be embarrassed to take this gingerbread menorah to the Hanukkah party.
Gloppy, sticky Royal Icing.  Do not let little kids near
this stuff if Aunt Gertrude is coming over any time soon -
it will make your entire house sticky.
9.  Frost the first layer of your gingerbread, then stack on the next layer.  Poke a toothpick in each candle-hole to clear out the icing.  Realize that this method is fruitless, and you will never get actual candles in there.  Cover the rest of the Royal Icing to keep it moist.  Leave the sides unfrosted while you look for decorations.
Partially frosted hammer menorah.
Note that I made an extra hammer-head piece, which was a
good thing, because one of them broke.

Okay, this thing is not a toothpick.  It's some kind of weird
tool I found in the back of the kitchen drawer.
An escargot extractor, maybe?  But why would I have that when
I never make escargot?

10.  Scrounge around for decorations.  Finding none, go to grocery store.  Buy Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil).  In candy aisle, find blue Sour Punch Bites, which probably taste disgusting, but could be used as candy candles, which is a fun thing to say.  Feel up the bag to determine if the candies really are shaped like candles.  Buy Lifesaver Gummies in the hopes that the candy candles will fit inside them.  Buy sno-caps chocolate nonpareils just because.
More tools
11.  Go home.  You still have an hour.  Using pizza cutter, slice chocolate coins in half.  Realize that this was a mistake, since the foil immediately falls off the chocolate.  Glue the foil back on with Royal Icing. 

12.  Cover your entire hammer shape with gobs of icing.   Sprinkle with blue sugar that you found in the back of the closet, and stick the candy on in a festive pattern.  Find out that the Sour Punch Bites do NOT fit inside the Lifesaver Gummies.  Who knew? Jam a toothpick into each candle hole.  Stick a Sour Punch bite on each toothpick.  Find that a little bit of toothpick is sticking up.  This is a Hanukkah miracle!  Cut little bits of orange and red lifesavers and stick the pieces onto the toothpick ends.  These are the candle flames.

Voila!  The Miraculous Gingerbread Menorah of Judah Maccabee.
Sorry there are no intermediate photos, especially of the
 Hanukkah miracle when the toothpick ends were sticking
out.  I was in a rush.

Aerial view.

Here are a few of the other entries in the menorah contest.  I thought these were much cooler than mine.  The tube-shaped tissue paper ones have a little electric tea light inside each one!  And who would ever have thought to make a menorah out of Knex?  One person made their entire menorah out of lifesaver candies, with lollipops as candles!  And the melted crayon one is so beautiful and artistic, and has real candles which match the crayon colors.  There were more, but I didn’t get photos of them all.
Tissue paper menorah!

Crayon art menorah!
That menorah on the left is not "home made" and was
on the wrong table.

Knex menorah!

Lifesaver menorah!

Happy Hanukkah!  Now back to practicing the piano part for the Christmas cantata.