SpongeBob would be proud

Soren's man-training continued yesterday with lessons on grilling. Here is his jalapeno cheddar burger on whole wheat. Wow! For those of us who didn't want the artery clogging cuisine, we did cedarplank salmon. You can buy a package of 6 planks at Costco.
Soak the plank from 1-3 hrs. Soak salmon in milk to get rid of fishy taste. Rinse/pat dry with paper towel. Rub it with:
Cedarplank Dry Rub:
1 T salt
1 T black pepper
1 T garlic powder
1 T dried basil
1 T paprika
1 T dried tarragon
Place on plank. Place plank on low/med grill--close lid. Ready in about 15min.

These fun planks can be used for portobellos, potatoes and pecan, cranberry/apricot stuffed apples. M. For other grilling recipes from the plank package, look here.


Aviary Gate

Linking past and present heroines, the story follows Oxford researcher Elizabeth Staveley as she uncovers the 400-year-old story of Celia Lamprey, a sea captain's daughter engaged to merchant-turned-diplomat Paul Pindar when she's lost in a shipwreck. Celia doesn't drown, of course. She becomes a concubine-in-training in Constantinople.
Eventhough sexual politics is a cliche for historical romances, I still thought I would enjoy this book when I saw it in the Athens airport. (Sexual politics were the only kind women were allowed to play back in the day.) Just getting to it now since apparently I am supposed to have more free time now the kids are in school. Anything about Oxford intrigues me and Turkey is on my travel wish list. Come take the ride with me if you want.

School and Dekker

I'll get to the pic in a minute. The first of week of school is coming to a close. Soren's 14 hour days were a baptism by fire back into public school/sports and he is enjoying it, eventhough he says his legs feel like jello during LA due to the 2hr football practice he has first period (FYI Texans breathe footballs to live). Ellery's teacher is going on maternity leave soon and will be out for a few months (she had a similar situation last year) so the principal decided to move her to a class with unimpregnated teachers and so she can be clustered with other GATES kids. Ellery is adjusting slowly--she wouldn't get out of the car today because she liked the first teacher best. "Why did she have to go and get pregnant?" she says to me. Ellery is a conservative child--she likes to know what the rules are so that she can follow them--She's pretty eventempered but this change has thrown her for a loop. Welcome to life my daughter.

Now for the pic. This Dutch girl wants to sail her yacht, Guppy (I love naming inanimate objects!), on a 2 year solo trip and break the world record. What a freaking awesome WASP girl. I am wondering how to prepare enough fresh food for Soren on his long days-can you imagine packing a 2 year lunch for this Norse goddess of the sea? I can totally see both sides of the debate--the state says it's too dangerous (What Amsterdam, you'll let her smoke hash and dance on poles for $ in a few years but you'll draw the line at sailing for passion?) and she might come home wacked from so much isolation-if she comes home at all. Her dad, who was a 12 year old solo sailor himself, says she can do it. Look at her in the eyes. What if she could do it? And aren't we all wacked anyway? Still, if something happened to her and she didn't return--the heartbreak. I can't decide.


Oompa Loompa Pollock

The Oompa Loompa Pollock image above is blueberry cornmeal muffin mix. Made it for the kids' first day back to school:

Makes 12
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk, plus about 2 tablespoons for tops
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups blueberries (about 1/2 pound), picked over and rinsed
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse sanding sugar (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in center. Lightly coat a standard muffin tin with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest, if using.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks, and butter. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just blended. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until just stiff. Gently fold whites and blueberries into the batter until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup three-quarters full. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven; gently brush tops with buttermilk, and sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Continue baking until tops are golden and a cake tester inserted in a muffin center comes out clean, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let muffins cool slightly, about 10 minutes, before turning out of tin.

I also had an idea. On Sunday nights I am going to try a mass food prep time. I will take an hour or so and prep a few things for the coming week's meals. Like hard boil eggs, cut up veggies, cook rice/lentils, make a chicken salad, mix fruit with cottage cheese, mix dry or spice ingredients for an upcoming meal. Along with muffins, I mixed the dry ingreds for banana pancakes. I'll let you know how it goes. If I were really organized I would do this in bulk, but I would rather have a week's worth of variety at my finger tips than a year's worth of banana panake mix. Any suggestions on what else I could do during my Sunday night mass foodprep time?


Summer's End Dress

Ellery and I threw this little number together in my newly cleaned and reorganized craft room. We got pre-smocked white cotton and red grosgrain ribbon.
And a fun fruit print. Kiwi, strawberry, blueberry and citrus. When I was hemming the bottom, I asked her how long she wanted it. "You can do whatever I want??" I told her that was the beauty of custom design. Her eyes went big and she said, "I want it long."

I love this one. Beauty,brains, and brawn. She has "Meet the Teacher" today and wants to wear it. She's concerned about being too dressed up. I say she wears it-what do you think?


Trips to Walmart with Children

I love school supply shopping! This year it assuaged some of the empty feeling I had of not building my own homeschool curriculum. I really did enjoy that! Getting binders, notebooks, and folders comes in at a close second. Soren is camping so I took liberties and got him his stuff in a blue, yellow/orange, gray and black color scheme. I found a cool EdHardy notebook with a dragon on it. (Nod to D&D)
Ellery's stuff was all over the place--monkeys, kitties, green, purple, red, et al. The child I refer to in the title is not Ellery, and Soren's absence excludes him as well. No, I am talking about the 40 year old that, although in the middle of a full blown existential crisis ("We are selling the house to go live in the mountains, I want to be a cagefighter, I am going to learn how to 'drift' so I can race cars better"), continually put sweet contraband in the cart when I wasn't looking. After driving up my bill with SwissCakes, he looks at a tabloid as we are leaving the store. He turns to me and says, "Did you know Sarah Palin's getting a divorce?" I told him going to WalMart with him was like going with a kid--"You sneak junkfood into the cart and believe everything you read."


Performance Day

Since Grail doesn't fit. . . in this. . .
we borrowed our friends SUV so I could play at church. I knew I had a good husband when he tipped the harp on its side, slid it carefully in the back, angled it and said, "She'll be alright just like this." Watching a harp laid on its side is like looking at a horse lying on its side. It's not totally uncommon, but you want to make sure it can get up again and it shouldn't be like that for very long.

The piece went well with no mess ups and good expression--and my friend said my face looked like I was in my happy place. Now, Ellery and I will work on a piece she wants to sing for her baptism, also Grandjany's 'Automne' and after that is Christmas music. Fun!

Here is my list of positive affirmations I used this time:
*Everyone loves to hear harp music, especially all the children
*I know this piece so well
*I am calm and happy
*It's ok if I am slow and careful
*I can see all the notes on the page and all the strings clearly
*I can breathe easily all the way through the piece
*After I play so well, I will swim in my pool


Girly Weekend

Ellery went to Doll Design Camp this week. They made two dolls--this garden glove lovely and a flip doll (that she has yet to finish). Her teacher was this cute quirky thing which made me want to sign up with her next year.

Shopping at the mall--I found a ladybug umbrella for Ellery's friend's b-day party. The store clerk got in on the Mary Poppins action. What a cute guy!


Fans and Planes

For church nursery I wanted to make something for the kids to play with and mark on with crayons if the urge struck. Coloring often doesn't last a long time with toddlers don't you know. I thought fans and planes were simple, fun and within my time restriction to do. But, I had never really learned how to make a proper airplane. Hence, another suprise fringe benefit of marrying Cyler was my Sunday morning origami tutorial.
1. Fold in 1/2 vertical, fold top outside corners to the middle line.

2. Fold top tip of triangle down the middle line to about 1 1/2" from bottom.

3. Fold outside corners to middle once more.

4. Fold tab underneath up.

5. Fold backward along the original middle line.

6. Fold down each side aligning the edges to a point at the nose of the plane.

7. Adjust the wings even, and hold the airplane from underneath.

8. The fans are pretty self explanatory--accordian fold and a staple at the bottom for little hands.
Social historian that I am (in part), I observed who played with what. Some kids just liked to watch the planes fly past them. They would giggle-and all loved the fan to be used toward them although they didn't really want to hold it themselves. I didn't see one boy want to hold the fan for himself, just girls--they just loved the feeling when someone else did it. There was one boy who LOVED the plane even though he didn't want to fly it--he wanted to HOLD it, possess it, specifically the yellow one. Make sure it was his to take home. Three of the girls wanted to learn how to fly the planes. They also wanted to learn how to make the fans work. They laughed and jumped with a plane in one hand and a fan in the other. I love the spectrum of these kids that defy lines that construct adult society--race, class and gender. My life calling is for now summed up thusly: "Work toward everyone having equal access to planes and fans."


Victor Tangos

Last night we met friends at Victor Tangos for a birthday. The menu is a bit different--all heavy hors d'oeuvres to be shared around the table. Lollipop Lambchops, Chicken and Waffles, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Grits, Ahi Tuna Nachos. A fun evening--reward for organizing my closet and laundry room yesterday.


Saturday ritual revised

Cyler and I both look forward to Saturday morning yoga. The teacher is good, we break a sweat and limber up for the household chores waiting for us at home. It's almost like a date for us and one of the few things we get to do just the two of us.
Here's a guy with cargo shorts over his blue yoga pants with a green dragon graphic up the side, and a green gingham checked long sleeve button down. What a get up! Looks like daughter is helping by carrying the mat.

Afterward we usually go to Starbucks to get an iced apple spice chai tea. I had to revise this with more protein and less $ so I bring my own protein shake. . .

We sit outside under the umbrella and talk about what needs to happen for our Saturday. It is one of my favorite times of the week.


DND geek

While I loathe real war, I love fantasy violence and political maneuvering. I am a loosely interpreted version of what is called a Dungeon Master for the game Dungeons and Dragons, affectionately nicknamed D&D. Soren and his friends gather around with their characters sheets, 3-d polygon dice, Monster Manuals/Handbooks and I send them on imagined adventures and quests (for hours and hours). They tell me what they want their characters to do in a given situation, imagined characters react, and outcomes are determined based on the characters' skills and, like real life, chance (the roll of said polygons).
In D&D one can:
  • Slay a dragon
  • Find a hidden magic item
  • Have songs and poems written honoring one's past quests
  • Find that a friend has been setting one up for destruction
  • Find one's way out of an ambush
  • Become an expert hunter or magic user
  • Activate a poison arrow trap
  • Fight goblins, giants, mindflayers

My name is Heather and I am a D&D geek.


The Last Tommy

British Supercentenarian, Harry Patch died a few days ago. He was the last surviving vet of WWI (remember, the one that was supposed to end all wars?). In his nineties he began to talk about the war and became a critic of war in general: "We weren’t heroes. We didn’t want to be there. We were scared. We all were, all the time. And any man who tells you he wasn’t is a damn liar."

A few days before he died, he said that the WWIII will be chemical and he was glad he would not be here to see it. While I am not a "roll-over-and-abuse me" pacifist, I consider war the largest failing of the human race, besides the exploitation of children. Many times, they are the same thing, which then compels me to hope for Zion (I don't mean the Israeli political entity or an exclusive sectarian communist project). I hope we teach our children to stand up for themselves without having to resort to force-to be equitable, forgiving and just and find ways to protect the weak without stealing peace and dignity from another.

Here's to no more double W's followed by Roman numerals. Zion depends on it.


Performance Ready?

Sometimes if there is a piece that is haunting, in a minor key or has a mystical quality, and there are no key changes or lots of incidentals, I will play that piece transposed a half step down just by leaving pedals in flat. I sharp the F pedal since this piece is in the key of G which brings it to natural (was about to say neutral--I'm not driving a car, jeez). It will sound different to the audience but they won't know why. This is one of the hidden cool things about a harp.
In the space of 5 lines, the piece wants me to dampen the strings 4 times. Since I have to dampen them more on pg2, I took one out so it's not so choppy.

On pg2 the piece calls for both hands in the treble clef except for a 4 measure foray into the bass. Since this is a solo piece, I think staying at the throat of the harp for so long is boring. People like to hear a build up and that can happen in the belly of the harp. Sooo, add octaves and extra notes in the top hand, and bigger broken chords in the bottom.

The end of the piece is haunting with the harmonics. Rolling the final chord seemed to juvenalize it too much, so I'm opting for a solid chord. If playing in a larger space, this many notes may sound jumbled (learnt this from them gregorian chants that use large interval (5ths) to make clear haunting sound). So I take out the G# in the bottom hand. I think the soft, solid ping at the end works better after the harmonics. Instead of X'ing things out, harpies might like to use white out--like if I were less lazy, I would white out the lever change prompts--see 'em in those parentheses there?-- and make a neater copy. I play in 2 weeks--wish me luck.

Weekend Warriors

Soren's scout troop took a canoe trip right when the torrential rainstorm hit. Cyler (black in the back) said they made a fire under a tarp the boys held to make their foil dinners. They got soaked. Their stuff got soaked. They paddled hard. They ate on flat rocks. They got sunburnt.
And managed to have enough energy for a timeless YMCA pose. (Soren is the 'm')

Two of the boys were able to climb a cliff from a balancing start on the canoe.

They look like a totem pole.
Kevin looks like he's surfing the air! I love scouts. I wish Ellery were included--so I guess that's why I want to be a girlscout leader. Is there anything like scouts where sex isn't a qualifier? If so, I would like to look into it.