Saturday, December 21, 2013

Radish you a Merry Christmas and Other Good Memories

This year's radishes got too tough to eat. So there was nothing left to do but hang them on the tree.

The best Christmas memories besides decorating the 2013 radish tree with my husband and daughter were:


When I was 3, mom and I tried to make a triple batch of divinity. We had a small kitchen and the recipe made way more than mom thought it would. Soon all the bowls were full and all the counter were full of bowl. Some pots of divinity had to be put on the floor. Mom was wearing black highish heals. She stepped in one of the pots of divinity and her shoe came off in it. We are still laughing about that today.

6 cups white sugar
 11/2 cup light corn syrup
 21/2 cup hot water
 3/4 teaspoon salt
 6 egg whites
 3 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large 70's style clomper high heal.

In three heavy, 2 quart saucepans, combine the sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt. Cook and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Then cook to hard ball stage without stirring, 250 degrees F (120 degrees C.) Frequently wipe crystals forming on the sides of the pan, using a pastry brush dipped in water. Remove from heat.
Just as the syrup is reaching temperature, begin whipping egg whites: In batches of two eggs at a time in a large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. You will need several bowls.

Pour hot syrup in a thin stream over beaten egg whites, beating constantly with the electric mixer at medium speed. Increase speed to high, and continue beating for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla; continue beating until the mixture becomes stiff and begins to lose its gloss. If it is too stiff, add a few drops hot water.

Immediately drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. If floor is full of bowls and pans and plates of divinity, watch your step. For a decorative flair, twirl the top with the spoon when dropping or add one size 7, 70's style clomper stacked high-heel shoe. Let stand until set--shoe will not come loose if you wait until dad gets home to show him. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Go shoe shopping.

Snow Dances

Every other year we spent Christmas in the Finger Lakes region of New York with Grandma and Bapa and aunts, uncles, and cousins.

My best friend was my cousin M. who was only 9 months my junior. Once we got done trying to kill each other we were inseparable. Most of my best Christmas memories involve her.  One of which was a recurrent tradition of doing snow dances on the day my family was supposed to leave New York in hopes of conjuring up a blizzard so the roads would be impassable and we would get to stay an extra day or two. It worked once.

Sugar High

When we were five,  M. and I both got long tapes of red and green santa clause suckers in our stockings for Christmas. We snuck off to grandma's play room and ate all three feet worth of suckers. Then we fell asleep together in the toy bin in an joyous stupor of sugar overdose.

Candy Canes and other Fragments 

Aunt M.A. Showed M and I how to make macramé candy canes. We made tons. Gramdma had us paint ceramic ornaments every year. We helped grandma bake cookies and make raviolis for Christmas dinner. One year the Children's Christmas mass at St. Pat's got visited by bats.

Edward Scissorhands Made it Snow in Geneva

When M. and I were older we went to see Edward Scissorhands in an old theater in Geneva New York. It had not been snowing all day and the Finger Lakes region had been rather deficient in snow so far that year. We went in to theater and were quickly captivated by the movie's imagery and its tragic romance. We were at the age where we could just begin to appreciate such things. The movie ended with its scene of ice sculpture snow falling on the suburbs. When we left the theater it was snowing big fluffy flakes and the whole city had been covered in a downey blanket of white.


When I was in graduate school at UT, Knoxville had a lighting ceremony on Market Square every year before Christmas. I went to this evening event by myself usually because my husband worked nights and all my classmates and associates were men. I aways felt very lonely at Christmas during this time of my life. I missed M. and all the family who were so far away.  One  particularly cold year instead of just lighting the tree at the center of the square, the organizers handed out candles. The light started at one end of the crowd and went from candle to candle, person to person. A few hundred strangers were sharing this light and singing carols. It felt like the square warmed up as the light spread. When the light made it all they way acres the square the tree was turned on. For a few minutes I felt that all people were just as special and dear to me as M and I did not feel lonely at all.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fresh Peaches and Red Wine

Fresh in season Peach
several leaves of freshly picked basil
Red Wine of your choice (I used a fortified red wine made by my father)

Pour about a 1/4 cup of red wine in a bowl and about half that much water. Cut peach into bite-sized chunks and put it in the bowl with the wine. Tear basil up over peaches and mix. Let stand while you eat dinner. Serve with ice cream or just by itself for dessert.

How to get Your Kid to Eat Brussel Sprouts (add pepperoni) 

Brussel sprouts  (those that your kid helped you grow work best) 
6 pieces of pepperoni 
black pepper. 
1 very small clove Garlic mashed then minced. 
2 Tbsp Olive Oil 
1/4 cup dry wine mixed with  1/4 cup water. (may use chicken broth or just water  here too) 

Thoroughly wash brussel sprout. Drain and quarter or half each one depending on size. Heat olive oil in a skillet with medium heat. Add salt pepper and garlic . Fry till it smells good. Add pepperoni and fry till it smells good. Add bussel spouts. Fry for 5 to 10 min stirring occasionally --Don't let oil go dry. Add wine and cover skillet. Let cook for 5 to 10 min--until brussle sprouts are tender. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Murder in the Garden: with a happy ending

We came upon a crime scene at the UT Ag. Gardens. 


We could not stand it! 

So  .  .  . 

To the the rescue

Hot glue drys too fast to get some of the pieces together so  .  .  .

Some pieces are missing. We used Bubble Wrap to support all the remaining pieces in the head. 

My head feels funny! 


What's wrong with my head?!

Um. Nothing .  .  . Your brains are sho .. err..your hat is so last summer.

My what is what? 

Never mind. We'll make it work.

Crochet hook to the rescue! 

Working fast I only have one episode of a certain mouse's clubhouse to get this done. 

That looks just like my old hat! 

No it doesn't. It has a (fast movements with hook and thread) flower. See?

Not bad, it makes me look thinner. 
(brain damage) 

A little waterproofing spray and all done! 
The repaired Mr. Gnome will be replace at the UT Ag. Garden when all the glues and waterproofing are dry.

Read more:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Please Put Me Back at the Top of the Stream

Thanks to two local artists we spent the morning watching ducks drift down stream in Krutch Park with many other Market goers. The three yellow rubber ducks were fished-out with sticks and carried back to the head of the man-made stream several times. We got a demonstration of the complexities of hydrodynamics when the ducks got stuck in eddy pools that sent them up stream against the general flow of the water. Some experienced kayakers had the best predictions for how the ducks would move as they floated over the little waterfalls in the stream. Sticks were eagerly deployed by the children to get the ducks out of the undercurrent rolls. 

We love this simple high-joy interactive art project and hope that the city will let the duck stay in the stream! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

On Trying to Help a Kid Deal with Death

Lilly was our lovable Loyal Persian cat. She would greet me at my car when I came home from work and took our preschooler's very enthuatic affection with wary grace. Lilly didn't come home the night of Alex's Birthday party. We searched for a week, we put out food, we checked in with the animal shelter and with all our neighbors. All we found was some of Lilly's fur caught on bushes out front where she seldom ever went. A neighbor  told us that he heard a battle between a pack of a raccoons and a cat happening in the drain pipe near his house the night Lilly disappeared.

We have no body for Lilly, we are not even sure what her fate was. Alex can not understand that she is gone and keeps imploring us to go "get a helecopter to go look for her and put her back together."After three weeks increasing family distressed over Lilly, we decided that we must have a funeral.

We bought a "garden stone" kit with concrete, a mold, and glass stones. I had Alex help me mix up the concreate and poor it into the mold. I let her put some of Lilly's fur in the mix. When she did this she ask "Is Lilly coming back?" I told her no. Alex began to cry. We tearfully pressed the pretty stones and flowers in to the mix, then carved Lilly's name into the semi-set concrete and finally un-molded the stone and said a few nice words to the Universe. This took about two days to complete.

In the last week, Alex has told me a few times solemnly that Lilly is not coming back. It seems that the little ceremony and memorial stone have helped with the grieving and healing process. Its a rough thing for a little kid to process.

Wherever you are Lilly Bug, may every window have a soft perch and comfortable sunbeam.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Simple Rituals: Tea Time

The working parent and her/his kids are pulled in many directions at once.  When I noticed that the relationship between my toddler and I was getting strained -- the mommy stuffed animal in all our games was always saying "I have to go to work! I can't play!", I decided that I would make a conscious effort to make the time that she and I had together count. We developed a set of  Simple Rituals to stay close.

Tea Time was the first.

What you need

A designated teapot, can be anything clean, heat-proof, and water tight. We use the bone-china teapot my Grandma and I used for our tea when I was a girl.
Caffieen-free "tea" ours rarely has anything do with real tea, we use herbs or Karkade.
A tray - I use a ubiquitous cookie sheet.
Tea cups - Child size is best, but any will do.
Hats (not optional)
A small table- We use a mini-trampoline (the kind you might jog in place on while watching TV), it is the perfect height for a toddler tea-table when all the guests sit on the floor.  It is water-proof and can seat as many guests as you want.
A pretty tea towel
Guests - stuffed animals, toys, relatives, friends.

 Most nights no matter how late we get home, she and I make tea, drape the cookie tray with a pretty towel and load it down with crackers, fruit or little sandwiches and diminutive tea cups. We put on our hats, plunk down the trampoline, arrange the guests, and then set out the tray. For as long as it take to drink a whole pot of tea, one ounce at a time as the little cups allow, we giggle and talk to eachother.

I learned the hard way that Grandma's teapot was very fragile, luckily the break was in the lid so a little superglue saved the day. I think it is important to use precious family items like Grandma's teapot to emphasize that this time is special. However, to cushion our teapot against future breaks, I crocheted at tea cozy for it using this  Crafster tutorial. The yarn I used also belonged to Grandma.

Having small tea cups forces you to spend a proper amount of time. We use china cups as long as there are any still whole.

I ask Alex to tell me a story about what we are doing. Often we are on a mission to the moon and the trampoline is also doing double duty as a rocket ship. One must have a lots of tea and bunny crackers on the way to and from the Moon. Sometimes we are on a pirate ship. Sometimes we are just at tea.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fairy Gardens

The UT Gardens had a workshop in March about  building Fairy Gardens. We were not able to attend the workshop but my toddler has had the pleasure of finding the example Fairy Gardens form the workshop tucked all over the Garden. So far we have discovered three! If you are wondering, a fairy garden is a diminutive landscape, often in a flower pot, which includes a small residence for fairies.

Here is our favorite one from the UT gardens:
The other two are amazing so you should go hunt for them if you are in the area! 

Inspired by these examples, my daughter wanted to increase the fairy real estate in the grater Knoxville Area and she was very bent on doing it quickly after the first time we noticed the Fairy Gardens at UT. 

So upon arrival home we threw this together: The recycled Fairy Garden (for the eco-concious fairy).

Made of 99.8% post consumer material. 

We used a planter that was made from an old tire and painted purple with spare house paint-- I cleaned the paint roller we used to paint our back door by rolling it on the finished tire planter- fabulous and easy results from paint that would have been discarded otherwise. Making the planter, which we did about 5 years ago,  is another story--It required cutting the top rim off a tier and then flipping the tier inside out, which will be a quick process for you if you routinely wrestle alligators. We already had snap dragons and a mini pine tree growing in the planter. Alexandria found some shells from vacations past  and stones from our drive way to make the path and yard ornaments. The house is made from a small disposable purple plastic flower pot and a large shell. We used a sharpie pen to draw on the windows and flourishes on the house and I cut a door in it with garden sheers. This residence is already occupied and it was on the market for less than 2 hours!

With results like these it was clear that Knoxville was due for a fairly housing boom. So we decided to go into mass production-- we scheduled a Fairy Garden Party to occur on the anniversary  of Alex's birth and have invited several little builders ages (0.5 to 7).

These fairy houses are modular homes made out of little unfinished bird houses which my husband spent several weekends sawing doors in with a tiny hand saw.  We will provide paint, stickers, shells, glue and ribbons for the little builders to finish them with. Then each little builder can install the fairy house at his/home garden.

Modular Fairy Homes 

Alex and I built a model home to help advertise the Development. We painted it red and white like a Mario mushroom. We bought succulents from the famers market and put it all together in a little rock pot with some fancy stones and wine bottle corks. I used a smashed-up pine cone and rocks at the bottom of my pot to cover the drainage hole without clogging it. We also found some doll house fences to make the small lot size less noticeable. (There will be a community pool rather than each house having its own!)

The components.

Here it is all assembled. It is going to be the center-peace for the Birthday table and then it will be moved to its permanent residence next to one of our roses.

The Seawind Unit
I will update this post with pictures of what the kids make and the aftermath of having 10 to 20 kids painting fairy houses at my house. Rain Rain stay away!

The Rain did stay away. We had a perfect day.

Our little builders had a good time personalizing their own houses. 

Paint and things to glue on were all well used. 

No Fairy house is complete without a blue glow in the dark Spider.