Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"How many witches were killed in Salem Township in 1692?"

[Flip the museum display board for the answer.]


Thus reads the display panel at the National Park Service's Salem Heritage Site. 

"But," I sputtered.  "But I just read about 19 people killed.  But two of them were my great (x11) aunts!  But that's why we are here!"

Yes, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft in the Salem area in 1692 -1693.  Nineteen or twenty of them were killed, among them my great aunts, by hanging.  None of them were witches.

Somehow the visit to Salem in June was a turning point in witch year.  I didn't do a single tacky-touristy-witchy thing (unless you count taking a photo for this blog in front of the "Witch City Mall" windows). not just because they were tacky-touristy-wastes of money, but also because it didn't feel right.  By most definitions, I am not a witch.  While I would like to be a witch by at least a few definitions (and I am still working on defining a witch for witch year), paying some cloaked actor to talk about "real witches" while walking past the memorial to the (apparently fake) witches who lost their lives to collective hysteria isn't worthwhile witch pursuit.  I'm working out again what is.

[Images to go here include the lichen encrusted rocks with the names of my fore aunts and the dates of their hangings and me at the witch city mall.  We've recently changed computers again, and I don't have convenient access at the moment].

Thursday, July 5, 2018

As American as Banh Mi

Moroccan, English and Puerto Rican food near Orlando
Thai food in Wichita
Thai food in Omaha
Indian food in Des Moines
Poke, Indonesian, and Korean tacos in Madison
Jamaican food in Michigan City, Indiana
Vegan Po'Boys in Grand Rapids
(Coconut curry poutine in Sarnia, Ontario)*
Celebrating Fathers' Day together while our guide extolled the
 welcoming nature of the USA as I learned more about the
officials hired to represent me citing my holy text as reason
to separate kids from their families made me a little sick
(Sushi in Niagara Falls, Ontario)
Banh Mi in Syracuse, New York
Lebanese food in Providence
Eritrean food in Portland, Maine
Israeli food in Salem, Massachusetts
Dim sum, cuban breakfast, Shanghai street food, pizza, gelato, and fancy sushi in Manhattan
Sri Lankan food on Staten Island
Shanghai noodles in State College
Syrian food and southern breakfast (red velvet waffles! fried green tomatoes on breakfast sandwiches!) in Cleveland
Bento box and kimchi fried rice in Moline, Illinois
Indian food in Lawrence, Kansas

I mentioned these summer food delights to someone while traveling and the response was basically, "Well, we like to eat the food of the places we visit."  Which is totally understandable.  We did also eat frozen custard and excellent burgers to accompany delicious fried cheese curds in Wisconsin.  Lobsters rolls and wild blueberry products in Maine.  Rhode Island clam chowder, New England clam chowder, lobster bisque, lobster pie and stuff quahogs on the Atlantic Coast.  Ipswich clams a bunch of different ways when we were a few miles from Ipswich.  Hot dogs at baseball games and brats from the grill. Rhubarb from the backyard of our rental house and fresh fruit pie from each of the adjacent "I" states.

It's just that all of the above food is "American" food. It was prepared in the United States by Americans, and eaten in the United States by Americans (*except for the parenthetical parts of the list, which were obviously prepared and eaten in Canada). [On the Fourth I asked Dianthus to name one thing he liked about his country (and one thing he would like to see improved).  He listed "American Food" citing hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, and pizza.  He added tacos a few minutes later, and would have stuck on sushi if he had a chance.] .  The US is a country of immigrants** and immigrants bring with them their food. This descendant of immigrants and refugees is excited that the bland fare brought by her Puritan ancestors in the 1640s continues to be expanded by ideas and ingredients from all over the world.  Let's not confine that openness to food.

There is nothing quite so American as taking a ferry from one island to another, discussing lift and flight with kids whose ancestors came from a different continent, on the way to lunch prepared by people whose ancestors came from another continent, as the Statue of Liberty looks  on.  May such moments continue and grow.

**I sadly forewent my chance to eat a meal prepared by non-immigrant Sean Sherman ("The Sioux Chef") but I am excited to own his cookbook and to have heard him speak about native foods and foodways.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Some lists after a month and 5,200+ miles (plus a quick plane trip to Florida)

My thoughts on real issues related to our recent travels (i.e. witches, immigration, and travel itself) are still fermenting, just like the kimchi I intended to make with the daikon and Napa cabbage I bought Saturday.  So, here are a few easy to assemble lists.

States visited: 19.  Two to four new ones for me (Rhode Island and Connecticut were entirely new, but I had previously turned around after accidentally crossing a bridge into Maine previously, and had spend many hours at the Miami airport, but not outside it).  The Mister and I are both officially at 49 (with Hawaii left for him and Alabama for me), although I don't think either his Anchorage airport adventures nor my Hawaii and Alaska travels at under a year count.

Capitols observed from the interstate: Oklahoma City, Topeka, Des Moines, Lansing, Boston.  Capitols observed more closely (from the outside): Madison, Providence.
Hartford, evidence with the legs of Nathan Hale
Capitol entered: Hartford.  I think my mother is still winning this competition. I lost an advantage I had with Richmond, Dover, and Annapolis two years ago and this trip she and Dad added Albany, Hartford, Providence and Harrisburg.  They are planning a trip to Bismark and Pierre in September, so until I go to Juneau, my only remaining edge will be Raleigh.

Boats ridden: a bunch.  I think that's a separate post.

Good friends and good relatives seen:  Also a bunch.

Fingerprints to show I was inside in Hartford
Pies eaten: Only 4 (?).  Grape from Naples, NY in Rockport, MA.  Rhubarb (good flavor but lacking crust) and Oh No! (chocolate pecan) in Fremont, Indiana.  Strawberry Rhubarb in Princeton, IL and Triple Berry in Pella, Iowa.

Gelato eaten:  Lots, in Newport, RI, Portland, ME, Rockport, MA, and twice in NYC.  Pistachio plus another flavor every place.  Plus frozen custard (Wisconsin and Illinois), and local ice cream (MA, NJ, PA and a soda fountain in Moline, Illinois).

Baseball games attended: 2.  Newport Gulls taking on the Plymouth Pilgrims and the Cleveland Indians beating the Detroit Tigers 10-0 after a rain delay.

Gully, the Newport Gulls Mascot
Musicals seen: 2.  Spongebob Squarepants, the musical, on Broadway.  A Year with Frog and Toad in Princeton, Illinois (I know the host family of the music director for the latter, and they got us great seats).

Interesting Food Eaten: Sri Lankan on Staten Island, Eritrean in Portland, Banh Mi in Syracuse . . . and so much more, which I suppose, is tied up with my thoughts on immigration, travel and "Americans" watch this space as fermentation happens.
Waiting out a rain delay

Indians won. Dianthus and I waited for the 11:30 fireworks.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Painted Bunting

I saw a painted bunting in my back yard May 17.  I had never knowingly seen one before and had no idea why this green leaf seemed to be following a red-breasted bird around.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Birthday Woman in CHASA T-shirt

Obligate photo demonstrating their are
flowers in my yard, although there was only
one peony blossom.
Witchy or glowing?
You decide.
Or both?
I've recently read witch books, I've read pie books, I've gardened, I've seen a painted bunting in my backyard for the first time in my life and I've thought a great deal, about things I want to tell you.  These things are about pie and witches and family, but also about cancer and racism and white privilege, and I really do want to write about hemiplegia and strokes.  But the writing is not coming, and I have to start somewhere, so today I'll throw up a few photos from my birthday and let you draw your own conclusions.

Notes: The purple shirt is my CHASA shirt.  The hand make a heart and they are different colors to demonstrate a stroke survivor uses them differently (it may be a tad too cute to get the message across).  The ten candles are arranged four on one side and six on the other.  They entire middle of the confection is intentional collapsed and filled with whipped cream and rhubarb sauce and did not support candles, much to Dianthus's chagrin.  (and, as it turned out, the hard meringue on the edges might or might not support one). Rhubarb has apparently become somewhat of a birthday thing for me (three of the last four involving rhubarb?) and I'm loving it.  I'm also buying it frozen at the store, because I have not found any fresh locally this year.
The anti-red eye edit is freaking me out.  There is no
way you could see that much of my eye.

60 years total experience and rhubarb meringue "cake"

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Kites Came Back

Saturday morning, May 5, I saw a single kite in the sky.

I saw none while I was out and about on May 6 and May 7 and then yesterday, the evening on May 8, there was an eerie whistling while we were at the park and the kites, more than 20 of them, were circling.  The rest of the birds made quite a commotion as well, as the return of the raptors tends to ruffle the feathers of the rest of the avian population.

This is the lastest the kites have arrived in the 8 springs I've been here. 
Interestingly, I saw none of the Mississippi kites as I was out today.

In other phenology news, my south side irises are all done and my north side irises are fading.  It looks like I will have a single peony blooming this year (most of the buds zapped in the late freeze) and it is doing its poofy white thing right now.

Monday, May 7, 2018


I just spent some time reading over new shoe recommendations and alerting some parents to the existence of physiatrists.  The network of knowledgeable parents through CHASA, the Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association, has been fabulous.

(You can imagine a cute flyer here-- or you could tell other parents bewildered upon learning that their child had a stroke to go to