Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lady Baltimore and the Monarchs

Neither the Mister nor I recall exactly when or why he asked for a Lady Baltimore cake for his birthday. Almost certainly it had to do with birthdays and birthday cake being a big deal to me (and not to him*) and my pestering him for what sort of cake he'd like so I could do something special for him. He must have replied Lady Baltimore just to shut me up, because, since he didn't know what one is, he couldn't have longed for it.
Readers with long memories know I didn't bake him one last year. This year I had dried figs in reserve and my mother was here to help amuse Dianthus and Aster, so I went all out Lady Baltimore: separating a dozen eggs, pulling out the candy thermometer and toasting the pecans. The result, a nice textured almond-scented white cake with fig-pecan-raisin-cooked frosting-filling was much more tasty than it sounds. Still, it is never going to replace chocolate.
I teach on Tuesday nights so we had his birthday dinner on Sunday and I gave him most of his presents over caramelized peach french toast this morning. He thinks I'm crazy. Be that as it may, I like birthdays and I like him. He should know it.
Happy Birthday Mister!
In other news, monarchs are migrating through. Having done research on the gorgeous butterflies, they are the first thing I think of when I hear the word "monarch". I realize this is not universal, and I now love the thought that some of you envision kings and queens parading south when I mention the monarch migration. I saw 20 fly over the neighbors house in one breast-feeding session on Sunday. For the phenology record, the Mississippi Kites arrived the second weekend in May this year and left the week after Labor Day.

*I have been shown photos of the childhood birthday celebrations of the Mister and his brother by parents-in-law a bit defensive when I suggested earlier that birthdays were not a big deal in their family. I should clarify that there are big deals and big deals and adult birthdays in my family are big deals. Even if there is not a physical gift, there are wrapped presents and banging or pots and pans and off-key singing and cake and calls from the rest of the family and special breakfasts and special dinners and often a trip to the coast or the mountains. By mentioning these big deals I am in no way suggesting that families without such to-do do not sufficiently celebrate birthdays. I just happen to like the to-do (for adults. Perhaps surprisingly, I'll try to keep my sons' birthdays low-key for as long as possible).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guest Stars In the Asteraceae

Guest Star Molly writes about a plant in the "Star Family"*:

Right now in San Diego County one of the most prominent shrubs is Broom Baccharis (Baccharis sarothroides), a native plant that makes me smile. I only became aware of it two weeks ago, at a gathering of beginning birders in a gorgeous local park called Mission Trails. Before then I had begun to take a gloomy view that invasives would completely take over all disturbed areas in this county. Now this plant has become the new vocabulary word that, once known, is suddenly everywhere: interspersed with rust-colored, fading blooms of buckwheat in the state parks; tucked in among the exotic landscaping in my neighbors' yards; clinging to the resurfaced roadside slopes of I-15. This tenacious plant is a member of the Asteraceae, although at a distance it looks like some sort of strange juniper. The leaves are reduced and close to the stem, while the swollen white buds casually resemble fleshy cones. Yet, once open, the flowers reveal their ancestry immediately. I seriously doubt this will mark me as a sophisticated plantswoman, but I do enjoy this plant tremendously. Hurray for Fall blooming asters!

Hurray for guest stars like Molly!

* The Asteraceae, while literally the star family, is better know as the Daisy, Aster, or Sunflower Family, or the composites.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Star Anise Guest Haiku

Before I present this Haiku from guest star SalSis, I'll note that I like star anise, in moderation (although I have ruined several stir fries by overwhelming them with Chinese Five Spice) and have poached pears in red wine and star anise recently to wild acclaim (by me). I'll also note that somehow I have three jars of star anise in my cupboard, so nobody need give me any in my stocking.
Salsis, however, has had more traumatic experiences with star anise, as she pointed out when the star theme was first revealed and now submits this poem:
The taste and odor of star anise forever changed by a bad batch of apples
Star anise you make me puke,
The smell of you and taste.
Batch of apple crisp gone wrong.
You're a star, SalSis. Thank you. And may all your apple crisps be star anise-free this season.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Less like a rock star

Dianthus had beautiful crazy curly locks this summer. Then we asked his grandma to cut them. It was time (long curls I adore: a two-year old with tangles I'd rather avoid). The transition did not phase Dianthus, but it nearly made me cry. As the Mister put it, "He looks good. He just doesn't look like Dianthus". I then realized that he looks exactly like My Brother at two, (except for the hair color*, the eye color and the skin tone)**, less like a rock star and more like a little boy.

Aster, meanwhile, maintains his rock star hair as he awaits the return of Celtic-Punk.
*The curly locks removed from Dianthus matched that of The Mister's stashed in his baby book, and more red bits have been revealed with the cut. The baby book photo of The Mister at two weeks bore striking resemblance to Aster, although the Mister's parents don't remember him looking like Aster.
**I was born the week before my brother turned two, so this is clearly a false or planted memory.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Juno's Daughters by Lise Saffran is the September STIR selection. Tracy has finished it and I'm just starting, but this 2011 literary novel looks good and is yet another STIR selection sure to be unlike the previous.
Janet and I finally discussed (briefly, it was right when Dianthus arrived home and Aster awakened) The Heart of the Matter and agreed, while there was much not to like about the characters in the book, there was much to like about the writing. We opine that more people should read Graham Greene and talk to us about his books. The Heart of the Matter has a lot of heft and a lot of plot. Neither Janet nor I exactly remembers Travels with My Aunt, but we both remember it being well-written and lots of fun.
Jennifer and I have yet to talk about The Secret Eleanor. I enjoyed reading it but find it hard to recommend as it seemed to be trying to do lots of things-- history, romance, literary historical romance, troubled relationships among siblings-- and I can think of books that do any one of them better.
What have you been reading?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Brother is a star . .

. . for many reasons. At the moment he's a star because even though he is a publishing maniac hot shot scientist, has two very busy daughters, is planning a trip to the US soon, and is on crutches in a multi-story house, he sent me this photo to guest star on my blog.
This close-up of an Ohio Star is for the quilt my mother made him. The quilt contains about 15 such stars and, in my memory, is more of a royal blue than this image shows. The quilt is bright and beautiful. It was hand-quilted over a period of time, mostly in 1978-79 when we lived in Fort Worth.
Thanks MB.
Other readers take note! You, too, can be a guest star.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Guest Stars: Your chance to shine!

I think Janet was joking when she suggested that I could save time by having someone ghost write my blog. None the less, she wins some Lucky magazines (if she wants them) because ghost writers are a great idea, except that I'm calling them guest stars and I'll try to keep blogging and they will sign their names (so they really won't be ghost writers at all).
I want all of you to be guest stars this fall.
All you need to do is write or photograph something star related and send it to my plant nerd e-mail.
two sentences to two paragraphs about your personal hero (a star)
a photograph of a star quilt you made or someone made for you
a description of how you entered space science (yes, Ad Astra, that's for you)
an image of a star plant (starflowers, asters, stellaria, shooting stars . . .)
a review of star media (Starman, Star Wars, Star Trek . . . )
thoughts on how well you fit your zodiac sign

Read Sparkling Squirrel this fall for great guest stars!

Oh, and check out Wuthering Expectations for Jane Austen music in response to Austen in August!