Saturday, December 31, 2011

Black-eyed Peas and Stars

Tonight I'm going to see the old year out looking at the Milky Way from the Smoky Hills of Kansas*.
Tomorrow, I'll be introducing the in-laws to the all-important lucky legumes of the New Year: black-eyed peas.
Wishing you a 2012 filled with laughter, learning and good luck. Don't forget to eat the black-eyed peas, lentils, tamales, sauerkraut, apples and honey, dumplings. or whatever it is that brings you good fortune.
*Themed resolutions run through the Chinese New Year or Janet's birthday, so I technically have more time to observe the constellations, but I will have few chances as good as a winter night on the ranch.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's in your stocking? and the dangers of tradition

It's Christmas Eve morning and I sit here drinking coffee with eggnog in a Christmas mug. I don't particularly like the flavor of coffee with eggnog. But coffee with eggnog is part of Christmastime for me and, it turns out, I miss it if I don't have it.
My parents and I are traditionalists. This is a somewhat of a problem because we are not particular about what traditions we follow. We pick them up as we go along and add them, at least temporarily, to what we do. It's not like we've been drinking coffee with eggnog for generations. While we've always had eggnog around, we probably didn't start drinking it in coffee until Starbucks started selling eggnog lattes. And the rest of my family has moved on. They are back to black coffee in the morning and spiked eggnog, with freshly grated nutmeg, late at night. But eggnog coffee is a Christmas tradition I'm not yet willing to part with.
This is a problem among tradition scavengers. While I was growing up, my nuclear family picked up St. Lucia Day, St. Nicholas Day, yule logs (both cake and in the fire), roasting chestnuts, dim sum, kumquats, pizelles, rosettes, fruitcake, pralines, stollen, panetonne, Christmas crackers on New Years, Mexican Christmas Eve salad, flaming German drinks and a plethora of good luck charms, just for starters. My brother recently called asking my mother for the family's traditional Christmas breakfast strata recipe while the Mister, who is on his ninth holiday season around my family, doesn't know what a strata is and wonders why we are not having the German lunch meats for breakfast he thinks are traditional in my family. How is my mother to know that Christmas will still be Christmas without kumquats, but not without fried oysters?
One year Santa inadvertently left toothbrushes in our stockings. My brother and I have anxiously awaited them ever since. Santa's helper has informed me that Santa knows of no such tradition and everyone knows that toothbrushes come in Easter baskets. But to me, the toothbrushes are part of the stocking formula (orange, nuts, chocolate, lottery ticket, socks, book, music, something goofy, toothbrush and maybe an apple) giving to all good boys and girls (and sometimes a cat) of any age.
There's more to write, but typing a blog post is definitely not a Christmas tradition. So I must be off.
What's in your stocking?
Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Willa Cather can write!

Every once in a while I read a "classic" and surprisingly I'm surprised at how well written it is. I just read Willa Cather's My Antonia. It's great. Not a lot happens. There is a weird framing device that I want to discuss with Amateur Reader (the first person narrator of the introduction never explicitly appears again. Who is it?). There are long descriptions of prairie summers and winters (I've lived through prairie summers and winters. Cather knows what she is writing about.) Sixteen-year-old Mister hated it. I can see why. It's not a book for everyone.
But My Antonia is fabulously written.
And somehow I'm surprised.
What classics have wowed you?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I planted bulbs yesterday

These newly planted bulbs may raise questions for many of you.
The horticultural: "Really? In December? Will they develop roots?" [A: It depends on the weather.]
The practical: "Did you really have your grades in from your Tuesday night final?" [A. No. Who are you kidding?]
The personal wonder: "You planted bulbs on Wednesday? But you're not going to leave until Saturday, right? Isn't that two days too early?" [A: Why yes, come to think of it, it is.]
The follow up: "Does this mean that things have changed in your life?" [A: No, this means that I plan on composting tomorrow. I'm still cranky and stressed and have unattainable lists and unrealistic expectations. But I still love the holidays.]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Juno's: Associations and Extensions

If your book club(s) have been anything like my past book club, most of the interesting conversation is only tangentially associated with the book. We found ourselves discussing travel, other books and memories the book triggered.
Here's the place to post thoughts triggered by Juno's Daughters but not actually about Juno's Daughters.
JD reminded my mother and me of A Valley in Italy because of similar parenting styles. However, A Valley in Italy was memoir (note to SalSis-- JD is not!) and the author had not suffered the consequences of her laissez faire parenting, or grown, as Jenny had (or at least she did not think that her daughter running off to Paris and getting married at 17 while she [the mother] was pregnant in her 3rd or 4th child-producing relationship was suffering a consequence of her parenting style).
One friend was reminded of a multi-day party we attend every summer with a band and a gathering of wanna-be-hippie types (note to Mom and Prairie Quilter-- we do not run around naked at such party, nor do we indulge in toothpicked brownies [but we are aging enough that the food is typically excellent]).
I was reminded of Prospero's Books (based on The Tempest), Feast of Love (based on A Midsummer's Night Dream, but I did not know MSND well enough to recognize it), 10 Things I Hate About You (the Heath Ledger movie, based on Taming of the Shrew), Snow Falling on Cedars (takes place in the same part of the world, but in a very very different time and under very very different circumstances) and various travels to islands (in Puget Sound and in Scotland).

Friday, December 2, 2011

And then the mice grow up and fly . . .

My good friend Debbie is back in Haiti running ecological workshops at the moment. Her blog, Zwazo Yo explains what she's been up to and just how badly help is needed (people are taught in schools that mice morph into bats the way that caterpillars become butterflies, which makes it more difficult to explain how bats are beneficial insectivores).
Talk to Debbie if you'd like to donate water-testing kits, binoculars, teaching materials or money to pay for lunch for the people benefiting from her efforts.