Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Times, they are a changing

Last Wednesday morning (Aug. 24) the Mississippi Kites were circling the park in a great furor, as if drumming up support for the migration south.  Wednesday afternoon there were only two around the park and I figured the main flock had flown the town, as it were.

Thursday morning they were lined up in some nearby trees in bigger groups, and I've seen them congregating anti-socially-- in a long drawn out line on a power line, every day since*.
Aug. 17, 2016  Grades 2 and 0.

They have not left yet, at least they have not all left yet, but it seems obvious they are thinking about it.   Change is in the air.

Actually, ragweed is in the air, and we are all suffering from it.  And we are, more or less, all suffering from our change back to full routine with no naps.  But school started Aug. 17 for the boys and Aug. 22 for me.  Images of  last year and the year before (grades 0 and -2) and the year before that, should you want to see that they are growing up.  Somewhere around there's a picture of my new red shoes for 2013, which I still consider my new red shoes.

*ETA: Wed. Aug. 31 there were 60 of them lined up in one block at 7:45 this morning.  5 on one tree, 1 in another tree and the remaining 54 spaces about a meter apart on the power line.  Six more were one the lines on the next block.  This is not where you'll find Mississippi kites mid-summer.
Yes, my eyes were open when I took the photo,
33rd grade?  My 11th year of full time teaching.

Because nothing says "end of summer" like paying attention
to one's toenails for the first time since March.

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's a Family Tradition

Dianthus believes in family tradition.  If we did something last year, we'd better well do it again.

So, for the third year in a row we went camping and too a self timer of us in front of the tent.
July 31, 2016

For the fifth year our of the last seven, we took the boys over Trail Ridge Road and marveled at the animals (elk, mule deer, marmots, and pikas)

For the second year in a row, we ate baked Alaska to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Dianthus (he is now SEVEN).

July 2015

For the first time, we rode the train to a Colorado Rockies game.  It rained, the sun came out, the Rockies won and much junk was eaten by Aster, Dianthus and their cousins.  Expect complaints if is doesn't happen exactly that way again.

Rocky Mountain National Park, from
Trail Ridge Road.  August 7, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Circumference Divided By Diameter 2016

The [My Family] Pie Workshop happened!

Three of my cousins and I baked pies last weekend!

That's a peach between the Pi and the 2016
First suggested in 2000, when my parents were in China and I baked pies at my grandparents for a larger family Thanksgiving gathering, the [My Family] Pie Workshop had reached mythical someday status.  We agreed we were going to bake pies together . . . someday.

And then last Saturday we did.

We baked two buttermilk and two peach pies, whipped cream, made several bad math puns and laughed a lot.  All (pies, puns, and company) was excellent.

The technique will remain a secret*, but I present here the

Summer 2016 Lucky** Pie Crust Recipe

1/2 C unsalted butter (8 oz., 1 stick)
Members of [My Family]
1 spoonful Crisco
1 1/4 C flour
3 Tbs. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
3-7 Tbs. ice cold water

*Ha!  Keep cold.  Freeze the butter.  Squish-knead the butter into the flour.  Chill as a disk. Chill before rolling.  These are not actual secrets.
You can read them in many books, including those that I use: The Gourmet Cookbook, Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts (the 1980s version), The Pie and Pastry Bible, The Sweet Life, and Betty Crocker.  The Buttermilk filling was based on Martha Stewart and the peach from the Gourmet Cookbook.

**Somehow I've had better luck with pie crusts this summer than I have in years.  While this is probably attributable to the fact that I have made more pies this summer than I have in years, or maybe that I've watched a great deal of The Great British Baking Show, I think that it may be the addition of cornmeal (and sometimes a teaspoon of powdered sugar) and I am not about to mess with these ratios that work.

Chick Lit and Another Bird Book

I gave my mother Mary Kay Andrew's Savannah Blues and Savannah Breeze, both "beach books" with a healthy dose of Southern charm as preparation for our trip to the beach near Savannah.  Like Andrew's other novels (of which Save the Date is probably my favorite among the five or so I've read) both Savannah novels follow flawed female protagonists through wacky adventures and some of them fall in love.

As we were recently discussing them (I was reading Katie Fforde's Love Letters at the time), Mom kept comparing them to (or confusing them with) some other fun, if formulaic, chick lit beach read, (Mary Simses' Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe, which I haven't read) which made me laugh because all of the women in these kind of books are quirky bakers/caterers/florists/decorators/gardeners, not just in these three novels.

But I came to a stunned revelation after talking to her and looking at my MiL's collection of books.

Some people do not read these kinds of books.

Okay, that is not actually surprising.  More accurately, I was surprised to realize that some people who both read novels and would really enjoy such books, do not know that a whole category of them exists.

Beach in South Carolina.
No, we did not sit around reading on the beach, but I suggest
many good books should you ever find yourself in a
position to sit on a beach reading.
I'm not sure of the true category title- someone in the industry should help me out here.  It's the intersection of "Beach Books" (anything plot driven and easy to read), "Chick Lit" (written for women), romance, and contemporary comedy.  These are not bodice rippers.  The women have jobs, brains, confidence issues, money woes, and sometimes disappointing sex.  They are not Oprah Books.  Dysfunctional families are rarely redeemed.  They are not the sagas of the glitterari of Daniel Steele and Jackie Collins (compared here 5 years ago).  These books are smart, if light, and I really really like them.

I view the authors as women who fully get Jane Austen, Nora Ephron (particularly When Harry Met Sally) and Tina Fey.

So, Jennifer Crusie, Katie Fforde, Mary Kay Andrews are smack in the middle of this genre and I have enjoyed many of each of their books.  What are your favorites?

As a side note, I was contemplating how to write about these books when I realized that "chick" is a bird term.  I can write about all the chick books I want this year!

Speaking of bird books (and pies*)-- I recently read Alice Hoffman's Nightbird.  It is hard for me to be objective about a book that is so many things I enjoy: well written YA, magical, about people who bake, about people who garden, and about birds.  Suffice it to say that I recommend the book for those of you also into magical food books that contain gardens and birds.

*Okay, I wasn't exactly speaking of pie, but I seem to have quite a bit recently.