Monday, October 29, 2007

Just wondering

Last night I dreamed that we had added onto our house, and I was overwhelmed with the fact that we now had three kitchens, three living rooms, and two dens. What is that about? What vast resources are available to the Scientist and me that we aren't fully using? What do we need to do with them?

If and when I figure that part out, then I'll grapple with the next part--why the house was attached to a children's hospital...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's a Pumpkin/Apple Friday Five

Singing Owl wants to know:

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
I went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood with my cousin or friends from the time I was old enough to understand why, until I was about twelve. After that we enjoyed handing out the candy. One year my friend Joy and I rigged an elaborate scary scene in my house--but I felt so bad when one little kid really got scared, that I turned the lights on to show him it was just pretend!

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
Not really. I get a couple of big bags of candy (something I don't like, so I won't be tempted to eat it myself) and hand it out. When it's gone, it's gone, and the porch light goes out. So far nobody has egged our house (knock on wood). Back when we had more young children on our street, my next door neighbor and I used to stand outside with a glass of wine and watch the parade! But now we know very few of the kids who come by, and it's not the same.

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
I like caramel apples all right. But I really would rather have a baked apple stuffed with raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar--or better yet, an apple dumpling!

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
I haven't made a jack o' lantern in a couple of decades. The Scientist's family never made them when he was growing up, so after we were married the custom sort of fell by the wayside. On second thought, I think we did make one, the first Halloween we were in this house. As for what else to do with them, one year I cooked a pumpkin and made two fresh pumpkin pies, one for our Thanksgiving dinner and one for our church's bake sale. It was awful--so stringy. I was mortified to think that whoever had bought that nice-looking pie at the bake sale would have such a crummy Thanksgiving dessert! I've stuck with canned pumpkin ever since!

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
No, I never have. I wait and pull out the stops at Christmas!

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring out an alternate personality?
Yes, costume parties are fun. It's a great challenge to try to stay in character all evening. When my friends and I were involved in our college Renaissance Festival, we would try to stay in character all weekend!

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.
We fell in love with apple dumplings the first time we ate them at the Texas Renaissance Festival. The recipe I use is from my mom's 1951 Joy of Cooking.

Prepare enough dough for two pie crusts and chill it.
Pare and core four medium-sized apples. Fill the hollows with this mixture:
3/4 c. brown sugar
4 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon.
(I add a little handful of raisins.)
It won't all fit inside the apples, so just spread the rest around on top of them before you wrap them in the dough.

Roll out the dough in a thin sheet; cut it into four squares and completely enclose each apple. (If you brush the dough with egg white before wrapping the apple in it, it may help keep the juices from leaking through the crust. But it probably won't. It doesn't matter.) Use a little water to make it stick together on top. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake about 45 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a cake tester or toothpick.
Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream, or--our favorite--heavy cream!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Remembering my girl

Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of Zorra's death. I've been thinking about the little things I miss: how she would sing along with the train whistle; how her cold nose would touch mine if I fell asleep on the couch, startling me awake; the coziness of her lying under the dining table while we ate; the sound of her tail hitting the washer, boom boom boom, whenever we entered the house through the laundry room (hence the nickname Tympani Tail). She loved us, treats, catching Frisbees, and lying in the sun. She was terrified of fireworks, and suspicious of all other dogs, men in hats, and any other people she did not know.

I found Zorra, sick and starving, near the rural residential treatment center where I was working in 1997, and brought her home. As she settled down on an old blanket on my back porch, she gave a sigh of exhaustion and relief that broke my heart. She was about two years old, and had obviously had an unhappy life. She blossomed into a beautiful and often very sweet dog, but we never were able to conquer the demons that haunted her. Her fear and aggression could be triggered by any little thing, and we often did not know what. We took her to a behavioral veterinarian at Texas A & M, had her on Prozac for a while, did all kinds of elaborate behavioral protocols, and she improved but was still very unpredictable. We had to board her in order to have a party, or to have workmen at the house. The sound of the doorbell or the sight of a UPS truck parked on our street would make her berserk, hurling herself at the window or even pulling down the sheer curtains next to the door.

She bit both the Scientist and me on several occasions. We thought she would mellow out as she got older, but instead she grew more reactive. Shortly before she died we found out that she had a very bad hip. She could still run fast, never limped, and hid her pain from us, so I was stunned when I saw the X-ray. Surely that was why she had grown more irritable over time. Shortly after that, she turned on the Scientist as he tried to haul her away from attacking a neighbor's dog, and she bit his hands severely. On that day we finally were in agreement that we could not go on like that. The next day, our hearts aching, we had her euthanized. We held her and told her we loved her as she took her last breath.

How can I explain what a complex mixture of love and brokenness this precious dog was? We had so many good times with her, and we have such wonderful memories of how she grinned, how she ran, how she would cuddle with us (when she wanted to!), how her beautiful coat shone in the sun. About eighty-five per cent of the time she was a dear, playful, loving friend. But the other fifteen per cent was finally too much for all of us.

I know that if she had died out in that field before I found her, she would never have known what it meant to be loved and to have a real home, and I know that she did know that despite her fears. For that, and the good times, I am grateful.

Rest in peace, my sweet brown-eyed girl. I will always love you.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On the subject of Eucharistic theology (no surprise here):

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Calvin

You are John Calvin. You seek to be faithful to Scripture, and to harmonize difficult sayings. You believe that in the Lord's Supper those who have faith are united to Christ, who is present spiritually, yet in a real way.













Friday, October 19, 2007

The Friday Five: Homage to the Top Chef!

RevHRod says:

This Fall my family has been energetically watching Top Chef on the Bravo channel. My teenage daughter watches with the dream of some day being a chef. My husband watches because he loves reality shows and I mean, really loves them. Plus the whole competition thing really works for him. Me, I love cooking and good food. Every so often I get an idea from this group of talented young chefs who are competing for big money and honors galore.

The winner for this season was Hung. Not the fan favorite, but he won fair and square. In his bio, he says if he were a food "I would be spicy chili - it takes a while to get used to, but once you eat it you always come back for more!" With that in mind, here is this week’s Friday Five.

If you were a food, what would you be?

I want to say cherry pie or a Fudgesicle, but I hope I have more substance than either of those. Maybe an onion, because I have lots of layers (so it takes a while to get to know me) and a few people find me indigestible--but some consider me an essential ingredient. But I hope I don't make anyone cry. Yeah, that's too silly, I'll stop now.

What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?
For spring break during my sophomore year in college, a small group of us (gals and guys, all "just friends") drove from Memphis to Orlando and camped out at Fort Wilderness in Walt Disney World. In those ancient pre-Epcot days, WDW had two hotels, the Contemporary Resort and another I've forgotten. One night we all cleaned up (as well as we could, in the campground) and went to the Contemporary Resort to eat at the fancy-schmancy Gulf Coast Room. We were 19 or 20 years old, with little experience of "fine dining" ; the staff treated us like grownups, and we had a marvelous evening. I don't remember what I ate, but I do remember how sophisticated we felt. And I remember the tuxedoed waiter bringing butter to the table, because each pat of butter was precisely stamped with--you guessed it--mouse ears.

What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?
My dad made the best soft scrambled eggs, hamburger steak, and chocolate milk shakes in the universe. I have mastered the eggs and the milkshake, but have never quite gotten the hamburger steak right. But any of the above is an ideal comfort food.

When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
My cheddar spinach quiche is very easy to make, and disappears quickly, as does my spinach lasagna.

What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
I think that would be a toss-up between the baby octopus leg and the chocolate-covered grasshopper. Once was enough for those.

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
This is specific to one particular restaurant, a cool and casual place that serves Italian food exactly like what we ate in Italy. Their signature cocktail is a blood orange prosecco; imagine a mimosa made with prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) instead of the usual champagne, and blood orange juice instead of regular orange juice. Very festive, and delicious!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guest Blogger: Amie

Hi, everybody! I'm kind of sleepy, but I wanted to tell you about my strange day. This morning mama took me to the vet--that was bad enough, but then they put me on a table and I took a nap! When I woke up, two more teeth were gone! I don't have that many to spare, so I hope I get to keep the ones I have left.

I was so glad to see mama this afternoon. I was really thirsty and hungry when I got home. This evening I've had scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, and pumpkin! Yum!

Mama told my doctor that she thought I would probably feel so much better with those bad teeth gone, it might give me another year I wouldn't have had. He told her that she had already given me several years that I otherwise wouldn't have had. I don't know what a year is, but I am happy for every day I have with mama and daddy. I think they feel the same way about me.

Going back to sleep now....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A mystical evening

On Monday night we had a rare opportunity to hear Loreena McKennitt in concert. She is a marvelous singer and she hardly ever tours, so we've been looking forward to the concert for a long time. If you are not familiar with her, I would describe her music as Celtic/world music. Much of her work is inspired by the migration of Celtic peoples throughout the world. The musicians who perform with her are of such a caliber that I thought during the concert, "This reminds me of why I love music." Her guitarist would alternate between his guitar, a lute he kept slung across his back, and an oud that he would reach around a stand to play--without missing a beat. She has an amazing (and gorgeous) cellist, and an electric violinist who left us speechless. She has three percussionists in addition to her drummer, and another gentleman who plays a lyra--it looks like a dulcimer but he bows it like a little cello. And last but not least--the hurdy gurdy man! Her music is very melodic, but the drone of the hurdy gurdy gives it a mysterious, Eastern feeling.

After the concert, we hung out by the stage door like the goobers that we are, and got her autograph. She was most patient and gracious with the thirty-five or so who were waiting to meet her. We got home after midnight, but the short night was more than worth it.

This is "Caravanserai" from her recent PBS special Nights from the Alhambra. I think you'll appreciate her voice and warm stage presence, as well as her wonderful musicians.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Five: Thankfulness List

I always say the same things on these lists, so let's think of some more stuff besides:
1. the inhabitants of my household, both human and canine (I love y'all)
OK! Like Mindy, I am certainly thankful for
2. clean panties, but I'm almost out of them, so I am also thankful for
3. a washer and dryer that I don't have to drive somewhere to use, and don't have to put quarters into;
4. clean water piped into the house, so I can wash;
5. the gas and electricity that power the washer, dryer,and everything else in the house, including
6. central air conditioning!
OK, so that's can see that my mind is on chores this evening...I'm going to stretch this even a little more, because I am especially thankful for
7. people who take the time to leave a comment! ;)

And I am so thankful tomorrow is Saturday!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fab Four Meme

I've been tagged by Mary Beth! This one is all about fours:

Four jobs I've held:
clinical psychologist
school psychologist
day care center worker
drug store clerk

Four films I could watch over and over:
The Return of the King
Sense and Sensibility
A Hard Day's Night
Young Frankenstein

Four TV shows I watch:
American Masters
American Experience
the news
reruns of The Simpsons

Four places I've lived:
Memphis, TN
San Antonio, TX
Houston, TX
Pasadena, CA

Four favorite foods:
cheese enchiladas with refried beans
tortilla chips and queso
saag paneer
cherry pie

Four websites I visit every day:

Four favorite colors:
Wedgewood blue

Four places I would love to be right now:
Kauai's north shore
Big Bend/Marathon/Alpine, TX
Orcas Island, WA

Four names I love but would/could not use for my children:
Ariane (This is the Scientist's pick. The Ariane rocket carries the French space shuttle...)
Alexander Shaw (These are family names, and this is what I would have wanted to name a son. But our last name starts with S, and I wouldn't do that to my child!)

I'll tag PG, the Typist, SpookyRach, and Singing Owl!