Our 5 year old gardening buddy has a birthday next week, and asked his parents for a Gunsmoke themed party. He likes dressing up like a cowboy, and I assume his parents let him watch Gunsmoke reruns. His parents agreed, and his dad found a bunch of wooden pallets he is transforming into a boardwalk. There is a large sign the says Long Branch Saloon. I can hardly wait to see if anyone dresses up like Miss Kitty.
Our daughter also has a birthday in a couple of weeks. She always has anxiety over birthdays, I think stemming from anticipation over childhood parties. We never went so far as to recreate a film set, but she had some nice parties. She stated she has a number of birthday events scheduled by friends in the next two weeks. She is celebrating personally by having a different kind of hot dog a day for her birthday week. We never knew she even liked hot dogs.
My childhood parties were pretty tame, but I will never forget my heartbreak on my 8th birthday when my parents told me that we were moving to a new house in a different part of town, meaning I wouldn’t be next door to my best friend anymore.
What are some of your more memorable birthday parties? What events or celebrations do you dread? What would you wear to a Gunsmoke themed party? Plan your next birthday bash.
YA and I went to Easter dinner at a neighbor/friend’s home. Everybody had their Fauci ouchie and three of the other 4 folks could be said to be “in our bubble”. The fourth person was a close friend of the friend/neighbor. I liked her right away and was interested in the mosaic art that she does.
The topic of my Ukrainian eggs came up and she asked a lot of questions about how they are made. At one point she said “oh, that would be a fun thing to learn to do”. So I offered to teach her; she was so excited I thought she might fall off her chair. She asked if I could teach her twin sister as well – they apparently like to do these kinds of things together. In for a penny, in for a pound – I agreed.
Since I’m actually putting the egg table up this weekend to start my Solstice eggs (yea, I know, just a tad early), I thought this would be a good time for lessons. Instead of a traditionally colored pysanky (white, yellow, green, red, black) I’m going to design a beginner egg that will have various shades of blue. The reason is simple. My Solstice egg this year will be using the blues and I don’t want to mix a bunch of different non-blue colors just for this lesson. The process is exactly the same so I won’t be short-changing them.
I’ve taught Ukrainian eggs before – to two different friends and to YA when she was little – all of these lessons were a long time ago. Even though I’ve taught before, I find myself a little more nervous about this time. Maybe because I will teaching two at a time? Maybe because I know she is an artist herself? I expect my jitters will fade away quickly once we get going. At least I hope so… jitters and hot wax on eggs don’t go together well!
Have you ever taught anything? What do you think you’d be good at teaching?
Now that I don’t have to layer up too much, I’m out walking the dog again. It’s been fun to see the neighborhood anew, although I have to admit, it doesn’t seem as if much has changed in the last few months.
What has changed are the books in the Little Libraries. These are the little nooks that people have put up in their yards, encouraging folks to take a book or leave a book. We have a good number of them in the couple-of-mile radius around my house.
I almost never take a book from a Little Library, although occasionally I’ll take one out to flip through it a bit. I did take an Italian workbook once – no one had done any of the exercises – I work on it occasionally. I’ve taken a couple of kids books and then returned them to a different little library when I was done with them. But it’s fun to look.
I have a friend down on the parkway who takes the Little Library concept to a new level. She actually curates her collection, changing out titles to fit the season or upcoming holiday. Right now there are a bunch of Easter and Spring titles – she always has some good books for kids. She has also installed some little string lights in the box, although I’ve never seen it at night to know if it actually lights up. There is also a tin of dog treats (home made) in her little library and in the summer, a bowl of water underneath for passing dogs.
So it should have come as no surprise that there is a new addition to her library this week. A stick library for dogs – photo above. I couldn’t convince Guinevere to take a stick – she keeps quite busy sniffing while we walk to bother with a stick – although I suppose I could take a stick for her to play with once we get back to our yard. I did snap the photo and send it off to my friend with a little note of thanks.
I’m looking forward to this spring and summer to see what else becomes part of the Little Library landscape!
Have you ever taken a book from a Little Library? Left a book? Do you have a Little Library at your house?
I received a text from Daughter last week enquiring if she would get an Easter basket this year. I replied that of course she would. She reminded me of her favorites (anything milk chocolate, Butterfinger eggs, anything sour) and I assured her they would arrive in good time. I asked Son and Dil what Grandson should get in his basket, and they sent their suggestions (Cadbury mini eggs, freeze dried mangos and raspberries, raisins, and pretzel chips). Now I am sorting through our spare boxes to get everything sent.
I remember the activities of Easter more than the treats. It was a time I got a fancy new church dress and hat. I don’t remember dying eggs. The Easter Bunny left white tracks all over our house, deposited on the charcoal colored carpets by my mother, who dipped oval shaped shoe polish applicators in flour and left bunny tracks through the house that led to the candy.
We plan to tell the children next door on Easter Sunday that we have rabbit problems in our yard, and would they please come over to get the chocolate eggs those darn rabbits have left all over the place. That will be fun.
What are your Easter memories? What do you want in your Easter Basket this year?
I think I’ve mentioned that I got a fun “every day a celebration” calendar by Sandra Boynton for Solstice? According to the calendar (verified on other sources), today is National Frozen Food Day. Apparently Ronald Reagan decided in 1984 that we needed a day to celebrate frozen foods – there is actually a proclamation (#5157) to this effect.
Frozen Food Day caught my attention because I just watched a documentary last week about some of the great “inventions” of the 20th century. It began with the Kellogg brothers and CW Post, battling it out for cereal sales. When CW Post passed away, he left his company for his daughter, Marjorie, who turned out to be one smart cookie. In 1929 she bought out the entire Clarence Birdseye company (one of the other great inventors in the documentary). With the General Foods backing, the frozen food industry was able to grow by leaps and bounds.
In our freezer there are lots of things that we have frozen: berries that we’ve picked, pineapple puree cubes (YA makes these), my sun-dried tomatoes, my jams. I also keep my coffee and my Ralston in the freezer and we have lots of assorted fruits. Waffles and cookie dough. Ice cream (Moose Tracks right now) . Assorted things we find (mostly at Trader Joe’s).
This is too much for just our freezer upstairs so we have a small freezer in the basement as well. It’s nice to have a spot for extras or the occasional bulk purchase. I’m very glad that Clarence Birdseye developed the flash freezing process and even more glad that Marjorie Post put her considerable company and funding behind it. Even enough to celebrate today!
Anything interesting in your freezer? Any guilty freezer pleasures?
Ash Wednesday service at our church is typically very well attended, many folks going who only go to church a couple of times a year. In accordance with Covid protocols, there is only a live stream of the service with no attendees. What, oh what about the imposition of ashes?
Our pastors are traveling around town today at various venues applying ashes to foreheads and reminding us we are dust and to to dust we shall return. I told our pastors they were no different than Door Dash delivery persons this year. They laughed, and regretted the cold weather. A high school buddy of mine, Mary Jo, now senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo, is smudging people in their cars as they drive up into the church parking lot.
Mardi Gras was a bust in New Orleans this year, but I admire those who decorated their homes to emulate parade floats. I like the idea of Mardi Gras lights instead Christmas lights. Husband says we would have a demon cat with horns, along with trees, flowers, and vegetable plants in our driveway.
How did your family acknowledge Lent? Ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras? How would you decorate your house as a float?
YA and I ordered take out from our favorite Chinese Restaurant over the weekend. I set the table nicely with red plates, chopstick holders and even lucky red envelopes (with chocolate coins). But our only guest this year was Nimue, who made herself at home on the table.
This completes my year of no festivities. Last year I was all ready for Pi Day when the world turned upside down. I had all the ingredients for my pies, had a to-do list of what needed to be done in what order, including baking times and temperatures. I even had little placecards done with the names of all the pies. Then on Friday, the day before, I had to cancel; the pandemic had arrived at our door.
Since Pi Day, there have been several other occasions when, during “normal times” I would have entertained: my Girlfriend High Tea in May, our neighborhood Memorial Day gathering, a new neighbor welcome party in June, my birthday bash in August, Leaf Pile in October and, of course, the Great Gift Exchange at Solstice. This list doesn’t include book club meetings or other breakfasts/lunches/dinners with individuals. I would have always said that I entertain a lot but when everything is listed out like this, I realize that it’s an enormous part of my life.
So now that we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year on our own, we’ve come full circle. Unfortunately there won’t be a gathering for Pi Day this year either, but I am hoping we can do a Pi and a Half Day in September. Fingers crossed.
What’s the most interesting party you’ve ever been to?
My sister and I were blessed with two Christmases each year. Our mother was fanatical about the one that happened in December, so our Christmas celebrations were always over the top. Our other Christmas was a day in March when our father returned from the New York Toy Fair. Each years he took a train to New York while lugging huge boxes of samples of stuffed toys his company recently developed. On the last day of the fair, all the company reps dashed around swapping their samples for the samples of other toy makers. Daddy would come home lugging three storage cases filled with whatever he had been able to grab at the fair’s end. So wild was that last day exchange that even he didn’t know what he had been able to bag.
We were lucky in other ways. Kids growing up in the 30s and 40s didn’t get many toys because of the Depression and the War. Then the nation was rocked by the great Baby Boom. It suddenly became profitable to sell toys in America. Suddenly homes had television sets, a new way to market toys to all those kids. Boys in the 50s were likely to play with cap guns and cowboy garb, while girls were expected to play with dolls. And then there were all the new toys that might appeal to boys or girls: Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky, kaleidoscopes, board games, View Master, card games, Mr. Potato Head, the nose flute and so many more.
Then, as now, toys frequently broke or went missing, so I have no memories of many. And yet I have a persistent emotional attachment to a few childhood toys. I dearly loved an old teddy bear. Although many cap guns came and went, some breaking almost the first time I used them, I owned one that made me supremely proud. I’ll talk about it a bit later. My luck with some toys went the other way. Getting an Erector set proved to me that I lacked the discipline required to create the impressive structures some boys assembled. A science kit pretty much showed me I was not meant to be a scientist.
How about you? What toys did you treasure when younger? Which of them claimed a permanent place in your heart?
Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He was born on this date in 1809. (So was Charles Darwin. What a year!) We only started to celebrate Presidents’ Day in 1971, when Washington ‘s and Lincoln’s birthdays were lumped together on the third Monday of February after Congress passed a law in 1968 to encourage more three day weekends. To capitalize on Presidents’ Day on Monday, I am taking today off and am thus giving myself a four day weekend.
I have determined that the only way I am going to make it through the next three and a half years of work is to take more time off. I have a sad history of reluctance to taking vacation or sick leave. Right now I have accrued 750 hours of sick leave and 200 hours of vacation time. It shouldn’t be a problem to take the odd day off now and then. I don’t quite understand my reluctance to stay home. Lutheran guilt? I identify too closely with The Little Engine That Could? Who knows? I only know that I am a more cheerful and productive person after a day off.
I love three day weekends, although it seems like work tends to pile up when Monday is a holiday. Tuesday through Friday seem exhausting on those weeks. Husband wants Juneteenth declared a holiday. That would be great, I think.
What new Monday holidays would you like to see declared? What are your memories of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays when you were in elementary school?
Apparently today is Chocolate Cake Day. Personally I wouldn’t have thought the chocolate cake celebration should be confined to just one day of the year, but I suppose January 27 is just a good an anchor as any other day.
While I love chocolate cake, I don’t really have a favorite chocolate cake recipe. I like to try lots of things. I’m particularly fond of Anna’s chocolate zucchini cake and I love bundt cakes with tunnels of fudge. But since I don’t have a favorite, it was easy to try a new recipe a few months back. I found it in More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin:
Happy Winter Fudge Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter a 9 1/2- by 3-inch springform pan fitted with a tube bottom.
Melt 3 squares semisweet chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat and let the chocolate cool.
In a bowl mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda.
In another bowl with a mixer mix 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons softened butter, cut in little pieces, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt and then beat in the melted chocolate.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and add 1 cup chocolate morsels, large or small.
Turn the batter into the pan and bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. The cake will pull away slightly from the side of the pan. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes, remove the side of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate, removing the bottom of the pan.
She suggests adding lots of icing flowers if you’re trying to entice children to eat an “un-iced” cake, but YA and I ate it sans decorations and it was quite rich, moist and fudgy (is that a word?)
Tell me your idea for a favorite chocolate to eat today? Or do you prefer a different day to celebrate chocolate cake?