Sunday, December 14, 2003

my Christmas prayer

It may be a while before I post again--or not, depending on the next few days. In any case I wanted to post my Christmas prayer here. I wrote it to be used at our services Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I won't be here to hear it. It's a concluding collect for the prayers of the people; just a short thing, but it expresses, I hope, how I'm feeling about Christmas this year, and what I'm praying for.

We welcome you, Jesus, who came to us as one of the most vulnerable of all. Grant that we may remember to seek you in the strangest places. Teach us the hope of the expectant Mary and the frightened shepherds, that we may continue to find new life in the darkness of our world. Give us the paradoxical peace of the newborn, which interrupts us in all that we do, to call us back to your presence and love. In your name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

a little better cooking news

Maybe I'm better at taking orders than initiating today. I took the kids to church this evening to help out with cooking dinner for our homeless guests: we host a group for a week every year at around Christmas time. This was the first night. Someone else had planned the meal, done the shopping, started things off. So I chopped carrots and potatoes, stirred soup, made coffee...everything went fine.

The kids were great, too. They helped pack bag lunches for the morning, peeled carrots and cucumbers, chopped (only Mariah), and generally ran around being useful for about an hour. Then everything was done (there's often a "too many cooks" problem at this event) and they watched Jungle Book for twenty minutes or so until it was time for dinner. Oh well.

bad cooking day

I thought I'd make cookies and spiced nuts as gifts for some folks we won't be seeing at Christmas time this year. I'd made the cookie dough yesterday and it was in the fridge waiting to be rolled into little balls and baked. I got the first batch in, and went on to do something else while they baked. I could smell them as they baked--they smelled good. Then, after a while, not so good. I thought maybe I'd let something fall onto the oven floor and it was burning.

Not so. It was the cookies. Salvageable, but let's just say that's the trayfull we'll be eating here. The other two came out fine.

Then the spiced nuts. I dug up an old recipe I got from Readerville a year or two ago. It looked good, but I didn't have enough nuts. So, off to the store. An hour later, back loaded down with bags. But, yes, I did actually remember the nuts. So now to mix the ingredients together: maple syrup, olive oil, nuts, herbs, cayenne, salt...

And into the oven at 300 for forty minutes.

When the buzzer went off I went to check and they looked good. I was shaking the pan, trying to break up some of the clumps, when something happened. Next thing I knew the pan was upside-down on the open oven door, and nuts were everywhere: on the floor, on the oven floor, in the drawer underneath the oven...

Again, some were more salvageable than others. But maybe this is not the year for food gifts. You think?

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

reading causes colds

Nick has a cold. Like every other elementary school kid, I might add. We spent about an hour in the doctor's waiting room this morning and I almost packed Nick up and came home, fearing that sitting around there might make him sicker, cancelling out any benefit we had from the consultation. But we stuck it out and now have a prescription for cough syrup.

But, before we went, Nick and I had a great conversation. We were talking about his cold, and how long he'd been sick. (It feels like weeks, but can it be, really?) And after that we were talking about his reading, which is getting much better (unlike the cold, I might add). And he looked at me very seriously and said, "You know, Mommy, last year when I couldn't read I didn't really have very many colds. And now that I can read better I keep getting sick. So maybe reading is making me sick."

He was kidding. I think.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Peg Bracken

I'm "I Hate to Cook"ing tonight. The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken, is a classic of my youth. With illustrations by Hilary Knight, of Eloise fame, no less. My copy was purchased at, I think, Small World Books in Venice CA one afternoon when I was hosting a dinner party that evening and just had to have the recipe for Crazy Cake. OK, she calls it "Cockeyed Cake" but somehow it got crazy in our family early on and that's the name that stuck. It's the chocolate cake made with both oil and vinegar, no butter, no eggs...and it is weirdly good. It even turned up in this Moosewood cookbook some years back, somewhat gussied up but effectively the same thing.

The thing about The I Hate to Cook Book is that it's almost a little time capsule. Published in 1960, it assumes moms stay home and dads go to work--and that this drives moms crazy, so they need to occupy themselves with almost anything but child care or cooking. Most of the recipes involve something out of a can, or something in a package, but the cookie recipes are pretty good and crazy cake, while not the best chocolate cake you'll ever eat, is the first one I ever made. And the first one Mariah did. And that's worth something.

I think Peg Bracken is a lot like Erma Bombeck and Jean Kerr, those mom-humorists of the sixties who are almost forgotten now. The cookbook isn't so great for the recipes--and the humor is, as I'm suggesting, dated--but it is still fun to open up and browse through every now and then.

So here's a tidbit:

"It is a lucky thing that little children can't just decide, bang, they're going to have a party, the way grownups do, and then have it. This is one area where what Mama says still goes. What little kids have is birthday parties, and that's it. And actually they're not quite so horrible close up as they are at a distance. The only thing to fear is fear itself."

She then goes on to recommend that all kid parties be tied to a holiday, so as not to tax Mom with coming up with a theme (summer parties where there is no holiday can be, in a most un-PC naming, "hobo parties"). Later she suggests freezing maraschino cherries in ice cubes for the lemonade, noting that "If there are some left over, they're good in Old Fashioneds, too." What kills me is that this turns up as a tip for people who hate to cook, who are assumed to be out of their kitchen as much as possible, whereas today it would turn up in a Martha Stewart mag of some sort, right? Same tip, different audience. Why?

Anyway. She also wrote The I Hate to Housekeep Book, a copy of which used to live in my parents' house but apparently does so no longer. This one I have to find, because--unlike cooking--I truly do hate housekeeping.

By the way I'm making "Elevator Lady Spice Cookies" and "Chewy Fudge-Cake Cookies" tonight, in the hopes that they will be good enough to take to a holiday open house tomorrow.

kids say the darnedest ...

So Nick and I are listening to NPR : Morning Edition for Friday, December 5, 2003 yesterday, and the story about boomer bands reuniting comes on. (Scroll down almost to the end of the show to hear it.) Now, I never know how much Nick hears when I listen to NPR--frankly, I hope not much, especially when they're talking about Ugandan kids killing other kids. (He hasn't mentioned the Lord's Resistance Army lately, so there's hope.)

Anyway they're talking about Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Elton John, whoever...and they get to the part about ticket prices. "Ninety dollars!" exclaims Nick. "For ninety dollars those tickets better be made of gold!"