Friday, December 28, 2007

Birthday Girl

laughing at us for thinking a book would help...

playing dress-up (still a favorite occupation)

sleeping (not a favorite occupation for many years, but she's good at it now)

first school picture

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Mariah was almost born in 1990. We thought she would be; everyone said so. Her due date was January 8, then it was January 5 (I never understood why it changed, but it did), and everyone said first babies were late, and we were heartily sick of the 80s (the ME Decade, right?), so we thought that was fine. (Later we realized about the tax deduction, but that was later.)

So 18 years ago today, I went to the doctor for my 38th-week of pregnancy checkup. I'd had my appendix out at about 29 weeks and had been briefly reclassified as a "high risk" pregnancy, but I'd healed nicely and was back with my regular doctor at the regular time. He checked me out and all was well. He left the room at one point--maybe the checkup was over and I was supposed to be getting dressed? I don't remember--and when I stood up my water broke.

And that was that. Someone got some towels, someone else got a wheelchair, and I was headed to the OB ward to have a baby. Never mind that I wasn't in labor; this was a big fancy teaching hospital and they didn't let people break their water on their premises and then just leave. (The doctor was a resident who saw me in the family clinic in the basement of the hospital--and yes, it was just as nice as that implies. Still, for grad student health care, it was pretty plush.) I was whisked through the emergency room and up to wait. We made a few phone calls, noted that OB was a nicer place when you weren't there for an emergency appendectomy, and waited some more.

And about 15 hours, plenty of drugs, and one blown-up surgical glove later (Mark drew a face on it to amuse me), Mariah arrived. And tomorrow she'll register to vote.

Happy (Almost) Birthday, Mariah! Welcome to adulthood!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


This was before: the tree, the presents, the coffee cake on the table. Pajamas until noon, a slow start and lots of oohs and aahs as we moved through the packages, one by one by one.After, it's quiet. There are boxes strewn on the floor, still, but the presents are in neat stacks or have already been carried up to bedrooms, the study, the dining room. Nick has finished one book; I've got songs loaded onto my shiny new iPod nano. Mark made it out for a Christmas day paddle, enjoying the peace out on the river. Dinner was quiet, just the four of us, and it was Thanksgiving redux since we weren't here for Thanksgiving and missed out on the leftovers. Then in the evening we participated in a local tradition : a showing of It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen, preceded by a Christmas carol singalong accompanied by the mighty Wurlitzer organ. Hipsters and grandparents, middle-aged couples and teenagers, sat side by side and sang along to "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph," and then sat quietly, rapt, through Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed on the big screen. (OK, I did hear a baby or two being carried out screaming, but most of us were quiet.)

Today has been rainy and gray but it brought a lunch with friends, a babysitting gig, a tae kwon do class--easing back into normal life bit by bit, but still relishing the break. It's good to pause.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I mentioned these cookies last year and made them again on Wednesday; they are quick, easy, and tasty, and they have the added advantage of using up the three egg whites left over from making the basic butter cookie dough that is the basis of both mocha butter balls and jelly bowl cookies. (I've also tried the raspberry hazelnut triangles, which are a lot of work but very tasty.) I've altered this recipe somewhat from Donna Hay's original (in Modern Classics 2), mostly because of the size of the bag of almonds I had--it seems pretty flexible, really.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine in the food processor:
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 10 oz. bag of blanched almonds (about two cups)

Process these two until the almonds are roughly chopped, then add:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 egg whites
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Process until the mixture starts to clump up on the blade. Roll the mixture into small balls (about walnut-sized) and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten the balls slightly. Bake for 13 minutes or until the cookies are starting to firm up and brown on the bottom.

The recipe should make about 3 dozen cookies, maybe a few more. They are chewy and quite sweet, and I'm thinking about cutting the sugar by about 1/4 cup next time, though they are great as is dipped in coffee.

Friday, December 21, 2007

more baking

A couple of days ago someone sent me an e-mail holiday recipe exchange. I love getting recipes, and I almost always play along when someone tags me for these. This one was easy--I sent along the spice cookies recipe that I always bake this time of year. In searching for it, I came across my holiday baking list from last year, which reminded me of several other things I wanted to bake. I haven't yet reached last year's heights, but so far I've baked (and given away) both brownies and espresso cookies, and then gone on to bake spice cookies (of course!), jelly bowls, amaretti, bourbon balls (my recipe came from the Joy of Cooking, but this is exactly the same), and parmesan shortbread (ooh, a ringer! and a savory one at that!). I also have the beginnings of speculatius and mocha butter balls ready--one needs to chill, the other to come back up to room temperature, before I can do anything else. I'm also planning a few more--probably pumpkin rocks again, and biscotti, and maybe some good old chocolate chip cookie bars. And then I think I'll be done; I'll let you know the count when it's all over.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time to bake

I made brownies and espresso cookies yesterday to give to Nick's teachers. (Yes, the brownies were still warm when I put them on the plates, but they were done!) I put crushed-up candy canes in the brownies and they are delightfully fudgy and pepperminty--why have I never done this before?

Then before breakfast (!) I had a batch of spice cookies in the oven. I've got lots to do around the house and it's easier to clean when the house smells like cookies. Or that's the theory. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shifting Focus

So it really wasn't that bad a day yesterday. The computer, modem, and router are actually not broken, for example, even though it took six hours, eight phone calls (two to India), and much hair-pulling to determine that. Here was the dialogue at one point:

[Me]: But everything worked yesterday with the set-up I had. Why are you telling me to change it today?
[Him]: Well, sometimes things just don't work any more.
[Me]: OK, but then why would changing the settings help?
[Him]: The settings you had shouldn't have worked. These are the right settings.
[Me]: Even though the old settings worked yesterday.
[Him]: Yes.
[Me, tearing my hair out, ready to slam the phone down]: Well, thanks, then, I guess.

Actually the old settings were the right ones. The new ones caused all kinds of problems. But they are, um [knock wood], fixed now.

Moving along. It is also a good thing that the new couch for the study/guest room was delivered, so I will ignore the fact that we have not yet moved the futon out of the room and that therefore the study (where I spend most of my time these days) is both crowded and somewhat dingy-looking. I will assume that the new couch will look fabulous in here once things are cleaned up.

It's also a good thing that I didn't have to drive to Petersburg yesterday to deliver a choir dress to Mariah. She called soon after arriving at school to say she needed it for an unexpected performance, so I went and found it in the laundry basket (no comment), along with appropriate shoes, and readied myself for the drive, but then she called to say they decided to perform in street clothes instead. Thus I was able to spend that time talking on the phone to people in India. Let's not discuss which was more satisfying.

It's a very good thing that we had choir rehearsal last night, always a high point in my week, and even more that we went just before rehearsal, a small group of us, to sing at the convalescent center where one of our members (along with his wife) is recovering from a devastating car accident. They--and others who gathered when they heard the music--were so appreciative, it made the singing really matter.

As I said, really not a bad day at all. It's just a matter of perspective.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Photo Meme

Sam tagged me for this, and I was going to do it, and then I had computer problems, and they lasted all morning long. And into some of the afternoon. And in the end when everything was undone that had been done all morning long, everything worked again (I am just keeping quiet and crossing my fingers about that) and none of the chores I meant to do are done but I do have time for this. So here it is.

The idea is to post the first thing (or one of the first things) that comes up in a google image search when you search for the listed item.

1. My age at my next birthday2. Where I'd like to travel

3. My favorite place (one of them, anyway)
4. My favorite objects (yes, I got books and yarn into one picture)

5. My favorite food(s)
6. My favorite color
7. My nickname

8. Where I was born
If this seems like fun, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Another column

Although last week's snow is long gone, and it's warm and sunny out today (disconcertingly so!), I have still been thinking about Christmas and books...

Christmases in my family have always involved books. The packages telegraph their contents by their solid heft and neat rectangles--even the sloppiest wrapper can make a book look good under the Christmas tree. But just as Christmas often involves books, many books--both Christmas-themed and otherwise--also involve Christmas. My own list of "Christmas books" is idiosyncratic, no doubt; I recall not only the charming tales of happy families but also the clear-eyed evocations of loss and ambivalence. Together they make up my own personal Christmas reading list.

read the rest here...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Was it something I wrote?

Yesterday I was all about fall. Today, not so much.

Looking down from the balcony off my study:

Looking up from the backyard:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

global weirding*

They may have canceled fall in New York**, but here in Virginia it's still going strong. In fact in many ways this was the most fall-like fall I remember spending here. It didn't start until November, which was a bit odd (October, as I remember it, we bounced around between summer temperatures and winter ones), but once it hit, it stayed. The last of the dull red burnished leaves blew off our dogwood yesterday; down the block there is a stand of gingkos still gloriously golden (pardon the alliteration), and vibrant red ornamental maples flame out all over town. The weather is crisp and clear--it gets cold overnight, and we've had a little rain and a lot of wind. All in all, it feels like mid- to late October in New England.

The fact that it's December is, however, deeply weird.

*I read somewhere recently that this was a better description of climate change than "global warming." I can't find the source now, though.

**I would swear I read a short, funny piece in the New York Times (or maybe The New Yorker?) about how fall is now being canceled after a very long run. But I can't find that, either.