Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Something from Grandma

For most of my childhood, at least until sometime in junior high school, my maternal grandmother, Irene Nieschwietz, lived with us. (Mom had to put her into a nursing home the last year or so of Grandma's life and she died the fall I was a freshman in high school). I've always felt blessed by the gift of growing up in a multi-generational household. It was hard for Mom as she had no help from her siblings, but that's another story for another day.

Grandma had already been completely blind for more than a decade when I was born due to a hereditary condition, but in the kitchen at least, it didn't slow her down much. Among the things I remember with great fondness is her gravy. It was wonderful and after she stopped being able to cook and I was subjected to a variety of substances masquerading as gravy, I came to the conclusion that I would have to learn to make gravy myself. I did eventually succeed in that quest. And having learned to make gravy, I marvel that she did it so well without being able to see.

But the one recipe of Grandma's that has been handed down is the one for her fruit salad dressing. you can find a version of her fruit salad at any family gathering during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each family of cousins has its own version of the fruit salad itself, the most basic of which is the one my siblings and I preferred: diced apples and bananas mixed with the dressing. Some of my aunts added pecans and/or marshmallows. But the key to the salad was the dressing. And I offer it to you here. I served it this past Thanksgiving with a salad consisting of raspberries, blackberries, pears, and bananas. And I served it on the side, not mixed in the salad as, much to my dismay, none of my children have taken to this particular delight. This dressing, more than any other family recipe, brings back memories of the holidays of my childhood.

Irene's Fruit Salad Dressing

3 whole eggs
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C white vinegar
1/2 dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
Evaporated milk

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs.

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Take the pot off the stove and very slowly add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep the eggs from scrambling. Place the saucepan back on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat. If needed, add a little butter and evaporated milk to thin slightly. (I rarely have to do this step.)

Let cool. You can serve on the side or toss into a fruit salad. Store in the refrigerator. Can be made ahead of time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You

Just a few of the things that I'm thankful for today.

My wonderful children. I am exceptionally blessed with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my two daughters. There were all here today and while they do like to give me a hard time, I know that they love me.

My husband. Yes, even though he's been driving me crazy today and scaring me over what he might buy tomorrow if he goes shopping on Black Friday (he was positively giddy over some of the electronics on sale tomorrow), I am glad that we are still together after all this time. Though I will admit it would be nice if he'd learn how to carve a turkey so I don't have to do it. But then, my daughter-in-law has promised to get a lesson from her dad at Christmas, so even his disinterest in doing the carving is okay tonight.

My neighbors. I love, love, love, the commune. If I need an egg or a hug, they are there for me. Everyone should have friends like these living next door and just down the street.

My choir friends. How cool is it to have friends who love to sing and are good at it. It's like living in Glee. (Only we don't burst into song randomly.)

My co-workers (you know who you are) who keep me sane. Not an easy task. But they are there for me on the rough days and always ready to laugh with me on the good days. I am truly blessed by knowing them.

My mother. Oh, my sweet mother. I am beyond blessed to still have her. She is truly the best mom in the world. I could tell you why, but I have a feeling there's a word limit on these posts.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Acorns Keep Falling on My Head

We have been inundated with acorns this year. For the past month the two oak trees in our back yard have been covering the backyard and driveway with an excess of acorns. We hear the loud cracks as they hit the pavement. At our recent pumpkin carving party, we seriously considered having our guests sign a waver stating they would not sue us if injured by a falling acorn.

We keep thinking that at some point, they'll finally all be off the tree. But it hasn't happened yet and this has been going on for a good month now and shows no sign of stopping. We were just sitting outside by the firepit tonight and every few minutes we'd hear the 'crack' of a falling acorn hitting the patio.

What does this mean? Who knows? I did a tiny bit of research and the Farmer's Almanac says that our area of Texas will have a very wet and cold winter. So, it could be a forecast of a cold winter. Another thing I read said that this is a sign that the trees are going through a stage where they try to ensure the continuation of the species. All I know is I'm tired of the damn things littering up my patio and driveway.

It's All About the Shoes

Look at these.

Aren't they just too cute? I found them this morning on Grace Bonney's DesignSponge site. (Which I consider required reading for keeping up with all sorts of design trends, from home to clothing, to print and web.) The shoes will be available at Moschino in December. I personally can't decide between the pale pink or the bright pink. What I do know is that looking at these makes me want to go shoe shopping for cute little flats. The potential problem with owning a pair of these beauties is that my darling daughters would almost certainly steal them from my closet. And I wouldn't blame them for doing so. Stealing these shoes from someone's closet would be justified larceny.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Concert

For the next two nights, I will be rehearsing with my choir for our annual Evening Prayer Service and Concert. For some reason, our choir director is extremely partial to doing a concert in November combined with an evening prayer service, which is devoted to remembering those who have died during the past year.

Yes, it's a bit of a downer. We tend to sing music that verges on the dark side. Requiems and the like. One number we did last year had verses that talked of blood on the moon. Or some such. The verses on that one would give a small child nightmares. Hell, they almost gave me nightmares.

Occasionally I long for the opportunity to sing at a Christmas concert. Or a spring concert. After Easter, not during Lent. Yes, we switched one year and had a concert during Lent. Again with the somber music.

But we do get to sing some beautiful music. This year, our choir is singing four of the movements from Gabriel Faure's Requiem. I love this music. It captures the beauty and majesty of the Catholic requiem service. Though from my reading of the notes in my score, I believe that this particular Requiem was not considered completely kosher, so to speak, by the Catholic church. Seems Faure wrote it the way he thought it should be done and that didn't necessarily conform to the requirements of the liturgy.

No matter. It's beautiful. And hopefully, we'll do it justice. If you are already tired of the Christmas carols playing over the speakers in all the stores, come over to St. Thomas More Catholic Church on Friday night and enjoy some music better suited to the fall season.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Few More Favorite Things

Sitting outside drinking wine with a fire in the firepit on a cool autumn night.

Eating stew made from the recipe my mom used to make when we were kids.

Neighbors who will accept (or extend) a spur of the moment invitation.

Making progress on one of my long-term projects.

Ideas swirling around my head for things I can create.

Music I'll be singing this week in a concert swirling around my head. Currently playing: Gabriel Faure's Requiem.

The incredibly nice cool weather we've had the last week or so.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Yet Another Exercise in Futility

No, no, no. I'm not going to get political again. This particular exercise in futility is car-related. Or more specifically, Mini Cooper related.

Every so often, I troll through AutoTrader.com to see what's available in used Mini Coopers. After over 20 years of driving three different Chrysler/Dodge minivans, I'm completely over the whole minivan thing. Unfortunately, I'm currently stuck w/ the third van, which I not so lovingly refer to as the Crapvan. It's past it's use by date, but with two children still in college and various other obligations, a car payment is just not something I feel comfortable taking on right now.

But this week, there is a real deal out there. A 2004 with low mileage. And it pretty much has everything I want. It's red w/ a white roof. No racing stripes. Cloth seats (leather seats are a big mistake in Houston during the summer). Sunroof. And this particular model is priced extremely low. Almost low enough to make me seriously consider trying to get it.

So, I stopped by the dealership after work and took a look at it. In fact, I actually sat in it. And with a massive showing of self-control, got out of it and walked away to get in the Crapvan and drive home. It was my car version of when I used to take the girls shopping for formal dresses for dances. We'd almost always see one dress that was fabulous and fabulously out of our price range. But I'd tell them, "Just try it on for funsies." Well, I tried that Mini Cooper on for funsies and it looked wonderful.

I think it's a good thing I didn't ask to drive it. I'd still be driving.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Less Than 24 Hours

It is less than 24 hours until the weekend. Last weekend I spent getting ready for a party at our house. Which was great fun and very satisfying.

But this weekend is about the things I don't have to do. I can do this stuff or I can do nothing. If I opt to do stuff, this is some of the stuff I'm thinking about doing:

Going to the quilt festival.

Cooking a pot of stew.

Planting sweet pea seeds. Along with some other flower seeds and a couple of varities of bulbs.


Working on repairing my large loom.

Sitting outside sipping wine while a fire burns in the fire pit.

I rather like making a "Maybe I'll do this" list. Maybe I'll do it more often.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Somewhere out there tonight, are a mom, a dad, and a brother who are facing getting up in the morning and moving on with their lives without their daughter and sister. The funeral service is over and now they have the heartbreaking task of putting their lives back together. Of getting up each day, putting on the coffee, and heading out the door to work and school. Of coming home each day and dealing with the fact that only three people instead of four will be there for supper.

My heart breaks for them as they face the upcoming holidays and getting through the special days they were looking forward to this year, dealing with the fact that there will be no prom photos this year, no white dress and crown for graduation, no packing for college.

I did not know their daughter. She was one of the over 600 girls in the school where I work. But I mourn her life being cut so tragically and wastefully short. I hurt for her friends and classmates who have learned, in the hardest way possible, that the golden days of their youth can turn to ash in an instant. I pray that her family will have the courage to get up in the morning to this new unwanted reality that has been thrust upon them. And I pray that someday, they will know joy in their lives again because this daughter, sister, friend was, from all accounts, about bringing joy to others.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Exercises in Futility

Since it's election day, it's as good a time as any for me to tilt at a few windmills. I've been feeling a rant coming on for a while now. And it's better for me to get it out and not let it fester. Hopefully, you'll agree that these things should be said. If not, well, it's a free country. Go grab a soapbox and go for it.

  • It's only a couple of days past Halloween and at least 4 weeks to Thanksgiving. Plus it was in the 80s yesterday here in Houston. Please, please, please take down the Christmas decorations. All it does is annoy me to see them up this early.
  • John McCain, I want an apology from you for unleashing Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting nation. What were you thinking? Oh, wait, you weren't. You stupid, stupid man. The worst of it is, I strongly suspect our long national nightmare won't be over for a long, long time as it seems Ms. Palin has no intentions of going away quietly any time soon.
  • And now, speaking directly to Ms. Palin: If your idea of the kind of values America needs is our teen-aged children having babies before they graduate from high school, then skipping out on college to go on reality TV shows, then you are even more out of touch with America than I thought. Do not go portraying yourself as Ms. American Mom when you've got a family situation that is totally and utterly out of control. America, you go ahead and trash Mr. Obama. But if I'm looking for a public servant with family values, I'm going to go with him. I can guarantee you his daughters won't end up on a reality TV show after having a child with an idiot who decides posing nude and hanging out with pornographers is a better way to further his career than going to college.
  • It's time to get serious about gun control. This past weekend, one of the seniors at the school where I work was the victim of a drive-by shooting. She was at a Halloween party, just another teenager on a Friday night. A good kid, looking forward to all the events of her final year of high school and going on to college. And she was killed by an idiot with a grudge and access to a gun. Don't anyone give me that crap about how if someone nearby had had a gun, they could have shot the guy who did it or prevented this tragedy. The only way this tragedy could have been prevented is if the guy who did it had not been able to get his hands on a gun. How many time do I have to say this: No one needs a handgun or an automatic weapon of any kind.

Monday, November 01, 2010

"I See Pumpkins"

That's what my psychic friend from choir told me last Friday night when we were out celebrating a friend's birthday. I had heard about how Beth 'senses' or 'sees' things, but I'd never experienced it for myself. She had taken our friend's hand and was describing what she saw. It's basically smatterings of images and words. So, having had a drink, I reached out my hand and she took it. And told me "I see pumpkins. What is up with that?" Both my husband and I burst out laughing and Larry explained that as soon as pumpkins start appearing in the stores I start to bring them home, a few at a time. It's a bit of an obsession of mine in the fall.

But probably the main reason she saw pumpkins is that this past Saturday we had our annual pumpkin carving party, or as I like to call it, "Small Children with Knives."

Some of the highlights from this year's event:

The twins discovering a squirrel skull next to the driveway as soon as they arrived. They immediately picked it up to show to their mother, leading her to say words she never imagined would come out of her mouth, "Boys, put down the squirrel skull."

My granddog, Laila (a miniature dachschund), zipping around in her banana split costume, much to the delight of the little kids.

The sheer, utter delight of loading up all those little kids on sugar, then sending them home with their parents. One of the twins came in at the start of the party and asked his mom for a cookie. Of course, she said 'No, not until after supper.' I laughed and told her, "Now if he had asked me, the answer would have yes, but if he's stupid enough to ask you instead of me, then too bad."

The terrific pumpkins all lined up and lit with candles.

Watching my various friends, some of whom had never met, making connections and having a wonderful time on a perfect October evening.

It was the best ever. Guess I'll do it again next year.