Saturday, November 30, 2013


We used to attend silent Quaker meetings. They were great in many respects, not for me in others eventually. But one phrase the Friends use is "holding in the light." It means a few different things. Today, intermittently, I walked in the light.

Morning starts early with dogs and vomiting on the floor. Oh well, that's what paper towels are for. Venturing outside, I noticed that the heavy fog of winter mornings was visiting. Always, always I again see my children as tiny little things running in the fog on mornings like this.

Tea made, paper read, dog park! I rode my newly repaired bike -- but still have a hard time keeping up with Taz. I am The World's Slowest Rider still, apparently. The fog had made art on the fence.

Later, I overheard the eldest child talking reasonably to the second one, a glow of light.

Frisbee bake sale -- shining beautiful faces of the players -- leaving time for a dim sum lunch with the child who doesn't get good enough food in Oregon.

The electric car stayed to charge in the municipal garage because the mulch blocks access at home; off for a favorite hike. As I step over roots and up and down rocks, the dog flings herself into the lake. We've been here so many times. Today, we walked widdershins around the water, so started in shadow. No sunglasses needed. But as we returned from the creek out-and-back, and started on the other side, warm sun broke through.

Jacket off, eyes closed, face to sky. . . it glowed with thin honey light. A benediction on a winter afternoon, soon before sunset. Candles on the table, golden bubbling wine in glasses on the visiting child's last day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holiday Procrastination


Dog park. Dog barks.


Computer noodling.

Help hapless knitter decrease a hat.

Talk to the nice tree crew and beg for mulch.

Shopping. Brussels sprouts, thank the gods. Corn starch. There will be berry pie.

Home - hey, there's mulch! Now I can shovel mulch.

Clean kitchen.

Drink tea.

Roll pie crust.

Make more pie crust.

Wrap pies.

Shovel mulch.

Sand trim.

Make dinner.

Goof around.

Good thing I'm pretty mellow about holidays - oh, shoot. I forgot to get knucklebones for the doggy knuckleheads for Thursday. I may have to go on a bike ride for that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Transportable skills

Frosting cakes and repairing old damaged woodwork aren't all that different, fortunately. Tomorrow, I sand.

And roll pie crust, make more pie crust, and make and freeze pies and stuffing.

Maybe I'll buy a turkey, too.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last one of the year

Life isn't always easy when you're the only boy in a family of girls. Add in being the last birthday of the year, after the excitement of Halloween and your always-dramatic only two years older sister's birthday, and Tor's birthday can sometimes feel a little ad-hoc.

Add in an aversion to chocolate in its purest forms, and well. . . what are you going to do?

Fortunately, this year boys from his class were available to play video games at a new arcade, his dad was willing to do party duty while I ran off to Oregon, and Smitten Kitchen can be counted on for fantastic cakes.

The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake is a huge hit, because somehow the presence of peanut butter makes chocolate go from an "eeew" to a "yay!" The ganache was easy and fun, and it's a pretty cake. Lots of bang for a moderate effort, my kind of late in the year birthday effect.

With this one turned 12, only one more child still in single digits -- the time seems to be moving on pretty fast.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Matters of Dirt, Dirt Matters

The planting bed out front has purchased "garden soil" in it. It gets the same kind of watering as the back. It had broccoli and kale planted in it right about the same time as the back yard.

I think they look pretty anemic. While I'm sad about that, the plants in the back are giving me cause for optimism. Even though I routinely gripe about my colander garden soil, the work I've put in seems to have paid off. The back yard cole crops, in three different beds, look greener and larger.

Another interesting point is that the back yard plants have had some insect predation (just look at those broccoli leaves below) but they appear to be "fighting back" effectively, outgrowing the chewing of the cabbage moth caterpillars.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Long Term Decisions

A long time ago, I told myself that having birthdays in the family between Halloween and Thanksgiving would be "no big deal," and better certainly than between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Turns out, since Halloween is like the high holidays here, it isn't terrible, but it's also not super easy.

Until this year, when my OACAH (oldest available child at home) decided that a nice dinner out with her family would be a good way to celebrate. Less pressure, lots of fun, and that freed me up to concentrate on the parts of birthday celebrating I do enjoy.


Cake is the part I like.

Not just making cake, but looking up new cake recipes and considering them, and trying them out, and testing them, and everything else. So these late in the year birthdays are all about the cake. This one is The Celebration Cake from Bake it Like you Mean it, by Gesine Bullock-Prado.

I had help, too. Not just from the youngest child, who licked beaters, and the dogs, who tried to get at it, but my sister in law is visiting, so I had competent adult help. Even she couldn't keep me from making bonehead errors, which is why there are three spare wrongly-measured ingredient chocolate layers downstairs in the freezer.


Making new ones with appropriately measured ingredients helped a lot.

Layers of vanilla butter cake, flourless chocolate cake, raspberry buttercream, and raspberry preserves make what I think of as a terrifically girly birthday cake.


And that girliness is appropriate, I think, for a young lady turning 14.

I can hardly believe it. As we do every year, I told her the crazy story of her 45-minute birth, we made the jokes about her always being in a hurry, and marveled at how big she's getting.

This one is turning into a marvel of maturity, and her shining qualities keep showing themselves. Her friends are lucky to have her, as are we. We're especially glad that tolerance of her siblings is one of her qualities, because brothers will do things like this if at all possible.

I haven't even tried it yet. Last night's dinner was too filling. So maybe a slice with tea today, then the search for friends and neighbors to feed it to begins. This cake called for 10" layers, which is craziness indeed. I did discover a new restaurant supply house, though, so nothing but all future disposable income is lost.

One more birthday cake, then Thanksgiving pies, then at least one Buche de Noel. I'm a happy winter baker!