We had a real treat this weekend in that Kim from 3 Peanuts and her family were in Dallas. She and I spent the afternoon together, and her family came to dinner tonight. I will post more on that later (I need to get some pictures from Kim).
Tonight Hockey Boy was attending the Junior Symphony Ball (along with 1699 other Dallas-area high school students). He was able to meet Kim and her family briefly before he left, and they provided valuable consultation on his hat, boots and bowtie.
The attire for the event was "Texas Tux" (basically a tuxedo shirt and jacket with jeans and cowboy boots). My mom gave Hockey Boy some really great cuff links for Christmas that say "Texas" and have the lone star on them. They were perfect for his outfit tonight.
I thought he looked so cute, and I LOVE the picture of Kate looking at him!
You can sort of see the ice around the bottom of the tree on the left. It's hard to tell, but my sidewalk could double as a skating rink this morning
We awoke today to a thick layer of ice on the ground and consequently no school! I know that my Yankee friends scoff at what cancels school in Texas, but it's very difficult to drive on ice here because of the limited number of sanding trucks. It's also very cold (20° - which may not sound terrible to my friend Rachel but is darn cold for Dallas!), so we are hunkering down inside. I'm planning to bake some bread and make some corn chowder this afternoon.
(I am venturing out in a little bit, however, to get my hair cut and colored, but that's about the only thing that could incite me to leave the warmth of my house today!)
When I taught second grade, I had a student named Jack who brought his cat and her kittens to school for Show and Tell one day. I told my husband Robert how cute the kittens were, and he agreed we could adopt one. We selected this precious little black and white kitten and named him Jack in honor of my student.
Jack with our dog Sam. Almost from Day One, Jack ruled the roost and was the *alpha dog* in their relationship
Jack was a very cool cat. He had distinctive markings and carried himself with a very self-assured air. He was generally aloof with people but was very affectionate to me. He had a special place in my heart and was a great pet. He died several years ago at the age of 15, and I still miss him.
In his day Jack was quite the hunter, delighting in bringing home *gifts* to me. I'm not sure if he noticed my less than enthusiastic response to his offerings, but at some point he transitioned from bringing home dead rodents to bringing home dishrags, spare socks, even an occasional pair of little boy's underwear. I wasn't ever quite sure what to do with these items so I collected them in a box in my garage.
Jack *hunting* our other cat Tigger in our backyard
One day a very nosy neighbor, whom I call *Mrs. B,* came over to inspect a new piece of furniture at my house. We happened to walk out back, and she noticed one of Jack's latest conquests, a washrag, on my doormat.
"Now, how in the world did my dish cloth get over here?" she wondered aloud. Mrs. B told me that she often set things out to dry on her back porch and had noticed that they disappeared from time to time.
I sheepishly confessed to the devious ways of my pilfering cat and showed her my collection of items that Jack had brought me. She reclaimed about 90% of what was in the box as her own.
Several weeks later Jack brought home an ENORMOUS pair of women's underwear. I was too embarrassed to call Mrs. B (who was not a small woman) and tell her I thought they might be hers. So instead, I snuck down our alley in the cloak of darkness one night and tossed them over the fence into her backyard.
The next day I had a message on my answering machine:
"Eloise? This is Cindy B___. We have a new problem. Now it seems that Jack is bringing ME other people's clothing. I found a pair of women's underwear in my backyard this morning..."
Jack in our rent house about six months before he died
The wonderful, talented Anne from Annechovie shared this precious video clip of a French toddler telling a story. I speak some French and there are also subtitles that helped me follow what she's saying, but it's the little girl's eyes, her wonderfully animated expressions and her delightful French pronunciations (I love how she says crocodile) that utterly charmed me. Hope it makes you smile as well!
Dots and I met with our Mother/Daughter Book Club this week to discuss The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book had been Dots's suggestion at our organizational meeting in the fall, as she and I had both enjoyed reading it when it was released. The book has since been awarded The Caldecott Medal, for outstanding illustrations in children's literature, the first novel to be so honored.
Classified as historical fiction, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is inspired by the life of turn-of-the-century pioneer film-maker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures. At 526 pages Hugo Cabret appears to be a very long book, but much of it (300 pages) is comprised of fabulously intricate drawings that help tell the story. The author himself has described the book as "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."
The response of our Book Club members to Hugo Cabret was interesting. It was unanimously well-liked by the girls, but the reaction of the mothers was mixed. Several of us loved it, but two mothers thought the illustrations interrupted the cadence of the reading experience; they would have preferred the story to be told exclusively through words, with the illustrations being merely supplemental.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret made for a wonderful discussion, however, and I thought it was great for the girls to see value and intrigue of respectful discordance.
Vivian has been very into coloring lately. She frequently brings me a piece of paper and a colored pencil and instructs, "Draw me a blue rain cloud... a black skunk... a brown horse... a red ant," etc. She then takes her paper away and diligently colors the pictures.
Usually the family shares these commissions, but one morning this weekend Robert was running, Dots was at a sleepover and Hockey Boy was on his choir trip, so Vivian returned to me again and again with her requests. I had drawn no less than ten such pictures when I finally suggested, "Vivian, why don't you draw a picture yourself and color it?" She paused and thought about that for a minute before walking away.
A little while later she returned and showed me this.
"I drawed a big egg and some baby eggs," she told me.
Thursday night Hockey Boy's choir went out for some authentic Memphis barbeque before departing early Friday morning for Nashville.
After arriving in Nashville, they had a Clinic/Master Class at Belmont College Friday morning and at Vanderbilt after lunch.
Late that afternoon they checked into the Gaylord Opryland Hotel (which Hockey Boy reports is REALLY REALLY nice) and then ate dinner and shopped at the Opryland Mall (where Hockey Boy bought some cologne... hmm....).
Saturday morning they toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and had a recording session at the famous *Studio B.* Hockey Boy is a guy of very few words and even less enthusiasm, but I received a text message yesterday morning that read, "We're at Studio B right now! We just recorded!!"
"This is the piano from Studio B. It's been there since 1942."
In the early evening they went downtown and were on their own for dinner. I don't know where his group ate, but Hockey Boy texted me that it was "the worst food ever... It was awful everyone we went with thought so."
Last night they went to a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Here's a transcript of our text message conversation afterward:
Me: How was the show tonight? HB: Boring Me: Who was playing? HB: I don't know... Old people.
Inside the Grand Ole Opry's Ryman Theater
This morning they were the guest choir at a worship service at a local Methodist church then their group toured the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel.
"Andrew Jackson's tomb"
Tonight they went to Miss Marple's Mystery Dinner Theater. That sounded like great fun to me (though so did the Grand Ole Opry!). I hesitantly wrote him a minute ago and asked, "How was the dinner theater?" I was relieved and elated at his response: "It was SO much fun!"
Tomorrow morning the group boards their bus for the long ride back to Dallas. It sounds like it's been a great experience.
Hockey Boy's choir left Thursday morning for a trip to Tennessee. I took him to school at 6:00 a.m. where he boarded a bus and drove with the group to Memphis. They arrived at Graceland around 3:00 that afternoon. I haven't heard much from Hockey Boy other than that he's having *fun,* but he sent me these pictures.
In August 2002 I accompanied Robert to a conference in Napa Valley. There were several excursions offered for attendees and spouses, and I elected to go to a cooking demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America followed by a tour of the St. Helena Olive Oil Company. The appeal to me was, of course, the cooking class, but I remember nothing about it other than the beautiful building that housed the CIA.
The St. Helena Olive Oil Company tour, however, was engrossing, and I was enthralled by its founder, Peggy O'Kelly, She is a fascinating entrepreneur and a single mother of two daughters. I bought several of her products and signed up for her email list.
I have continued to purchase products from her over the years (her raspberry balsamic vinegar is a favorite of mine), and periodically she sends interesting emails with recipes and stories (currently she and her daughters are living in Florence for a year, and I've been enthralled to hear how she's gone about enrolling the girls in school over there and about the wonderful local people, culture and cuisine they are experiencing).
Last year Peggy sent this recipe, and it has become a favorite winter dish at our house. It's not at all complicated and doesn't take a long time to prepare. Vivian can eat about half of it in one sitting!
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
3 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1" slices
3 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1" slices
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Italian Seasoning (or other Italian seasoning)
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Red Heirloom Tomato Sauce (I love her sauce, but you could probably substitute any plain, not too thick pasta sauce)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and ¼ more for topping
½ cup grated smoked Mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Fontina cheese (or plain Mozzarella, but I really think it's better with the Fontina)
Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and seasonings. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast at 450° for 20-25 minutes.
Cook pasta in a large pot of water for about 7 minutes. It will continue cooking in the oven so you don't want to overcook it at this point.
Drain pasta and combine with vegetables, tomato sauce and cheeses. Pour into a 9x13x2" baking dish. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.
Aren't the vegetables beautiful? My store did not have regular yellow squash so I bought these little ones instead. They were cute but a bit pricey. The zucchini looked a little small to me so I purchased a few extra
This is her Red Heirloom Tomato Sauce and the cheeses after I've chopped them. Fresh mozzarella is too moist to grate
Vegetables roasting - you can't believe how good they smell!
Ready for the oven. This dish only holds about two-thirds of the recipe, so I put the rest in a smaller dish and freeze it for another time
Sometime I serve this with a baguette and a green salad, but if I'm feeling lazy, I call it a one-dish meal!
I have very simple tastes when it comes to jewelry. I basically wear one of two plain necklaces, depending on whether I want to wear silver or gold, and one of a couple of pairs of favorite small-scale earrings.
A year ago for Christmas Robert surprised me with what have become my very favorite pair of earrings. He wisely went to a dress shop I like a lot and asked for suggestions from the lady there who always helps me. She directed him to a new line of jewelry (Zasha) they were carrying and he selected these. I was absolutely thrilled! I wear them at least every other day if not more often. There are other charms available or the hoops can be worn alone, but I love mine exactly like this.
Friends and sisters with good cameras, please forgive the blurry close-up!
One of my very favorite Christmas cards this year was a surprise (I don't recall receiving a card from this person before). Our architect sent us this rendering he did of the front of our house. Isn't it wonderful? I think I'm going to put it in a small frame and set it out at Christmas each year.
Note: My sister asked if our architect sent this card to everyone on his list. My impression is that this card was made just for our family and that he might have sent other clients drawings of their houses.
We are having another cold snap in Dallas (no moderate temperatures here - it's either 30° or 85°). My friend Page emailed me and said, "You said you needed ideas for your blog. How about posting some soup recipes for this cold weather we're having?"
I just made Hockey Boy's favorite soup Saturday night, but alas, I did not take any pictures and it's already gone. But here is the recipe:
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped ¼ cup butter 1 onion, chopped 3 potatoes, peeled and diced 1 13-ounce can evaporated milk 1 16½-ounce can cream-style corn 2 teaspoons salt ¼ teaspoon pepper
Start potatoes and 4 cups water in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Meanwhile sauté onion in butter until soft. Add onion and all other ingredients to soup pot and reduce heat. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
I serve this with a piece of cheese toast and a green salad. It's delicious on a cold night!
Vivian at school after one of her peer tutors fixed her hair. Please disregard the Rudolph pajamas under her clothes...
I truly believe that there is a special place in heaven for special education teachers. Sometimes people imply that I'm some sort of saint because I am Vivian's mother, but special ed teachers sign up to work with kids like Vivian. I rather had it thrust upon me and would have quit many a day had it been an option (in fact, Robert and I have a joking agreement that if one of us ever leaves, that person has to take Vivian!).
I sent Vivian's teacher an email this morning checking on how Vivian's first week back at school after the Christmas holiday had gone. Vivian has been pretty reluctant (that's putting it mildly) to get on the bus, though it's gotten better each day, and her appetite has been nonexistent lately, so I was concerned they might be having some difficulty with her at school.
This was the response I received. I thought it was so dear that I would share it with you.
Vivian has done well this week. She did resist going to the Trading Post this morning, but once there she enjoyed buying a Sprite. We have been using art as a way to get her to work also. She will carry a piece of paper to someone and ask them to draw something for her (a bee, fire truck, flower, hamster, etc). We tell her if you do______ I will draw you a ______. It works most of the time. She read two books to me and finished math for Mr. Kemp. She is sneaky though, sometimes she will say no thanks when you ask her to work, then go ask someone else to draw it. It is smart of her to try that, and cute. She is eating well in the cafeteria. Still her regular, baked potato, grapes and apple juice. She also had a donut yesterday for a snack and as always she eats an apple during PE. Having more teachers and assistants this year has allowed us to devote more time to keeping her engaged. She has participated every week in Music Therapy, every day in PE, and is doing academic work in every subject. It is wonderful to see how well she and the others are doing. I will video everyone reading again next week and send home the discs. I tear up every time I see them reading and working so hard. Have a great weekend.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if everyone had a teacher like that?
After all the excitement and beauty of the holidays, I am having a hard time finding anything in my mundane everyday life to cover in my blog!
Hockey Boy was in a wreck last month. Fortunately neither he nor the two friends with him was hurt, but his car was pretty banged up. The other driver was at fault and left the scene, and there have been some extra paperwork involved with that so that the claim does not count against our insurance rates (our insurance has actually been great to work with). I've been running around getting estimates and researching other *pre-owned* cars so that we can make a decision about whether to replace his car or get it fixed.
I have cafeteria duty at the high school today. I am tempted to take a couple of pictures there to give you a glimpse into that exciting corner of my life. Can you even imagine how Hockey Boy would react to that?
I finally have all of our Christmas things put away and the house returned to order. I'm turning my thoughts to my annual Valentine's luncheon which unbelievably is approaching quickly.
I promise to find something compelling to blog about soon. Hope everyone's new year is off to a good start.
Last night we went to our favorite hibachi grill with my friend Wendy and her family to celebrate New Year's Eve. Hockey Boy is in Colorado with our church youth group (not that he would have elected to join us anyway!).
Vivian was less than excited about being in a restaurant. Once she stopped screaming, "Get me out of this place!" she sat calmly in her stroller facing the wall and watched The Wonder Pets on my video iPod.
After dinner we returned to our house to toast the New Year on New York time.
Married for 27 years to Robert, three kids: Will (23), Vivian (20) and Dots (17) ~~~~
Majored in mathematics at SMU, taught elementary school for six years before Will was born, currently tutoring math ~~~~
Things I enjoy: playing duplicate bridge, working NY Times crossword puzzles, reading good books, entertaining, visiting with friends, planning trips, traveling, playing board games, spending time with family, cooking, keeping up with old friends ~~~ happy to correspond with other parents about raising a child with special needs
I unintentionally contaminated all of the pictures on my blog when I changed my privacy settings on Flickr. I am working backwards to correct them all, but it is quite a tedious procedure! If you encounter a post with error messages from Flickr where the pictures should be, then I haven't gotten to that post yet. Please let me know and I will update it immediately. Thanks for your patience!