Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Words of Wisdom. . .

Six year old style.

6 year old little boy to me:  "Does God make snowflakes?"

They came back from Thanksgiving break, and now EVERYTHING relates to Christmas.  I am going to have to hear the words "Santa Claus" three thousand times a day for the next three weeks.  No matter what we are discussing, vast explanations and theories concerning Santa Claus, his practices, and his presents arise.

Examples of this. . .

This week we are working on the short e vowel sound.  We work on sounding out and spelling words together.  (Note: we have already learned the phonetic rules concerning -ck at the end of a word, doubling an l at the end of a word with a short vowel, and the -ch sound.)

Me: Let's spell red.
Them:  Oooh, oooh, Santa Claus wears red!  And red is one of the Christmas colors!

Me:  Now how about bell?
Them:  Rudolph wears a bell!  He does!  And sometimes Santa rings a bell.  And there are bells on my Christmas tree at home!

Me: Let's try to sound out and then write the word check.
Them:  Oooh!  Oooh!  Santa Claus makes a list.  And then he checks it.  Twice.

Me:  Okay, how about deck.  First let's sound it out.  Now let's spell it together.
Them:  Deck!  Deck!  Deck the halls with boughs of holly!!!

I love that they are so joyful about Christmas.  I'm just a little frightened of what three weeks of this will do to me.  And them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Reading Life

I've read 40. And the sad thing is, I've started so many of these and just never finished them.

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. BOLD those books you've read in their entirety, ITALICIZE the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. 

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen  

 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling- This really only counts as one? 

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible 

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman- again only one book?

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

 13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald  

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan .

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel 

 52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold 

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens  

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett 

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76. The inferno- Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro  

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert 

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad 

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery  

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams  

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Friday, November 26, 2010

From the Farmer's Market to the Table. . .


Apparently elsewhere it's known as chayote.  A cross between a squash and a pear.  Here in New Orleans, we call it a mirliton.  The only place else in the world you can find it referred to as a mirliton is in Haiti, the former French colony of St. Domingue, from which we in New Orleans received so many refugees after the massive slave revolt that occurred.

My memories of mirlitons. . .ALWAYS at Thanksgiving and ALWAYS something of which to be skeptical.  My grandmothers are two different sides of the spectrum---one a Creole from the New Orleans metropolitan area, the other a Cajun from Southwestern Louisiana.  It was my Creole New Orlenas grandmother who put out the mirliton dish at Thanksgiving.

Mirliton casserole was something I was at least willing to try as it contained shrimp, my favorite food.  However, it also was a heavy, slimy, olive green mass of a seriously breaded casserole.  Probably not something Martha Stewart would allow on her table.  But that never stopped New Orleans mamas or Maw Maws.

During my trip to the farmer's market this week, I purchased three mirlitons.  I am a very traditional person, and I wanted to carry on the New Orleans tradition of having a mirliton dish at Thanksgiving.  Apparently, mirlitons are somewhat of an endangered species, not the kind you find in the grocery store, but the kind that are considered a quintessentially New Orleans plant.  Mirlitons were not something New Orleanians went to the grocery and purchased.  The vines grew in their backyards, and they picked them, boiled them, chopped them, stuffed them, and served them.  However, Hurricane Katrina managed to wipe out our backyard mirliton population (among other things).  So now mirlitons, like oysters---a whole other post---are a New Orleans delicacy.  I became more determined than ever to somehow incorporate them into my holiday cooking.

I bought the ingredients to make the dreaded casserole.  Half way through the day on Wednesday---in fact, as my mirlitons were actually boiling---I became determined to use them for something else.  None of that heavy, horrible, slimy, breaded casserole stuff for me.  I wanted to use the mirlitons but transform them into a unique dish.  I accessed the Times Picayune's recipe index---a website which every cook from Maine to California should regularly access---and discovered a recipe for mirliton bread.  I was highly skeptical at first.  But I figured, what the hell.  Let's give it a shot.  At any rate, no one will EVER believe what the main ingredient is!

Mirlitons can be hard to work with.  They are literally hard.  And they have spiny ends.  You have to boil them for an hour.  Then when you cut them open, they resemble pears.

I am a big fan of spices.  When I saw that the recipe contained cinnamon and nutmeg, I piled it on!  I probably wound up putting twice the amount of spices, but ultimately, this would work in my favor.  It tasted so much like a spice cake or spice bread.  The mirlitons helped keep the bread moist, very similar to what bananas do for banana bread.  You could add nuts to this bread; I just didn't have them on hand, as I decided to make them it on the fly (remember, casserole was the original goal).

And voila!  The finished product:

My grandmother raved about it.  She is an accomplished cook and would be very honest with me if it did not turn out right.  We had the best time getting the aunts, uncles, and cousins to sample the bread at Thanksgving and guess what the main ingredient was!  No one got it, but once they were told, they said, "Uh huh!  I see it now!"  So much fun!  And so yummy!

For information on growing your on mirlitons and keeping the tradition alive, see the following article on the Mirliton Man.

My recipe, modified from the Picayune's version, submitted by Mary Cooper in 1992.

½ cup butter 
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups cooked seeded peeled mirliton, smushed as you would mashed potatoes
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour one  loaf pan 
Cream butter and sugar. Mix in eggs. Add mirliton and mix well.
Sift together dry ingredients. Add to mirliton mixture and mix well.  Transfer batter to pan.
Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light. 
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

---Folliott S. Pierpont     1864

Monday, November 22, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

So after all the looking, debating, style questioning, color delving----

what did I choose to add to my vintage Christmas collection this year?

I went with the old Shiny Brite mercury glass ornaments.  And while I was leaning toward the blue/silver theme at one time, I finally went with red and gold.  I recalled lying on the sofa staring at the tree while watching "White Christmas" last year, and it was the gold and red balls against the lights that really stood out.  So that's what I decided to go with.

Last Christmas---as with most Christmases---I was a bit down due to my singlehood.  This Christmas feels different.  Not sure what brought on the change, but I hope it stays that way!

Make It 4 Monday

Today I'm linking up with Cottage Instinct's Make It 4 Monday.

One of my favorite finds occurred at a little shop called Country At Heart.  It was located on Magazine St., but sadly is now closed.  I LOVED this store.  The owner new me when I walked in and was so nice.  She always had fabulous and affordable things, many of which were also unique.  And this particular find was definitely unique, to the point where I cannot accurately state what it actually is.  If anyone can help me, please do!  This post definitely reveals that I'm a city girl.  I believe this is some kind of grain container or seed distributer, but I'm not entirely sure.  At any rate, it was definitely some kind of old architectural tool.  When I purchased it, it was a rusted mess.  I cleaned it up.  Then I spray painted it one of my favorite shades of green.  (Green is my favorite color.)  After it dried, I sealed it with a coat of poly.  I use it as a container for dried flowers or berries.  It can easily be hung and contain any number of things.  I love its vintage country cottage appeal.

(The part that is not spray painted is the label of the company that made it.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wish List

I'll never have a perfectly put together home.  Right now it's definitely a matter of money and space.  But even in the future, when I hope these issues are resolved, I have a feeling things might always be a mishmash for me.  I just like SO many different things, and not all of them go together thematically!  Here are some things I'm currently coveting:

Natural beeswax ornaments from The Lace Button

Any of the beautiful elements that help to create the vignettes on Funky Junky Art.

These pretties from Paper Eclectiques.

These country Christmas items from Shabby Chic Cottage.

And lots of old mercury glass ornaments with patina.

My absolute favorite colors are blue and green, and for this reason, I LOVE aqua.  I'm just not sure how this would work for me personally when it comes to Christmas.  I love the way red ornaments look on a tree.  Not sure I'm ready to incorporate blue yet.  We'll see.

Etsy Fun!

I love Etsy.  Affordable hand made objects and art in styles I love.  I am getting in the mood for Christmas, and I've been contemplating ditching my bright shiny ornaments for the patina and charm of hand made old-fashioned creations.

Here are some shops I'm browsing right now:

Petite Michelle Louise

Looking Glass House

The Lace Button

Funky Junky Art

Vintage Green Limited

Paper Eclectiques

The Shabby Chic Cottage

Fourth Wish

I don't know if I'll buy anything, but I LOVE looking.  My kind of window shopping, in my pajamas without having to leave my home!

Christmas. . .already?!?!?!

A few months ago at mass, Father said that every Catholic household should have a Bible, a crucifix, and a nativity scene.  I realized that I don't have one!  I used to love playing with the hard plastic nativity scene my parents had, arranging the different people and animals and recreating the Christmas story.  I also loved staring at (but not touching) my grandmother's beautiful Italian creche.  As a child, it seemed so fancy and exotic, with the moss draped around it and the delicate paper affixed to it, the face of Mary so ethereal.  The best nativity I have ever seen was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A few years back, I was in NYC at New Year's and was able to view it.

I ordered my own pretty little vintage nativity scene through ebay.  While I adore the Met's creche, I think this version will be more my style---at least, more suitable to my 650 square foot condo and simple life.  When it comes in, I'll post a picture.  :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Best Thanksgiving Story Ever!

Pick up a copy for your little one. . .or for yourself!  :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Old Engine That Used To

In the middle of nowhere, you find remnants of the past.  Keep your eyes open.  They are everywhere.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6 Year Olds and the Pilgrims

Me: What ship did the Pilgrims sail on?

Child 1: The Pilflower.

Child 2: The Maybutterfly.

Me: Sigh.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do Not Squander Time. . .but money is okay!

One of my favorite vintage finds of all time is a clock from (I think) the thirties or forties.  It is in my aforementioned favorite jadite color.  It plugs into the wall and keeps accurate time despite its age.  I am looking up at it right now as I'm typing this and thinking two things 1) boy, I really should take a shower and get in bed, because 5:30 a.m. is closer than I think AND 2) I am so glad I spent the money on this even though I was poor and in graduate school at the time and probably shouldn't have even spent what little extra change I had on a hamburger much less a vintage clock on ebay.  It has graced the kitchen of every home I have had since then.

Dinner at Eight

I hosted a dinner party (coincidentally during that same Fall Break just mentioned in the last post).  Of course, I'm only now getting around to blogging about it.  What can I say---teaching 24 six year olds can be a bit time consuming!

I made the Barefoot Contessa's chicken with mushroom and madeira sauce and did not even skimp on the cream.  It also had creme fraiche in it!  Yum!  I also made rosemary polenta (another Barefoot Contessa recipe; I love her!) and a green salad.  For dessert, I poached pears in mulled red wine.  They were incredibly delicious and wonderful for my friends who have a gluten free diet and couldn't have eaten a dessert I might typically have made.

My Halloween decorations are out in these pictures.  I love Halloween!

I struggled over the color for my curtains.  My favorite color is green, followed by blue.  My natural inclination is to go with those colors.  For EVERYTHING.  In my old house, all the rooms were either blue or green.  In this tiny condo, I don't want to paint the walls.  I want it to look fresh and uncluttered, since I tend to have a clutter problem.  (I like stuff!)  So I wanted to get color through accessories like curtains, and I also wanted to add warmth.  Something about this room cried out for warmth.  A friend suggested terra cotta.  I saw these curtains and decided they were what I needed, though quite far from my usual norm.  You can't tell, but I have two wicker chair on either side of the TV (massive, ugly, horrific TV) and they have pillows the same color as the curtains.  I like the way the terra cotta goes with the robin's egg blue pillows (from Etsy).  Some days I still have an urge to get new curtains.  But in the autumn, these seem just right!

The weird things hanging at the top of the picture are my shabby vintage Halloween tags.  I hung them from my chandelier.  Of course, little pup had to make it into the photo.  He follows me everywhere.  I have my jadite plates on the wall.  I adore them.  I have to say it twice because I love them that much.  I ADORE them.  If I had my way, everything would be the color of jadite.  Which would be extreme and would probably make everyone sick of jadite.  But never me.  I can't get enough.

Strolling Through the Park One Day. . .

About a month ago, I was blessed with a fall break.  Now for most people, passing by lush, blooming flowers during a walk in the park on one's break would indicate spring and not fall.  Here in what can only be described as a subtropical climate, we have blooms of one kind or another all year long.  I definitely long to experience the changing of leaves and all things autumnal.  I dream of reveling in a quintessential New England autumn.  However, when confronted with the realities of the harsh Northern winters (through Weather Channel updates and CNN coverage of ice storms), I am happy to live in a place where a verdant green is a constant.

Here in the Crescent City, we are blessed with two fabulous parks.  I typically frequent the one Uptown, close to two excellent universities and the architectural splendor of St. Charles Avenue.  I often encourage tourists to leave the French Quarter if they get a chance and come down and visit this gem.

Every time I walk in the park during peak tourist season, I catch people snapping pictures of the moss.  It's Southern Gothic at its finest.  I'm pretty sure that my favorite little guy and I probably made it into a few of their photos over the course of our park meanderings!

And speaking of my little guy. . .

I love our walks in the park together.  They are my "moments of Zen" each week.  Unless a squirrel is involved, in which case. . .

our walk becomes more like a frantic charge!

We spotted a swan, reminding me of that Hans Christian Anderson story "The Ugly Duckling."

There is a part of the park that my pup gravitates toward.  He wants to run amidst the cypress knees and track down who knows what.  Here is the cypress with its knees.  Cypress knees are actually roots that stick up above the ground and help the cypress breath.  I think.  ;)

Birds were everywhere!  Birds in flight make me think of fall.

We always encounter this bridge when nearing the end of our walk.  It makes me feel a little bit like I'm in a fairy tale.  Or at least Alice in Wonderland.  ;)