Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Morning

Christmas Eve is considerably less pressure-filled when I needn’t construct a tiny Playmobil village, though I always enjoy filling holiday stockings with treats chosen for the recipient.  As I fill those stockings I think of Christmas mornings past, when JT was transfixed by the glories of Santa’s deliveries.  I’ve always maintained that the joy of playing Santa on Christmas Day makes up for the rough spots of parenting throughout the year and that’s true even when a teenager lives upstairs.  Turns out that even a 14 year old can be charmed by the happiness of Christmas morning.

I enjoy Christmas planning and preparation and even collect the ribbons to use for next year’s gifts.

I hope there was a package or two to make your Christmas bright.  Merry, merry to y’all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Planning

Yesterday, while I put together a batch of baked potato soup, I also got started on the appetizers I will serve for Christmas Eve.  I’m making everyone’s favorites, so the list is rather long.  In addition to sparkling drinks, the menu will feature:

- potato skins
- lil’ smokies in bar-b-que sauce
- chips & onion dip
- carrot sticks & blue cheese dip
- brie & crackers
- rye rounds (my hands-down childhood favorite)

I’ll set out the feast at sunset and there will be pictures posted then.  Today, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on tonight’s feast and doing some of the work for our Christmas supper.  Along the way, I’ll post updates here.  

9:30 am
Mix together pumpkin pie ingredients; slide pie into the oven.

10:00 am
Wrap potatoes to bake for tomorrow’s Potatoes Romanoff.

10:40 am
Pie is out of the oven and cooling.

11:15 am
Potatoes are in the oven and baking.

12:15 pm
Getting out the slow cooker for lil' smokies and dicing onions for the rye rounds.

4:00 pm
Lil' smokies in the slow cooker.  Putting together the potato skins and rye rounds.  Setting out everything else.

5:30 pm
Happy Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Traditions

The older I get the more I look forward to the holiday traditions that spell celebration: Christmas lights, holiday greenery, familiar holiday music, and holiday cooking all bring me happiness and peace.  Things are a little busier that I would like this year, but I am reminding myself of the blessing in that; happy and healthy family parents are nothing to sneeze at!  Today, sandwiched in between the cooking and shopping chores,  I will fit in a reading of a favorite story, a look at a favorite garden catalog, a nap, and a Shirley Temple drink.  They are a welcome reminder to pause and appreciate the holiday season.

That’s happy!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Carnage in the Christmas Aisle

On Saturday, T, my mom and I ended up in a CVS, killing time before our reservation at a Victorian Christmas Tea.  My mom scored some Gevalia coffee, T searched for Grinch Christmas cards, and I noted that there had been trouble in the Christmas ornament aisle.

This Cinderella didn’t get her happily ever after.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cookie Day

Each December, I make cookies for my students as my way of saying thank you for the ways in which they enrich my life.  It’s rather a feat of planning that gets 150 allergen-free cookies into the hands of grateful kids who, modern though they are, all relish the charm of a home-baked treat.

Every day that those students and I are together is an opportunity for me to share my love of the study of history with them.  Baking cookies is another way to share something else that I love with my 7th graders, boys and girls on the line between childhood and adolescence.  They are both ready to embrace big ideas and yet still prepared to laugh like little kids.  They make my days bright and this time of year get cookies as a thank you.  That’s happy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Washington Slept Here

It’s a running joke in New Jersey that you can’t go anywhere without finding a place that George Washington stayed.  As the Revolutionary War criss-crossed the state, the Continental Army and General Washington were rather everywhere.  This past weekend, T and I took a visit to one of those places, the Ford House in Morristown.

The house was the home of a well-off family of Patriots and while the Continental Army camped just south of the town in the bitterly cold winter of 1779-1780, Washington and his advisors planned the next step in a war that was in a rough patch that year.

In the 7th grade, I’ve just finished teaching the Revolutionary War and the writing of the Constitution.  It’s refreshing to think about a time in American history when leaders and citizens worked together to make sacrifices and rise above their disagreements.  When I bring my thoughts to the modern world, I dread the thought that compromise in the name of moving forward as a nation is no longer among our talents.

’Tis the Season

More packages were wrapped in the last few days.

That’s happy!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pretty Packages

One of the things I most enjoy about Christmas is wrapping packages.  Wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift tags bring me happiness.  Though I can wrap gifts throughout the year, Christmas is an excuse to really indulge.  That’s happy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I have a friend who makes the most beautiful photos of nature and found things.  She’s a talented artist but the photos are more than just talent at work.  Through her lens, I can see the beauty of the items and places she has photographed.  I can also see the respect and appreciation she has for the natural world and things that have been left to nature.  Characteristically, she is modest about her rather immense talent.  Looking at her pictures and talking to her about what she views has given me a richer appreciation for the things that I see.  When I make a picture of something in nature, it’s with a renewed eye for that which I find lovely.

Last week, on a frosty morning, there were leaves on the pavement with a shadow of ice imprinted below them.  They were lovely.

The patterned icy print was ephemeral but I caught a shot just before the morning’s sunlight melted the picture away.

Thanks to C for always reminding me to look for the beauty that is around me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Not a Proud Moment

It just so happens that I am spending this week teaching 7th graders about the achievement that is the U.S. Constitution.  Right now, we’re learning about the writing of that document.  We’ll follow with studies of its meaning in the larger context.  We’ll explore the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment.  We’ll talk about the 19th amendment.  Invariably, I’ll be called upon to explain why such freedom-loving people permitted the continuation of slavery and the exclusion of women.  I’ll help my students to wrap their minds around the ways that our history has fallen short of the great promise contained in the Constitution.  I’ll show them how the promise of freedom was eventually offered to all Americans.  I’ll feel proud of my nation and it’s commitment to powerful ideas.

But not today.

Today, the Senate released its heavily redacted report on CIA-directed torture of detainees and prisoners in the custody of the United States.  It is deeply disheartening.  In advance of the release, Senator Diane Feinstein gave a speech in which she told the nation that, “…history will judge whether or not we are a just society, governed by law.”  And then she issued a report that detailed that many ways that we let down the cause of justice and have disappointed history’s expectations of us.

It’s horrifying to read about the things that our government did in the name of keeping us safe.  In this report is the evidence that in the war on terror we lost sight of who we are and what we believe in.  The price of our national safety cannot be brutality.  If it is, we have crossed the line into being our own enemy.