Disillusionment

I can clearly remember the moment when I realized that my interests did not align with school’s. I was 13.

I loved school.

I loved it because I saw my friends. I loved it because I was excellent at dodgeball and red rover and running. I loved it because I was learning new things every day.

We moved.

And then I had to make new friends. I did.

And then gym was nothing more than basketball. I didn’t like basketball.

And then I got bored. 8th grade math was just the same as 7th, which had been slightly more than 6th. I asked to be moved to the next class. Sure, just pass this test; it will assess whether or not you know what will be taught this year. Makes sense. I failed the test. I had never heard of some of these things. Guess I’ll learn them this year.

But we didn’t. We never covered that material. And next year I got to the class I wanted the year before, just because.

School was not there to teach me the things I wanted to know. School was there for something else.

What?

The First Day of School

The Night Before

No. 2 Son (6), on tomorrow: “I wish every school day were Saturday, so then we would not have school.”

Supplies bought. Forms completed. Bags packed. Clothes picked out. Lunches packed. And four children sound asleep in bed. Next: fold the laundry, unload the dishwasher, and wash the dishes that accumulated on the counter while the dishwasher was running.

The Morning Of

Children up. Beds made. Breakfast eaten. Teeth brushed. Animals fed and watered. #1 off to 9th grade. #2 off to 7th grade. Table cleared. Soccer played. #3 off to 3rd grade. #4 off to 1st grade (with no objections). Dishes washed. Work started. The laundry remains unfolded.

Later…

I think No. 2 Daughter arrived home from school. She seems to have transformed into an iPod.

No. 1 Son, ten minutes after arriving home with his 3rd grade homework assignment: “All done. I need flash cards.” What for? “Says I need to practice subtraction with flash cards.” OK. Guess we can get some from the store.

Made applesauce this afternoon. The children arrived home from their outing. The applesauce is all gone.

No. 1 Son, a minute after opening the flashcards: “These only go to 12. This is too easy.” And that, my friends, is why we should teach to the abilities of the children and not to their “grade level.”

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by Will Cox (age 43)

Nothing. I did nothing.

That is to say, nothing much planned.

I visited with a friend. I spent a lot of time with my family. I read two books cover-to-cover. I played with the kids. I slept in a tent. I cooked breakfast over charcoal. I walked six miles over a mountain with Number Two Son and one of my nieces. I ate some good food. I drank some good beer. I teased a bear. I spit whiskey on a roaring fire–that’s fun as all get out, by the way. I laughed. I skipped rocks. I sat by the river and listened.

I would do it again next year.

Consequences

These days when the children are not with me, and I’ve nothing to fill the time after I bring the work day to a close, I reflect on all those wasted years where I let the work rule my life, rather than choosing to rule it. May you recognize what you truly value before it is lost.

Great Scientists

A friend of mine posted a Carl Sagan quote that reminded me of something.

Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.

A few years back we saw Fourth of July fireworks from the causeway across Lake Carmel. I think the Big Sister and the Little Sister were four and two, respectively. We had a conversation that went something like this.

Big Sister: Why don’t the sounds match the fireworks?

Me: Why do you think?

Big Sister: I think the light is faster than the sound.

That’s my girl!

Grandmother’s Bread

By way of my sister’s recipe box, comes this memory.

Scald all together and set aside to cool:

  • 2 c. milk
  • 2/3 c. shortening*
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt

Add 2 cups water to above mixture.

  • 1 cake yeast**
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 13-14 c. flour (approx, depending on flour)

Crumble yeast into water to soften. Sift flour into large bowl; shape a hole in the middle and gradually add milk mixture and yeast, beating constantly to keep mixture smooth. Mix until a medium stiff dough is formed. Knead on a floured board until smooth. Place in a greased bowl and brush with melted shortening.

Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down and let rise again, then shape into 3 or 4 loaves (depending on size of pans). Place in greased bread pans; let rise again until double in bulk on top of pan. Bake in hot oven (425) for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to moderately hot oven (375) and bake 25-30 minutes longer. Large loaves take a little longer. Remove from pans and brush crusts with butter. Put on a rack or cloth to cool.

* shortening, known in some circles as lard and in others as Crisco.

** fresh yeast = compressed yeast = active fresh yeast = cake yeast = baker’s compressed yeast = wet yeast Equivalents: 2-ounce cake = 3 X 0.6-ounce cakes Notes: This form of yeast usually comes in 0.6-ounce or 2-ounce foil-wrapped cakes. It works faster and longer than active dry yeast, but it’s very perishable and loses potency a few weeks after it’s packed. It’s popular among commercial bakers, who can keep ahead of the expiration dates, but home bakers usually prefer dry yeast. To use, soften the cake in a liquid that’s 70° – 80° F. Store fresh yeast in the refrigerator, well wrapped, or in the freezer, where it will keep for up to four months. If you freeze it, defrost it for a day in the refrigerator before using. Substitutes: active dry yeast (Substitute one package or 2 1/4 teaspoons for each .6-ounce cake of compressed yeast) OR instant yeast (Substitute one package or 2 1/4 teaspoons for each cake of compressed yeast) OR bread machine yeast (Substitute 2 1/4 teaspoons for each cake of compressed yeast) [I’m still deciphering this paragraph.]

Grandmother’s Lemonade

The hot days of Summer call for a cool drink, shade, and a lazy breeze through the apple trees. If my taste memory serves, this is Grandmother’s Lemonade.

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. lemon juice
  • 2 qt. minus 1 c. water

Cover the bottom of a half-gallon glass Tropicana Orange Juice bottle with sugar. Squeeze lemons until the sugar is covered and begins to melt. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add water and ice to fill the remainder, about two quarts.

Harvest Punch

We typically host Christmas Day dinner at our house, after my brother-in-law and his wife host the Feast of the Seven Fishes at his. Christmas Day is a more subdued affair, with fewer guests, and more flexibility in the menu. This year we had turkey, and this year I thought I’d serve a punch.

Finding a punch recipe was harder than I thought it would be. There are so many options, and so many of the options require liqueurs and other ingredients that I don’t yet have in my cabinet. Some I considered were Philadelphia Fish House Punch, Garrick Club Punch, Planter’s Punch, Chatham Artillery Punch, and those in this month’s issue of Imbibe Magazine. I settled on this Harvest Punch from Mutineer Magazine. The picture is pretty.

The spirits in the recipe are the fine products of Philadelphia Distilling: Bluecoat Gin and Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure. Unfortunately, none of the shops around sells Vieux Carré, and the absinthe varieties they do have seem to insist on using artificial food colorings. I should have decided earlier; I could have ordered by mail. Fortunately, a nearby shop does sell Bluecoat Gin.

As a result of the lack of absinthe I substituted Romana Sambuca. The punch lost, I’m sure, some complexity, but I wouldn’t know: I’ve not had absinthe. I also left out the cranberry bitters.

I’ve reduced this to serve the eight adults at our Christmas dinner, and still had a quart left over. This recipe can be prepared in the punch bowl or in a mixing bowl beforehand. I used a mixing bowl. I did find that the cranberry in the punch is quite strong, and mellows substantially if it rests overnight.

Harvest Punch

  • 375 ml Bluecoat Gin
  • 4 oz Romana Sambuca
  • 4 oz lemon juice
  • 8 oz cranberry juice
  • 20 oz apple cider
  • 6 toasted cardamom pods
  • 2 toasted star anise
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 16 oz. sparkling water
  • 5 dashes Fee Brothers Cranberry bitters
  • 5 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Mint sprigs
  • Orange wheels
  • 6 oz. cranberries

Freeze a thin layer of water and cranberries in a bundt pan, filling about a quarter of the pan.

Toast the cardamom pods and star anise over a medium flame. While waiting for them to toast, squeeze the lemons. In a larger mixing bowl, mix the confectioner’s sugar with the lemon juice until dissolved. Add the gin and sambuca, mix until thoroughly combined with the lemon juice and sugar, then add the remaining ingredients, save the sparkling water and the garnish. Stir well.

At this point you may wish to sample the punch to see if needs adjustment. Bear in mind that the punch will be diluted later by sparkling water and ice. I increased the apple cider ration from 16 oz. to 20 oz. to cut the bitterness of the cranberries.

Combine with sparkling water over ice in a punch bowl. Garnish with cranberries, orange wheels, and mint.

Replacing the Oxygen Sensor on a 2002 Honda CR-V

In order to pass the New York State vehicle inspection, all emissions control components must work. For example, if the oxygen sensors fail, they must be replaced. If you ever need to replace an oxygen sensor, these instructions from the CR-V Owner’s Club help.

I bought the DENSO part 2349005 {#36531PLE003} OE-TYPE OXYGEN SENSOR from Rock Auto, after pricing the same part elsewhere. Denso is the original equipment manufacturer, so this is the same part you’ll get from Honda, for $150 to $300 less. The Honda dealer who read the code from the on-board computer wanted an arm and a leg for the part, $450, plus another $80 to change it.

However, the sensor was in so tight, and I was unable to get any leverage on it, that I ended up taking it to a shop just to get the old one removed. The mechanic there had it out, and replaced, in a jiffy, for only $25.

Grandmother’s Creamed Tomatoes

From my younger sister, Grandmother Cox’s recipe for Creamed Tomatoes

  • 1 pint whole tomatoes
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Empty tomatoes into saucepan and crush them. Add pinch of baking soda (prevents milk from curdling) and stir. Put over medium heat. While tomatoes are heating, whisk together in a bowl, flour and milk (or shake in a jar). Add milk mixture to warm tomatoes. Heat until starting to bubble. Stir in butter, salt and pepper. Serve over buttered toast.

These measurements are estimates. My Grandmother didn’t measure and neither do I. In her words when she taught me how to make these, “Sometimes you get them too thick and you have to add milk and sometimes they’re too thin and you have to add flour.”

Cucumbers

D and the children planted a nice garden this year in Gram’s front yard: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, corn, watermelon, butternut squash, zucchini, and cucumber. We took our first batch of zucchini and cucumber off the vines the weekend of July 17th, and are coming up with some new dishes to eat.

I just happen to have a gin here that claims to taste of cucumber: Hendrick’s. And it does taste of cucumber, if you put a cucumber in the glass with the gin.

First up in the mixing cup was Hendrick’s twist on the martini.

Cucumber Martini

  • 2 1/2 parts Hendrick’s Gin
  • 1/2 part dry vermouth
  • cucumber slice

Stir Hendrick’s Gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Finish with a cucumber garnish.

Then in “Ginning Things Up,” Imbibe Magazine (Sept./Oct. 2009), I ran across mention of the Eastside, a variation on the Southside which adds cucumber.

The Eastside

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 2 slices cucumber
  • Ice cubes
  • Tools: shaker, muddler, strainer
  • Glass: cocktail
  • Garnish: thin slice of cucumber

Using a muddler, lightly crush cucumber and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add liquid ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Float garnish on top of drink.

And the Poughkeepsie Journal just happened to publish a recipe syndicated from McClatchy-Tribune: the Capulet Collins. This is basically the same as the Eastside, but in a Collins glass filled with ice and seltzer water.

Capulet Collins

Mixologist Toby Maloney prefers to make this cocktail with Hendrick’s gin, which has a crisp, cucumberlike flavor note.

  • 3 slices cucumber, each 1/2-inch thick 1 tiny pinch salt
  • 2 mint sprigs
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 5 drops rose water, optional
  • Soda water

Muddle cucumber and salt thoroughly in cocktail shaker. Add 1 sprig of the mint. Bruise gently. Add remaining ingredients. Add ice. Shake. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with remaining mint sprig

Sangria

We had family and friends over tonight for the 1st Annual Firefly Catching Contest. It was a blast; we’ll certainly have the 2nd Annual one next year.

This was all D’s idea. She made some appetizers, and invited the other families to bring over a dessert around 19:30. I made a sangria based on the recipe from Tertulia Andaluza, and reproduce my modifications here. This is the first sangria I’ve made. The next one will probably avoid using as much citrus: it tasted a bit like grapefruit juice.

Peel one orange and one lemon, and cut them into small pieces. Soak the pieces in their own juice with 2 tsp. sugar. While they soak, squeeze the juice from two oranges, one lemon, and a lime. Mix the juices with a bottle of wine and 150 ml of rum in a wide-mouthed jug or pitcher able to hold about 2 liters. Add the mixed fruit and sugar that was left to soak earlier, and an additional 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar. Mix using a wooden spoon, then dilute to taste with sparkling water. By this point the pitcher should be about three-quarters full. Let it sit in the refrigerator until your guests arrive, then add four scoops of ice, stir again, and serve.

A similar drink was made for the children. Instead of the wine, citrus juices and rum, the punch used 2 cups unfiltered apple juice and 1 cup pomegranate juice.

A Rainy Day

Rain falling from the sky
Slowly sliding off the roof
Dripping down the window panes
Glittering on the spider webs
Gently slipping down the leaves
Making puddles on the ground
The sun shows its royal presence
It pushes the clouds away
The rainbow makes me smile

© 2009, Emily Cox

Selected Spelling Sentences

The Little Sister is in the second grade this year. One of their weekly assignments is to write sentences using the words they are learning to spell. She has quite a way with them.

I don’t really go in the deep side of the water because I might sink.

We do not have a king to rule our country. We have Barack Obama.

When I get water in my eyes I blink.

My favorite drink is Shirley Temple. What’s yours?

Did you know that left wing is in hockey?

My brother wakes up cranky.

I love to go on the swing.

In Anne of Green Gables the word hang was used.

Procrastination has its Virtues

I’m presently working on remodeling the upstairs bathroom, and have been for some time. In order to do this on the cheap, I planned to replace the doors and trim on the existing cabinets. However, the cabinets were not symmetrical. In order to fix that glaring flaw, I removed the cabinets, disassembled them, cut them to match, and then reassembled them. I waited until that was done before ordering the counter and the doors.

That procrastination seems to have paid off. When we went to place the order for the doors at Home Depot, we ran across vanity and top sets which cost less than ordering the doors and top, and would give us better-looking cabinets.

Now we just need to agree on which one.