Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Chocolate Fountain

Owning a chocolate fountain may not top the list of useful kitchen appliances, but when it comes to being the hit of a party, there is nothing like it. Adults grab forks as quickly as the children, reaching over the little ones to get a coating of chocolate on a strawberry, marshmallow, or piece of pound cake. See little William tucked just below Bonnie's elbow on the left of this picture? The little guy was in awe of this sweet machine and his fork worked as fast and furiously as any adult's.

The Chocolate Fountain has become a major attraction of our parties at the Rawhide Mobile Home Park Clubhouse. A few weeks ago, Andrea arranged to use the clubhouse for childcare while Waldorf parents worked on setting up the fall festival a few miles away. Accustom to the appearance of the chocolate fountain when he comes to the clubhouse, Huckleberry announced its eminent arrival to the children in attendance. What a sad thing to have to tell him that there would be no spilling chocolate that day.

Most of the year, the chocolate fountain sits in a box on a shelf in a dark corner of the pantry, but on party days it moves into the limelight: celebrated and adored! It's next appearance will be at a family Christmas party on December 20.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Since I was a child, saurkraut has always been a side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. The dish came to our family from my paternal grandmother, Mary Kamak. We think of it as a Polish dish, but in truth the method of preparation is common throughout Eastern Europe. My mother learned to make the dish from my grandmother (her mother-in-law), and I learned from my mother. This year, I passed the tradition on by guiding Athan in the preparation of saurkraut. He chopped and sauted the onion. Rinsed the saurkraut. Released the flavor of caraway seeds in the hot skillet and then combined all three into the savory dish. I hope that the scent of roasting caraway seeds will someday remind him of Thangskgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I'm thankful for all the opportunities I have to watch young minds growing and learning:
  • August doing 10th grade science, history, and literature in online courses;
  • Cody heading off to do the last part of 8th grade with 5 amazing young fellows;
  • Anna Mae becoming an adept user of the Internet, blogging, emailing, and discovering;
  • Taylor's unique and amusing writing voice;
  • Gianna's new found independence in managing school assignments;
  • Kyle's astounding vocabulary and repertoire of little known facts;
  • Candice & Athan as emergent readers;
  • Leon's meticulous care with penmanship;
  • Aliou's rapid mastery of phonograms;
  • Huckleberry's stylistic and intricate drawing;
  • Mary Autumn's fascination and concentration with workbooks;
  • Nell's notorious narrative imagination;
  • Clare's assumption that she too is a student of phonics, rhetoric, and script.
And last but not least, I was privileged to offer instruction as JL cooked her first turkey, 16 years into marriage. Can't wait to find out how it turned out.

May your feast be fabulous. Gassho!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


For seven days we were without Internet service. What an eye-opening experience. The last time I went for an extended time without Internet was when I was at a writer's retreat for a month in Northern Minnesota. I only got online once at the library during the whole month. While we were in Mexico, we did not have Internet at our living quarters, but nearby coffee shops had free wireless access, and it was fun to spend time online in these outdoor cafes munching delicious food prepared by others and sipping caffeinated drinks. We even had Internet service on our Alaskan cruise, albeit expensive service, but a means by which to connect daily to the world!

So seven days without service brought up a lot of stuff, most significantly the habit of mind I've acquired related to being connected to a world wide web. The impulse to get online arises frequently all day long, most obviously in terms of checking email and Facebook, but also for dozens of other reasons as well:

My betta fish is sick, so I head to the computer to look up sick betta. Whoa, not possible. I need to do billing for my freelance business. Oops! Online accounting service is not accessible. I'm going to an unfamiliar location in Modesto. No Map Quest. I can't get to my online class or review my grandson's essay for his literature class to email to him in time for class the next day. I'm writing a "Get Well" card and realize I'm not sure of the spelling of a word. Normally, I'd head for the online dictionary. Nope have to lug out the heavy weight Merriam Webster hardback.

Unable to get online at home, we grabbed laptops and headed for places with Internet access. Starbucks was the first destination! What a zoo. First, there are many steps involved in getting a Starbucks account, including buying a product card with at least $5 and then navigating the account application before actually getting to "free" wifi. Then there is contending with helpful patrons who want to continue the conversation AFTER you are finally happily online and only want to focus on the 200+ email in your inbox. Then there is the piped in music (not my preferred genre) and the surrounding young adult conversations and the guy trying to sell someone life insurance. The library was an option only if we stayed in our car because they were closed for the week, but we had one low battery so that didn't last long. We headed to relatives and got slightly caught up on the most important tasks in our online lives, but this involved 30 minutes of driving both ways. SIGH! We were frustrated to say the least. We just wanted our cozy connection at home.

The upside?? Well, there was one. I got all kinds of chores done: all the hand-washing, putting away spring/summer clothes and organizing closets and drawers, more yard work than I've done in the last 3 months, lots of handwritten notes I've been meaning to do, and I read three books. (I read all the time, but the Internet definitely competes with reading time.)

We are back online thanks to the patient perseverance of the techs at Mother Lode Internet who had to troubleshoot problems both with their tower and our hardware. The moral of the story? After a week of being disconnected, we've decided to reserve one full day a month for being off line and one day a week during which we can check in for an hour but must refrain from all other access. We want to maintain our practice in being disconnected.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Memorium

So often when you make a new friend it's a package deal. In other words, by extension you become friends with the person's entire family. That's how it was when 34, years ago, I met Chris Ferroni.

Grammy was part of the clan . . . not a Ferroni, for she was Eileen Potter, but she was someone I came to know along with my new friend Chris. I can't remember exactly when I met Grammy. It may have been at one of the kids' birthday parties or perhaps at the lake or maybe at a nursery school open house. I just know that from early on I followed the happenings in her life right along with the rest of the family, especially the big ones, like the losses of her husband, her son, and her sister, and the fire at her house.

After Chris and the kids left the community, I'd run into Grammy at Twain Harte Market, and she would pass on some tidbit of news about the friend I sorely missed. When I attended All Saints Church for a while, we often stood in the parking lot to visit after church. Then when Andrea and Culley moved back to the area, I saw Grammy more frequently at family gatherings, birthdays, and Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite recent memories of Grammy was at music night when she and Fred Gehl would sit on the couch and eat dinner together. Grammy couldn't hear well and Fred didn't remember much, but they both still knew how to flirt. Watching them made me feel fortunate to have that generation represented at family events.

Grammy died on Sunday, October 25. I'll miss her presence. I'll miss sitting beside her in a room filled with noisy people, enunciating carefully so she could hear what I was saying as I repeated some part of a conversation that had sailed past her. I'll miss having an elder who always dressed smartly and made up her face for a party or for the lake. I'm glad she was part of the package when I met the Ferronis.

Rest in peace, Grammy.