Well, let's see.
First, thank you so much for your thoughts on ways to motivate a child in the morning. It hadn't occurred to me how reactive I have been until I read your comments and thought, oh good grief what an idiot I am - and put a clock in her room. Sue's take on Caroline's need for independence also struck me with particular force; so as of today (well, tomorrow, actually, since I had a wee problem getting the alarm clock to function last night) I have shifted responsibility for Caroline's morning routine to Caroline. The alarm will go off, I have given her the time I need her to be in the car and between those two moments she will have to dress, eat when I offer breakfast or get her own, organize her backpack and brush her hair and her teeth. She is also welcome to move as many of these tasks as she chooses (except the brushing bits) to the night before.
She had a crusading gleam in her eye as I described the new set up and gave me a snappy, "Yes, Mother. I won't let you down, Mother" which I found hopeful. Any time Caroline starts sounding like the heroine in a melodrama you can tell she is committing herself to Noble Action.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Oh and fifty gold stars to Kerrie who wrote: "We used a wireless doorbell set on chimes the loudest it goes & put it in their room, I keep the other bit in the kitchen. It can get very annoying for them but worked for us :)"
I shared this with Steve and we agreed it is genius. I have charged Steve with researching whether he can wire the upstairs bedrooms to one bell. The idea of being able to summon all three kids like a modern Captain Von Trapp (tweedle-deedle-dee... dinner! breakfast! mandatory outdoor fun time!) makes me feel swoony.
Second, I had so much fun reading your book lists and I hope you did too. I am an inveterate re-reader but if I had to pick just a few that I have re-read the absolute most they would be:
PG Wodehouse. I am putting him on his own plane. I am always reading a Wodehouse, always, and have been since I discovered him at age eight. The ones I read most often are the four books that Souvenir Press compiled of his early school stories: The White Feather, The Prefect's Uncle, Tales of St Austin's and The Pothunters.
1. Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Sarah Caudwell and John Mortimer for mysteries. I find mysteries comforting because they are so tidy. They always resolve.
2. EF Benson's Lucia and Mapp books. Funny, immersive, gently acid... like what Oscar Wilde might have written had he lived in 1930s England
3. Edith Wharton. Specifically The Custom of the Country and her four novellas.
4. Dorothy Parker's big giant book of everything Dorothy Parker.
5. Georgette Heyer and her contemporary pale imitator Marion Chesney (who is MC Beaton. who wrote the Agatha Raisin mysteries. which I loathed. go figure.)
I wrote down a ton of your favorites (in my illegible scrawl so I'll have to go back and double-check some of these titles: The Itro & The Cro? Mish of Avalr? Wodid Enchantment? The Cipdud Corn?) Someone mentioned that it was a pity that we hadn't put this on the discussion board and it is, isn't it? It also occurs to me that it was probably inevitable. These things just seem to spring up organically here. In light of this realization I am going to do two things: I can mark specific threads like this past one by category and link to the them on the side [done. this one is Books] and I'm going to take down the board. Fair enough?
Finally, I wrote this yesterday but saved it as a draft:
I never knew my mother's mother but I spent quite a lot of time, relatively speaking, with my father's mother when I was little. She was a great storyteller with a beautiful singing voice and I remember both things about her fondly; especially the patience with which she once spent the major portion of a road trip to Tennessee with me in the back seat of their giant American sedan trying - and failing - to teach me to harmonize.
She was also quite possibly the world's worst cook. Appalling. There is a Simpsons in which Marge looks at a spice rack full of spices and exclaims, "Or-uh-GAN-oh? What the hell?" which has always made me think of her. And when Edward and I recently got to the part of Bill Bryson's At Home in which he describes Mrs Beeton's epic Victorian book on home management and the fact that she recommended that pasta be boiled for an hour and forty-five minutes before serving; I thought, "Aw, just like my grandmother."
But it wasn't just that she would roast beef until it was carbonized; she made the strangest flavor choices. She used Tang as an ingredient and I have a vivid recollection of her spaghetti sauce which was blackened ground beef mixed with a can of tomato sauce plus lashings of sugar and green olives (the kind with the pimentos that are more at home in a martini) which might (well maybe) have benefited from a long, low simmer and yet, oddly enough, was the only thing she barely brought to warm before serving.
I mention these things in no way to denigrate her memory but to underscore the fact I don't have a personal history with venerable matriarchs in the kitchen or learning how to measure baking soda for biscuits by cupping the right quantity into my hand. If my grandmother ever made a biscuit in her life it was the kind that came out of a tube that opens by being pressed with a spoon at the cardboard seam. And then she probably burned it.
So when we saw Steve's (Latvian) birth father during the course of our road trip and Patrick mentioned making Latvian bacon buns for his cooking club's heritage week; I was a little taken aback by the vehemence with which he first joyfully acknowledged the place pīrāgi hold in the collective heart of Latvia and then went on to say that, of course, however, only his mother could make a decent pīrādziņi unless, even more of course, you went back to his grandmother who would make a pīrāgs that made all others taste like unto shoe leather. Bacon-y shoe leather.
And while I could in all honesty tell someone that their scones aren't at all like the ones made by my Scots grandmother; it would most likely be because they were not: hard as flint; charred beyond recognition; flavored with pickled okra. Not at all the same thing.
But back to the pīrāgi.
On the road to Vermont after that conversation with his birth grandfather Patrick said, we totally need to make bacon buns again, and I agreed that we totally did. But what with one thing and another it wasn't until today that we had both the time, the inclination and a couple pounds of smoked pork in the house.
I say the inclination. Right. At two o'clock this afternoon the idea of making Latvian bacon buns (I follow this recipe with the inevitable internet change caveat: I double the bacon, halve the ham and brush them with melted butter) sounded like a great idea. At NINE when I was still shaping little crescents I was less inclined.
But they turned out well and (this was my point) it pleases me to think that I am continuing a family tradition - one in our case that was interrupted by World War II, refugee camps, relocation and finally an adoption - related to the thing (food) I love so much; because I can assure you there is no way I am handing my grandmother's spaghetti sauce recipe down to anyone.
PS If you're still feeling chatty after our epic book exchange feel free to tell us about your favorite food tradition/memory.