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Friday, November 26, 2010

Vegan Stuffing Recipe...or What do I do With the Leftovers?

Portobello Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

Happy Post-Thanksgiving Day to the Americans here and abroad. I hope each and every one of you was privileged with a lovely family dinner...and all the holiday entails. Now what to do with the leftovers? Turkey is easy; freeze it and feed it to the kids in sandwiches for the next three weeks, but the dressing won't keep. Here is my recipe for both dressing and a dish to make today special.

Portobello Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

You will need: large portobello mushrooms

Dressing:
1c celery chopped
1c onion diced
1c mushrooms (any kind) chopped
8 cups bread crumbs
1/2 c broth (1T Vegetarian Better than Bouillon + 1/2 c water)
salt
pepper
poultry seasoning
olive oil

Sautee celery, onion and mushroom in olive oil until tender. Add poultry seasoning, add to bread crumbs, toss, moisten with broth, salt and pepper to taste. That's it, you have the most delicious stuffing my family has ever tasted, so they tell me, either because they want me to do the turkey again or because it's true, flattery will get you everywhere.

Rinse the portobello mushrooms, pat dry, brush bottoms with olive oil, stuff with warm stuffing (warm up if using leftovers). Grill or cook in frying pan until tender. Bon appetit, enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Painting from Alienor: Piggy and Me Over the Rainbow

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Morning's Knittings

I finished up this little guy for my little Arthur, the pattern is from "Knitted Toys" by Debbie Bliss, "small bear in Wellies and sweater". I gifted him with the bear a couple of weeks ago, and the yarn has felted like a well-loved toy. Then, at Arthur's request, when I finished the sweater, I wrapped the whole thing up and gave it to him all over again. He loved it, and his next question; "Mama, can you wrap it up when you finish the next pair of boots and sweater?"

Bear for Arthur

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Inspired by the water colours in "Turkey Girl" Alienor paints the story

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Hamburgers and Fries at Our House

As I wait for the fries to be done frying and the boys to finish grilling the hamburgers, I thought about how our favorite (though naughty) meal is also a very simple one to make from real food. It is so simple that I have time to jot this down while it is all cooking. Here is my top secret recipe for hamburgers, and my French husband's recipe for French fries (of course).


For the hamburgers; start with good ingredients, you'll have a delicious outcome.

1-1.5 lbs. hamburger from an anti-body free, hormone-free cow
1 fresh farm egg
1 small onion, diced fine
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients, (with hands works the best, wear rubber gloves if you're squeamish), form into balls, squish down into flat patties, cook over grill, charcoal or indoor.


French Fries

5-6 potatoes
vegetable oil

Wash and peel potatoes. Dice into 1/2" cubes, they are a lot quicker and easier to cook than long ones. Fry in hot oil until done. Salt and serve.

Bon appetit!

Lily's Lovely Solar System and Moon Phases

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Note on Lily's Moon Phases

My little Lily is a slight perfectionist, don't know where she got that, but let's just say I've mellowed with the years. She drew and redrew the two astronomy drawings I posted, and was dismayed to find that in her last drawing she had reversed the waxing and waning positions. I think it is beautifully done and I am posting it anyway.

Aragorn's Artistic Solar System

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A Last Week of Autumn

I awoke to a humdinger of a thunderstorm this morning, a real giant of noise, lightening and pouring down rain. I took it as a reminder not to rush into winter, not to join the Christmas craze already beginning, but to linger a little in autumn, in today. Our lesson plans for the week reflect that desire, I thought I would share them here.

A poem from Robert Frost:

The Last Word of a Bluebird

As I went out a crow
In a low voice said, "Oh,
I was looking for you.
How do you do?
I just came to tell you
To tell Lesley (will you?)
That her little Bluebird
Wanted me to bring word
That the north wind last night
That made the stars bright
And made ice on the trough
Almost made him cough
His tail feathers off.
He just had to fly!
But he sent her Good-by,
And said to be good,
And wear her red hood,
And look for skunk tracks
In the snow with an ax-
And do everything!
And perhaps in the spring
He would come back and sing."

I love the joyful, hopeful note to this poem. Winter is coming, but spring will follow, so "wear your red hood and do everything!" This was actually the last part of today's lesson that I discovered, but it so beautifully complements the rest that it made the whole scheme shine like a gem.

Grade Three
Alienor has been working on Native American stories and culture these past two months. Today's story is a local one, from the Sioux nation: "How Turtle Flew South for the Winter," that can be found in "Keepers of the Earth," by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. Last night we finished up "The Turkey Girl," by Penny Pollock, which is not about Thanksgiving, but rather a Zuni Cinderella tale, minus the happy ending.

She requested to cook us lunch today, so she will make us "stewed pompion," from the book, "1621, A New Look at Thanksgiving," by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. Tomorrow we'll cook up another recipe from the same source; "Nasaump." This will be our group read-aloud for the beginning of Thanksgiving week. It is a National Geographic book, with fantastic re-enactment photography and a realistic look at the culture of both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people at the time of the legendary first Thanksgiving meal.

Alienor's other projects for the week; finish her tepee, made on the model given here:
http://ancienthearth2.blogspot.com/2009/05/tepee-fun.html
She will also be weaving on a lap loom, making projects for Christmas presents, and she and Lily are both busy with some top-secret knitting.

Kindergarten
Arthur and I will read from Grimm's Fairy Tales; The White Snake, a tale of struggle, sacrifice and gratitude for good deeds done. (It too, seemed fitting for this week.) We will read verses from "Autumn" by Wynstones Press. We will paint a turkey today and paint from the story tomorrow.

Seventh and Eight Grade
Lily and Aragorn are in their last week of an astronomy study. The moon is the topic. Today we'll study a lunar calendar and look at two peoples who have used or continue to use one; the Egyptians and the Muslims and paint a picture from one of their festivals, au choix.

Have a great day and, for the Americans, a lovely Thanksgiving week, more recipes coming soon!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Incredible Vegetables

What to eat with your beautifully cooked chicken? How about green beans, or maybe zuccini? Here is a simple way to cook up a vegetable (our favorite is green beans) so that sometimes, even the hardest to convince will ask for a second helping.


Ingredients:

Canned green beans (the thinner the better)
Garlic (not garlic powder, the real thing, please) 1 clover per can of green beans
Butter
Olive oil

Open can of green beans (we need 3 for our family), drain and rinse. Press garlic with garlic press, or dice real small-like. Heat olive oil and butter together (I never measure, maybe 2 T of each for 3 cans of beans.) Add garlic and beans and stir gently. Heat on medium a minute or two, then lower flame to lowest setting and let simmer while you enjoy a glass of red wine or Perrier with a splash of juice with your beloved. Enjoy!

P.S. Zucchini works the same way, only you will need to wash, peel and slice it first. Broccoli or cauliflower are great too...use your imagination!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's For Lunch? Part II

If you read the below recipe earlier today, you will be missing one part of the instructions;

After cooking, mix the soup in a blender, until it is completely pureed. THEN add the cream.

If you are awake as I am today, you may need this note as well; do not use PUMPKIN PIE MIX unless you want to have some explaining to you when your daughter/husband/partner asks; "What smells like cinnamon?" Dang.

What's For Lunch?

A Soup to Astonish

This will taste like the best, creamiest tomato soup you have ever served, but it really contains an extra ingredient that makes it that way, just don't tell anyone until after they've tasted it.

3-4 potatoes, the smaller, the more
1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz.)
(optional: bouillon, 1 large cube or 1 T)
heavy whipping cream for garnish (do not whip)

Peel, rinse, and cut potatoes into 4-5 pieces. Boil until tender, save enough water to cover the potatoes, discard the rest. Add bouillon, salt, tomatoes and pumpkin, heat and let simmer, very low heat, for 10 minutes or so. Mix in a blender until completely pureed. Serve in bowls, drizzle with a cream design (you could try initials or a picture.)

Writer's Block or Procrastination?

Writer's Block or Procrastination?

It's something to think about when assigning writing assignments to the children, only to find them walking around with a pensive air, "doing research" on the topic before beginning or mysteriously strumming a guitar in the corner, all thoughts of the project forgotten. Perhaps it is neither, perhaps this is simply part of the creative process, to be cherished and honored. This is November and for the first time I have given myself the goal, along with millions of other insane people doing "NaNoWriMo", of jotting down 50, 000 words of a novel in one month.

So far, this morning, I have entered an essay contest to win tickets to a Harry Potter event, ( way too cool to pass up), checked my email (who doesn't), posted a reply to a Waldorf homeschooling group, (it was a very moving post), sent a quick note to a friend, (a timely thing that couldn't wait) checked the weather forecast, in two different cities,(you never know), written in my food journal, (or I would have forgotten to add that fabulous homemade, gluten-free pizza my hubby made for me last night, mmm, not likely) made myself tea, (sleep is so dehydrating) played with the dog, (poor, fuzzy little guy) and written 0 words of the daily 2000. Maybe I should employ Lily's typewriter instead of this distracting computer. Sure, then I would finish a knitting project or paint the bathroom before settling down to write.

Have a fruitful day, I'm going to go write 2000 more words!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Martinmas Celebration

It was a perfect evening for our annual Martinmas pilgrimage around the dark neighborhood. It was cool, but not cold and it was neither windy nor raining, for the first time in our history of celebrating the feast day of St.Martin.

St.Martin is the patron saint of France. He was a warm-hearted Roman soldier who gave half his cloak to a freezing beggar one night. He dreamed that same night that the poor man had really been Jesus. This was the miracle that completed his conversion to Christianity. He preached for years and years all over Gaul and became a well-loved bishop. There are tiny towns all over the French countryside named after St.Martin. Oddly enough, it is in Germany that this feast day is the most celebrated.

The children and I love this special day. We usually read the story of St.Martin and sometimes act it out during the day and make our lanterns. Then, after sunset, we venture out bringing light to the dark night. This year's lanterns (tin cans) are the result of many years of experimentation. The beautiful paper lanterns of years past never held up to the absolutely atrocious weather we have always had, not to mention constantly requiring re-lighting of the candles. The candles this year are beeswax ones the kids rolled themselves. Last year, the yarn on the can quickly burnt from the flame, so we gave wire a try this time. The first three lanterns were done with wire someone salvaged from a notebook. When we ran out of that we used floral wire. The only relighting we needed to do was when a little one dropped a lantern a time or two.

After a simple dinner of pasta (made with butter and a little heavy whipping cream to make it nice and smooth, sprinkled with Parmesan), carrots (grated and tossed with a white wine/olive oil vinegrette*), and ham, dessert was yogurt (plain with a little sugar and berries), we bundled up and lit out lanterns. Out we ventured to light up the darkness with our tiny flames. It was very dark. We live on a street without lights. The mood was so very quiet and reverent and maybe lonely, that it made us want to sing. Someone began a Christmas carol, because we don't know any Martinmas songs. Everyone joined in singing softly. It was still loud enough that if the neighbors didn't already think we were nuts, it was probably established now. There are times when we sing loudly, I like to think it is when everyone is safely at work and can't hear us, but this was a special, quiet time in the dark.

Lily spent the most time on her lantern, preparing and painting it the day before, pounding the holes in and decorating it later. Alienor was very proud to have the lantern whose flame burned the longest. We walked all the way down to the woods a few blocks away and into them to see how dark they really were at night. On the way home, the candles began going out one by one, but Alienor coaxed and encouraged hers to last until we returned. She did it, it lasted, all the way to the house, through teeth-brushing and even past official bedtime (we know because she came down to check.) It was a happy, cozy night, all in all.

* Vinegrette: mix 3-4T olive oil (extra virgin, first press) with 1T white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, stir/ whisk vigorously, pour over salad, toss.

Morning Visitor (I don't like to sleep alone, Mommy)

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Crash to floor when atttempting to follow fleeing mother to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Out cold. And not alone.

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Post-Martinmas Lantern Walk

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The Last Light Burning

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dessert Anyone?

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How to Cook a Chicken

First: find the chicken. You will not find this bird in your local supermarket. Seek out a farmer, either at the farmer's market, through a co-op or through word of mouth. Believe me, if you have only ever eaten grocery store poultry your whole life, this may be a pivotal experience in your existence. There will be no going back, and there will be no danger of recall either. These chickens have lived a good life, run around and eaten like chickens should, they will not taste the same. Now buy your chicken, ask if it has been dressed (it's innards removed and most likely stuffed back neatly inside) and bring it home. If it is frozen, it may require overnight unthawing.

Now reach in and remove the neat little package of heart, liver, gizzards. Fry them up if you like them, feed them to your dog or chop them up for dressing, it's up to you.

As for the bird; rinse it off, put it into a 9X13 or maybe smaller casserole dish, salt and pepper it inside and out. Add a little water to the bottom of the dish and put in into a 350 degree oven. If it is less than 5 pounds, it will need about 1 1/2 hours to cook. If it is over, it may need 2 hours. You know it is finished when you tilt the bird and the juice no longer runs reddish, or the legs fall off the sides, either will do.

Every half hour or so, baste it with its own juice (I don't own a baster, I just use a table spoon and spoon it over the top.) Add water as needed to keep a little in the bottom of the dish. Bon appetit!

A Birthday Cake and Cider

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Traditional Baptism Cake

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Leeks, Sardines and Other Odd Foods

We love to eat, we plan our days around cooking for each meal, food means serious business in our house. I imagine if you have tuned in to any of my posts in the past year or so you perhaps might have gleaned this info along the way.

I also think about food. I mean I think about food a lot; things like; "Is baking the best way to cook this? How about making that over the flames in the fireplace? What if I added raw honey instead of white or even brown sugar? How about Stevia or maple syrup?" I also have to wonder, with the number of allergies and food sensitivities that we have; "what will make granola crunchy if I omit the nuts and the corn syrup? How can I make a gluten-free taco pie? Will rice milk work in chocolate chip cookies?" and last, but not least; "how can I include more healthy ingredients in what we eat? Would they notice the flax seed in the smoothie or the spinach in the quiche? Will they eat organic, baked chips?"

I will be talking about ingredients that don't always make the top ten list in American kitchens. I will start out with very simple recipes and move on from there. I will have vegetarian and meat dishes both, as we respectfully consume poultry and meat that comes from animals that have lived good lives in our house. I am having fun already.

So, I am happy to see so many of you have joined me on this food adventure. Get ready for a great journey. We'll share recipes and secrets and enjoy happier, healthier lives while we're at it. Here's to you! (Toasted with a fine glass of Bordeaux, 1988.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Bread

Our daily bread; this is the one I make almost every day. I use a bread machine, but you can knead it by hand, I'll give the directions for that method too. It is simply perfect warm with butter to be eaten with your soup.

1 3/4 c very warm water
1-2 T olive oil
1 T salt
1 T yeast
2 c whole wheat flour
2 c unbleached white flour
(optional; 3 T honey)

If you are using a bread machine: put yeast into warm water, stir, add a pinch of sugar or honey to proof yeast. Wait until yeast bubbles, add olive oil and salt, (and optional honey). Pour into machine. Add the flour on top of liquid ingredients, set bread machine to "rapid" cycle. Tip; return in one minute with a spatula to scrape sides of machine down to the bottom to avoid the "dried out flour on the sides" dilemma many machines will cause on this cycle. When done, follow directions in last paragraph.

By hand; follow to just before adding the flour. Place liquid in a large mixing bowl. Add in flour cup by cup, up to three cups, stirring vigorously until you can stir no more, then begin to knead on a floured surface. When you have a nice, elastic, smooth dough, place it in a greased bread pan or form it into a ball and put it on a cookie sheet. Cover with a damp towel, put in a warm place and let rise until doubled (1-1 1/2 hours). Bake at 370 for 45-60 minutes. Done when you can hear a hollow sound when you tap the loaf.

Remove to a wire cooling rack and let cool a little while before slicing, enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soup 101

Leek and Potato Soup, the Base of French Cuisine

First recipe in our "Let's Talk Food" series. This is a recipe that all of my children over five know how to make, easy and delicious.

3 leeks
3 potatoes
1 large or 2 small bouillon cubes or 1T "better than boullion"
salt, pepper

Fill a 3-4 quart pot with water, add salt, heat to boil
Cut leeks lengthwise and chop into 1/2 inch slices, soak, wash, rinse, repeat until all sand and dirt is gone (2-3 times).
Wash and peel potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
Put both into pot, add boullion, bring to boil then lower flame to simmer for 30 minutes.

Once soup is finished, you may add pepper, if desired. It can be served as is, or pureed in a blender. Some kids prefer it pureed and served with a straw, it goes down faster when it's new.

Variations: add any other vegetables, a hamhock for non-vegetarians. Pierre's grandmother adds beans (Great Northern), carrots and angel hair pasta (the short variety).

If you are planning to eat a chicken that week, plan the soup for the next day. Chicken soup recipe for tomorrow.

Serve with a loaf of bread.

Let's Talk Food

Inspired by a discussion began on The Itchy Homeschooler, I thought it would be a fun challenge to introduce the topic of healthy eating, or even just plain food, real food. In her post, Marlis talks about how out of the ordinary it has become to see a shopping cart filled with fruits, vegetables, beans and meat these days. In fact, it was so exceptional, that an elderly lady complimented her husband on his healthy habits. (My husband would have said she was flirting with him, had he been in his shoes, but then again, he's French.)

We have the same problem at the check-out that other people mentioned in the above post; the cashiers never know the names of our "exotic" vegetables like leeks, swiss chard or belgian endive. So why are we buying such weird food anyway? Do our kids eat this stuff? Sit down with a cup of tea (or red wine if it's past five), and enjoy the food adventure that is about to begin. If you eat real food or are on the road to doing so again, join in the discussion and share your thoughts. It may not sound easy, but it is worth every second of your time for the way you'll feel and the state of your future health.

When we lived in France, we ate French food, of course. Well, after I learned to cook, that is. Before that, we ate pasta, omelettes and Chinese food because that's all we knew how to make. I went to the farmer's market twice a week to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and meat and picked up things like flour, milk, yogurt and spices at the supermarket. I bought rice, soy sauce, bean sprouts and fresh litchis at the Chinese grocery shop.

When we moved to the States, childhood favorite convenience food came naturally to fill in the holes in my noon menu. We would have canned soup, fish sticks, frozen pizza, peanut butter and even hot dogs during the week days. A number of years ago, I came to the conclusion that we needed to stop all preservatives, which meant no more processed food of any kind. Ugh, "so much more cooking", is what it felt like. However, once we chose to walk that path, it became habit, just normal instead of drudgery. So much is in your attitude. We became healthier and our budget a little leaner. We continue to refine our diet, removing much of the sugar, eat a lot less grains, less dairy and more vegetables. Saturday is still pizza night and I still bake, just less often.

In this spirit, I thought I would offer easy recipes for those just starting out cooking for themselves and for those in search of a new meal idea, aren't we all? Please share your own meal ideas, my menu is starting to look old!

A word on planning; this is what works for my family. Please take the ideas that work for you and leave the rest. We have five children and little time to think about what to cook twice a day, so it works to have a weekly menu on the side of the fridge that we cook from. We use that menu to write a list each week for the grocery store. We usually pick up milk and produce another time during the week.

As for the children, there are a few things that help to form or reform their eating habits. Example is one. If both parents are on the same page, i.e. no one is advocating, buying or making extra food, it makes it easier. The other is household content. If your house does not CONTAIN any other food, they might eventually give up and eat the healthy food that is available, then again...some kids are very stubborn and very creative, you'll have to rise to the challenge of being equally creative, but not necessarily stubborn.

The first recipe is in the next post.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Astronomy Class

We love to hang out on the roof. Not the big ol' steep roof of the house, the smaller, gentler one over the garage. You can step out the window of one of the bedrooms and see the whole sky. It's perfectly safe because there is a flat roof adjoining it (for anyone inclined to worry...grandpa).

Once in awhile we go out on the roof, when there is a full moon or a night of shooting stars. We are in the midst of an astronomy block at our house, so it was a must. This time it was to see October's full moon, what a beautiful night for stargazing!

It's Past my Bedtime AND I'm on the Roof!

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Stargazing

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Time to Focus

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Keeping Puppy Warm

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Culture Kits

We had so much fun discovering our culture kit that it deserves another mention here. These are kits that some libraries own that can be checked out for a week or two, that are full of memorabilia from one country. The Russian one contained what you see in the photos below, plus story books in English and Russian, school books in Russian, posters, video cassettes and all sorts of shoes. It is a great beginning to the study of another culture.

We spent the week reading legends and stories from Russia and planning for our festival. The piano players in the family learned a Russian tune on the piano and the friends who joined us played us one as well. The only food I could think of as definitely Russian and easy to find were blinis and caviar (no one was old enough for vodka). I apologize to my Russian friends for being so very uneducated on Russian cuisine, but time was a little short that week, so my research in that department had been aborted.

Well, the caviar was easy, but blinis were not to be found in the local supermarkets with as much ease as I'd remembered. I spent half an hour walking the aisles with three different gentlemen from three different departments searching for, "what was that again? blankies? baninis? are them like tortillas?" They all clearly thought I was off my rocker and needed help of another kind than that they could give, but I stuck to my story, no one called the authorities and in the end, I gave up and bought a gluten-free crepe/pancake mix instead.

We made them at home from scratch. My friend Elizabeth and I stood at the stove making blini after blini, from a recipe I'd found online. We had a feast and lots of fun.

PS. Note on culture kits and your library. Apparently, after the initial enthusiasm for these tools back in the 90's, the librarians endorsement of them faded, as the task of checking in over a hundred individual items grew old. You may need to ask the librarian very nicely if they are available for check-out. Thank you to my friend, Joyce, a veteran homeschooler, for sharing her knowledge of the kits and many other topics as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Baby Girl Turns Nine

Alienor is not the baby of the family, but she is my little girl, and it still seems she should be about ten months old, toddling all over, a cherubic smile on her sweet face. Well, she grew. She is now a kind, considerate, spirited little girl. A big hug and kisses to you, my darling, happy birthday!

Happy Birthday, Alienor!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pop, Hugh, Cathy

I guess that if I am chronicling our lives without school, I need to include significant, yet really hard to write about events. There have been a few these last months, and I have been at a loss to put them down in writing. I will try now, since it seems trite to go on posting my knitting pictures as a substitute for what is really going on around here.

Oh, these are also beautiful, sunshine-filled autumn days. We have had a Russian activity week, a Halloween party, walks in the woods and baseball games in the backyard, good times. Along with that though, there has been sadness and mourning.

It feels these days, as though a whole generation of lights is blinking out one by one, much too quickly, as shooting stars barely give you time to gasp in wonder before they are gone. These past few months have seen the passing of one grand lady and wonderful friend the same day as another and my most-favorite great-uncle, Hugh, an amazing soul and mind. Now it has come time, once again, to say good-bye, today to my grandfather.

I cannot find the right words to honor the memories of these three. Cathy was all that is good and sweet and wonderful. She had the ways of a really marvelous grandmother, combined with talents in many areas and a great intellect. She was versed in art and politics and literature, taught first grade for forty years and traveled far and wide. She was very much a part of our family and her absence has left a great hole in our hearts and lives.

Uncle Hugh was an amazing person. He and his brother, my grandfather, were both intellectual, curious, ever-learning and slightly quirky individuals. Whereas my grandfather was very interesting, but mostly cranky to kids under the age of eighteen, Hugh, who had no children of his own and was not obliged to see us very often, was wonderful.

From forever, what I remember most about Hugh was his gentleness. He was soft-spoken and had a good heart. He and my Aunt Babe were completely different from the other adults we knew. They talked to us as though we were adults too and shared stories from their fascinating lives. They had lived in and traveled to a lot of places and done many things, and they knew all about books, my favorite topic in the whole world. I still treasure the copy of "Shirley Temple's Storybook" they gave me when I was young. I used it in college for a fairy tale painting model and I have read it to my children so many times they know it by heart.

My grandfather, not Hugh's brother, but my father's father, was a big part of my life growing up. Pop was funny, he was present. I remember the smell of his great big cars, all plush and cozy.I spent hours at their home, gazing up at the old magnolia tree, drinking 7-up and eating homemade chocolate chip cookies at the big kitchen table. My sister and I would run around the yard, watched like hawks so that we went nowhere near the big street out front. My grandmother would be shelling walnuts on the porch or cooking in the kitchen, always busy, and my grandfather would be up to his elbows in grease working on his car in the garage.

The big question Pop had for me in life was; "Are you Irish or German?" and I remember always forgetting which one I was supposed to answer. I was actually half and half but "Irish" was the right answer.

Though they had always lived in the city, my paternal grandparents made sure we knew where we came from. I heard stories about and frequently visited the family farm, by then held by another relative, but still home.

The most important thing my grandfather ever did, as far as my life is concerned, was to have and raise one great man: my father. Somewhere in his childhood began the roots of who he was to become; a loving, hard-working, generous man who cared enough about his own children to be there for us. Thank you, Pop, for beginning it all.