Sunday, December 31, 2006

Poem for Sunday

A Song for New Year's Eve
By William Cullen Bryant

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
     Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
     Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
          Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
     Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
     For his familiar sake.
          Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.  

The kindly year, his liberal hands
     Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
     Because he gives no more?
          Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.  

Days brightly came and calmly went,
     While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
     How sweet the seventh day's rest!
          Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.  

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
     Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
     Of all they said and did!
          Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.  

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
     And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
     Oh be the new as kind!
          Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away.


We have had a lovely day out and about in the Brandywine Valley in Delaware and Pennsylvania. We went first to see the Kalmar Nyckel at her home port in Wilmington, since we have seen her in several other ports -- Chestertown, Alexandria, Cambridge, Cape Henlopen -- but never where she spends the winter. We got to see her with her foremast down for repairs and tarpaulins over much of the rear of the ship where other carpentry is being done. We also went to nearby Fort Christina, where the original Kalmar Nyckel landed in Delaware with immigrants who founded New Sweden. There is a Swedish log cabin there and a monument erected by the people of Sweden in honor of the anniversary of the landing.

After lunch down by the river at a little sandwich place, we went to the Delaware Museum of Natural History, which had an exhibit on prehistoric animals with tusks. Many of the fossils were found in Florida rivers, which surprised me. The museum isn't very large -- we get in free, as members of the Maryland Science Center, because the science museums swap privileges -- so we also went to see the dinosaurs, minerals, seashells and various animal exhibits.

We had planned to spend an hour or so in the Brandywine River Museum to see the annual holiday train show and the Wyeth paintings, but the sun was already getting low in the sky, and we wanted to arrive at Longwood Gardens before it got dark so we could see the woods and lake. And Longwood Gardens was mobbed! It took us half an hour just to get parked and through the gates. There were many trees covered with lights for the season, plus a light-and-music show at the big fountain behind the DuPont house, and the conservatory had seasonal lilies, trees and lights up. There were also ice skating demonstrations but given the crowds, we couldn't even get near the area where they were being held! The kids were pretty fried at this point, so instead of trying to fight our way through, we stopped for fish & chips on the way home.

We went to Longwood Gardens to see the winter lights and floral displays, but the professional arrangements were upstaged by the free ones.

Like this. The glow of the lights on the tree on the left is wiped out, and I'm sure a better photographer could fix that, but I really wasn't looking at them when I took the photo!

There were lovely scenes like this one in the conservatory...

...and outdoor ones like this, but my attention (and my camera focus, in this case) was completely diverted by the background.

Now here is a photo I really wish I knew how to take right. I forgot my polarizing filter, but I am not sure it would have helped.

The balance in this one is better but the branches in the bright parts blurred and you can't see the sun! Oh, I really must learn how to do this right. At least I have the consolation of knowing that not even the garden professionals can compete with this sky.

Brilliant musical thought for the day: "Baby Give It Up" and "You Can Call Me Al" are the same song! We were listening to a KC and the Sunshine Band reunion concert, which is what led me to this revelation. They had lots of fabulous guests like Gloria Gaynor and Sister Sledge, so the concert included "I Will Survive" and "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles. The funniest aspect about all this is that younger son thinks many of these songs are Happy Feet music, not having been around for their original disco-era iteration.

Oh and speaking of animals, our cats, apparently concerned because they had not bought us any Chanukah presents, left us a gift in the middle of the living room floor yesterday morning: a dead mouse. This is the first such critter we have seen in the house, dead or alive, since we have had cats. We suspect that it was pesked to death by Cinnamon, as there were no bite or scratch marks on it. Poor mouse!

Anyway, had better go to bed as I am slowly falling over. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Poem for Saturday

Sonnet Substantially Like the Words of F Rodriguez One Position Ahead of Me on the Unemployment Line
By Jack Agüeros

It happens to me all the time--business
Goes up and down but I'm the yo-yo spun
Into the high speed trick called sleeping
Such as I am fast standing in this line now.

Maybe I am also a top; they too sleep
While standing, tightly twirling in place.
I wish I could step out and listen for
The sort of music that I must make.

But this is where the state celebrates its sport.
From cushioned chairs the agents turn your ample
Time against you through a box of lines.
Your string is both your leash and lash.

         The faster you spin, the stiller you look.
         There's something to learn in that, but what?


Morning was laundry and fighting to recover a bunch of computer stuff, plus trying to keep my two kids and neighbor from killing one another over the lack of a second Wii nunchuck for boxing. Older son wanted to go see Eragon again, I was willing, younger son did not want to see it again, the timing of local shows wasn't great considering that we had evening plans, and I ended up taking them to Bagel City instead because we were out of good bagels which was all they wanted for lunch and we all agreed we needed good lox spread in the house as well. Then we stopped in both Best Buy and Circuit City to see if either one had Wii nunchucks in luck. Older son tried to convince me that we need one of the Wii retro controllers but since we don't actually have any retro games for the Wii, I remained unmoved. Now, can someone explain to me this Wii points system and do we have to have wireless internet to download those games and how do you pay for them?

's office closed at 3, so he came home early, and we drove downtown to the Kennedy Center where the awesome Al Petteway and Amy White were performing on the Millennium Stage, which is always free. They have a new CD, Winter Tidings, and they played both classic carols and original compositions from it on guitar, mandolin, harp, piano, bouzouki, dulcimer, banjo and assorted African and Native American drums. They also played a fabulous percussion piece on the guitars, striking the wood and strings instead of strumming. Al and Amy used to live in Takoma Park and work with a lot of the local folk performers (Maggie Sansone et al) but now they live near Asheville, North Carolina, in the Smoky Mountains, and they have gorgeous photos on their web site of the wildlife and scenery.

All my photos of the concert are as mediocre as this one, since 1) we were quite a distance from the stage (the reflection is in the refreshments counter), 2) no flash was allowed and 3) I only had the little Nikon.

But I kind of like the weird light effects and the mirroring, despite the blur (the lighting onstage changed between these photos, it's not an effect of camera settings!).

Here's an attempt at perspective on how far we were from the stage. (And this is a teeny stage...the big Eisenhower Theater is off to the right.)

I do kind of like the way the blur looks here, while I was sitting on the floor waiting for the concert to start.

Terrace fountain with Rosslyn, Virginia lights visible in the background across the Potomac.

Unfortunately we had to stand through the entire concert because the Kennedy Center was absolutely packed! All the bigger theaters were in use today before and after the Millennium Stage concert -- Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in the Eisenhower Theater, The Light in the Piazza in the Opera House, The Spirit of Kwanzaa in the Concert Hall, Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka in the Terrace Theater...and it seemed like everyone was in the Grand Foyer between 6-7 p.m. before heading off to the larger shows! Still worth it, and doesn't get any better than free, and it was a gorgeous night to stand out on the terrace looking at DC over the Kennedy Center fountains. We are planning to go again next Saturday, when there is going to be a free staged reading of Twelfth Night with prominent local actors, but it is going to be even more of a madhouse...the National Symphony is doing a children's concert in the Family Theater, The Light in the Piazza, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka are all continuing, Shear Madness is in the Theater Lab...will be mobbed!

: This New Year:
1. Big Party or stay at home alone?
Going out all day to Wilmington Museums and Longwood Gardens, spending late night with immediate family.
2. Stay up to watch the ball drop? Yes, though I am usually up at midnight on a weekend/day off, anyway.
3. Will you make any resolutions? Hah, I know better!
4. Is Dick Clark a good host for New Year's Eve? Been watching him most of my life so at this point I'd say yes purely based on nostalgia.
5. Do you know the words to Auld Lang Syne? Yes.

: Celebrities
1. Are you related to anyone famous or do you have any famous friends? If so, who?
Not related to anyone famous, have no friends who are nationally or internationally famous, know a few people as acquaintances whom some people have likely heard of based upon their professions but am not silly enough to name them in a meme.
2. Do you have any autographs or memorabilia? Lots and lots, mostly Star Trek-related.
3. If you could meet any 3 celebrities who would they be? Whoever are going to be the President, Vice President and Speaker of the House in 2008. If I'm going to meet celebrities I want them to be people who can actually get things done.
4. What would you want to be famous for doing? Curing cancer. It would help if I had gone to medical school, I suppose.
5. Who's the most annoying celebrity? I was going to say Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and other people who are far more famous for being famous than for having any talent etc., but this year Tom Cruise really cemented his role as Most Annoying Celebrity of the Decade. I mean, at least Mel Gibson wasn't TRYING to be caught on tape saying all that crap...

: What are the top five things you would like to have happen in 2007, in any fandom? (I'm going with Harry Potter, which looks likely to have a banner year.)
I want Deathly Hallows 1) to be released and 2) to rock.
2. I want a good explanation for Tonks' behavior in Half-Blood Prince.
3. I want my Snape redeemed! Would prefer him alive as well, but would rather have him dead and redeemed than surviving but perceived as a villain.
4. I want Gary Oldman and David Thewlis to play Sirius and Remus just as in love in Order of the Phoenix as they were in Prisoner of Azkaban.
5. I want Lucius Malfoy to go out in a blaze of glory. I don't care whether he switches sides because it serves his family's interest or remains an unrepentant evildoer, I just want lots of him. A scene where he seduces everyone on one side or the other would not go amiss.

Speaking of Harry Potter, I was looking for an interview Jason Isaacs gave to The Jewish Journal a couple of years ago for a friend, in which Jason said he's uncomfortable talking about his religious background in the UK press -- this came up because Daniel Radcliffe told an Australian interviewer that his mother is Jewish -- and came across another Jason interview which I had read before, but somehow the name of whom he was kissing had not hit me when the interviewer asked him who his favorite onscreen kiss was and he said, "They're all free kisses and for a man who has been in a relationship for 17 years -- they're marvellous! I love them all, even snogging Daniel Craig." Why couldn't I have seen that production of Angels In America!

I can't feel anything but that he richly deserved to die, but at the same time the news orgy over Saddam sickens me and I can't stand all the "we expect video and still pictures of the execution and the corpse soon" hype. Am trying to focus on happier news like the Terrapins beating Purdue easily in the Champs Sports Bowl, a 24-7 win for Maryland. But am getting up early to drive to Delaware for museum-hopping and hopefully a look at the Kalmar Nyckel docked in Wilmington, so I had better stop thinking about any of this and go to bed!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Poem for Friday

Where the Feeble Senses Fail
By Eugene Gloria

                         -Tantum Ergo

A tight-fisted dowager now in her dotage
inhabits Don Pedro Street like houses
nest in safe little clusters.

She rises before the six o'clock Mass,
before the sparrows twitter their gossip,
before the giant O assumes a skin of margarine.

Mother-of-pearl necklace, gold and stoned
brooches of green and ochre, this elderly virgin
made ready for the body of Christ.

Black soot thick as snot smears her hanky
as the Rockwell dust settles atop her
durable wood: objets d'art and antiques from Java.

And like an unexpected phone call,
Bloomington, Indiana, returns as swift as heartbreak
as if heartbreak makes exiles of us all.

And longing for some human hand
allows her to harbor this one secret. In her room
the hi-fi spins a scratched LP with a song

her soldier father would sing,
replete with lament, a ballad to dust
about a doting prodigal finding his way home.

No one will tell him the ship has sailed.
No one to tell him where to lay his hat.

A vendor chants, Boiled baby duck eggs,

in her room the record skips, a saved tooth
waits for her father's mortar and pestle,
dark laces clasp her boot with four eyelets,

and tulips in the far Middle West
dress a yard somewhere in Indiana,
some are gold like watches, others pink as blouses.


Spent most of the morning putting away laundry and rearranging a bookcase that desperately needed it -- we have too much stuff in this house -- while older son slept ridiculously late and younger son typed up the story he was making up yesterday about Cat Island, the kiwi, the phoenix and various other creatures. *g* In the afternoon I went to the post office, thinking it wouldn't be terrible since it's after Christmas and after lunch...wrong! It was mobbed! I waited for ages, and then I got lectured by the guy behind the counter for having realized too late that I couldn't use a Priority Mail address label on a package going to Germany and covering up the "Priority Mail" -- he made me go find a label on the rack across the post office despite the twenty people waiting in line behind me and waited for me to re-address and affix it. Graar. It's not like I wasn't mailing a pile of other things that did not have illicitly used Priority Mail stickers!

Stopped in the mall since it's right behind the post office because L'Occitane en Provence had their Ambre perfume on sale and was sold out at the web site...fortuitous for me since they did have it in the store and I did not have to pay shipping. Also grabbed two bottles of Bath & Body Works shower gel since they're $3 for the full-size ones this week. Poor older son was dragged with me on this expotition, though younger son had gone to a friend's house -- my reward for having bought the friend a Santa penguin at Boyd's Bear Country. We had dinner with my parents, where my mother gave me copies of a lot of her geneaology research...I had wanted to know where my grandparents were from, as that Davidic Dynasty stuff made me realize that there are lots of records online from Jewish geneaology sites and burial societies and I may actually be able to find out something about the relatives whom I had believed disappeared without a trace in the Holocaust. Tried to burn Doctor Who to a TV-watchable DVD, but I'm still having no luck converting .avis to .mpgs with the sound and video in sync.

A bear for all seasons (for who said she liked photos from Boyd's Bear Country)! Here are spring bears...

...and nautical summer bears...

...and fall bears enjoying the leaves...

...and winter...all right, this isn't a bear! It's a penguin, a potential build-your-own for next year. They were asking people to vote on which animals they wanted and how much they'd pay, so naturally younger son loved this one best.

Ridiculous spiritual thought for the day: someone should write a book on children's wisdom and the Kabbalah called What's Da'at? Was pleased to see that Monk parrots are now in Brooklyn -- they were a highlight of living in Hyde Park in Chicago! And was amused to read about The Wii Workout, though my kids still need their time on their scooters and sports -- I think the video game endorphin reward system interferes with the exercise endorphin reward system and they must have the exercise for its own sake!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Poem for Thursday

An Old Cracked Tune
By Stanley Kunitz

My name is Solomon Levi,
the desert is my home,
my mother's breast was thorny,
and father I had none.

The sands whispered, Be separate,
the stones taught me, Be hard.
I dance, for the joy of surviving,
on the edge of the road.


First full vacation day at home with kids was relatively peaceful...older son slept till about 10:30, younger son caught up on DragonFable, Club Penguin and some other online game he'd been dying to play while we were away. After lunch we went out to Borders with a collection of holiday and leftover Bar Mitzvah gift cards because younger son was dying to get the brand-new Erin Hunter Warriors: The New Prophecy book (Sunset), where older son got sequels to two books he had enjoyed and younger son added the Dragonology build-your-own-dragon set to his pile -- dragons were his thing before penguins, and at the moment they appear to be sharing space, since we were told a long story tonight about a dragon, a phoenix, a penguin, a kiwi and Cat Island (which is younger son's name for Rosie, our big yellow cat, when he is using her as a character in his stories where she is the only creature that can move of her own free will).

Stopped at Best Buy so kids could inspect a couple of Nintendo games they ended up deciding they didn't really need to spend their holiday money on. Took younger son to violin, then banished both boys outdoors for some exercise in the late afternoon while I wrote Trek news (Shatner in TV Hall of Fame, Spiner in London). Watched Xanadu while folding laundry, having bought myself a copy with birthday money because I haven't seen it in forever and the news that it will be a Broadway musical made it necessary to remedy that. It's as painfully awful as I remembered! And so much fun! And caught up on unpacking, burning new music to put on mp3 players -- mine and son's -- and putting about a month's worth of LJ entries into memories, which took much longer than I expected. Someday might even manage to clean off the dining room table but that did not happen today.

Gerald so many of my generation, I suspect, who were old enough to witness Watergate unfolding but not to understand it until much later, my overwhelming memory is of Ford looking embattled after he pardoned Nixon before all the facts came out and earned the wrath of nearly every voter in the US. I understood very little about the issues in the 1976 election (I was nine years old) but I was pretty sure Carter was going to beat Ford because Ford let Nixon off without a trial. On the other hand, Ford was the first president I ever wrote to, about the need for a Halleys Comet fly-by (which NASA cancelled under his administration, leaving the US behind other countries in research when the comet arrived in the 1980s). Unlike the little "thank you for writing to me" cards I got from Carter and Reagan, I got a full-page letter from a White House secretary from Ford's administration, so this has always been a big point in his favor. Like Carter he seems to have been more successful and popular as an ex-president than as a president.

St Matthew's in Hanover on Christmas Eve. My photos do not begin to do justice to the magnificent stained glass windows all around the church or the famous Austin Organ.

But you can see the Tiffany window at the front of the nave, which always seems to have light shining through it, even at night when it must be lit from within.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Poem for Wednesday

Black Family Pledge
By Maya Angelou

Because we have forgotten our ancestors our children no longer give us honor.

Because we have lost the path our ancestors cleared, kneeling in perilous undergrowth, our children cannot find their way.

Because we have banished the God of our ancestors, our children can not pray.

Because the long wails of our ancestors have faded beyond our hearing, our children cannot hear us crying.

Because we have abandoned our wisdom of mothering and fathering, our befuddled children give birth to children they neither want nor understand.

Because we have forgotten how to love, the adversary is within our gates, and holds us up to the mirror of the world, shouting, Regard the loveless.

Therefore, we pledge to bind ourselves again to one another;

To embrace our lowliest,
To keep company with our loneliest,
To educate our illiterate,
To feed our starving,
To clothe our ragged,
To do all good things, knowing that we are more than keepers of our brothers and sisters. We are our brothers and sisters.

In honor of those who toiled and implored God with golden tongues, and in gratitude to the same God who brought us out of hopeless desolation,

We make this pledge.


Home, after leftovers for lunch and a final swing through Gettysburg -- both the battlefield and Boyd's Bear Country, which regrettably did not have the Wizard of Oz ornament set on post-holiday sale but they did have nearly every other ornament in the place, including two different varieties of penguins. The skies were overcast though the sun kept breaking through and the battlefields were muddy but traversible, and we walked up and down the hills and along the old stone farm fences.

The Mansion at Mount Hope Winery, where A Dickens of a Christmas is performed.

Even the fake food looked good. They were serving free bites of ham and samples of mulled wine and cider, but most of the wines had to be purchased... the Carriage House Wine Shoppe, which has this lovely ceiling above its massive Christmas tree. In addition to the RenFaire and the Dickens performance, they have a Poe event at Halloween, hence his face in the painting.

Though the fountain decor changes, the exit looks the same all year.

Home of course means piles of unpacking and laundry and replying to mail and trying desperately to get organized, at which so far I have had only limited success, though I have managed to download the Doctor Who Christmas special so am pleased about that. The cats are either happy to see us or happy to have empty luggage to sit in...well, actually right now Rosie is asleep on the couch she never sleeps on because left a warm spot there when he was flipping through the mail. Thank you for the poetry, and thanks to everyone who sent cards! Happy Kwanzaa!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Poem for Tuesday

Christmas Card To Grace Hartigan
By Frank O'Hara

There's no holly, but there is
the glass and granite towers
and the white stone lions
and the pale violet clouds. And
the great tree of balls in
Rockefeller Plaza is public.

Christmas is green and general
like all great works of the
imagination, swelling from minute
private sentiments in the desert,
a wreath around our intimacy
like children's voices in a park.

For red there is our blood
which, like your smile, must be
protected from spilling into
generality by secret meanings,
the lipstick of life hidden
in a handbag against violations.

Christmas is the time of cold air
and loud parties and big expense,
but in our hearts flames flicker
answeringly, as on old-fashioned
trees. I would rather the house
burn down than our flames go out.


"The poet Frank O'Hara (1926-1966) loved New York, and he crowded its speed, insouciance and exhilarating readiness for more of everything into his poetry," wrote Robert Pinsky in Sunday's Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "He deployed spontaneity of language to lead readers away from the ponderous excesses of close reading and exquisitely ponderous interpretation. His art offers the pleasure of listening as primary. O'Hara's Christmas poem is as secular as can be -- personal, artfully irreverent and saucy. The poem is also a sincere celebration of the holiday and his city. It is a passionate, good-humored embrace and a love song to Manhattan...the one-syllable adjectives in the last stanza -- 'cold' and 'loud' and 'big' -- generate an offhand, contagious exuberance. It is as if the poet has had enough of his earlier meditation on the general and the private, or generality and intimacy, a few stanzas earlier. Like the traditional green and red, those abstractions are a challenge for the spirit of improvisation and discovery, sporting here with the traditional adjective for the holiday: O'Hara's tone is merry."

It rained nearly all day Christmas Day, so I suppose we would have had a white Christmas had the temperature dropped 25 degrees. The only thing the kids wanted to do was go climbing on the rocks again in Gettysburg, which, had it been a nice day, would have been the perfect activity for a day when nearly everything else is closed except movie theaters which weren't great options because of the timing when there was so much cooking, cleaning and setting up to be done. We did drive to the battlefield in the late morning, only to have the skies open up just when we arrived...we walked around a bit under umbrellas and the kids climbed a bit but the caves were already flooded and they ended up getting too little exercise.

My parents came up in the afternoon, but younger son was off the wall because older son was getting attention by reading aloud from one of those books about things high school students write on history essays ("The residents of Stalingrad fought hard to protect it because the city was named after Lenin," "Socrates was killed by hemmorhoids," etc.) and everyone was briefly paying attention to him; he went around making penguin noises until dinner -- I think he was also starving -- and did not calm down until after my parents left, at which point those of us still here played Happy Feet Uno (which he won) and the Dragonology game (which I won, thus freeing me from future gaming obligations as I was banished). We don't really do Christmas presents, being Jewish, but in-laws gave us chocolate covered pretzels and my mother gave me a "Sleeps With Cats" nightshirt.

Little Round Top from Devil's Den at Gettysburg National Battlefield -- the site of one of the most famous photos from the Civil War, Alexander Gardner's 1863 image of a dead Confederate sharpshooter behind these stones. (The photo was actually set up somewhat: that is not a sharpshooter's rifle in the photo, but was placed there to add to the dramatic impact of the image of the dead man, who had lain several feet from the stones for at least a day when he was discovered after the battle.)

Here's another view from higher up among the boulders of Devil's Den on the afternoon before Christmas Eve.

Devil's Den and the Slaughter Pen are covered by these glacial boulders that form little caves beneath them. There were many climbers scrambling in and over the rocks. The park is undergoing a renovation, chopping down trees that have grown since the war in spots that had been cleared during the war, and I am rather nervous that they are going to declare the stones and hillsides and all non-marked trails off-limits to visitors.

Here is a photo taken in Devil's Den on Christmas Day in the rain, less than 24 hours after the glorious blue skies of the previous photos. The soldier appears to have been carved right into one of the boulders.

The same monument from a different angle with Little Round Top rising in the background. It's easy to see why the Union soldiers were able to kill so many exposed Confederates in the field and on the hillside.

This is another view of the Celtic cross of the Irish Brigade, in honor of many members of the 14th New York who fell at the Bloody Angle. The detail is much easier to see without direct sunlight shining through the trees behind it.

A monument of a soldier overlooking the fields near the farmhouse, color distorted because it was shot through a rainy windshield and I attempted to make up for the spottiness and glare.

Tuesday we are driving home, but since Gettysburg is between Hanover and the Maryland border, we may stop and try to hike around once more if the weather is at all cooperative! Hope everyone who was celebrating had a lovely Christmas!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Poem for Monday

Christmas Bells
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
'There is no peace on earth,' I said;
'For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!'


Merry Christmas! We spent the day before Christmas Eve mostly in and around Gettysburg, having discovered that the train show we intended to visit in York was not open despite reports to the contrary in the Hanover newspaper. Instead we went to Boyd's Bear Country -- not a very long visit, since the store closed at 2 p.m. for the holiday, but fortuitous timing nonetheless, as much of the holiday merchandise was on sale and in the minutes before the store closed, the people working the front desk started tossing little stuffed bear ornaments to visitors. I caught a "Ho Ho Ho" Santa bear, but traded with my mother-in-law for a little white bear dressed as a white star which could as easily be Pagan as Christian. *g*

Then we drove to the battlefield at Gettysburg, intending to go to Little Round Top as we often do because the view is spectacular there, but we were coming from a different direction than usual and got somewhat lost in a part of the park I don't ever remember driving through, in the woods beside one of the old farmhouses. We ended up at the parking lot for Devil's Den, the rocky hillside where hundreds and hundreds of Confederate soldiers fell, which we usually look down upon from up on the hill. There are caves in the rocks and the kids had a great time climbing while the rest of us were looking at the monuments and reading the signs about the Slaughter Pen and the Battle of Little Round Top.

My in-laws' 16-year-old beagle, Ginger, looking at Old Friends, a book of advice on longevity from old dogs and their owners, sent by Uncle Bill's widow Linda in Reno.

The Nativity at Boyd's Bear Country in Gettysburg.

And the enormous Christmas tree, three stories high, in the middle of the store. As you can see, there are teddy bear garlands around the balconies, too.

And at Gettysburg National Battlefield, a Celtic cross in honor of Captain James McCrorty and his men who fell at the Bloody Angle in 1863, part of Irish Brigade, the 14th New York.

For dinner we brought in seafood from Red Lobster, courtesy gift cards from various aunts and uncles -- I had coconut shrimp and stuffed flounder, as did hubby, while one son had snow crab legs and salmon, the other had lobster tail (younger son has expensive taste) and both in-laws had various kinds of shrimp. I had a headache from too much sun at the battlefield but took some drugs and went with in-laws to church while the kids stayed home with . The music was beautiful -- they had a violin soloist who's a student at Berklee and both the youth choir and men's choir performed, with piano, harpsichord and the famous organ. I was sitting with my in-laws on one side and a single woman on the other who was very friendly when she sat down and during the part of the service where everyone shakes hands and says "Peace be with you," but after I didn't get up to receive communion, she turned away at the end of the service when I said "Merry Christmas" to her without even replying! Holiday spirit, indeed. We drove back through town past some pretty hilarious inflatable yard decorations and had Swedish cookies.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Poem for Sunday

By Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.


Some anonymous person sent me mistletoe so that we can kiss under yourself so I can snog you! And , thank you for my presents! Those and Taylor's of Harrogate tea from my in-laws were my last-day-of-Chanukah surprises, plus hubby got me a pair of with pirates and ships in the Mount Hope Carriage House Wine Shoppe and one with cats on it at a store along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The reason we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is that we went to A Dickens of a Christmas at Mount Hope Mansion on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, where several of the members of the summer troupe were playing Victorian characters instead of Elizabethan ones. I couldn't take photos with flash during the performances -- though I cheated and snatched one of 's father onstage with Charles Dickens when he was seeking someone else to play Scrooge, I did not dare take one of my older son when he was dragged from his seat into the dancing in A Christmas Carol. But I took a couple during the mix and mingle at the start, and I managed one in the well-lit theatre using the bench in front of me as a tripod:

Miss Belle played Christmas carols on the piano in the theatre before she and Miss Daisy told American holiday stories like "Gift of the Magi" and led the audience in singing more carols.

In the entrance hallway, Charles Dickens conversed with Daisy Grubb, his American patron for the holidays.

Dickens attempted to recruit my father-in-law to play Scrooge in the abbreviated A Christmas Carol performed in the ballroom, but was required to take on the role himself by one of his hosts.

Drosselmeyer the Toymaker and the Sugar Plum Fairy greeted guests before performing their comic Nutcracker spread through the dining room and library, in which the two killed the King of the Mice with a baseball bat and was cast in the role of Clara's mean brother Fritz.

The whole house was decorated for the holiday, and there was a bar in the hallway serving Mount Hope Winery's spiced apple cider, holiday wine, honey mead and other locally-grown libations.

On Sunday there is a big model train show somewhere in York, and of course father-in-law cannot resist such a temptation so we are going there. We might also go to the Boyds Bear factory in Gettysburg, though we may wait till Tuesday when they will still be having a sale but presumably there will be no last-minute holiday shoppers.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Poem for Saturday

Lecha Dodi/Welcoming the Sabbath
By Jay Michaelson

we are sitting adjoining each other
thighs touching slightly on the tight bench in shul,
barely looking, not knowing, not wanting to intrude,
singing, welcoming the sabbath queen together,
our voices intermingle
i find your tentative voice and merge with it
two tenors melding in middle range
until we almost sound
as one.

this is the sending out and the receiving,
this mingling of fluids
oil, honey, water, milk
two divisions of the river
joining in return.

the harmonies below arouse the one above
sweetening judgments
erasing with kindness
come, beloved, let us greet the queen
and receive the face of returning.


Early post because I'm on my way to Pennsylvania. Spent the morning on the phone with because neither of us had our stuff together to go out to lunch, writing a piss-poor review of "The Lights of Zetar" which is really as bad as I recalled from all those years ago and copying files from my computer to my travel drive; spent the afternoon with who got sent home from work early for the holidays, organizing the kids' play plans and having dinner with my parents and celebrating the last night of Chanukah.

Was alarmed to see that Rockhopper Penguin Numbers Are Tumbling in the South Atlantic despite the adorable photo at this link, and not sure son will be happy to hear that After a Run of Penguin Chic, It’s the Year of the Meerkat with two documentary films about the adorable beasties in production.

: It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas...
1. Will you be having a white Christmas?
Doesn't sound like it.
2. Best present you could get/have already received this season? Camera lens, lap harp, getting Doctor Who season two when it's out.
3. Egg nog or snogging under the mistletoe? Snogging.
4. Is time on your side? I hope so.
5. Favorite holiday tradition: Candles.

is five ways I'd kill a character in my fandom if I had to. But I am pretty sure J.K. Rowling will do plenty of that for me in The Deathly Hallows and I don't do deathfic, so

It's bowl season...and in honor of that, here is a hermit crab from a vendor outside the Newport Aquarium living in a plastic football helmet.

Bawled through "Doomsday" (the only episode of this season's Doctor Who I had actually watched all the way through, the day I downloaded it, and I bawled that time too). Refused to leave for Pennsylvania till it was over! But now I have to throw my stuff in the car for the Dickens Christmas on Saturday. Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Get Critical Update

TV Review: Star Trek's "The Lights of Zetar"

Poem for Friday

By Diane Elliot

On the balcony
outside my window
doves drinking dew
are messengers of fire.
Wild parrots ululate,
shriek their desire:
"mate, mate!"
Bees methodically
a figoa tree.
a curtain of fine, orange cotton
I view
sky, leaves, buds, sun.
is digging in my garden,
urging me
"Plant now, don’t wait"?


We are going to my in-laws' tomorrow night and I am not remotely organized...I mean, we have gifts for them and sufficient clean clothes to be out of town, and cat-sitting and all the holiday mail taken care of, and all I have to do tomorrow is come up with something to say about "The Lights of Zetar" besides "OMG WHYYYYYY?" (Trek news is boring me to tears at the moment; endless "Gene Roddenberry's former babysitter chimes in with opinion on J.J. Abrams" stories.) I'm sure I will be much mellower once I am actually up there but I feel frazzled.

I went back to the House of Musical Traditions and bought myself the lap harp with the Green Man (a Wood Spirit, according to the manufacturer, but I still say it's a Green Man). Have coveted this since I first saw it at the Renaissance Faire three years ago and have been told that for my fortieth birthday I should get something that will teach me something or exercise a different part of my brain. Am hoping my ear is still good enough that I can figure out melodies on it.

Winter trees for Yule. I was in the car at the moment of the solstice, but going to a folk music store still seems an appropriate activity.

My new favorite seasonal story: "Virgin Dragon Prepares to Give Birth", the heartwarming story of a Komodo dragon who has never been with a male of her species yet has managed to fertilize her own eggs. (Second favorite seasonal story: "Pooping Peasant Popular in Spain", "where for centuries symbols of defecation have played an important role in Christmas festivities," and please don't tell my children or they will want to get one.)

I should have something to say about Deathly Hallows, shouldn't I? But I really don't, other than it makes me think of that plastic Halloween faux graveyard statuary you can buy in mall stores in October. Which I suppose is not really a good thing, but Prisoner of Azkaban sounded pretty silly when I first heard it, too, and it remains my favorite of the books and films.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Poem for Yule

The Volcano and the Covenant
By Alicia Ostriker

as if one could cut a covenant
with a roaring volcano

imagine our souls
being birthed and destroyed

the way a flame
uncurls in one instant

and when the next passes, it is no more
yet is like a scorching white word

in the red ongoing song
then grey ash that crumbles

softly to nothing, oh
burn like that


My mother invited me out to lunch, but we ended up spending far less time at lunch (Middle Eastern food, fantastic hummus, yum) than at Best Buy looking at MP3 players for me, video games for younger son and DVDs for older son (they want Legend of Zelda and The Simpsons and younger son wants an iCat and older son wants some Mario game that isn't even out until the spring and I keep telling my mother she should get them a new violin and theater summer camp but she wants to get them lots of little crap instead). Shopping this near to the holidays with all these panicked people always makes me feel stressed rather than joyous in the holiday spirit and I want a quiet Yule with a few minutes at the solstice (7:22 p.m. EST Thursday) to light candles and think about the season turning.

My sister and brother-in-law got the calendar we send out every year with photos of our kids to our nearest and dearest. This year -- since Shutterfly is letting people have birthdays and anniversaries printed right on the calendar for free, and since we lost 's grandmother who always used to send calendars to each family member with every single birthdate written in by hand -- I put in as many family birthdays as I could find on my master list, which I knew was missing my cousin's younger son and was a day off on 's brother's new baby. Somehow I left my brother-in-law's birthday off...and he is turning 40 in April. I am never going to hear the end of this. *g*

From the Rockwell's America exhibit at the Maryland Science Center, Santa Claus plots a route.

Many of the sculptures were based on popular Rockwell paintings, like this one...

...and the infamous romantic graffiti image.

Plus there was a live Rosie the Riveter demonstrating how the factory assembly line worked to kids.

There was also a telephone exhibit with an operator... one could call other rooms in the exhibit and talk to one's children or whoever picked up.

And there was sports memorabilia, one of Rockwell's favorite subjects.

In important seasonal news, Santa's immigration status is being questioned in a parody web site for a town that apparently hates everyone not born in the USA and sex does the body good: regular romps can provide a host of physiological benefits, including avoiding colds, a reduced risk of prostate cancer and my personal favorite, cleaner teeth!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Poem for Wednesday

Fugue for Eye and Vanishing Point
By Suji Kwock Kim

Give me the clarity, the sharpness
of a season when things are plainly
themselves. No smear of dreaming on the dirt.
Let my eye see without seeking more
than what's there, and find what is
is sweet. Bleach-fumes. Urine. Cement.
Bus-exhaust. Oil glittering on pistons.
Soiled needles wrapped in butcher paper.
Infinite engine trapped in skin.


All my holiday cards and packages are now in the mail! (Which means, , that meerkats are on the way...and , remember that thing I promised to send you LAST Chanukah? It's coming...though I couldn't find what I printed out to go with it a year ago and must refer you here or equivalent instead!) This process took up a tremendous amount of the day, with much of the rest of the afternoon going toward a trip to the bank, buying a new alarm clock to replace the one that died earlier this week and getting gas.

We needed the gas because tonight was older son's winter chorus concert at school, to which we drove my parents while my in-laws came down from Pennsylvania to meet us. The concert was lovely...they sang a Spanish carol, "A La Nanita Nana," an a cappella arrangement of "Jubilate Deo," a version of "Shalom Chaverim" with African drum and finger cymbals, a giddy "Let It Snow" with paper snowflakes tossed all over the stage, a magnificent set of nursery rhyme carols sung as a round by the all-girl group, a barbershop quartet (actually octet) "Jingle Bells" and some contemporary pieces like "Once Upon a December" from Anastasia. They always have a bake sale to raise money for sound equipment at concerts, so we had good desserts, too.

The full chorus sings "The Christmas Song."

They marched in singing the first song from the back.

I really love the decoration on the back of the chorus teacher's sweater.

Hubby got me Graceland: An Interactive Pop-Up Tour for the fifth night of Chanukah. Greatest souvenir ever! And all I got him was glow-in-the-dark massage lotion...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Latkes for Chanukah

Because a couple of people asked if I had recipes. I make the world's simplest latkes, eaten with cream cheese and sugar, applesauce or occasionally cranberries or lingonberries (the Swedish variation) -- the only caveat is that we do grate by hand, because no matter how we set the food processor, the potatoes always come out mushier than we like them if we use it.


The starchier the potato, the crisper the latke. You can easily double this recipe for a crowd. Latkes may be made up to 8 hours ahead and reheated on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, about 5 minutes. Grating the potatoes, soaking them briefly in water, and then squeezing out the liquid (as we’ve done here) keeps the batter from turning brown too quickly.

1 lb potatoes
1/2 cup very finely chopped onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Pepper to taste, if you wish
Sour cream and applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 250°F.

2. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

3. Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

4. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

Makes 12 to 16 latkes.

Kibbet Yatkeen

These flavorful patties, which contain no eggs, are denser and more healthful than typical Western pancakes. In Syria, bulgur supplies the body in these patties, but in America some cooks discovered that oats make a suitable substitute. Of course, traditionalists insist on bulgur. Syrians tend to prefer their pumpkin pancakes savory and somewhat spicy, while Sephardim from Turkey and Greece generally like them slightly sweet. These might be served at a Syrian Hanukkah meal alongside bazargan (Syrian bulgur relish), yerba (stuffed grape leaves), spinach salad, and rice with pine nuts.

1 cup fine bulgur
2 cups warm water
2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin (about 2 1/2 pounds raw) or 16 ounces pure-pack canned pumpkin
1 cup whole-wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1 onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of Aleppo or cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Put the bulgur in a medium bowl, add the warm water, and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain.

2. Transfer the bulgur to a food processor. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the oil and process until smooth. If the mixture is too thin, add a little more flour. Using floured hands, shape into oval patties about 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/2 inch thick, tapering the ends.

3. Heat 1/4 inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat. In batches, fry the patties, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Sephardic Pumpkin Patties (Fritadas de Calabaza): This batter is looser than the bulgur version and is dropped from a spoon. Omit the bulgur, the 1/2 cup cold water, the onion, garlic, coriander, pepper, allspice, cumin, and Aleppo pepper. Add 3 large eggs, 2 to 8 tablespoons granulated or packed brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, and a pinch of ground ginger.

Syrian Baked Pumpkin Casserole (Kibbet Yatkeen bi Seniyeh): Spread the pumpkin mixture in an oiled 9-inch square baking pan. Cut into diamonds or 1 1/2-inch squares, drizzle with 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Makes about 12 patties.

Olive Trees and Honey
By Gil Marks
Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Keftes de Espinaca

Among my favorite spinach dishes are these simple but delicious patties. Even spinach haters can't resist them, especially when they're splashed with a little fresh lemon juice; fresh juice does make a major difference in taste. Onions add a sweet flavor and textural complexity. These patties are traditional on Passover and Rosh Hashanah, corresponding to the emergence of the early and late spinach crops. To reheat the spinach patties, place in a large skillet, add 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes.

3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, cooked, chopped, and squeezed dry, or 20 ounces thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
About 1 cup matza meal or fine dried bread crumbs
About 3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and, if using, the garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, matza meal, salt, pepper, and, if using, the nutmeg. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more matza meal. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.

2. Shape the spinach mixture into patties 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, with tapered ends. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. In batches, fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.


Sephardic Spinach Patties with Cheese (Keftes de Espinaca con Queso): Add 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Muenster, Swiss, Gouda, or Cheddar cheese; or 1/4 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese.

Sephardic Spinach Patties with Walnuts (Keftes de Espinaca con Muez): Substitute 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped walnuts for the matza meal.

Italian Spinach Patties (Polpettine di Spinaci): Add 3/4 cup raisins soaked in white wine for 30 minutes, then drained, and 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts.

Makes about 16 patties.

Olive Trees and Honey
By Gil Marks
Wiley Publishing, Inc.


Chickpea fritters laced with rosemary are common in parts of France and Italy. For a terrific side dish that serves eight, top these latkes with a quick sauce made by stirring two tablespoons dried mint into one cup plain yogurt, and offer with fish. Or drizzle the latkes with pomegranate molasses (found at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets), and serve with meat or poultry.

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

1. Blend garbanzo beans, garlic, and rosemary in processor to coarse paste. Add eggs, 6 tablespoons water and extra-virgin olive oil; blend until smooth. Add flour, cumin, salt, pepper, and baking powder and blend. Pour batter into bowl.

2. Heat 6 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Cook until golden, about 1 minute per side. Using slotted spatula, transfer latkes to paper towels to drain. Add more oil to skillet as necessary and allow to get hot before adding more batter. Transfer latkes to plates. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if desired, and serve.

Makes about 24.

Bon Appétit
December 2001


Kids love using these scallion brushes to brush the dipping sauce on their latkes! Reminiscent of those savory little pancakes served as dim sum, this dish makes use of ancient Chinese wisdom: the bracing, clean flavors of ginger, vinegar and soy provide a sparkling antidote to the oily richness, as well as welcome respite from the ubiquitous sour cream.

For scallion brushes:
10-12 thin scallions
ice water
For dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rice, Chinese black, or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
optional: chili oil to taste
For the latkes:
2-2 1/2 bunches of scallions, white and light green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons mild olive or vegetable oil, plus additional oil for frying latkes
1 teaspoon peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
about 1 1/2 lbs.Yukon Gold or russet (baking) potatoes, peeled
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons matzah meal or all-purpose flour

1. Make the scallion brushes. Cut off and discard the roots and all but 3 inches of the green part of the scallions. Using a scissor or a small paring knife, cut slits about 1/2-inch deep into both sections of each scallion stalk, creating a fringe. Carefully fan out the fringed edges. Place the scallions in a bowl of ice water, and refrigerate for 2 hours or until the fringed edges curl up.

2. Prepare the dipping sauce. Stir together all ingredients and let the flavors meld for at least 30 minutes.

3. Start the latkes. In a large skillet, saute the scallions over moderately high heat in the oil until tender and just beginning to brown at the edges. Stir in the ginger, garlic and soy sauce, and cook, lifting and turning, for 2 -3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool briefly.

4. Coarsely shred the potatoes, using the grating disk in a food processor. Transfer the potatoes to a colander or strainer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to press out as much moisture as possible. (Don't bother washing out food processor--you'll be using it again here.)

5. Remove the grating disk from the processor and replace with the steel blade. Return about 1/3 of the shredded potatoes to the work bowl of food processor and roughly puree, using pulse motion. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the remaining coarsely shredded potatoes from the colander, and the egg, salt, pepper, baking powder, and matzah meal or flour. (You will need salt here--the soy sauce merely flavors the scallions. Putting in enough soy sauce would make the latkes too wet. Figure about 1 teaspoon of salt.) Stir in the sautéed scallions. Mix until thoroughly combined.

6. In a heavy, 10- to 12-inch skillet (cast-iron is ideal), heat about 1/4-inch oil over high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Using a 1/4-cup measure, drop the batter into the pan; then flatten the latkes with a spatula. Cook no more than 4 or 5 latkes at a time; crowding the pan will make the latkes soggy.

7. Regulate the heat carefully as the latkes fry until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes. To prevent the oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon) to turn the latkes carefully. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side. (Avoid turning the latkes more than once or they will absorb too much oil. Before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.)

8. Transfer the cooked latkes to paper towels or untreated brown paper bags to drain. Continue frying latkes in the same way until all the batter is used. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but always allow the oil to get hot before frying a new batch.

9. If you must keep the latkes warm, place them in a single layer on a rack in a slow oven (200 degrees), until they are all ready to be brought to the table.

10.When ready to serve, pat the scallions brushes dry. Guests should use the brushes to coat each latke with dipping sauce, then top the latke with the brush.

Yield: 4 servings


Crisp potato latkes are the taste of Hanukkah for most Ashkenazi Jews. But the first latkes, according to many food historians, were probably made of cheese. Today latkes based on sweet curd cheeses--farmer, pot and cottage--remain popular. Delicate and dairy-clean tasting, this version begs for a fresh complement of bright-tasting fruit. Instead of the traditional syrup or preserves, which would overpower the natural milky sweetness, serve the latkes with the easy-to-prepare cherry applesauce that follows. They make a wonderful light supper, breakfast, or brunch. Or serve the latkes as a finish to a more elaborate meal.

1/2 lb. farmer cheese (a 7.5 oz. package is fine), drained
2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light brown granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried tart cherries, plumped in hot water 10 minutes, then drained
1/3 cup finely chopped lightly toasted walnuts
unsalted butter and mild vegetable oil, like avocado or canola, for frying
Chunky Cherry-Applesauce (recipe follows)

1. Combine both cheeses, egg yolks, and extracts in a food processor and process until well-blended and smooth. Add the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse to blend. Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Mix in cherries and walnuts.

2. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff, but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the batter.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons each of butter and oil in a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into the skillet, and fry until the bottoms are golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Turn, using two spatulas, and cook other side until lightly browned, 1-3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plates or keep warm on a heated platter or in baking sheet in a 200-degree oven, while you repeat with remaining batter. Add more butter and oil if necessary, always allowing the fat to get hot before adding more batter. Serve with chunky cherry-apple or other fresh fruit sauce.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Chunky Cherry-Applesauce

5 Gala (or other sweet, flavorful) apples (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
about 3 tablespoons cherry preserves (exact amount will vary, not only according to preference, but according to sweet/tartness of preserves and apples; sour cherry preserves are delicious here)

1. Combine apple pieces and unsweetened apple juice in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cherry preserves.

2. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the mixture to a chunky puree. Taste, add more preserves if desired, and mash again. (Sauce may be prepared up to two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Serve warm or room temperature. Or refrigerate until lightly chilled. Best not icy cold.


2 lbs. fresh spinach, well-washed, tough stems discarded OR 2 10-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
8 scallions (about 1 cup), trimmed and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup (packed) fresh challah or other egg bread (crusts removed), torn in pieces
1/2 cup fresh dill leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
additional butter and mild vegetable oil, like avocado or canola, for frying
Feta-Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Cook spinach in a large saucepan with 1/4 cup lightly salted water until tender. Cool, then place in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add scallions and garlic and saute until scallions are softened. Stir in spinach, season to taste with salt and pepper, and sauté about 3 minutes, or until all liquid is evaporated. Cool completely.

3. Process challah in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add spinach mixture, dill, mint, and cilantro, and pulse, using on/off turns, until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. Taste, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Mix in eggs and baking powder.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, drop batter by the heaping tablespoonfuls into the skillet, using the back of a spoon to flatten latkes slightly. Fry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Avoid turning more than once. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the latkes to paper towels to drain.

5. Fry remaining latkes in the same way, adding more butter and oil to the skillet as necessary, and allowing the fat to get hot before adding more batter.

6. Serve with Feta-Yogurt Sauce.

Yield: about 30 small latkes

Feta-Yogurt Sauce

This sauce is also delicious served with raw or cooked vegetables, or drizzled over a salad of mixed greens.

1 cup crumbled feta
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
freshly ground pepper
salt, if necessary

Mash feta in a medium bowl using a fork. Mix in yogurt. Stir in remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with pepper. Taste, and add salt, if needed (the feta may be quite salty). Set aside for flavors to blend at least 2 hours before serving. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate until needed.)


about 1 1/2 lbs. russet (baking) or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed or peeled, and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 large eggs
2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons matzah meal or all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for dredging
olive or vegetable oil, for frying
2 lbs. flounder, lemon sole, or similar white-fleshed fish fillets, wiped with a damp paper towel and patted dry. (If the fillets are not small, cut them into long strips, so they will be easier to batter.)
Lemon wedges
Horseradish Cream (recipe follows)

1. In a food processor, using the grating disk, coarsely grate the potatoes together with the onion. Transfer the mixture to a strainer and drain it well, using your hands to squeeze out all excess moisture. (Don't wash out the processor yet.) Replace the grating disk with the steel blade. Return the grated mixture to the processor and add the eggs, garlic, dill, vinegar, salt, pepper, and matzah meal or flour. Process to a smooth batter. Put the batter in a large bowl.

2. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet until hot but not smoking. Spread some flour on a large sheet of wax paper or a plate. Dredge a fillet in the flour, covering it completely and shaking off the excess, then dip it into the latke batter, coating well on both sides. Quickly slide it into the hot oil. Repeat, frying a few pieces at a time, and making sure you do not crowd the pan. Fry until browned on both sides and cooked through (exact time will vary, depending on thickness of fish used). Drain on paper towels or untreated brown paper bags. Serve with Horseradish Cream and lemon wedges.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Horseradish Cream

1/2 cup peeled, finely diced cucumber
1 cup yogurt (preferably Greek-style or drain the yogurt until thickened; regular yogurt will be too watery) or sour cream
1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon drained bottled white horseradish, or to taste
freshly ground pepper

Start the Horseradish Cream at least 1/2 hour before serving to develop the flavors. Sprinkle the cucumber with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Wrap in paper towels or a kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. In a small bowl, combine the cucumber with the other ingredients. Adjust the seasoning to taste. You can refrigerate the Horseradish Cream, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

Yield: about 1 cup
Dec. 2006
By Jayne Cohen


Ingredients for the Latkes:
1 lb. sweet potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. each salt and baking powder
1/4 cup matzah meal
pinch each: salt & white pepper
2-4 Tbsp. light olive oil for frying

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 cup real maple syrup
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves to garnish

1. Scrub the sweet potatoes, peel and shred on the fine side of a grater or in the food processor. Transfer to a wire-mesh strainer and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Let stand in the strainer or a colander placed over a bowl for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork and add the matzah meal, sweet potato, salt and pepper. Let stand an additional 5-10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a small pan mix the ingredients for the sauce, heat over low heat and keep warm.

3. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet and add a small ladleful of the batter. Flatten gently and fry on both sides till golden-brown. Check to see if you like the texture of the latke, and add a little more matzah meal to the mixture, if desired. (Let the mixture stand 3 minutes before using).

4. Add more oil to the pan as necessary, and fry the remaining latkes. Place the latkes on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Pour some of the heated sauce on individual plates and arrange three latkes on top per serving, or use a serving platter. Garnish with fresh coriander or mint. Pass the rest of the sauce around to taste. Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt if desired.

Makes 10-12.

The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking
By Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer


Potatoes are a nutritious food (fat-free, low in calories, a good source of Vitamin C, an excellent source of potassium, and a source of fiber) and that they stay that way if prepared in healthier ways. With this recipe, you can enjoy this holiday without feeling guilty -- you'll actually be eating two vegetables: potatoes and carrots.

2 1/2 cups shredded, unpeeled russet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
1/2 cup grated onion
1/3 cup peeled shredded carrot
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 egg + 1 egg white
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1. Scrub potatoes and coarsely grate. Immediately place in a bowl of ice water to keep potatoes from discoloring; let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the onion, carrot, flour, chives, salt, pepper and eggs in a medium bowl and stir well. Drain the potatoes and squeeze out moisture; stir into egg mixture.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non stick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Spoon about 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each pancake into skillet, cooking 4 at a time. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, flattening with the back of a spatula and cooking until golden brown and crisp on both sides.

4. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining oil and potatoes.

5. Serve immediately with chunky applesauce and low-fat sour cream.

Makes 4 servings.

The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking
By Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer


Recalling both the miracle of the olive oil and the olive-pressing season in Israel, these scrumptious olive latkes are a new-fangled way to enjoy a latke.

2 cups finely chopped pitted green or black olives in brine, drained (or use half and half)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 Tbsp. water (optional)

1. Chop the olives finely or process in the food processor. Transfer chopped olives to a strainer and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

2. Heat 1/4 cup the oil and saute the onion and garlic till golden. Set aside.

3. In the meantime, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cumin. Beat in the eggs and onion and garlic mixture with a fork. Add the water if the mixture seems too thick.

4. Heat the remaining oil and use a small cup or soup ladle to form 3-4 small latkes each time. Fry on both sides till golden.

5. Serve with thick yogurt or sour cream.

Makes about 8.

The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking
By Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer

P.S. Organic Valley has seasonal cookie recipes, including Rugelach, Norwegian Fattigman and Armenian Mavish!

Poem for Tuesday

Open Closed Open
By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

I wasn't one of the six million who died in the Shoah,
I wasn't even among the survivors.
And I wasn't one of the six hundred thousand who went out of Egypt.
I came to the Promised Land by sea.
No, I was not in that number, though I still have the fire and the smoke
within me, pillars of fire and pillars of smoke that guide me
by night and by day. I still have inside me the mad search
for emergency exits, for soft places, for the nakedness
of the land, for the escape into weakness and hope,
I still have within me the lust to search for living water
with quiet talk to the rock or with frenzied blows.
Afterwards, silence: no questions, no answers.
Jewish history and world history
grind me between them like two grindstones, sometimes
to a powder. And the solar year and the lunar year
get ahead of each other or fall behind,
leaping, they set my life in perpetual motion.
Sometimes I fall into the gap between them to hide,
or to sink all the way down.


I spent all morning and most of the afternoon working on holiday cards and packages, which are now ready to be mailed; I just have the not-insignificant task of waiting in line at the post office tomorrow to buy stamps, get packages weighed and get everything in the mail. If you are getting a card from me, sorry about the decline in handwriting on the cards as I worked my way through the alphabet! There were nearly 120!

In the afternoon we had to go pick up older son from his chorus rehearsal, since there is no after-school activity bus on Mondays. Since we were already in the area, I stopped at some of the stores in Silver Spring, including House of Musical Traditions which I have never actually visited, though I have shopped at their booths at numerous folk festivals, Renaissance Faires and the like. I bought myself a lovely-sounding thumbdrum, eight keys in an octave that sounds more like harp than piano, which I have coveted for awhile, though what I really want is a carved lap harp (well, I REALLY want a Celtic harp but can't afford the harp or the lessons). I told them to call me when they get more of the lap harps with the Green Man carving back in stock.

A different musical tradition, here are carolers by the lake at Rio on Saturday night. It's a little weird to be discussing carolers when it was 72 degrees here on Monday...

...but there they were, framed by holiday lights, with geese honking on occasion in the background.

I had laundries going all day while working on cards, so I folded this evening while watching City of Angels, which I had previously avoided as I love Wings of Desire and was afraid it would ruin it but it was too different even to make an impression. Nic Cage and Meg Ryan are both performers I either love or despise in movies, there's very little middle ground, and I liked them both in this one. I found the ending gratuitously soppy (reminded me of how I felt watching Message in a Bottle...some screenwriters could take a lesson from The Horse Whisperer, which threw out the gratuitous overblown tragic oratorio of the novel and opted for a lower-key thoughtful ending).

Oh, and I completely forgot to mention that we watched Syriana on Saturday night while I was folding the cards that went into the envelopes today...I had moments of wishing the screenplay were a bit less didactic and moments of being so confused that I want a second viewing, but man, is the acting in that film great! And I love that it took so many risks, even in the places where I looked away for five seconds and got lost. Any movie that has me liking suicide bombers better than conservative Americans is getting under my skin in a good way.

Shatner's game show was cancelled after all...seemed the viewers it was attracting were all too old for ABC's desired demographic. They'll still air the seven in the can. Yeah, I have not exactly been on top of Trek news this month!