From 60 to Solstice




Betsy Bogert, Polaroid, 1982

Betsy Bogert, Polaroid, 1982

This week, we’re celebrating what would be my mother’s 60th birthday. Betsy was born December 7th, 1955, and to honor her memory and the things she cherished, I created a memorial photo album on Facebook for her friends and mine, where people have been sharing their memories of her.  Our dinners this week are all foods she loved or based on her recipes, and on her birthday proper, we had luscious vanilla cake with chocolate ganache from Flying Apron Bakery in Redmond, WA.  Since my son was born after her death, he doesn’t know much about her, and this is one way we can help him understand the woman who raised me and is part of his history.  My daughter knew and loved her Nana very much, and her loss was felt as deeply as my own.

As I’ve said before, we don’t shy away from discussions of death, and this certainly connects with my recent post about our new Inside Out feelings books.  Grief is as much a part of life as Joy, and that theme has been playing itself out a lot these last few months.  This holiday season seems particularly intense due to this sense that 60 feels momentous, and her birthday has affected even the theme of our holiday planning (this year: traditional Bogert Christmas; colors: white and gold).  We might even buy a standard tree this year instead of going with one of my alternate solutions (e.g. ornament mobile, living tree, etc.), because to my mother, and her father before her, Christmas/Yule* is a big deal.

Wreath 2015

Homemade Wreath 2015

How big a deal?  My grandfather’s urn reads: I shall return as Santa Claus.  My grandmother’s says: I got tired of waiting for Christmas.

This nod to my mother’s family’s holiday traditions will be played out in everything from our wreath to our holiday cards to our meals.

*While we celebrate the 24th/25th with feast, family, and gift giving, our actual spiritual day of reflection is the Solstice proper.  On Longest Night, we have in the past held night-long vigils (I can’t physically do this anymore), sung songs, spent time in quiet meditation by a fire, etc.  Not being Christians, we tend to talk about the Solstice or Yule, but it’s hard to escape the term “Christmas” for what we do, because so many cultures have been blended into the singular holiday in this country.  If you’re of a pagan path based on European traditions, check out these songs to add to your celebrations.



We have a new entrant into the “Little Fox’s Frequently Read Book” category.  This one comes from Peter Brown, author of one of my favorite gardening-themed children’s books, The Curious Garden.  The book? Children Make Terrible Pets.  Peter’s charming art is paired with lighthearted humor as he explores one of his own childhood thoughts: what would it be like if a wild animal brought him home to be their pet?  In this case, a young bear takes a shine to “Squeaker,” a young boy she catches spying on her in the woods.  But when she brings him home, her mother warns that human children make terrible pets.

Little Fox loves this book so much that we read it several times a week (usually my partner reads it and then I read it), and each time we must read the author bio at the end, which includes the anecdote about his childhood memory.  It’s cute, fun, and can be read in lots of different voices.  I go a bit Valley girl when I read the bear’s lines, starting with “Oh. My. GOSH!” and carried out from there.  My partner does a more Midwestern accent, and thus, our son gets to hear the story twice in completely different forms.



This may not be appropriate to everyone’s family, but for us, we’ve just run through all of the current CollegeHumor spots of “Adam Ruins Everything.”  For people who enjoy ferreting out truths behind social myths, and learning new things about the world while shattering misconceptions, this is a great series of shorts on CollegeHumor and YouTube, which also is gaining traction now on TruTV as a series in its own right.  Thus far, Adam Conover has talked about the truth behind the electoral collegeunpaid internships (great for kids about to head to college or get their first jobs), why we have to go to car dealerships, how fingerprints and lie detectors are fallible, and the myth of the hymen (just to name a few).

They are often adult-oriented in that they don’t shy away from discussing sexual relations, and the earlier pieces do include uncensored language.  This isn’t a problem for our family, but it’s a warning in case it isn’t appropriate for yours.  But in the vein of shows like MythBusters and Connections, these tickle our curiosity and make us think about things we might not bat an eyelash at otherwise.  Like why we routinely circumcise infants in the U.S. or that halitosis is a made up term to sell a floor polish as a mouthwash.  Check it out with or without your children, I guarantee you’ll have a few laughs and learn a lot more than you bargained for.



Betsy’s Sesame-Peanut Chicken

Note: this was my mother’s recipe and not intended to compare to a Thai peanut sauce, which typically has a sweet-and-sour tang to it from sugar and lime juice.  This recipe turns out savory and comforting, and leftovers tend to get finished later that night.

1 lb. of bonless, skinless chicken (breast or thigh)
1 bunch of carrots, sliced
1/2 c. of peanut butter (or other nut butter; cashew butter is incredible and TJ’s has it for a reasonable price)
2 tsp. of tamari
1/4 c. of toasted sesame seeds
1/4 c. of cashews
4 garlic cloves
1/4 c. of diced onions
1 can coconut milk
lime juice
olive oil
ground dried or fresh grated ginger
bean sprouts (optional)
hot sesame oil (optional)

Saute onions and carrots in oil until carrots are tender.  Set aside. Chop chicken into small bite-sized pieces and brown in medium skillet.  Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from the skillet, turn heat down to medium-low and add in ginger and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle in lime juice and soy sauce and a dash of hot sesame oil (optional).  Stir in peanut butter, mixing it thoroughly with other seasonings and until it melts (don’t let it burn!).  Pour in coconut milk and blend with peanut butter.  Add chicken, carrots, and onions back into the skillet, also adding in cashews and sesame seeds, until warm.  Serve over rice with bean sprouts.


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