WHAT WE’RE DOING
We started this month with a terrible cold that laid everyone low for almost two weeks. My partner was working late nights to complete a project by deadline. I was working just to get us healthy in time to teach my students. My daughter was rushing around trying to complete her work for coming finals. Yet, but they time I had my final Reading Selections class of the year, we were coming close to vacation.
After a wonderful class in which my former students sat in on the discussion as well, all the kids and their parents joined us for pizza, and a chance to chat with each other outside of a structured setting. I saw greater bonds being forged between the teens, and I had a chance to get to know two of the parents better.
My daughter finished her first quarter at the same time my partner’s vacation began. Even my son was off from gymnastics for two weeks. We’re at home together playing, cleaning, and exploring through the start of January.
Though some of our plans for a Muppet Solstice didn’t all work out, we did find a medium sized tree, trim it, decorate the house, and find or make presents for the people close to us in life. Some of the adults had to settle for candy, but I made hand puppets for all the small children. Tweens and teens got art supplies or books. My daughter mostly wanted clothes and headphones, and received them. My son mostly received puppets, puzzles, and Play-Doh, which were all things he wanted in his life.
Now that all of our holiday events have passed, we’re working on getting other things in order: my bed has a new frame, bills need sorting and paying, one of the cars needs a quick check up, and so on. An outing or two are planned for gaming and hiking before we return to our routines. When we do, there are changes I wish to make with my approach to time alone with my son. Some items I let fall to the side over the last few months: gardening, outdoor adventures, and more. Also coming in the new year is a write class I’ve been asked to teach, a book to be published, and convention panels to prepare for. None of which I feel ready to face, but they’re all steps along the way to my long-term goals.
Oh yes, and my son and I made a lot of cookie cutter-shaped seed clusters for the birds outside. They were delighted. So were the cats, who watched them from the windows.
WHAT WE’RE READING
As is true for every holiday and birthday, our gifts included books. Since the first set was ruined by tiny hands and a tiny mouth, we purchased a new set of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. All four stories were turned into short animated films and set to music; they’ve been a part of our favorites since my daughter was tiny (it was her set that was damaged). He apologized for his toddler mistakes of the past and promised to care for the new set, gently setting them back into their box after each reading.
Since I purchased it at the behest of one of my sisters, my daughter read all of the first six Parasyte manga. This is a science fiction horror manga series, which involve parasitic aliens who take over human bodies, except one doesn’t invade the brain of its host, but instead, his hand. Great for teens and adults who enjoy horror. Caution: graphic violence and horrific scenes.
An old friend sent me the first book of Marvel’s Mockingbird, written by Chelsea Cain. It’s a mature comic, with wit and humor, unabashed feminism, and a lot for readers to enjoy. Of all my favorite graphic novel series (e.g. Saga, Y the Last Man, Fables, etc.), I don’t think any made me laugh as often and as hard as Mockingbird. Caution: violence, sex, and zombies.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
As a holiday treat, my father and step-mother took us all out to see Sing! in the theater. We adored it. Lots of popular songs, a lot of humor, and a lot of tears. How many times did they need to play “Golden Slumbers?” *sob* I needed more tissues than I brought, which was zero.
We also recently watched Kubo and the Two Strings, thanks to a friend. It proved far more beautiful and engaging than the trailers led us to believe. Poor advertising proved fatal to box office sales, but if you missed it in the theater, I recommend checking it out through DVD, streaming, or at your library when available. Toby Froud was one of the sculptors!
WHAT WE’RE EATING
Crock Pot Duck
For one of the holiday meals I made (we celebrate across three different days because of various traditions across our combined families), we didn’t have a working oven. So, I cooked a duck in our trusty crock pot!
When I asked him what he thought of the duck, he said, “I’m happy the oven isn’t working.”
It’s a super simple recipe. Slice several root vegetables (we used turnips, parsnips, carrots, and onions), and create layers on the bottom of the crock pot. Add 1 – 2 cups of water or broth. Place a cleaned duck on top. Prick the skin (not the flesh) with a fork at intervals on the body to render the fat. Add some sage and fresh ground pepper. Set the crock pot to high and cook 5-6 hours. I pulled out the duck, placed it in the broiler until the skin browned and crisped, and sliced it up. It was falling off the bone. We strained the vegetables from the broth, and reserved the liquid to chill so we can reserve the fat and use the aspic for a soup. I also made mushroom risotto in butter and sage with shiitake mushrooms. Soooo goooood.