Friday, December 11, 2009

The Lustre of Mid-day

Zoe has really gotten into Christmas in a big way -or as we say around her nanny "le fievre du Noel." I have to confess this malady has grown from seeds I planted, and I have no shame about the harvest. I love this season just about as much as when I was a kid, even understanding all the cynical arguments that it is a corrupted commercial holiday. I completely buy into the mythology of the season, not unlike the main character in "Elf," or Mr. Gailey in "Miracle on 34th Street."

So Zoe has quickly picked up on anything Christmas or -better- Santa-related. Any music of any genre that is quasi-holiday is cool with her, and any resonant male singer is Santa Claus (Bing Crosby, Harry Connick, Jr., Nat King Cole, etc.). She has even begun to ask that we turn off the music and just sing the songs together, with her gettting many of the words to Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Silent Night, The Little Drummer Boy, and even My Favorite Things.

Of course this has spilled over into her taste in books as well. Most of her holiday-themed books are unfortunately out of reach in a Minneapolis storage unit, but we do have a few, most of which are even too sugary sweet for my taste. But we all three can agree that we love Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas (known also as Twas the Night Before Christmas)". We have a large-format version illustrated by rococo-cute specialist Mary Englebreit, with lots of little candy-cane and elf details on each page, and Zoe has just flipped for it.

So a few days ago, we were reading another book at nap time, and she noticed that one of the pictures featured a snowscape in the moonlight. She excitedly exclaimed, "Daddy, the moon on the breast of the newfallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below!" Pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Time Warp

While at the Kimironko market awaiting a seamstress to finish the buttons on a new dress for Zoe (really cute, brilliant aqua and black African fabric), I see a Rwandan guy walking out of the covered market stall wearing an Eagan High School t-shirt. Seriously. The suburb I grew up in -and where my siblings graduated from- in Minnesota.

So I stopped him (with my mouth agape) and told him I'm from the place on his shirt. He was surprised to hear it was in the United States, and had never thought about the meaning of the word. Just a shirt. More strangely, while I'm speaking with him, Kenny Rogers' The Gambler is blaring loudly from a nearby stall.

I have seen many t-shirts that seem very strange given the context, and it seems that people think as little about the graphics on them as someone with Abercrombie et al probably does. My favorites are usually Minnesota connections: Randy Moss Vikings jersey, Twins T-shirts, a Gophers sweatshirt. But my favorite (until today) of all has been the guy in his 20s, wearing a pink "ringer" type shirt with pink trim and a colorful 70s-style glittery "Material Girl".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tis the Season...

For baking?

I've noticed a pattern recently in my life: I seem to be baking a lot. Normally, I consider myself a pretty good cook, and like to get a little creative in the kitchen. But I don't think much of my skills as a baker. But then I found a recipe on the Cook's Illustrated podcast and website for a nearly no-knead artisanal bread. I've made it two times a week (or more) for almost a month now.

Then, we were asked to bring an apple pie to Thanksgiving. I've never made a pie before; always been a little intimidated by the crust. But I hit it out of the park (luckily), and we really enjoyed it. Thanks to Andrea's mom for inspiration and recipe.

Then we realized we had bought too much bread for the stuffing, and I solved it by making a banana-rum bread pudding (again the first of this category), and it was really good! Next we made Christmas (sugar) cookies as a family. This is a real consistent pattern of good bakery stuff. We're talking real trouble for the waistlines, and the holiday season isn't even all the way here. I'd better step up my running and biking for this last week in Kigali.

On a related note, I should announce that Zoe and I fly out of here on Sunday the 13th, arriving in the Twin Cities the following day. Then Andrea arrives four days later. We hope to go to New Orleans as a family on or around the 1st of the new year, for about 5 days. Then we all fly back to Africa, leaving on the 10th of January, and arriving the 12th.