The Raven Day

Yesterday we were at the zoo where we saw some ravens. I also happened to be wearing my raven t-shirt. As I was trying to explain to Autumn that The Raven is a famous poem I realized we should just watch a video of it when we got home.

So this morning we sat in front of You Tube for a viewing.

First up, this video, which starts with one of Poe’s Lenore poems, then leads into The Raven.

A: Is that sleeping beauty?
A: Is he mad?
A: Is she going to wake up?
A: Is she a princess?
A: Why she dead?
A: Is he going to die?
A: Why is he scared?
A: The raven didn’t say anything.
A: Is he sleeping?
A: Is he thinking?
A: What’s he thinking?
A: Is he going to die?
A: How did he die?
A: Is that sleeping beauty?

I would say Autumn was 5% scared, 95% confused, as is expected.

Then we watched this.

A: The raven didn’t kill him. He just through books on him.

The Simpsons version made a lot more sense to them.

The Point of Dancing is to Have Fun

Autumn had her last dance class on Friday. They were the Fairytale Dancers, which meant they danced to lots of Disney princess music. I recorded their performance for Clayton because he was unable to come. Hilarious. I’m so glad I caught her on video, as she danced to her own drummer. It was awesome. After all, when you’re 4 years old, the point of dancing is not to be perfect, but to have fun.

Dance Performance from Clayton Ingalls on Vimeo.

Asher Says Words

I was recently talking to my mom, who hasn’t seen Asher in over a year, and she said, “He’s not a baby anymore, he’s a kid. And I don’t feel like I know him.” I realized that I could do a better job showing the kids growing up. I did pretty well with this when we lived in Hawaii and Autumn was so young. So mom, this video is for you (and other family members and friends who like kids)

Asher in Feb and March from Clayton Ingalls on Vimeo.

The Regional Personality of Tea


Oh how we love you, Camellia

People are very particular about their tea. Don’t give a Southerner iced tea without sugar. But God help you if you add sugar to your tea in China.

Let’s start out with the basics: All tea comes from one species of plant, Camellia sinensis. But growing and processing the tea leaves under different conditions alters what the final tea will become, from White tea (the most unprocessed) to Oolang (withered in strong sun) to Lapsang souchong (a smoky tea dried over pinewood fires).

But this is only part of what I am talking about. Preparation of the tea is just as intricate and, I am discovering more and more, very regional.


Betty’s Tea House, my old stomping grounds.

Take, for example, my time living in Harrogate, England when I was 14 years old. Harrogate is home to Betty’s Tea Room, which I now realize is quite famous. My mother loved taking us there! Betty’s is owned by the same group that owns Yorkshire tea. This is true English tea: strongly brewed, with both milk and sugar. My British friends attest that this tea is the best. I took some with me when I visited a British friend in Chicago and we made a pot of tea together. He nearly wrapped himself around the cup in happiness.

In college I spent a semester abroad in Hong Kong. I tasted many green and oolong teas, but my favorite was jasmine tea. An aromatic green tea with jasmine flowers. Do not think of putting milk or sugar in this tea!

Yemeni tea time at my friend's apartment.

Yemeni tea time at my friend’s apartment.

Now I have friends from the Middle East. They drink a sweetened, spiced black tea. Yesterday I went to a friends house to hang out. She’s from Yemen. Every time I visit her she makes a pot of tea. Sometimes it has milk, sometimes it doesn’t. But it always has cardamom and sugar! I attempted to replicate it a few weeks ago and failed. I used a spice mixture from India (way too peppery, not enough cardamom), and half and half (not thick enough). It was tasty, but didn’t have the right flavor or mouth feel (boom- there’s a term you never thought to describe tea!).

I tried again today. I heated water and sweetened condensed milk (or you can use evaporated milk and some sugar) until it was just below boiling. Then I added loose tea leaves. I used Alwazah Tea because I heard it’s what you use for making Arabic tea. In reality, it’s just a Ceylon tea and I think any strong black tea would do. Next, you are supposed to add about 5 cardamom pods. I don’t have the pods so I used ground cardamom. Heat the tea for 5-7 minutes then strain. Enjoy with dates (the fruit, and maybe also the romantic experience).

Heating the water, condensed milk, tea leaves and cardamom

Heating the water, condensed milk, tea leaves and cardamom

Finished! Tasted great.

Finished! Tasted great.


The World at My Front Door

Asher tries a Bangladesh snack, Pithaa.

Asher tries a Bangladesh snack, Pithaa.

One awesome thing about living in the middle of Tempe, a college town, is that it is diverse. In just the immediate courtyard of our apartment complex we have people from Mexico, China, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Jordan, and Yemen. From the U.S. there are people from Virginia, Colorado, Louisiana, California, Arizona, and us (Nashville).

We have gotten to know most of our neighbors at some level over the last 6 months. This is a new thing for us. We tend to be rather autonomous, knowing perhaps one neighbor on a “Hi, how’s it going?” (then walk into the house) level.

Clayton, Tariq, and Ryan over the charcoal.

Clayton, Tariq, and Ryan over the charcoal.

About a month ago one of our Pakistani neighbors, Tariq, said to us, “It’s awesome to know some more people around our apartment. We should have a cook out together.” So this weekend we made it happen. We invited everyone in the apartments around our courtyard. We and Tariq got a bunch of chicken and put it on the charcoal grill, the rest was potluck style. It was a blast. So fun to have such diverse people, backgrounds, food. It made me realize that everyone wants to know their neighbors, even if we are shy about it initially. I feel safer knowing everyone around me. I love that we can walk out the door with dog biscuits for the neighbors’ dogs. I love sitting at the picnic tables only to be joined by others who saw us out their window. I love that we can walk over to so many people’s apartments and be welcomed in. I love seeing Asher and Autumn attacked with hugs and kisses by some older women.

So if you haven’t met your neighbors, do it. Take them some cookies, a pie, a six-pack, whatever. You will be glad you did.