Remembering Our Dads

garnerIn years past, we've shared the best advice from our dads, and offered ideas for last-minute gifts.

This year, three of us thought we'd honor Father's Day by telling our favorite stories about our dads, each of whom has passed away.


Who's Bickering?

When I was growing up in West Virginia, my family’s idea of a vacation was the once a year trip to Stamford, Connecticut to visit my mother’s mother, brothers and sister. Period. And for years after that, my brothers and I traveled more than my parents ever did.

If I remember things rightly, they had only ever flown once before when my husband and I convinced them to visit us for two weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area. Oh, the excitement: Although the flight wasn’t until noon, my father — a man who smoked six packs a day and paced constantly — insisted my mother and he leave town by 6 a.m. to reach Dulles International airport by 7:30 a.m.  

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Raising the Next Generation of Resilient Girls

We don’t go in much for parenting advice here at One Thing New, probably because we've heard too much of it (often unsolicited!) ourselves.
But last week I went to a lecture by Simone Marean, co-founder and executive director of the Girls Leadership Institute, who gave a talk on raising resilient girls to an audience of about 100 Marin County parents (mostly mothers). Marean has been teaching girls across the country how to be themselves and have messy relationships for 15 years. Along with day camps, weekend sessions and summer camps for girls, Marean also holds parent-daughter workshops.
Her advice struck me as not only unconventional but downright reasonable—a combination I wish I didn't see quite so often! In the spirit of this upcoming Mothers' Day, I thought I'd share what I learned from Marean about raising strong, resilient girls – and how I'm putting her advice into action.
When it comes to success, happiness, and the resilience of girls, Marean urges us not to believe everything we hear. While study after study shows girls get better grades and attend college in greater numbers than boys every year, they're also twice as likely to suffer anxiety and depression than boys. In 2015, despite access to expanding opportunities, increasing pressure to be everything from beautiful to brilliant to happy all the time (i.e., Amal Clooney) make it harder than ever to be a girl. When asked to describe the perfect girl, across the country girls create some version of the following list: she’s pretty, organized and busy, she get’s perfect grades and she is an athlete.
So what’s wrong with aspiring to that list? Well, it's impossible. And striving for that level of perfection is crippling. This Super Girl may look good on the outside, but Marean says that on the inside she is risk-averse, afraid to say what she thinks, shies away from conflict and is disconnected from her feelings.

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A Once-In-a-Century Pi(e) Day

This Saturday is Pi Day of the Century, an extra-special day to celebrate the irrational number that expresses the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

For math geeks, this is big.

For us, it's still pretty fun.

The first five digits of pi can also be read as the date March 14, 2015. 3.1415. If you're really smitten with pi, you can go all the way to the 10th digit by observing Pi Day at precisely 9:26:52. Whether you celebrate to the 5th or 10th digit, this moment will not roll around again until the year 3015.

There's lots of fun to be had with pi across the web. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a "Pi in the Sky" problem set, based on how NASA scientists use pi in their every day work with the Mars Rover, the Dawn and Voyager spacecrafts and other projects. San Francisco's Exploratorium, where Pi Day originated, is staging its 27th Pi Day celebration in the real world and virtually on Second Life. The New York Times has a special puzzle for its Numberplay blog that contends that two identical balls clicking together can calculate pi. The puzzle challenges readers to explain how this "Pi Machine' works. Believe it or not there's even a Pinterest page to commemorate the day with activities, t-shirt pictures and more. Plus, a bakery in Sioux City, Iowa is selling pies for $3.14 each. 

How did all this Pi Day exuberance come to be? Here's some background from our Pi Day post of last year. 


How I need a drink, alcoholic in nature, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics.

If you’ve read that sentence before, you’re a better geek than I.

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The Last Fun Thing To Do in the Snow

Valentine's Day HeartI am over winter. If you're on the East Coast, you probably are too. We're all pretty much stir-crazy. The kids don't go outside at recess, and at 15 degrees, the fun of weekend sledding and snow forts has long passed.
Last weekend, though, I found one last fun thing to do in the snow. It's easy. It's yummy. It's quick. If you have kids, it'll make you an instant hero. If you don't, well, that's more for you.
Maple toffee.
The idea is simple. Boil maple syrup, then pour thin ribbons of it onto (clean!) snow. Eat.
I guarantee the yumminess of this endeavor, even for those who, inexplicably, may not be huge fans of maple syrup. I thought the toffee would be disgustingly sweet, but the boiling gives the maple syrup a caramel flavor. You do need a candy thermometer. But basically, you can't lose.
The details:
1. Choose your pan.
It should be deeper than you think you need, because the boiling syrup bubbles up and creates a large volume of very hot foam.
Also, once the syrup is ready, you will have to carry it out into the snow, and the boiled syrup will be dangerously hot. If it splashes on anyone, it will stick, creating a bad burn. I boiled our syrup in a cast-iron tea pot. It was heck to clean, but I could put the lid on the pot and carry it outside without worrying about anyone getting burned.
2. Boil as much maple syrup as you want.
Some recipes call for half a cup, some for two cups. I'd start on the small side. In order for a candy thermometer to work properly, you generally need to immerse about an inch of the thermometer in the liquid. So you need to pour the maple syrup to a depth of at least an inch. It's nice to add a tablespoon of butter (or so) and some salt for that salted caramel flavor.
3. Boil the syrup to 235 degrees, or until it comes to the 'soft ball' stage.
This shouldn't take long – about five minutes after it comes to a boil.
4. Bring it outside.
Pour *thin* ribbons of syrup onto clean snow. I made some thicker ribbons too. That doesn't work as well. Thin is better.
Some recipes say you should pack snow or ice into a cookie sheet and use that instead. You've got to be kidding me.
5. Eat.
The syrup will cool immediately. You're supposed to roll the ribbons up onto popsicle sticks and enjoy. My kids mostly just ate it before it made it to the popsicle sticks. It's crazy good.
6. Feel proud and slightly smug that you managed to eek a bit more fun out of this ridiculous winter.

Okay. I'm done. Spring, where are you? -- KW


If you missed last week's issue, here you go:
Sharing the Love on Valentine's Day

If you liked this story, you'll also like:
Antioxidants, Granola, and Illegal Maple Syrup
Five Easy Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu
Beautiful Crafts to Welcome Spring

Photo of maple toffee courtesy of TheSeafarer via Compfight cc  

Sharing the Love on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day HeartValentine's Day is not everyone's favorite holiday. Fair enough. It’s sort of silly to think we’re all going to spontaneously feel romantic on the same day each year, whether or not there’s anyone in our lives we’d like to share that feeling with. And trying to get reservations — and a babysitter — on the same day as everyone else sounds suspiciously like mandatory fun.

But the basic idea — of dedicating a holiday to love — is pretty easy to get behind. Plus, there are plenty of ways to show you care that don’t involve overpriced ‘specials’ menus. Instead, why not make an extra effort to spread the love to friends, family members, perfect strangers, and of course, yourself? Some ideas:

For your family:

• If you feel the need for a celebratory dinner, take out the fancy dishes and the cloth napkins. Then order sushi and drink champagne. Or pizza and beer.

• Send Valentine’s cards or notes to younger family members, who will get a kick out of receiving a real live letter, addressed to them. If you have kids, help them create Valentine’s cards for older family members.

Read more: Sharing the Love on Valentine's Day

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True Love