Lydster: Chocolate mousse


chocolate mousseOn Election Day, my daughter was babysitting for much of the day. She texted me and said that she wanted to make chocolate mousse that evening for a contest the next day. It could help improve her French grade. Could I pick up some ingredients at the store before she got back?

What did she need? The recipe she found, which she wanted to double, required:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter – we have some, but maybe not enough
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, best quality – need
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated – have
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar – ?
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar – have
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold – need
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract – thought we had, but can’t find
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold – need
2 teaspoons sugar – have
Chocolate shavings – need

Potassium Bitartrate?

What the heck is cream of tartar? I discovered one can substitute one teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar for a 1/2 teaspoon of whatever it is. We had lemon juice. I wrote, “I didn’t want to buy the cream of tartar, which we would seldom use.”

She wrote back: “You sound like a nerd. ‘Seldom’ – c’mon, mate.” While I think it’s a fine word, her peers would say, “we won’t use it much.” I think that’s too wordy. She says that we nerds have “expectations of themselves that are too high.” Not the worst curse, especially for someone she says is cool, “for a boomer.”

Most of the work she did herself. She asked for help separating the eggs, yet her ultimate solution was far more efficient than my manual method. Emptying a water bottle, she squeezed it, creating a vacuum that sucked up the yolks.

The chocolate mousse turned out to be quite tasty, according to both of her parents. Because she had even MORE homework to do on a supposed day off from school, her father ended doing a lot of dishes the next day. He’s better at that task than cooking anyway.

late summer 2007
late summer 2007

Lydster: not-absent resolution

my tale of woe

absent.truancy vs chronic absenceEarly in December, my daughter and some of her classmates were required to attend a workshop to determine what classes she could take for the next school year. She came home excited. Because she’s met so many requirements, she’ll be able to take more electives next year.

While she’s explaining this to her mother, I’m getting an automated telephone message from the high school saying that she was marked absent from school for periods three and four. Why, yes, she was absent from physics that day, for an authorized school activity. She was present for the physics lab during period four and handed in homework.

I call the school the next day. The phone menu says that I have to contact the office of the academy my daughter is assigned to. There are four academies in the school. But the Discovery office says that they can’t fix it because they only deal with actual absences. The teacher can fix this.

I call the teacher’s office. She’s out for the day. The substitute has a child in the school, so she knows that my tale of woe is true. She recommended talking with the guidance counselor.

A few hours later, the guidance counselor calls me back. She can verify that my daughter was at the authorized event for period three. She would write the teacher to correct the record for period four.


This is hardly the first time I’ve gone through this rigamarole. Nor am I the only one experiencing it. The mother of a freshman was baffled when she experienced a similar situation.

It appears that the school is better at tracking when a student is away for the whole day. My daughter went on a school trip to Montreal in the spring of 2019, but we got no robocalls. The problem seems to be tied to those in-school events of limited duration.

This may seem to be a small thing, but it happens frequently enough to become an annoyance. I don’t want to have to make two or three calls every time this happens.

Lydster: here comes the knight

one could

mountney-coat-of-arms-mountney-family-crest-7The tricky thing about redoing the family tree is to be representational. On one hand, I have this whole new biological tribe to represent. On the other, I don’t want to ignore the import of my non-biological grandfather McKinley Green.

As it turns out, has a mechanism by which one could change McKinley Green from grandparent to step-grandparent. Then one could add Raymond Cone as biological grandfather. And by “one could,” I mean my daughter could. Even when I read the instructions, nada. She did it in a couple of minutes.

Then she became a bit obsessed. Once you add a name on an Ancestry tree, it suggests Hints. Some verify what I already knew. Others are frustratingly unclear. Two different names of people with similar names but different dates, e.g. Was that guy a bigamist with wives with the same first name? That sort of thing.

But some Hints, usually coming from Census or other family trees, seem credible. And as she went further and further back on one strand of the Cone tree, the more people from England she found. And there were other Ancestry folks who were keeping track of them.

Ye Jolly Olde

William Garret “Garrard” Sir, Knight of Derby, Brickmason, Immigrated to Jamestown-1607(First ships)
B:1583 Derby, Leicestershire, England
D:1640 St Botolph Bishopsgate, London, England
That’s eleven generations back. And through his wife’s line, she got back to:

Thomas Mounsey V
Birth 31 JAN • Mountney Plain, Norfolk, England
Death 1573 • Mountney Plain, Norfolk, England
14th great-grandfather
I’m actually thinking it’s Thomas Mountney V from some hints – crests and, more importantly the geography – which suggests investigating even further. I’ll have to double check some of these, but wow.

My daughter worked on this for at least three hours straight. This in lieu of doing homework, I later discovered. The trick is that the more names you accept, the more Hints you’re provided. I had over 300 Hints when she started, and now there are over 600. It’s rather like an infectious disease.

And all of this on this brand new genealogical strand that I didn’t know about until extremely recently.

Lydster: talking to strangers


talking to strangersTalking to strangers when we happen to connect in some way is something I tend to pursue. My daughter HATES that.

It might be me speaking to the mother of a cranky baby on a bus. Or worse, talking to the baby. Because I’m willing to play peekaboo or make faces to infants, I have about an 80% success rate in getting wailing babies to stop, if only out of their curiosity. I’m actually better with them than I was with my once-baby, now-teenager.

We went to see Bernie Sanders in Albany in April 2016, in a line going around the block. I started talking to the couple behind us about the weather, which was threatening. My daughter was mortified at first. But as we ended up spending over an hour and a half in the line, she seemed to appreciate the efficacy of conversation.


There was a report that was reported widely. Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger.

“The mood boost of talking to strangers may seem fleeting, but the research on well-being, scientists say, suggests that a happy life is made up of a high frequency of positive events. Even small positive experiences — chatting with a stranger in an elevator — can make a difference.”

Sometimes the conversation with the bank teller or sales clerk can be informative and/or fun. My daughter finds these interactions particularly cringeworthy, which, I always assumed, was the whole point of parenting.

Moreover, Malcolm Gladwell wrote Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About People We Don’t Know. It’s considered a “fascinating study of why we misread those we don’t know.” It is, in other words, the act is a social good.

Interestingly, my daughter has finally started recognizing the value of dialogue with people she doesn’t know. They’re not necessarily total strangers. It might be a kid she saw in middle school but never talked to. Now that they’re both in high school, she might take the initiative just to say hello.

Could the father be…RIGHT?

Lydster: homework is unrelenting

“It teaches time management skills.”

homeworkMy daughter was sick the second Thursday and Friday of the school year back in September. She really was ill, with her temperature spiking over 100F, always in the evening, before we took her to the urgent care place and got her antibiotics.

Obviously, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve been in high school. But I don’t remember the homework being so unrelenting. And being ill is no excuse these days.

Her school district had embraced an “Attendance matters” initiative, “All day. Every day.” And if you’re not there – a high fever is reason enough IN THE DISTRICT’S RULES to keep the child home – the homework doesn’t go away.

It’s very easy to fall behind. My daughter has caught up, but it took over a week. It often involved staying up later than I would have wanted for her. I have been told that even second graders are getting homework, and are responsible for it, whether or not the child is present.

If you Google value of homework pros and cons, you’ll find some pros:

“It encourages the discipline of practice.” Maybe. “It gets parents involved with a child’s life.” That IS true. Since at least her third-grade class, I’ve been the parent who helped try to explain Common Core math, even when I was mystified by it. I look forward to school breaks and vacations as much as, or possibly more than, my daughter.

“It teaches time management skills.” Theoretically, but not necessarily, in this case. “Homework creates a communication network.” Not applicable. “It allows for a comfortable place to study.” I have NO idea how she studies with the television on.

“It provides more time to complete the learning process.” Sometimes the stuff that seemed to have made sense in the classroom actually becomes fuzzy by the time she gets home.

“It reduces screen time.” Well, THAT isn’t true. Much of her homework REQUIRES screen time to complete. The weekly AP European history quiz is online. The English papers are submitted electronically. An ad she did with some classmates REQUIRED her phone. Some research requires doing searches.

My daughter doesn’t love the homework. Her father isn’t a fan, either.