Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Learning How to Use the Faucet


It has been a long time since we took out the sink. Now that the new sink is in, and the water is running, Paul is learning to use the new faucet with spray feature. He picked up this new skill quite quickly:




Worn out from all the excitement, Paul and Indy rest on the newly-tiled floor:

Fridge Alcove

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Gift This Year


Whoonu, a Cranium game, which is fast, fun, and perfect for 4 players of all ages. The kids have been having a blast playing the game. A round only takes about 10 minutes. The object is to figure out what things, listed on cards, a player likes best. It's simple and fun, portable (comes in a tin), and engaging--all the best attributes of a great family game.

Hey, once the kitchen is done, I think we'll toss that couch...
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Late Christmas Cookie Post

Because I have not made any yet, since the range is still not hooked up, I have been putting this post off. I'm betting by next Monday, though, it will be (the stove, that is...hooked up), so I pulled out this odd little book I found at a yard sale years ago. It's called the Christmas Stocking Book, and it was published in 1957. Inside are some obscure recipes (obscure to me, anyway) for alcoholic beverages, like a "Tom and Jerry" made with hot milk, rum and whiskey, and an egg, to be served in an 8-oz. goblet. "Farmer's Bishop" involves 6 oranges, flaming brandy, and a chafing dish. There are craft ideas, all very simple, and suggestions for involving the children, and making home made gifts. The book is, of course, out of print, and a different book by the same name comes up in searches most of the time. I am not sure this book is worth seeking out, as I only use it for one thing...

The best recipe in the book, and the reason I bring it out every year, aside from its decorative red-and-green cover, is the ginger cookie recipe:

1 1/4 cups sifted flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup soft butter
1 teaspoon grated orange rind (I never seem to have this on hand, so I omit it)

Sift together the first three ingredients. Bring molasses and butter to a boil in saucepan. Cool slightly: Add flour mixture and orange rind; mix well. Chill thoroughly. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake on a greased cookie sheet, 1/2 inch apart, 8-10 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Yields 3 dozen.

This recipe is so easy (if you have a kitchen), and requires so few ingredients, I could make it year round, but I prefer to use Christmas cutters and keep it for this season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is my Kitchen Done

And it's getting close, but work continues today, and it looks like we will still be banished from the kitchen this evening for Christmas Eve dinner. Since we traditionally order Chinese food for the evening, it won't be too bad, though it looks like paper plates and plastic cups, too!

Libby found a lovely recording for Barber's Christmas arrangements for orchestra which we will be listening to today. We will also put on a Cello Christmas, A Yorkshire Christmas, and a few others. Catch Libby at 5, 6 and 10 pm Masses around town (email me for locations). Otherwise, we'll be here, with a roaring fire and the smell of whatever-they-did-in-the-kitchen-today. And Peking Duck.

Also...I have not mailed any Christmas cards yet. I am usually late, but never this late. Here's the Christmas photo...note the Mona Lisa smiles on everyone's face. I dunno. I took 200 photos, and this was the best. Really.



Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Wrecking Ball Christmas

This is not an optical illusion, but a Christmas ball with a 36" diameter. I imagine the neighbor-in-the-tower might look out on a windy night and worry that the decoration of death is coming to strike him down. One big gust, and it's all over.


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Piles of Tiles, and a Faucet

OK. The tile is here. The faucet is in. It's almost Christmas...




Monday, December 22, 2008

What a Waste of Words

...and money is the Oxford Junior Dictionary. I am sure you've all heard that the enlightened editors have removed words that children no longer need; words like "nun" and "monk" and "christen" are no longer included. And if that particular word-ban does not bother you, try looking up "beaver" or "magpie" or even "acorn." This time of year, a curious young nipper might find "holly," but "ivy" is gone. He won't find the "almond" in his Swedish Christmas pudding, either. These words have been replaced by such modern terms as "blog" and "voicemail." In one change that borders on irony, the word "blackberry" was removed to make room for the word "Blackberry," with the updated definition: No longer is it a fruit, but a device.

None of this had to happen for me to rant against the silly thing called a "Junior Dictionary." Why not just hand a proper dictionary over to the kids when they are ready? What is a junior dictionary for, except to destroy the natural enjoyment of words? I recall tedious dictionary lessons in class using a junior dictionary, looking up a list of words, writing out the dictionary definitions. Yawn. Left to my own devices with a legitimate dictionary, I would spend hours at home reading the real thing, page after page, distraction followed by blessed distraction. So many words! Old meanings, new meanings, big words, small words, the familiar and the unfamiliar together, words with more than one meaning, all bound up in a big fat book.

And wasn't the size of the book an attraction? It seems that the one objective of the publishers of the Junior Dictionary is a consistently small size. Thus, when new words are added, "old" words are removed. Size matters, indeed, at least to the publishers.

So as children sit inside and play video games, rather than play outside or attend religious services, the dictionary is changed to reflect a brave new world. After all, if we kept words like "saint" and "sycamore" a child might become curious and wonder what he's missing.

Read more here and here.

Donnell Library Closed

H/T Lissa.

Wow. Libby and Trip have played in the very nice concert space at this library. What a shame!

"A" in Frost

Grade A frost?
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yellow Walls

Progress!





All that's left: Floor tiles, faucet, cabinets, hood and stove in place, a bit more painting, and it will be done...not quite by Christmas, but soon after.

It's So Pretty! But Be Careful Out There!

The snow is pretty, that is, except for the drive last night. I had to drop someone off at a train, and as we rounded "Dead Man's Curve" the car to my left hit the wall. He was not traveling too fast, and it was a side-on collision, away from which he was able to drive. But gosh, it was frightening! I have seen the debris left on DMC over the years, but I have never seen anyone actually hit the wall. If possible, when the weather is bad and the distance is short, I'd rather be walking.

Which reminds me of winter hiking safety, especially for those venturing out to track critters, go birding, our just hike and enjoy the scenery. Remember some helpful hints (not an exhaustive list):

Dress in layers, avoid cotton, and let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Bring water; even if there is snow around, eating snow can bring your body temperature down quite quickly. Avoid touching metal with your bare hands (binoculars, spotting scopes, dog leashes). Be aware of the signs of frostbite. Long hikes and winter camping should be approached with caution even by seasoned outdoorsmen.

Note: In this photo, my children are breaking all the rules. They are not wearing hats or gloves. Trip does not even have a jacket on, and he is wearing a cotton shirt and undershirt. I guess I can give him credit for wearing two layers. Annika's coat is flapping unbuttoned. Paul (hidden by Trip) is wearing a fleece pullover, but no hat, and with a new haircut he was loosing heat through his head like a chimney. Luckily, they are only in the front yard for the Christmas photo (200+ photos, and 4 kids can't behave long enough to let me get one good shot; oh, the faces they made!). They were probably eating snow in the next scene...

So, be prepared, but don't let required preparation put you off! A winter hike, or even a walk around a small piece of property, is a beautiful thing. Birds are easy to see, tracks are easy to find, and, well, it's just plain pretty. Fresh snow changes a muddy brown landscape into a clean white canvas. Good bird seed or suet can bring birds right to your window. Snow makes the air feel clean and smell fresh. Enjoy it safely!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stolen from Karen

A bold-faced meme...boldface the things you have done. H/T Karen E., whose shockingly-clever blog title stuns me every time I see it. ;)

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (and DisneyWorld)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (a long time ago...)
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (of the moon, from a plane)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (some of them, anyway)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (in general)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (it was the kid, but I was there)
47. Had your portrait painted (drawn, in Paris)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (the girls did; I stayed below)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (it was a documentary)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (actually, I waded as I had the camera)
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee (wasp)
100. Read an entire book in one day

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NY Times Reveiw of Axiom's Messiaen Performance!

The deft conductor Jeffrey Milarsky led the Axiom Ensemble, a flexible group of Julliard School students who have palpable enthusiasm for challenging contemporary music and the technical skills to play it...
In the Introduction to this Messiaen work, there is also simultaneity: the violins play a long searching melody, the brasses and metallic percussion instruments crackle with Indian-derived rhythmic patterns, the solo piano erupts with staggered cluster chords, and more. Yet Messiaen seems to be inviting you to turn off the part of your brain that demands to grasp what you are hearing intellectually. Instead you listen awestruck, as if hovering amid the wondrous sounds of life spinning around you. The performance, with the excellent pianist Matthew Odell, was vibrant and compelling.

Read the rest.

I was so sorry to have had to miss this performance. So little time, so many wonderful concerts...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Star Trek Pez


No, seriously. Star Trek Pez

See Her?



There, right in front of the harp...



Great concert. The mandolins were wonderful ;)

ETA: I actually attended this concert, despite the conflict of Trip's concert. Don went to Trip's and I went to Libby's. It was not a perfect compromise, but it worked. Sadly, I will miss her performance tonight after all. But I will get to see Trip tomorrow, at 2 PM, at the Ethical Humanist Soc. in Garden City. Hey it's free! C'mon by!
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Kitchen Walls

The kitchen used to look like this, but now, it looks like this:





One window is completely gone, to accommodate the range hood (big white thing in between sheet rock). The green color of the windows...yuk. I know green is in right now, and it is my favorite color, but 70's green has to go.

OK. Grey floor. Grey cabinets. Steel racks. White appliances. Lots of wall to paint. I really want to add some red. But not a whole wall. So I am thinking about this for a backsplash:


It's actually miniature (12" square, more or less) glass brick, in a "subway" pattern. I think it's quite pretty. The two middle kids are very vocal about preferring blue over red, but I don't care for blue...besides, blue and grey is sooo Civil War.

I still haven't figured out how I will arrange all the cabinets. Since I bought them (3 years ago??) I have changed my mind several times about the construction plans. Now I have one big cabinet left over and decision about where to put it will depend on how the room looks with the range in place. It may become a breakfast bar of sorts.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to a construction-free weekend, and the construction finishing next week!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Because I'm Catholic"

Sometimes, my CCD kids are so great.

Yesterday they had the double fun of confession and a test on the same day. One of the questions (it was a quick test) was to name any three Sacraments. One boy got two, and was struggling with the third, so I gave him a hint: "Why are you here today?" I asked, gesturing my head towards the confessional. He answered, without missing a beat, "Because I'm Catholic!" Good answer. He gets and A.

And he filled in the blank correctly, too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Carol Meme

I picked this up at Red Cardigan's blog (still wondering: Is it a corgi or a sweater?):

Christmas Carols:

1. Love 'em, hate 'em, tolerate 'em, or...?

2. Policy: none before Christmas, none before Thanksgiving, or...?

3. Favorite? Favorites, if you've got more than one?

4. Least favorite? Drives you batty/hate it/turn it off if it comes on the radio?

5. Caroling door to door in neighborhood? Ever done it/would do it? Wouldn't even consider it?

6. Funniest kids' rendition, if any?

7. Most inappropriate carol ever heard in a church setting (Catholic or otherwise)?

8. The one foreign language carol I know (or know best) is...?

9. Carol that perplexes you the most?

10. Carol your whole family will sing?

Here goes:

1. Love 'em.

2. Well, we have to rehearse, don't we?

3. Tomorrow Will be my Dancing Day (not the best version...I like this and Rutter/Gardner).

4. Feed The World (Band Aid) Puh-lese. Imposing Christianity on the world like that should be illegal. Also, Michael Jackson. Ugh.

5. We do it for cookies, and our village has the best cookies.

6. Definitely the ol' classic, "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells."

7. Not during Mass, but upcoming at a church concert...words changed from "Go Tell it on the Mountain" to "Let's hear it for the Youth Choir." Double puh-lese.

8. Gaudete. The fast version. With percussion, yes. Big exception to my usually anti-percussion church-music snobbery, though tympani are preferable to tambourine. This piece is a big announcement.

9. Silent Night, which in the original German, describes Jesus a a curly-haired child. Just strikes me funny.

10. Sans Day Carol (The Holly Bears a Berry), Waterson's version, in harmony (hear it on track 6 on Frost and Fire).


Try it!




Guess Who Won

...the in-house motet writing competition, over uperclassmen and composition majors. C'mon. Guess.

;)

100 Years Old Today

Happy 100th Olivier Messiaen!

An interesting discussion, with examples of Messiaen's music can be joined at New Liturgical Movement.

Hear more his music performed live this Saturday at Columbia University's Miller Theatre, or right here on You Tube (repost of Libby's senior recital finale):

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I am Officially Amused

...by this story from Fr. Longenecker at Standing on my Head:

"It seems a British astronomer has 'proved' that Jesus was born in June. You can read about it here. The exact date is June 17, 2 BC. "

That's my birthday! Also, astronomy is fun!



Monday, December 8, 2008

Animated History of Alphabets

Georgia (not ours, the other one) has a different alphabet: ქართული დამწერლობა. I had no idea. Pretty, isn't it?

When I was a child I was fascinated by the first few pages of each volume of our encyclopedia. There I could find out how our alphabet evolved and became what it is today. The "A" volume had versions of the letter "a" from earliest writing to the modern form. Hey, and each subsequent volume had the history of its letter, too! And I loved the Kipling classic, "How the Alphabet Was Made," from the Just So Stories.
So imagine my amusement when I found this website with an animation of the development of alphabets: See them in action.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Human Bagpipes--Watersons for Advent

And Christmas.

Warning: My brother Pete once quipped that the Watersons make him want to commit mass murder. Play this with care.



Perhaps the Watersons are an acquired taste; I completely enjoy them, but Don can't bear any of their music. I play my favorite Watersons CD for Advent and Christmas when he's out of the house. I like it when I am cooking. Alone. With wine, or beer. Or cider.

Space Music Falls from the Sky

Dose it get any better than this? Hear--yes, hear--the music of a meteor. Great photo of last night's fireball in CO, too.

H/T Fr. Z.

First Snow


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