Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Trip slides down the entire length of the railing outside Alice Tully Hall. A bit faster, and he might have gone through the plate glass facade.
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Standing By

We were waiting in the standby line for tickets to Libby's concert, but the boys grew tired of waiting, and decided to take a tour of the Lincoln Center construction site. Annika and I stayed in line, and were given tickets by a nice lady who took pity on us. The boys returned, and we left them in the line...they soon were given tickets, and though we sat in different sections, we all enjoyed the concert. I think Annika and I had the better view. But the boys did get to see the progress...Lincoln Center is changing.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Audio Books

Just in time for the Christmas giving season. I can't tell you how much I love my Audible subscription. So, if you want to try if for yourself, here's an offer: Audible Starter Kit: Get 3 Audiobooks, Plus a Free Phillips Spark 2GB MP3 Player. Go for it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thinking (out loud) About Picture Books

After reading this article in the New Yorker, I redoubled my efforts to sort out the best picture books in the house. And with a film version of a favorite in the theaters now, a thought came to me...which picture books on our shelves would also make fine films? Then, as I was considering this, the era of the film strip came flooding back to me...remember film strips? I recall that many of the books I loved as a child were shown to us via film strips in elementary school. It was complex technology. It required both a film strip projector and a record player, though I understand that later in the 70s cassette tapes were used.

A favorite first viewed via film strip is Millions of Cats. When I read this to my children, who were, it is now hard to believe, once very young, I realized that I was using the narrator's voice from the film strip! (For a bit of a reminisce, head to this site, where a blogger rediscovers the film strip in a library!) I wish the audio file were available somewhere. If anyone knows where it might be found, please let me know.

So, I'm starting to think of other books that might make good film strips. Some, having been featured on Reading Rainbow, have already received the page by page public read-through treatment. Some could use an update. Here's a list of the folks I think ought to be film strip readers, with apologies to audio book voice-over artists everywhere. This is a fantasy list, so some of the readers might have to make posthumous recordings. ;)

Millions of Cats read by Eartha Kitt
The Five Chinese Brothers read by David Carradine
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed read by Joshua Bell
Harry the Dirty Dog read by Clint Eastwood (so, that did not require much thought)
Pagoo read by Steven Jay Gould
Strega Nona read by Olympia Dukakis
Stella Luna read by Adam West
Curious George Takes a Job read by Steven R. Schirripa
The Story About Ping read by Larry the Duck
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel read by Mel Gibson

Any other suggestions?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sort of Sorting the Shelves: Picture Books

Yes, with 4 teenagers in the house, I still have picture books on the shelves usually for one of three reasons. Sometimes, a picture book best says what has to be said. Sometimes, I had meant to get rid of a really twaddly book, but simply never got around to it. Sometimes, the books are well-worn and well-loved editions I wish to share with my grandchildren someday. Today, I found a few books in each of these categories, and some are worth mentioning.

A Prairie Boy's Winter is a book of play and nature and an activity or two that parents would never let their children indulge in today. These are tales I like best...for instance, when snow drifts are deep, we are always told to keep away--you might become trapped and die. In this book, the boys dig deep, jump in, and explore the snow drift as tall as trees. They make elbow-shaped tunnels, in through the top,and out the side. They dig in with shovels, and jump in with both feet. What fun.

My Season with the Penguins takes us on a scientific research journey through the Antarctic home of some penguins via the journal of a naturalist who watches penguins. The watercolor illustrations are the perfect example of a lovely nature notebook. Just be aware that the author covers the nice and not-so-nice aspects of penguin life (and death) in the wild.

Grub the Bush Baby is a photo essay following the toddler-hood of Jane Goodall's son, nicknamed "Grub". In a way, this is a tragic story, as it seems as if those magical years were the best of his life. When he reached school age, Grub was sent off, away from his parents, to boarding school. Just so you know, Grub is frequently seen running about in his birthday suit in the book.

There are others, too, perhaps familiar to many of us: One Small Square books, Holling C. Holling's books, and a wonderful illustrated version of the Just So Stories. And many more, of course. Keepers, all.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Removing Mirrors

This diningroom project, a follow-up to the kitchen project, is getting more detailed than I expected. I was just going to paint, move furniture, improve window treatments, and give the floor a quick refinish. T decided to remove the three 8 foot tall wall mirrors that covered one wall. Underneath is some truly dreadful depression-era wall paper, and a window! Of course, we knew the window was can see it from the outside of the house, but we did not realize that it would need molding and a windowsill to make it really work. So, instead of simply painting and moving on, I have to measure and figure out how to do something new.

I shall probably paint over the wall paper, as it is very thin and seems to be pasted right onto the plaster. Removing it would be difficult.

The real issue is the big mirrors. T has them leaning slightly against one of the (many) tall bookshelves that I emptied in order to sort through the I cannot move the mirrors (too heavy) and I am not sure where to put them. T is going to offer them on Craig's List. Fine. Just get them out of here. The books are on a bench waiting to be sorted and replaced into some logical order.

More thoughts on book-sorting later.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Church Music, or Not

I have been following the Choir Notes from Erin Manning's blog, and putting off my own post about church music. I'd like to write a post like this one, comparing hymns for the quality of music and appropriateness of the lyrics, but, alas, there are so many other issues in the way that any music is welcome. Almost. Our parish has several big problems:

1. Our organist (God bless him) is just an amateur, and needs some real guidance in choosing music. Unfortunately, our parish priests are usually from Poland, and do not really "get" the essence of the music. We try, but when we are not around, he reverts to whatever he is capable of playing (not much).
2. Our organist does not play very well. Not much we can do about it. Our parish is small, poor, and he needs the money.
3. No one in our parish sings, even in the congregation. There are, of course, a few exceptions. When Libby was in high school, she taught the children's choir, but with college and commuting and all, she simply no longer has time. The choir has dissolved without her.
4. (This is a big one) The gentleman who does the readings at one of the Masses sings into the microphone and he CANNOT carry a tune. He apparently does not know this. It is so bad that a visiting priest began to laugh during the offertory one Sunday. Everyone always stares in stunned silence, and those who do sing seem to let their mouths hang open, and the notes fade and drift away into the air. The altar servers (who are often my sons) turn and stare, or, after I suggested this was bad form, shift from foot to foot uncomfortably.

1, 2, and 3 cannot be fixed at the moment. But we are desperate to solve problem #4, without hurting the gentleman's feelings, of course. Ideas welcome.

The Garden in Autumn

The big pumpkin gets bigger every day.

I love the pattern of cracking on the stem of this pumpkin.

The pushbroom seems to be making itself useful.
At least, I think it's the pushbroom.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

As Autumn Approaches

Just thought I'd plug my Autumn page, with resources and ideas for making your fall homeschooling days lovely. Well, that's the goal, anyway!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Turnip Soup

Adjust to taste. I just faked it, but here's a basic outline:

6 small turnips (bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball)
4 cups chicken stock (more or less...)
1 small onion
1 teaspoon Pampered Chef's Cinnamon Plus (cin, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, orange peel)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup vermouth or white wine
1/2 cup light cream or half and half
1 medium potato, diced and cooked (I do this separately, but I guess you could do it with the turnips)
1 cup diced chicken (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut turnips, and boil in water until tender. Add chicken stock and cinnamon mixture. Simmer until stock just covers turnips. Meanwhile, chop and cook onion (saute in butter). Add to turnips/stock when they are reduced. Add potato. Add cream and vermouth, and salt (if broth is salty; taste first). Cook another few minutes, and remove from heat. Let cool a bit, and use a blender to puree the soup. Add chicken if you like (we like!), and garnish with a bit of cinnamon and cracked pepper. Serve hot. About 4 servings.

Please feel free to add any adjustments in the comments. I hope this is an accurate recollection of the procedure! Good luck.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

MacBeth and Julia

...or, "no one ever had to know what goes on in the kitchen."

So, I'm making baguettes, and I have a brick in the oven hot and ready for that all important burst of steam that makes a baguette have the best crust on the planet (including the planet), when I open the oven while holding my bowl of cold water ready to receive the brick, and spill it masterfully on the oven door...making a marvelous puff of steam. I closed the oven quickly to preserve the steam.

Perfect baguettes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Pumpkin is Taking Over

We planted "giant" pumpkins just to see what we'd get. After a cold wet sunless spring, the pumpkins were slow. Now they seem to have taken off.

Female pumpkin flower, with guests--beetle and bee!

Our biggest pumpkin, upon which all our hopes lie.

A bit of perspective.

Yes. The two pumpkin plants took over the entire yard. We could practically see them grow.

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Jumpin' Jerusalem Artichokes!

With bees.

A bee from behind

The big picture--What a crop!

Collecting pollen

Caught this fine bee just as it flew off the flower. You can see the pollen it's carrying:

Jerusalem artichokes are a native plant, with flowers for the bees, and tubers for us. Grow some!
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Friday, August 21, 2009

My Novel Life, courtesy of Red Cardigan. Thanks, Erin...what fun. This'll be fun for the kids, too as a launch point for a writing/discussion seminar.

My Novel Life

1. If my life were fiction it would be set underwater city with a marine research center.

2. Right now I would be wearing...a jumpsuit made from a bio-mimetic fabric that dries quickly.

3. The biggest crisis I would be facing would be...discovering that jellyfish have complex brains that we just never detected, and they want revenge (we are not sure why...!).

4. My biggest joy would come allergen-free atmosphere, a constant ambient temperature, and regulated humidity.

5. The most frustrating daily challenge would be...making sure the kids pick their equipment up off their bedroom floors.

6. Looking out my window, I would see...squid. Giant squid.

7. The other characters in the story would be...3 geeky scientists, a quirky literature professor, monks in the St. Brendan's-Under-the-Sea Monastery, 2 humorously competitive graduate students, and a full orchestra. The acoustics at St. BUTS are perfect.

8. An essential element of a happy ending would be...My kids growing up and deciding to raise their kids right here in Sea-town.

See how Lindsay answered, too!

Tonight's Rainbow

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

All Things Considered--The C. S. Lewis Seminar

Last Saturday I was blessed to be able to attend a seminar presented by the NY C. S. Lewis Society. I have known of the society for several years, but have never been able to attend the meetings, or any other events sponsored by the group. But things came together this weekend, and not only did I have Saturday free, but the seminar was only two miles away. I would not miss this one!

The website said that walk-ins were welcome on Saturday, so walk in I did, and I was graciously welcomed. The folks in the society are delightful. The morning began with a choice of several open fora...those in the room were all active in the discussion. It was difficult to choose which of the fora to attend. In the end, I chose a packed room with a lively discussion of The Screwtape Letters, and another group session on the Space Trilogy. Just being in a room full of folks who had read and enjoyed the Space Trilogy was electrifying. I laughed (and so did everyone) when I told the group I had attempted a reading of Out of the Silent Planet right after I had finished the Chronicles of Narnia--when I was 8 years old. No, I did not get far; but I do recall that the first sentence stuck with me--The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket..., so that when I picked up the long-forgotten books again at 22, I melted into the first sentence, and immersed myself into yet another world from Lewis' imagination. I have reread them several times, and have the set via Audible...the kids claim these are the creepiest books we have ever enjoyed together. And we have enjoyed them!

One of the participants in the Screwtape discussion described a lesson he does with students after they have read the book (or a bit of it, as he readily admits): Have the students each write a letter as Screwtape...what advice would a devil give his modern "patient?" Again, thinking back on my eight-year-old self, I also recalled asking my father if he had ever heard of C. S. Lewis. "Oh, yes," replied my father, "He wrote The Screwtape Letters." I wondered out loud what that could be about. "It's a set of letters from one fiend to another," my father explained. Well, that surely did not appeal to a second grader. Nor would the college-level assignment. But it would appeal to my older students now.

I attended two other sessions before the main talk in the evening. The first was on The Abolition of Man, with Dr. Christopher Mitchell, Wade Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College (IL). Dr. Mitchell spoke about the work of many Lewis scholars with whom I am not familiar, so I have some reading to do! The other session was on illustrations for the book At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. I found this particularly engaging, as several weeks ago I gave a talk on nature imagery in children's literature, and cited that very work...but my edition is unillustrated! The speaker, Robert Trexler, had a Powerpoint presentation of the history and social circles of the illustrators, starting with Arthur Hughes and the pre-Raphaelites, and continuing through illustrations from various editions. I shall certainly endeavor to find some older editions just for the sake of the art.

The last speaker, Prof. Pearce, writer-in-residence at Ave Maria University, was a delight. Trip took a summer class with him last year and "liked" it (high praise from out-of-the-silent-teen), but he did not tell us what a charming and fun speaker Prof. Pearce is. His topic, "Narnia and Middle-Earth: When Two Worlds Collude," included some familiar tales of the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien, but he told them is such an engaging way as to make them seem more real.

One more note on Pearce: He told us of some personal--er--matters in his past, and credited Lewis with turning him around (I think that's what he was saying). I have also said that Lewis kept me Catholic. That's the kind of influence Lewis has had on people.

Did I mention that I bought books? I purchased Narnia and Beyond, Remembering C. S. Lewis, and a third book which I seem to have misplaced and the title of which I cannot recall at the moment. Some would say, "too many books!" Ha! And I picked up an issue of Touchstone and the St. Austin Review, both wonderful periodicals.

(Clicking "Publish" though I know there are typos...I'll correct them soon!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Remembering Ryan--Prayers for His Family

Ryan Barrett died in a drowning accident on Thursday evening. Please join us in praying for Ryan and his family.

We remember Ryan for his sweet personality, his love of music, and his gentle faith. He was a good friend to my children, and a delight to have in our homeschooling circle of families. We will miss him.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Messing Around...

Annika (left) and Paul (right) sailing with friends on Conscience Bay. Sailing out, far from shore, and jumping into the bay cooled them off on the first really hot day we have had all summer.
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Friday, July 31, 2009

More from the "Garden"

I planted 50 sunflowers, and got 1. Birds!

The Jerusalem artichokes are flowers yet, though.

The giant pumpkin is absurd. Can't mow.

And in the end, I had better get more pumpkin than this pitiful little thing.

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First Tomato...

And the Dog who would like very much to eat it.
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Books From the FCL Conference Talk

Oh, catching up with life, as usual.

I had a few requests (well, one, actually) for a list of the books I mentioned during my talk at Michele's lovely conference last weekend (I understand the CDs are available here, or will be soon). So, here's a quick list with links to Amazon included:

The Passionate Observer
Fabre's Insects
The Wouldbegoods
The Hobbit
How The Heather Looks
Real Learning (link is to Hillside, where this book is in stock!)
At The Back of the North Wind

Also of interest to those looking to hunt down the outdoor settings of favorite books:
Storybook Travels
Heidi's Alp

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Images of Greece

Here's my mom (in blue) with some of the folks on the tour:

Here's an amphitheater:

Here's the Ensemble playing in an open air venue in Athens:

Here's an impression of the Acropolis from the hotel. Blurry, but you get the idea :

Seems they are having a great time. One of the group actually just graduated from Trip's high school. Trip had no idea that he was coming, or that his younger brother was one of the members of the ensemble. I am glad there is such a nice group of teen boys on the tour!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Tripiad: A Greek Epic

So Trip is finally in Greece. Here's how he got there at all, considering they would not let him on the plane with his group the night he was supposed to depart.

The passport he carried--a valid US passport--was to expire in August; he is returning in early July, a full five weeks before the passport was up. But that was not good enough for American Airlines. They insisted that Greek immigration would return him on the next available flight...and maybe detain him in an unpleasant place until a flight was available. I know it's Greece, but visions of Turkish prisons danced in my head. So off went the group, and my mother who was traveling with Trip, sans Trip.

This was last Friday night. Of course, the passport agency was not open until Monday morning. Meanwhile, AA reaccomodated his flight for Sunday. What were they thinking? We tried to fix the flight over the phone, but a 51 minute phone call proved that we had to go back to JFK and fix the ticket in person. Don decided to do that at 3am on Sunday morning, since he figured there would be no line. Ha! But they did get the ticket fixed. Now, armed with a ticket for Monday night, we tried to get an appointment at the passport office down on Hudson St. Ha! No appointments available until July 9. That is the day he was supposed to leave Greece.

Surely, we thought, other people must have similar issues...what do they do? We decided we had nothing to lose but some sleep (and who could sleep anyway?), so Monday morning we got in a short line outside the passport office at 6:30, an hour before it opened. We were maybe 5th or 6th in line. IT was 66 degrees, the sun was shining, there was a cool breeze, and--get this--we got a free parking space in front of a school a block away. It was free because it was reserved for Board of Ed. members on school days. A quick check of the NY Dept. of Ed. website via our Google phone revealed that school was officially out, and parking was ours for the taking. That never happens in NYC; we figured it was a good sign.

At 7:30, they called people with appointments. The line, now stretching well past us and around the corner, provided only a handful of lucky appointment holders. The rest of us were on standby. We were promptly admitted, pushed through security, metal detectors, and information lines, and given the number 15. We were relieved. Now, as we told our sad story to the information clerk, the guy behind us asked, "Oh, Greece? American Airlines? Us too!" Hmm. So we were not alone.

Surprisingly, the passport office is much like Disney world. It is full of children waiting in line, and everyone is in a pretty good mood. I imagine that it gets rather grim towards closing time, but in the early morn, everyone is friendly and cheery. We met a couple on their honeymoon who had their passports stolen. I hope they made it to Barbados! We met the other couple heading for Greece, and a woman who was left behind, as we were, when her group went to the Bahamas without her. There was a 10 year old going to the DR for the first time with her parents. She was so excited! The woman who was handing out the finished passports even made a joke of not calling people up to the window, and everyone laughed.

We were processed in less than an hour, and had the passport in our hands by 11:30. No appointment. I am so glad we risked it!

Now his flight had a significant layover in London. Trip likes to explore, but we thought that it might be a bad idea for him to be off by himself in London--a city he has not visited since he was 4--for 9 hours. Luckily, Heathrow has Yotels. A Yotel is a mini hotel room with Internet, TV, shower, and room service, inside the airport. The rooms resemble berths on Star Trek. Trip made several videos from the room. Don't know if this link (update: link did not work) to his video will work, but try it!

So, three days late, Trip arrived in Athens and was delivered to his hotel. Today, the sleep-skewed boy, who missed all the rehearsals so far, has to practice, rehearse with orchestra, and play a concert. And he missed his side trip to the Parthenon. At least he gets to perform at all the concerts, especially the one in Sparta, to which he was most looking forward.

The good thing is that he had to do all this traveling by himself, and he managed quite well. Trip likes to do things by himself, especially if it involves travel or complex situations. An excursion to Greece is a bit of an extreme case, but he had no problems. The group, on the other hand, had a terrible flight, which left late, and missed the connection. they were divided up and sent to Athens on two different flights. It took 28 hours for them to get to Athens. In a way, Trip's trip was better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

German School Graduation

This time, it was Annika's turn. I was so happy as I looked forward to taking a photo of her getting her diploma with my new lens. Sadly, Trip "borrowed" my camera, and removed the photos, so Annika will get a private photo shoot tomorrow outside, if the rain holds off--ha!

The class "speakers" put together a set of descriptions of each of their classmates, in German, of course! Of Annika, they said, "You know so much about the world, and we are all jealous that you have never been to school. We hope we did not give you a bad impression of school with our crazy class!"

Phots tomorrow.

Congrats, Annika darling!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dove's Eye

MacBeth has been using her new zoom lens. Cool, eh?
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Jerusalem Artichokes and Juvenile Birds

Which have nothing in common, except they are both in my back yard:

Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes, but a tuber with a sunflower top (not in bloom yet). These native North American plants are delicious, and may be eaten by diabetics as a potato substitute.

Juvenile robin in the mulberry tree. This is turning out to be a disastrous year for mulberries. The rain and wind are stripping the tree of fruit before it has a chance to ripen.

This juvenile dove does not seem to mind, as it pecks around for bits of fruit. It was so tame I had to scare it away before the dogs came out to see what was going on in the yard.

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The New Doctor?

Nah. It's just T.
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