Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Old Rock and Roller, and I like it

I am a rockband convert. For a year or so I heard about Guitar Hero and shook my head. Who in their right mind wants to play an air guitar, plastic or otherwise and get scored? Me. Last night I played a guitar with a drummer and a singer. fun fun fun

This morning I announced that I'll be having tea with honey to improve the vocals. After all being New Years Eve we will be in need of some entertainment. The feedback was it will take more than that to improve my scores. Still I'm willing to try -- Old Rock'n Roller in the house.

One question though -- Who is Nirvana?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just a picture today

It's the mad dash to clear the chip for the next round of visiting. No time to write, but ample time for making more Maple Granola.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Busy Busy

It's been a busy day full of cooking, church work, folding laundry, cleaning, and visiting family. Though I love cooking, it's the visiting family I love best. We are due for another round of visitors over the next few days. All good.

I've started checking the daily temperatures. Not so much looking for the time to tap the trees, but wondering when or if winter will get cold enough to usher in a proper sugaring season. The week the girls return to school and life returns to normal, I'll spend a few quiet days out in the shack counting taps, checking buckets and lids, setting up the burner, fans and lights. The season should be 8 weeks away, but in these past few years I've tapped as early as Valentine's Day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ever have one of those days?

Did you ever have one of those days that on paper look like hell twisted up tornado style? Well, that was my today. This morning I woke up with a headache after dreaming about failing at the day's to do list. I was a failure even before my feet had a chance to cool against the floor. But there was no turning back -- the day had to march on.

Eight AM Mass followed by a World Youth Day parish presentation. It went great. My alter server did a fine job. Followed by the youth doing a wonderful job explaining their experiences and thanking parishioners. Next was lunch at the new American Girl store in "Boston" read Natick here. The young company was lively, and fun. The service was nothing to write home about. The girls didn't seem to mind. In my mind, we did it. We need not do it again, as the online sales are far better than what you find instore. Next was five PM Mass (my littlest one wanted to come again, so she did) with its presentation. After unsolving technical difficulties the youth presented off the cuff and did another great job. And finally a quick 80 mile roundtrip to my bro's and back to drop off for a sleepover.

Driving home, singing along to the music, I mulled over the day. It was wonderful to see the WYD pilgrims. Some I hadn't seen in months. It was great to listen to their enthusiasm and hear again what was special to them. It was great to see the little girls excited about being at the American Girl store and have a pleasant lunch. It was great weather for a night time drive. And it was great to see the bro and jewel and have a few laughs over a cup or two of coffee.

Here's hoping I have many more of one of these days.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Have New Cookbook

will cook...

My sister gave me a new maple syrup cookbook from Maine. I haven't been blogging because I have been cooking, concocting and planning. So far it has been Maple Granola to die for, Kahlua that will knock your maple coffee loving socks off, and maple brittle for loosening those tough to reach fillings. Next will be another batch of maple mead. These last few days we are enjoying the last batch that was fermented back in May. It is so tasty with egg nog. (Shhhh .... don't tell Auntie Paula about the Kahlua... )

Each of these recipes takes two cups or more of that golden goodness. I am going through our maple stash faster than "green corn goes through the new maid." But the season will be here in 8 to 10 weeks. I can hardly wait.

Kar -- thanks for the cookbook. It's a total winner.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Steeple

Last summer our church steeple was taken down for repairs. Today it was replaced. What a nice present for the community.

Poetry is Yoga for the Soul

I happened upon a book of Lowell's Poems, James Russell Lowell, that is, and when I took the time to read a few of his pieces I was struck by his use of words, and how quiet I felt while indulging in a reading moment. Poetry is yoga for the soul. For you can't read poetry in a rush. Each word has a purpose, is a place holder for emotion. While immersed in verse, the dishes dispersed... (sorry about that) and life's demands got pushed far awide as my mind slowly stretched to visualize Lowell's intended journey.

Christmas is coming... the goose is getting fat.

No goose here, just me. Being home sick with a wide assortment of homemade, not by me, Christmas cookies is a sparkpeoples nightmare. But the holiday and the end of the cookie supply are both within sight. Thank God.

I am so looking forward to Christmas Eve. The two little ones are participating in the Mass. For a few hours their focus will be off of Santa, and his pipeline to the American Girl store.

Yesterday was the first day I breathed more than I coughed. Finally, I got some Christmas shopping and cooking completed. For shopping, I have never spent as much as I did yesterday at the grocery store: NEVER. It was staggering. And for the cooking, my stove top looked like an advertisement for Le Crueset. Every burner going, even the stove. Recipes laid out at their specific station, surrounded by ingredients to be added next. The compost bowl overflowing as I eyed the 15 inches of snow that blanket the backyard between me and the bins. Why did we move them so far from the house? I even contemplated tossing the veggie waste into the trash. But all those wonderful egg shells and coffee grounds are so good for the garden... I'll truck them out later this morning.

Today is more food prep and dare I say, more shopping, in addition to wrapping and more cooking. The fruit for the Christmas pudding has been bathing in rum this night... And I dreamed about homemade crackers. But somewhere tucked in amongst the wanna dos and the gotta dos, I might just head out for some skiing. Santa and REI brought an early Christmas present: new skis to replace my beloved broken old ones. They were on sale. Maybe I'll ski down to the compost bins.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Too sick to write

But if I weren't I'd write about:

My annual love affair with my winter boots
The first big snow of the season
Today's Christmas play
Reading poetry
Cranberry hot pepper fudge

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Christmas Plate

The air is crisp.
The radio rings forth
with songs dishing out holiday cheer.
The kids are buzzing with wishful excitement.
Santa or not, they're ready...
The weather is turning for the worse,
ice melt awaits in the garage.
All will be okay.
The play will go on.
The Child will be born.
Three very hip wisemen will lead the rejoicing.

The pending storm is an invitation to slow down, enjoy family and friends.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Converging

According to merriamwebster.com converging is:
a intransitive verb: to tend or move toward one point or one another : come together : meet converging paths
2: to come together and unite in a common interest or focus
3: to approach a limit as the number of terms increases without limit

For me, it is Friday into Saturday. Within a 24 hour period there is a Girl Scout meeting, a dress rehearsal, 14 pizzas and a sheet cake to be picked up and delivered, and a play -- all candy-coated with a winter storm. One report says only an inch or two of snow. Others say we'll be hit with upwards of 8.

As I tell my oldest, worry won't solve a thing, but saying a prayer can move a mountain. I'm opting for prayer. And not for me, but for those kids who have been practicing night after night and those Girl Scouts who are so diligently working on their Bronze Award. So. please, if it must snow -- just an inch or two... or more on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Coughing as a weight lose strategy

For weeks my weight has stood rock solid ten pounds above goal. No amount of walking, swimming, controlling portions has moved the scale up or down. Resolved not to worry about this, I changed my tune to not gaining weight over the holidays. I am actually counting the days until January 2nd when life and diet strain will return to normal. And then I got sick, and hit pay dirt. Afterall if you can't see the silverlining, it's not Christmas.

Not only am I considering entering coughing as an Olympic sport, I am just about ready to launch my whole program on how you can use it as a weight lose tool. For I have shed three tough pounds with my new regime; a miracle. I'm eating the same, but my only form of exercise is the continuous flexing of my back, shoulders, abdomen, and chest wall muscles. I firmly, (ha ha -- pun intended) believe that those still flabby after children tummy wanna be tucked sags are finally coming in under the belt.

So as I cover yet again with this latest typing interrupting hack session, on the inside I'm smiling... 7 more pounds to go...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Breathing

These past 24 hours I am rediscovering that a person shouldn't take breathing for granted. God, give me strength to go along with these drugs and lifetime supply of cough drops.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Stepping Pride and Joy

Addictions

When you hear the word addiction you think drugs, work, alcohol, food. For me... it's puzzles. It's terrible. I can't get within 5 feet of a puzzle without getting sucked into a piece pushing frenzy. Dishes pile up. Laundry lays in the hamper for days. Christmas cards go unaddressed. This time I had the excuse of having to check the piece count. See I found this great 1000 piecer at the church yard sale, and we needed to make sure all the pieces were there... before we give it as a Christmas gift. If you know my family, then you know who will be opening up this beauty in a week or so. It is the perfect gift, and we have happily confirmed, "Yes, Uncle Mike... it has all its pieces."

Now for those Christmas cards...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So Proud

At a time when newspaper front pages are littered headlines that send you back to bed; the covered pulled over your head, I've have a report that makes this mama proud. Of course, there are many stories of youth doing good, but they don't sell papers. So many stories that don't make the paper grade: Christmas plays, tree lightings, litter brigades, yard clean up crews, food and sock collections, visiting the shut in. All happening. All happening in this town. So when you see the paper, remember all is not lost. The vast majority of youth excel in great ways. Too bad their efforts are this world's best kept secret.

Friday, December 12, 2008

From the mouths of babes

"Mommy when I am older will you tell me if Santa is real. I don't want my kids not to get presents."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Puzzle

I had the little one home sick yesterday. She was the loudest hacker at her table and voted out of the classroom for a day. Actually, that's not true. On Monday I was dropping off snacks for the class when over a coughing chorus her teacher told me she was visiting the nurse. Just a virus, but she looked bad. So Tuesday, I opted to keep her home. Gave her a day of rest, mixed with vision therapy and math problems. But all life came to a halt when we brought out the new to us, Santa with trains puzzle; a 1000 piecer; a yard sale find. At 3 o'clock I ran to meet the rest of the elementary school crowd get off the bus. Barely fixed dinner due to piecing together the windows. Then we were latish for play practice over Santa's pants. This morning, breakfast was a wave towards the cereal as I worked the tiny locomotive.

I was thinking about getting the Christmas cards written today. I might be able to do it, if I stay away from the puzzle: a black hole for time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Early Bird

I woke up around 2 thinking about stuff and to do list items. The air is warmer this morning. I could actually get my face out from under the covers without thoughts of donning my jacket and hat.

It is so nice to be in the quiet and relatively warm. Working away on those tiny agenda items that are constantly falling off the plate called life. Closure on the small things helps me to gain a handle on the bigger tasks. Now if I could just finish the rewrite on my book. If I complete it by Dec. 31, I'll submit the whole thing to a First Novel contest. Now wouldn't that be a great way to usher out the year...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Can you truly ruin pot roast?

Yes, but it's a forgivable offense, and one my family didn't seem to notice. Despite burning the pan, read here -- coming close to ruining my maple sugaring finishing pan, the meat didn't seem to suffer too much. Or the story goes something like: The family was desperately hungry and would have probably gnawed on the bones of the three month old roadkill raccoon I can still detect parts of on my weekend walks.

Christmas is a time were a usually very busy life becomes even busier. I noticed this yesterday when I was collecting the last of the bottles at the church, (there must be close to 700), and realizing I was going to have to count these at home and return them myself. I soothed my anxiety with the mantra, "A bag a day." Yesterday I returned 120 or so bottles and cans, based upon the cash I received. Today I'll do a few more, in between everything else.

Then around 2 this morning, I also realized that due to my desk top computer failure that I cannot create anymore World Youth Day DVDs. Oh, I still have my images on the hard drive, thank God, but to put them together with the music, I don't have that capability. Then panic set in, except for the copy I lent out a month ago (The promise was made. It would be returned...) did I have another copy in the house? Finally warm enough to rise, but not shine, I found one. Watched it. And put it in a safer place.

So on those overly busy days, pot roast is best.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Now this is Christmas

Forget the mall hustle and parking shuffle, today was Christmas prep at its finest. The parish Christmas play practices are in full swing. It will be another stellar performance. And as far as gifting, finally a holiday, due to the recession, I can look forward to. We are making gifts this year. Together we are pouring soaps, decorating chocolate covered pretzels, baking cookies and concocting fudge and truffles. There is more chocolate than stress in the air.

Now, if I could keep the kids from licking the pretzels... rest assured, we aren't showing signs of disease -- yet this season.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I have Christmas light envy



I didn't see a leg lamp in the mix. I guess there is always room for improvement.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Note from the Neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

You may think I'm a free loader, with an ever expanding bum, but I'm not. It's my genetics to be a bit wide in the hips. From what I've seen... I'm sure you can relate. And don't mistake all my hustling for having an angle. I'm working at being totally self sufficient and living completely off the land. (Next year, I have plans to install a PV solar system.) But to make ends meet, I have a job. I'm a landscraper. Enclosed is my card. Hire me. I'll do your lawn. Tirelessly working nights and day, mowing, clearing clover, trimming gardens back, especially beans... providing more than the usual two seasonal clean up.

Oh I've heard you complaining to the other neighbors. Don't deny it. Just because I moved into the 'hood without the usual truck, and caravan of family and friends bearing up under boxes and furniture. I'll have you know this place, this hovel or hole, as you call it, is my home. And I have worked tooth and nail to get it just right. Scratching and clawing threw the litter and debris left by the previous tenants. This place was just filthy when I moved in. Instead of tossing out innuendo, come over for the tour.

In addition to the prominent main entrance and foyer, I now have an entry through the rose garden and a bulkhead with root and wine cellar under the shed. My improvements are so extensive that I've been able to tap into geothermal for heating and cooling. It really is quite comfortable. You won't catch me wearing a silly hat around the house.

And yes, it did get a bit hectic this summer when my children were home, but they've moved out now... unlike yours. Who, continue to chuck rocks through my front door, and climb on my roof. Nice kids, you doing such a great job raising them.

Sincerely,

Marmota monax Sciuridae

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's time to make the fruitcake

Actually, it's past time, since the cakes require time to mature; clothed in rum soaked cheese cloth. With hosting Thanksgiving, I didn't have the time or space for fruitcake construction. But now the time is here and the rum is flowing freely.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thirty Hour Famine

Shortly after the big feast day, (yesterday), my eldest and her cousin commenced a 30 hour famine to raise money for World Vision and draw attention to world hunger. They are not alone, but with 5 other youth at our parish. Doing acts of community service, praying, sleeping in cardboard houses, and having nothing but clear liquids for 30 hours. They will break their fast with the Eucharist at today's 4 o'clock Mass and then feast together at a pot luck dinner provided by their families.

With each Cheerio I eat, and every section of clementine, I think of them.

"What so ever you do for the least of my brothers, so you do unto me."

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Inside Scoop on a Turducken

If an entree can be considered outstanding, delicious, memorable, it would be this year's Thanksgiving triplet. The bro and I both concocted fruit based stuffings for the layers. I will once again bow to his inventiveness. Putting squash in the stuffing is a very nice touch. So is soaking dried cranberries in rum. I, on the other hand, imbibed raisins and dried apples in cider.

This year drew friends as well as family to our table. Thus spicing up the usual Thanksgiving day fare. New recipes will be shared by all. Hits this year include some to die for Southern Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin Cheese cake, Barley and Lentils, Pumpkin Indian Pudding, and the Pottage.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankfullness

I received this in email today and was so touched, that I wanted to post it here. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. THIS is the best holiday of the year.

Love,
ptcakes

---------------------------------------------------

A Thanksgiving Message from Rabbi David Thomas
November 26, 2008

Dear friends,

This Thanksgiving, may you all enjoy abundance at your tables, fullness of heart and spirit and great compansionship. May the feast you put out tomorrow be mirrored in a feast for the heart and soul. And may it all fill us with a sense of gratitude for the many blessings we experience throughout the year.

Finally, I offer you one more recipe, by Mary Jo Shaffer,
which Dawn Shilts sent me. It is called Hearty Gratitude Soup and it is the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving Feast. Enjoy!
Rabbi David B. Thomas


Hearty Gratitude Soup Recipe
by Mary Jo Shaffer

If you are looking for just the right accompaniment to go along with your bird this Holiday, may I suggest that you simmer up a pot of Hearty Gratitude Soup. It's not my recipe; it has been handed down by great thinkers, philosophers and lovers of life from generation to generation, and now I am passing it along to you.

First of all, you have to take action if you want to make soup advises John F. Kennedy: "As we express gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Meister Eckhart suggests that you start with a rich stock of thanks: "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'thank you'; that would suffice."

Don't be concerned if you can't find your measuring cups and spoons counsels Eric Hoffer: "The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings."

After you have added all of your ingredients to the pot, don't worry that you have left anything out assures Epictetus: "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those he has."

Add pinches and dashes of seasonings to taste hints Sarah Ban Breathnach: "Simple Abundance has taught me that it is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored."

Allow your soup to simmer over a low flame or burner says Albert Schweitzer: "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." And William Faulkner adds: "Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all."

Garnish with flair asserts Henry Ward Beecher: "Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."

And finally, the secret ingredient in the soup is revealed by Melody Beattie: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

But don't forget, you must announce when the soup is ready reminds William Arthur Ward, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." And Margaret Cousins agrees: "Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary."

Now ladle out the rich goodness in everlasting portions and serve with love. Enjoy!


Mary Jo Shaffer is co-owner of Heart Projects, LLC, in partnership with her twin daughters Rachel Shaffer and Heather Knorpp.

One day and counting...

Actually, it is tonight. Tonight is the night when family gathers and the turducken is assembled. I look forward to this night every year. This is the icing; tomorrow is the cake.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Rundown

My husband's eyes weren't even completely open when I rattled off the weekend rundown in his general direction: Thirty hour famine community service, Advent preparation fair, 30th class reunion, 8 AM Mass on Sunday. The big feast is Thursday, and I'm thinking about how the weekend will unfold.

Thanksgiving will come together. Many hands make light work for all. The weekend will come and go, and Monday will arrive on schedule.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cardinal Sean

Yesterday was the closing Mass for the Boston Bicentennial Celebrations. Two weeks ago I asked the little ones if they wanted to go, and got a resounding YES from both of them. Actually it was a resounding YES from the little one, who has a real admiration for the Cardinal. (Last summer, the then 7 years old and a struggling writer, decided to write to the Cardinal and ask him for a signed picture. He did send one, and it is on her dresser -- a place for all her favorite things.) And a not so loud YES, but a yes just the same, from the middle one. She is just about finished with her Girl Scout religious award and knew that attending a special Mass was part of the process for her completion. The plan to go was set. I, on the other hand, would have to address my fears of driving in Boston, especially to places I had never been before. I used mapquest and said a prayer. After all we were going in for Mass.

We had never been to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. We walked in, and I wished I hadn't forgotten my camera. The church is like something out of Europe, with fantastic stained glass, beautiful woodwork, and old world pews. Despite being 45 minutes early, the place was packed. As all the front pews were reserved for clergy and dignitaries, we found seating towards the back, sitting among several different orders of sisters. We had our little cubby pew to ourselves, until a woman with three children and what seemed to be her two mothers in law came and joined us. As the Mass started, their little boy and my two crowded the aisle end so they could watch the procession. It was with a rock star enthusiasm that the little one pointed when the Cardinal walked by. And I wonder what he would think if he knew spell he had over her.

Being only 8, there was no way she could see anything but the habit of the sister infront of us, unless I held her when everyone was standing, so I did. Keeping her head high above the crowd. Letting her sit on my lap, so she would be inches above the heads when we were seated.

The Mass was multicultural. It reminded me of World Youth Day. The Cardinal's message was an easy one, and I am paraphasing; Jesus said, "Love one another. And when you help the least of my brothers and sisters, you are helping me." The children sat and listened. (The sound system in the cathedral is outstanding.)

And at the end, when the Cardinal walked by again, again there was a little girl, at the end of the pew, waiting to catch a closer glimpse. And I smiled. When I was growing up, I knew our church had a local leader, but he was always off somewhere else, and not accessible. This little one has seen the Cardinal three times this year: World Youth Day all pilgrim event, Fr. O'Brien's funeral, and this Mass. How lucky we all are that he is accessible and for the people, especially for this one little girl.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Carbon Footprint

"Just because you can pay for it, doesn't mean you should waste it." For the past two weeks, Citizen Energy's Claudia Stewart's bit of wisdom as been front and foremost in my thinking about heating our home, the amount of driving I do, and my recycling efforts. How much energy am I entitled to use, regardless of cost? What is my carbon footprint and how can I make it smaller?

During her talk on conservation Stewart made some down to earth statements that hit home. "It's winter in New England, not shorts weather." A no brainer if you ask me, but still some people feel as if they should be able to sit around their home in shorts and a tshirt mid November to March. So maybe during these tougher economic times, this is the right time for us to rethink this mentality. And not just to save ourselves financially, but to help our planet.

"It's New England. Winter comes every year." On the tail of her quick whit, Stewart offered these quick and easy solutions to decrease our home heating spending.
1. Cover the windows with plastic.
2. Use drapes.
3. Install magnetic or self sticking draft dodgers on doors.
4. Fill in cracks and spaces around windows and doors with the expanding foam insulation.
5. Install a programmable thermostat and then use it.
6. Reduce thermostat wars with a thermostat lock box.
7. Use energy efficient light bulbs.

Most of these ideas can be implemented for as little as a fiver. For short dollars we can conserve our heat and hundreds of our heating dollars. And therefore stop wasting money and our natural resources, whether it be oil, gas, wood or coal.

Stewart's presentation also talked about driving responsibly. It has me thinking more about walking, which of course has health benefits for more than my wallet. Granted living is the suburbs makes this difficult. There are times I have driven the girls to school -- an easy 10 minute walk. No more, rain our shine. Last night when we went to the school play, we all bundled up. We all walked. Exercise, fresher air, with a ka-ching in my step. And in recent months there have been more than a few times when I would find a time to carpool to the grocery store with friends. Something that needs to be more of a priority.

Before Stewart's talk, recycling was already big in this household. Not only do we recycling our own paper, cardboard, cans, plastic, glass, books, and household goods, we pick up those from others and get them to the proper bins and facilities. At times I have sighed under that added effort it takes to collect and redistribute, but I know it's all part of being in a commonwealth. Where we all should work towards the common good.

As the winter progresses into spring it will be interesting to see if our recycling and energy saving actions have a noticeable economic effect. I do know my heart feels warmer, and my footprint tighter, knowing we are trying to live more energetically responsible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What a difference a day makes

Twenty-four little hours...

Last night I was delighted to be at the high school varsity letter award ceremony. Mr. Welch, the Principal, spoke and the one line that I am sure stuck with everyone in the audience was, "This is the one time parents don't mind their children taking home an F." He was right.

Tonight there are stories all over the news regarding a stabbing at that same school. Unbelievable. Senseless. Shocking.

The driving is in the details

Some days I feel my backside is molded to the driver's seat in my vehicle. Yesterday afternoon was no exception. Al least I walked the girls to school and then walked back and forth for lunch while at the walk-a-thon. But the driving went something like this, after walking home from school:

1. Leave school with one daughter at 3 PM, walking.
2. Pick up another daughter at another school at 4 PM.
3. Pick up last daughter at school at 5 PM and take her and first daughter to play practice at church.
4. Take eldest daughter to Varsity Letter Awards Night at 6:30 at the high school. While husband drives back to church to collect other two and escort them to choir practice, after which he drove them home.

In the middle of all that was get dinner and feed people.

Today is a smidgen better with a dentist appointment at 2:40, a geology class from 3:30 to 5:30, and a scrapbooking stint from 6 PM to 8. I have asked that we look into carpooling for the evening event. I absolutely hate it when I drive behind our neighbor from three doors down to the same event. I guess when we start charging a delivery service fee these teenagers might start thinking about the Conservation of Resources and Time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm at the Walk-A-Thon this week

...walking and taking pictures. This is a fundraiser sponsored by a group of fifth grade girls who, so happen, belong to the same Girl Scout troop. They make posters for the event and the money that is raised is used to promote fitness at the school. Everyone walks for 30 minutes during their Physical Education class. The gym is set up with a series of lanes. We walk, skip, jog, crab walk, bear crawl, do front curls, over head raises, and dance. Everyone has fun.

Last year the money was used to bring in a Brazilian Martial Arts troupe. The entire student body attended hands and feet on demonstrations. It was wonderful. This year the money won't amount to half as much. It's the economy. Still, I'd love to purchase 22 pairs of snowshoes so each class could go out and walk, and exercise in the snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Recipe

When I hear those two words, "the recipe" all I hear are the two Baldwin sisters of Walton's Mountain fame, talking about their daddy's work. This recipe is not quite a secretive, nor illegal.

Whiskey Sour Punch

1.75 liters of good whiskey
1/2 gallon of lemonade
1/2 gallon of orange juice
1 jar of maraschino cherries, including the juice
1 quart of ginger ale, not diet

Mix is a large pan or stock pot. Pour into smaller containers to freeze. Freeze, at least for a few days. Where the rule is: The longer the freeze the smoother the punch.

To serve: partially thaw a container or two, place contents in a punch bowl and serve.

Enjoy responsibly.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

FAMILY DO NOT FEAR

The Whiskey Sour Punch is made and maturing in the freezer.

One morning this past week I woke up in a panic. Uncle Mike generally mixes the punch for Thanksgiving, and Uncle Mike won't be with us this year. And even worse, I didn't have the recipe. But uncles come through, and of course, pass on the family recipe.

In all my life of 48 years I cannot recall a Thanksgiving without Whiskey Sour Punch. One year Nana used some Wild Turkey. It had been a Christmas present to my Grampa from one of his business associates. That was some smooth punch. This punch won't be quite as smooth, but it should be good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What is it?


An elephant with a flat top? No... It's a quilt square of our home state with a heart just about where we live. I've had this project on the to do list for a week or so. The directions were to create a square that represents you and yours. Or something like that. What to do? I thought about designing something around Maple Sugaring, but let's face it, sugaring is truly a Vermont sport. I'm a displaced Vermonter at heart. I thought and pondered and yesterday when I woke up I had this idea of the heart showing where family and friends are welcome.

This morning I woke up with thoughts of baking hermits to take along when we visit Nana today. She has a sweet tooth, so why not eat hermits right after breakfast. I also had the idea of sharing Spark People with my niece who has recently changed her dietary habits to vegetarian. Part of SP is to show you how much protein, carbs, cholesterol, fat, and a host of other dietary checkpoints are part of your daily intake. With being a veggie, she questioned whether she is getting enough protein. SP could help.

I wonder what I'll wake up thinking about tomorrow. It's quite frightening actually.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just a Picture Today



I have so many projects either started or in the wings that my mind can't settle on a topic for today. All thoughts lead to Thanksgiving, but along the way there is a baby shower, the head shots for the Fifth Grade play, visiting Nana -- long overdue, cleaning the gutters -- a job I'm actually looking forward to, (There is something liberating about being high on a ladder.), raking, the garage, washing the kitchen floor, etc... Being busy is fine, but too busy is overwhelming.

Warning to the locals: My eldest got her permit yesterday. (Yahoo! <- teenage cheer from behind me.) Actually, I can't wait to get her driving the Suburban in the same parking lot I learned to ride my motorcycle. Still I can remember confusing the gas with the brake when I was first learning. Here's hoping she has a better sense of left and right than I do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanksgiving



With the big holiday two weeks away, my thoughts have turned to festive food and drink. The main is a given: turducken. Three birds layered with two stuffings; no worries. It's a family tradition, a family project rooted in discussion of stuffing constructions that I wouldn't miss. Satisfyingly artistic as it may be to create the boneless trio, the true art lies in the sides; or side dishes. For it is in the sides that we draw family and culture to the table.

It's the pre-dinner beverage of Whiskey Sour punch that brings Nana within apron strings length. One sip and I hear her gentle but guarded laughter, eyes bright with a dainty punch cup in her hand. And of course, no one can make gravy like Nana. We've missed her gravy these past eight years. It's the cole slaw from Uncle Mike's Nanny. We're the only family I know that makes cole slaw on Thanksgiving, and it is delicious. It's the ten pounds of potatoes I can alway count on my mother to bring, and the squash -- which is already cooked and in her freezer awaiting the big day when it will be blessed with some of our maple syrup. It's the universal call for Green Bean Casserole, and canned cranberry sauce. What is it with that stuff? It's the girls eating all the baby gerkins and black olives before anyone else is sitting at the table. And Grampa proclaiming,"Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."

Our trips to Plymouth have resulted in some cultural additions. We now make a pottage of cracked corn and spinach. Surprisingly enough the one who hates to eat anything new, loves this, and made sure it is on the feast day menu. She even picked out the official bag of milled corn when we were at the Plantation. It's the Indian Pudding quietly sitting next to the tradional bank of pies. Since emerging among the desserts, it's the only dessert for me.

This year we will have Turnip Soup on hand. A recipe from the Bosky Dell, to remind us of new friends far away. And Barley and Lentil casserole, a well loved recipe of my own connoction, for our beloved vegetarian, who will be well fed.

We will also have friends at our table bringing their family favorite sweet potato casserole. Rumor has it this dish is too fattening to prepare just for one's family. I can't wait to try it.

With two weeks to prepare I'm already putting together the shopping list. But more importantly, I can't wait to sitdown to a meal steeped in traditions, memories and love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Plymouth Two



I spoke with the woman who hand weaves these carry-alls. No they don't offer classes. It is a cultural tradition that they are holding dear among their community. She comes from a long line of weavers, and is currently teaching her grandchildren to weave; the lucky ladies. I just hope that they hold dear the art, so that it is not forgotten.



Cooking a mixture of squash and beans from the garden for dinner.



Burning out a mishon. A few years ago we participated in a class on building a mishon. The girls had a great time scraping out the burnt wood with a sharp clam shell.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plymouth Plantation

I love this place. We are always learning new things, seeing new things, experiencing new things. Though the strangest phenomenon is when the interpreters changed characters. This year, the old Myles Standish is the new Goodman Cook. And John Cook is now Steve. I bet they don't realize that they leave a lasting impression, but they do.

It was good weather, good kids and a new recipe for pancakes to try. I love this place.

Monday, November 10, 2008

As the plate clears

We have two compost barrels. One that has been filled and is composting and one that we add to. Composting household vegetable waste matter is easy. You generate waste. You collect the waste in a bucket on your kitchen counter. Daily, you carry the waste to the barrel in the backyard. You generate good stuff for the garden. Simple. But not so simple when your juggling too many tasks. For the past month I just couldn't get the waste to the backyard. No. we don't have a 55 gallon drum of refused carrot tops and squash peelings in the kitchen. Instead of composting I was tossing them out. It was the one job I could push away.

But after this weekend, my plate is a bit clearer. I breathed a sigh of relief, and noticed that I set aside the pepper tops and onion skins from preparing yesterday's dinner. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened. But this morning, I noticed the bucket and was okay with making a run to the bins outside. A month ago, seeing the waiting refuse would have caused my eyes to roll up into the back of my head.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Massachusetts State Cross Country Meet

We went to the meet yesterday at Franklin Park. What a wonderful event. Young adults striving and pushing themselves. It was actually the icing on the cake for us, for our day was jam packed with birthday celebration fun, so we squeezed in the meet in order for my eldest to participate.

Cross country and track are wonderful sports. Even though each participant individually tries for a personal best, they function as a team and support each other fully. As a mom, I love it.

The weekend is over. I actually drove into and out of Boston without a scratch. A miracle. The Energy Conservation seminar was a success, and my back no longer hurts. I beginning to think it is my own personal anxiety meter.

Energy Conservation talk

Today is the Energy Conservation talk at our parish. It was the last event I worked on with our pastor, Fr. O'Brien, before he passed away this past September. He was a very giving priest, always trying to make sure we all had what we needed both physically and spiritually.

We are raffling off (for free) $50 in gasoline, a $25 gift card for a local super market, and a whole house Energy Conservation kit, as well as handing out light bulbs and boxes of cereal from another local grocery store. In addition to serving up advice on energy conservation we have baked delights and cider to serve.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Power of 3

Lately we've been watching Charmed, a TV show that I didn't even knew existed when it was originally aired sometime back when. The show is about sister witches that vanquished evil while facing their own personal dilemmas. It's cute. It's light. I wish I had their house, their cars, one of their size 0 bodies for my own shape... but I digress...

In each episode it takes the power of all three sisters to rid the world of the evil du jour. In some shows, one of the ladies gives it a go on her own, but in the end all three must band together to get the job done. For me, all the while we've been watching the series I'm knitting a baby blanket that our Crafters for Christ knitting group will donate to an area neonatal ward. There is no set pattern for the blanket. The only criteria are that it be 15 inches wide, 22 inches long and be made up of a pattern of three stitches to represent the Power of Three: The Holy Trinity. In a real sense these little blankets are prayer shawls for these tiny souls. So my pattern is a very simple one. Cast on 75 stitches. Work each row in the repeating pattern of knit 3, purl 3. Twenty two inches later bind off and then encircle the piece in 3 rows of single crochet.

During last night's TV watching session I finished the knitting part and I am now doing a single crochet boarder. Imaging that each row is a warming embrace from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The true Power of Three.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Shopping on the other side of the aisle

I love shopping at Kohls. Their clearance section is big, low priced and usually still has some must have buys. Generally I shop for me, for clothes at the end of January, when the sales are really big. But this week, a flyer came in the mail with an additional 30% off all prices, even clearance. I was sold, and squeezed in a trip early Wednesday morning.

On autopilot I made a bee line for the Young Woman's clearance section, skipping Juniors, for one daughter and 7-16 for the other two. After all it's okay for a mommy to do some mommy shopping. What I found was nothing. Oh sure there were clothes there, but not my style, not my shape, nothing. I circled the racks. How could these tried and true let me down? I had visions of new jeans, new chinos, maybe a new shirt: all with an extra 30% taken off the bill. If I had scored, they would be practically writing me a check to take the items out of the store. Let down I shopped for the girls.

One needed tights for the school play, and another a white tshirt for a tie dying party. The tights were easy, but the shirt proved problematic. What to chose? A hanes white t from the Men's Department or a more fashionable white t from Juniors. I wandered, and in the end it was the hip white all cotton fashion t in juniors, on clearance and with the additional 30% that scored a steal.

One last loop of the store, (after all I hadn't seen housewares yet) and then off to the register. As I passed the Jewelry Department and the Vera Wang section (which looks great on the display and not on me) I spotted Womens, and not the Young Womans section I've shopped for years. They had jeans, on sale, chinos on clearance, shirts too. I hestitated. Usually I shopped Womens for Christmas presents for my Mom and Aunt. Was it time for me to cross the aisle?

I'd give a look. After all, maybe I would find a good buy for a Christmas present. One rack into the department and I found jeans made for me, my body style. And the chinos laid out next door, with their wider legs, were calling me name. Twenty minutes later I walked out with two bags full; some for me, some of the girls, some for others. All for an extra 30% off the already low clearance prices.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

High Anxiety

High Anxiety... Isn't there a song or something with Mel Brooks singing those few words?

Right now, those two words describe my life. But after this weekend, all should be better.

Isn't that always the way? After this, after that; after I take this test. After I get through these errands and then somehow get dinner on the table, all before running two children in two different directions, while finishing the other's homework. The mantra in the back of my head alternates between, "I'm tired, God," and "I'm tired and I wanna go to bed."

The other day, I confessed to a friend, that I was looking for a real job. With all my stay at home time, I am too busy. You would think it would be the opposite. With long afternoons lounging on the couch, bonbons at the wrist, watching soaps. My life is not that case study. Instead I am crazy busy with volunteer opportunities at the school and church, and I confess -- still painting the garage. All the while, seeing the importance of exercise in my life.

To make room, timewise, I was going to quit banjo. But lately, it is the only activity that offers me a calm port. Truthfully, I have been so busy, I probably picked the darn instrument up twice in three weeks... not good. But over that past couple of days, after tuning it (read: miracle here) I have been seeking out its solace. I love the comfort of the banjo. It takes me to a restful place. If only for 10 minutes.

Still this weekend lays before me. But I am fortifying myself with maps to Franklin Park and then more maps into the bowels of the big city Boston. I will survive and I will more than likely enjoy myself. In the meantime, I'll bake for the Energy Conservation talk the parish is having, take more head shots for the fifth grade play, get the latest batch of photos to the Youth Ministry Group, finish writing the blurb for the bulletin, and look for a real job to occupy my time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yesterday

From the yesterday to do list, all I did was vote. Sorry Starbucks, I can't visit even for a free cup of coffee. We have a neighborhood coffee shop that gets all my caffeinated business. Instead we went ice skating, and raked leaves. We now have a mountain range outside our house. The highest peak reaches to the little ones shoulder.

They wanted to jump in it. I said, "No." Don't get me wrong, all weekend they rolled in pine needles and then proceeded to transport them all around the house: in the kitchen, the living room, littering the stairs and hall, upstairs to their bedroom. The concession was, when the maples drop their leaves, you can jump in them. They don't stick like pine needles.

And Ben and Jerry, sorry again -- but I'm a Spark Person, and you're not in my plan.

Obama won. The country will move forward and hopefully recover.

I heard on the radio this advice, "Vote today. Volunteer tomorrow." It's going to take a nation working together to instill change. A little bit of change on all our part will result in a nationwide turn around.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting and SO Much More

Today's do list:

1. Vote
2. Get a free brewed coffee at Starbucks. (Where will the lines be longer: The polls or Starbucks?)
3. Get a free ice cream cone from Ben and Jerry (my new best friends for life) from 5 to 8 PM.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Waste Your Vote

Tomorrow, make sure you vote. We are so lucky to have a say in who leads us. Besides if you don't vote, you have no right to complain. So vote, so you can complain effectively.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gifts in all shapes and sizes

-- I went to the local Ace Hardware Store to find out about glazing windows. "Do I really need to use an oil based primer?" There was a commercial painter at the counter. I almost asked his opinion, but then thought better of it. Thinking of him as a doctor and my asking him to give a look in my ears. So while his paint was mixing I asked the associate for advice. "Yes," was his answer. He then loaded me down with paint and brush. As I was leaving the commercial painter came up to me and said, "You'll want to cut that with paint thinner. All external oil based paints are too thick to paint with." He told me his secrets to success, and I thanked him for the gift of his wisdom.

-- While at WYD I picked up some Mother Theresa medals from her sisters. They were "manning" a wonderful exhibit on Mother Theresa. It was an exhibit I doubt I will forget. When I got home I had these medals and wondered to whom they belonged to. For I knew I was just a carrier. After the parish picnic I gave one to each of my closest worker buddies at church. And today I learned that one friend carried that medal into battle and was victorious.

-- At knitting group today I was reassured that friendship is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Happy Halloween

ARGH!

Remember Pool Rules: Everyone swimming must wear a cap.
(I knew eventually that chlorine would burn my eyes out, but I had no idea it was bad for my teeth.)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

What's a writer to do?

I'm looking for advice here.

Over the past year I wrote several articles for a free local glossy magazine (Metrowest Magazine). It was a lovely run. I enjoyed interviewing people and flexing my writing muscles. I was lucky on one hand, the assignments came in, but on the other -- payment never seemed to follow.

This summer the magazine stopped publication. Both the editor and myself have queried the publisher for my due. He seemingly ignores these emails. So, I went through my records, and resent a list of past due invoices. Giving him 30 days to respond or I would seek alternative means for payment.

But what is a freelance writer to do? Small claims court? Collection agency? This whole situation puts a real damper on writing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Mornings and Late Nights

We have band at 8 AM and choir at 6:45 PM. In between is school, food shopping, exercising, housecleaning, laundry and working on the garage -- if the rain holds out. The littlest one is maintaining the Halloween count down.
Nothing else matters but Halloween.
Remain focused on the trick or treating.
Oh to be young again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am aghast!!!!

While starting the car today an advertisement came over the radio:

"Remember if she says no, we'll still say yes. Bud Light."

Now granted I came into the middle of this ad, but what else are we suppose to think? We tell our children that when I woman says No she means NO, and not maybe or YES, or Yeah right, she was really looking for it.

I need to hear this ad from start to finish before passing final judgment, BUT based upon what I heard their marketing department should be fired. No Bud products in my house ever again. I'll brew my own, thank you very much.

The Perfect Storm

This weekend was the perfect storm of activities. Everything that could be scheduled was penned in for every hour of every day, starting Friday. There was a football game, family over for dinner and a sleep over, a track meet, a pumpkin fair, a church breakfast set, serving and clean up, a movie night, religious education, alter service, a 5 mile walk, and a spooky Halloween party at a friend's house.

My mind spun with the details. This week I am hoping to slide into Friday night's fun without much to do. I hoping to get the garage finished.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just what are we worth?

Maybe I'm old. Or maybe I'm getting old, but when I see a young lady (any female age 10 to whatever...) wearing her pants riding at her pubic hair line, I wonder only one thing. I want to ask her: Do you really think you are only good for one thing? Do you really believe you are only as good as your vagina?

When I see a young woman I see a real rocket scientist, a doctor, a veterinarian, a president, a CFO, an actor, a mother, a goddess. So when I see these woman overtly selling themselves to the next pair of over fixated eyes, I am truly sad.

Tonight at the local high school football game we had the high school cheerleaders mentoring the younger town cheerleaders. I saw the admiration in those little eyes; a worship so pure it belongs in a church. The high schoolers could have marched their charges into the middle of the field to be trampled by the offensive line. Instead they bowled them over with belly buttons and hip bones. By their rolled down waist bands, did they hurt them more?

Ladies, women, girls, sisters, we are worth more than a rolled waist band. Advertise your smarts, your brains, your talents.

Halloween

It's coming... ready or not...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Limping towards recovery

Slowly there is progress on the computer front. No printing yet, but I got the scanner, and the card reader hooked up. My desktop still reminds me of birth: head leaned over to one side, cover off, wires splayed for all to see her innards. Messy, messy, messy... I have hope that someday she'll be functional again. In the meantime, Vista and I are making nicer than before. Proving once again you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Look, I'm Grampa!

As I was clearing off the kitchen counter this morning, (in preparation for making the day's lunches), I had to move the treasures I picked up for family and friends at the parish yard sale. Of the many boxes of must haves I scurried home with, only a pair of sailing motif glasses for my dad, and a candy dish and mug for Mr. S. are not in their proper homes. Soon.

Envisioning both parties relaxing on a Saturday afternoon, watching the game, enjoying a drink, or dipping into the candy dish, I smiled, as I reflected on the glee I felt when I discovered these, and other discarded treasures. And then quickly my thoughts moved to my grandfather, who with my grandmother worked their own parish "rummage" sales for many years.

Like ours, theirs was in the fall. So our arrival for Thanksgiving at their house was an event of wonder and surprise. You just never knew what Nana and Grampa were going to find at the sale. Games, clothes, camping gear, silver, jewelry. You name it and I bet we got it at one time or another. Pots, pans, a brand new coat -- with tags. The pair of Italian lamps that still illuminate my living room. Goodness for all.

And I can still see Grampa's face as we literally dove into the boxes that covered his living room floor. His eyes shining an extra bright blue. His lips turned upwards in triumph over a rummage sale well picked over.

Like my grandfather, I suspect we took home more from the yard sale than we dropped off... Like my grandfather, I can't wait to share my findings with those that I love.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yard Sales and Lil' Black Dresses

I have a thing for yard sales and little black dresses. Even though I hardly ever go to yard sales, and I can't remember the last time I wore my tried and true little black dress of ten years. (Maybe it was 5 years ago at a niece's wedding.)

I love finding a bargain. Bringing home treasures for the girls, and rare books for the guy. But yard sale plowing takes time, and I generally don't have a lot of it.

But two years ago I started working the annual church yard sale. An event where neighbors and people from the parish drop off their not so prized possessions and we sell them; funneling the profits into the Youth Ministry. Last year a very small black dress with sparklies sewn into the material made the scene. I needed a dress for the Christmas concert, so I snatched it up for a dollar, if that. The day of the concert, I opted for a less slinky attire. Even so, the dress still hangs in my closet. Waiting for the right moment.

This year a velvet number was delivered. And once again it found its way into my stash. But this year I do have a pending event or two where this number could be put to good use.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Missed IT!!!!

October 14th marked 3 years, count them, 1, 2, 3 years of blogging. For me that is 828 posts and for you, since I started keeping track, 7,569 visits. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Too turn the heat on, or not to turn the heat on...

that is the question.

We push turning the furnace on back as far as we can. One year we managed to wait until the middle of November.This year, I must be getting old or soft or both, because I am already thinking about it. Seeking out blankets, thinking about wearing a hat in the house, all the time, and keeping my painting jacket on... even when I'm not painting.

It's not that I like being cold, but I hate paying that huge bill even more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I hate VISTA

I was busy writing a cute little piece comparing suburban camouflage garage painting to sudoku, but I am SO disgusted with this horrid operating system called VISTA that I want to throw this inane lap top out the window.

XP was fine thank you. It didn't try to change my file extensions, or make it impossible to list processes. Nor did it require divination to change directories. And what about all those wonderful programs and devices I can no longer use, LIKE MY PRINTER... and scanner... and my DVD software...

My skin is crawling I so despise this operating system. If given the chance I'd brush up my vi and jump windows all together... All together now.

Who in their right mind can finish a book typing via this piece of poo? I will slog through. But it won't be pretty.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another Memory

I'm repainting our garage. At first it was just the trim by the roof line that would get a new coat, and then the shingles, and now I am working on the whole thing at once, trim, body, windows, doors and frames. I never do anything small; a bad habit of mine.

Yesterday, while putting the second coat on most of the trim, while pondering just how high the roof peak is, I noticed the windows need to be reglazed. The word reglazed would have you assume there is glaze there to begin with. Glaze that needs replacing. These windows are so old, their glaze has gone the way of the dinosaur. So while the paint by the roof line was drying, below I scraped one of the window frames and cleaned the glass to glaze it.

It was great being outside. Being active, and breathing in the fresh Fall air. Taking care of the garage was a summer job that has hung over my head, two years. And as I was out there working I remembered when I first learned how to glaze windows. I was in high school, and visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania. Grampa was working on their garage 12 paner where he not only showed me what to do, but let me try it. It was fun to make the window look new again.

So, now as I scrape, and plan to do the priming and then final painting when the threat of showers passes, I remembered that afternoon with Grampa making what was old look new again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kids are just kids

In a world where children are scheduled, pushed, and expected to do great things, I was slapped in the face with the reminder that they are still kids.

My youngest has a personality that fills the space that she occupies. Confident, always right, a born leader, so much so that sometimes I forget she's my baby. Not so anymore, for this weekend she gave me a double lesson in spades. Twice, while camping, with all her wisdom, she wandered away and got separated from me.

The first was while we searched for lost treasure; a fishing lure. While hiking along the trails by our site she laid down her newly found gold and forgot to retrieve it. Upon returning to the camper she realized her misfortune and wanted to go back into the woods to retrieve it. I asked,"Do you know where you left it?"

"Yes," was her confident response. "On the tree stump..."

I should have figured we were in for a forced march, just how many tree stumps are there in the woods? But thinking she knew what she was doing, I followed her back down to the pond and then along the shore for as long as we walked. No lure was to be seen. But then trouble started as we made our return to the site. For it was then she assured me it was down one of these side paths. I replied, "No, we didn't go that way." She was insistent. I drew a map in the dirt with a stick, showing her that we had already checked those stumps. Still she wanted to walk down this short steep cliff trail to the water's edge. I said, "Okay, but come right back."

She left. I watched her slide down the eroded path and then she was gone. I waited. Nothing. I went half way down the trail. No sign. My heart beat out past my chest wall, as I screamed her name, over and over again. No answer. I slide down the trail to the shore, sprinting up and down the path a short distance, still calling her name, which was now echoing across the water. Finally a response; a whimper, and a cry for mommy, as she came out from behind some bush. A hornet had buzzed by her while she was climbing down the trial so she tried to go back another way. That eroded trail was not longer than 30 feet. She should have been out of my site for a minute max... After recovering from this maternal near death experience, I advised her to yell for me next time she was going to have a change of plan.

Now after that, you would think she would stick close by... But the next day while we (her parents) were walking around the campground she scootered after her older sister, who was riding her bike. Both got away from us. Both I assumed would stick together. But when we got to the entrance to our section, neither child was there. My husband looked at me, and I looked at him... We then split up and walked the loop of our section, getting back to our site with only the oldest present and accounted for.

"Where is your sister?"

"I didn't know I was suppose to watch her." I jumped on my bike, with the thought of sitting her down and explaining to her that you always watch out for you siblings, and took off to find the baby yet again. I circled back, went to the playground, road the main drag in the park, cut through the woods and as I approached the site, migraine blaring, saw she had returned.

She had indeed gotten lost, and ended up crying as she walked the main park road. Her savior was a man who had heard her wimpers. He came out of the woods and asked her what was wrong. When she told him where she needed to go, he pointed her in the correct direction, and set her on her way.

Both her father and I pointed out to her and her sister, this situation could have easily gone a different way. And now for the rest of their lives, when not in school, neither one will be allowed out of my sight.

Parental lesson learned. Kids are just kids.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hit the ground running

Five day weekends should come with disclaimers: "It is a recommendation of the surgeon mother that the partying and merry making only go on for four days, max. For if you party and make merry on the fifth, getting back into the daily schedule is not a pretty picture."

I woke up this morning, and without putting a toe to the floor, I was already behind. Kitchen still a disaster from cupcake baking and camping remnants. Living room floor to ceiling with clean laundry waiting to be folded. And to top it all off today is the first day for drop offs for the parish yard sale. I have been waiting for this day for months, as my mud room slowly transformed into a holding dock for yard sale items donated from friends and a family.

My feet and mind are running a million miles an hour. Just too bad they aren't heading off in the same direction...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Camping and Back Again

We camped. We toasted marshmallows. Chilled into a deep sleep; we slept in. Drank hot cocoa. Fished, and yes, the big one did get away. We cooked over an open fire; played games, and explored. We trick or treated... We celebrated a birthday, complete with candles and presents.

It's so hard to be back. The bins are mostly emptied. The laundry almost done. School is on the horizon.

Memorial Day weekend cannot come fast enough.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Memories Revisted

My first memory is of being pushed in a stroller past a campground bathroom where planted along the outside walls was a bank of wild roses.

Then over twenty years ago, on a road trip through Cape Cod my grandfather turned into Nickerson State Park and I knew I had been there before. Oh I had heard stories of playing at the lake shore beach for hours, but deep inside I knew I had been there and asked, "Is there a bathroom here with wild roses planted next to it?" From somewhere towards the front of the station wagon came the reply, "There might be."

That day, we toured all the old favorite family camp sites and sure enough there was the origin of my first memory. Strange it was a bathroom in a campground. But I suspect as a baby I had been parked there a few too many times by one parent or another while they took my sister or themselves to the facilities.

And now this weekend, we are going back there. I haven't been camping there for over forty years, but I've walked the bike trail almost annually for the past ten or so; every Thanksgiving. I can't wait to revisit the memories of my past.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Save the Dates

St. George Parish Yard Sale October 18, 2008
St. George Parish Pumpkin Fair October 25, 2008
St. George Parish Breakfast October 26, 2008
First practice of St. George Christmas play November 4, 2008
World Youth Day Madrid August 15 - 21, 2011

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Who would bail you out?

I find it unthinkable that the CEO of Lehman Richard Fuld is still enjoying his take while we the American people, when faced with similar financial hardship would not be given the same options. Can you imagine being able to walk up to the Senate and House and asking them to clean up your business mistakes and then being allowed to keep your multi million dollar assets or live in anything bigger than standard subsidized housing for a family of his size -- minus the hired help? I can see it now, " Oh Senator... I've lost my job and my family is now losing their home. Can you help me?"

Right, if we made it into an office, security would be called and we'd be given the pat on the back by an Aide and shown the door. Or less. I know people in this situation. Hard working Americans, who have lost homes, who are buried in debt, who could use a helping hand -- far less than the 700 billion this country has just handed out.

And I ask, what about the man in Southern California, who after facing months of hardship killed himself and his family? Did the Senate do anything to help him out? I'm sure, it's the same answer, "He never asked." Like it would've helped.

I wonder if Mr. Fuld will, like so many facing financial hardship, find himself homeless? Or maybe now we should consider Fuld's housing as subsidized... all his multi million dollars homes with their tennis courts, swimming pools and art collections. If so, where is my thank you? Hey, Mr. Fuld -- I'm paying for your mistakes. Or better yet, save the stamp, and offer several families, who have lost their homes, shelter. From the images on the news, I think 4 or 5 families could share each dwelling and not even know the other families are there.

For the sake of this country (Is that true?) the government thought it was best to save your company. But like anyone else struggling in these hard times, I doubt you will truly know the hardship that faces many Americans everyday. Many of whom (via their taxes) will be forced to work hard so that you and your company are kept in the ways you've become accustomed. Enjoy? I don't think that I could.

Monday, October 06, 2008

No book...

This morning I woke with the feeling of, ut oh... My book, the book I am supposed to be finishing is locked up safely on the hard drive I can't access. I know I made a back up copy onto a CD, but finding that now, on and in a desk that has had a computer surgically dismantled is not a good prospect. SHIT!

I better find that disk...

On a good note, the third Monarch emerged. I took pictures, but the photo software... you got it... is on the belly up computer. The butterfly is a beauty. But notice I said the third Monarch and not the second. That baby is still wrapped up tight, and we fear dead. For it has been metamorphosing a good month now, and its color is a sickening brownish blah. Still I have hope. After all we all grow at our own rate.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Computer Down

What's that movie... Black Hawk Down... which of course has nothing to do with my not having access to my usual desktop work horse computer, with all my secrets, files, and photos. But the tone of the word down in both instances is the same; terminal.

Twice yesterday I went to print a picture or a letter and was met by an open box with cabling splayed and its motherboard ripped out. Sad times. No photo software, no email addresses that aren't committed to memory, no parish letters soliciting goods and services for our Energy Conservation talk on November 9th. I'm treading electronic waters here. Not panicking -- for I know my files are safely tucked away but not accessible.

We haven't really come up with a solution. It was a beautiful build it yourself model, so tech support is strictly in-house. And a quick scan for replacement parts on the net has resulted in one word: Unavailable.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Economic Stimulation

Just how far does 700 billion dollars go towards stimulating the economy?

Seven hundred billion dollars is enough to give every adult in the US, over the age of 18, four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Now that is some sort of economic stimulus. I would much rather bail out the many over the few.

Knitting and pattern recognition

It seems I always have a sock going. Baby socks work up fast. If I ignore the fact I have a family, laundry to fold, and meals to prepare, I can breeze through a pair in a day. Adult socks seem to be on my needles two months; even more. This past summer I promised my little dancer that I'd knit her a pair. Being not a baby and not quite an adult, I figured a month and I'd be done.

Inspiration hit after reading a book on doing just that, Knitting Socks. It is an unusual book as it is not written as a pattern book, but a book of what you can do when. For example, you can have this ribbing or that, then move into this heel flap or that, followed by an assortment of techniques for turning heels, and finishing off the toes. (I have an obsession with knitting books, but that is a topic for another time.)

So I started her pair with a new type of ribbing.... barely considering stitch count. Knit a basic sock, with a Strong Heel and then finished with a basic foot and toe. It came out lovely... but then the problem hit. I didn't follow a pattern. So I looked at the ribbing, but not closely and figured it was a Knit 2 Purl 2 ribbing for about an inch and a half. I counted the ribs... thought I had 72 stitches. But deep down inside I felt there were only 54 stitches on the needles. And of course the sock was too big... I counted, and counted and looked at the ribbing and couldn't figure out exactly what I had done.

Then yesterday while knitting with friends I turned the finished sock inside out and realized that the ribbing was not Knit 2 Purl 2 but only Knit 2 Purl 1, coming out to 54 stitches. It was then it hit me. Pattern recognition, the studying of ABABAB and AABAABAAB patterns in kindergarten is really important. And not just for knitting socks but for figuring more important things in life; like knitting sweaters.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What's Important Here

When I've watching TV or looking at photographs I find myself asking, "What's important here? What works in this picture or framing? What makes or breaks my attention?" In this image the broken stick is distracting.

What I've discovered from viewing the photographic works of others is, you don't always have to see everything; the whole butterfly, a person's complete face. Using light, shadow and cropping the viewers attention can be focused. Distractions eliminated.

The photo above is an over exaggeration. Cropped tightly and all but the orange/yellow downplayed, my attention is first drawn to the wings then to the body. Do I think this is good? Not especially -- for me it misses the mark. Something is not right... So I played around a bit more, darkening the background.
It still may or may not cut the mustard, but it's fun to be able to play about with the images.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mom, Dad, I know the feeling

Last night, while I was painting the town a little shade of rose, my mom called and left a message about how her delete key on her computer wasn't working anymore. And seeing how I fixed it the last time (I did?) could I give her a hand. When I got the message it was too late to enter into the wrangle of tech support via phone on an operating system I know nothing about. So I went to bed.

This morning I called. I listened... It was Outlook Express rearing its ugly head. An application I don't use layered on an OS I don't know. Bring it on. I called up www.yahoo.com. The first advice seemed almost familiar, but work heavy to related over the phone. So, I improvised and managed to make things worse. THANK GOD the recycle bin allows you to retrieve your mistakes.

The second suggestion seemed more plausible. We deleted the deleted messages file. Outlook now allowed deletions, but is running very slow.

The third suggestion recommended using regedit... I read the directions to my father, who was my eyes and hands on his end of the phone. There was silence. I pictured his mouth hanging, a doorway for anything baseball-sized and smaller. "I'll be over tomorrow. No worries." And so I will.

Two hours after my stint playing online support, I was in my banjo lesson. (I love the banjo.) Despite having the girls home, this was a lesson I didn't want to miss. For over this past week I had taught myself the fret board and can now s---l---o---w---l---y pick out a melody. At last I am no longer tethered to tableture, which is a fine way to play -- but not all music is relayed in tableture. I have been instructed to move on...

Arthur met us at the door. "I have something for you," was all I said as I walked into his studio. All set, I pulled out my Christmas music book and plucked out Blue Christmas. Slowly.

He smiled. And then started in discussing chord construction and minor chords and tuning the banjo a step lower so that minor chords can be more easily reached. He had me set up the Dminor chord... I did it, and then refused to move my hand to anything else -- least I forget while he created music that I could listen to forever. And when he stopped, my mouth was gaping wide enough for a baseball to fit through and I knew exactly how my parents felt earlier in the day when I was trying to fix their computer a la telephone.

Down time, Our time


The girls are home again today; as they were yesterday for the Jewish Holidays. We are taking it easy, knitting, counting cans at the church, (we counted over 800 cans yesterday...), and having lazy days. It's okay. Life on the elementary school track is way too fast. I cooked a turkey this past weekend, so even dinners are lazy sandwiches. I enjoy these times. But I feel the pressure of the schedule pushing in.

For in the back of my head, the voice is saying, "Choir practice 6:45 Wednesday -- don't forget. Girl Scouts on Friday -- get the supplies put together. Dress fitting Saturday -- find the directions to the school. Update the online parish calendar. Laundry, laundry, laundry."

Breath in and breath out. I push it all back behind the comfy couch of our relaxation. We have one more day of just being. Not really on a schedule, but I do have a banjo lesson today and we are heading into the city to hit the Science Museum. And even though I'm driving in -- it's still down time.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BIGMAMA

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chairs and Cares

Today was a busy day for chairs and cares. Chair because I helped Mrs. D. reupholster two of her dining room chairs. We pulled staples. Laid out the material. Centered the seats, cut and stapled. Two done; four to go. We chatted; attempting to solve world problems and contemplated the end of the world.

Later I stormed around town getting donations for our next church event, a talk on making our homes more energy efficient, and then secondly on private and federal fuel assistance programs. With the rising costs of heating oil, food and prescriptions, how are people, especially the elderly, going to manage the winter? The task is a tough one. I got a lot of smiles, and promises to get back to me. But I danced out of Stop & Shop after collecting a donation of 24 boxes of cereal. You might ask what is the advantage of 24 boxes of cereal over a gift card? A gift card is given to one family. Twenty four boxes of cereal can give a meal or two to 24 families.

When I visited Lowes I mentioned that a case of window plastic sheeting would be great. Much better than a gift card. The manager smiled and said he would get back to me. At another store the owner mentioned business was terrible due to a summer's worth of road construction right outside his door. Not to be detered I offered to take a coupon off his hands. "I'll drive business your way. Give a coupon for $5 off on a $10 purchase." The owner said he would think about it.

In this business of gathering donations, it really is a sharing of favors.

The talk is November 9th. So, I'll be on the prowl for donations until then. Putting together gift packages for those in attendance.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Comfort foods for a comfortable day

My mom turns 70 on Monday. I could ask that familiar question: Where did the time go? for I remember when she was 29 and my dad was 30, and they were old then. Now I'm brushing up against 50. And that sing song little kid tattle tale of, "I know you are, but what am I?" is ringing through my head.

Also chiming in between my ears, is a take off of that other more adult saying of, "I must have money in my account. I still have checks left." But for me it says, "I must be young, I still have dreams that I'm chasing." Along with young children...

Mom, if you're reading... spoiler ahead....

For her birthday dinner here, tomorrow we are having comfort food. Recipes, tried and true, brought down through the ages. No cake but an Indian pudding cozied up next to some hermits, smothered with vanilla pudding. And maybe we will eat dessert first.. before the stuffed meatloaf, mashed potatoes and squash with maple syrup. The bro is bringing antipasto. Just typing that word conjures up visions of my Italian grandparents' kitchen. I can almost taste the marinated artichoke hearts and hard crusty Italian bread.

We will be at least 11, maybe as many as 15 here sitting around tables shared between the kitchen and dining room, but there will be more represented in the foods we eat, and the memories we share.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The quiet

I love the early morning. The quiet that settles on the house. Today was suppose to be a two field trip, football game day after track practice day. The weather has reigned that all in to a no field trips, track practice yes, maybe no band for the football game event. If it were a Saturday, it would be a perfect home game day. Set the card table up in the living room, and master board game after board game. Win or lose; who cares. Fun trumps all.

I have a hard time sending the cherubs off on rainy days. Instead I want to cozy them all, pop popcorn, knit, crochet, and talk. As the oldest headed out at 6:30, we had our I Love Yous, then as she walked off to the bus, I prayed her and my days would allow for more of them. That she would be given the chance to grow up, kiss children of her own, and call her life complete.

In the quiet of the day it is easy to see the goodness that life has for us.