Thursday, May 31, 2007

be anxious for nothing

One can lay out big bucks for professional therapy. (I'm not saying that the author of this here blog is necessarily in need of such therapy, nor that any reader of aforesaid blog might be, either-) Nonetheless, for no charge, I would like to alert the world to readily accessible, effective, potent, and fun activities that anyone can apprehend to benefit one's mental health.

1. Take long walk. No explanation needed for this one.

2. Bake bread. Today's recipe features molasses, oats, wheat germ, and whole wheat flour. When the loaves are still warm, hack off a chunk and smear it with peanut butter. Consume with abandon.

3. Write a letter to a friend. Nix the phone call. That annoying call-waiting beep, which erases any calming effect, is inevitable on her end or yours. Anyway, the act of composing a letter, sealing the envelope, affixing a stamp, and slipping it into a mailbox is part of the medicine. Tuck the hope of getting a response deep into your psyche.

4. Pet an animal. Horses are particularly grateful if you accompany this gesture with a fistful of clover.

5. Share a scripture with someone. It strengthens both their faith and yours. And whose faith couldn't stand a little strengthening?

6. Be a cheerleader. I like to think of a cheerleader as someone who leads another into cheer. Don't settle for empty words of flattery, but words into which you have put some serious elbow-grease. The receiver will be grateful for the boost and you will be further along in the Art of Edification.

Please share your tips to maintaining a mind free from stress, worry, and fear. I would also like to recommend indulging in a double-dip waffle cone filled with Espresso Therapy ice cream ( found at your local Stewarts Shop). Be sure to follow that up with suggestion #1 (found at the top of this list).

Monday, May 28, 2007

morning walk

glowing leaf on pavement

early morning meadow

patch o' ferns


Saturday, May 26, 2007

notes on grace

grace is a sure-footed mountain
a bursting spring
nobody's fool
- a sentinel.

grace is yesterday's sorrow
cloaked in traveling garb-

grace is pure
unweathered and unworn
sparking with mercies that are newly-invented.

grace is the pocket of coolness
in a summer-weight blanket
on a sweltering sleepless night-

grace is luxury in the face of dim vision-
a buoyant raft
a missionary's paycheck
a wordless answer
a guarantee.

my drink at first light
and my last amazing supper.

Friday, May 25, 2007

post haste

Alright, already.
I can accept constructive criticism.

It was evident to both #1 Son and Friend #12 that I posted in haste yesterday.
I repeated words/phrases within the same sentences.
My verb-tense exchange was questionable.
My theme was non-existent.
I rambled.
#1 Daughter insists that she didn't scream, only laughed, when she discovered worms in the fridge. I checked the expiration date on my Literary License; I'm still covered. So far, no one from the NY Times or Chicago Tribunal has called me with further corrections/input/advice/recommendations.

Thanks, family & friends, for insisting I uphold the standard.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

dinner out, anyone?

We spent an educational morning getting the yard mowed and raked. Our mowing system is a bit complicated, usually involving at least one trip for gas to the corner market, one wheel falling off a riding mower, one iced tea break, one potty break, and one running-out-of-gas situation. We especially wanted the yard looking nice for a photo-shoot this evening. The occasion? A photo-shoot of gussied-up CFA students, en route to their class dinner.
After an afternoon at Honey Dew Acres for #1 Daughter's riding lesson, I gave the lawn the once-over, placed a serving table under the shade of the apple trees, and dusted off our wooden camp chairs for guests. I must say, we almost look presentable.
Then I came into the kitchen to the screams of #1 Daughter, who was recoiling at something horrifying in the refrigerator. The worms that they dug up yesterday for fishing had escaped, and were draped throughout the interior of the fridge, seeking escape. There was even one in the lunch-meat drawer, much to our disgust.
We were going to have grilled sandwiches for dinner, but everyone's appetite has suddenly fled.
Don't worry, CFA students. We are only serving iced tea, and it was stored on the kitchen counter.
Have a memorable dinner at the Lobster House, everybody!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


When is the last time you sat quietly in a holy space and took in the atmosphere?
When I was a teen, I regularly practiced the pipe organ in my church. Most often, I rode my bike there, let myself in the parking lot door with my mom's key, locked the door behind me, and entered the world of quiet. Before lifting the wooden roll-top that enclosed the double-manual keyboards, I would take a few moments to inhale the smell of carpet, wood, candle wax, floor polish, and last Sunday's altar flowers. Sometimes I would slide into any pew that I wished and let my soul unwind. In a little while, the felted-breath of organ pedal would work its way over and under each pew and through the votived chandeliers that hung tenuously from the cracked and peach-colored ceilings. But first I needed a wedge of peace, a serving of silence, a slice of beauty that came from my surroundings.
The only other place I feel this way is in a museum. Or in the piney woods. Or floating in my kayak.

it is well with my soul

I enjoyed tonight's rehearsal for tomorrow evening's violin recital. Skillful string-playing in an acoustically superb space is a great combination! Add the evening sun streaming through stained-glass windows , and I'll have nothing to complain about. "Pastor with Viola"

String Quartet with Guitar: Bach Air

church stairwell

winding stair

He is Risen-He is not here

Monday, May 21, 2007

a day full of people

One of my favorite treats is Bagel Sunday. It isn't a liturgical event like Palm Sunday or the first Sunday of Lent, but it is meaningful to me nonetheless. Once a month, everyone is invited to stay after the service for fresh bagels, cream cheese, coffee and juice. Let me tell you, these people can eat. Two sheet cakes (one chocolate, one white) joined the feeding frenzy in honor of the upcoming California-move of the Dunphey family. We are very sad about the move, but rejoice in the consolation of cake.
I raided the rhubarb patch in the early afternoon with thoughts of throwing together a dessert for company. We didn't officially invite people, but it happens. Nine assorted friends arrived in three different vehicles over the course of the afternoon. Our resident nine-year-old exclaimed, "Are we having a party, Aunt Nancy?"
"I guess so," I rejoined as I threw some on-hand chopped pears into the rhubarb mix. (This method is akin to stretching the soup.)
The toy basket was pulled out. A baby was admired thoroughly. Talk was thrown around of a farm for sale, a horse that was shedding its winter coat, and the baby dedication in church that morning. It rained on and off. Hubby escaped for a ten-minute shut-eye. A few kids played chase through the kitchen and guest room.
Finally, three teen-aged girls kidnapped me and #1 Daughter and took us to the mall. They forced us to buy three pairs of summer shorts (for #1 Daughter) and a summer jacket (for myself). Except for the forcing part, this is completely true. As quizzical as I was that these young whipper-snaps went out of their way to insist upon my company, I was happy to oblige.
The day wasn't over. At home, the company had dispersed. Hubby grilled a few steaks while I dashed together a large pasta salad. Extreme Home Makeover was showing in the back room while I took an hour-long phone call from Vermont. One more heartfelt conversation took place couch-side before retiring for the evening.
This was my kind of Sunday.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Academy Night

Here are two audience members that we love: Grandma Jean and Sammy Datri. They enjoyed the concert!
Bubsie leads the string section. Terrific solo-work, Ben & Liana!
Steady & slick: Jon Daniels on percussion.
A stunning senior blows her horn. Way to go, Ade!
A very photogenic family: Livvy, Jack & Josiah.

Friday, May 18, 2007

wide, long, high & deep

An action-packed morning at our Friday-School Program, the last one of the academic year, has left this clan droopy-tired. Of course we didn't kick back when we arrived home, but headed outside to finish mowing and trimming the lawn before the next dose of rain hits. Beef tips in barbeque sauce are simmering on the back burner, finger sandwiches are chilling in the fridge,
laundry is churning, and our resident 9-year-old is occupied with his skateboard. Now we have a few hours to re-charge before tonight's Academy Night. Come to think of it, Academy Night is merely the kick-off to one social event after another this weekend!
Although my life has been fraught with too much multi-tasking lately, I am considering tackling two more things in the next hour: mulling over the following magnificent passage of scripture while relishing a hot, hot bath. With bubbles, even. Multi-tasking can be a glorious thing.

Paul's Prayer for Spiritual Empowering:

"When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep in the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is." (Ephesians 3: 14-18, New Living Translation)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

already done/to-do

Here is a list of things I did today. So far. It's only shortly after noon.

-baked three loaves of bread
-made breakfast for the family
-chose three Sephardic songs for #1 Daughter to learn for our upcoming school presentation
-taught school and dished out assignments
-took a long soaking walk in the drizzling rain
-styled Friend #12's hair in rag-curls. She looks like a baby doll.

I depart shortly to bring #1 Daughter and a friend to their riding lesson, then #1 Son will join me on a trip into the heart of the Adirondacks. We are picking up a precious package: a nine-year-old boy that will be spending 10 days with us while his parents are away.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

one cake, many reasons

#1 Daughter made the yellow butter cake, and I contributed the warm rhubarb sauce. To gild the lily, (and for Hubby's taste-buds) we will also throw together a bowl of cream cheese frosting.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Janet! We will have to save you a piece, since we live 100 miles away fro you .
Happy Birthday, Grandma Jean! (2 days early)
Happy Anniversary, Bill & Nancy! (also 2 days early, but I'm only baking one cake this week)
We have other blessings to celebrate as well.

I think one cake can do the job. Pass the ice cream, please.

Nancy's Rhubarb Sauce

2 cups diced rhubarb (red is prettier)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
dash cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, combine & simmer all ingredients. Stew until thickened and rhubarb is soft, maybe 20 minutes. Stir often. Serve warm over any kind of cake. (As a rule, vanilla ice cream helps any dessert.) Refrigerate leftovers for spreading on your breakfast toast.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ottawa fun

The family treated me to a day in Ottawa for Mothers Day. Aren't they thoughtful? (It was at my request.) We enjoyed some of the festivities at the Tulip Festival.
The weather was perfect for strolling and for snapping outdoor photos.
The grounds were dotted with giant tulips, decorated in different themes. What will Canadians think of next?
Under the tent of the International Festival, we drank Costa Rican coffee, watched children make Korean crafts, listened to some really bad accordion playing, and generally soaked in the culture. Here is a photo of an authentic turkish dancer. really.
#1 Son reminds me of the King in the nursery-rhyme: "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie." ("Wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?")


The teeth on the right don't have the beauty-advantage of braces!

My kids wanted to buy this for me. Nothin' doin'.
We came upon this canine street act in Byward Market.
Those are strips of hot dog in their mouths. I believe their trainer called it, "funny-tongue".
The outdoor market was bursting with blooms. We could only admire them on Canadian soil, as
customs won't allow any over the border.
We ate Thai food for dinner. It was delicious. En route to our car, we couldn't resist some street food and shared a Beaver Tail, piping hot. (Stateside, we call it fried dough with cinnamon sugar.) Those Canadians! Giant tulips and Beaver Tails.
I hope every mom had as an enjoyable day as I! (more pics on my flickr...)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

all about me today

Today is Mothers Day, which gives me carte blanche to make this post all about myself.
In reflecting on the things that make me unique, set apart, and singularly different, (okay, weird)
I came up with these random bits of trivia:

-I don't have pierced ears. I don't wear bracelets or watches. Ever. And I am sorry to say that I don't even wear my wedding rings, even though I am most definitely proud to be married!

-I hardly ever listen to music. My preferred genre for listening is live. ( If I really want to hear something, I play it myself on the piano.) Unintentionally, I almost always have a piece of music going on in my head, which makes for cacophony when the kids put on a CD.

-I don't mind public speaking, and I am fearless in front of an audience. But please please don't ask me to teach a class of grade-school kids. I beg of you. Being in charge of kids makes my knees quake. I don't know why, because I love the kids. Just make me the teacher's aid and no one will get hurt.

-I only love to shop when alone. Shopping with someone else, anyone else, is way too stressful for me.

-I love to make pickles. And pies.

-I'm terrible at sewing. This is the mom that taught her 5-year-old son to sew on buttons because she didn't want to do that chore anymore. While hemming pants, I chant, "I'm almost done, I'm almost done...."

-I'm a stickler for grammar and diction. If I haven't corrected you, it's probably because I am struggling to be polite. Please talk to me anyway. Thanks.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

having it my way

I bounced out of the doors of Crane today, happy and relieved to have the lion's share of work behind me. Only three rehearsals, three Levels (performance exams), and one German Diction Class Final performance to go, and my work is done for this season.
To add to my exhilaration, the Concerto Competition results were announced this afternoon. Of the five competitors that I worked with, one is the first place winner, one is second place, and one is fourth place (honorable mention). I am thrilled for them.
It is also notable that all the students I accompanied performed superbly.
I surely deserved the trip through the Burger King drive-thru. Sometimes nothing hits the spot like a Whopper. Not a classy meal for this girl, but some days, she sure can play the piano....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

ten fingers, many roles

One of my tasks as a pianist is to not sound like a pianist. Yesterday, my schedule was packed with attempts to replicate the shimmer of a string section, the muted tone of a french horn, the plaintive breath of the flute, and the massive heft of a brass section. Yes folks, it is that time of year again at your local school of music: the annual concerto competition.
A concerto is a piece for soloist and orchestra, and it designed to showcase the capabilities of the featured instrumentalist. Every year, the students of Crane who have passed a certain level of proficiency are invited to try their hand (literally) at winning this competition. The "prize"? A performance with the Crane Symphony Orchestra and the undying admiration of their fellow classmates.
My job in all of this excitement? I get to be the orchestra! When a student needs to rehearse for a concerto and it is time for the orchestra to be added to the ensemble, it's generally impossible to find a spare orchestra just hanging around, looking for something to do. In the light of this problem, someone came up with the idea to reduce the parts of up to forty instrumentalists into two handy staffs. Two very handy, very crowded staffs. ( staves? who says staves?)
"Let's invite a pianist to play this! There are plenty of them hanging around, looking for something to do..."
Not really. But it does explain what I have been up to these past few weeks. (Not including the levels, juries, studio performances, lessons, German Diction II class, Musical Theater Class, and all the rehearsals that these imply.)
This is not a complaint. However, I am exulting in the fact that new year is a self-proclaimed year off from working at Crane.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I like reading recipes. I like inventing recipes. As my readers know, I also like to broadcast my food-experiments on this here blog. The following food ideas won't tantalize any taste buds, I don't think. Here are some unbelievable recipes from the 1951 edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
No kidding.

Prunes in Bacon

Tomato Frappe (tomatoes, apples, water, sugar, lemon juice, ginger root, maraschino sirup) Cook and freeze to a mush. For roast lamb, ham or turkey.

Brains with Black Butter ( isn't there a culinary term for "brains"?)

Scrambled Calf's Brains

Tripe in Batter (tripe is the inner lining of the stomach of beef animals)

Stewed Cucumbers (WHY?)

Baked Oranges

Rhubarb Punch

Avocado Mousse

Frogs Legs Newburg

A truly inventive cook could take any of these main ingredients and mix up the preparation techniques. How about Frogs Legs Mousse, Stewed Oranges, or Calf Brains Punch?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

the shunpiker

shunpike: (n) a side road taken instead of a turnpike or expressway to avoid tolls or to travel at a leisurely pace. (origin:1850-55, Americanism)

never mind the blacktop:
cracked macadam
flattened roadkill
smell of exhaust
60 mph dust and so forth.

I lunged over the lawn
where sweet grass swung up to meet my foot
"make your own path", I considered.
so I cut a wide swath northward
nipped the budding hedgerow where sparrows darted anxiously
noted the plunging hurrupp of a barrel-chested frog in the marsh
and struck out for the farthest field,
past where the wild turkeys strut
beyond the rusted barbed wire fence
between the scraggly low cedars
through the strip of marshy lowland
and straight on over the mounded meadow
where a giant bee loped past my head.

Half-expecting to come upon a fairy-ring,
I stood mute-
wary of nothing-
and breathed the yawning vapors of watered roots
sprung from the greening thatch.

I veered away from last year's track
where the faithful farmer lugged shifting stacks of hay
atop his wagon towards the barn-
(the warmth of a thousand afternoons trailing behind)
and I shrugged away the deer's vining trail
that skated thorn and bush.

Instead, I stepped a crooked course,
letting gait fall where it may
looking up more than anywhere
(certainly more than looking behind)
knowing that tomorrow I would likely take the road
as I most always do.

and wistfully so.

Friday, May 04, 2007

lullaby by the light of the moon

A phosphorescent full moon beckoned me from slumber last night, sending its dreamy and other-wordly light cascading over rumpled blankets and sheets straight into my droopy eyes. When I rolled over to escape the blue-blare, Mr. Moon found me again by reflecting his nursery-rhyme features into the dresser mirror. That did it. I was officially moonstruck. The digital clock read 3 a.m.
Normally, I love the moon keeping midnight company with me. But not last night. Hands down, my day could've been classified right up there with a certain Alexander's, and I knew that sleeplessness would dredge that fact up from the sea of sleepy forgetfulness. Sure enough, within minutes, my heart was heavy with worry and my throat was tight with fretful tears. I was tempted to shake Hubby from his much-needed sleep for a word of comfort, and only polite consideration of his exhaustion kept me from doing so.
"I need a hand, Lord," I whispered inwardly, desperately.
Within moments, out of the drifts of forgotten songs, from the very bottom of the stack of dusty boxes in that proverbial attic in my memory, came the opening of a choral selection I learned to love in childhood:
Lift thine eyes, oh lift thine eyes
to the mountains.
Whence cometh, whence cometh
whence cometh help?
Thy help cometh from the LORD
the Maker of heaven and earth....
The a capella women's trio from Mendelssohn's "Elijah" was sung perfectly, as if on a CD track, from start to finish, immediately followed by the next movement, joined by organ and strings:
He watching over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps....
I laid as if in a trance, completely awestruck by surprise at this impromptu and uncalled for concert. All of the lines wove through my mind: organ, strings, and voices, all perfectly recalled by some computer-chip sent by heaven to comfort me. When the voices fell silence and the organ piped its last sweet muted notes, I was overwhelmed by peace. I fell asleep holding this reminder to my heart: I serve a God that tenderly watches over all His children, at all times.
He never sleeps, and His help is as near as a call for help. It has been many a year since I have been sung to sleep.
I had forgotten how much I liked it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

two more....

I couldn't resist publishing a few more. This is a red trillium, and the color is breathtaking.
Such delicate pine cones! I delight in the tiny things.

Getting Away for a Day in the Country

In the midst of a tightly-scheduled afternoon, (schoolwork, household chores, practice, etc.) I announced a trip to the South Colton Trail. In five minutes, we jumped into the car with cameras and water bottles for a brisk hike. Friend #7 was up to her usual silly tricks: here she is prancing with unbridled joy.
It's a good thing we were speechless. The thunder of the falls drowned out all conversation.
Girls with blue eyes are so photogenic, doncha think?
The Mighty Raquette. I could only imagine how many kilowatts of power it was generating....
Up from the brown forest floor sprung patches of color. This is a Trout Lily. Note the speckles on the leaves. #1 Daughter took some beautiful pics for our enjoyment.
"Nature Field Trip" is now checked off of my home-school enrichment list.