Friday, February 29, 2008

things I did today (so far)

-thanked God for another day. if I walk close to Him, all kinds of wondrous things can happen.
-brewed what we call "good" coffee. (Fair Trade Midnight Sun)
-made two eggs and toast. for myself.
-made sure two students were up-'n-at'em.
-packed for Friday School and headed out into the minus 11 degree air.
-wrote out a trumpet part for band class.
-played piano for the 4th-6th grade chorus.
-got my picture taken by the yearbook staff. (those boys!)
-played piano for the high-school chorus.
-watched the high-schoolers play floor hockey. I yelled GO POODIE and GO BUBS. I joined "the wave" on the sidelines.
-conducted band rehearsal.
-came home by myself. #1 Son went to the Daniels to work on a video. #1 Daughter was hired to clean a friend's house.
-put on a large kettle of navy bean soup for our friends arriving from Syracuse tonight.
-braved the elements. (I made it to the top of the hill before I gave up.)
-sat down to post without any inspiration whatsoever.
-posted anyway.

My favorite family has a dinner engagement tonight. Thai food is on the menu. When we get back home, we will describe it in detail to our Syracuse friends who, unfortunately, only had navy bean soup for dinner.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

playing around the house

I took time to play today.

Finding these printable vintage Easter cards online made for some fun.
I added one of my favorite images to my bird's-nest collection and called it "Spring".

It takes gargantuan effort to disregard this winter weather, but I'm a-trying.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

a field trip for the NY Phil

What a night for the NY Phil!
Their historic performance in Pyongyang opened with the national anthem of North Korea followed by a rousing rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. See if it doesn't send shivers down your spine.

Watch some great clips here.
If you click on "Video", you can scroll down and to "groundbreaking performance" for the opening of the concert.

A few things came to mind as the camera panned the audience. Where did all the Westerners come from? There is no U.S. embassy in North Korea!

The Korean audience looks pretty stern, the men all suited up in their western attire. The women, who were sparsely sprinkled about, look resplendent in ethnic gowns. No one smiles.

Notice the violinist in the orchestra who stands while she plays the Korean anthem. Her family fled North Korea before she was born; she now performs with the most illustrious orchestra in the United States.

All the orchestra members stood for our national anthem. Except for, of course, the ones with cellos between their legs!

Monday, February 25, 2008


What year was this? Spring of '69?
Billy looks about four years old. That would put Jimmy at six and myself at seven.
Yes, that sounds about right.

That's our suburban home behind us: 38 Bayberry Road. (To me, it is a classic address!) Over Jimmy's shoulder, you can spot our silver station wagon in the drive. We are dressed for church in our Sunday best. We are posing in our neighbor's yard, the Foote's. Rose and Frank. They adored us, the three children that lived across the street.

I came across this photo as I was organizing some drawers, and the adorableness (is that a word?) of my brother Jimmy hit me square in the heart.

Please pray for him this week. As of yesterday, he is in the ICU of Watertown Hospital with chronic liver failure.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

copper & tin

Thrifty me.

This slightly rusty yet elegant tin was acquired at the Birchbark Bookshop for $1.50. I can think of 150 ways it can make me happy.

By my reckoning, that's one thin penny for each shot of happiness.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

someone (not me) takes a hike

do not disturb the bibliophile....

nirvana in the music-section

vintage children's illustrations soothe my rumpled soul

rows and rows and rows of delicious books

It's a mom's job to stave off household grumpiness.

The resident little darlings are cranky this morning. At times, I would rather tweak their scowly noses and leave them to their own grumbly devices. But today while cranking out our daily dose of school, a light bulb shining with the glow of hope appeared over my motherly head.

"Let's blow this joint and head for the Birchbark after lunch", says I.

Everybody seemed agreeable.
I am counting on finding my own corner there, along with a few quirky books to keep me company.
Grumpiness can take a hike.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

a book in every room

I am always always always reading something.
Here is a short list of where my nose has been lately.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

What amazing writing. If you know Alex Haley's Roots, you can begin by comparing it to that. But after a chapter or two (if you can hang in there!), the realization hits: the reader is being led into a world that is brutal, raw and debilitating. I put this book down a number of times before I could bring myself to finish it. I am so thankful I did.
It is not a book for the fainthearted.

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

Our church is offering a class on this book, and the only reason I enrolled is because I enjoy the teaching-style of one of our elders, Bob Dale. My brain is being stretched as I knock off each chapter. I am not a science-minded person, but Strobel's writing style is accessible and engaging to me. Yesterday I read few bits aloud to Hubby in the car, and it sparked some great conversation. It would make a great science-read for home-schoolers!

Paradise Lost by John Milton

I should love this book.
I am trying to love this book.
I will finish at least a portion of this book.

I am not loving this book.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
These are great tales for reading aloud. And that is just what I am doing, every morning before I dismiss my brilliant students to their assignments. Even Friend #37 got hooked, merely by eves- dropping while he was eating breakfast. Now he lurks around the house looking for clues for no ascertainable reason.
There is nothing NOT to like about these tales.

The Epistle of Second Timothy by The Apostle Paul (and the Holy Spirit)
The kids and I are studying this New Testament letter. We are breaking down each verse, digging out the action verbs, Paul's commands to Timothy, and the main points of each chapter. It is a very personal document filled with emotional testimony and fatherly care. I love that Paul asks Timothy to bring him his cloak before winter.
The apostle Paul was a real man who loved God very much. What a read!

Monday, February 18, 2008


There must be something in the air with our North country guys and extravagant Valentine's Day gifts.

This weekend, Hubby announced that he thought it might be nice to go furniture shopping in Burlington on Monday, it being President's Day and all. Be still my beating heart. Furniture shopping??
We have had wild and (up until today) fantastical hopes of replacing our tired family-room couches with a leather set for a few years.

So off we went, Hubby and I and our tag-along #1 Son who has strong opinions about leather furniture and just about everything else in the areas of style, music, design, and the exact texture of pancakes. In Vermont, we snapped up a quality leather sofa and love-seat set that was to our understated taste, a melting chocolate brown with simple styling. So very satisfying!
After some lunch, I appealed to the general feeling of goodwill at the table to prolong our presence in the groovy town of Burlington. So many funky little shops and bistros! And along with them, splashes of color: brazen, warm, crazy, shocking, happy, spilling-over the brim COLOR.

Hallelujah for color in the middle of winter.

The colors of winter: white. blue. gray. white. blue. gray. white. blue. gray.

The "April" in the name of the shop was so very alluring.... was the SALE sign on the door.

Attention all little girly-girls: Easter is coming!

Warm enough to display flowers outside? (nudging 50 degrees.)

#1 Son doesn't get much chance to loiter around these here parts. So this was a real treat.

colorful pillows stacked to the rafters. a true feast for the eyes.

let's have an indoor garden party!

doesn't this window just beckon to you? It did me.

banana republic. a little red dress. my size. on the clearance rack for $21.99. How is this possible?
my friends, see how much God loves me. I even had enough on a gift card to cover the whole deal. (oh yeah. no clothing tax in Vermont!)

wrapping paper/craft paper makes me happy!

here's a conundrum: how would one wrap a gift of wrapping paper?
the vases are made from twisted magazine pages. my grandmother had a waste-basket in the same style. (I wonder what ever happened to that cool thing?)

shiny piggy-banks. (what is the term for a gathering of piggies? a gaggle? a flock?)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

a letter to dear girl

It is Valentine’s Day here there and everywhere. Last week, in a fit of passion, I clipped heart shapes from old magazines, using bits of paper that were pink, red, and any variation thereof. I strung them together on lengths of ribbon and hung them in our windows. The winter’s light casts looming heart-shaped shadows on opposite walls, on the striped sunlit floors, and over the backs of studying students. Hearts everywhere.

I went for walk today despite the whipping wind. The sun brought me out against my better judgement, and I made it to the top of the hill before I turned around with a vengeance. I stomped and huffed and gasped through the slicing cold all the way home to where the wood stove wafted warmth. I peeled off a hat, a scarf, mittens and my coat before blowing my nose and heaving loud sorry-sounding sighs. I am ready for winter to be over, ready for songbirds to lace our scrawny orchard with flutterings and chirpings. Ready for the boughs to hang heavy with flowering buds tipped with red. Ready for the edges of lakes and ponds and rivers to splinter under the warmed air and ripple against all kinds of mud that oozes with relief from its icy coat.

Are you ready?

I think you are ready, too, my dear girl. For the frozen-time to be over and for the doors to unbolt and for the rugs to be thrown from the windows and shaken from both ends. When spring comes, really truly comes to stay, she will not tolerate stuffy air and dust under the bed and moldy towels and canned vegetables. She demands newness in everything; fresh air and fresh laundry and fresh green things sprouting and fresh gulps of air that have been loosed from snowbanks grown tired from their frozen stiffness.

It is only the middle of February. Maybe too soon for spring-thoughts. But spring-thoughts come to me when I pray for you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A frigid day in February. High time to inject a dose of cheer into our menu.
And what better way to pull it off than with a lemon pie?

Reduced for a quick sale: five lovely lemons for 99 cents. The produce guy at Save-a-Lot really made my day.

My mom threw together lemon-meringue pie quite often when I was a pup. Like it was nothin'.

Well, it's not a one-bowl recipe, let me tell you.
Firstly, there's all that slicing, squeezing, and grating. Next, you must roll out a pie crust. Then you make the filling, which turns out to be a constant stir-fest and is accompanied by sloppy measuring cups and sticky spatulas.
Oh yeah-- whip the egg whites (room temperature, of course!) for the meringue.
All this fuss for one cheerful pie.

I'm telling ya.

Here is our plate of sheer happiness: lemony goodness sandwiched between flaky pastry and oh-so-magical meringue.

Aren't you happy just thinkin' about it?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

last night's concert

i'm sorry to say
that I cannot applaud just now.
my hands are too full of my heart
to make noise.

now that the guitar is mute
and the lyrics echoed away
i need
the quiet that comes into the beach house
when the door is shut against the wild green ocean.
the patter of crickets that leaps among freshly-shorn grasses
which roared of late under untamed autumn winds.

in those cloistered places
the hymn of gratitude, an unvoiced amen,
only thunders within.

i'm sorry so sorry to say
that I cannot applaud
just now.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

mrs. clean

I never thought I'd admit it, but it's quite true.
I like to clean.

My method has always been weird, though. I start vacuuming the family room, stop to pick up things, end up throwing in a load of laundry, and then scrub the bathroom sink.
I tackle the pile of stuff on the stairs, organizing as I ascend.
The dust bunnies on the bare wooden stairs commence a whirling dervish as I hustle past them, so I make a mental note to drag the vacuum there next.

I am ruthless toward clutter.

I like to have a few machines going all at once; the noise is comforting to me. So besides the washing machine, I get the bread machine whirring. Sometimes the dishwasher, too. The thought of all that manpower (woman power?) contributing to the cause is so invigorating.

The windex, paper towels, furniture polish, and dust-cloth all follow me in merry measure as I play my clean-up tune. My little darlings are slaving away at their cleaning tasks too, and they move out of my way like trailer-park dwellers in the path of a tornado. A white one.

Sometimes, just for the sheer fun of it, I clean other people's houses. I don't know why.
I warned you this was weird.

Don't get the wrong idea. A fanatic I am not.
A peek into our closets, kitchen drawers, pantry, and mud-room cabinet will prove that I can be selective in my cleanliness. I'm not very systematic about windows, either.

When the cleaning frenzy is over, I collapse onto the couch with a book and a cup of coffee. The smell of lemon and Murphy's Oil Soap beats any scented candle, at that point of time. The kids seem cheerier and easier to get along with. Or maybe its that my outlook has brightened.

Life is so much more approachable when the house is clean.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

the girls have a holiday

February means that Valentine's Day is around the corner.

The other morning, Daughter #1 and I were warning Friend #37 all about the import of the upcoming holiday at our house, including decorations, hand-made cards, prettily-wrapped little gifts, special menus, et cetera. He was bundled to the ears against the oncoming cold but I could still detect the crinkle of disgust around his nose and the faintest smirk along the rim of his jacket collar. He had his hand on the doorknob for a quick escape. After all, he is a guy.

"Joe," I primly reprimanded in my most school-teacherish tone, "You know why we celebrate Valentine's Day, don't you?"

"'re girls?" he countered naughtily.

"NO."( I faked dismay.)
" Because....well, because GOD IS LOVE. It's in the Bible, for goodness sake." And I went back to scrambling the eggs. (He knows and I know and we all know that it really is because we are girls, but how patronizing!)

I'm not gonna let any boy spoil my girly-fun.
So hooray for a girl's holiday AND for a time to celebrate God's love, says I. Bring out the red candles, the heart-shaped cookies, the ribbons festooned with cut-out hearts which dangle in the windows, and all the trappings that it takes to punch some fun and lightheartedness into the stark white backdrop of February.
Iron the lace-edged tablecloth. Shine the silver, buy some fresh flowers, send a goofy valentine to an old friend. Kiss your husband passionately when he least expects it. Leave him speechless. Tell someone who needs to hear it that God loves them and you do, too.

Isn't Valentine's Day fun?

Monday, February 04, 2008

57 comes to 3108

So we had a few college students over last night to watch the Big Game. I couldn't bring myself to count heads, as I would then be compelled to comply with local fire codes. But as evidenced by the mounds of footwear in the mudroom, there were a whole lot of stinky feet in our house last evening.
Good times.

Friday, February 01, 2008

strong horses and men's legs

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse
nor his delight in the legs of man;
the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their trust in his unfailing love."

-Psalm 147: 10-11

One can fritter away a whole lifetime in the quest to please God.

We work hard at it, evidenced by the stuff we do. There is a lot of good to do in this world, and humans have been going at it like gangbusters since Eve sampled the apple and Adam lost his job. Even the soul bent on his own pleasures harbors a hope that, after everything is said and done, his good deeds outweigh the bad.
We used to have a booth at the local street fair that advertised: Are You Going To Heaven? Take The Three Question Test! I don't remember all three questions, but the clincher was this: Why do you think God would let you into heaven when you die?
Invariably, the answer was: "because I think I've been a good (enough) person."

This is not the way God measures our goodness, nor his pleasure in us.

Rather, He delights in those who fear him; who value his Word enough to stand on it and to stake their lives upon it.
He delights in those happy souls who put their trust in His unfailing love; who make His love their banner, garment, foundational rock, and song.

I can think of no finer demonstration of His unfailing love than the Cross and the empty grave. To join in His plan is simple --and God won't brook any complications. (As a matter of fact, unless we enter like a child, the door is barred.) Begin by applying His magnificent work to yourself and then trusting.
The good deeds which inevitably follow are only a response to His amazing goodness.

This boomerang effect (unfailing love from God--trust from us--then right back to the throne room!) magnifies God while keeping us in the loop. Surely He is omnipotent without our participation, but this way is better. Flashback to the pig-tailed eight-year old girl in the 1970's Shake-'n-Bake Chicken commercial:
"And I helped!"
God likes his kids to help in the kitchen.

And while the strength of the horse and the legs of man will no doubt continue to astonish us with Olympian feats, I think that God will be looking elsewhere for His contentment.

I hope He finds me there.