Friday, October 31, 2008


I wonder if any trick-or-treaters will knock on our door tonight. If that candy (kit-kats, snickers, and butterfingers) doesn't disappear, I may have to burn it.

I wonder what #1 Son is up to. Last I heard, he was headed for Auburn, NY. Of course, I know what he is generally up to. He is traveling with the Julia Marie Band, running sound for the gigs, playing with little kids that live in the houses they invade, and eating at Panera/Starbucks any chance he gets. Which is pretty often, I suspect.

I wonder how I will stay fit during the long winter. I say "the long winter" like it is the title of a book. It is. I trust our upcoming winter doesn't in any way resemble the one of Laura Ingalls Wilder fame.

I wonder where my box of Thanksgiving decor is lurking. It has this in it (scroll down to photo #3)--and I really, really need to find it. It is somewhere in the back shed where stacks of storage boxes have reached dizzying heights. I dare not look for it unassisted. Or at least without wearing a hardhat.

I wonder about that noise in the wall. I makes me think of this.

I wonder how our country is going to fare after next week's presidential election.

I wonder what Hubby and I will have for dinner tonight. #1 Daughter is spending the weekend with Grandma Janet. Friend #7 is away for the BASIC retreat. Friend #12 is in Syracuse for her ESL class. #1 Son has already been discussed. That leaves me and Hubby. Hey, I have an idea. Maybe we should dress up as McCain/Palin and go door to door for candy.

Kidding. So much kidding.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Aren't we all constantly adjusting to some thing or another?
The seasons, for instance.

Don't get me going. Too late. You got me going and now you'll get an earful.
Lately, I have been content with scenes such as these from my mudroom window:

I hadn't minded the lack of cheery orange/butter yellow/russet red. I had not complained in the least. Even the distant glowering clouds failed to worry me of the coming onslaught of winter.

I was too focused on gathering comfort from such things as these:

Ah, the blessings of autumn!

I neglected to take pictures of other soul-warming things such as mulled cider, the woodstove, a quilt over a rocking chair, roasted pumpkin seeds, and mounds of raked leaves. We've seen our fair share of these.

But this morning, I saw something that shook me to the core.

He seems to be moaning.--Which would account for the drifts of iced snow that coated the sides of the cars in our driveway this morning.
(Fact: little sticks from our maple trees were frozen into this dreadful mix, sticking out not unlike popsicle sticks in those tupperware molds of my childhood.)

Look again, and you will note that Old Man Winter sports a UNIBROW. I don't know why this stands out to me.
He looks merciless. Unfeeling. I tremble at my proximity to him. His awfulness sends me trembling, stumbling, reeling back in fear. I view him from a few feet away:

His pointy chin begins to amuse me. The nearby footprints in the snow leave the impression that others have survived his wrath.
The fear begins to dissipate. I step further way and squint. I rub eyes in wonder.

Old Man Winter is just a fable, folks.
And all that snow is merely an illusion. The nipping cold is a figment of the imagination.

Mollified by thoughts like these, I stepped away confidently.
As soon as I find my kayak (it was in the yard just yesterday somewhere...), I may hit the river a few more times this fall.

Friday, October 24, 2008

the scholar

I am here, learning.

I learn by watching faces,
by waiting in doctors offices,
by tipping the boiling pot too fast, too carelessly;
by hanging heavy cold laundry in the whipping wind.

I go on learning.
I make my letters too loopy one time, too slanted another.
My arm smears the undry ink. The paper slices my tender finger.
I shake the pen to unstop the flow before bowing my head again to the page.

I lurch forward in wisdom
when promises are broken
and when my favorite sweater gets thrown in the dryer
when someone forgets to be kind
when gardens are neglected
when flowers blossom anyway.

I am taught by rote
by example
by deeds done and undone
measure by measure, pressed down and running over.

The scholar bends to his task
and the task bends over the distant hill.

Non scholae sed vitae discimus.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

extra credit

Anything to get out of schoolwork. While tying her apron, #1 Daughter inquired (and I quote):
"Does baking cookies count as school?"

Yes. Unequivocally yes. My answer is yes, #1 Daughter --as long as you bake these.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Cookies

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4-5 cups flour (enough to make firm
1 cup solid can pumpkin
2 tablespoons cinnamon
preheat oven to 350Combine first 5 ingredients to a creamy mixture add pumpkin and set aside. Mix dry ingredients together and slowly mix the creamy and the dry ingredients together. Add buttermilk and mix.

Add more flour if necessary. Batter should be firm enough to hold a peak.

Drop by spoon fulls and bake on cookie sheet 12 to 15 minutes

We found this recipe on, but we can never leave well enough alone. No, we went for a gourmet touch. Before baking, #1 Daughter pressed a few pine nuts into each cookie. After they were cool, we drizzled them with an almond extract-flavored glaze.

After all, if this counts as school, why not go for a little extra-credit?

my minute on a soapbox

Mine is not a political blog. Nor am I, myself, a particularly political girl.
But. I simply must spout. I must.

Because I won't attempt to say what has already been expressed so eloquently, I send you here with the high hopes that you will read it and be moved.

Remember, our vote speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves. Vote accordingly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the Sower and the Seed

Luke 8:5-15 The Parable of the Sower and the Seed

5."A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown." When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, " 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand. 11. "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.15. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Our Sunday morning class (The Valley of Vision: Praying Purposefully & Artfully) partook in a writing exercise this week. It was a classroom experiment which involved no special preparation. We were simply instructed to read the portion of scripture which was given to us, re-write it in our own words as a prayer, and pass the page along to the next person. In turn, each member of the class composed a short response to the passage we were given. Nine different passages of scripture were handed around. Nine befuddled people, none of whom thought they were up to the task, were given one whole minute to scribble a short prayer. In the end, nine amazingly heartfelt prayers were crafted and read aloud to the class. We were astounded and humbled to know that God was at work in our seemingly feeble efforts.

I share this prayer, which was patterned after the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, with the confidence that you will be blessed!

Let me not reject Your spirit working through common familiar things, but rather may I have eyes to see You & Your heart in all things. God, please do not let Your seeds wither- but let me stay moist soil. Help me avoid temptation lest I forget my joy and not ever grow roots.

Lord, let me not be choked by the cares. Let me cast my cares. Open my ears to hear Your word. Use it to work daily in our lives. Bring fruit. I need so desperately to be the seed on good soil. Prepare me daily, Father, to receive You and Your waters. Lord, make my life fruitful with good ground.

Mystery--so much of my life seems to be veiled. Keep me focused on You because I am Yours. Don't let me be bound by blindness or deafness.

Help me to treasure small things. Seeds are tiny, yet your word demonstrates the worth of them. Water, light, warmth, time--and then miracles are generated on my behalf!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


What are we reading these days?

This week brings us to the last of The Last of the Mohicans. Whew! Definitely a hard read. Not a bad read; only hard. Worth it, you ask? For myself, sure. For my kids, maybe you shouldn't ask until they are older and can appreciate the fact that their mom forced them to plow through such pithy stuff. To bring this study, which was linked to the French & Indian War, to a smashing close, we are watching a PBS series that was recommended to us. Bring out the popcorn and call it history, thank you.

Since we finished The Scarlet Letter (kids: "two thumbs way up"), I thought we would enjoy some smaller bites of the same genre. We read Young Goodman Brown and My Kinsman, Major Molineaux, short stories both. Now that we are familiar with Mr. Hawthorne's style, his short stories are well-appreciated by us!

I perused The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin in anticipation of assugning it to my darling students. Mr. Franklin fascinates me, but his book was not riveting. (He himself admits that it was akin to the ramblings of an old man.) We shall settle for an excerpt and call it a deal.

Now that we are approaching the American Revolution, I expect our reading to be excerpts of Jefferson, Paine, Patrick Henry, and others of that era. Any suggestions for a good book to read aloud?

We are also reading the Gospel of John. I was inspired by our dear pastor's sermon on Sunday to spend a bit of time there with the kids. I think the opening chapter of The Gospel of John is about as good as it gets. Read it again, and tell me what you think.

What a gift it is to have the ability to read!

Monday, October 20, 2008

dinner in a flash

Necessity is the mother of invention, for sure.

A Sunday afternoon brought me the gift of unexpected company, which brought me the gift of this new twist on cabbage. A quick search through the fridge for a side-dish yielded this easy and satisfying bowl of spicy yum.

Spicy Cabbage Stir-Fry

1/2 head of fresh cabbage, shredded, outer leaves included
1/2 sweet pepper, diced
1 small onion. diced
4 cloves garlic. finely chopped
2 medium jalepenos. sliced
red pepper flakes
soy sauce
sesame oil

In a large saute pan, pour a few tablespoons of sesame oil. Lightly saute the peppers (hot & sweet), onion, and garlic. Toss in as much cabbage as your pan will allow, along with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss to coat and stir-fry on high, adding more cabbage as you are able. After a few minutes, shake in some soy sauce or extra oil, if needed. Simmer until the cabbage is tender. Altogether, this dish took 15 minutes to prepare!

It can be as spicy as you dare, depending on the strength of the jalapenos and the amount of red pepper flakes. (Additionally, I used hot sesame oil!) The results? We gobbled it up. It reminded Friend #88a of kim chee. It was the perfect compliment to grilled chicken and a tossed salad.

Hosting a family for Sunday dinner doesn't have to mean a ton of prep. Just make sure you have a grocery store between church and home to pick up the boneless chicken and salad fixin's.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

late October

Today was not a day to fritter away on inside chores. After attempting to clean my bedroom and ending up sneezing my head off (where does all that dust come from???) I decided to skip the whole indoor thing.

While breathing deep gulps of late-autumn air, I raked, cleaned up the garden, hung laundry on the line, scrubbed windows and screens, tidied the porch, and tossed a number of frosted mums. While barbequed pork was bubbling in the crockpot, I pulled fistfuls of baby carrots from the cool, moist earth and discovered baby-bunches of broccoli hiding under the cover of frost. I also gathered a basketful of parsley for drying, along with a generous bouquet of mint.

As Friend #7 and I were hauling leaves to the back field, we lingered in the raspberry patch to enjoy the last vestiges of dark-red sweetness. Lazy bees mumbled as we disturbed their slumber. A chickdee chattered amongst the rattling dried heads of the blackened sunflower stalks.

Now, as dinner is readied, long golden bars of sun pour through squeaky clean windows and pool onto the oak floors. They imbue everything they touch with that peculiar glow that only fall can bring.

I hope your day was full of beauty, just as mine was.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I performed a magic trick this morning.

I reached into paper lunch sacks which have been lounging on the kitchen counter all week.
With an arched eyebrow and and deft hand, I pulled out RED TOMATOES.



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

message from Heaven

My little green kayak takes me to wonderful places. Wet, yet wonderful.

Armed with an ounce of elbow grease and my camera, I explore the colors of autumn with eyes wide open.

This unassuming leaf had its moment of glory yesterday. Today it is already moldering under a damp blanket made up of many of its ilk. Life is like that sometimes.

These leaves had their moment of glory today. The book of Isaiah gives us a powerful analogy about the passing glory of green things. Do you know it?

"The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. " (Isaiah 40:8)

The wilted, scrappy, rags of summer proclaim eternal truths to us.

If you cannot afford the time to float on a river, listen to the song in the air on your walk to the mailbox.

If you cannot stroll outside, look for it in the molten amber light that spills in the windows.

Creation itself teaches us; its seasons are catechisms sent from heaven. Our Father and Teacher spells into our childish palms, again and again, tenderly and with infinite patience, the mysteries of His ways.

Are you listening?

Monday, October 13, 2008

all over the place

If a picture is worth a thousand words, are fourteen pictures worth fourteen thousand words?
I say yes-- which makes this post quite wordy.

This weekend, I traveled to Hunter, New York to play in a classical concert. #1 Son and Friend #12 tagged along. We ate out, hiked a little, gaped at the foliage, visited Aunt Kitty, drove WAY too many miles, and finally landed in Albany for the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon. Hubby ran 26.2 miles, #1 Son and #1 Daughter ran 13.1 miles, and I walked a long way to the porta-potties. A complete workout for the whole family!
After a great dinner with some old friends, we moseyed around the Schenectady Stockade for an hour before driving 4.5 hours home. What a packed weekend!

Here are some photos. I'm all outta words.

The Birthday Girl at the Catskill Mountain House Overlook, North Lake.

St. George's Episcopal Church in Schenectady, New York.

High Fives for #1 Daughter. She placed first in her age category!

Bad photography makes an interesting photo.

My favorite family voted this house "Most Desirable Historic Property in the Entire Stockade Neighborhood". We swarmed all over it like bees on honey. I hope the owners didn't mind. If they did, hey, that's the price you pay when you live in a glam house.

The Yates House. I love it. Wasn't it thoughtful of the French & Indians to leave it standing in 1690?

All along the Pedestrian Bridge leading to the Corning Preserve in Albany, there are paintings which illustrate Albany's history. I'm not sure what history this one is referring to, but it works for us.
The Doctorow Center for the Arts in hunter, New York. My dear friend Bob is conducting his own composition. He is a wonderful composer, but even better, he is a wonderful, kind, real person. He strolled into the pizzeria down the street and payed for our veggie pizza. He does many amazing things, things much more impressive than such random acts of kindness. He really deserves a better nickname from me than "Guido". But there it is.

Kaaterskill Falls. Go there.

We took a small detour to make homage to our first house. 1428 Chrysler Avenue, Schenectady, New York. It's looking good. A man with one tooth lives there now. He answered the door and told us sure, go ahead and take pictures.

Hubby crafted this wooden mailbox for me when we were first m-a-r-r-i-e-d. (I don't know why I spelled out the word. It just felt right.) I painted the little house to match our first home, down to the curtains in the window. How sweet, right?
If you are an observant person and one with a semblance of taste, you might notice that the man with one tooth has a differing opinion of curtains than I had over twenty years ago.

There is no order to these photos. Here is our Marathon Team before the race. Note the fear in their eyes. I see it. Do you?

Albany, New York.
Here is our Marathon Team post-race. Nice medals, huh? The Hudson River sparkled delightfully in the background as if saying, "Go team!"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Indian Summer afternoon

The last thing I had time for today was a long walk.
The only thing I made time for today was a long walk.

-and there you have it, folks.
Oh, the conundrums of life.
The twisted labyrinths that are presented to us.
The agony of decision.
The staggering choices upon which the warp and weft of life weave themselves.

Really, it was a no-brainer. This kind of warm, sunny, yet blustery day comes but once or twice an October and it would be an unaccountable action to waste it on correcting algebra, tweaking high school transcripts, or even practicing the piano (even Bach. Sorry, Johannes.)

Feeling rather introspective, I made for the local cemetery, camera in hand.

It is an old cemetery and some of the families that lived & loved at 3108 are buried there. I am partial to the stone archway that stands at the opening. Something about the sprinkle of autumn sunshine coupled with the moss-covered, roughly-hewn slabs of marble and stone is very appealing -in a sobering, you-can't take-it-with-you kind of way.

A little sobriety is good for the soul.
Orange moss!
Something about the orange moss obviously speaks to me.

In the background, you can make out the final resting place of Ira Hale. He was one of the pillars of the early Knapps Station community. His house still stands, stripped of its former glory of a lovely, stately home. It is now chopped up into apartments. Junk litters the porch and yard. I'm glad Ira isn't around to see it.

Rumor has it that he sheltered freedom-bound slaves in his cellar. You gotta like a guy like that.

This headstone has got some serious issues in the construction department, but the important part (like, which way to heaven) is intact. I wish I could decipher what is written over the pointing finger. It looks like "LOVE HOME". I think I am missing something here.

Husband & Wife. And some wild asparagus to shade them. I like it.

Either the asparagus just grew there naturally, or someone thought it would look nice.
Or best thought yet: husband & wife had lots and lots of it behind the barn, and they celebrated every spring when they could first partake of its tender, green spears. So they requested that some asparagus ferns grace their headstones.

It's a plausible and romantic notion, and I'm sticking with it.

These are the thoughts that come to me in the old cemetery on an Indian- summer afternoon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Little Black Boy

I can share these lyrics with you today, but I wish I had the technical means to share the music with you, too. Together, they are so tender, so incredibly sweet and comforting, that they defy description.
If you are in my kitchen sometime, ask me to play my recording of it. The vocalist is a tall, lean, black tenor from the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. The composer/lyricist is a woman (whose name escapes me) who was a friend of his. The pianist is yours truly.

I aspire to the kind of trust and confidence that this lamb, this bird, and this little black boy speak of.

Little White Lamb, sleeping in the grass
are you not afraid, Lamb, that a wolf will pass?

No, I am not afraid, I sleep peacefully.
Jesus is my shepherd and He cares for me.
As I sleep in the grass, yes, I know He cares for me.

Little Bluebird, flying in the dawn
would you be troubled to find your nest gone?

No, I would not mind. I would fly away free

for my Heavenly Father watches over me.
As I fly in the sky, yes, I know He cares for me.

Little Black Boy playing in the sun
have you no troubles; no fight to be won?

Yes, I have troubles, but I still can sing
for my Father made me; I'm a child of the King.
So I sing to my King, for I know He cares for me.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

there goes October....

I received a frantic email today from the head of the voice department at Crane.

The situation in the accompanist department is dire: the main pianist had a little run-in with a (gulp) chainsaw last week (I don't know the details but he is reportedly "ok" and "recovering"....) and the next-busiest pianist had an unexpected death in the family. It involves a trip to France for an "indefinite" amount of time. In the meantime, students are in the thick of the semester, which means rehearsals, recitals, and classroom performances. (Also, a weekend vocal competition that is down-state.)

The request for my time encompasses a few weeks-- with generous pay, of course.

As "luck" would have it, the only week of the year that I am involved in a bonafide classical music performance is next week. I have been looking forward to my little musical fun all summer. I get to play Bach. (And for those who are in the know, that's a huge treat for me!) Now this huge treat is a bump in the road of all the new music I have to assimilate in a short amount of time.

After consulting with my business manager (Hubby), I have grudgingly offered to jump in and save the musical day. I have grown lazy in the practicing-department, folks. And I wear glasses now. I'm a little slower as a result, I think. I also am full of lame excuses because my fingers and brain are positively out of shape. Says who? Says me.

It's nice to be needed, though. I also know how much I will be appreciated.
I only hope and pray I can keep my act together on the homefront.

p.s. now accepting casseroles.