Wednesday, December 31, 2008

how the year flew by....

If you have 40 seconds to spare, watch this.

Happy New Year, everybody. Make every second count.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a cookie for your thoughts

In dredging deeply for philosophical end-of-the-year thoughts, I have come up dry.
But in the area of inconsequential and material things, I have a wealth of blurbs to share.

-after prowling online for hours, I finally found "the coat". (Thank you, Banana Republic.) Although I intended to use a $75 gift check as a contribution towards "the coat"(thanks, mom), I was able to buy a wool peacoat for $73.12, including tax and shipping. A moment ago, I pressed "order now" with a triumphant gleam in my eye. Here's hoping it fits!

-a bustling Christmas season, followed immediately by a wedding comparable to a major Broadway production, has left me with about as much energy as it takes to lift leftover cookies to my mouth. Consequently, the caloric intake overrides the caloric output, no matter how many times I exercise my arm.

-It has come to my attention that I am pretty much done home-schooling #1 Son. I have looked at this situation in numerous ways, and it keeps adding up to the same thing: I. am. done. home-schooling. #1. Son. He is registering for a few classes at a local college, continuing his violin lessons with a professor at Crane, working with his dad in his "spare time", and rehearsing a lead role in the CFA musical. There won't be much time left in his day for me to tell him what to do.

-I need a museum-fix. Anyone going to NYC or DC soon? Can I hitch a ride?

-I am reading a few very worthwhile books. Moby Dick, the great American novel, is living up to the hype. I told #1 Daughter, "It's a lot of work, but worth the effort." She insists she will give it a try, based on my constant glowing reviews. I am also reading Tim Keller's "The Prodigal God", which is based on the parable of the prodigal son. Did you know that "prodigal" means "recklessly extravagant" and "having spent everything"? I knew that, but I am knowing it afresh concerning the kind of love God has for us.

Friday, December 26, 2008

holiday reverberations

-our Moroccan Feast was sumptuous.
-a reading of the Christmas story never gets old.
-it is nice to have a baby in the house.
-family members make life interesting.
-nothing beats warm home-made applesauce.
-carols sound better when sung by candlelight.
-we don't know all the verses of Silent Night, but we can can sure belt out Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas without breaking a mental sweat.
-a cloth used as a tree-skirt can soak up a lot of water, even if only a tiny tip is resting in the water-pan.
-pertaining to that last observation, wrapped gifts can also absorb the aforementioned water if they are touching a wet cloth.
-also, not to beat a dead horse, a brand-new Thai cookbook which has morphed into a soggy mess is not as desirable as a dry one.
-one last thing and then I will never mention it again: even after a soggy cookbook is dried in front of the wood-stove, the recipes may still be readable, but its like looking into a fun-house mirror to decipher them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

hearing voices

#1 Daughter (in a tattle-tale voice): "Mo-omm....Renee is hitting her wall with a du---uckk."

Me (upon hearing what #1 Son bought a family member for Christmas): "Are you sure you HAVE that kind of money?"
#1 Son: "Well, I don't have it now, but obviously I did when I bought it."

Hubby (noting the hand-written sign on the tupperware): "Are these cookies still poisonous?"
Me: "Yes, until tomorrow evening."

Monday, December 22, 2008


Now that Christmas week is upon me, it is due time to choose our holiday menu. I love to choose special foods that my family is excited about! We definitely love to eat around here.

Since we attend the annual Christmas Eve service, an easy-to-prepare dinner will be a treat. We will dine upon a smoked turkey from Hubby's dad (we got one last year also, and it was amazing!) It will be accompanied by a rice salad, hummus, and fresh veggies.

Christmas breakfast will be cheese blintzes with blueberry sauce. I aim to convert my whole family to the divinity of blintzes. Besides, blintz is ever so fun to pronounce.

cheeeeese blintzes!

Furthermore, if this word lands on a triple in scrabble, one could really rack up the points.

On to Christmas Dinner. I cracked open one of my favorite cookbooks (thanks, Friend #12) to discover this: Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Couscous & Date Stuffing. Also on the menu: roasted sweet potatoes & carrots, salad with toasted pecans & blue cheese, and garlic naan.

Most likely, we won't prepare any other desserts besides the ever-present Christmas cookies. (If a cheesecake shows up at our door, we would gladly accept it, though.)

Although this festive season brings its share of fat-laden goodies and heavy, rich food (all of which we love dearly), I mix in healthy, light dishes at every meal. Fruit and yogurt is a favorite around here, any time of the year.

Special meals and special table-settings are only the backdrops for visits from dear people whom we love. I am excited to spend time with them!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas prayer

"Thou shalt know Him when He comes, not by any din of drums,
nor the manner of His airs, nor by anything He wears;
Thou shalt know Him when He comes, not by His crown or by His gown.
But His coming known shall be by the holy harmony which His coming makes in Thee.
Thou shalt know him when He comes."

This anonymous text was set to music, and we sang it last evening during the Lessons & Carols service. During the reading of the scriptures, my soul softened in the warm, kind, sanctuary light. Memories of childhood church services sifted down like Christmas snow from a peculiar loft in my memory. The smell of white waxen tapers, the padded knell of organs pipes, the creak of wooden pews, dear faces and shadows thrown upon them from flickering candlelight- all this seemed to me old and new all at once.

Under the double-spell of both Word and song, I wished large and expansive wishes last night. Large wishes come easily when bolstered by the telling of miracles. Some might call these wishes positive thinking, but I know what the spark of heart-felt prayer feels like.

In the tinderbox of the presence of His Spirit, coached and kindled by His breath, a small flame came to life. Let's call it a Christmas Prayer, and it goes like this:

Because I know Him, I hope and wish and pray that you will know Him too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

rounder, fuller, sweeter

Lately, I have received so much joy from music--playing, singing, listening, and even rehearsing (I don't usually enjoy rehearsing!)

On Saturday, I attended a community choir concert at my mom's church in Adams, New York. The old Baptist church was decorated beautifully with potted poinsettias and a live tree. The choir performed a lively cantata, replete with scripture readings and organ/piano accompaniment. I loved it.

Sunday was a performance of Handel's Messiah with the Orchestra of Northern New York. Hubby and kids attended too, along with Mr. Cool Bass Player. The aforementioned Mr. C.B.P. received an education on what all the hooplah was about. It was an exciting performance. The soloists and many members of the chorus and orchestra are friends of ours, which made it even more meaningful.

My last performance at Crane for the semester was on Monday. Then, in the evening, I had a dress rehearsal at First Presbyterian Church for Wednesday's Lessons & Carols service. The choir was joined by a hand-bell choir, trumpet, violin, and flute. The musical selections are varied and pleasing. Tomorrow night, I get be all high-churchy, carry a folder, and wear a robe. Cool, huh?

Today, I rehearsed with a young violinist. (young? A high-school senior, anyway!) We were preparing for a recording session tonight, which went exceedingly well. He played a Mozart Concerto for his college auditions. It was a pleasure to help him make an outstanding recording.

On Thursday, I rehearse at the Gunnison Chapel on the St. Lawrence University campus. The organist in residence there will help me get acquainted with the organ. All those stops and pedals! This is all in anticipation for the Sinclair/Gilchrist wedding. Hooray!

While cleaning the house and rolling out cookies, I insist upon listening to Christmas music. This year, I can't seem to get enough. The message goes deeper and deeper into me, like a great bell sounded under the sea. It rolls and rolls; its reverberations growing rounder and fuller and sweeter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

North Country signs

Step right up, folks. Get yer Cristmas tree's and wreath's right here.
Also available: one potato to a discerning customer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

decor everywhere

The snowfall, the birthday greetings, thoughtful gifts, and two home-made cakes were my portion today. Dinner was elegant take-out (if there is such a thing).

After a performance at Crane, I was out and about with Friend #12. Along the Parishville Road, the boughs were positively creaking with snow. Creaking, they were.

A visit to the Silas Wright House brought me serenity.

From the leaded glass of the front entryway, the bustling traffic of Main Street seems a million miles away. In the quiet of this old house, time barely glances at the brisk affairs of the modern world which scurries outside its doorposts.

A spray of roses grace the stately piano.

Where can I purchase some of this gray flocked wallpaper?

It is the perfect backdrop for fresh greens, crystal, and fruit.

I was tempted to bite one of these and turn it over so no one would see.

See that juicy one, nestled on the lower right? You could hardly notice that it has been tinkered with.

It's my birthday and I can get away with a lot.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

early Christmas present

We are buying another house.

As I have stated before, some people collect Precious Moments figurines, but not us. We seem to collect houses. The purchase of this one brings us to a present total of nine. Nine houses.
It seems we could arrange them into some kind of Christmas village. Even the dumpy ones look decent covered in sparkly snow.

Let me tell you why this house is so special to me:

1. It is made of stone.
2. It is river-front property
3. It is very old. We think 1802.
4. It is in Madrid, which is where most of our other properties are located.
5. I have admired it for many years. When I was a college student, I used to stand on the Madrid bridge and sigh over it. True story.
6. We are going to live there!

This house has some history behind it, for certain. My favorite students are gearing up for a visit to the local historical society.The word on the street is that it was the miller's home. Next door stood the grist-mill, which was torn down years ago. I found some online history and an old photo of this mill.
The main part of the house has deep, deep window sills and wood floors. You should hear me swoon and moon over these windows. I'm pretty loud about it; you might hear me if you are at the Hometown Cafe eating a burger. The views of the river, dam, and bridge are amazing.

The back wing of the house is an addition which includes the kitchen, family room, and utility room. We are not sure when it was added, but this is where most of the renovation will take place. First of all, I am sorry to say, the giant stone fireplace will be dismantled. It is akin to a blundering elephant which sits in the smack-dab middle of everything. An entirely new kitchen will be installed, along with a new family/"great room", mudroom, and office for Hubby.

The property includes a two-car garage with an unfinished apartment above it. It used to be a boat-house. I've always wanted a boat-house. Our two canoes and kayak will feel quite at home there.
The ground floor of the stone house is a one-bedroom apartment. Presently, it will stay rented to the quiet gentleman that lives there.

There is much excitement about this project, as you can imagine. I dream about it fairly regularly. Hubby and #1 Son stay up late comparing designs. We draw on napkins a lot. #1 Daughter has already claimed her bedroom. She is hoping for an art studio above the garage. Family conversations tend to be truncated at the drop of the hat with the words, "-about the stone house, I was thinking....."

Since I am concerned that this blog will be blah, blah, blah about the stone house, I may start an additional blog. That way, those who are interested in our stone house obsession can get their fix. And those of you who would rather stick to my other random thoughts can easily do so.

Breaking news: Click on this link for an update on the Madrid bridge project. (The stone house is at the foot of this closed bridge.) A strikingly handsome bystander was interviewed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

food research

It's really hard to be intellectual around here and maintain any semblance of a serious learning institution when #1 Son wanders into the kitchen to announce that "pumpernickel" means "farting devil". He was snacking on those mini-slices of pumpernickel bread and decided he needed to know more about them.

Go ahead and look it up; it is very true. But did we really need to know that?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

all talk, very little action

Cool discussions I have had this morning:

Copernicus, Galileo, and the Catholic Church
This conversation involved astronomy, the qualities of time-travel, black holes, specialized fossils, and Benjamin Franklin's invention of the lightning rod.

Immigrants in the late 1800's
Prejudice, church traditions, human relationships, and the hard work of farming were integrated into this discussion.

Tacky Christmas Yards
My own fault entirely. We logged on to the website to view some seriously disturbed holiday decor-all in the context of "school".

Last evening's intense rehearsal of Handel's Messiah
Singing these great choruses is nigh to heaven. The conductor's instruction for us to imagine the very first performance of this great musical work spawned an exchange of ideas between me and Friend #12 this morning. As wondrously inspiring the music of Handel is, the glorious heavenly music that streamed from the skies the night of Jesus' birth transcends human imitation.

Weird Definitions
While reading aloud, I tend to ask for definitions of words in the text at hand.
Me: Define "vexed".
#1 Daughter: irritated?
#1 Son: the stuff you put on your chest when you're sick."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

December Saturday

The absolute BEST way to start the day this time of year? A breakfast consisting of scalding hot coffee, sugar cookies on a festive plate, and a front-seat view of the Christmas tree. Some will say that rum logs should replace the sugar cookies, but I never consume rum before noon.

-at least during the Advent season.

Hubby is finishing up this amazing addition for dear friends. (I have forgotten their friend-numbers!) I love the green, don't you?

The beams were original to the house. Well, they have resided there for over a hundred years. Hubby guesses that they were recycled from an old barn. But we will never really know.
We all decided it would be a shame to bury them under sheet-rock and paint, so Hubby figured out a way to let their rough-hewn glory shine.

Here is Danica's first view of this huge project. She loves it!

Now that the plates and cups are back where they belong, all is well with the world. Never mind the metal level on the counter top--or the drifts of saw dust that cling to everything. Soon, all the dust and tool-themed clutter will be a shadowy memory.

I am inspired by the transformation of this little kitchen, because SOON my family will have a project of our own to play with. Details are forthcoming.

I promise!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

melismatic delight

Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

The tree sparkles with stars and tiny white lights. Candles warm the corners of each room. Rolled sugar cookies make their appearance after every meal. Bulky packages block me from seeing the clothing in my closet.

In the music department, things couldn't get any richer.

Monday night, my fingers grabbed fistfuls of notes while accompanying Handel's Messiah for the community chorus.
Tuesday evening, I joined a mish-mash group of choristers at the First Presbyterian Church, where we prepped for the annual Lessons & Carols service. It was extremely lovely to sing and not play, for once. (Just for once, though, as my throat tires easily.)
On Wednesday, I accompanied three voice lessons which were made magical by a very perceptive and wise voice teacher.
Today, I performed an ethereal French art song onstage in Snell theater before the voice faculty.
Tomorrow, I rehearse the annual Christmas concert with fifty wiggly elementary students. They are presenting a short musical/play/concert about the meaning of Christmas for family & friends tomorrow evening.

Oh, the weather outside may be frightful. But inside my frowsy head are strings of jingly melodies and sweet tangles of melismatic delight which keep me blissfully content.