Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Musical Monday

If a picture is worth a thousand words, 
what is the exchange rate for music?

Put them together, and you get 
this priceless piece from The Piano Guys.

He came,

bringing light,




eternal life.

He will come again.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Musical Monday

Here's a lovely version of the song that inspired me so last Christmastime.

"In the Bleak Midwinter," sung by Chanticleer.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Musical Monday

Here's another Christmas song with a twist, from Straight No Chaser.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Reading

Are you ready for some Christmas stories? 

D2's school friends have been sharing Christmas story books with their class, so he took three favorites in today:   
  • Snowmen at Night  Not really a Christmas story, but, like "Jingle Bells," it is great winter fun
  • A New Star in Heaven  A brief, cute retelling of Christ's birth from the perspectives of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
D2 says that none of the stories he's heard there so far have been religious, but that his teacher says she'll try to read everything they bring in.  It will be interesting to hear what happens.

So, what is on your holiday reading list?  Besides the stories in these awesome anthologies, of course.  If you're looking for something new, LDSP has begun posting entries in this year's Christmas Story Contest.  Click here to read a couple of stories each day.  Then remember to return and vote on your favorites beginning Monday, December 17th.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Musical Monday

Hallelujah!  It's December!  I love Christmas music.  It's hard to choose a few pieces to share with you, but here's a fun take on a real classic.  Sit back and listen to the Silent Monks.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good News

So, one might ask, what's been happening in T's Garden lately?

Well, there's been plenty of rain.  Rainy soccer games, at the end of a remarkably dry season.  Scoot's birthday, with grandparents visiting.  The death of a computer, and the slow training of a new one.  Plumbing repairs.  Thanksgiving with colds and a fever.

You know, some good, some bad, some busy.

But there's another adventure I need to tell you about.  I've been doing some creative writing, and two of my stories have just been published in Christmas anthologies.  Let me tell you about them!

Sing We Now of Christmas

Sing We Now of Christmas contains twenty-five stories inspired by Christmas Carols.  I wrote a story based on Christina Rosetti's poem, "In the Bleak Midwinter," which we sang in our church choir last Christmas.  The stories have been donated by authors from across the country, teaming together for a good cause.  All proceeds from sales of the anthology will be donated to the National Down Syndrome Society.

The Sing We Now of Christmas website offers a video and lyrics for each inspiring song, information about each author, and more.

This Advent Anthology is available in paperback from CreateSpace and Amazon, and as a Kindle ebook.

Get in the Christmas Spirit with Checkin' It Twice & Other Heartwarming Holiday Tales, Volume 2 of award-winning stories from LDS Publisher's 2010 and 2011 Christmas Story Contests.  My contribution, "Foreign Exchange," was loosely based on my memory of a rainy Christmas Eve in Maryland.

See the Checkin' It Twice website for author interviews, contests, and more information.

Available in paperback from CreateSpace and Amazon.  Also available in Kindle and other ebook formats.

And if you buy a paperback copy from Amazon before December 15, you will receive several cool bonus goodies!  See the details here.

Find out more on my other blog!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Did-it-Himself Decor

I never got around to much Halloween decorating this year.  So D2 took matters into his own hands.

Using his favorite artistic medium, LEGO bricks, he spelled out "Haliween" (spelled it himself, too!), and built two skeletons, two pumpkins (on the right), and a yellow leaf (leaning against the W).  They've adorned his windowsill most of the month. 
He's so resourceful.

Speaking of resourceful, check out the costumes we wore to the Trunk or Treat.

Scoot needed some white fur and hairspray to be
an arctic werewolf,

but the other boys used things they found around the house.  D2 wore Scoot's old Buzz Lightyear costume, augmented with wings.  Rollo borrowed Dandelionslayer's robe, some of my jewelry, and Scoot's werewolf expression to be a sorcerer.

The Cat got gat.

As for the Prince and I, we were happy to relax, 
dressed in what we usually wear around the house.

Happy Haliween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


When the S family moved away last summer, they left us some things to remember them by,

including a pair of sturdy armchairs, and a matching footstool.  The Caterpillar immediately began using them this way:

Considering that his friends had probably done the same, and that the chairs had been loved by at least one other family before that, it was not surprising that the upholstery was a little the worse for the wear.  So I decided to replace it.

I took apart the original covers and used the pieces as patterns to cut this lovely Spruce Green Brushed Bull Denim from  I sewed it up more or less according to the original plan, and now the chairs are renewed.

I admit that I was tempted by many other materials.  The fabric store and websites are full of fashionable fabrics that are expensive, unwashable, and feature patterns that I like, but would make Dandelionslayer cringe.  So I decided to be safe, and go for something plain and comfortable,

then accesorize with pillows.  The chairs are a little deep for some of the less-tall members of the family (like me), so I made a couple of supporting pillows.  Then I used some printed cotton and yellow satin from my stash to make pillow covers.  Now I can change the decor easily, if I want to.  I'm already planning Christmas pillows...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Musical Monday

Dandelionslayer earned his master's degree in the middle of nowhere.  Socorro, NM, is the county seat of a mostly empty county.  It's perfect for studying astrophysics, but a little dry in other ways.  Fortunately, past presidents of NMT recognized the difficulty of luring quality faculty to such a place, and took steps.  Trees were planted, lawns watered.  A golf course was installed.  A performing arts center was built, and a pretty impressive series of artists were invited to perform.  And when we were there, at least, student tickets were cheap or free.  So we took in quite a few shows.

Preferring cheap and free ourselves, we usually took the tiny Caterpillar with us.  We became known to the lady in charge of the performances, and she regarded us more or less favorably.  As she introduced one concert, she mentioned that she was pleased to see some children in the audience.  "If," she warned, "your baby should happen to cry"--and the Caterpillar wailed, right on cue.  Everyone laughed, and I spent most of that show in the lobby.

I remember leaving him with a babysitter for a particular show.  Some Celtic-type band was supposed to come, but at the last minute they couldn't make it.  Instead, a young fiddler from Cape Breton Island arrived to entertain us.  Okay, she's our age, but we were young, too.  And Natalie MacMaster certainly did entertain us.  We were hooked.  We went to see her again when she made a quick stop in Albuquerque, a few days before Scoot was due.  We caught a free show she did in Savannah.  Dandelionslayer and I went to see her Christmas concert in Seattle.  So we were excited to see that she was coming to the area again last week.  This time, we took the Caterpillar along, because we knew he'd love the concert, too.  He didn't wail once.

 The music she plays tugs on my Scottish roots, but what I really love is the sheer joy and energy that she radiates while playing.  Here's the Volcanic Jig.  It's one of Natalie MacMaster's own compositions, but she plays the traditional tunes with the same fire.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Musical Monday

The boys have been in a Catty mood this week.  We're all going around with classic Webber tunes like "Memory" and "Macavity" stuck in our heads.  But here's another that I like:

I feel like I can identify with the Old Gumbie Cat.  Okay, maybe not with her outfit.  (The costumes we saw in a local production were far superior to the Broadway set and their clones.)  But I have my own "tiger stripes and leopard spots."  I was born bald, of course, and then grew blonde hair, as is the custom in my family.  When my sister Vae's hair changed, it went from blonde to brunette almost overnight.  But I just started growing hairs of many colors, which yields a striped effect in braids and such.  Some people refer to me as a redhead, but I think that has as much to to with my "leopard spots"--freckles.  It's all good camouflage, anyway, for a cat who may seem quiet in order to get along with the important things in a home: music, crocheting, baking, training boy-scouts...

Here's the original poem, which I like even better:

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots.
All day she sits upon the stair or on the steps or on the mat;
She sits and sits and sits and sits--and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
And when all the family's in bed and asleep,
She tucks up her skirts to the basement to creep.
She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice
Their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice;
So when she has got them lined up on the matting,
She teaches them music, crocheting and tatting.

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her equal would be hard to find, she likes the warm and sunny spots.
All day she sits beside the hearth or on the bed or on my hat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits--and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
As she finds that the mice will not ever keep quiet,
She is sure it is due to irregular diet;
And believing that nothing is done without trying,
She sets right to work with her baking and frying.
She makes them a mouse--cake of bread and dried peas,
And a beautiful fry of lean bacon and cheese.

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
The curtain-cord she likes to wind, and tie it into sailor-knots.
She sits upon the window-sill, or anything that's smooth and flat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits--and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
She thinks that the cockroaches just need employment
To prevent them from idle and wanton destroyment.
So she's formed, from that lot of disorderly louts,
A troop of well-disciplined helpful boy-scouts,
With a purpose in life and a good deed to do
And she's even created a Beetles' Tattoo.

So for Old Gumbie Cats let us now give three cheers
On whom well-ordered households depend, it appears.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Day Birthday

Six years ago, D2 was born on the first day of school.  Very early on the first day of school.  A friend received his brothers in the middle of the night, packed their lunches, and walked them to school the first day. 

This year, his birthday was on the first day of first grade.

Which wasn't a very good day for having company, so D2 invited friends over a couple of days earlier, for a penguin party.

Scoot took them fishing in the real pond.  The koi knew to stay out of the way.

They tried to feed stuffed fish to this penguin.  It wasn't particularly hungry, unless people stood at very close range.  Rollo and D2 painted the penguin, and D2 helped Dandelionslayer build the supports. 

They tried to transport their eggs safely.  I thought it would be fun to see them waddle, but they quickly solved the problem by hopping.

The Caterpillar led them in an iceberg-hopping game.  The icebergs were very slippery.

Dandelionslayer taught them a silly penguin song and dance.

We took a break for igloo cake, before the big water balloon battle.  It was a fun party.

After school on D2's real birthday, he was tired and a bit cranky.  "It was boring," he declared when I asked about school, "and too long!" 

But things got better.  Here he is, full of birthday ice cream and energy.  Well past bedtime.  What a fun little boy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Musical Monday

We have a visitor this week.  Though she seems to be sleeping so demurely beneath the computer desk, this little pooch has great energy and stamina, and a distinctive voice, particularly in the middle of the night.  She's a definite daddy's girl, and quickly accepted Dandelionslayer as a temporary idol.  The little boys idolize her in turn.  To attract her attention, they fill the air with whistles and claps and cries of "Hey, Lucy!"  Which inevitably brings this song to my mind:


Thanks, Weird Al!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Some of My Best Friends are Fictional

I'm afraid it's true.  I was thinking about the main characters in a good book I'd read recently, reviewing their adventures and their personalities, speculating about their futures . . . and realized that I knew them better than I know most people. 

Well-written characters share their thoughts, feelings, and motivations in ways that I can understand, even if I don't agree.  Fiction helps me explore the consequences of choices I wouldn't ordinarily make, shows me times and places I don't inhabit, and exercises my brain as I puzzle out plot twists and learn new words.

Fictional people don't care about my thoughts and feelings, of course.  But that's okay.  I'm an introvert.  And if I don't like the people I meet in a book, I can just send them back to the library.  Maybe someone else will like them.

I do try to read non-fiction from time to time.  I just finished a biography of James Madison which was interesting and educational.  But I think I learned at least as much from Elijah of Buxton, the historical novel I read afterward, in a tenth of the time. 

So I'm excited to join the Summer Book Trek.  This is a challenge to read fiction by LDS authors, with the opportunity to win fabulous prizes (More books!  Sign up today!).  I've found quite a few enticing volumes in my local library catalog, and I look forward to visiting some old friends and making some new ones.  I'll keep a list of the books I read on the sidebar, under the Trek button.

Of course, I'm not the only reader around here.  As soon as the Caterpillar heard about the Summer Book Trek, he hit his bookshelf upstairs.  He's read at least four novels in the Tennis Shoes Adventure Series in the past two days, racking up the points.  But he'll be out of town on a real adventure next week, so I might catch up.

What are you reading this summer? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Musical Monday

Here's something a little more contemporary, for the frustrated wizards of the world.  Like us. 

By Divine Comedy, from my alma mater, BYU

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brand New Bag

Many years ago, in New Mexico, I attempted to teach some teenaged girls to sew.  I designed a simple tote bag, provided their favorite colors and some sewing machines, and thought my directions would be pretty easy to follow.  As it turned out, the time was short.  A well-meaning grandmother finished some of them off.  I'm not sure whether I ever saw any of the bags in use. 

But I used mine.  I've carried scriptures, lesson manuals, music books, and extra papers to church in my purple bag.  Last year, when I was asked to lead Cub Scouts instead of teaching a Sunday class, I started leaving my purple bag home.  I told the younger boys that they could start bringing their own drawing paper.  I thought maybe it was time to create a smaller bag, just for my scriptures. 

Of course, before I got around to it, I was asked to play the piano for the children's meetings at church.  I pulled out my old purple bag to carry my large music book.  One strap was being held on by a safety pin.  I fixed that, then found little rips in the bottom.  It was time for a new bag, after all.

I bought some decorator fabric and a nice plain lining, but thought I should do something more to keep it whole.  So I reinforced the bottom of the bag with a piece of denim from my never-ending supply.

I added the lining and one of my few decorative stitches,

and, voilà!  Mama's got a brand new bag.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fourteen Candles

The Caterpillar just had a birthday. 
It's hard to space fourteen candles evenly on a cake.

It's becoming more difficult to measure him, too. 
I have to stand on a stool to see the top of his head. 
The Caterpillar has always had stalwart, upstanding hair.
Dandelionslayer thinks the hair gives him an unfair edge.
I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

 The Caterpillar recently joined the mysterious
Order of the Arrow.
He passed through an ordeal that involved silence and fasting.
I think smiling was still allowed.

Happy birthday, Caterpillar!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If only...

More from my little writer:

This time the prompt was "If grown-ups all turned into kids . . ."

His first concern, of course, would be about meals:

If the kids had a recipe they could make dinner and cereal breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.

Then recreation:

and play on the computer without permission they would be happy and they would have to

Turn the page . . .

mow the lawn with scissors.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Musical Monday

Last spring, the Caterpillar's band class performed a couple of nautically-inspired numbers.  Charmed by the music and its piratical associations, he did some research on the individual shanties used in the pieces.  In no time, he and his brothers had this one memorized:

Yes, even our four-year-old knew exactly what to do with a drunken sailor.  This song was our constant companion during our fabulous island getaway.  The boys sang it often as we traveled.  When we arrived at our cottage, we found a neighbor sitting outside playing his banjo.  And guess what he played?  The charm has worn off for most of the boys, but Rollo still bangs this tune out on the piano.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Bouquet

A cluster of tulips,

all from one stalk.

Like my sisters and me,
or my bundle of boys,
with bewildering variety,
but so much in common.

We come from good stock.

Thanks, Mom!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Musical Monday

The Caterpillar has been studying US history this year.  This song came naturally to mind when he reached the War of 1812.  Everyone loves it!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Garden Invader

I found this growing next to my blueberry bush.  It is about two inches tall, shaped like a pine cone, pale yellow and sort of waxy in appearance.  I think it is blooming. 

What is this thing?

Plant?  Tree?  Fungus? 
Alien life form that is planning to take over the world?
Whatever it is, it does not belong next to my blueberry bush.
Maybe I'll plant it elsewhere to see what it does.
What would you do?

This is called a groundcone, a parasite that preys on things like salal and huckleberries.  So, hey, why not a blueberry bush?  I'm glad I moved it.  You can learn more from Parasite of the Day or Wikipedia.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Musical Monday

For educating young boys in the musical history of their complex culture, no tool is equal to YouTube.  Okay, so it also gives 13-year-olds unnecessary access to information regarding explosives.  But when an interesting song comes to mind that is not found in our library of recordings, we appreciate being able to share it, on demand, with our impressionable youngsters.

And impressionable they are.  The greatest hits will be sung, whistled, played on piano, guitar, and marimba, and requested over and over again when serious work needs to be done on the computer.  Therefore, you need to hear them, too, don't you?  To give you something to hum when you think of us. 

This one was all the rage a few years ago.  Scoot favored it particularly, and will still quote its profound lyrics.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stash to Treasure: Spring Green Hat

Spring is here, and our schedule revolves around baseball.  We've been lucky so far with games set on pleasant days.  But even the sunny days turn cool in the evening, and our main field always seems to be breezy.  So, seeking warmth and hair control without winter wooliness, I crocheted a spring hat.

The green is a yarn I keep around for froggy baby presents; the soft white is left over from a hat I gave last Christmas.  I mostly followed this pattern from Design Adventures.  The pattern yields a child-sized hat, so I used a larger hook and added some increasing rounds.  It was fun to make, giving me something to do (and redo) during a Court of Honor, and something to relax with after Rollo's party.  The hat was ready to go for a Cub Pack hike yesterday.  It kept me cozy, but not hot, and all the other mommies said it was cute.

Incidentally, my smile is sincere because I had just figured out how to use a mirror to take a picture of myself.  Maybe you know the trick already, but I see many shots on the internet that could be titled "Self-portrait with Camera."  Instead of taking a picture of my reflection in the mirror, I faced the mirror, pointed the camera at myself, and looked at the reflection of the view screen to get it right.  So simple!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Rollo!

Rollo turned nine on a beautiful Saturday. 
It was sunny, and warm! 
In Western Washington, that is an event in itself.

It was a perfect day for baseball,

and baseball cupcakes for the team.

After we madly cleaned the house and yard,
it was a perfect day for a party.
Robert led his friends in dragon-themed games outside.
They ran too fast to pose for pictures. 
But I'd rather have a dozen boys run outside than fidget inside.

Since it was a dragon party, I had to make this dragon cake.
I think I made a similar dinosaur cake
for the Caterpillar many moons ago.
It was fun, but adding the wings and fire
made this one even better.

I suppose a real dragon would light the candles on his own cake.
Rollo just blew them out.

It was a happy day!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not to Scale

Some of our flowers...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dictionary Moment: Snallygaster

The word "snallygaster" caught my eye as I flipped through the SOED the other day.  It looked like a fun word to say, but the definition really got my attention: "a mythical monster supposedly found in Maryland."

Maryland?  I had to learn more.  Wikipedia reports that the snallygaster was reputed to be a dragon-like blood-sucking monster, terrorizing Catoctin Mountain.

I was born and raised in Maryland, and went camping on Catoctin Mountain.  When we got lost on a hike there, my friends and I focussed our giggling concern on running afoul of security at Camp David.  No one ever warned us about the local dragon.  No, years later and a continent away, I learn about it from a foreign dictionary.  I feel safe, but cheated.  Clearly, I'm going to have to do some more research on the snallygaster.

Do you know your local monster?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Egg Hunt

D2 was very excited about hunting for Easter eggs.  He kept asking us to hide them, reminding us, and even giving us hints about good hiding places.  So when we finally banished the boys upstairs, we snuck out the back door.  They had no idea.  After we returned, they came downstairs and started looking in the usual spots in the living room.  Usually they ask for the rules, to know which rooms to search.  This time D2 just asked if the eggs were "hidden around the house."  Which they were, in a manner of speaking.  Ha!  We surprised them.

Seeking eggs outside was a challenge, but the boys rose to the occasion. 

D2 found this one on the fence, with only a little prompting.

I don't know if the Caterpillar remembers the birds that built a nest in this bush, but it seemed like a good place for an egg.

The Caterpillar walked right over this egg, kicking the leaf off and leaving it in Rollo's sight.

Scoot was feeling rather dramatic.

We used regular food coloring to dye the eggs this year, with some interesting results.  The blue-green was everyone's favorite color.

D2 made a portrait of his favorite one-eyed monster, so the Caterpillar made one with his company's logo.

Everyone agreed that this looks like a dragon egg,

and Rollo drew an Easter dragon to go with it.  I wouldn't want to steal an egg from her, though.  Yikes!