Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

We brought this greeting to some of our friends Christmas Eve.
Now we send it from our home to yours...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Musical Monday

Thanks to Alison Krauss, Yo-Yo Ma, and some of their many friends.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Musical Monday

The Caterpillar has discovered a new favorite Christmas song.  It's a traditional villancico, or Spanish folk carol, called "Los Peces en el Río."  It has a bouncy tune and interesting lyrics.  As this site points out, there aren't any bells ringing or kings visiting in this song.  It's more about Mary accomplishing the mundane tasks of motherhood, while the fishes in the river are gulping with excitement about the Savior's birth.

At first I wasn't sure if I liked the words.  According to this source, they point out the contrast between the businesslike mother and the joyful fish. But the lyrics are growing on me. 

Being a folk song, the verses vary.  I like this recording, because it includes the part about Mary washing diapers and hanging them out to dry.  Everyone appreciates her privilege of holding and kissing Baby Jesus, but even he needed diapers, and someone had to wash them.  A mother's job, for sure.

Other verses show her combing her hair and taking long walks.  While mothers all know it's difficult, we know we must take care of ourselves to keep up the strength to care for our families.  In this song, I see Mary as a good example of a new mother, balancing the demands on her time and body.  And the fish drink in the wonder of it all.

There's no way to know the origins of this song, but I imagine a group of Spanish women doing their washing in the stream.  They comfort each other through the drudgery by pointing out that even Mary had to wash diapers.  The burbling brook and its curious fish inspire a light-hearted song.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Musical Monday

Let's begin December with some elvish resourcefulness!

Lindsey Stirling's Celtic Carol

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We Are Grateful for Refrigeration

The week before Thanksgiving, the milk started to taste funny.  Various members of the family blamed each other for leaving it out too long, and choked it down anyway.  But when we sat down to dinner the day Grandpa O arrived, and Rollo's glass of milk came out all curdled, we couldn't ignore it any more.  There was a problem with the refrigerator.

Careful measurement with thermometers of varying reliability revealed that the fridge was 10-15 degrees warmer than it ought to be, even at the coldest setting.  I called repairmen, but none could come for a whole week.  What would become of my Thanksgiving feast supplies?  Then Grandpa O came to the rescue.  He offered to give us a new refrigerator as an early Christmas gift.

We did some research and some shopping.  In the meantime, we relied on our extra freezer.  It kept the turkey safe, and provided buckets of ice to keep the refrigerator a bit cooler.  A couple of things spoiled, but most stayed in good shape.  I took the two and a half gallons of curdled milk and tried my hand at making cheese.  It was mostly done before I poured it out of the jugs, actually, so it was pretty easy.  We were having a sunny cold snap, so I chilled the cheese outside.  I served this Queso Mostly-Fresco with tacos one day, and everyone ate it.

Finally we chose a new fridge, with delivery promised . . . on Wednesday.  The same day the repairman would have come.  We kept drinking juice and buying one gallon of milk at a time, and didn't eat breakfast cereal for over a week.  When D2 came home from school every day, he asked if the new refrigerator had arrived.  When the big day came, he helped me move things out of the old one.  The delivery men had it all set up before lunch time, and said we could use it right away.  It was so beautiful and clean, it almost seemed like a shame to put things inside.  But we did, quickly.  The boys were thrilled to come home to a new refrigerator, to have milk in the house again.  Have you ever heard small children being excited about a major appliance?  While dismaying, this was a good gratitude-building experience.

The feast was a success.  But Rollo still wasn't grateful to eat cereal for breakfast.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seal Beach

As we drove up the California coast, I noticed a sign advertising a view of elephant seals.  I pulled right into the parking lot, looked down the way, and saw a couple of heads sticking out of the surf.  I haven't seen many seals in the wild, so I was impressed.
 Then we followed the crowd up the boardwalk.  On the other side of a boulder, we saw a few more.
And even more.  Apparently this beach is a favorite flopping place for elephant seals.

 Between naps, they cavort to their own vocal accompaniment.
Even though seals are important characters in many of their games, D2 and Rollo were more interested in this squirrel.  Somehow rodents beat pinnipeds.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Construction Zone

Our final big destination in Southern California was Legoland, realizing Rollo and D2's long-held wishes.  The rest of us liked it, too.  There are some rides, which I was pleased to see were geared toward active youngsters.  There was a driving test, only for those twelve and under.  (Scoot was disappointed that the cars didn't go faster.)  We pulled ourselves up a tower with ropes.  And the dragon roller coaster was, according to D2 (who hated the coaster we rode at Sea World) "awesome!"
 What I thought was really awesome was the Lego artwork.  From impressively detailed  miniatures of familiar landscapes . . .
(this one must be from our neck of the woods)
to large copies of familiar minifigures,
the creativity was amazing.  And there was room for everyone to exercise their own creativity.
 Scoot built this castle in a little building pavilion,
 while D2 and Rollo built this one.
 Dandelionslayer and the Caterpillar even found the right pieces
to build a favorite band.
 There was also plenty of water, on a day that never really heated up.
 We learned the construction secrets of the Pharaohs,
 and of star ship building in a galaxy far, far away.  So, it was a fun, creative, educational day.
And I can't leave you without a picture of Einstein and the buffaloes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Musical Monday

We've been indulging in a little Russian folk music lately.  "Коробейники" ("Korobeiniki" for those of us who don't read Cyrillic) is a lively tune for a tragic tale (isn't that typical of folk music?) of a peddler and a peasant girl meeting in the moonlight in a rye field (sorry for all the parentheses).  Isn't it picturesque?

When my peers hear the tune, though, a different picture comes to mind.  We see oddly-shaped puzzle pieces coming through the rye at an ever-increasing tempo, and we must fit them together before--oops, game over.  Yes, "Коробейники"is more widely known in the West as "Tetris Theme A."

Dandelionslayer thinks this would be a fun tune for beginning percussionists to play on their bells, so he has been researching arrangements and working something up.  It's not quite ready yet, so I'll share another version.  In honor of the Caterpillar's recent debut in the local marching band, here's the Cal Band playing Tetris:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Squawking at Sea World

Next on our San Diego agenda was Sea World.  Naturally, a visit to the penguins was a priority.
These Magellanic penguins didn't seem to think it was too hot,
but they could always go for a swim.
We watched polar bears pace, and pinnipeds prance.
We saw belugas and orcas, with their giant babies.
We touched soft, slimy rays that weren't quite that big,
and admired merchandise.  There was plenty to squawk about, 
and three boys fell fast asleep on the short ride back to the hotel.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Adding Monkeys to the San Diego Zoo

We continued our tour of the San Diego area with a trip to the famous Zoo.  As usual, we weren't sure whether our little monkeys would be allowed out of the zoo again, but we took the chance.
It really was impressive.  I don't recall seeing baby flamingos before, but we saw a few in San Diego.  See the awkward-looking gray birds?  I guess they haven't built up their shrimp reserves yet.
Quite a few of the animals were up and moving, like this orangutan.  Even the mama panda was chewing bamboo in full view of the audience, though I seem to have forgotten to take a picture of her.
It was a hot day, for San Diego.  I'd have liked to join this bird, splashing in the water.
This shady monkey fort looked pretty good, too.
This little leopard was a busy guy,
and thankfully smaller than the saber cats that used to roam California!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saving Seeds

I usually miss picking a few pea pods when they're fresh.  They get lost in the glorious green tangle, and I don't find them until the seeds are getting a bit tough.  So I let them go.  They mature and dry out.  When I pull up the plants, I pick the crisp pods and save the seeds for next year. 
It looks like I missed more than a few pods this summer.  I'll have plenty to plant next spring.  Since I bought the previous seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I know the new ones will grow true.
 In fact, I think I'll plant a few right now, since they're already sprouting.  I've never tried a fall crop before.  Here's to a new garden adventure!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I was stitching this sashiko placemat at the church one evening this spring, waiting for the boys to finish their activities.  An older lady stopped by to admire my work, and said, "You must be so patient."

I'd heard that one before.

The first time I remember receiving that compliment was during high school.  I was at a track meet, whiling away the hours between my events with this cross stitch project: 

I usually ran in the very first and last races of the meet, so I had plenty of time.  One of my teammates stopped by to see what I was doing, asked a couple of questions, and ended with, "You must be so patient."

I don't think either of us knew that was a standard, ritualistic compliment for those engaging in fancywork.   She must have meant it.  I knew she meant well.  But it didn't seem quite right to me.

I've done plenty of public stitching over the years, and heard the same thing over and over, and said something like "Thank you" in return.  But I never figured out why it bothered me until that evening at the church this spring.

I don't stitch because I'm patient.  I stitch because I'm impatient.

I hate sitting and waiting with nothing to do.  D2's tee ball games were tedious when my hands were empty.  But when I took my sashiko along, the games were pleasant.  I accomplished most of that particular project at tee ball games, actually.

When soccer practice schedules keep me waiting, I need a book or a crochet project to keep me busy.  The same principle applies to church activities, traveling, even visits with relatives. (The stitching, of course, not the reading, so I can be available to converse.) 

Even at home, I need a distraction sometimes.  For example, today I supervised Rollo and D2 in cleaning their room.  This is an intensive sort of supervision to take on, as they will do absolutely nothing without specific instructions, and not much more without frequent repetition.  To keep my hands from strangling my beloved sons during the process, I wound six skeins of yarn into balls.  That's 47,520 inches of yarn.  Exactly 3/4 of a mile, as Dandelionslayer pointed out.  And yes, the room behind the balls is exceedingly orderly, when compared to its previous state.

There's something soothing about thread, and being able to accomplish something, little by little, when people or circumstances are beyond my complete control.   Or just when we're watching a video.  So, yes, I stitch because I am not patient, and it makes me happy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Musical Monday

So, you've left the twelve-year-old in charge for a couple of hours.  When you come home, the ten-year-old rushes up and says, "We found something awesome on YouTube!"

What do you feel?  Fear?  Trepidation?  An impulse to throw away the wireless router and ban the twelve-year-old from babysitting?

Not me.  Not for long, anyway.  Rollo's not one to keep you in suspense.  And I know my boys.  This is what he'd found:

The Piano Guys' version of "Nearer, My God, to Thee."


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Visiting the Mormon Battalion

After winding our way down from Big Bear Lake and fighting our way through Los Angeles-area traffic, we finally arrived in San Diego.  We went to the Old Town and found the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.  At least three of my direct ancestors, and some other members of the family tree, marched from Iowa to California as part of the Army of the West in 1846. 

The engaging multimedia presentation tells about the recruitment, trials on the journey, and the ways the Battalion members contributed to the development of southern California and Utah.  It was very interesting.
Among those contributions, some Battalion members helped build a certain mill where gold was discovered.  So there's a gold panning station outside where visitors can try their hand.
In a sluice stocked with pyrite and other pretty pebbles, there's something for everyone to discover.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Big Bear Lake

After the festivities in Utah, we headed for southern California.  On the way, we stopped at Big Bear Lake.
We spent the night in this cool cabin.
In the morning we took a steep little hike,
where we met some lizards,
 and a log that looked like a rhino.
It was a beautiful place,
and it would have been fun to stay longer,
but we had other plans...