Friday, November 26, 2010

Random Acts of Culture

I actually have two other posts that I'm in the middle of writing but this is such a beautiful thing that I have to share it. I am not generally a sentimental person, but there are a few things that truly move me to tears almost every time. One of them is Handel's Messiah - better known as the Hallelujah Chorus - no matter where I am, every time I hear it, I hear my mother's voice. Just beautiful.

Well, a friend posted a YouTube link onto Facebook today for a performance of the Chorus held in Macy's in Philadelphia. The performance was done by members of twenty choirs and with the world's largest pipe organ playing the music. It was truly moving to watch. Well, at the end of the five-minute video clip they were holding up signs that said, "You've just experienced a Random Act of Culture" and gave the website for the Knight Arts Challenge

Before I go any further, here is the YouTube video that brought me to this post:


Hopefully I've put the embed code in there properly. But I followed the line further and went to visit the Knight Arts page and looked at some of the other Random Acts of Culture that have taken place. It is so wonderful to see people going to such elaborate lengths to get some of the classics out to random passers-by. From Opera at the Cosmetics Counter in Charlotte, to Jazz Music in the mall in Ventura, people are being exposed to (possibly) new things that they might not have seen otherwise. It is incredibly moving to me to become aware of this and share it here. I hope others will pass it on as I am now. God bless you all as we head into Christmas and the end of 2010. For me, this song is my "Season Opener." It makes my day to hear it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A "Crochet"-y Day



I have a friend who knits wonderful things - her blog is here: Spinster Beth.


We love our Beth socks - both the older boys slept in them the first night she brought them over!



Ignore the pregnant belly - the bolero-style sweater she made me for Christmas 2009 is awesome.





Another friend recently started a healthy cooking blog. Her food looks delicious and you can see her thoughts here: Fit, Fun and Yum. Their blogs show their every-day accomplishments or "WIPs" - that is, "Works In Progress."


My hobbies come and go as I have the time, so you won't see as many of my completed projects on here as you will see my thoughts on raising children and what to do with them next.

All that aside, I had a rather "crochet"-y day today, if you'll pardon the pun! We woke up early to take Jeff to the airport. The kids and I almost always go in with him instead of just dropping him off curbside, and today I'm glad we did! As it turned out, there was a huge mess up in the paperwork and we stayed there for more than six hours waiting on Jeff to get a new ticket to fly to the base he was supposed to visit.

Under Beth's recent re-encouragement, I've started carrying yarn and crochet hooks with me, in case an odd pocket of time comes up when my hands are free and my attention can be fairly easily and safely divided. Today was just such an occasion!



The washrag I made is one of the best I've ever used - even if I do say so myself! Before it was a washrag, Buttercup used it as her pillow.

Beth's ulterior motives are for me to start knitting my kids the annual socks, blankets for the newborns, etc. Well, I'm not ready to go quite that far, but here are some pictures of the two projects I did finish today. I just want to say that I am rather proud of myself! On the flip side, enjoy the hat, laugh if you like. I won't be hurt.

It was by total coincidence that her hat matches that shirt. Don't they look great together? You can see in the side view that I tried to put in a bubble stitch. It didn't work out so well, but I didn't want to take the time to take it out, and it's not that bad.



The hat does NOT fit me so well, nor does it look as cute!



Finally, a not-so-great close up...


Friday, November 12, 2010

Flying in the Right Direction




I saw a flock of birds riding the currents yesterday. Birds have always fascinated me - we've all heard of the way geese work with their V-formations, the fresher goose taking the lead and falling back when tired, two geese staying with an injured goose, etc. These were some other, smaller variety of bird. I'm not sure what type because they were too far away from me. Their formation was more like a ball - a ball of birds. What was interesting to me is that they stayed in their "ball" formation even when the wind blew them about this way and that, never running into one another, seemingly never losing their place in the rest of the group.

How often do we move this way in society? Accepting what is supposedly our position in life, not jostling for a better position within our own social circles, and enjoying the ride? My growing "flock" of birds often jostle for a better position - more like dogs in a pack, I suppose, than birds working together. If the birds don't work together, they will end up crashing into one another and bring the whole flock down out of the sky.

When my children are given a job and they act more like a flock than a pack, they manage to finish the job fairly quickly. I love those moments and cherish them. The last time we raked the leaves and bagged them up, we were a flock. I didn't have to yell - everyone grabbed a tool (rake, shovel, bag, etc.) to get the job done, and we floated on the breeze.








Getting their beds made this morning was a whole 'nother story. I found myself praying for serenity and asking God for help to not yell and scream to get the pack in line. They snarled and bit (at one another, not me!) vying for who was going to be top dog, beneath the Alpha. Needless to say, more work was needed in fixing the situation - if they're working, eventually harmony comes - or bedtime. Either way is a win-win situation for me and for the family.

As we get closer to our 25- 30 person Thanksgiving dinner and as families all over these great united States work to make feasts, may we all strive to be more like the flock of birds than the pack of dogs (and God give me patience when the Dogs come out!)

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving on a Grand Scale

WHAT A CROWD!

We're flying out to Washington state for Thanksgiving this year. We'll be there for just over two weeks and haven't been since 2007! How long has it been since you last saw your mother?! Well, I have a big family: my grandfather was one of six children (all boys!), so there are lots of cousins and aunts (the uncles are all gone now, sadly.) My mother is one of ten children, I am one of six, my brother and sister-in-law have seven, we have four, another brother has three... As you can imagine, Thanksgiving will be a FULL HOUSE! We're expecting to cook for 25 people, minimum.

The logistics involved in a "regular" Thanksgiving are enough. In our house "normally" we schedule the menu about 3 weeks in advance so we have time to figure out who will bring what, how much to make, etc. We also schedule a timeline out so that the food all comes out hot at the same time (relatively speaking) and we're aware of what needs to be made in advance (pretzel salad, for instance.)

I have been asked two questions: 1) what do we "normally" have for Thanksgiving? and 2) Can we provide the rolls (apparently Mom went home and talked about my bread.) SO, I'm guessing the list so far for 25 people looks about like...

100 yeast rolls
3 pans of pretzel salad (an absolutely yummy dessert dish - that it seems like only my in-laws make anywhere)
2 turkeys (my guess)
2 stuffed acorn squash
6 lbs. of stuffing
6 pies
6 - 8 lbs. of potatoes for mashing
1 lb. of brussle sprouts (I'm probably the only one who will eat it!)
8 - 10 cans of cranberry sauce
3 lbs. of homemade cranberry sauce
3 gallons of apple cider
5 gallons of milk

I know there is more - in our house here in Maryland, we usually also have roasted root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, garlic, apples, etc. drizzled with olive oil, topped with rosemary and baked for about 20 minutes at 450) and the family back home has their favorites - just like I know there will likely be more than 25 people attending. Always plan for one thing, and expect more to show for something like this!

In spite of the chaos that I know will ensue and the noise and confusion - there is also the excitement, the fellowship and the love of being with family and friends, both old and new. My one request was the pretzel salad and stuffed acorn squash (to make a main dish for us vegetarian-types.) What does your Thanksgiving look like? Do you have a favorite "must have" recipe?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Special Christmas Gifts Come from the Hands - and the Heart


For me, a Christmas gift doesn't need to be a purchased item to be "great." I have mentioned before some of the home made gifts we've given to others, and what has been done for us. Often it is the time, love and effort put into the gift that makes it so special: my mother-in-law's fudge, for example. I hate to stand, stirring at the stove for so long but how I love to eat it! My friend Beth's cozy, toasty knee socks - made three years ago, worn almost daily in the cold months as I skate over my wood floors in them, still going strong. I don't knit, but am a huge fan of her knitting! My mother's singing - she is one of the top voices in the world, as far as I go. She could go pro, but has decided to use that talent to bless others and honed her other talents to earn a living. Which brings me to what I'd LOVE for the children to receive for Christmas this year (never mind that she has already beat me to it and purchased things for them - this gift would be a great add-on!)

If my mother were to take a digital recorder (you can get them for $50 - $100 at Radio Shack, where my brother can buy it for her at a discount... hint, hint!) or a tape recorder and sing some of the songs I grew up with for my kids to have for later (and who am I kidding? For ME to have for later too!) That would be a lasting gift that will never fade away, if properly cared for!

What songs would she include...? Daisy, (I Like To) Catch Brass Rings, old summer camp songs from Camp St. Alban's, her part of the Hallelujah Chorus, I know she has more - she's had a running list of "what to include" on her refrigerator since 2007 (!) Wipe the dust off, Ma and sing on! Or, if you run out of songs to sing, how about some of those wonderful and funny childhood stories you've told? My kids LOVE those - and so do I!

And how about from my niece, who is said to be a wonderful cook: a hand-drawn recipe book with some of the "family faves" would save her money and suit me just fine! I'd bet her aunt and uncle and grandma on her mother's side would be happy with that too!

From my brother, who takes mah-velous family portraits: (what else??) New family portraits for me to share around, please!

We'll be there for Thanksgiving; I'll bring nice clothes for all of us and huge smiles!

For you all in the Tacoma/Seattle (Washington) area, I'm putting in a little plug for my brother here - he has been s-l-o-w-l-y building his photography and portraiture business over the last four or five years. He is phenomenal with kids (has seven of his own, so it just figures!) and getting them comfortable and smiley-happy. He could use a boost if you know anyone in the Seattle/Tacoma area who would like some done, spread the word, eh? (Okay, clearly I need to get him to get on the ball for posting his stuff outside of Facebook! But I'm sure he would be happy to send samples if you'd like!) Anyway, he's awesome at photography and reasonably priced. (He didn't take the one at left - I did - and that's why I need someone else until my skills improve!) If I did the link correctly, you can see some of his photos here.

From my brother-in-law, he makes yummy cookies :9 We would never turn those down!

I know it looks like I'm using this post to ask for things - gimme, gimme, gimme - but really, what I'm looking to do is get people thinking about those things that we each have our own unique talent for, and encourage the use of those talents to bless others at the time that we honor Christ's birth. The "season" is truly about loving, sharing, visiting, and blessing those we love. The gifts Jesus was given by the Wise Men were blessings as well as portents to His future here on Earth and I am working, within myself, to recall the spirit of those three gifts in the blessings that I give to those around me. A home-cooked meal, a hand-made book, goodies, things we can use, things that I know the recipient will love... blessings all.

When I was younger, we never knew what to get my mom and so would end up getting her the little boxes of jewelry sold in between the counters at the department stores. The only worse thing we could have purchased for her would have been make-up! Little did we know (and she never told us) that small jewelry pieces don't look right on a larger woman. When I left home, she packed up much of that old junk-jewelry and passed it on to me; I have since passed quite a bit of it on to the young lady down the road. The gifts we give should show that we are really considering the person receiving the gift: what do they want or need, what will bless them - what will "curse" them with a future of, "so-and-so gave it to us, we can't use it/don't care for it, but we can't give it away because so-and-so bought it for us."

On the rare occasion that I can't give a gift that I really feel will be a boon and a blessing to the person, not just more of life's clutter, I purchase a card and give money to a charity in that person's name. In the card, I explain that I just didn't see anything that I felt would bless them more than to bless someone else in their honor.

I suppose instead of just "asking" for things, I could say what we're giving out for Christmas... but that would ruin the secret, wouldn't it??

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010 Hallowe'en Follow Up -

Well, at the expense of my originally-planned "election day" post (which I've just deleted - the overall message: make sure you vote but whomever you choose, make sure you've educated yourself as to who is the "right" candidate for your area and why they deserve your support!) here is my post-Hallowe'en post (hee hee) with the promised pictures included! Hello to the grandparents...












First up is "Herman Munster" - okay, he got many compliments on his "Frankenstein" costume, but Maestro even had old Herman's walk down! And his new clunky Heelies helped complete the look!















Next in line is our "Wii Console" - Smeagol has always thought a little (if you'll pardon the expression!) outside the box - and now it's put him in the box! Well, we went to great lengths to make sure every detail was included - you can't see it in this photo, but the "back" of the console has the ventilation slots and next to the "DVD" in the front (shiny half-moon thing that you can see in this pic) is a blue glow stick, just like when the console lights up when ejecting a disk!
















Bruiser really wanted to be a "Ghost with a Sword" and not just any sword, but the one he saw two months ago at the Dollar Store near post. And the face on the ghost had to be done just that way, I suspect to imitate the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin costumes. I messed it up though - poor guy had such a hard time seeing out of the left eye :-\ He had a great time.












Ahhh... Here is Buttercup - sporting her lovely butterfly look. Can't have a scary basket to go out as a beautiful butterfly, so her colorful Easter basket was brought out to take care of the conflict. Two things to notice here: I managed to get her hair to stand up for the "antennae" (Awesome!) and she is squeezing her eyes shut in anticipation of the flash! These kids crack me up!





And one final costume - this one from a bit farther off, hailing from Tacoma, Washington, we have my mother - the Great Pumpkin. Notice the green topknot and the striped orange shirt. She had a gal doing face painting at the shop and had her put the make up on.

Perhaps it's a little scarier than Mom wanted, and a tad less Great Pumpkin-ish, but then again, if you were a Great Pumpkin and only giving one shot a year to the believing boys and girls of the United States... wouldn't you look a little scary too? (Either way, I think it's an awesome Nana-ish thing to do and hope all the local Tacoma Grandkids had a blast with her!)

In the Charlie Brown movie, Linus gets worried over a slip of saying, "If the Great Pumpkin comes..." So the big question is: did she find a pumpkin patch that was sincere enough to leave toys and presents? Well, our ghost, featured above, might have something to say about that... but he is out cold from a sugar-induced high, and the resulting crash that comes after! He'll have to tell us all about it tomorrow!
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