Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Carol Tag

My sister-out-law, Shelley, tagged me weeks ago. I've been thinking about how to respond since, but haven't taken the time to put this down.

I really enjoy Christmas music. There's very little I don't like, so finding 5 favorites is difficult, but here's the top 5 (at least tonight).

5). Anything from Peggy Lee's Christmas Carousel album, but especially Don't Forget to Feed the Reindeer. This album was an integral part of Christmas in our house when I was a child. One of my favorite memories is my mother singing "The Tree" ("We're going to get a Christmas tree" is the first line) as we headed out to get our tree.
4). Do You Hear What I Hear - I think this was one my elementary school music teacher's favorites since we sang it every year.
3). Away in the Manger - the alternate version with tune by William J. Kilpatrick.
2). God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Bare Naked Ladies and Sarah MacLachlan
1). Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - but only the version by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians (otherwise this song is trite and overdone). What sets apart this version are the sound effects. As a kid I worked really hard at duplicating those sounds, and when I think of favorite Christmas songs this is the first that comes to mind.

Favorite Hanukkah Songs - Hanukkah Blessings by Bare Naked Ladies, and Light One Candle by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Little Drummer Boy makes my least favorite list, although I do get a smile when I remember that my alma mater gets a portion of the royalties - one of the authors was an alum.

A note about the picture above - this house is near the grocery store we shop at most often. There aren't many people who go all out in their decorating near us. Lights in the bushes in front of the house, greenery and wreathes, and a few with those blow up characters, but very few people go all out with their decorations. When we first bought our house the people whose yard is pictured above decorated the "gum drop" bushes just visible at the back of the photo. In the years since the display has grown. This year they have 5 or 6 animated items, as well as blinking lights in the "gum drop bushes" and, as I discovered when I stopped to take a picture earlier tonight, speakers playing Christmas music.

Kitchen Dance

I don't write much poetry, and haven't written a haiku since it was required in school. This jumped into my head tonight while I was finishing dessert and making cranberry sauce, and Amy was chopping veggies for the stuffing. I couldn't resist sharing it. Dessert tomorrow will be the bittersweet chocolate cake pictured here.

two cooks small kitchen
holiday preparations
dance without touching

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Favorite Book Remembered

I've always been fascinated by the courage and tenacity of people who defy the laws of the land, and the expectations of those around them to help other people - whether it's those who rescued Jews from the Nazis, or who helped escaped slaves in the pre-Civil War US. I've been reading a book titled Bound for Canaan, which is a history of the Underground Railroad. This morning it brought to mind a book I haven't thought of in quite a while.

The book is Thee, Hannah by Marguerite de Angeli. It's the story of a Quaker girl in Philadelphia shortly before the Civil War. Hannah longs for material things she doesn't have and that her family doesn't believe are needed - frilly dresses, and fancy bonnets. The book came to mind because the section of Bound for Canaan I was reading was about Isaac Hopper, who was not born Quaker but who joined the Society of Friends later in life - adopting the modes of dress common to Quakers of the time including wearing a "broad-brimmed Quaker-style hat". That phrase, brought to mind this much loved book of my youth, and now I can't get it out of my head.

I remember the story of Hannah's desire for fancy clothes and I remember being fascinated by the language. The thees and thous which the family used seemed both quaint and fascinating. A childhood friend was Quaker, and I remember being surprised that her family didn't use thee and thou in their speech. Although they made up for that by calling their father "Father" instead of "Daddy" or "Dad".

I remember that the edition we had a hardcover which was covered in dark blue cloth. Inside were the most exquisite pictures (the picture above came from - the book is still in print). What I don't remember is the part of the story that deals with Hannah's family helping an escaped slave. I'm going to have to dig through the box of children's books I have at home and see if this book is there, so I can read it again. And then I will, probably have to share it with my nephews.

Goodbye Pumpkin

In a moment of optimism early in October I bought a pumpkin. I had gone apple picking with my college roommate, and having heard that pumpkins were going to be scarce this year, leapt at the opportunity to pick up a beauty at the orchard (not sure whether the folks who run the orchard grew them or if they came from some nearby farm).

Life being what it's been this fall (busy, busy, busy) I never did get around to turning that beautiful pumpkin into an eerie jack-o-lantern. The pumpkin sat in the garage for about a month, then took up residence in an empty spot in the perennial bed just outside the garage door. And there it sat while I was off traveling - first to Minnesota, then the roadtrip to Arkansas, and finally to New Jersey. I was quite startled to return home and find it still intact. Not a spec of rot, no tooth marks, nothing - just one happy little pumpkin sitting in the flower bed nestled up against the lavender. I'd expected the critters who inhabit the wet lands behind our house to make quick work of the pumpkin, but for almost a month they ignored it.

Until this weekend that is. Over the weekend the critters apparently discovered the appetizer in the flower bed. When I left to head into work Saturday morning (yes work on a Saturday) I noticed a fairly sizeable bite had been taken out of the pumpkin. After making a mental note to dispose of it I headed off to work. Sunday when I headed out to corral some of the leaves still littering the yard, I discovered that some messy eater had been at the pumpkin. Most of the pumpkin was still intact, but the bite near the top was considerably larger than it had been the day before. And even more startling the stem was gone. I may yet find the stem tucked under the lavender.

Given that we really don't want to attract critters to our house and yard (anyone know a foolproof way to discourage skunks?) it was time for the pumpkin to go. Since most of it was still intact, and I was dressed for yard work, I picked it up, carried it to the edge of the yard (small cliff into the wetlands) and gave a heave. The pumpkin sailed quite gracefully through the air before bounding down the hill. It split partway down leaving a trail as it continued to roll until it landed at the base of a small tree.

I haven't looked to see if it's still there, but I hope the critters enjoy it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Auntie Time

While on the extended road trip I got to spend time with my youngest two nephews. N and I spent a morning together including a trip to the playground near my parents house. He was most interested in the sand box. He tested almost all of the toys - even trying to fix a couple of broken ones, and buried a couple.

He wasn't too interested in interacting with the other children who were there. He much preferred those spots which were empty. We had a great time, and Grammy provided pancakes for lunch - what could be better!

During the weekend between the two training classes in New Jersey, I spent the now traditional weekend at my sister's keeping D entertained while his Mom worked on the many batches of biscotti she makes for Christmas, and his Tama was busy in her office. I started doing this 3 years ago and it has become a favorite part of my year.

Because I was already in New Jersey I got to stop by and see S at work before heading toward their house. I joined D and S for a trip to the library and bakery Friday night. Saturday morning I ran errands while D was at wrestling practice. After he showed off his moves we headed out for lunch. Back at the house we worked on this year's secret project. The first trip I built shelves for the downstairs bathroom. Last year we made a serving tray - I precut the parts, D painted the bottom and we worked together to glue it together and coat it all with varnish. This year's project is well a secret - all wrapped up for Christmas. What I can say is that D pronounced this the "best project ever".

After our project work we headed to the hotel so D could show off his newly acquired swimming skills. We even incorporated a wrestling move he'd learned that morning (making yourself big) into swimming - allowing D to add floating to his swimming skills.

We finished up the weekend with a viewing of "Happy Feet" which D thoroughly enjoyed.

A great time was had by all.

Road Trip

Amy and I drove to Arkansas for Thanksgiving (yes Arkansas). We had a lovely visit with her Mom, and her sister and brother-in-law who are traveling the country in a pick-up and 5th wheeler (RV). Luckily the weather was mild during our trip - no snow, and only minor rain.

On the way we dropped off an early Christmas present at my parent's house (a replacement for the ancient computer they were using). We set up the new computer when we returned. Then Amy headed home while I headed to New Jersey for work related training.

It was hard being away from home for so long (nearly 3 weeks in all). Driving across the mid-west is, for the most part, boring although we got great gas mileage. We clocked just over 3200 miles on Amy's car, and another 500 on mine. I slept in 5 different hotels in 3 different states and 2 family homes during the trip, and spent time in 9 different states - New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, New Jersey and Connecticut in addition to Massachusetts.

Being home is great. I've got a really busy couple of weeks coming up, but at least I get to sleep in my own bed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Great Day for a Paddle

There have been a lot of great paddling days this summer. I've spent a lot of time kayaking this summer - on the Charles, Sudbury, Concord and Mohawk rivers; on Lake Cochituate; on Rainbow Lake in the Adirondacks; and in the ocean off Cape Cod. Today I explored the Nashua River in Harvard. This section of the river runs between the Ox Bow National Wildlife Refuge and what used to be Fort Devens.

The launch site has a nice parking area, with a ramp to the water (although quite steep). The water was quite cold, but with the air temperature in the mid 70s it was quite pleasant.

This section of the river is winding with lots of overhanging trees. I didn't see much wildlife, probably because I was out midday. I did see a fair amount of evidence of beaver activity, though. For the first mile or so I had company - other kayakers, and a couple of canoes. For the next couple of miles I had the river to myself.

I don't know how many more kayaking days are left this year - we've gotten close to overnight frost, and have had quite a few chilly days. I hope to get a few more trips in, but it all depends on the weather. I'm off to Albany next week - may try to take the kayak for another trip on the Mohawk but that'll depend on when I head that direction and the weather.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Golden Couple

50 years. 50 years of hope, joy, sorrow, and laughter, but most importantly 50 years of love. On June 9, 1956 my parents were married full of hope, love, and anticipation for a life together. Life has not always been easy for them. There where times when money was tight, when sick children caused them worry, when work kept them apart for too many hours. Through it all the love and commitment to each other and the family they created never waivered.

I always knew that my parents loved each other. Passing in a hallway was always an occasion for a hug, and if any of their children got within reach the hug became a family hug. What a gift it was to grow up knowing that my parents loved each other, and me.

We celebrated my parents golden anniversary as a family last weekend - no speeches, no champagne toasts, just a family enjoying each other's company and celebrating a momentous occasion.

But now I offer a toast - raise a glass to a couple who have shown us that true love exists, and that love can endure and prosper. And to my parents a huge thank you for sharing that love with not only me, but with my wife. I hope that we will be lucky enough to celebrate our own 50th anniversary.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

You Know You Have a Problem..

It’s March, granted it’s late March but it’s still March. I live in New England. It hasn’t been much of a winter but it has been cold. Water doesn’t change temperature as quickly as the air does. And yet, I find myself obsessing about putting my boat into the water. I’m craving the feel of floating down a river, or across a lake under my own power (and I'm not quite nuts enough to want to go swimming, yet). Logically I know this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about it.

Maybe it’s the relatively warm weather, or the predictions of near 70 degree weather on Friday, or the longer sunlight, or the finally finishing the kayak rack (photos soon) or the crew shells which now dot the Charles River morning and night. Or maybe I’m just nuts.

Of course I’m not as nuts as Brommer Bill who was out on the Charles in January – yes January! Bill has an advantage, though, he actually owns the necessary gear for cold weather paddling – wet suit, insulated booties, house near the river, full skirt… I don’t. This picture was taken by Bill, and yes that's snow on the front of the kayak.

So, I’ll have to content myself with dreaming about the first trip – likely nearly a month away and with dreaming about kayaking. On my list for dream support is acquiring the Northern Forest Canoe Trail maps. The NFCT is a link of waterways in New York, Quebec and northern New England. The organization has mapped the routes, including campsites and other local information.

And today I found myself checking out the details of the Run of the Charles. There’s a 6 mile race included in the offerings. I can paddle 6 miles – I’ve done almost that distance before, on that stretch of the Charles chasing after my nephew. What I don’t know is whether I could do it in under 2 hours (the slowest time listed in last year’s results is 1:54 minutes). I’d really, really hate to be last, and I’d really, really, really hate to be last by more than a couple of minutes.

Incidentally, the picture at the top is not me. It’s Kristen the KSC kayaker in last year’s Friends of Tuckerman Inferno pentathalon. Brommer (see above more nuts than I am note) will be doing the kayak leg in this year’s inferno. Since the race conflicts with NEFFA we are unlikely to be there to cheer him on, although we will be cheering from afar.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Music That Moves Me

Tracy tagged me more than a month ago to respond to a musical meme.

The challenge: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

I haven't responded because I'm having a really hard time figuring out which seven songs - 7, one less than 8 - that's just not enough. As my Dad commented the last time he was in my house, I own a lot of cds. While I don't listen to music at home much, I do listen to music almost constantly at work and a good portion of time in the car, especially if I'm driving by myself. I spend nearly 2 hours a day in the car during the week, and lately a lot of that time has been solo. Music runs through my head frequently. The workday playlist usually starts with me scrolling through ITunes and stopping when something catches my eye. Some days I start at the top, some at the bottom, and every once in the while I scroll to the middle. I've got several days worth of music in there.

The other problem I've been having with this is that there are so many songs and artists worthy of mention. Most of the artists I listen to regularly aren't mainstream, so I feel an obligation to give them credit for touching my life, and also figure that mentioning them may prompt interest and improve the likelihood that they'll be able to put out more cds.

So, here I sit a month later still trying to figure out which songs artists to include. The music I enjoy tends toward the mellow. When Amy and I were putting together the play list for our wedding celebration we discovered that we owned almost no dance music. The music I love is primarily women's folk music, although I do have a soft spot for Billy Joel, James and Livingston Taylor, Bare Naked Ladies, and even a song or two from Jethro Tull. I also still enjoy John Denver. (I have recently realized what torture it must have been for my older brother to put up with my listening to John Denver albums over and over and over until I memorized all the lyrics. Sorry Brad!)

Without further ado here's my top 10 (I just couldn't keep it to 7) in no particular order.
1 - The One's Who Aren't Here written by John Calvi, sung by Meg Christian. It's a bitter sweet look at coming out and of all the forces which work against gays and lesbians being able to be themselves without fear. (This one's been playing in my head cause I only have it on LP, not CD.)
2 - We Are One by Emma's Revolution.
A song of peace, I always want more verses of this song.
3 - Northern Star by Ann Reed.
This song makes me think of Amy who is "my east, my south & west".
4 - Ordinary Town written by Dave Carter, sung by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer.
My wonderful sister-out-law, Shelley, introduced me to Tracy Grammer (yes, we did go to the concert at TCAN and, despite the fact that Amy had a concert of her own earlier that day, it was great and I'm hooked). This song first grabbed me with it's tune.
5 - Little Road - Cheryl Wheeler
This song is all about reconciling the good things in life, with all the horrible things happening in the world.
6 - We the People - Cris Williamson
This is another song of peace, from the perspective of our nation's reaction to the terror attacks of September 11th.
7 - I Heard an Owl - Carrie Newcomer
The chorus sums this song up well:
Don't tell me hate is ever right or God's will
These are the wheels we set in motion ourselves
the whole world weeps and is weeping still
Though shaken I still believe
the best of what we all can be
The only peace this world will know
Can only come from love

8 - Travelin' Soldier - Dixie Chicks
I never listened to the Dixie Chicks until they were lambasted for making comments against President Bush. I like a lot of their songs. This one made me cry the first time I really paid attention to the words.
9 - Raisin Pie - Diane Taraz
I discovered Diane Taraz last year at NEFFA. Much of her music, including this song, pay homage to her French Canadian ancestry. This one always makes me smile.
Other NEFFA discoveries include the Short Sisters, Taproot, and the Johnson Girls.
10 - I don't know the name of this last song. It's one I learned from Amy and it's been in my head because Purim was last week. It's a children's song, complete with hand motions. The English words (there's also a Hebrew version) are
My hat it has three corners
three corners has my hat
and if it did not have three corners
it would not be my hat.

That's the list for tonight. I wish I could have included songs by Tret Fure, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tracy Chapman, Ferron, and many more.

I'm supposed to tag a bunch of other people, but the only other bloggers I know besides , who should consider herself tagged, are Tracy, who tagged me, and Shelley, who was also tagged by Tracy.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Snow, No Snow

Last weekend the Eastern seaboard got blasted with snow. We didn't get as much as NYC and New Jersey, but we did get a respectable 18 inches. Unfortunately, I picked up a nasty cold (congestion, low grade fever, no energy) the week before. Consequently I spent last weekend swigging water, filling tissues, and sleeping. What I did not do was get out into the snow to play. I did do a little shoveling, which pretty much wiped me out despite the fact that this was light fluffy snow. I finally broke down on Monday and went to the doctor. The doctor told me I had a cold and that it could be as much as another week before I got better. Not really what I wanted to hear.

The only good thing about being sick was that I had an excuse for spending hours glued to the Olympic coverage on the tv. Favorite events - women's hockey, snowboard cross (Amy looked at me like I'd lost my mind when I suggested that they should add snowboard cross relays.), alpine skiing, speed skating (both kinds) and curling. I watch the figure skating but it's really not my thing. I was very disappointed when the American women lost on Friday, but it was a great game and the Swedish goaltender was outstanding.

I was finally feeling more like myself by Friday, but by then the snow was all gone. I'm hoping that the cold which blew in yesterday will give the Weston Ski track an opportunity to make snow. And if the cold hangs around I might manage to get out onto it in the not to distant future.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where's the Snowshoeing??

We haven't made it out into the snow this year. Why? you may ask. Or perhaps you're just assuming that the lack of snow cover in the Boston area is at fault.

Well, part of the reason is the lack of snow cover nearby. It would be a lot easier to get out if it didn't require several hours of driving!

We've also been spending most recent weekends (not last weekend which was our anniversary) on "spring cleaning". Yes, I know it's not spring but our weather doesn't know that. No pile, closet, or desk is safe. The list doesn't seem to be getting shorter, but it will eventually. And when it does we will be much closer to being able to get the renovations started.

I can hear you all now - renovations? oh that. Do you really think they're actually going to do those renovations?

In answer to your doubts I refer you to the post titled "Terri's Desk" in my archives. It took much longer than it should have but it did get done and so will the renovations. But first I need to call the carpenter to see what's holding up the fascia repair (we lost a section to a wind storm). Stay tuned....

North Bennet Street School

In the shadow of Old North Church in the North End of Boston sits the North Bennet Street School. NBSS is the place to learn trade skills in New England. They offer programs in Jewelry, Locksmithing, Piano Tuning, Violin Making, Construction, Preservation Carpentry and Woodworking. I've know about NBSS for years. Several of the woodworking classes I've taken have been taught by NBSS grads, and it's been written about in woodworking magazines.

This winter I decided to take the plunge and enroll in one of the workshop classes offered by the school. After much deliberation I signed up for the Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking workshop. The workshop meets two nights a week. So far we've sharpened tools - chisels, plane irons, marking gauges; flattened a board; worked on a "practice block" and begun work on a sharpening stone box.

The chisel sharpening has been the most difficult part of the class for me. To start with the 1 inch chisel I started working with had bad steel and wouldn't hold an edge. After working on it for 3 classes the problem was diagnosed and the chisel replaced. That put me behind and I'm still working on catching up. The other part of sharpening I'm having difficulty mastering is using the grinder to set the angle on the chisel. I'm still stuggling a little with this.

Once the plane iron was sharp we learned how to create a board with flat parallel faces, and edges which were square to the faces and ends.

On the practice block we used the 1 inch chisel (now that it was sharp) to create 45 degree chamfers on the end and part way up each side with one ending in a sharp shoulder and the other curving up to the edge, the other end and sides were rounded over, with one edge ending in a sharp shoulder and the other curved out. When I finish it I'll post a picture.

The sharpening stone box is being created out of a single piece of wood. We started by marking two sides and one end with the newly sharpened marking gauge. Then using the stone marked the other two edges with a utility knife. Once the edges were marked we began clearing out the bulk of the interior with a chisel. Once that's done the center will be cleaned out with a router plane, and the edges cleaned up with chisels.

So far the class has been great - except for the frustration in getting the chisel sharpened. The instructor, Judith Hanson, and assistant, Jamie, are knowledgeable, encouraging, and friendly. I'm definitely gaining skills I didn't have before.

Picture Book Art

On Sunday we ventured to Amherst to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This picture is from a post card I bought - it's titled Eric Carle and his catepillar. The museum is absolutely fabulous! The exhibits were one comparing Eric Carle's picture book art with that of Leo Lionni, one on Alice and Martin Provenson, and a smaller exhibit on Jerry Pinkney.

The exhibits easily held our attention - who knew that the art of Eric Carle and Leo Lionni was so similar. There are gallery activities for children - clipboards with a list of things to find in the pictures, and each room includes a bench with box of books related to the exhibit. Each of the exhibits shows not only the art but also explains the process the artist uses to create the pictures.

The Jerry Pinkney exhibit was complete with a warning sign that the subject matter was inappropriate for children under 8. The book featured, The Old African, is about the enslavement of Africans, and the related horrors.

The museum also features a small library - hours of picture books to read; a cafe, an auditorium and an activity room. The activity room is available for everyone, adult and children, and features materials to try some of the processes used by the featured artists.

The museum shop is another treasure trove of picture books - I could have spent hours there and lots and lots of money!

Even the bathrooms impressed me. They feature tiles of Eric Carle's characters and child sized fixtures in addition to the adult sized fixtures.

The museum is definitely worth a visit - I know I'll go back - can't wait till Nick is old enough to survive the road trip to Amherst!

For info on the museum check out

Weekend in Springfield

We spent last weekend in Springfield, exploring, and relaxing. Saturday morning we walked from our hotel to the Quadrangle , site of the Dr. Suess National Memorial. The memorial consists of a number of statues of Suess characters, and Dr. Suess himself in the Quadrangle. Horton from Horton, Thing One, Thing Two, the narrator, Sally and the Cat, Yertle the Turtle and friends, the Grinch and Max, and a couple which I am sorry to say I didn't recognize - guess I'm going to have to brush up on my Dr. Suess!

Around the edges of the Quadrangle are several museums (Science, Art, and Connecticut Valley History), and the Springfield Public Libary. We didn't venture into any of the Musueums but did enjoy checking out the architectural details of each of the buildings.