Friday, April 30, 2010

Lauren's Spring Break

Constantly forgetting its official title, we call one of Lauren's courses "The Guatemala Class." She wanted to participate in a mission trip, and this class included a week teaching art to children in a Mayan village in the highlands of Guatemala.

Lauren and her fellow students (only about 15--they had to apply) spent the beginning of the semester learning about the highlands culture and creating lessons that would be meaningful to the children. One consideration was materials--they wanted the villagers to be able to repeat the crafting with supplies available in their area. Over spring break, the class traveled and taught. The rest of the semester is being spent creating art in response to the trip; those projects will be auctioned off next month, with the proceeds benefitting the Guatemalan art education program.

Lauren had a wonderful time, and shared some photos with us.She brought two cameras along, and took zillions of photos. Really: 17 rolls of black and white film (>600 shots) and about 1,000 digital pictures (not counting the deleted ones)!Before reaching the village, the group spent time in Guatemala City, Panajachel, and Chichicastenango.The market places were full of colorful people and their wares.The bright, hand-dyed, hand-woven textiles are gorgeous. I wish you could fill your screen with a larger version of this photo!The view from a bus. Interestingly, Lauren said the air was bad everywhere in Guatemala, with smog and pollution in the cities and wind-blown dust in the mountains along with smoke from burning sugar cane.Lauren worked with some of the youngest children. These life-size dolls were traced, cut, and sewn together with some kind of fabric/insulation cloth from a hardware store. The children decorated both sides--one in traditional dress, the other in the garb of their future selves/careers. I think. I'm a little hazy on the details.
All the VCU students had a great time working with and getting to know the local children.
It wasn't all teaching. The college students also attended demonstrations by local crafters.Lauren managed to bring home a vase made of recycled glass.Most fascinating was the textile work by the women of a cooperative. Thread is knotted then hand-dyed
and woven.
A true art exchange.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

Well, it's been many weeks since I've participated in Faith and Family Live's "Small Successes", but here goes:
  1. Len has been away for several days (kayaking) and I've been staying up too late. Why is this a success? I always stay up when he's gone, but this time I'm getting to bed long before the 2:00 a.m. I sometimes succumb to. And although I've had excessive computer time some days, I've also read a book and avoided the TV. It's all about perspective...
  2. I finished correcting the final assignments for our writing co-op and hosted our end-of-year party. I didn't teach as many sessions as some of the other moms, but I did work hard, especially reviewing the homework. One of the biggest benefits of a co-op for me is that I will stick with something when other families depend on me.
  3. I cooked special dinners with both Marianna and Joe lately. Should really get some pictures up...
How's your spring turning out so far? It's still Easter--Alleluia! Be encouraged by other moms here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mexican Brownies

Yesterday I baked brownies with some heat and sweet spiciness added--a delicious, adult flavor.

I found several recipes on the internet, which helped me guesstimate how much spice to add to my favorite Moosewood fudge brownies. I put in 1/2 teaspoon of ground chipotle chile peppers (smoky and warm) and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Two bikes were stolen from our garage. Aargh!

We keep the doors down most of the time, but sometimes they're up when the kids are outside. Once in a great while a door is inadvertently left up all night, but that's not what happened this time.

I reported the thefts and gave descriptions of the bikes. We even had the serial number of one written down--worth doing! If they were stolen to sell, I'm sure we'll never see them again, but sometimes kids take and ride and ditch bikes. If that is what happened, ours may get to the police station where we'll claim them. I'll probably make a visit or two before giving up, although I'll have to take a knowledgeable child along. I doubt I could recognize the bike I ride, let alone one of theirs!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easily Amused

We watch practically no TV here. The Olympics were a big draw, but most of our (rationed) screen time is consumed in the form of computer time or movie viewing. Even the TV shows we do watch are seasons old and commercial free, courtesy of Netflix.

Our family has enjoyed a Netflix subscription for several years now, but sometimes we don't efficiently move the DVDs back and forth through the mail. Some movies are available to play instantly online, but sitting in the study watching on the computer doesn't feel like much of a date night. And it's not easy for a group to watch that way, either.

Enter Netflix's new feature: a free Wii disc. We pop it into the player and are then able to watch any instant movie ON THE TV! It's almost embarrassing how excited I am about this. (I will neither confirm nor deny reports of gleeful squealing.)

Now we're able to watch school movies (about the ocean, the Statue of Liberty, etc.) without being stuck in the study; in other words I can work in the kitchen AND watch. Date movies (the selection is not as wide as the DVDs) on a comfy couch are back. And I can (theoretically--who really has time?) watch something on TV while the main computer is in use.

Yes, I am easily amused.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Decision Time

After prayerful consideration [at least by his parents ;-)], David has made his choice: this fall he will be attending St. Mary's College of Maryland. It's a public, honors college with about 2,000 students.

David is planning to major in chemistry. Or math. Or physics. Or computer science. Okay, it's a little early to be certain, but there's a definite theme to all his choices!

David has visited SMCM twice already, and enjoyed "hanging out" (I really can't think of a better way to describe his time being shown the competing student lounges...) with faculty and students. The campus has its own charms as well:(I apologize that these larger pictures are cut off; I can't figure out how to reduce them.)Yep, right on the water. The waterfront is barely a walk down the driveway. Many boats are available for students, and the sailing team is one of the best in the country.Oh, yes, the buildings are attractive, too.

Congratulations, David! We're so proud of you!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Me and My House

Another in the infrequent series of family updates:
  • Inspired by Leila, I decluttered and dusted (!) the master bedroom. It's not perfect (laundry staging is still on the perimeter), but I've committed to keeping it nice for Len. I'm keeping the messies away--piles of hair holders, random papers, books I'm not reading, etc. While respect and affection for him was my inspiration, I'm enjoying the more peaceful place, too.
  • Len has arranged a short family canoe trip for tomorrow. Next week he'll be off for nearly a week of kayaking with like-minded boaters. He had a great time last year.
  • Lauren is busy with school work as well as plans for the summer and next school year. She's applied (for the fall) to a fabulous program in Greece. Her portfolio/personal statement will be turned in soon, and then the waiting begins. So many decisions about next semester can't be made until she gets word from the Aegean Center!
  • Tonight David is at the prom. His school is small enough to cruise the Potomac together, and another family is hosting the after-party at home. He looks so sharp in his black suit, black shirt, and white tie. :-) Accepted at every college he applied to, David is close to deciding where he'll be attending next year (probably in VA or MD).
  • I was so pleased to make a convenient orthodontist appointment for Daniel over our Easter break. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it in favor of our family hike in the Shenandoah. I doubt he'll get to the office until lacrosse season is over, so it's retainer wearing all day, every day for weeks to come.
  • The homeschoolers are glad to be playing soccer again; last fall was their first season. Joseph has moved up to the U15 team, joining all the friends he missed in the fall as a U12 (October birthday).
  • Marianna's Irish dance recital is coming up (the same weekend as David's graduation!), and she loves learning the steps of her piece. It's meant to be a surprise, so we're not allowed to see her practice. We made dinner together tonight: egg drop soup, stir-fried chicken and veggies, brown jasmine rice (the best rice ever!), and tin roof ice cream. The ice cream probably took the most time: preparing custard the night before, making and chilling the fudge ripple, coating peanuts with chocolate, freezing the custard, then stirring in the peanuts and layering it with ripple before freezing again. Of course, it was delicious...
  • Lately Rebecca has become Costume Girl. Princess outfits, dance skirts, capes, etc. are all fodder for her imaginative play. She has a few friends and asks daily to play with them, but is also able to entertain herself for hours, with very little, "What can I do now, Mommy?"
Now you know a tiny bit about each of us. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Caterpillar Planting

Butterflies are beautiful, but caterpillars are amazing! Here's an Eastern black swallowtail: Its range covers most of the U. S. and parts of Canada. The caterpillars primarily eat parsley or the leafy tops of dill and carrots. In our area (northern VA) the eggs hatch in late August or early September, but now is planting time for their food.

In the spring we spread parsley seeds in a patch near the front door. We enjoy several months of herbal harvest until the caterpillars appear. Then we share the greenery, feeding our baby insects in their big jar.With parsley to eat and a stick to climb, they're happy campers.
Eventually they assume "the position", molt the final skin, and appear as chrysalises.We usually overwinter them in the fridge; mature butterflies emerge in the spring.
If you'd like to grow your own butterflies, try planting some parsley this spring. With some luck, a mama will lay her eggs in the summer and you'll have caterpillars to watch.
For more details, you can read my butterfly posts here (they're in reverse order, with the oldest at the bottom). Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study has a lesson on Eastern black swallowtails, and Rick Mikula's The Family Butterfly Book is also a useful resource (I borrow it from the library).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anniversary Date

Although our (24th!) anniversary was last month, we postponed our celebration until this past Sunday. We had planned to view a special exhibit at the Corcoran ("Turner to Cezanne"), but it closed suddenly due to ventilation issues. Waah! Len was, perhaps, not as heartbroken as I. ;-)

We had also planned a visit to the National Arboretum, so that became a bigger piece of our outing.

First we attended a demonstration of ikebana, Japanese flower arranging. Like many other types of art, it combines mechanics/crafting as much as artistic vision. Here are some samples from the follow up exhibit:This Chinese chrysanthemum stone was never technically alive, but isn't it gorgeous? It's over three feet tall! The flower pattern was formed by mineral crystals in mud that became the dark limestone.There was also a Japanese stone of denser rock with many, smaller chrysanthemums. There's always something new and amazing to discover in this world!

We browsed through the camellia show. I found that I have a strong preference for multi-ruffled, variegated pink blooms like this one:Finally we began walking around the extensive grounds. Even with parking filled up, the arboretum felt spacious and quiet.

The azaleas will be at peak bloom in a few weeks. Most of them looked like this although a few were showing off.The weather was perfect--mild and sunny--as we enjoyed the Asian gardens.Below is viburnum. Won't it be beautiful when all the blooms open? I love their simplicity of shape, texture, and color.Big bee, little bloom:Little bee, big bloom:Then it was time to relax on a shady patch of lawn. Some dozing, some reading, crossword puzzling, and some visitors? These guys must have been falling from a tree. I saw one, but Len found two then three then many on his shirt and finally NECK before we moved on...

We were hungry by then, anyway, so it was off to Jaleo, a fabulous tapas restaurant in DC. The weather was perfect for eating outside; we even encountered friends from the boys' school who were on their way to the theater. Six small plates and two desserts later, we were on our way to Grammy and Grandpop's house to pick up the little girls. What a grand day!

The plants were lovely and dinner was delicious, but the company was best of all. Thanks, honey (for Sunday and the past 24 years).

Friday, April 9, 2010

On Succcess

Today's meditation from In Conversation With God is based on the gospel passage where the risen Jesus, standing on the shore, calls out to the apostles after their night of unsuccessful fishing. He tells them to cast their net one more time (only about a hundred yards from shore), and suddenly it is so full they cannot even haul it in, but must drag their catch to shore.

There is so much to learn and think about from this reading, but what hit me today were these words of Francis Fernandez:

"During the night, on their own, in the absence of Christ, they had labored in vain. They had been wasting their time. In the morning, when it was light, when Jesus was present, when He gave light with his word, when He directed the operation, the nets were completely filled as they were brought to land. The same thing happens to us every day. In the absence of Christ the day becomes night, an empty night, just another day in our life. Our efforts are not enough by themselves; we need God for them to bear fruit. By the side of Christ, when we have him with us, our days are enriched."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's Bluebell Time Again!

You're welcome to join us for our traditional walk through Bull Run Regional Park. The weather was perfect this morning--sunny, mid-70's, with a hint of a breeze. (Thunderstorms are forecast for tonight!)The stars of the show, of course, are the bluebells.Spring beauties are also lovely. Can you see the pink stamens in this first photo?The pink stripes will fade a bit as the blooms mature (note yellow stamens here).These two plants don't always peak together, but today they made a gorgeous combo.
Every year I take pictures of the bluebell vista, and every year I am disappointed to see how the photos look on the computer. I'm never able to capture the endless view of a blue and green haze extending to the horizon among the tall trees.These will have to do. Trust me, it's so much more ethereal in real life.This is the first year I remember when boots were non-essentials. Not only was it not muddy, it was DRY.Above and below are photos taken standing in the bottom of one of the branches of the creek.Some water was flowing, so it was still possible to wade and float boats and toss rocks (and dried mud) and get dirty. We also spent some time drawing, although I sketched Joe instead of flowers.
Here he is up on the trail while I stand down near the water. The banks have steeply (deeply?) eroded over the years.
More pix of the children:Thanks for joining us. I hope you're enjoying spring wherever you are.