Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snow Slam

The roads were a bit icy Wednesday morning, but as the day warmed up, all was fine.  Our predicted snowfall began in the late afternoon--just in time for rush hour.

It came down thick-n-quick, blown sideways in the wind.  Commuters clogged the roads before the plows could clear them, so conditions deteriorated almost immediately.  Nearly every ramp was blocked by immobilized cars or trucks, and vehicles were abandoned, making plowing and driving more and more difficult as time ticked by.

In a typical story of this storm, it took Len seven hours (seven!) to make the usually 35 minute drive home.  It took our neighbor six hours to make his 15 minute commute!

Our power was out for several hours, but we can't complain.  It came back before the house froze and the freezers thawed.  I mean, we were still in the "scones and tea by candlelight" phase. ;-)  Less fortunate souls in the metro area lost power for days.

Since then, it's been winter fun-time.  Here are some pictures from Thursday:

These two shots show the effects of the wind:  snow concentrated on one side of the trees.  In fact, I'm not used to seeing snow all down the trunk . . .

This was heavy snow.  Many trees are down in the neighborhood, including this one that fell from the woods onto a fence.  As of today, plenty of heavily damaged front yard specimens have already been cut down and carted away.
 Lauren and I went walking under a brilliant sky.
 A typical Lauren pose!
The ice at the pond looked so strange.  Do you see the color variation/pattern?  I haven't yet tried to find out what caused it.  It hasn't actually been super-cold, either; the water under the dock didn't freeze.
 Marianna and her friend built a snowgirl.
Happy Winter! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cat TV

Lucca is an indoor cat, but she's got plenty of wild instincts (Don't get me started!).  A favorite pastime is what we call "watching kitty tv."  She'll survey the birds at the feeder or the squirrels on the deck with riveted attention.

And she chirps!  And squawks!  I have never seen or heard a cat vocalize like this before--it is nothing like a meow or a hiss or a growl.

I've tried several times to record this crazy phenomenon.  These little bits are the best so far.  The first clip shows what Lucca is doing, while the second has more audio.  Sorry for the poor quality; I'm no great technician . . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Me and My House

A mini update:
  • Len is in Leesburg nearly every day, preparing for the transition to the new clinic.  This weekend he'll supervise pre-moving of shelves, basement storage, etc.
  • Lauren is engaged.  Her cat is insane (now eating and vomiting plastic bags--yay!).
  • David is back at SMCM, starting his 2nd semester classes today.  Haven't heard yet how it's going, but I did get his teapot to the post office today.
  • Daniel had the day off due to icy roads.  He slept in, watched a movie, and kept the homeschoolers company.
  • Joseph is annoying, but last night my sister-in-law said he's annoying in just the same way her brother was.  My darling husband turned out better than fine, so there is hope for Joe yet!
  • Marianna has had two productive school days in a row.  Her secret?  Mom finally filled out a detailed checklist!  Shocking news:  a written plan helps some people stay on task.  Who knew?  (Okay, I did.  I tried to deny the truth and just slide by, but this ways works so much better . . .)
  • Rebecca can't decide whether she's a big girl (excellent reader, focused student) or a toddler ("Warm up my clothes," "Stand next to me while I practice the piano," etc.).  It's an interesting stage.
  • Speaking of vacillation, I run the gamut myself:  weight lifting then eating extra cookies, waking at 5:30 then zoning on the couch later, planning meals but nearly running out of produce b/c I don't make it to the store, praying a daily rosary but slacking off on the Bible reading . . .
What's new with you, my friends?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bold and Voracious

Paros is overrun with stray cats!  Lauren adopted and brought home a kitten (actually, Len and I performed the actual transport, but whatever . . .) named Lucca (for both an Italian town and a sculptor). 

This cat is the crazy-hungriest I have EVER seen.  She attacks her bowl as if it's the first food she's seen in a week.  She loves eating more than a dog, and let me tell you, that's saying something.

Little Lucca still needs some training in the decorum department:
No, it's not good manners to have your kitty-self with your kitty-paws in the parents' fridge!
If she can get there first, Lucca will eat Dusty's food right out of his dish.
The crazy thing is that Dusty won't chase her away!  Poor puppy . . .
Once we rescue the bowl and present it to the dog, he will keep Lucca out of it.  In the picture below she is busy trying to consume a piece of stolen dog food.  It's too big, but she will keep at it until it's been pulverised and eaten.
Here's a bit of her passionate attempt.  Unfortunately, you can't hear Lucca's growling.  Yes, she sounds like a little lion when she thinks her food possession is being threatened.  Beware!
The latest trick of Lauren's little darling is retrieving choice bits from the trash can (she must get on the island first--yuck!) and dragging them back to her lair (the mudroom).  Last night she got blood all over the kitchen when she found the plastic that had wrapped a beef roast.  We're starting to lock Lucca up at night (mudroom or girls' room), but she's up to her antics even during the day.  Tonight I caught her pawing through the garbage while I was working in the kitchen!

The other night she knocked the lid off the cake keeper and nibbled on pound cake.

Last week she dragged a package of Afghan bread around, opened numerous holes in the bag, and chewed up various edges.

Before that she chewed her way into two foil-lined bags of doggy treats (now kept in plastic containers, thank you very much), consuming nearly everything inside.

I've wielded the water spritzer several times today, so I'm definitely not on Lucca's favorite person list (if growling and hissing are any indicator).  On the other hand, she can be affectionate and entertaining.  Maybe I'll be able to capture some video of her squawking while she watches the birds at the feeder--uniquely silly!

Now that our home is relatively calm, with our youngest child a mature six years old (!), I suppose it's time to have a new creature to train.  This bold, amusing, incorrigible, voracious, and affectionate kitten is presenting an interesting challenge.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


For the first time in five months, I've posted a new recipe--for stromboli--on Come to the Table. 

There are so many more I'd like to write up (soft gingerbread cookies, chicken picatta, flank steak, an ode to scoops, etc.), but my energy runs out before I manage it.  Plus, there are duties that take priority.  Plus, it's hard to get "my turn" on the family computer.  Anyway, there's something new now!  :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The entry below was originally posted in March 2010, but I thought it might interest some folks now since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday will be celebrated January 17th. 

We did read along (silently) with the audio, and it was wonderful.  MLK was a mesmerizing speaker!  I highly recommend studying this speech .  There's so much more depth to it than the few phrases you hear on the radio now and then.

We're studying American history this year, and finished up the Civil War last week. Inspired by a fifth grade teacher, I borrowed all 5 discs of Ken Burns' PBS series from the library. Joseph, Marianna, and I spent weeks (the series is over eleven hours long!) watching, listening, and learning. With pauses for discussion and review, we all absorbed a lot of information.

Anyway, when we finished the dvds, we covered the era of Reconstruction. Then instead of moving on chronologically, we jumped ahead to the Civil Rights era and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil War and Reconstruction should have given all races equality in America, but that's not how it turned out. One hundred years later, the fight was active again.

Our library has an audiotape of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. It's stirring and poetic and inspiring, and I can't wait to listen to it again.

In preparation, the three of us are reading a biography of MLK. I'm not patient enough to read it aloud (it's too long, and I want to keep moving), so we're sharing the book for our quiet time (the homeschoolers have a minimum of 30 minutes of approved/school topic reading each day).

Together, we're reading another book (Becca, too): I Have a Dream by Scholastic Press. It contains the entire text of the speech, along with paintings by 15 different artists. I highly recommend this book! We covered the first half today, analyzing and explaining
  • the meaning (the promissory note and the bank of justice),
  • the poetry (Why does he repeat "one hundred years later" four times in one long sentence?),
  • the context (explaining his urging of nonviolence with the picture of ketchup being poured on people sitting-in at a lunch counter),
  • the Biblical references ("I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."),
  • and the symbolism (Why does he begin with "Fivescore years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation."?)
We'll finish up tomorrow and then Friday listen to the speech while reading along (as I remember it, the tape is scratchy). Reading and analyzing is educational, but actually hearing that preacher proclaiming will touch our hearts.

I know lots of folks study MLK in January, around his birthday, but his life and efforts will make more sense to my students right now, when the Civil War and its aftermath are still fresh in their minds.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's News

The call came soon after midnight.

On his knee in Central Park, Adam proposed and Lauren accepted.  Just like that, they're engaged!

We don't have many details yet:
  • The ring is beautiful, with a diamond and two sapphires (their birthstone) set in white gold.
  • A summer 2012 wedding is planned.
  • Some of their friends knew what was coming, so photos were taken.
  • Lauren and Adam are happy, happy, happy, and so are we.  If we didn't think he was a great guy, he wouldn't have been invited to attend our last two family reunion/vacations.

fireworks in the court