Sunday, May 29, 2011

Keeping the Commandments: It's the Love That Matters

From today's gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  John 14:15

And excerpts from today's meditation in Magnificat:

It is not the magnitude, or otherwise, of the work we have to do that should concern us, but the magnitude of the love with which we do it.  It is a terrible mistake to suppose that if we simply carry out the commandments externally we have nothing to worry about. 

That can be no more than lip-service; it can be simply self-culture, the service of the self; and it can be form of self-complacency . . .  Of course we have to try to keep the commandments; but the essential is to try to keep them in such a way that we learn to see more and more clearly our true Center, to keep our eyes more and more on God and less and less on ourselves, to say "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me." 

There are, in fact, two opposite heresies here which we have to avoid:  the one says, If I do right it doesn't matter what I am; the other says, If I am right it doesn't matter what I do.  We have to try to live in God, to be right; but we learn to be right only through slowly and painfully trying to do right; and on the other hand if we were really living in God then inevitably we should, as a matter of fact, do right, for we should hunger and thirst after righteousness. 

Father Gerald Vann, O.P.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amphibians and Reptile

First, "Days With Tadpoles" by Rebecca:

Yesterday Marianna and my mom were taking a walk with Dusty, and they came to a place where a big tire had made a puddle.
 They saw a bunch of tadpoles, which are baby frogs or toads.

So they came back and told me about it.  Then I woke up Joe and he wasn’t very excited, but we got on our bikes and went to the place where they were. 
 We brought a bag and a cup.  Then we got some tadpoles in the cup and poured them into the bag.

Then we went home.  We poured them into a habitat in my kitchen area.  We put pebbles in it and creek water. 

First they all started down at the pebbles, but after a while they came up and were all swimming around.  My mom bought fish food, but they didn’t eat it until this morning.  It’s Marianna’s job to feed them breakfast and my job to feed them dinner.  They ate a lot of algae from the water. 

We’ve only had them for a day; they’re really cute and tiny.  Lucca watched them for a minute or two, but she wasn’t very interested.  The tadpoles have a tail and it’s kind of see-through. 
They swim around all day.  They still hang out at the pebbles, and a few were hanging on a stick and being very still.

"Tadpoles," by Marianna:

Yesterday morning, while I was on the walk with my mom and Dusty and Mrs. Laing, we found in a giant tire rut hundreds of tadpoles.  When we got home, we told Becca, who got very excited.  Then we woke up Joe, who was not very excited about it at all. 

We got out the tadpole habitat and dumped a bunch of creek water into it.  We also put in a bunch of pebbles at the bottom.  Then we rode on bikes and put a bunch of tadpoles and some rainwater in a quart size zipper bag.  When we got home, we dumped them into the habitat. 

When we first put them in, they just went down to the bottom and wiggled in between the pebbles.  They didn’t move for a while, and I thought they were dead.  Then they touched each other and started swimming around.  They still spend time in between the pebbles.

Right now they are very tiny.  They are black with a little tail.  They are swimming around a lot, all over the place.  They’ve been eating the algae in the water and ignoring the fish food we gave them (until this morning).  We saw some hanging from a tiny stick that was floating in the water.  They looked funny. 
 And David's northern ring neck snake (or so I've been told), named Linnaeus (after the father of taxonomy):

Supposedly it eats worms.  There was one in the dirt David put into the aquarium, but we can't tell whether or not it's been consumed.   David is also trying scrambled egg, cooked chicken, and live tadpole (in the water dish).  Hopefully time will tell.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Animal Planet

It's beginning to feel like a nature documentary around here! 

Tuesday we gathered tadpoles and set them up in a habitat in the kitchen.  Yesterday David captured a skinny northern ring snake and settled it in another aquarium, also in the kitchen.  And this morning a vulture (a vulture!) landed on the deck railing outside the (of course) kitchen window.  We let that one get away.  ;-)

Photo credit:  Marianna
More animal pictures to come . . .
Oh--check out the size of those legs and feet compared to the body and head.  Interesting . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's in Your Fridge? Probably Not One of These . . .

The children of friends threw them a surprise anniversary party, and I volunteered to bring the celebratory cake. 

Just a few days after a massive grocery restocking, finding storage space was a challenge.  Before: 

And here's the basement fridge, mid-process.  Everything on the floor had to sit out, first to make room for the separate layers:

and later to hold items from upstairs.  Len removed a shelf from the main fridge so the stacked tiers would fit inside.

I made a family favorite:  hazelnut cake filled with raspberry jam and chocolate ganache, iced with French buttercream.  Elizabeth recorded the recipes at the end of this post.
The straws above are helping keep the cake together.  I wasn't confident that the ganache would set up well enough (it did).  I use more straws (cut to fit) to support the plates holding the upper tiers.
The decorations are quite simple.  My rosebuds are still tightly closed, but another friend let me cut some from her bushes.  They're certainly more beautiful than any I could make.
And yes, our friends were completely surprised!  Their children did a fantastic job planning and carrying out a memorable celebration.

Another cake note:  I can't always find hazelnut flour (sometimes called hazelnut meal) at Trader Joe's, so I usually buy it online.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Family Flick: Ponyo

Gotta love that Netflix instant feature!  We recently spent quality family time watching Ponyo, a Japanese fantasy film by the renowned Hayao Miyazaki (you may have heard of Spirited Away).  Ponyo is a goldfish princess who befriends a boy and decides she wants to become human.

The movie is rated G, but our 18 year old college boy (and his friend) sat through the whole show with us--such a rarity, and not just because he's usually away at school!  Miyazaki's animation is charming and intelligent.  Although I consider the ending a bit weak, the overall story is engaging, especially for a G-rated movie.  Also, the voice talents did a great job; this English language version was not filled with woodenly dubbed dialogue.

Here's the official trailer:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Simple Gifts

You've probably seen these flower-topped pens before.  They make such great little gifts: 
  • party favor
  • stocking stuffer
  • birthday present
  • hostess gift (along with notecards, perhaps)
  • teacher treat
  • etc.
My niece (and goddaughter) made one for me several years ago.  Amazingly, it still has ink!  And it's still my favorite pen, easy to find and difficult to "borrow."  ;-)

Marianna and Rebecca created daisy pens at Christmas for friends and family, and recently decorated a few more for the birthdays of teammates and fellow club members.  The process is simple: 
  1. Cut artificial flowers so the stems are almost the length of the pen (we usually pick up random pens already in the house).
  2. Hold the stem against the pen and start winding it up with florist tape.  Pull slightly on the tape to make it stick to itself better.
  3. We wind the tape from top to bottom, then back up to the top before securing the end with a dab of glue.
Quick, easy, adorable, and practical--who could ask for anything more?

Monday, May 16, 2011

'Tis the Season

The Easter season, that is . . .

When Lent begins, we decorate and then hide "Alleluias."  They're retreived later, as we pull down purple ribbons and our "Repent" letters.

The golden blocks rest above the study doors, but sometimes they seem too high to be noticed throughout the day.
Last week we were inspired to tape our small cards all over the house.  They're impossible to miss now! 

We see them on doors . . .
In the kitchen . . .
(Keeping it real--the microwave would look cleaner photographed  in shadow!)
Can't miss Alleluia on a bathroom mirror . . .
It may seem silly, but running into this joyful word over and over again does change the script in my head.  I'll catch myself singing (to myself or aloud) a favorite chorus from Mass.  We might sing it again before grace or a regular devotion.
There are so many because some of these cards are from previous years.  I appreciate the varying styles and skills, but constant enthusiasm.
Happy Easter!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dress for Success

I have a few attractive outfits, but no one will ever mistake me for a fashionable gal. 

Marianna's Irish dance class is just a few minutes from home--yay!   Since it is difficult to turn left out of the tiny, crowded parking lot, I settle for a farther spot with an easier exit.  This necessitates a short walk to the building.  Lovely, isn't it?
Part of the trail is paved, but the rest stays wet long after rain falls.  Too often we skipped this simple walk or worried about our shoes, until I began building in the extra few seconds to grab our boots.
Such a simple choice, but it has brought so many benefits.  The other lot is truly stressful/dangerous for me during rush hour.  And I really enjoy my two minutes in the woods, squishing through the puddles.
That's all.  No deep thoughts today!  (And yes, Lauren, I know those are your boots, but I like them better and it's not like you're here to want them!)     ;-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Field Trip

Last week we met some friends and searched for my favorite vernal pool.  It's been two years since our last visit, so it took me longer than expected to find the off-trail oasis.  At last--success!
I've yet to go early enough in the season to spot frog and salamander eggs, but the tadpoles were still enchanting.
I brought along a fish bowl so we could scoop up some tadpoles for a closer look.  We spotted a few that still had their external gills--cool!
(Image from moon soup.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Not Fast Enough

Inspired by the enthusiasm of a novice knitter, I jumped aboard the Chloe train. 

By the time Rebecca and I bought our yarn (supposedly anti-pilling acrylic--we find wool to be itchy), I had less than a week until the targeted Easter Vigil first wearing.  Commenters on the pattern over and over remarked at what a quick knit it is.

Not quick enough for me . . .
I could have managed it, but didn't.  I frittered away kniting time with basics like cooking and driving, as well as just not picking up my needles every time there were some minutes to spare.
So there I sat, in the car, at the Vigil.  I let my family choose seats in church while I finished sewing up the second sleeve.  Then they came outside for the lighting of the sacred fire.  I was threading live stitches onto pink yarn so Becca could put the almost done (first ruffle row completed) garment on, at least.  I hopped out in time to reenter with candles for Mass, the Chloe still in the car.  It's a toss up as to which of us was closer to tears.

Oh, well.  It was ready by morning, and Rebecca wore her new half-sweater to our family Easter celebration.  Alleluia!
The button buying expedition was a fun mother-daughter event. 

On the other hand, picking out the yarn was decidedly stressful.  We both thought green would look nice with the dresses she would wear, but Becca liked the currently fashionable, too-yellow shades that don't match the dresses (we had brought 2 along).  We checked blues and white and were finally down to pink.  I didn't care for the shade she chose (whose shrug is it, anyway?), but noticed the rest of the skeins in the bin were a bit less bubble-gummy.  Instead of just picking them up (we needed 2), I mentioned the difference and we proceeded straight to meltdown.  Apparently the lighter yarn was "itchy."  These skeins were exactly the same, except for the dyelots.  Yikes!

All's well that ends well, and Rebecca and I are both smiling now.  Hopefully we've learned some lessons?  At least I, as the grownup, may have matured a little bit.  Time will tell!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salamander Rock

My first visit to the ancient gathering place . . .
Can you see why the kids named it Salamander Rock?  It's a side view of a head--slightly open mouth, nostril near the top.
Hisss!  I don't care if you're trying to find the best angle of that stone--get away from my nest!
Our picnic

 The view from our picnic on the salamander's head
An unwelcome visitor 
 Rebecca crossed carefully through the icy water rather than make a second journey over the scary log.
I don't get it--looks plenty wide to me!  To each her own, I guess . . .

 Dan taught Becca to skip stones.  (She managed a few.)