Monday, April 30, 2012

Almost Heaven . . .

. . . West Virginia  (So are you old enough that this song is instantly in your head?)

We spent a few days of Easter week hiking and relaxing in the Mountain State.  Joe arrived home (from Rome) late Tuesday night, and we were off by 0800 Wednesday.

Len had planned a hike to occupy the afternoon before checking in to our vacation rental.  The first clue that we weren't in the cozy suburbs anymore? 
Snow dusting a spiderweb!
Indeed, we enjoyed our best snow of the season that third day after Easter!  ;-)  I realize that's not saying much--we had a paltry snowfall this year.
 ALMOST dressed for success--no boots--only sneakers!
 Rebecca said it felt as if we were walking in Narnia.
 She rolled this snowball as we hiked, carrying it on and on,
 until the building of the snowman.
 One of many creek crossings.  One way (snow) or another our feet were bound to get soaked.
 Building up a crossing spot for the (ahem) less agile among us.
 A few reminders that it was actually spring.
 Followed by a well earned reward!
 A 12.7 mile hike was scheduled for day 2.  It took us about 8 hours.  Here's our snowy start:

 Can you see the paw prints and tail trail?


 Plenty of creek crossings again.
Our return to Narnia.
 Tired, but still smiling.
 Day 3:  Blackwater Falls (a boardwalk, not a hike this time)

 Dinner at Hellbender Burritos (named for a local salamander)--huge, unique (chili, cheese steak, BBQ, etc.) wraps.

 Becca had the kid size (?) !
 On our way home, we stopped at the fascinating nature center.
The sandbox includes molds for making pawprints.
We planned to drive home in time for Saturday's 5:30 mass because Len had to leave early Sunday morning for his spring kayaking trip.  He was kind enough to let me follow a billboard down a long, windy road to an alpaca farm.  The store was closed (too bad) because it was shearing weekend (cool!). 

The owner was so welcoming, showing us around the barn and allowing us to watch the shearing process.  Fascinating!  She and Len also shared some shop talk about sheep dogs, alpaca reproduction, etc.
We had a wonderful trip, thanks especially to Len, who organized almost everything.  What a guy!  Other unshown highlights:  domino games, hot chocolate, horseshoes, hanging out by the fireplace, movie nights, knitting time,  etc.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pantry Tip

I can usually tell the difference between Vidalia (sweet) onions and standard yellow ones, but my kitchen helpers aren't always successful.  To make life simpler, I label my onions as I put them away.  With a permanent marker, I write an "S" for sweet or "R" for regular.  Sometimes I only mark the sweet onions.
Works for us!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Happy Compromise

I prefer Marianna to wear her long, thick hair down, framing her face a bit.  She'd rather have it completely out of the way (and cooler) in a pony tail or braid.  Today when she asked for a French braid, I found a way to satisfy us both.
 Sooooo long!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Knitting Report

Well, Marianna's shawl is still a work in progress.  My ambitious knitting schedule did not leave wiggle room for losing an entire day to finding and fixing multiple, albeit small, errors. 
The Monday of Holy Week found me counting and recounting and recounting those 396 stitches.  At one point I was four--four!--stitches short and desperately needed to stretch the shawl out to find out where they belonged.
I have a circular needle kit, so I can add extra length as needed.  Unfortunately, all my longish bits were holding other projects.  I had to move this lap blanket onto a piece of yarn in order to use the knitting cord.  Simple, but it took some time, as did hunting through my unfinished knits looking for the most useful bit of cord to harvest.  So I transferred the cord, spread out the knitting, then found and marked the three places I had lost stitches, ready to repair them as I completed my next row.  Good grief!
Unfortunately, the next row was my second run through the lace pattern (4 rows over 396 stitches!), and it didn't seem to line up properly.  Unsure of what it was supposed to look like, I cast on some sample stitches on other needles and knit enough rows to find out that the shawl was indeed lined up correctly.  Again, simple but time consuming.  (I am not a speedy knitter.)
My most persistent time waster, though, was trying to keep track of those 396 stitches.  It was a pain to count them, and if I lost my place--grrr!  Len offhandedly remarked that I should put some stitch markers in.  Duh!  With a little ring placed every 50 stitches, it's no longer excruciating to check my work.
After that long day, preceded by other days with too much time spent knitting, I gave up on finishing by the Easter Vigil.  I had already let too much housework and schoolwork slip by.  The thought of letting my home and family fend for themselves for another week (and maybe not finish the shawl anyway) was unappealing. 
Holy Week and Easter were more peaceful (for me and all of us) than if I had stuck to my original resolution.  It was the right call.

I'm no longer working at a breakneck pace, but the shawl is progressing.  I'm down to 137 stitches, and set to decrease on my next row.  This stage is simple garter stitch (no more lace).  That, coupled with the reducing width, is helping the work move faster and faster.  Maybe Marianna will be wearing it to church next Sunday.  Time will tell . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Easter Triumph

Daniel introduced our family to singer Matt Maher, a fantastic artist who's produced three CD's.  My favorite is the middle one, Alive Again.

This song, "Christ is Risen," has been in my head lately, so I decided to share it via this visual meditation.  (There are just a few bloody images from The Passion.)

Below is a short interview in which Matt explains how this song was inspired by an Easter sermon of St. John Chrysostom's.

And here's a link to that sermon.  Isn't the internet wonderful?

Happy Easter!  Remember, it's not over until Pentecost!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dreams of Bluebells

The topic of Lauren's most recent film assignment was memory, and with Rebecca as her model, she created a beautiful two minutes.  Our family doesn't spend as much time at Bull Run as Elizabeth's, but I'm glad to see (in this case, quite literally) how much the bluebells have meant to Lauren.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Blessed Easter

I pray you're enjoying a happy, holy Easter.  Here is the latest update from Rome:
Happy Easter to all of you back in the USA!!!
The past couple of days have been crazy but amazing!  On Good Friday, we had a retreat in the morning for the boys and then went to St. Peters to wait in line for the Liturgy of the Passion.  We were able to get awesome seats for this and some of the boys were able to get very close to the Pope as he processed out at the end.
Yesterday, we were very busy!  We visited St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, the catacombs, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and many  other things. 
Today, Easter Sunday, we got up early so we could get a good spot in line to get into St. Peters Square ( keyboard that does not seem to have an apostrophe) for Easter Sunday Mass with the Holy Father.  Well, we did get good seats, front row!!!  It was a beautiful Mass...some of the boys even made it on the huge screens that they set up in the square for those who are far away.  It was a beautiful liturgy.  Afterwards we went to Trastevere for a nice sit down lunch as a group and the boys are now playing sports.  Tomorrow is Assisi and then we head home.  We have been keeping all of you in our prayers, and look forward to seeing everyone Tuesday night!  I hope you are all having a blessed Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

More From Rome

Another update from Joseph's trip leader:

Thy Kingdom Come!

Greetings again from Rome!  It has been a great trip so far and all of the guys have been fantastic!  We've been very busy, so I can't say everything we've done, but here are some highlights:

On Wednesday, we had one of the more special moments of the trip, getting to attend the Papal audience.  We were very early and got in the 2nd and 3rd row, but most of the boys were able to be right on the fence when the Holy Father drove by in the popemobile!  Also, our group was welcomed by name by the English speaking priest who welcomed the groups and introduced the Pope's comments in English.  When we jumped up and cheered, Pope Benedict looked our way and waved.  That afternoon we got to visit St John Lateran and then climb the Holy Stairs on our knees (these were the stairs from the Praetorium that Jesus walked up during his trial with Pilate...brought to Rome by St. Helen).  Then we went to the Church of the Holy Cross which has many relics from the Passion, including wood from the true Cross and one of the nails.

Yesterday we saw the Colosseum and Roman Forum before going to St. John Lateran for the Mass of the Lord's Supper (long but beautiful...we got seats but not very close...a lot of people pushed ahead of us in line).

I'll try to write again soon, we are keeping all of you in our prayers!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

From Rome

Joseph is in Rome for Holy Week.  What an experience!  Here is an email update we just received from the trip's leader (Joe's Confirmation sponsor):

Thy Kingdom Come!
Dear all in Christ,
Greetings from Rome!  We are doing great, perhaps a little bit tired, but having a great time.  Yesterday, when we arrived in Rome, we spent a little time getting settled, played a little soccer, and then went to visit the city.  We stopped in St. Peter's square briefly and then had a chance to do some shopping before visiting the Legionaries' other seminary (the Center for Higher Studies) to look at a cool exhibit there of the Shroud of Turin.
Today, we went to St. Peter's early in the morning for a private Mass at the tomb of Bl. John Paul II.  After that we had a tour of the inside of the basilica with Br. N., climbed to the Cupola, had lunch, and then visited the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.  We wrapped up with a visit to the Fountain of Trevi.  We´ll make it an early night tonight because we're getting up early again for the general audience with Pope Benedict.
I'll try to keep you posted, we are keeping you in our prayers, and when we receive the Pope's blessing tomorrow, it also extends to all of our families, so you will also receive this special blessing!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Slow Going

My progress as of bedtime Sunday . . .

That's 7 rows of 396 stitches. 

It took me longer than it should have, because I counted and recounted the cast-on row, and then dropped a stitch (or two?) and had to count again!  At one point Lauren (home for the 4th weekend in a row--yay!) counted for me because I had nodded off for just a moment--just long enough to lose my place.  Good grief!

Anyway, you can probably see the beginning of the lacy edge.  I'm hoping to finish 15 more rows today.  Then I'll decrease to 266 stitches.  Every eighth row will include more decreases, so the project should move more and more quickly as I go.  We'll see . . .