Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Snow

It's always nice to be forewarned when snow is in the forecast. They were calling for a few inches to start in the afternoon.
 Since I had enough milk and toilet paper already, all that was needed was to stock up on firewood.
We have three sizes of wood. Big chunks, thin pieces that have been trimmed to get a small fire going and last of all downed twigs from the yard for kindling.
We got only an inch or two of very wet snow.
We'll take what we can get because this year, snow is at a premium.
They enjoyed it while they had it and it all melted the next day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sea Chanters In Concert

Notice Larry walking like a Boss as we headed to a free concert of a premier Navy choir, The Sea Chanters.
 One of the things that Larry and I have in common is our love of singing. While in our respective high schools, we were each in select choirs that sang difficult pieces. In the very auditorium where we were headed to, Larry sang with his visiting high school and qualified for the All-State choir. These days, we LOVE to sing together in church! I knew that he would enjoy this concert and we called to get some free tickets when we heard about it. Incidentally, upon enlisting at 18, Larry was promised that he would get an audition with the Navy choir but sadly, that never happened.
I'm sorry that I caught Dad's eyes closed in this picture and assure you that he was awake! We made a fantastic choice in asking these two patriots and lovebirds to join us for this concert. They got to the auditorium an hour before it started and saved 8 of the Best Seats in the House for our family!
Talent, professionalism and pure entertainment followed for the next hour and a half. This group of about 20 men and women from the Navy sang and danced their hearts out for us. The movements to the songs were classy and in perfect rhythm. They sang together with the accompaniment of three Navy musicians, a gal on keyboards, a fellow on drums and another one playing the bass guitar. Those were the only instruments they needed because their excellent voices provided the music.
Only a few songs were sung with the whole choir together and many of these were absolute tear jerkers like The Star Spangled Banner, America The Beautiful and The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
For most of the songs the choir broke up into small groups who moved with terrific choreography as they sang, like the three ladies who performed " Bugle Boy" as the Andrews Sisters used to. A small group of men put on a Temptations or Four Seasons skit and sang numbers from the 60's like "Big Girls Don't Cry". Some of the guys had perfect Falsetto voices and could really hit the notes in " Oh What A Night." They did a Soul Spiritual song and put on an act from an Opera in Italian in costumes that was hilarious.
Most of the audience were Seniors and Baby Boomers. We knew every song they sang. They even had an extended sing-along which included " Jeremiah was a Bullfrog!" and "Hello World, There's a Song That We're Singing"  from The Partridge Family! The talent and energy that they conveyed made us all so happy. It was spectacular! As an encore, they sang for at least another ten minutes with each individual member of the choir stepping forward as a soloist to sing a few verses and the chorus of a different song that really showcased their particular voice. One young lady sang " Son of a Preacher Man."
The very last song was "My Country Tis' of Thee" sang by the only Black fellow who was at least 6'4",  had a very rich, deep voice and gave it his all in the most compelling way as he sang  the words " sweet land of Liberty"....He interpreted it in a Black Gospel church choir kind of way that was fabulous! This concert was one beautiful emotional ride and stirred our patriotism further by continually saluting the Vets who are serving or who have served, especially those now disabled. What a gift!!!!! The kids loved it as much as we did! Additionally, it is always a privilege and a pleasure to spend time with Mom and Dad!
In the lobby after the show, the kids took a few pictures with a beauty queen who was in attendance. The Sea Chanters were available to chat and we told them how much fun we had.
The Sea Chanters are beginning their Spring Tour in many states particularly in the midwest. If you ever get a chance to see them, go! We will always remember this wonderful concert.

Winter Reading

Our current Read-Aloud is Miracles on Maple Hill which is a sweet story about a family whose father has returned from being a prisoner of war and finds healing in the great outdoors of a Pennsylvania  maple grove. Virginia Sorensen captures the depressed feelings and irritability that Daddy suffers and how the whole family gets better when they begin to spend their weekends at the empty farmhouse where Mom's grandma lived. They help to bring in the maple sap daily from 1400 buckets in their neighbor's sugarbush and learn how to process it. Other seasonal activities and the warm country people that befriend them add so much to their life that they decide to leave the city and make their home there.
For myself, I recently read An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott.This was a very wholesome story about a young lady who comes to visit her wealthy city cousin and finds such differences in the way that they think and act. Polly eventually comes to the city to live and supports herself by giving music lessons to children. Her day consists of walking to her appointments and preparing her plain meals. She finds joy in the simple things. She becomes a great asset to her cousins when their father's business fails and they are forced to scale way back.

 Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende is something that I've had on the shelf for years but have never read. It is an Oprah's Book Club Selection. This story is about an English girl growing up in Chile during the 1800's. Eventually, disguised as a young man, she follows her first love to San Francisco at the peak of the Gold Rush. This book was very exciting and describes well the state of affairs at that time when the world was hit with gold fever. Speculation, hardships and the unfortunate reality of vice were a part of the story.

 Son of Charlemagne is a young adult's book that John had to read for a book report so I read it, too. It was written by Barbara Willard who has authored a lot of living history books that I have enjoyed. It focuses on the story of the famous king Charlemagne (Charles the Great) who spread Christianity (sometimes at sword-point) throughout the Roman Empire which now includes modern day Europe. It described the sacrifices he made personally to further Christianity like sending his two youngest sons to be little kings in far off territories. It definitely shows some of the bad decisions he made along the way, also. Like the previous two I just mentioned!

 Now I am  on a Jane Austin kick, revisiting some great books. I just finished rereading Northanger Abbey, and have started Persuasion  (thanks, Aunt Catherine). I hope to purchase a brand new book called Second Impressions written by a Middleburg woman who has written what she describes as a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I am looking forward to it.

While recovering from his surgery, Larry read these two books which he really enjoyed. He found that Civil War Soldiers by Reid Mitchell, blasted some myths that he had heard about the
Northern soldiers and their reasons for fighting the war.

The Battle of the Crater is another history book co-written by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. I was thrilled to find this at Christmastime for Larry because I have heard him talk about this incident many times. It is a wild true story about some Union soldiers from Pennsylvania who used their mining experience to construct a very long underground tunnel under the Confederate encampment and filled it with four tons of blackpowder. They set off the fuse (dangerous for the poor guys who had to do it) and it exploded, blasting out a HUGE crater that can still be seen today near Richmond, Virginia.

Both Jon and John have read the Hunger Games trilogy which includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay written by Suzanne Collins. Once having started these books, neither of these guys could put them down! Jeff and Chelsea have read most if not all three of these on their Kindles, as has my nephew, Lucas. The family is anxiously awaiting the release of the movie, "The Hunger Games" in March. The official trailer for it looks great.
Juby is following in her sisters' footsteps by reading The Little House on the Prairie series. These are great books for kids and not just girls. One of the main characters is Alonzo, and there is so much detail about the way that they live which includes hunting and preparing game, that our boys have listened to some of them read aloud. This boxed set was a Christmas gift to Meg in the second grade.
Little Miss Precious really seemed to be listening as John read to her one of Curious George's many wonderful adventures. Reading good books is one of life's pleasures that I enjoy tremendously and which I am always happy to see in my family members as well. As you can see, we've been going through a lot of Klondike Bars, one for each book read!

Valentine's Day

 We have the pleasure of babysitting for our little granddaughter (and her big brother) a few days during the week. Because I have taken quite a lot of pictures, we've been joking that we have a built-in " Nanny cam"!
This little lady has entered a phase of loving her Mommy so much that she tries to give her kisses!  She was all ready for Valentine's Day in this terrific outfit.
We made valentines for a party and didn't forget the most important part- candy!
Brandon brought beautiful pink roses to Tori which are gorgeous!We were all proud of him because he purchased these exquisite roses from the grocery store! They are so big, the stems are so  long and the color so pretty- between a pink and a peach. In our book it's great to be thoughtful AND frugal!
                                                Happy Valentine's Day!

Indoor S'mores

The winter time is so nice for burning candles in the house. On this overcast day, we lit a few during the the school day.
The kids asked if we had any marshmallows. Tucked away, I had a bag of not only marshmallows, but also graham crackers and a full package of chocolate bars.
Shish-kebab sticks were used to roast (or burn) the marshies and they found the Walmart brand chocolate bars to be just fine.
To make it easy, I gave each kid their own chocolate bar and they could decide how many s'mores they wanted to make with it. We saved some for our after school kids, too.

Thank you, Lord, for delicious treats that make life fun and good!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Calligraphy Class

I recently treated myself  by signing up for a calligraphy class. It was taught a gentleman named Lance Pearce who said he has been learning, practicing and writing calligraphy for 40 years.
He had many examples of his writings laid out for the class to see. He copies famous quotations in notebooks and says he saves everything he does.

This was a popular topic with twenty attendees each in his morning and afternoon classes. Each student used these extra large desk blotter size sheets of lined paper to practice their letters. he gave out handouts of different alphabet styles in both upper and lower case letters. We also received two felt tip calligraphy pens with slanted tips. The pen tip should be positioned at a one o' clock angle. It wasn't too hard to learn the idea and the goal is to keep trying to improve. 
I am so glad that I took this class which only cost 12 dollars and two hours of my time.

I spent some time copying some Bible verses at the table while the kids did their schoolwork. I would like to keep improving at this fun way to write. You never know when this skill might come in handy!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Presenting... Hank!

Our newest grandson, and the first grandchild to carry on the family name as our other wonderful five were born to daughters, was born on " The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord." He was long awaited and countless prayers from many people were offered for the health of his mother and his safe delivery. He IS an answered prayer and the fruit of the love of this young married couple who now are a family. Welcome, Hank!

 The Church celebrates on this date every year "The Presentation of the Lord", which is also called Candlemas, because the pure beeswax candles used for worship are blessed on this day. I wanted to share this quote from  Luke 2: 22 which is the Gospel reading for this day (quoted from the Magnificat).

      When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
       Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and The Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
    " Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles; and glory for your people Israel".
        The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, " Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted - and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
          There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem
        When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

          Pope Benedict XVI had some commentary on this special feast day which I am quoting directly out of the Magnificat, vol 13, no.12 February, 2012.

      "On today's feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph bring to the Temple " to present him to the Lord". (Luke 2:22). This Gospel scene reveals the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father who came into the world to do his will faithfully. (Heb 10: 5-7)
       Simeon identifies him as " a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:35) and announces with prophetic words his supreme offering to God and his final victory. (Luke 2: 32-35). This is the meeting point of the two Testaments, Old and New. Jesus enters the ancient temple of God: he comes to visit his people, thus bringing to fulfillment obedience to the Law and ushering in the last times of salvation.
       It is interesting to take a close look at this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the Temple, in the great comings and goings of many people, busy with their work:  priests and Levites taking turns to be on duty, the numerous devout people and pilgrims anxious to encounter the Holy God of Israel. Yet none of them noticed anything. Jesus was a child like the others, a first-born son of very simple parents.
       Even the priests proved incapable of recognizing the signs of the new and special presence of the Messiah and Savior. Alone two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover this great newness. Led by the Holy Spirit, in this Child they find the fulfillment of their long waiting and watchfulness. They both contemplate the light of God that comes to illuminate the world and their prophetic gaze is opened to the future in the proclamation of the Messiah:  " Lumen ad revelationem gentium!"  (Luke 2:32). The prophetic attitude of the two elderly people contains the entire Old Covenant which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. Upon seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna understood that he was the Awaited One."

Our new grandson has also been awaited and watched for! Grow in age and grace and wisdom, Hank.  As we thank God for the great gift of your life, we also pray for all couples struggling to become parents and beg God for his blessings to be upon them.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Puppy Love

 Jeff and Chelsea decided to make an investment in an adorable chocolate brown lab puppy. They drove more than 4 hours to pick him up from a reputable breeder at the age of 8 weeks.

They had the supplies one needs, a collar and matching leash, toys, a soft blanket and a nylon crate. We all got a big kick out of Chelsea holding the pup while Jeff  was in charge of carrying the stuff to and from the car, just as it should be!
 In our extended family, there are many labrador retrievers which seem to make for a great family dog. There is Buddy ( nicknamed, Tug), Judge, and another chocolate lab named Charlie.  Jeff told us that the chocolate color is recessive and therefore, rare.
Chelsea grew up raising dogs and is comfortable training them. As for us, with the exception of Larry, we've  never been good at understanding dogs and teaching them to be an asset to the family rather than a big hassle.
  This little guy, named Dawkins, is very beautiful to look at! He must be special- he's in my living room!
I hope that Dawkins grows up to be a fine dog who is a great companion and  fun to be around !

Warm February Trail Ride

 It was such a pretty, sunny day on the first of February, that we looked forward to getting outside.

It soon became too warm even for a sweatshirt!

 The girls started with some riding in the ring and then I walked with them on a trail ride.
The scenery was very pleasant to look at. We were astonished to think that this was the beginning of the coldest month of the year and we were comfortable outside in shirtsleeves!  

 Natalie was on Foxy and Juby rode Dixie.

 She was riding with her reins dropped here to show how gentle and trustworthy this pony is.
On the way back to the barn, we stopped to admire the Zonkey,  (half zebra and half mule), and pet our pony, April.